COLOGNE, Germany — Spanish military-electronics specialist Indra has claimed the lead in a program meant to equip future European military aircraft with new electronic-warfare capabilities, according to a company announcement.

The project, named Airborne Electronic Attack, falls under the European Union’s latest batch of so-called PESCO initiatives, which are meant to foster collaboration among member nations in key military areas. Besides Spain as the lead nation, Indra said France and Sweden also are participating, as will Germany and Italy, though those countries were still absent from a roster published online by the European Defense Agency.

According to industry sources, the agency could hand out a contract to begin work on the project in the first quarter of 2020. The partner countries are expected to position their respective go-to suppliers to jockey for position, namely Thales, Saab, Hensoldt and Leonardo.

The EU’s airborne electronic-attack project could take on some of the supporting work for a manned fighter under the the Future Combat Air System program, a next-generation aerial weapon developed by France, Germany and Spain. That future aircraft will need sophisticated jamming capabilities, and the PESCO format could offer Indra an avenue into the major program’s work share at a time when the details of Spain’s participation have yet to be fully sorted out.

Indra is the Spanish national industry lead for FCAS, while Airbus and Dassault play those roles for Germany and France, respectively. Spain’s defense companies expect one-third of the business flowing from the program, an Indra spokesman told Defense News.

According to the company, the new PESCO project aims to develop an electronic-warfare weapon that can be fitted inside combat aircraft or carried via external pods. In its statement, Indra plays up the defensive nature of such a system, saying the requirement is expected to grow in importance as advances in anti-air weapons threaten to make military aviation a risky mission in the decades ahead.

“European manned and unmanned combat air units will depend on this capacity to carry out their missions safely in hostile territory and will achieve superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum,” the company wrote.

“The purpose of this system is to prepare an aerial platform to carry out missions such as suppressing enemy air defenses, escorting other platforms, carrying out unconventional attacks and providing attack support.”

Meanwhile, other European companies have begun to claim portions of those new PESCO projects that include straightforward product-development angles. Missile maker MBDA, for example, has telegraphed it wants to play a prominent role in the development of a new interceptor missile under the TWISTER project, which stands for Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based Theater Surveillance.

France has the lead for that project, with Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain listed as participants.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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