The European Defence Agency (EDA) will support two new projects developing the next generation of systems for European defence under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative. In the air domain, the Next Generation Small RPAS (NGSR) project will pave the way for an advanced unmanned aerial system (UAS) prototype by 2027, while in maritime, the Essential Elements of European Escort (4E) project, sets out to identify and detail the essential elements of future surface warships within the EU from 2030 to 2045. EDA’s Steering Board recently approved the launch of specific EDA ad hoc projects for both, following a request from the participating Member States (pMS) involved.
Next Generation of Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems – Towards a prototype
The goal of this project is to develop a new generation of tactical UAS with versatile capabilities. It aims to serve various purposes, such as supporting army units, maritime and air operations, and civilian activities. The war against Ukraine demonstrates the importance of persistent surveillance provided by unmanned systems. The UAS will be designed to be adaptable to different mission requirements and will incorporate autonomous features to ease pilot and operator workload. NGSR project is led by Spain, in collaboration with Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, Romania, and Hungary.
Running for four years, EDA’s NGSR ‘Category B’ Project has a twofold objective. Firstly, it aims to harmonise the requirements among pMS, ensuring a unified approach to the UAS's development. Secondly, the project will support the development of the prototype through a contract with industry.
The tactical UAS that will be developed under this project will meet common requirements and be versatile enough to undertake various missions, ranging from high-intensity conflicts to peace enforcement and support to civilian authorities. It will have the ability to take off and land without a runway, cover medium ranges (up to 200 km), and sustain missions for 5-10 hours. The use of advanced technology will allow for flexibility, modular payloads, and interoperability to maximise effectiveness.
To facilitate the smooth execution of the project, EDA will play a crucial role. The Agency will provide overall coordination, administration, and management of the project. Furthermore, the EDA will lend its expertise to the requirements developed by pMS, supporting their harmonisation. The Agency also stands ready to facilitate the engagement with industry based on pMS requirements.
In addition, the EDA will negotiate, conclude, and manage the contract with the industry on behalf of the pMS, ensuring timely reporting and payments throughout the project's duration. The Agency will work closely with the pMS and industry to coordinate the development of the prototype. By offering next generation ISR capabilities, the NGSR project aims to improve crisis response capabilities and enhance the effectiveness of European armed forces in various operational environments.
4E– Essential systems for the 2040s
Essential Elements of European Escort (4E) aims to develop the most important systems of any surface combatant that may be built in Europe from 2035 to 2045 covering five areas: combat system, communication and information system, navigation system, platform management system and Integration of System of Systems. 4E project is led by Spain, in collaboration with Italy and Portugal.
EDA’s ‘Category B’ project, which will run for two years, aims to support the 4E PESCO project by offering invaluable assistance in its initiation and execution. EDA’s responsibilities encompass drafting the Project Initiating Document, which defines the project's scope, working procedures, and strategic communication plan. The agency will coordinate pMS cooperation, including facilitating negotiations, staffing, and signature processes, as well as overseeing contributions, reporting, and procurement. Moreover, the Agency will facilitate the formulation of the High-Level Requirements Document and initiate feasibility and de-risking studies to ensure a seamless and efficient project implementation. Leveraging their expertise, the EDA will contribute to defining project objectives, harmonising working processes, and drafting the deliverables in collaboration with the pMS. This will serve as a steppingstone for further activities of the projects, notably related to the development of specific systems.
The PESCO 4E project aligns with the EU Capability Development Priority Naval Manoeuvrability, aiming to foster collaboration among pMS in shaping the future of surface ships within the EU. Its goals encompass enhancing pMS adaptability to evolving operational environments, reducing fragmentation, and improving the coherence of the EU's capability landscape.
PESCO moving forward and supported by EDA
EDA, as the EU’s hub for defence cooperation, has launched several dedicated projects to support moving a variety of ambitious PESCO projects forward. NGSR and 4E, launched under the fourth wave of PESCO projects in November 2021, are the 11th and 12th projects currently supported by the Agency.
EDA’s support has since grown from initial modest administrative support to a couple of PESCO’s smaller-scale projects to include major weapons platforms, such as the Future Medium Tactical Cargo (FMTC) and European Patrol Corvette (EPC).
EDA offers several forms of support to PESCO projects. One of them is consultancy and expertise, allowing the Agency and the PESCO project members to agree on the specific tasks EDA will carry out for a project. This could entail support in capturing the detailed operational and technical requirements, as well as developing its concept of operations or defining specifications for its technical study.
Another form of EDA support is when pMS of a PESCO project choose to establish their project at the Agency and use EDA’s project management tools, which means other Member States can choose to opt into, or join, the endeavour at a later stage, with EDA serving as project manager. To date, six PESCO projects are being taken forward within the Agency; CBRN Surveillance as a Service (CBRN SaaS); Deployable Modular Underwater Intervention Capability Package (DIVEPACK); European Patrol Corvette (EPC); CIDCC (Cyber and Information Domain Coordination Center); Next Generation Small RPAS (NGSR) and Essential Elements of European Escort (4E).