One of the logistics problems for militaries, especially during operations or distant exercises, is managing spare parts for equipment and weapons systems, which is often costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive. With its “Sharing of Spare Parts” (SoSP) project, EDA offers a pragmatic solution to simplify and speed up things for its participating Member States.*
Signed in 2015 by 11 EDA countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden) as well as Norway (which has signed an Administrative Arrangement with the Agency), the SoSP project’s aim is straightforward: to quickly exchange parts among nations whose inventories are in short supply, or which can’t be immediately purchased from industry. The whole set-up is voluntary among the 12, based on bilateral agreements and a system of service-or-equivalent-value exchange - meaning without financial transactions between participating Member States.
SoSP’s core idea rests on its system of bartering, which offers five forms of compensation for the lending nation. These entail the following options:
- receive back exactly the same part, in ready-to-use condition;
- receive a similar part: a green vehicle goes out, a blue one comes back;
- agree a “balancing” arrangement where both parties place the lent part’s value on a running list of items whose total assigned value is cleared by year-end – or carried forward to the next year if the two nations tend to exchange parts regularly
- reimburse, where one national body simply pays for the part within 60 days;
- postpone the decision until end-of-year when both parties have to agree on one of the above four methods of compensation.
SoSP’s set of barter choices offer its nations maximum flexibility. Belgium and the Netherlands exchange a lot of parts, so they tend to use the balancing option, either clearing their accounts at year-end or carrying it forward into the new year. Other nations opt for the “postponed” method, which is mission-oriented and thus makes it faster and simpler for bilateral in-theatre exchanges between the nations. SoSP’s barter system also lends itself to the various weapon system communities spread across Europe such as those militaries with aging F-16 fighters in their inventory: the nations use it to exchange parts that are not available on the market. SoSP also covers services.
The SoSP project sees up to 200 spare parts exchanged bilaterally each year. While that may not sound like a lot, the parts that tend to be exchanged are expensive or critical to system performance such as landing gear or aircraft brake parts.
One of the SoSP project’s core strengths is its simplicity, particularly for operational environments. SoSP offers a standard and simple template that pilots or crew can fill out on the spot, leaving the more official and detailed forms to be filled out later back home. It was developed specifically for military use as opposed to formal procurement procedures with contractors, precisely to move around them and their longer timelines, and the expense of shipping out parts from a contractor’s warehouse, which may be thousands of miles away.
SoSP’s project lifespan is 10 years – until 2025 – and the group is mulling how to take it forward. EDA, which manages the project, has recently started a dialogue with the SoSP nations on how to prolong and expand its functionality. One idea is to promote SoSP as a tool to help Europe’s militaries reduce their carbon footprint as part of the EU’s green policy. Another idea is to expand SoSP’s barter options.
*A longer version of this article has been published in our latest European Defence Matters (EDM) magazine
More information on the SoPP project is also available here.