It seems that in a first phase, both companies involved in KNDS will keep their organisation, staff and even their own range of products. When do you foresee the first jointly developed and produced KNDS weapon systems – for instance a combat tank – to be on the market?
For many years, we will have to keep large parts of our present organisations unchanged in order to deliver on our commitments to our customers and our existing partnerships and to remain able to support our products in service. However, we are already starting to identify synergies, to act jointly on several matters (sales, product policy, finance, purchasing, communication, etc.). We have also started to work together on future systems, including combat tanks and artillery systems. These programs will be managed, developed and produced by a shared organisation. Their calendars are mainly driven by the operational needs of our customers and the timeframe to achieve a common vision between the German, French and other European customers. In the Defence industry, this takes 5 to 10 years!
2016 has seen a lot of movement in CSDP (EUGS set to be followed by a sectoral defence strategy; launch of Pilot Project and preparation of the Preparatory Action on defence-related research) and more is expected in the coming months (European Defence Action Plan by the EC). How optimistic are you that all this will give a boost to the European defence industry in general, and to the land systems sector in particular?
We can be optimistic, while remaining realistic. The land defence market is doing well internationally, and there are still many opportunities, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. However, it is an extremely competitive sector and every tender process requires increasingly large investments from the companies involved. In Europe in the last few years, Nexter and KMW have taken part in tender processes with products such as our 8x8 combat vehicles (VBCI and Boxer) and 155mm artillery systems (Caesar and PZH2000). We were not successful. Unfortunately in some cases buyers decided to purchase non-European equipment or untested equipment.
Of course competitiveness is essential in order to meet the European market’s needs. But there are also needs for greater European awareness regarding defence, and particularly land defence. Armies on the ground need to be much more integrated through common equipment, we need to maintain an independent EDTIB that maintains Europe’s superiority in certain areas of excellence (protection, firepower, communication systems, etc.) and we need to maintain and develop a European industry that guarantees the sovereignty of EU states.
On the other hand, there is also the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote and the prospect of the UK leaving the EU. How will all this impact European defence cooperation?
The European defence project is vital and the many dramatic events we have seen in recent years are a reminder that we must not let down our guard on security and defence issues. We are therefore confident that the United Kingdom will remain a staunch ally and continue to develop a strong defence relationship with France. Nexter has a joint venture with BAE, CTA International, based in France. CTA International specialises in telescoped 40mm-calibre armament systems, and has developed a revolutionary new cannon. This 40mm cannon has been acquired by both the French and British armies as part of the Scorpion and Scout programmes, proving both the effectiveness of the weapons themselves and the wisdom of our Franco-British joint venture. Brexit is unlikely to have an impact on our projects.