The opening of ETAC marked the largest ever transfer of a project from the EDA to a host nation on a permanent basis. The project, the European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) Training Programme, was created by the EDA in 2011 and signed by 20 participating nations. EATF had a simple rationale: increase the EU’s airlift capabilities by addressing shortages and increasing interoperability. Following six years under the guidance of the Agency, EATF saw 87 aircrews trained, 50 tactical instructor pilots graduate, and 94 European transport aircraft involved. 

ETAC: The new home of European tactical airlift

The official transfer from the EDA to ETAC was marked by a flag handover ceremony between the EDA Chief Jorge Domecq and Colonel Jose Luis Romero, the ETAC Commander. 

In his address, Mr Domecq commented: “This new centre is the culmination of 6 years of development in the EDA. ETAC demonstrates exactly how the EDA enables positive defence collaboration and delivers real capability improvement for our Member States.”

Visiting delegations also attended a tactical display, followed by the graduation of 4 aircrews from three Member States (Spain, Germany, Poland) of the latest edition of the European Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course (EAATTC 17-3), and visited the EDA’s innovate 3D-printing in defence project. The main ceremony was also addressed by HR/VP Federica Mogherini and Minister Dolores de Cospedal. 

Following the establishment of ETAC, the 11 nations who are the owners of this agreement (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Norway), will now share the burden to plan, organize and execute Advanced Airlift Courses, Training and Symposia in different locations (France, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal & Sweden) by using the lean command and control structure based at Zaragoza.  

ETAC will be manned by experts from the different participating nations on a rotational basis. The first composition will be made up from Spanish, Italian, German and French officers, who will be replaced within 3 to 4 years with staff from the remaining signatory nations. 

The EDA’s 3D-printing lab successfully deployed

As described in this magazine’s cover story (page 24), the EDA has launched in December 2016 the ‘Additive Manufacturing (AM) Feasibility Study & Technology Demonstration’ which aims to raise awareness and promote better understanding of AM’s application and potential in different military contexts, and contribute to the timely and effective implementation of 3D-printing in defence specific areas. 

In creating this ground-breaking project, the EDA contracted the research centre Fundación Prodintec and MBDA France, to support a three work strand approach to AM. First of all, a desktop study was conducted which placed AM and its potential in a defence context. This first step summarised the cutting edge abilities of relevant technologies, identified existing R&T and manufacturing capabilities in Europe, and set out areas where further defence activities in different domains, such as R&T, logistics or training, should be carried out.

Test Deployment in Zaragoza 

To truly test the feasibility of 3D-priniting in defence, the EDA commissioned the construction of a fully deployable 3D-printing lab which was put to the test during the EDA’s airlift training course (EAATTC 17-3) in Zaragoza. State of the art AM printers and hardware were installed by Fundación Prodintec in a customised container. Following its arrival in Zaragoza, the lab was loaded on board of a Spanish C-130 and successfully completed a 30 minute flight. This test was pivotal to examining the feasibility of the facility to be deployed by air to an operational military base. After landing, the lab and its equipment were inspected and found to have encountered no issue from the airlift, being fully operational within just one hour.
During the subsequent deployment at EAATTC 17-3, technicians presented the possibilities offered by AM and worked closely with officials to identify and produce a range of test parts which were then produced on site. The Head of the EDA, High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the Spanish Defence Minister, Dolores de Cospedal, visited the AM facility and were briefed by EDA staff. 

Moving Forward

The final work strand of this project took place in Gijón, Spain in September, during an EDA exhibition on ‘Exploring Additive Manufacturing impact in Defence capabilities’. Member States representatives were presented with the final conclusions of the project, including the equipment used and typical objects and materials produced during the deployment of the AM facility in Zaragoza. 

The exhibition was an important step in raising awareness among the defence community about the capabilities AM technologies bring to the defence sector as well as their potential for different applications. The EDA’s AM in defence project is a clear example of how cross-fertilization of ideas from different domains, stretching from R&T to operations, can enhance defence capabilities, especially when supporting deployed missions. 

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