Expectations are thus high that the CARD’s results and recommendations will actually be taken up by Member States and feed into the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), for subsequent review by future CARD cycles. To help get PESCO projects off the ground, the European Defence Agency (EDA) offers to participating Member States a variety of customised support options. With growing success.

While EDA has always been recognised for initiating and supporting multinational capability development and R&D projects implemented under its own auspices, the Agency’s growing support for PESCO projects is probably less known, but all the more important.

This got off to a quiet start in early 2018 by providing modest administrative support to a couple of PESCO’s smaller-scale projects, but has since grown to more than a dozen, including some involving major weapons platforms. (See text boxes for various PESCO projects supported by EDA.) And more are in the pipeline.

“Collaborative projects are an integral part of our DNA,” says EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý. “Having the Agency provide this kind of support to PESCO projects was a natural progression of what we have long done for other defence projects.”

The Agency, which jointly runs PESCO’s secretariat with the European External Action Service, including the EU Military Staff, offers three forms of support to PESCO projects.

Administrative support

The first is administrative support by helping a PESCO project to organise meetings, and providing rooms or facilities for project-related work and meetings. “This has proven especially valuable during the Covid-crisis,” said Darius Savolskis, EDA PESCO policy officer. “Many physical meetings were planned for spring 2020, when the pandemic’s first wave hit Europe, and these had to quickly be moved over to virtual formats, which we’ve enabled through EDA available tools.”

Some of the PESCO projects that have requested this kind of support are led by smaller Member States. “While those countries don’t always have experience in the management of complex multinational projects, the advantage of the smaller or softer PESCO projects is that they will deliver results faster than the bigger ones,” he said.

For example, the PESCO project led by Lithuania to develop rapid response cyber-defence teams “will deliver stand-by teams ready for intervention quite soon, and that will be a good thing,” observed Savolskis. “Given enough time, PESCO will start delivering bigger things, too, but it requires some ‘strategic patience’ until then.”

Consultancy and expertise

The Agency’s second form of PESCO support is consultancy and expertise. “Here, we agree on the specific tasks we’ll carry out for a project. This could entail support in capturing the detailed operational and technical requirements, as well as developing its ConOps (concept of operations) by a certain deadline or defining specifications for its technical study,” he observed.

Fully-fledged EDA project

The third form of support, however, applies when participating members of a PESCO project choose to establish their project as a so-called ad hoc Category B (Cat. B) project at the Agency, which means other Member States can choose to opt into, or join, the endeavour at a later stage.

“This is our most extensive form of support where the Agency functions as the project manager,” said Savolskis. “The project members, of course, will decide how much responsibility to give the Agency. At the same time, however, we have to take into account the resource and time implications of doing that – will it fit into EDA’s workload, in-house expertise, and priorities? That can involve some heavy work such as the project’s contracting and financial oversight, managing, organising work group agendas and meetings and so on.”

Normally, the Agency absorbs as a matter of routine all the indirect costs – contracting, legal services, etc. – of supporting PESCO projects. Because the project will rely on the Agency’s resources paid by all the EDA countries, the Cat. B project requires the approval of each EDA participating Member State. And it may require a contribution-in-kind from the PESCO consortium such as seconding personnel to the Agency’s headquarters in Brussels to help manage the project.


With a little help from the Agency

Focus on a selection of EDA-supported PESCO projects

CBRN Surveillance as a Service (CBRN SaaS)


The first PESCO project that asked for EDA assistance for its development as a fully-fledged Cat. B project is known as ‘CBRN SaaS’ (CBRN Surveillance as a Service). Launched in 2018, it brings together Austria, as the lead country, with four other EDA Member States: Croatia, France, Hungary and Slovenia.

EDA will oversee the Cat. B project, from defining the technical requirements to developing the prototype systems’ design and testing.

Despite the project’s rather cryptic name, CBRN SaaS aims for a very important goal for Member States’ Armed Forces: to come up with concepts for combining and integrating commercial and military off-the-shelf components onto unmanned aerial and ground vehicles in order to detect and identify Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threats and create a recognised CBRN picture.

With prototyping pegged for 2023, the project will demonstrate the viability of a rapidly deployable, 24/7 CBRN surveillance plug-in module to augment a common operational picture. It will benefit either military or civil security users, and thus can be used across a wide range of missions.

A crucial technical challenge will be to ensure that future capabilities emerging from the project are interoperable with national legacy CBRN surveillance systems. CBRN SaaS’s main deliverables will be a technological demonstrator that provides a proof of concept; a roadmap identifying what future modules could be developed; a concept of operations; and a service availability concept to reach the full operational capability.





One of the PESCO projects supported by EDA, focused on specific niche capability, is DIVEPACK. Its aim: to develop a full-spectrum package of defensive underwater ‘intervention’ capabilities that can handle everything from search-and-rescue support to naval mine countermeasures or harbour protection to underwater repair, salvage or demolition tasks. The intended users do not include special operations forces, however.

Launched in April 2020, DIVEPACK’s envisioned modular design will be based on an open plug-and-play architecture to link together scuba-equipped personnel with unmanned and remotely-operated underwater vehicles. The various capability packages will fit into standard-size container modules that are transportable by either land, air or maritime means, and operated by specialised personnel. DIVEPACK’s technology goals, for example, are fully aligned with the priorities found in the EU’s Capability Development Plan, which is steered by the Agency.

Under the related Cat. B project, EDA has a major oversight role for DIVEPACK’s preparatory phase, namely to oversee harmonisation of its military requirements, elaboration of its business case, and other documents needed for a smooth acquisition phase afterwards.

Once the requirements are defined, they will be handed over to the project at the beginning of 2022, after which its four participating nations – Bulgaria, France, Greece, Romania – will have to decide on the way ahead: how the system will look, and then signing contracts with industry to deliver DIVEPACK’s prototype for testing in 2024.



European Secure Software Defined Radio (ESSOR)


Efforts to develop advanced Software-Defined Radio (SDR) technologies resonate deeply at EDA, which has long supported various research and developmental efforts toward that end for more than a decade.

The ‘ESSOR’ PESCO project not only builds on those efforts but takes the same name as a previous research effort, which first surfaced in 2008. ESSOR’s main objective is to create a common SDR architecture and standardised waveforms. Together, this would offer a reference point for SDR developments across Europe.

It’s a project with many strands of work – from defining technical requirements to framing the right industrial solutions – and big implications for interoperability between Member States’ Armed Forces. That explains why ESSOR has nine participating countries (Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain) and another four as observers.

EDA’s involvement with the ESSOR PESCO project has been in its initial but primary stage, namely to facilitate the development of an ESSOR’s concept of operations (ConOps). The ConOps aims at describing the operational needs, visions and expectations of the operational users (from tactical level to component command) on the information flows and new waveforms. “We did a ConOps study in spring 2020 which includes several scenarios, and we’re using that to shape the project’s work,” said Darius Savolskis, EDA policy officer for PESCO.

“The ConOps itself should be updated very soon, probably in November. After that, ESSOR will have to decide whether to continue with the further support of EDA in parallel to carrying the results over to OCCAR (the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation),” he said.

ESSOR’s industrial work is slated to begin in early 2021, with a budget of €37 million, already secured from the European Commission’s precursor budget for the European Defence Fund, known as the European Defence Industrial Development Fund, to support capability development and prototyping.


European Patrol Corvette (EPC)


The European Patrol Corvette (EPC) is one of the most ambitious PESCO endeavours that EDA will soon take under its management wing.

A four-nation project (France, Italy, Greece and Spain) of significant scale, EPC’s goal is to produce a prototype for a new class of 3000-tonne naval ship. Its common mono-hull platform will be no greater than 110 meters in overall length, based on a flexible, modular approach designed to accommodate different systems and payloads. This novel approach enables each nation to tailor the baseline platform to its particular capability needs, thus enabling a wide range of missions.

EPC will be a significant undertaking. “This is one of the most prominent PESCO projects we have, which is also quite challenging because of different requirements of project members” said Darius Savolskis, EDA’s PESCO policy officer.

Indeed, the sheer scale of the project demands a 30 month period just to harmonise all its operational requirements, a task “for which our Agency has the responsibility to oversee,” he said, noting that EDA “will not write the requirements, but will manage the whole process.”

The EPC group of nations aims to produce its first corvette prototype in 2026-2027.



EDA project

  • CBRN Surveillance as a Service (CBRN SaaS) (lead country: Austria)
  • Deployable Modular Underwater Intervention Capability Package (DIVEPACK) (lead country: Bulgaria)
  • European Patrol Corvette (EPC) (lead country: Italy)

Consultancy and expertiset

  • Cyber Rapid Response Teams and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security (CRRT) (lead country: Lithuania)
  • Maritime (semi)Autonomous Systems for Mine Countermeasures (MAS MCM) (lead country: Belgium)
  • European Secure Software defined Radio (ESSOR) (lead country: France)
  • Materials and components for technological EU competitiveness (MAC-EU) (lead country: France)

Administrative support

  • Geo-meteorogical and Oceanographic (GEOMETOC) Support Coordination Element (GMSCE) (lead country: Germany)
  • Materials and Components for Technological EU Competitiveness (MAC-EU) (lead country: France)
  • Cyber and Information Domain Coordination Centre (CIDCC) (lead country: Germany)
  • EU Collaborative Warfare Capabilities (ECOWAR) (lead country: France)
  • Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based TheatER surveillance (TWISTER) (lead country: France)
  • European Union Network of Diving Centres (EUNDC) (lead country: Romania)
  • CBRN Defence Training Range (CBRND TR) (lead country: Romania)
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