The overall purpose of the Agency’s AIRMEDEVAC project is to provide its participating members - currently Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands - with an efficient and cost-effective commercial option for in-theatre aeromedical evacuation services through the European Defence Agency.  

In concrete terms, the project offers a stand-by framework contract through which services can be arranged for airborne evacuation - in Europe and Africa - of injured personal from the point of injury to a field hospital by a fixed-wing aircraft and/or by helicopter. Equally the patient can be safely transported from the field hospital to more sophisticated care in larger hospitals nearby the theatre of operations.  The services provided enable participating Member States to meet their essential operational needs which may also include transportation of cargo. Movement of patients between the theatre of operations and their home countries (STRATEVAC), however, is outside the scope of EDA’s framework contract. 

Efficient pay-per-use solution  

The project, which was launched in 2017 and currently counts five members, is open to all EDA Member States, EU entities as well as third states having signed an administrative arrangement with EDA (Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Ukraine). It offers participants an efficient pay-per-use solution that does not impose on them any binding financial commitments other than for the specific support requested. The 24/7 standby capacities covered under the EDA contract reduce the administrative burden for members who don’t have to launch their own bidding processes since they can rely on EDA contracts. Contributing Member States have access to a full turn-key solution, which encompasses aircrafts, flight crews, maintenance, infrastructure, medical equipment and staff. The fleet can include Super Puma, AW169, Bell 212/412/407, BK 117, AS365 Dolphin or other types of helicopters as required as well as Beechcraft King Air B200 or B1900C aircraft.  

The Agency manages the project, supports Member States in defining the common requirements, negotiates and concludes the framework agreement (based on an open public procurement process) and sets up specific contracts to cover special needs.  Participating Member States then order the services whenever there is a need, without any delay. Afterwards, EDA manages the payment of the services provided, after full verification. The commercial aircrews also provide training to the Member States they serve, to ensure interoperability and compliance. 

  • EUFOR Tchad/RCA

Harmonising requirements  

Through the framework contract, EDA also promotes the harmonisation of the participating Member States’ operational needs and the development of a European defence capability; the contract can therefore be regarded as a key enabler for missions and operations deployed in remote and hostile environments where Member States cannot rely (or not sufficiently) on own AIRMEDEVAC capabilities. The project is designed around military technical requirements developed by EU Military Staff (EUMS) and Member States experts and endorsed by the EU Military Committee (EUMC). 

Framework contracts and first deployments 

In 2019, EDA concluded a multiple framework contract with Global Helicopter Service GMBH, Elitaliana S.R.L. and Starlite Aviation Operations Ltd. for the provision of fixed and rotary wings medical evacuation services in the context of the AIRMEDEVAC programme. The contracts will run until January 2023 for a maximum value of €120 million.  

On 1 January 2020, EDA commenced its first deployment of civilian, fixed-wing AIRMEDEVAC services to support Belgian Armed Forces operations in Niger in Africa. Belgian forces are active in several areas throughout Africa, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In Niger, they are delivering training and operational advice to the Forces Armée Nigériennes (FANER) and operate in austere conditions with only limited medical support facilities. 

To provide appropriate medical oversight, the deployment provides an aircraft based, primary life support capability, available 24/7 throughout the designated operational theatre, to move injured personnel from the main Damage Control Surgery Unit in the city of Maradi to definitive care facilities in neighbouring Gao, Chad. 

Two more contracts have been added since then to support German operations: one in November 2020 (helicopter support to German operations in Mali under UN Mission MINUSMA for the in-theatre forward aeromedical evacuation and air transport services) and another one in January 2021 for fixed-wing tactical aeromedical evacuation support of German missions in the Sahel. The AIRMEDEVAC capability is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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