Breathless insiders said it was ‘make-or-break’ for EDA, an exaggeration for the EU’s well-established hub for defence collaboration. But as Ukrainian forces use up to 7,000 shells a day on the battlefield, the message was clear.
The Agency has already laid the basis for possible ammunition Framework Contracts orders in record time by launching and running a common call for tenders. Twenty-six countries signed EDA’s ‘Collaborative Procurement of Ammunition’ project arrangement from March onwards, with some Member States expected to move to sign contracts for ammunition orders as soon as the Framework Contracts will be in place.
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The responsibility has fallen to a small team inside EDA who, unlike the EU vaccine procurement process of the COVID-19 pandemic, do not have hundreds of people to turn to. What’s more, defence is a sensitive issue and discretion is the norm. Ammunition stocks, supply chains, company production and strategic plans are well-kept secrets.
But arguably the hardest task, says EDA’s Corporate Services Deputy Director Gianluca Serra, has been the need for EDA staff members involved in the project to play the multiple roles of policy maker, negotiator, ammunition expert, lawyer, financial and business executive on an almost daily basis (see EDM page 38).
That is because the Agency’s team continues to move between discussions with different constituencies of stakeholders within the constellation of EU institutions and Member States involved. When drawing up a fast-track procedure, which under the existing rules allows for the ordinary tendering process to be simplified and contracts to be put into place at relatively short notice, multi-dimensional issues (involving policy, governance, market, law, fiscality, finance) are of consideration.
EDA is putting in place two filters to ensure that ammunition can actually be produced once orders are made, and then used in battle.
“In the procurement process, we require suppliers to provide certification of compatibility with the firing system and this, albeit indirectly, will contribute to making the EU artillery technological landscape more interoperable,” Serra says. “This is the added value brought by EDA.”
Johann Fischer, Head of EDA’s Land and Logistics Unit within the Capability, Armament and Planning (CAP) Directorate, explains that the ammunition must be at least compatible across four chosen platforms . These are self-propelled howitzers that European Member States have sent to Ukraine: France’s Caesar; Poland’s Krab; Germany’s Panzerhaubitze 2000; and Slovakia’s Zuzana.
“Once we collected the basic information, it was agreed to focus our procurement on these four artillery platforms,” Fischer says. “We also decided on the two different types of ammunition: the high explosive and the high-explosive extended range.”
“You might ask why we focus only on 155mm, or why only on certain platforms,” Fischer adds. “The answer is both what Ukraine needs and the sheer urgency, given that it will still take time for the ammunition to be manufactured and delivered after contracts are signed. In procurement terms, everything we are doing is running along very short timelines,” Fischer says.
Another step of the process is conformity. “The original equipment maker must give the wider industry the ability to produce its ammunition if it is to be considered in our market survey of available suppliers,” Fischer says.