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Defence Ministers Commit to Capability Programmes

At the meeting of the European Defence Agency’s Steering Board, Defence Ministers today committed to the launch of four programmes and their associated roadmaps in order to address critical shortfalls identified in recent operations. Increased cooperation in the areas of Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), Governmental Satellite Communication and Cyber Defence as well as support to industry including SMEs with a focus on research & innovation and military airworthiness certification result from the meeting. They will also constitute a contribution of Defence Ministers to the European Council in December addressing defence and security issues. 

The objective of the EDA Steering Board on 19 November was to finalise Defence Ministers’ contribution to the European Council in December as regards capabilities and industry. Against the backdrop of constrained defence budgets, the focus is on the preparation of the capabilities of tomorrow through cooperation, supported by a healthy and competitive industry as well as technology.

“The discussion by Heads of State and Government at the forthcoming European Council is of utmost importance for European defence. We need recognition at the highest political level that defence – considering the diversity of threats and challenges – is a priority. In view of today’s constrained financial situation, this effort for defence must be fully efficient which implies cooperation and searching for synergies. Clearly, we cannot do ‘more with less’”, said Claude-France Arnould. 

EDA developed proposals to further enhance the development of defence capabilities and to support Europe’s defence industry. Defence Ministers today endorsed these proposals and committed to programmes and their associated roadmaps in the areas of AAR, RPAS, Governmental Satellite Communication and Cyber Defence. They also supported measures to support European defence research and innovation and industry, including SMEs. 

Air-to-Air Refuelling

Air-to-air refuelling (AAR) is a critical enabler for air power projection and it is required to enable sustained air combat operations. Recent operations have demonstrated an important European capability gap in this area. EDA has thus developed a global approach with three objectives: increase overall capacity; reduce fragmentation of the fleet; and optimise the use of assets. The Agency together with the Member States is engaged in four work strands to close this important capability gap, of which the most important for the future is the acquisition of a European strategic Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) capability from 2020. This builds on the Letter of Intent signed by nine Member States (BE, EL, ES, FR, HU, LU, PL, PT, NL) and NO at the Steering Board in November 2012. Work is led by NL. Synergies with other such capabilities are key to maximum efficiency; France is offering support from its own planned acquisitions, the UK Voyager is also an important contribution to this capability.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

RPAS have proven their value in the military sphere in recent operations demonstrating their operational capacities, particularly for surveillance and information gathering. Defence Ministers endorsed a roadmap on RPAS which aims at laying the foundations for a European solution in the 2020-2025 timeframe. The roadmap includes four actions: 

  • RPAS Certification. In the context of the Military Airworthiness Forum, the Agency is exploring together with national authorities and the European Aviation Safety Agency how to streamline the certification process for military RPAS on the European level. 
  • Signature of a Joint Investment Programme on RPAS for Air Traffic Insertion. The programme will focus on technological priorities such as sense and avoid, taxi, automatic take-off and landing, air traffic management interfaces, safe automated monitoring and decision architecture. These demonstration projects will be complementary to the activities of the European Commission in support of RPAS in order to seek synergies. Eight Member States (AT, BE, CZ, DE, ES, FR, IT, UK) signed the programme during the Steering Board. 
  • Future European RPAS MALE Programme. Defence Ministers today endorsed the Common Staff Target for Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPAS as the basis for those Member States which intend to participate in any future project to develop a Common Staff Requirement; in this context Ministers tasked EDA to prepare the launch of a Category B project.
  • Establishment of a MALE RPAS community. The objective of this community is to exchange information as well as to identify and facilitate cooperation among Member States which currently operate or plan to operate RPAS. At the Steering Board meeting on 19 November 2013 seven Member States (FR, DE, EL, ES, IT, NL, and PL) signed a Letter of Intent to join the Community.

Governmental Satellite Communications

Satellite communications have become critical elements for defence, security, humanitarian, emergency response or diplomatic communications. They are a key enabler for civil and military missions/operations in particular in remote and austere environments with little or no infrastructure. Additionally, there is strong potential for a dual-use cooperative approach. The objective of EDA’s proposal for Governmental Satellite Communications (GOVSATCOM) is to prepare the next generation in the 2025 timeframe. In close cooperation with Member States, the European Commission and the European Space Agency, the programme includes (i) establishing a GOVSATCOM Operators User Group of the five Member States (DE, ES, FR, IT, UK) that operate systems; (ii) identifying and producing Common Staff Targets for future mission requirements; (iii) on this basis, undertake a gap analysis and an updated Strategic Research Agenda; (iv) coordinating civil and military requirements; and (v) preparing a Category B project for Member States interested in due course.

Cyber Defence

On Cyber Defence, EDA was tasked to develop, in close coordination with Member States, EEAS and the European Commission, a comprehensive roadmap for strengthening Cyber Defence Capabilities. Based on the work already commenced by EDA, the main elements of the roadmap are training, improving cyber situational awareness, improving civil/military cooperation, the protection of EU assets during missions and operations and technological aspects.

Support to industry

Defence industry in Europe, including SMEs, underpins the development of the capabilities of tomorrow. Research and innovation and certification provide strong industrial leverage. In this regard, Ministers agreed to support research and innovation in Europe through prioritisation (list of European critical defence technologies), through exploring new instruments for investing in critical technologies and greater synergies with EU instruments. Special attention is given to supporting SMEs.


The development of a full suite of harmonised European Military Airworthiness Requirements (EMARs), together with mutual recognition between participating Member States is a ‘key enabler’ to reduce defence expenditure. At the same time it contributes to an improved and more competitive European defence aerospace industry. The implementation of the EMARS into national regulations will unlock benefits for both Member States and industry to reduce aircraft support and certification costs (for both future and legacy platforms). It will also enable an open European market for the ‘Pooling & Sharing’ of aircraft maintenance resources, enhance ‘test and evaluation’ activities and significantly drive down the duplication of effort between and within Member States. Defence Ministers signed a Political Declaration on Certification and Airworthiness to achieve long-term results. The Agency is also tasked to prepare, in close coordination with Member States, the European framework conditions for certifying RPAS.

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