Latest news

Sharing European skies

The implementation of the Single European Sky is a topic of utmost importance for all airspace users in Europe. Coordination between the military and civil communities is a critical enabler in that process, as we explain in this interview with subject matter experts.

(This article first appeared in the latest issue of the EDA's official magazine, European Defence Matters)

"A bridge between two worlds"with Roland van Reybroeck "Airspace is a single resource" with Florian Guillermet
"SESAR... is a powerful catalyst" with Massimo Garbini
"Much greater focus on performance" with Philippe Merlo
"Higher civil /military interoperability" with Luc Lalouette


A bridge between two worlds

  • What is the EDA’s added value when it comes to gathering military views on SESAR?

Roland Van Reybroeck
European Defence Agency Cooperation, Planning & Support Director

Since 2010, the European Defence Agency has been tasked to support Member States’ armed forces in the identification of the operational and financial risks associated with the implementation of the Single European Sky air trafficmanagement research programme (SESAR). This is no small feat: as is often pointed out, military fleets with some 9,500 diverse aircraft form the single biggest ‘airline’ operating in European airspace,with more than 150,000 flights each year.

The unique structure of the EDA,whose experts interact on a daily basis with Ministries of Defence, allows us to gather inputs and requirements very early on. A dedicated ‘SESAR Cell’ set up within the EDA early last year provides us with a strong platform for interaction with all parties involved in the implementation of SESAR. 

As an Agency of the European Union, we’re also in the best position to ensure smooth interactions with other EU actors, especially the Commission which needs a consolidated view of the defence community's specific needs regarding the Single European Sky. 

But the EDA is also closely coordinating with the EU Military Committee and EU Military Staff, especially with regard to operational implications and requirements, aswell as training aspects. This is all the more important now that SESAR has entered its Deployment Phase and newair traffic management functionalities will be introduced, some of whichmight have an adverse impact onmilitary operations.

  • What process will you put in place to ensure a smooth interaction with Member States?

The EDA is facilitating the coordination of military views on SES and SESAR. The idea is to analyse the technological projects submitted by other Single European Sky stakeholders ahead of their actual implementation, and to identify those who can impact the military community, from a financial or operational point of view. 

In support of this process a three step consultation mechanism was established with the aim of involving NATO and EUROCONTROL, who include military airspace users and navigation service providers beyond those of the European Union. The mechanism entails staff-to staff coordination and access to relevant expertise available in all three organisations, in order to develop joint military impact assessments of the SESAR deployment programme. These assessments are subsequently submitted to States for comments. The outcome of the mechanism is a consolidated opinion exported by the EDA as a collective view of the military. We have used this process for several initiatives: the adoption of EU Regulations, the development of the ATM Master Plan and now SESAR deployment.

The work with Member States also involves identifying potential mitigation actions as and when required. This involves avoiding duplication of effort and reducing potential investment burdens, by recognizing that certain military systems are sufficient and robust enough to face SESAR requirements, based on equivalent level of performance. On the other hand it may include effectively ensuring the incorporation of military requirements in future SES development and SESAR deployment and ensuring access to EU-funding for related military projects which are already part of defence ministry investment plans or newly planned. In the regulatory domain it may include obtaining exemptions for the military, but only when absolutely necessary. The military indeed strive to be ‘as civil as possible’ but also need to remain ‘as military as required’.

  • In which areas do EU air forces have specific requirements that need to be addressed?

The defence community has always emphasized the prerequisite for air forces to have free and safe access to European airspace for training purposes, air-policing and air defence missions. There is also the need to safeguard their ability to deploy to external operation theatres from within the European airspace, as and when required. Let me clarify that by elaborating on a few examples. 

“The unique structure of the EDA, whose experts interact on a daily basis with Ministries of Defence, allows us to gather inputs and requirements very early on”

Preserving the capacity of the military to train properly means that military pilots need to reach dedicated manoeuvring areas that are often contiguous with airspace used by civil traffic. Access to these areas needs to be ensured in the context of a new SESAR environment which might induce some changes to current procedures or routes for military pilots. 

Safely operating across national and European airspace, including in the most dense and complex areas involves both operational and general air traffic, and ranges from logistic air transport to urgent military interventions in case of contingency situations. And, in the not so distant future, it may also involve safe and efficient integration of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), on a routine basis. 

The specific needs of state actors flying public-service missions such as search and rescue, airborne surveillance or firefighting also have to be taken into account. 

With all these requirements in mind, adverse impacts on both military and civil stakeholders should be avoided through systematic and enhanced civil-military dialogue at the earliest possible stage, first at national levels and then at a European level. Both parties should, side-by side, willingly engage in the cooperative development of harmonised solutions and common mitigation actions.

  • Looking ahead, what do you expect will be the longterm benefits of this approach?

The European Defence Agency clearly recognizes and acknowledges the crucial importance of the Single European Sky initiative of the European Commission, which aims at achieving, in the foreseeable future, improved efficiency, increased capacity, enhanced aviation safety, diminished environmental impact of flights and reduced costs of air traffic services. It is after all in themutual interest of all airspace users, private and public, commercial and governmental, civil and military, to reach these objectives which will contribute to increased efficiency, flexibility and safety, for all. It is a shared vision

The highest priority for all stakeholders is clearly the safe operation of aircraft. The military fully support this objective and anything that can be done to make the airspace safer should be duly considered.

Another major benefit shall be the harmonization of procedures and interoperability of systems across Member States to ensure appropriate access to airspace for all, civil and military alike. This implies the development of harmonised and coordinated civilmilitary implementation roadmaps governing the introduction of new technology or organisational and structural change, to ensure sustained compatibility if not interoperability.

Furthermore, developing air traffic insertion solutions for RPAS, with a view to exploiting all potential synergies and developing common standards. But also, considering common education and training solutions for basic RPAS operations in non-segregated airspace, relying on existing experience and expertise from various operational environments.

The EDA is ideally placed to facilitate cooperation in all of these areaswith relevantmilitary stakeholders and to provide access to a number of existing cooperation platforms for the development of harmonised civil/military solutions. The Military Airworthiness Authorities Forum, the Material Standardisation Group and the Defence Test and Evaluation Base are just a few examples of such cooperation platforms.

The necessity to put into practice the legislative framework for the Single European Sky in a coherent and consistent way is fully shared, taking full account of economic necessities, but also of the requirements resulting from common and national security and defence policies. The shared vision of a Single European Airspace, delivering the benefits which are envisaged, can be achieved through constructive cooperation between civil and military stakeholders, based on the collective willingness to achieve the SES performance objectives, while at the same time enhancing military mission effectiveness. This endeavour should start at national levels between civil andmilitary airspace users, service providers and operators, through joint deployment projects that concretely will help building the Single European Sky piece by piece. It is clear that aviation industry as well can play a key contributing role in this perspective.

The European Defence Agency is reaching out and ramping-up its coordination with all relevant stakeholders, in order to be a strong and reliable partner for civil-military cooperation and harmonisation, with a view to jointly building a Single European Sky in which the views and needs of the defence community are duly taken into account.


"Airspace is a single resource"

  • What is the timeline for the implementation of SESAR?

Florian Guillermet
Executive Director

Thanks to a strong collaboration between its members, the SESAR Joint Undertaking is already delivering the needed operational and technological improvements (‘SESAR Solutions’) for industrialisation and deployment. Over the course of 2015 and 2016, our goal is to add many more to this catalogue of SESAR Solutions. In parallel, an extended programme (SESAR 2020) will address new challenges and evolutions in ATM and aviation necessary to reach the next level of performance. These activities will be fully aligned with the next edition of the ATM Master Plan, which will be finalised by the end of 2015.

  • What are the specific requirements of the armed forces and how are they taken into account?

SESAR is founded on the principle that European airspace is a single resource shared by all airspace users, whose diverse needs are fully recognised and answered. Thanks to a very sound cooperation with our military partners from States and military organisations, we have been able to integrate and respond to the needs of the armed forces through a number of dedicated projects.

One area of focus has been the exchange of air-ground data messages between military aircraft and ATM systems. In response to concerns that SESAR Solutions could bring into the cockpit an assembly of costly avionics, SESAR members recently demonstrated how civil-military interoperability is possible on the principle of equivalence, using existing military capabilities thereby reducing implementation costs.

  • What have been the most recent deliverables of the SESAR JU?

A number of recently-delivered SESAR Solutions have already been implemented, such as the world’s first Remote Tower Services (RTS) in Sweden supporting mobility and thereby economic sustainability for remote regions in Europe. Another significant milestone is the world’s first 4D flights, which allows for more efficient flight paths and traffic flows, and ultimately more predictable flights. But perhaps, the most convincing proof of SESAR’s readiness is the EU decision to deploy the first set of SESAR Solutions into the Pilot Common Project (PCP). This will allow for the crucial synchronised deployment across Europe (2015-2020).


"SESAR... is a powerful catalyst"

  • What is the role of the deployment manager?

Massimo Garbini
Managing Director
SESAR Deployment Manager

The SESAR project is a powerful catalyst to transforming Europe’s ATM network into a modern, cohesive and performance-based operational system. Proof of the readiness of SESAR research is the decision by the European Commission (EC) to package a first set of SESAR solutions into a Pilot Common Project (PCP), that are considered mature enough for synchronised deployment across Europe (2015-2020). This will be managed by the recently established SESAR Deployment Manager (SDM), an alliance of European ATM actors collaborating under a framework partnership agreement with the EC, who will ensure that new technologies and solutions that have already been tested and validated through the SESAR JU are delivered into everyday operations across Europe, delivering significant benefits to airspace users and the environment. This means that Europe now has all the blocks necessary to build the ATM system that it needs to increase the performance and sustainability of its aviation sector. 

  • How is the coordination of military and civil views organised in that context?

The military is a very important stakeholders of the SESAR Deployment Manager (SDM). SDM will conclude a cooperative arrangement with EDA to formalise the exchange of information crucial for drawing up the Deployment Programme (DP).Also input from the operational military stakeholders shall be taken into account, through representation by the EDA, in the Stakeholder Consultation Platform. 

  • What will be the main milestones of the SESAR deployment programme?

The Deployment Programme (DP) is not just another plan. The DP is direct input for the subsequent INEA-calls (Innovation & Networks Executive Agency) aimed at investing the CEF-funds (Connection Europe Facility). So there will be a sequence between the INEA-calls and the versions of the Deployment Programme. For now the first version of the DP should be delivered to DG Move by end of June 2015, as input for INEA-call expected by the end of 2015. Another INEA-call is expected by end 2016, so a second version (DP v2) is expected by mid-2016. 


"Much greater focus on performance"

  • What impact does the military community have on European ATM – and vice versa?

Philippe Merlo

Europe has a single airspace shared between civilian and military airspace users. The military have a vital role to play, with specific needs for reserved airspace as certain times. They also have to be able to transit through airspace that is also being used by civilian traffic. There is today a much greater focus on performance – safety, capacity, cost efficiency and the environment. At the same time, civilian traffic is starting to increase again, with the latest forecast showing that 2021 will see nearly 1.8 million more flights than in 2014 – an increase of over 18%. So ATM has to evolve in order to maintain and even improve its performance. This will have implications both for how airspace is shared and also or for military aircraft flying in civilian-controlled airspace.

  • How does EUROCONTROL take the specific needs of the armed forces into account?

EUROCONTROL is a civil-military organisation and has a long and unique record of fostering civil-military and even military-military cooperation. One good example of this is the fact that one of the first of our new Centralised Services (CS4) is the Advanced Flexible Use of Airspace service, which is being developed to help ensure that military missions can be carried out effectively while maximising the availability of airspace for civil users. Just as important is the work done to ensure that the needs of the armed forces are considered when developing new ATM technologies and procedures. Here we can see the focus on developing ground infrastructure, rather than more aircraft equipage and on performance-based regulation. So rather than specifying what equipment aircraft should carry, the emphasis is more on what that equipment should be able to do.

  • How do you interact with SESAR in that domain?

We are a founding member of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, as well as being involved in a significant number of the SESAR projects including, in particular, the European ATM Master Plan. We are also developing our working relationship with bodies such as the European Commission, EASA, the new SESAR Deployment Manager as well as, of course, the EDA with whom we have a joint work programme.


"Higher civil /military interoperability"

  • How are the industry’s interests represented within the SESAR endeavour?

Luc Lalouette
Head of SESAR Task Force with the ASD

“All of us have to keep in mind that the European Air Forces are the biggest fleet operators and airports owners and as such have a key role to play in the SES developments”

The industry’s interests are both directly and indirectly represented within the SESAR endeavour. Directly, through the pro-active contribution of the key air traffic management (ATM) industrial stakeholders in the SESAR Joint Undertaking structure on the ground and in the air, more than 30% of the funding of the SESAR JU is provided by industry. Indirectly, and in a larger manner than the SESAR JU members, the industry’s interests are represented through its active involvement in SESAR deployment preparation in support of discussions with European bodies and, as recognized by the European bodies, at a later stage through the support of the Deployment Manager. The AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe is involved in the SESAR deployment phase in governance and financing and in the synchronization and interoperability between SESAR and NextGen deployment.

  • What is the technological spillover effect of SESAR on the global ATC/ATM industry?

As the technical evolutions in the ATM market are strongly dependent on standardization and norms, SESAR is, in Europe, the key driver to facilitate and accelerate such evolutions due to its large scope and its consensus approach to functional and technical contents.

Potential benefits also exist outside Europe, pending SESAR capabilities to disseminate its outcomes and to be synchronized - both in term of planning and content – with NextGen. SESAR coordinates ATM research and development (R&D) activities in Europe, however the human and financial resources that SESAR asks of companies leads to questions about its remaining capability to create technological differentiators amongst them.

  • Do you see potential specific developments linked to the military needs regarding the Single European Sky?

The Single European Sky, due to its nature, calls for higher ATM civil/military coordination and interoperability in order to increase the ATM performance while maintaining the military’s freedom to operate its various missions assigned by its national authorities. The degree of coordination will depend of the situation (peace/war), the nature of the fleet (transport/combat fighter/rotorcraft) and the operational concepts in place within European nations. 

However, we can already foresee the need for specific developments – both at the technical and procedural level – in the following areas:

  • Command and control (C2) and military ATC systems to allow interoperability with civilian ATC systems (trajectory management, airspace management, etc)
  • Non-radar surveillance due to its impact on military and governmental flight security (automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast [ADS-B], multilateration [MLAT] etc)
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) integration into non-segregated airspace (sense and avoid capability)
  • Military fleet equipment to limit the need for exemptions

Those needs require fast progress in military cooperation within the framework of the SES. This could be achieved through a deep analysis of potential achievements through performance equivalence and experiments to validate the technological and procedural enhancements needed to fill the gaps.

All of us have to keep in mind that Europe’s air forces operate the largest fleets of aircraft and own the largest number of airport so they have a key role to play in SES developments. SES benefits for Europe’s citizens will not be achieved without the active role of Europe’s air forces.