by Dirk Hoke, CEO Airbus Defence and Space
Geopolitical changes are forcing the nations of Europe to reassess their relationship with one another. It is up to us to act if we wish to secure and preserve Europe’s independence, peace and prosperity. We must be strong politically and militarily, and not just economically, if we are to prevent other powers from dictating how we in Europe live.
This means that we must take responsibility for our own defence, even though this is a message that many do not wish to hear. Europe’s nations disarmed massively following the end of the Cold War. Today, our forces lack manpower, weapon systems and equipment. Only 22 percent of all Germans believe the Bundeswehr, the German Armed Forces, is sufficiently well-equipped and mission-ready.
State-of-the-art defence systems are expensive, particularly when we develop them ourselves to avoid becoming dependent on others. This burden is simply too great for most European countries to bear alone.
But is it really necessary for each country to develop and procure its own weapon systems? Does each EU member nation really need its own standard rifles, combat vehicles or corvettes? A simple comparison reveals the answer. Economically and in terms of troop strength, all EU nations together are roughly equivalent to the US. But the difference in military striking power is dramatic.
It therefore makes much more sense for Europeans to procure their military equipment jointly. Large order quantities would enable Europe to maintain a defence industry of its own. A further benefit is that larger quantities mean lower unit costs, as high development expenditures are amortised more rapidly. Taxpayers would receive more for their money.
France, the UK and Germany cannot stand alone. However, the spread of nationalist tendencies is endangering cooperation within Europe. Germany and France have recognised this risk: in the Treaty of Aachen, they agreed to establish a bilateral defence and security council to frame policy and further promote the development of joint defence programmes. So far, so good. But a declaration of intent alone is not enough. We require a resolute implementation. As one of Europe’s core military powers, it is essential that the UK be involved in this process. That is in the interest of all Europeans. This is one more reason why a no-deal Brexit must be avoided at all costs. Economic cooperation is not possible without a functioning legal framework.
Dirk Hoke is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Airbus Defence and Space since 1st April 2016
In the past, Europe has demonstrated that it can work together. The founding of Airbus and its development since the 1970s has been a major success for commercial aerospace. Airbus can boast of multiple successes in the military sector as well. The Eurofighter, the A400M transporter, and the NH90 and Tiger helicopters attest to this – despite all problems. We must now take this cooperation to a new level and expand it. To enable this, Germany needs to swiftly enact the consensus on export regulations set out in the Treaty of Aachen. Germany’s current posture on this sensitive issue is unacceptable to France, Spain and the UK, and isolates us in precisely the European context which we want to strengthen. France will not want to develop a Eurofighter successor with Germany if our country’s default reflex is to block exports of the aircraft. Berlin needs to move on this.
The private sector is ready and waiting. Without the corresponding orders, however, it will not be able to retain its research and development capacities in the long term. Losing these capacities would damage Europe’s economy, which not only benefits greatly from the developments and as suppliers to the defence enterprises. If we put Europe’s security at risk, other industries will also find themselves weakened by foreign influences. The current exodus of so many businesses from the UK provides a taste of where this can lead.
We have debated the topic of defence cooperation long enough. The security situation, the state of the armed forces and the obligation to handle taxpayers’ money responsibly all demand that we tackle the issue of joint defence procurement now. Otherwise, we run the risk that others will dictate how much peace, freedom and prosperity we can enjoy in Europe.
As Germans in Europe, it is time for us to stand up and demonstrate the courage and fortitude needed to secure the joint defence of our continent – before it’s too late.
Status: Feb 2019
Germany and its European partners – especially France – are facing important strategic decisions regarding their air forces. The countries have begun to flesh out procurement-related observations and to define requirements for future systems for air superiority. The development of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) will secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in air defence for decades to come. It is now time to chart the political course which will ensure the success of the project.
Airbus and Dassault Aviation join forces for FCAS
The System of Systems
FCAS is far more than an aircraft. It is considered to be a “system of systems” that coordinates a wide range of resources which work together intelligently: a next-generation fighter jet, medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, existing aircraft models and future cruise missiles and swarms of drones. In a larger deployment scenario, the system can also be integrated with mission aircraft, satellites, NATO systems and land and naval combat systems. It is due to enter operation alongside the current-generation Eurofighter and Rafale fighter jets from 2040, and will ultimately replace these altogether. The involvement of other European defence companies and countries will be considered.
A boost for advanced technology
As the most important European defence policy project, FCAS will give Europe the capacity to continue to act autonomously in the future, while at the same time strengthening its political and military ties. What’s more, the ambitious development of such advanced technologies for FCAS can give European industry a much-needed boost, which experience shows will also be strongly reflected in the civil sector. It is therefore expected that FCAS will play a decisive role in shaping the industrial landscape of Germany and France over the next decades and that the countries’ competitiveness in advanced technologies will increase overall. Given the ambitious schedule, it is of crucial importance that Germany and France produce an initial joint study before the end of the year.
Securing sovereign technological leadership
A contract for the overall development of FCAS should immediately follow the study and will include the construction of demonstrators to support development as of 2025. Due to the tight schedule, an immediate start must be made on working out a roadmap which sets out how best to meet the so far undefined requirements and timescales of the two countries.
At this year’s ILA Air Show, Airbus and Dassault announced their intention to collaborate on the development of the FCAS. “Airbus and Dassault Aviation have absolutely the right expertise to lead the FCAS project,” declared Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. An important milestone was reached on June 19, 2018 with the signature of a letter of intent between Germany and France. FCAS is not only an outstanding European industrial and defence project for the coming years, but also a key integrator which will contribute to establishing a common European safety and defence architecture.
Status: July 2018
The NATO Summit on 11-12th July 2018 comes at a time of strained transatlantic relations. This in itself illustrates how vital it is for the EU and NATO to work together towards common goals.
The aim: to break down transatlantic tensions
The 2018 NATO Summit should seek to boost NATO-EU cooperation and de-escalate current tensions. One contentious issue has been the defence budgets. European contributions to NATO missions and operations have increased over the last four years. The NATO Summit should recognise these achievements and at the same time encourage further steps towards ensuring that each country invests 2% of its economic power in defence, as per the jointly-agreed target.
A stronger EU means a stronger NATO
No one wins by threatening allies with a trade war. But these threats also underline the urgent need for closer cooperation in Europe. A strong EU and a strong NATO are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary: closer defence cooperation among EU member states would strengthen the transatlantic alliance.
Europe is beginning to heed this message. The EU recently proposed cooperative funding for specific defence expenditure – for the first time in history. Moreover, nine EU nations have already formalised a plan to create a European military intervention force. The EU now needs to follow through on these historic announcements.
The A400M aircraft, specifically designed to meet the harmonised needs of European NATO nations
Future sustainability thanks to new technologies
A strong, unified NATO is essential in today's geopolitical environment. The members must do everything they can to preserve the alliance from any threat. Furthermore, Europe needs to increase the mobility of its armed forces, deepen cross-border collaboration and provide adequate funding. By doing this, the EU and NATO can together create a more efficient and more effective defence network, for the benefit of all member states.
Futureproofing the alliance also means adopting the newest technologies. The A400M has already contributed significantly to improving Europe's air transport capabilities, and beyond this, Airbus’ ambition is to expand its cooperation with NATO on projects involving digitalisation, artificial intelligence and other "disruptive" technologies.
In view of the geopolitical challenges it faces, NATO needs strong partners, adequate resources and close cooperation from its European members. The upcoming summit provides the best opportunity to address these urgent, strategic questions. It must not be wasted.
Status: July 2018