Potential Developments in European Test and Evaluation – International Consolidation versus National Protection
For many years the ivory towers of the European defence sector have been consolidation and collaboration. The European Defence Agency (EDA) considers these twin peaks one of if not their only “raison d’être”. Further in the NATO alliance much weight is given to commonality and interoperability. Such a position has clear operational and financial benefits but in some quarters it has been suggested instead that it is closer to a cornerstone of the success of the USA’s political, defence, industrial complex. Such assertions are hardly surprising given the size of the American defence budget, the size of their contribution to the alliance, the close relationship of Federal and State Government with “local” defence contractors and the investment in R&D by US original equipment manufacturers. All of which have contributed to the preponderance of American weapons, systems and platforms among the Armed Forces of Europe.
By contrast, the major nations of Europe have continued to separately develop weapons and systems (METEOR and STORMSHADOW two honourable exceptions) despite the total value of the top 5 national defence budgets in Europe equating to approximately one-third of US investment in defence. Where collaborations do occur on major platform programmes such as: Eurofighter Typhoon, Panavia Tornado, CNGF and A400M, national interests and cultural differences lead to significant delays in realising the desired military capabilities. Consequently, how likely are recent bi-lateral agreements such as the Anglo-French defence and security accord or the Franco-German memorandum on defence test and evaluation to succeed and will they lead to a new era of collaboration and consolidation?
Collaboration in Defence Test and Evaluation in Europe has several precedents including:
- Anglo-French agreement on hydrodynamic testing
- NAMFI the established NATO Missile Firing Installation in Crete
- Joint Test and Evaluation Plan for Meteor
- The Anglo-French accord on missile design, development and manufacture
Yet there remain many advanced capabilities within Europe that are: under-utilised, searching for third-party income and competing with each other on National and International programmes. What drives this choice and what could be a realistic alternative?
A major contributory factor to the future of both collaboration and consolidation within Europe is the national desire to maintain a Defence and Technology Industrial Base. Investing in national programmes is seen as critical to both maintaining an expertise base and realising defence exports, both of these contribute to growth in GDP. A second and equally important factor is the potential impact on local employment of out-sourcing defence capabilities such as test and evaluation where thousands of staff are employed in both the Public and Private Sectors. The final and potentially dominant factor is the proverbial “line in the sand”; every nation has its own list of defence capabilities that must remain in country, which might include:
- Special Forces
- Electronic Warfare
- Nuclear capabilities where established
- Munitions manufacturing capability
Against this background those seeking collaboration and consolidation may find their options limited to technologies that do not necessarily provide a battle winning capability. If we acknowledge that every nation in Europe with a defence budget will strive to maintain the level of indigenous capability implied by the list above how can the European nations create a more realistic and better utilised defence test and evaluation base and what would be the benefits?
To consider the question posed above we need to look at the basic dynamics between the European inventory of modern weapons and the availability of expertise, facilities and capabilities to test, evaluate and train in war-like scenarios with them. Across Europe there are perhaps a dozen nations that possess the expertise, infrastructure and test and evaluation ranges capable of exercising modern weapons and smart munitions to their fullest extent whilst there are 30 or more nations who already have or are planning to acquire such military capability. Among the dozen there are some unique capabilities but also a significant number of duplicate facilities. By using, in a more intelligent way, the extensive set of European test and evaluation facilities across national boundaries our defence sector could: increase utilisation, reduce national costs and increase collaboration through familiarity breeding trust and confidence. Consequently Europe creates headroom to compete more effectively with the USA in markets both within Europe and across the world. The challenge is how!
Collaboration and consolidation in Europe does not start with a blank page as I hope I have shown by the observations made above. What we can do however is change the nature of the discussion by moving on from capturing every nations’ facilities to expressing what Europe alone and through NATO needs by way of a Defence Test and Evaluation Base for the future; this could be based on the recently published NATO 2020 recommendations. A start has been made on this by the EDA but unfortunately the starting point was not what Europe needs but how Europe will cut costs by forcing collaboration and consolidation. I would therefore like to suggest an alternative approach to stimulate this essential development.
|Step 1.||Agree that this is a Europe-wide initiative through the EDA supported by NATO|
|Step 2.||Acknowledge that every nation round the table has their own national capability requirements and agree them based on genuine need and investment not national “chutzpah”|
|Step 3.||Identify and agree unique European test and evaluation capabilities – two examples from the air weapons domain are: The UK Hebrides which is the only METEOR and AMRAAM war-shot capability in Europe, FMV Vidsel in Sweden the largest overland range in Europe by a factor of 10,|
|Step 4.||Identify and agree the pre-eminent national test and evaluation capabilities that support the future needs of the defence sector and request that they lead on the development of a road map for a particular expertise leading to the requisite consolidated Europe-wide capability|
|Step 5.||Support the consolidation with the negotiation of the necessary defence accords to ensure access to the consolidated facilities and security of national data within the specialised Europe-wide capabilities created by implementing step 4|
|Step 6.||Re-direct the funding from consolidated facilities into the R&D essential to a modern, competitive European-wide defence sector that can truly compete with the USA|