Since its foundation 11 years ago the European Defence Agency (EDA) has received almost €1bn from its 27 member states (all European Union member states except Denmark) to manage 160 research projects. Jorge Domecq, the Agency’s executive director, told defence ministers on 19 April that in 2015 it had managed 22 new research projects worth €71m, against 18 projects worth €69m in 2015. The Agency itself has a limited budget of €30.53m and employs just 123 people.
In 2015 EDA made progress in four cooperative capability programmes:
- EDA received a formal request from France, Germany and Italy to support the MALE [medium altitude long endurance] RPAS [remotely piloted air system] Programme. Activities focus on the difficult task of integrating military RPAS into civilian airspace.
- Progress continues to be made towards the establishment of a European strategic tanker capability (AAR) by 2020. An industrial solution has been identified, the Airbus A330 MRTT, with the expectation of a Memorandum of Understanding and contract signature possibly at the Farnborough air show this summer.
- The feasibility study for GovSatCom, a major satellite communications satellite project, was launched in June 2015 and a European industrial consortium is supporting the Agency in this process.
- Finally, good progress was made in 2015 in cybersecurity regarding preparation of two cooperative ad hoc projects: the Federation of National Cyber Ranges, and the Cyber Situation Awareness Packages for headquarters. The launch of their implementation phase is planned for 2016.
Another important step was taken in 2015 with the approval by the European Council of a clause that cooperative defence projects and programmes run by EDA are exempt from VAT with immediate effect as long as the Agency has an added value role. The VAT exemption generates an attractive business case for cooperative projects and programmes in the framework of EDA.
Ministers of Defence have endorsed three new roadmaps for EDA. The first concerns anti-tank weapons with a view to establishing tangible cooperative initiatives by late 2016. In the long run this project should help better understand future anti-tank requirements to counter both conventional (main battle tanks) and unconventional threats (such as bunkers, infrastructures, soft and cold targets, fast light vehicles).
Now that the JDEAL project is up and running (see FOB 3 March) to help deal with the IED (improvised explosive devices) threat, EDA has now approved an initial roadmap for a potential deployable facility countering biological threats. An expert group started its work in 2015 with a view to producing a Common Staff Target by the end of 2016 and a possible project launch by the end of 2017.
Finally, 16 contributing Member States are expected to sign the deployable Field Hospitals initiative (Multinational Modular Medical Units) in spring 2016.
Furthermore, the Agency has highlighted the key findings of the hybrid threats table-top exercise it conducted in March involving some 80 experts from Member States, EU institutions and NATO. It underlined, for example, the critical importance of strategic awareness to allow Member States to detect and identify hybrid threats. “The exercise was very useful as it allowed us to stress-test military capabilities in a hybrid threat environment. It also underlined the importance of close co-operation between military and civilian stakeholders in a hybrid threat scenario. However, we also saw that existing military capabilities should not be completely reoriented towards countering hybrid threats as the full spectrum of military missions must be considered,” Domecq said. A second exercise in June will focus on the way ahead in different capability areas.
Finally, from an organisational viewpoint, EDA is introducing a new three year planning framework “to plan and prioritise EDA’s activities while at the same time inform and support member states’ own national defence planning.”