Identity, Industry and Interoperability: The drivers of European armaments collaboration

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Publication Date January 2022
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Strengthening European defence cooperation entails many aspects from deploying forces together to collaborative armaments acquisition programmes. Supplying the armed forces of European countries with modern weaponry that is interoperable and standardised, is a key prerequisite for Europe to become a true geopolitical player. In this context, this report has identified nine drivers behind European armaments collaboration in three categories: political, industrial and military.

Regarding political drivers, it is the combination of a changing international security environment, the aim to reduce strategic dependency and fear of US retrenchment that contribute to European armaments collaboration. The most important industrial driver in Europe is the declining economic viability of an exclusively national approach to the generation of advanced military capabilities. Here, economies of scale, cross-border defence industrial consolidation, and the institutional deepening of European armaments collaboration via the creation of instruments such as the European Defence Fund (EDF), contribute equally. Finally, European armaments collaboration is a product of military policy initiatives that demand equipment commonality and interoperability. Also, symmetry in the requirements and the timing of acquisition of military equipment have an impact on the scope for collaboration.

Using these nine drivers as an analytical framework, three case studies of major future European collaborative armaments efforts were undertaken: the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) and the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC). Each case was examined separately in order to assess the implications for future defence policy and armaments planning purposes.

Having analysed the FCAS, MGCS and NGRC programmes from the political, industrial and military points of view, this report concludes that all three of these major European collaborative armaments programmes should be on the future Dutch defence planning and armaments procurement agenda. The three programmes clearly support the objective of the Dutch government to strengthen European defence cooperation and to improve European military capabilities.

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