The European Defence Agency is planning to spend up to €6 million ($8.8 million) on new unmanned air vehicle initiatives in 2008 under funding arrangements agreed by European Union defence ministers meeting in Brussels on 19 November.
The UAV spend will be dominated by the launch of a demonstrator project aimed at securing access to non-segregated airspace from 2012. The EDA is negotiating with the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) to prepare a roadmap to guide the initiative.
In parallel the EU defence ministers have endorsed plans for the development of common European staff targets for long-endurance UAVs and maritime surveillance UAVs.
Proposals for initial development of a common civilian and military ground architecture for handling endurance UAV systems have also been backed as part of plans for the EDA initiative to be mirrored by parallel work to be funded by the European Commission.
The EDA's planned €6 million UAV projects spend remains subject to further review by the steering board as key projects advance over the next 12 months.
In a written report prepared by EDA head Javier Solana, the armaments czar has advised the ministers that initial study deliverables will be in place "by spring 2008".
Solana's report reveals that additional funding for the UAV air traffic integration initiative may be sought. It says European national armaments directors were advised on 25 September of the potential need for "additional funds through the use of earmarked revenueto be able to invest in this crucial area in the course of next year. EDA will pursue financial and technical discussions with participating member states in view of presenting a clear business case in the first semester of 2008".
The EDA initially launched its UAV airspace integration initiative in May this year with a competitive tender to conduct the initial roadmap studies released shortly thereafter. The initial study phase has an all up budget of €500,000.
At €6 million the proposed overarching UAV spend during 2008 would account for more than half an agreed €10 million increase in EDA outlays approved by the ministers. The EDA's total approved budget for 2008 has been set at €32 million, compared with €22 million in 2007.
At the defence ministers' meeting calls were made for collaborative equipment procurements on the continent to rise to 35% of all current new acquisition efforts. European nations now spend a total of 21% of their acquisition outlays in collaborative arrangements.
The ministers want total equipment spending to rise to 20% of all European defence spending, up from a current level of 19.4%.
They have also agreed to a 0.8% increase in targeted outlays on defence research and technology, calling for European member states to allocate 2% of all defence spending in this area. Europe allocates just 1.2% of total defence allocations to supporting research and technology investment.
New data released by the EDA reveals that total European defence outlays in 2006 reached €200 billion, or 1.78% of the European GDP. Total defence equipment investment, including research, development and technology spending, reached €38.7 billion ($57 million), or 19.4% of European defence outlays
Total expenditure on collaborative European equipment projects reached €6.1 billion, or 21% of total equipment acquisition spending. Collaborative European defence research and technology spending reached €239 million, or 10% of total defence R&T expenditure.
The ministers agreed to support launch of new European joint investment programmes (JIP) with autonomous remote multi-sensing, innovative concepts and emerging technologies and maritime surveillance being given priority. At least one new JIP is expected to be launched by May 2008.
Development of common staff targets for long-endurance UAVs is planned to be completed by July 2008. Development of requirements for the proposed common European military and civilian ground architecture for long-endurance UAVs is expected to be complete by October 2008.
The approved EDA workplan proposes launch of new work on a next-generation UAV datalink system to include line and beyond line-of-sight capabilities. That work will follow from initial concept work carried out for the EDA by a consortium headed by Patria Oyj under a December 2005 contract.
Initial development work on common staff targets for European maritime tactical UAV systems is expected to be completed by mid-2008. Closely related activities will seek to define operational requirements for the identification of small and non-cooperative maritime targets in similar timeframes.