Europe needs a new armaments management and procurement agency to replace the existing OCCAR organisation, Rainer Hertrich, joint chief executive officer of EADS said at the show yesterday.

The replacement agency should have its own budget, have responsibilities for R&D and not be dependent on individual national decision-making processes. These would correct some of the weaknesses of OCCAR, which was set up in 1996 by France, Germany, Italy and the UK, says Hertrich.

Discussions to set up a replacement would have to include both the European Commission and national governments, he adds.

Hertrich and his joint CEO, Philippe Camus, were speaking at a press conference in which they defended Europe's armament capabilities and simultaneously sought to smooth over recent transatlantic squalls.

Asked several questions on the perceived growing 'technology gap' between Europe and the US, Camus accepts that there is an imbalance in the money spent - particularly in the research field - between Europe and the US. But "particularly in EADS, we've demonstrated with the launch of projects such as the A400M [military transport], Meteor [air-to-air missile] and Galileo [navigation satellite] that we are not losing capacity between Europe and the US", he says.

"But clearly we have to increase the level of R&D expenditure and we're working with European governments on that."

EADS, he points out, should have expanded its defence order backlog from €40 billion ($47 billion) to almost €50 billion by the end of this year, pointing to the imminent signing of the UK's Skynet 5 defence communications satellite and Austria's forthcoming purchase of 18 Eurofighter Typhoons among the major impending contracts.

EADS believes that the restructuring of its defence interests into its defence and security systems division, which will become operational on July 1, will help its prospects in the field.

The two CEOs were at pains to play down recent transatlantic rifts, with Hertrich stressing "our belief is that the role of NATO is more important than ever, not only in Europe but also in extending the capabilities of western democracies toward unstable regions of the world". He also pointed out that EADS is a major employer, both directly and indirectly, in the US and has "a lot of co-operation with US partners".

Source: Flight Daily News