Sharing airspace with military jets is one thing. Optimising that shared use is quite another.

How well the civil-military dimension will be integrated into Europe's Single European Sky (SESAR) with its performance-based goals will depend crucially on not only the level of awareness, but also the level of stakeholder commitment to military-related objectives.

SESAR is not just about changing airspace organisation or air traffic control tools and procedures, it is also about a profound impact on infrastructure aspects such as military aircraft avionics and command and control/air defence systems.

Yet, at defence ministry level, SESAR is not considered as a core business imperative since it does not directly relate to security and defence. That means that civil-military systems interoperability was always going to require buy-in from European military procurement chiefs to ensure that any future upgrades of hardware and systems would meet the SESAR interoperability needs from 2020.

That is why Eurocontrol director general David McMillen wrote to all 42 European defence ministers a year ago urging them to collaborate in SESAR's development.

Austrian Typhoons 767 wide 
 © Markus Zimmer/BMLV

At a December workshop that more than 130 delegates from military authorities, procurement agencies and the defence industry attended, all agreed on the need to validate the SESAR operational concept. Broad support was secured for a civil-military architecture and standardisation roadmap. That roadmap will list the standards required to support the implementation of operational improvements and technical "enablers".

"SESAR must be able to develop a new generation of civil-military 'performance-based' standards that will lead to a different approach to certification, one which will recognise military capabilities that prove to be equivalent to a required performance level," says Jean-Robert Cazarré, Eurocontrol's civil-military ATM co-ordination director.

He says much effort is aimed at providing sufficient lead time and offering pragmatic solutions to enable the military to implement the changes and demonstrate an equivalent level of safety. This can be achieved using available military equipment designed to meet strict military operational requirements.

But SESAR compatibility will be expensive. Cazarré estimates the overall military-related cost to be roughly €7 billion ($9 billion) in the definition phase, but he says further studies will be conducted into better identifying air traffic management costs and reviewing assumptions that have been made so far.

"The ATM costs might be less if military avionics can be reused, if the military share the costs of the ground infrastructure with the civil sector, or if the industry is able to develop secure gateways between civil and military systems," he says.

An example is the connection of military systems with the new European-wide "ground/ground" communications network, based on the pan-European network service internet protocol, which could support the SESAR network centric infrastructure interconnecting civil and military ATC and command and control/air defence systems.

The size of military fleets and budget limitations do not allow for massive retrofits to be performed in a limited time period. Also, it is becoming more clear that the need to accommodate multiple aircraft types with many different avionics configurations in a common environment will only be possible if equipment-based ATM mandates are progressively discontinued.

That means the involvement of the defence industry is vital to ensure that multi-mode avionics, integration solutions and interfaces are identified and validated as required for civil-military interoperability.

Military platforms will never be identical to their commercial counterparts as the basic mission is different. If military systems are not able to swap information with the civil world or if the flight management systems on military aircraft cannot comply with advanced required navigation performance and trajectory management requirements, the SESAR 2020 vision may be just a mirage.

As Cazarré notes, the technology has to be compatible. "Otherwise, we might end up with the equivalent of army tanks unauthorised to use the road network or require assistance in transit from A to B."

Source: Flight International