Western European Union chiefs say industry risks becoming Pentagon subcontractor

The Western European Union (WEU) assembly has unanimously endorsed a highly critical analysis of the European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP). It backs the findings that Italian and UK participation in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme is undermining advancement of the European defence and aerospace industries (Flight International, 14-20 June).

The WEU has also unanimously backed reports calling for increased European investment in network-centric warfare capabilities and more coherent policy for military uses of space.

Meeting in Paris on 14 June, the WEU assembly backed findings by its technology and aerospace committee that the JSF “is beginning to look like the European fighter aircraft of the future. Given the large number of European states that have now acquired US aeronautical equipment, ETAP’s primary ambition is therefore compromised from the outset.”

WEU technology and aerospace committee chairman Edward O’Hara, representing the UK, said that UK and Italian investment in JSF could have been redirected to provide “the starting point for joint programmes with the USA in the framework of effective multilateral co-operation, a key concept of the European Security Strategy.

Instead, European co-operation continues to be plagued by fragmentation, piecemeal development and duplication of effort, and ETAP’s limitations are plain for all to see in the absence of a unifying project, providing overall direction, that is practicable and has adequate funding and support.”

O’Hara said that without new efforts to reinvigorate ETAP, Europe is in danger of becoming “a subcontractor for the Pentagon and the US majors in a supposedly integrated transatlantic defence market”. The assembly endorsed proposals for a new timetable for ETAP implementation and an extension of the programme to include other countries, including non-European states, “which have expertise and ‘niche’ specialisms in aerospace technology”. It recommends the European Defence Agency (EDA) be tasked with overseeing reform.

Lockheed opposes the ETAP report, arguing that the JSF programme is having the opposite effect on Europe. Tom Burbage, the company’s JSF programme manager, says the F-35 should be viewed as one of the key European aerospace development programmes, with five nations investing almost $4 billion in the system development and demonstration phase.

The WEU assembly also backed proposals for the EDA to co-ordinate the development and implementation of common European network-centric warfare capabilities “as a matter of priority”.


Source: Flight International