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Mission critical partnerships, collaboration key to cohesive EU defence strategy [Advocacy Lab Content]

2 days ago 1

Russia’s war in Ukraine has transformed the EU’s defence role, and the scale of defence challenges and opportunities is now immense. Euractiv spoke to Jeff Shockey, senior vice president, Global Government Relations, RTX about the role of industry and his outlook for the future.

EV: How has the emergence of new threats to the EU and NATO changed planning at the strategic and political levels?

JS: No event demonstrated the continued importance of partnership, and NATO, more than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The three key lessons we are learning from this war are the importance of integrated and updated defence capabilities, sufficient military stockpiles, and interoperability of our equipment.

As we’ve seen, adversaries have demonstrated the ability to synchronize complex attacks with a diverse set of threats. So, an effective defence is critical – especially a defence that can be upgraded quickly to adapt to new operational conditions and countermeasures.

Even when we provide the most technologically advanced systems, we know we must produce them at the rate needed in the field to defeat the enemy. That’s why it’s so critical that NSPA is signing these large, multinational contracts in order to procure defence systems at high volumes. Similarly, NATO countries can apply the practices from the commercial industry to ensure we are fielding systems that can be refreshed and upgraded when needed.

And finally, our alliance will work best if we go to war as 32 member countries that are coordinated, and who can communicate and operate together. Our nations should strive to be synchronized not only on the battlefield but when it comes to the development and production of tools for the battlefield.

EV: What sort of impact is the European Defence Fund having? Where is more investment needed at the EU level?

JS: The European Defence Fund is a welcome step to help break down stove-piped approaches to defence research and development in Europe, and promote more innovation and investment. This fund, and other proposed EU defence initiatives, has increasingly caught the industry’s attention, on both sides of the Atlantic.

As we have seen in Ukraine, continued investment in integrated air and missile defence is critical. Providing protection for critical infrastructure and urban areas against an increasingly diverse set of aerial threats, from state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to militarized commercially available UAVs, is indispensable for Europe’s security.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are also critical. Militaries must be able to operate in and win the electromagnetic war, including GPS-contested environments.

EV: How responsive is the European Defence Industry?

JS: International partnerships have a crucial role in ensuring European industry’s ability to respond and adapt to growing geopolitical challenges in a timely manner. As an intrinsic part of the European aerospace and defence industries, with more than 24,000 employees, 80 facilities and more than 10,000 suppliers across Europe, RTX is increasing the production of several key defence capabilities and expanding cooperation with our European industrial partners.

At RTX, we are working to reduce dependencies and enhance resiliency by adding production lines and shifts, strengthening our supplier base, and taking measures to increase capacity and meet the needs of our customers.

We are investing and developing new partnerships with other European defence and aerospace companies like Germany’s MBDA and Spain’s SENER to co-produce components of the GEM-T missiles, used by Patriot air defence systems.

EV: Is Europe on the right path in terms of capacity? Is there sufficient anticipation of potential new threats in coming years?

JS: Ultimately, the European Defence Industrial Strategy will strengthen collaborative production, increase transatlantic production capacity and strengthen interoperability of NATO forces. Europe’s prioritization of expanding their defence industrial base will give us the additional capacity required to meet NATO’s needs.

The threat is constantly evolving, which is why RTX invests more than $7 billion a year in research and development to anticipate and develop the technologies required to address that future threat. Close collaboration between industry and governments is critical to understanding and predicting threats and demands, and in determining where best to focus our development efforts.

EV: How is the EU tackling interoperability and interchangeability? Is this issue resolved?

JS: Close coordination with NATO and adherence to NATO standards ensures that European forces can operate seamlessly with other NATO allies. Companies like ours know that we must work with the U.S. Government and other countries’ procurement requirements to be fully aligned with NATO’s interoperability and interchangeability standards.

There are three additional approaches that address interoperability and also will help the industrial base increase production rates –   investing in common systems, such as Patriot, aggregating demand, and dual sourcing components. These three tactics will enable nations to take advantage of common architectures, drive down costs, and increase delivery rates.

EV: What should be the priority in terms of partnership with NATO and other countries? Especially the transatlantic relationship?

JS: At RTX, we understand the importance of the transatlantic partnerships. We are always looking for opportunities for co-development, co-production and co-sustainment with our European partners when practical, as well as with other partners around the globe. We are proud of our more than 10,000 suppliers across Europe and will continue to integrate their content in our products, thereby helping bring European content to the global market.

EV: How does the EU reconcile national sovereignty, collaboration, consolidation and joint programs? Are there any gaps?

JS: As President Ursula von der Leyen said recently, European sovereignty in defence is crucial but it should not come at the expense of NATO. It is encouraging to consider the prospects of a more sovereign Europe strengthening NATO even further by ensuring dedicated defence funding and capabilities, which in turn, will bolster transatlantic cooperation and collective security.

We believe that it is critical to maintain partnerships while developing a robust European defence industry. These are not mutually exclusive objectives. On the contrary, they complement each other.

[By Jennifer Baker I Edited by Brian Maguire | Euractiv’s Advocacy Lab ]

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