EU Member States to Boost Cooperation on Drones and Cyber Defense

Written by | Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

EU member states should work together in four areas of defense technology, namely cooperative projects in drones, a new satellite communications system, cyber defense and plugging a shortfall in air tankers – Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief has said in a report commissioned ahead of the upcoming EU summit that was released earlier this week.
Though primarily a civilian organization, the EU plays a growing military and security role, ranging from an anti-piracy naval force off Somalia to training the army in Mali – it will be high on the agenda of the December summit to strengthen that role. Weaknesses in areas such as air-to-air refueling planes and surveillance drones were demonstrated for example during NATO’s bombing campaign of Libya in 2011.
Ashton’s report stressed that drones would be increasingly important for both military and civilian uses such as border control and agriculture. While the EU is not for the time being contemplating to launch an ambitious pan-European drone program, EU officials say the Union could fund the development of technologies useful in future drones and agree on rules for using drones in civilian airspace. “We could start with a joint investment program in research,” one EU official said.
Ashton’s report also said that a European satellite communications system that could be used for both military and civilian purposes, as well as air-to-air refueling needs to be another priority, whereby the EU should consider “the multinational acquisition of multi-role tanker/transport aircraft.” Ten European countries agreed in November 2013 to cooperate to boost their military air-to-air refueling capacity either by buying new tanker aircraft, leasing them or paying to borrow another country’s tankers when not in use.

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