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Air Command EATC inaugurated in Eindhoven

Inauguration ceremony in Eindhoven (photo credit: Dutch Ministry of Defence)

(BRUSSELS2) A parachute jump, with the flag of the participants, a flight of a C130 Hercules, a C160 and even... an Airbus A400M, an audience of 200 senior officers, several ministers... the government Dutch will have neglected nothing to open, with fanfare (literally and figuratively), the new "European Air Transport Command" (European Air Transport Command) at Eindhoven airport (Netherlands) on September 1 ( 1).

For the Dutch Defense Minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, who presided over the ceremony, together with the EATC, transport and refueling aircraft from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France will be "now under one command". This merger should allow "better coordination and efficiency of more than 200 military aircraft". Not all of them will be based in Eindhoven. They will operate from their usual base at the various airports in Europe ... or elsewhere. This command also aims to "the development of a common training and education doctrine", as well as agreeing on standard and maintenance standards for the fleet.

The Airbus A400M in flight over the Eindhoven base. Photo credit: Luftwaffe / Peter Müller

This new device responds to the Headlines goals of Helsinki aimed at strengthening the "ability of the EU to deploy groups of forces at short notice, in response to a crisis, as a stand-alone force or as part of a large-scale operation".

"This is the opening of a new military collaboration in Europe insofar as the participating countries will abolish part of their existing structures and delegate their respective competences to a single shared command.“says an internal memo to EATC.

Composition of the fleet, personnel and budget key

The fleet controlled by EACT will include: 29 C-130 Hercules aircraft (Belgian, French, German, Dutch), 135 Transall C-160 aircraft (French and German), 19 CASA 235, 10 Airbus A-310, 2 Airbus A340, 2 KDC-10 aircraft (Dutch), 1 DC-10 and 20 VIP aircraft (like Dutch Gulfstream IVs). Eventually, it should also include Airbus A400M (once they are delivered to the armed forces). In terms of nationalities, there will be 80 German aircraft, 60 French aircraft, 20 Belgian aircraft (the entire Belgian fleet), 10 Dutch aircraft.

General Both and Minister van Middelkoop (Photo credit: Luftwaffe/Peter Müller)

The EACT will be headed by German General Jochen Both. At least to start. Because the command will be provided alternately by French and Germans.

The EATC team, once complete, of about 150 military personnel, from the four "founding" countries (65 Germans, 45 French, 25 Dutch, 20 Belgians). Other European countries — like "Spain and Luxembourg, would be interested in participating in the EATC“said the Minister.

Initial operational capability is scheduled for December 2010 at the latest; full operational capability by July 2013.

Funding will be provided by the participating Member States according to a fixed budget allocation key: 38% for Germany, 35% for France, 14% for the Netherlands, 13% for Belgium. The responsibility for hosting EATC personnel is provided by the Netherlands, in particular to facilitate access to civilian accommodation for families (some accommodation may be opened at the Eindhoven air base on a temporary basis). On the other hand, the European Commission - it seems refused to welcome the children of the military - to the European school of Mol, 50 km away.

Commentary: a tool for crisis response, both civilian and military

It can be noted that, with the EATC, Europe has a new crisis response capability, whether it is a strictly military operation, peacekeeping or a more civilian mission of disaster relief or evacuation of citizens. It seems surprising to me that people continue in certain corridors of the European Commission or the European Parliament to speak of a necessary "European civil protection force" without mentioning the birth of this EATC which resolves an essential, and often crucial, in the event of a disaster: the rapid and safe transport of the first relief items and equipment (in general, personnel, equipment and other relief items are already available in the Member States).

Of course, the color, khaki, of the devices could put off. But it should not be so difficult to ask to permanently have a plane, painted in white, with European weapons ready to leave. For a relatively modest cost, the European Union could thus equip itself with this rapid reaction force in terms of civil protection. Of course, it's not that simple, fearsome managers will no doubt explain to me, there is a series of legal, financial and administrative issues to settle. No doubt... But with a (small) political impetus (and a will), a small interest in the question rather than a cleverly organized ignorance would undoubtedly make it possible to transform problems into a more open discussion.

Incidentally, note that the High Representative will thus have a fleet of VIP planes not at will but at hand... Like what April Fools (2) are starting to happen.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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