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Signature of the agreement for EATF, the 'Star Alliance' of military transport

(credit: Czech Ministry of Defence, November 2009)

(BRUSSELS2) Defense ministers will initial, on Monday, the administrative arrangement for participation in the “European Air Transport Fleet” program. This agreement will allow the operational start of the program decided in 2008 (*) by allowing in particular the necessary exchanges of information.

Despite its name, EATF is anything but a fleet. " We are closer to an agreement as there are several in the civil sector, between airlines, such as Star Alliance or Skyteam. Everyone remains master of their own home. But we seek to optimize existing capacities by developing cooperation » comments Claude-France Arnould, director of the European Defense Agency.

This alliance allows, in fact, an à la carte operation for the Member States, allowing them to work together. This may involve training, aircraft maintenance, loading cargo, exchanging or sharing flight hours, or even joint acquisition. Or even quite simply to promote harmonization of legislation between European countries.

Initially, the idea of ​​EATF was centered on the A400M (**). But both the delay in its arrival and the interest of other countries not customers of the European aircraft resulted in expanding the Alliance to other types of aircraft, mainly the C130 Hercules or the Casa C295.

First job...flyover permissions

In the meantime, the first work that the agency will focus on could be to harmonize overflight authorizations (clearance) for military aircraft on European territory. Negotiations should make it possible to remove this formality for at least all routine flights or those which do not give rise to difficulties between Member States but require the diplomats of each of the States concerned to request overflight authorization from the others. The discussion will begin now. She will have to consider a whole series of questions. And certain exceptions could remain, such as the flight over a country of a military plane armed for a combat theater. Readers of this blog already know that within EATC, this problem has, in part, been resolved, between the 4 participating countries (Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium). 

Other short-term projects: setting up a secure website for air transport or a web-based accounting system for Atares (the exchange system).

First exercise in June 2012… in Spain

A first “EATF Flying event” exercise should take place in Spain in June 2012 to increase interoperability between EATF crews and adopt common procedures. It should allow the creation of a European course for tactical flights in the same way as exists in the United States, and in the same spirit as that already organized within the framework of the TLP (Tactical Leadership Program) program in Albacete in Spain.

Horizon 2020: a networked fleet... perhaps

In the medium term (2015), the harmonization of rules and standards, the harmonization of training, and the joint use of logistical support services are envisaged. In the longer term (2020), the use of networked fleets, multinational transport units or the joint acquisition of transport aircraft will be addressed.

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(*) The EATF project was approved by Defense Ministers within the European Defense Agency in February 2008. A declaration of intent was approved in November 2008. And a letter of intent signed in November 2009. 15 States participate: Belgium, Rep. Czech, Spain, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden. This brings together more or less the entire European fleet, with one notable exception, the United Kingdom, and that of neutral countries.
(**) 4 A400M customer countries – Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg – have also approved the creation of further integration within the multinational A400M unit.

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).