On 24 August, La Tribune reported that France and Italy agreed on proposing to Germany Rome’s inclusion, represented by Leonardo, a prominent Italian defence company, in the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) programme (Cabirol, 2023). The MGCS aims to develop a future land warfare system that includes a Main Battle Tank (MBT) around 2040 (Oestergaard, 2021). This news was unsurprising since Italian participation had already been envisaged (Valpolini, 2020; Arivella & Moran, 2022). Until now, Paris has opposed the inclusion of other states. However, this move reflects an effort to restore balance in the initiative’s power dynamics, taking advantage of the fruitful history of Franco-Italian defence industrial cooperation (Defence Industry Europe, 2023; Meta Défense, 2023).
The term was first adopted in the European Commission’s Communication Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector of 2013, whereby a ‘certain degree of strategic autonomy’ is necessary ‘to be a credible and reliable partner’ (European Commission, 2013, p. 3). The Communication posits that ‘Europe must be able to decide and to act without depending on the capabilities of third parties’ (European Commission, 2013, p. 3). Special notice is given to the security of supply, access to critical technologies and operational sovereignty (European Commission, 2013, p. 3).
Unmanned systems have become indispensable in both civilian and military contexts, playing a crucial role in the contemporary operational landscape. These systems have the potential to transform the way military operations are conducted, offering improved efficiency, reduced risks to human personnel and enhanced collaborative capabilities. Nevertheless, realising their full potential requires overcoming interoperability challenges to enable diverse unmanned platforms to work together effectively when integrated within a mission operation network. The European endeavour to tackle this challenge is pursued through the Interoperability Standards for Unmanned Armed Forces Systems (INTERACT) project, aiming at developing a common basis for a European interoperability standard to enhance military operation capability. This Info Flash explores the growing capabilities of unmanned systems in military operations and delves into the complex challenge of interoperability, highlighting the role of the European INTERACT project in enhancing the efficiency and cooperation capabilities of European armed forces.
Through a winding journey European industrial cooperation developed the 4th generation Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet in the early 2000s (Heinrich, 2015). European countries, however, eventually missed an opportunity with the following generation, relying instead on the American-made F-35 Lightning II. Therefore, European states are now eager to make up for lost ground by developing a 6th generation fighter jet. Two parallel projects are underway. Firstly, France, Germany and Spain are jointly working on the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), a programme intended to develop a Next Generation Weapon System (NGWS) with a Next Generation Fighter (NGF) at its core. Second, Japan recently joined the UK and Italy in developing the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), a follow-up of the Tempest project similarly intended to deliver a 6th generation fighter.
On August 20, the governments of the Netherlands and Denmark issued a joint statement to announce the intention to deliver F-16s fighter aircraft to Ukraine (Government of the Netherlands, 2023). Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen pledged to send 19 aircrafts in three instalments, while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not specify any number (Sabbagh, 2023). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for his part, claimed they reached an agreement for 42 fighter jets (Sabbagh, 2023).