The European Commission is calling for research and development (R&D) on military aircraft to be better coordinated at the European level, with a view to emulating the achievements in the civil aerospace sector.
In its aerospace communication issued last month, the Commission identifies the steps – political and regulatory – that need to be taken to improve this important industry's ability to compete in the global market.
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With its long development cycles and heavy infrastructure costs, the aviation industry needs long-term and stable financial commitment from all partners, both private and public. This is one of the reasons why, in the last decade, the European Union has increased its financial stake in civil aeronautics research and encouraged industry to get onboard by adapting its research structures and approach to become more competitive.
“In the defence area, the same problems exist and should be addressed in a similar fashion, suitably adapted to take account of the different roles and competencies of the various players in the defence field,” the Commission explains in the communication.
Taking the example set in the civil aviation sector with the strategic research agenda (SRA) in aeronautics, the communication calls for priority to be given to the creation of a European defence equipment market, enriched by security research and the development of an effective European space policy. The SRA – launched in late 2002 by the Commission-sponsored body ACARE (the Advisory Council for Aeronautical Research in Europe) – is a tactical guide to better coordinate research activities.
Same but different
In its communication, the Commission points out the progress that has been achieved in several major areas since the Star 21 report was presented, including setting-up the European Aviation Safety Agency, jump-starting the defence debate, broadening public consultation on European space policy, as well as progress made towards implementing the Galileo programme. The Commission considers that further efforts are paramount to ensuring the industry's competitiveness.
Demonstrating its commitment to European industrial competitiveness and, in particular, towards the aerospace sector is an EU priority, said Enterprise Commissioner Erkii Liikanen. “This [communication] will help keep aerospace issues high on the European agenda,” he said in a press statement. In the case of defence aerospace spending, it is particularly important as European companies strive to compete with their US counterparts which benefit from higher levels of defence research spending, the communication says.
Space technologies should play a key role in helping the EU achieve its main objectives of faster economic growth, job creation and industrial competitiveness, enlargement and cohesion, sustainable development, as well as security and defence. To this end, on 11 November, the Commission issued its Space Action Plan entitled ‘Space: a new European frontier for an expanding Union'.
Noting the key role that R&D plays in aerospace development, the EU's executive body is in favour of creating a European defence aerospace R&D plan. At the same time, the Commission reaffirmed its desire to see long-term stability maintained in civil aeronautics research programmes.
EU sources, Research Europe