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Foreign relations of the European Union


European defence procurement refers to the collective armaments purchasing policies of European nations.

Traditionally European countries have either developed their own weapon systems or bought 'off the shelf' systems usually NATO-sponsored from the United States or from the Soviet Union, now from Russia. In the modern era, reduced defence budgets and increasing complexity make it difficult for most countries to develop their own weapon systems. Furthermore identical projects in differing countries was recognised as a waste of resources. However the same countries often do not wish to purchase American systems because of the perception of a loss of sovereignty and the profits (and jobs) going to American companies.

Therefore some European nations are attempting to pool their resources to create multinational programmes to create a more independent and competitive capability. The European Defence Agency was established in 2004 to create such a stronger European market for defence equipment. The practice remains controversial, however, with several projects, such as the Horizon class frigate and common anglo-french aircraft carrier, resulting in set-backs or failure. Eurofighter and A400M have also been criticised as over-priced and under-performing[1], while it has been stated that the primary purpose of some of these projects is to further the political agenda of EU integration rather than to meet military requirements[2].



The Eurofighter Typhoon is the latest in a line of joint aircraft projects between the Western European powers. Previously the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy had cooperated in producing the Panavia Tornado in the 1970s, and the UK and France had cooperated in producing the SEPECAT Jaguar. The Eurocopter Tiger is developed by France and Germany and was also bought by Spain. Franco-Italian naval projects include the Horizon class frigates and FREMM multipurpose frigates.

European countries also purchase a great deal of hardware from the US, and many former Eastern bloc countries have a great deal of legacy equipment produced by the USSR and other Warsaw Pact regimes.


While European defence budgets remain fragmented and massive duplication in research and development exists, the European defence industry has made some moves towards consolidation. British Aerospace was widely expected to merge with Germany’s DASA to form the first major European defence giant. Instead in 1999 BAe merged with another British company, GEC's defence businesses (GEC-Marconi), to form BAE Systems which has tended to focus on the Anglo-American market. As a result, in 2000, DASA merged with Aerospatiale-Matra to form EADS. Further consolidation of the smaller defence firms cannot be ruled out.

In 2002 the formation of MBDA brought together the product portfolios of Aerospatiale Matra Missiles (of EADS), Alenia Marconi Systems missiles, and Matra BAe Dynamics to form Europe's No. 1 missile manufacturer and No. 2 globally after Raytheon.

Other major players include


European defence companies do not efficiently capitalise on R&D compared with the rest of the world. For every €1 spent on R&D, European firms made about €16 on sales. US companies made €30 on sales per €1 spent on R&D and companies elsewhere made about €44 on sales per €1 on R&D.[3]

This implies "one or more of the following":[4]

  • European companies believe that more R&D spending will result in greater long-run returns
  • Face tax codes that favour spending on R&D rather than maximising profit
  • Less pressure to earn a return
  • Believe higher R&D will allow them to catch up to other companies
  • Don't develop commercially viable products from R&D spending

This may also be attributable to the shorter production runs purely European projects are able to sustain.


Below are some examples of European products and the previously used weapons they may replace.

There are several examples where one country continues to pursue purely national programmes because collaboration would be unacceptable or undesirable. For example both the UK and France continue to develop and operate independent nuclear deterrent. Likewise France's desire for military and industrial independence has motivated its continued pursuit of high-technology projects, e.g. Dassault Rafale.

Multinational programmes can fail because of disagreements about price or capability. For example while the UK terminated its collaboration with France and Italy on the next generation frigate (Horizon CNGF) and started a national Type 45 programme. However the warships will share some systems, primarily the MBDA Aster missile.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under pressure from President Bill Clinton to select Raytheon's future missile to arm the Eurofighter,[5] however the UK government selected the European Meteor air to air missile. The Meteor could be deemed riskier, however the Meteor armed Typhoon will not be subject to U.S. export controls and MBDA now has a missile product with no real competition from American manufacturers.

Likewise European governments were actively dissuaded by the US Department of Defence from continuing the A400M project, the Pentagon argued that the Lockheed C-130J and Boeing C-17 provided all the capability European governments needed and were already flying. The DOD also argued that to spend limited budgetary resources on such duplication was foolish. The previous generation American fighter plane (F-16) was widely sold throughout Europe.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Aerospace & Defence: Inventing and Selling the Next Generation. Centre for Strategic International Studies
  4. ^ Ibid Centre for Strategic International Studies
  5. ^ Baumgardner, Neil (1999-09-16). "Raytheon Offers Joint Development of New Missile with UK". Defense Daily (Phillips Business Information, Inc.).  

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