ASD Food for Thought Paper on European Defence Cooperative Programmes

  • September 8, 2017

It is arguable that cooperative programmes for the development of defence systems can offer numerous and important benefits: 

1) From a political perspective, they strengthen the ties between Member States and promote a common European security and defence approach; 

2) From a military perspective, they contribute to the standardisation of equipment and foster interoperability between Member States’ armed forces. This increases the effectiveness and efficiency of joint military operations and opens the path to cost-saving common arrangements for maintenance and in-service support; 

3) From an economic perspective, they allow for risk- and cost-sharing, increased production volumes and economies of scale. This is particularly important for complex systems and core defence capabilities, which are often too costly for Member States to develop individually; 

4) From an industrial perspective, they help develop core technological know-how and skills. At the same time, they offer opportunities and incentives to restructure industrial capacities and build integrated and competitive cross-border supply chains; 

5) From an innovation perspective, R&D is crucial for improving existing military capabilities and developing new ones. Non-recurring costs are significant, regardless of future acquisition volumes. Cooperation in R&D thus contributes disproportionately to improving overall efficiency of defence programmes. 

At the same time, Europe’s defence cooperation record is rather mixed. Some cooperative programmes have clearly delivered the expected benefits, others have led to cost-overruns, delays and unnecessary duplications. Unfortunately, these negative examples have spoiled the general perception of cooperation, which is today often considered too cumbersome and complicated. 

To foster cooperation, it is therefore necessary to both show that cooperation can work and to draw the lessons from past mistakes. This necessitates a sound assessment of obstacles and problems, which can then help to identify ingredients for success. This paper is a first contribution to this task. 

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