Military equipment of the European Union
This article outlines the military equipment owned by the member states of the European Union (EU), multinational procurement and EU-level facilitation of such procurement.
In accordance with the Treaty on European Union it is the national armed forces' assets that are made available for the implementation of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), which involves overseas operations (since 2003) and an obligation of collective self-defence.[lower-alpha 1] It should be noted that CSDP decisions, adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), generally require unanimity between member states. Consequently, any deployment of national assets in a CSDP context is voluntary on the member state's part.
The European Defence Fund may facilitate the multinational procurement and development of equipment, which is owned by member states: The European Border and Coast Guard is the only part of the CSDP that is able to purchase its own equipment.
European Border and Coast Guard
Since 2011 the European Border and Coast Guard Agency has been able to purchase its own equipment (e.g. vessels, communications technology), for use in its work to patrol the external borders of the Schengen Area.
Multinational development and procurement
European multilateral defence procurement refers to the collective armaments purchasing policies of EU member states.
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 military budgets and increasing complexity make it difficult for most countries to develop their own weapon systems. Furthermore, identical projects in differing countries were 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. Likewise they hope to establish a profitable export competing the American one.
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 military equipment.
The European Defence Fund is an EU fund for coordinating and increasing national investment in defence equipment research and improve interoperability between national forces. It was proposed in 2016 by President Jean-Claude Juncker and established in 2017 to a value of €5.5 billion per year. The fund has two stands; research (€90 million until the end of 2019 and €500 million per year after 2020) and development & acquisition (€500 million in total for 2019–20 then €1 billion per year after 2020).
Together with the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and Permanent Structured Cooperation it forms a new comprehensive defence package for the EU.
The fund will co-finance 20% of eligible defence projects. Projects based on the CSDP's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) qualify for higher co-financing rates.
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 countries.
While European military budgets remain fragmented and massive duplication in research and development exists, the European military industry has made some moves towards consolidation. British Aerospace was widely expected to merge with Germany’s DASA to form the first major European military-industrial giant. Instead in 1999 BAe merged with another British company, GEC's military-industrial 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 military-industrial 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.
In 2015, the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and French Nexter merged under a joint holding company provisionally named Honostor NV. Both companies are major producers of military land systems. 
Other major players include
- AgustaWestland (merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica since 2016)
- Dassault Aviation
- Damen Group
- Diehl BGT Defence
- Eurofighter GmbH
- IDV (Iveco Defense Vehicles)
- Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace
- Leonardo S.p.A.
- Patria (company)
- Saab Group
- Thales Group
- ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems
Below are some examples of European products and the previously used weapons they may replace.
- Aircraft and missiles:
- A400M – replacing C-130 and Franco/German Transall
- Eurofighter Typhoon – replacing F-4 Phantom II, F-16s, Mirage F-1, Tornado F.3
- Eurocopter Tiger – for France, Germany and Spain
- EH101 and NH90 – largely replacing European helicopters
- Meteor – replacing AMRAAM as long-range AAM
- ASRAAM and IRIS-T – replacing AIM-9 Sidewinder as short-range AAM
- Land vehicles:
- ASCOD IFV equipping the Austrian, Spanish and British armies, Puma IFV equipping the Germany army
- Patria AMV and GTK Boxer APCs equipping various European armies
- ATF Dingo, Fennek, Iveco LMV tactical vehicles used by various countries
- PzH 2000 – replacing M109 Paladin
- Naval vessels:
- F-100 Class Frigates replacing US designed Knox frigates in Spain, Oliver Hazard Perry frigates in Australia and Dealey class frigates in Norway.
- Type 212 submarine, equipping the German, Italian navies, Type 214 submarine equipping the Greek and Portuguese navies, S-80 class submarine equipping the Spanish Navy
- Horizon class frigate and FREMM multipurpose frigate both for the French and Italian navies
- Rotterdam and Galicia class LPD, replacing Newport class tank landing ships in the Netherlands and Spanish Navies.
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.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under pressure from President Bill Clinton to select Raytheon's future missile to arm the Eurofighter, 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.
Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders has called the difficulties in coordinating European investment in the A400M program a "horror", and said "I am determined, at least for my company, not to ever again walk into such a program".
French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel have signalled their countries intention to co-operate on the development of a future combat aircraft to be produced as a replacement for Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.
Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement
The European Union has adopted a code of conduct with the objective to inject transparency and competition into the military procurement. It is administered by the EDA and under its scope are contracts under Article 346 of TFEU, of at least €1 million and with the exclusions of weapons of mass destruction, cryptographic equipment and other procurements.
As of 2009 the code is adopted by Norway and all EDA members except Romania, who may join later.
List of member states' equipment
The combined component strength of the naval forces of member states is some 563 commissioned warships. Of those in service, 4 are fleet carriers, the largest of which is the 70,600 tonne Queen Elizabeth-class carrier and one has a nuclear propulsion, the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. The EU also has 5 amphibious assault ships and 25 amphibious support ships in service. Of the EU's 63 submarines, 21 are nuclear-powered submarines while 42 are conventional attack submarines.
Operation Atalanta (formally European Union Naval Force Somalia) is the first ever (and still ongoing) naval operation of the European Union. It is part of a larger global action by the EU in the Horn of Africa to deal with the Somali crisis. As of January 2011 twenty-three EU nations participate in the operation.
Guide to table:
- Ceremonial vessels, research vessels, supply vessels, training vessels, and icebreakers are not included.
- The table only counts warships that are commissioned (or equivalent) and active.
- Surface vessels displacing less than 200 tonnes are not included, regardless of other characteristics.
- The "amphibious support ship" category includes amphibious transport docks and dock landing ships, and tank landing ships.
- Frigates over 6,000 tonnes are classified as destroyers.
- The "patrol vessel" category includes missile boats.
- The "anti-mine ship" category includes mine countermeasures vessels, minesweepers and minehunters.
- Generally, total tonnage of ships is more important than total number of ships, as it gives a better indication of capability.
|Member state||Fleet carrier||Amphibious assault ship||Amphibious support ship||Destroyer||Frigate||Corvette||Patrol vessel||Anti‑mine ship||Missile sub.||Attack sub.||Total||Tonnage|
Combined, the member states of the European Union maintain large numbers of various land-based military vehicles and weaponry.
Guide to table:
- The table is not exhaustive and only includes land forces equipment of EU-NATO member countries under the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE treaty).
- The CFE treaty only includes equipment geographically stationed within Europe. Equipment overseas on operations are not counted.
- The "main battle tank" category also includes tank destroyers (such as the Italian B1 Centauro) or any self-propelled armoured fighting vehicle, capable of heavy firepower. According to the CFE treaty.
- The "armoured fighting vehicle" category includes any armoured vehicle primarily designed to transport infantry and equipped with an automatic cannon of at least 20 mm calibre. According to the CFE treaty.
- The "artillery" category includes self-propelled or towed howitzers and mortars of 100 mm calibre and above. Other types of artillery are not included regardless of characteristics. According to the CFE treaty.
- The "attack helicopter" category includes any rotary wing aircraft armed and equipped to engage targets or equipped to perform other military functions (such as the Apache or the Wildcat). According to the CFE treaty.
|Member state||Main battle tank||Armoured fighting vehicle||Artillery||Attack helicopter|
The air forces of EU member states operate a wide range of military systems and hardware. This is primarily due to the independent requirements of each member state and also the national defence industries of some member states. However such programmes like the Eurofighter Typhoon and Eurocopter Tiger have seen many European nations design, build and operate a single weapons platform. 60% of overall combat fleet was developed and manufactured by member states, 32% are US-origin, but some of these were assembled in Europe, while remaining 8% are soviet-made aircraft. As of 2014, it is estimated that the European Union had around 2,000 serviceable combat aircraft (fighter aircraft and ground-attack aircraft).
The EUs air-lift capabilities are evolving with the future introduction of the Airbus A400M (another example of EU defence cooperation). The A400M is a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities. Around 140 are initially expected to be operated by 6 member states (UK, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium).
Guide to tables:
- The tables are sourced from figures provided by Flight International for the year 2014.
- Aircraft are grouped into three main types (indicated by colors): red for combat aircraft, green for aerial refueling aircraft, and grey for strategic and tactical transport aircraft.
- The two "other" columns include additional aircraft according to their type sorted by colour (i.e. the "other" category in red includes combat aircraft, while the "other" category in grey includes both aerial refueling and transport aircraft). This was done because it was not feasible allocate every aircraft type its own column.
- Other aircraft such as trainers, helicopters, UAVs and reconnaissance or surveillance aircraft are not included in the below tables or figures.
- Fighter and ground-attack
|Member state||Typhoon||Rafale||Mirage 2000||Gripen||F-16||F/A-18||F-35||Tornado||Harrier II||MiG-29||Other||Total|
|Austria||15||28 Saab 105||15|
|Czech Republic||14||19 L-159||31|
- Aerial refueling and transport
|Member state||A330 MRTT||A310 MRTT||KC-135/707||C-17||C-130||C-160||C-27J||CN-235/C-295||An-26||A400M||Other||Total|
|Czech Republic||4||6||2 A319||12|
|Ireland||2||1 BNT-2 CC2/B||3|
|Italy||16||12||4 KC-767 3 KC-130J 3A319 1Airbus A340-500||39|
|Malta||2 BNT-2 CC2/B
2 King Air 200
|UK||14||8||24||16||4 BAe 146
3 BNT-2 CC2/B
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- Common Security and Defence Policy
- European Defence Agency
- European Defence Fund
- European Border and Coast Guard Agency
- Defence forces of the European Union
- Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation
- The responsibility of collective self-defence within the CSDP is based on Article 42.7 of TEU, which states that this responsibility does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain member states, referring to policies of nautrality. See Neutral country§European Union for discussion on this subject. Article 42.2 furthermore specifies that NATO shall be the main forum for the implementation of collective self-defence for EU member states that are also NATO members.
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