European Union governments gave the green light for 13 new defence projects in a step to develop firepower independently of the United States.
Under plans agreed by EU defence ministers in Brussels, work will begin on a new patrol vessel, an electronic jamming weapon for aircraft and technology to track ballistic missiles.
The projects took months to negotiate with French President Emmanuel Macron underlining the need for deeper EU defence collaboration when he said the US-led NATO defence alliance was dying.
There are 47 joint EU defence projects in the works following signing of a pact by France, Germany and 23 other EU governments in 2017 to fund, develop and deploy armed forces following Britain’s decision to quit the bloc.
New weapons on land, at sea or in the air and cyberspace can be put at NATO’s disposal with US President Donald Trump’s questioning of the alliance’s significance adding impetus to European defence efforts.
Macron expressed doubt about NATO’s security maxim that an attack on one ally is an attack on all. Many European allies reject his portrayal of NATO, which will hold a summit in London on December 4, as brain dead.
SEEKING MORE EFFICIENCY
The bloc hopes to launch a multi-billion euro weapons fund from 2021 requiring EU member states to work together on designing and building new tanks, ships and technology.
“We do not invest enough in defence and that investment is not efficient enough,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly told France Inter radio, citing 20 different combat aircraft in the EU, compared to six in the United States.
European defence planning, operations and weapons development foresee France taking a big role in 60% of the 47 projects, often with Germany, Italy and Spain.
The latest projects will see France head plans to better track ballistic missiles in space and develop an electronic jamming weapon with Spain and Sweden for European combat aircraft to overcome enemy air defences.
With Italy, France will develop a prototype for a new class of military ship, to be known as a European Patrol Corvette.
France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden aim to deliver a new anti-submarine system to protect sea lanes and communication.
France is leading work on new European helicopters.