France, winner of the first grant from the European Defense Fund

As part of the cooperation between European industrial companies, the European Commission is funding 61 research and development projects in the defense sector with almost 1.2 billion euros. She had to look through a total of 142 suggestions. Almost 700 companies from 26 European countries and Norway, including 43% of SMEs, will be involved in the 61 projects selected following the first calls for proposals under the European Defense Fund (EDF), which will be launched in 2021 with almost 8 billion is endowed -2027. “Today, with an investment of €1.2 billion, the European Defense Fund is delivering tangible results for a more integrated European defense industry that can foster innovation and provide our armed forces with cutting-edge capabilities,” estimated Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in the Commission’s press release published on Wednesday.

“Thanks to the European Defense Fund, European defense cooperation is becoming the norm. We spend better by spending together. Member States and the European defense industry will all benefit, whatever their size,” assured Thierry Breton.

These decisions were taken a priori in accordance with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (CSP or PESCO), which provides for cooperation between European countries in the field of defense within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty. The Commission services are now starting to draft the grant agreements with the selected candidate consortia. Once these preparations have been completed and the Commission has adopted an award decision, the grant agreements will be signed before the end of the year. “LThe fact that SMEs account for 43% of the organizations participating in the selected projects shows that the European Defense Fund program indeed affects the entire EU industrial value chain.”, estimated the Executive Vice-President of the Commission, Margrethe Vestager. you will receive nearly 20% of the funding.

French manufacturers strongly represented

France is the most represented nation in this selection. Which is not illogical given the large investments it has made in its defense industry over more than 60 years and the skills and know-how it has been able to develop during this time. French manufacturers were selected 178 times ahead of their Italian (156), Spanish (147), German (113) and Greek (75) counterparts. Of the amount made available, €322 million will be used to fund 31 research projects and €845 million will fund 30 defense capability development projects.

One of the most emblematic projects, the future European corvettes (European patrol corvette), endowed with 60 million to finance the studies and design of these ships (out of 65.8 million), brings together the main players of the European naval industry: Naviris, the Subsidiary between Fincantieri and Naval Group, but also Fincantieri, Navantia and Naval Group. Also the program HEROIC, endowed with EUR 18 million and led by Lynred, a 50:50 subsidiary of Safran and Thales, will deliver new advanced electrical components for the next generation of infrared sensors. Finally, Airbus Helicopters will be the coordinator of the ENGRT project, whose studies (€40 million) will be used to develop the next generation of EU military helicopters.

Questionable decisions at hypersonic

The EDF has chosen to support defense capability projects such as the next generation of aircraft (EICACS project, Dassault Aviation leader), tanks and combat ships, as well as critical defense technologies such as combat clouds, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, space and cyberspace or medical innovations. It will also be at the forefront of breakthrough technologies, particularly in the area of ​​quantum technologies and new materials. Thus, more than 5% of the budget goes to funding breakthrough ideas, which could be possible “To make it possible to radically change the concepts and conduct of defense activities”said the commission.

However, some decisions appear very controversial. It seems unrealistic to entrust the European hypersonic strategic project, endowed with 100 million euros (out of 109 million), to the Spanish industrialist Sener as coordinator in a consortium that excludes any French participation (ArianeGroup and MBDA in particular). This project needs to develop an interceptor European Union with the ability to respond to threats at high speed. Within the framework of the European Defense Fund and “Twister”, MBDA had proposed the Aquila project, which should unite several European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France.