Europe’s Air Transport Command Agreements
One of the driving forces behind Airbus’ A400M military transport program, and of “pool” programs like NATO’s SALIS with Russian AN-124s or its recent SAC C-17 pool, is Europe’s shortage of transport aircraft to support military missions. This shortage will not be fixed any time soon. In the interim, NATO pools are about to be augmented by a more local partnership.
As the Netherlands struggled over proposed defense cuts in 2007, its Ministerie van Defensie signed an agreement with Germany, France and Belgium to create “European Air Transport Command” (EATC) as a coordination pool for their own military transports. The EU EDA also has a parallel program with much wider participation, the European Air Transport fleet (EATF). EATF offers a step short of EADC level integration, while laying the foundation for wider EADC membership in future. They’re farther away than they’d like to be, but probably closer than you think…
The EADC & EATF
The EU’s European Defense Agency describes the European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) as a framework federating different national and multinational military air transport fleets and organizations in Europe. Their stated goal is to improve available air transport services through cost-effective pooling, sharing, exchange and even acquisition of various capabilities, including aircraft, training, cross-servicing activities, cargo handling, maintenance activities, spare parts, etc.
The draft European Air Transport Command (EATC) agreement set out how participating countries will manage the command’s operations, which will be conducted out of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. This new command will employ between 150 and 200 jobs in the area – but it won’t become a central base. The military air transport aircraft core will involve C-160 Transalls in France and Germany, and C-130H Hercules transports in Belgium & Holland, but will also include other aircraft. EATC’s initial assets included 19 CASA CN235 light transports, 135 Transall C-160s, 29 C-130 Hercules, 10 Airbus A310s (some with aerial refueling capability), 2 Airbus A340s, 2 KDC-10 aerial tankers, one DC-10, and a variety of liaison and VIP aircraft from participating countries Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
As A400Ms enter service, they’re expected to become part of EATC. All planes will continue to be stationed and maintained on the air bases of the participating countries. Even so, EATC participants expect to benefit from more “surge” capability available at need, as well as greater efficiencies in overall fleet use.
Note that 3 of the 4 core EATC countries have orders for A400M transports on the way (France – 50, Germany – 60, Belgium – 7), while the Dutch have made no firm decision re: replacement of their aging C-130H-30s. EATC is one way of weighting the scales for that eventual decision… and of course, it also furthers the EU objective of creating a parallel military structure outside of NATO.
The European Air Transport Fleet is a parallel step along that same road. The EU’s European Defence Agency recognizes that EATC is “a major step towards more combined training as well as harmonisation of airlift procedures and processes in Europe,” and wants to complement that with a wider effort. EATF allows national assets to remain strictly national, but success would lay the framework for greater federation via the EATC. As the EDA puts it, the goal is:
“…a flexible and inclusive partnership between national and multinational military air transport fleets and organisations in Europe, aimed at the enhancement of standardised air transport services through cost-effective pooling, sharing, exchange and/or acquisition of various capabilities, including aircraft, training programmes, cross-servicing activities, cargo handling, maintenance activities, spare parts, etc.”
The EDA wants to take the next step by creating a common European Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course by 2014, with full operation by 2019. That would represent a very large step toward common procedures and training.
As of March 2012, EATC still had its original 4 members, but EATF had 20 members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. Note that EATF includes all 4 EATC members.
EATC/ EATF Timeline & Events
Jan 30/13: EATC. The International Institute of Strategic Studies offers an update regarding EATC’s use in Mali, where French troops are spearheading a war against al-Qaeda’s local affiliates:
“The most obvious concern, however, is airlift. Moving additional troops and equipment from France has highlighted Paris’s – and Europe’s – continuing lack of strategic lift.
In the first week of Operation Serval, France looked to the UK, Europe’s only operator of Boeing C-17s (pictured above), for assistance. It garnered support from Canada and the US for additional C-17 airlift. Private-sector Antonov An-124s were also used. The overall effort was coordinated by the European Air Transport Command which, despite its name, only covers France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. French Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall medium and tactical transport aircraft, as well as a Belgian C-130 and two German C-160s, have also been used. French air force Airbus A340 and A330 passenger aircraft transported military personnel. Intra-theatre air transport includes French Army Puma helicopters, with reconnaissance and fire support provided by Gazelle and Tiger helicopters.”
June 4-15/12: EATF. The 1st ever multinational European Air Transport Training (EATT) exercise is held at Zaragoza AB, Spain. It’s organized by EATF’s Ad Hoc Working Group Tactical Air Transport (AHWG TAT), in close co-ordination with the EATC in Eindhoven.
In all, 6 nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic) participated with 8 aircraft (C-130s, C160s, C295s) and 14 crews. Sweden, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria participated with observers, and the US supported the event with several Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course (AATTC) instructors.
The EDA’s ultimate goal is to establish a permanent European AATTC based on the existing US course, with initial operating capability in 2014, and full operating capability by 2019.
1st EATF joint training exercise
March 2012: EATF. Hungary joins EATF Category A.
Nov 16/11: EATF. The European Defence Agency announces that Norway has signed its European Air Transport Fleet (EATF) Programme Arrangement. Norway is not an EU member, but then, neither are some of the other signatories. Its biggest contribution would be 4 new C-130J Super Hercules medium transports.
EATF Partnership signatories now number 18: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
May 23/11: EATF. EU EDA: 18 European Ministers of Defence (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Spain and Sweden) sign the EATF Category A Programme Arrangement, launching EATF as a program and establishing a management committee.
Summer 2011: EATF. ATARES goes live. Accounting is one of the biggest barriers to fleet sharing. In response, EDA launched a “web-based accounting software development” study to understand the financial issues involved in paying for shared Air Transport, Air-to-air Refueling and other Exchange of Services (hence ATARES). ATARES New Accounting & Invoicing System (ANAIS) allows EATF members to carry out accounting related tasks in accordance with defined users’ rights.
March 9/11: EATF. The EU EDA’s Steering Board in Capabilities approves the Outline Description and the EATF Category A Program, linked to a set of separately launched EATF Category B projects and related work.
Sept 1/10: EATC. European Air Transport Command (EATC) formally stands up and begins operations at Eindhoven AB in the Netherlands. The first commander is German Major General Jochen Both, who commands a staff of 200. Membership is open to expansion, and other European countries are reportedly considering it. Dutch MvD, incl. video [in Dutch] | French Air Force, incl. video [in French] | Key Publishing | Belgium’s LeVif [in French] Logistek [in Dutch] | Nederlands Dagblad [in Dutch] | Fenetre sur l’Europe [in French] | Russia’s RIA Novosti [in French].
EATC begins operations
Nov 17/09: EATF. The EU European Defence Agency’s Steering Board agrees to move ahead on the “European Air Transport Fleet (EATF)”, and the 14 ministers sign a Letter of Intent (Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden). Romania signs the EATF LoI a few months later, to make 15. EU EDA.
Oct 29/09: EATC basing. The Dutch MvD and media sources confirm that the European Air Transport Command (EATC) will definitely be located at Royal Netherlands Air Force Headquarters in Eindhoven AFB, Netherlands. The Netherlands will begin a tender for construction of temporary housing on base, in order to meet the 2010 deployment schedule. Dutch MvD’s Defensiekrant #38 | Luchtvaartniews [in Dutch].
Nov 10/08: EATF. Aviation Week reports that 12 European Defense Agency (EDA) member countries have agreed to pool airlifter resources in the future, with the focus on the A400M. A formal letter of agreement is due in 2009 from existing A400M customers Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain; as well as prospective customers the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, and Slovakia.
Initial operational capability is planned for 2014, with full operational capability planned for 2017. The scope of this cooperation, and number of aircraft involved, has yet to be worked out. The arrangements are likely to parallel’s NATO’s SAC pool of 3 C-17s, however. The Netherlands and Romania are already NATO SAC participants, so they’ll be familiar with the concept.
Oct 25/08: A400M. Europe’s two leading maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers Lufthansa Technik and Air France Industries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to offer an extensive global component & logistic support service for Airbus A400M customers. Under this scheme, the companies will provide component repair & overhaul, engineering services, management of a dedicated component pool including all required logistics not only at the Air Forces’ A400M main bases, but also during various missions around the globe.
This kind of arrangement is similar to Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster Sustainment Partnership, and has obvious benefits for any kind of pooled approach to A400M deployment. Lufthansa Tehnik release.
February 2008: EATF. The EDA Steering Board in Capabilities formation decides to establish a Project Team to study viable models for the development of a European Air Transport Fleet (EATF).
- EDA – European Air Transport Fleet
- EATC: European Air Transport Command. Official site.
- US GAO (Oct 30/13, #GAO-14-30R) – Military Airlift: DOD Plans to Participate in Multi-National Program to Exchange Air Services with European Nations. ATARES is another vehicle for sharing air transport and aerial refuelling services, but it’s separate from SALIS, NATO SAC, or the EATC. Unlike SALIS & SAC, which rely on specified aircraft, ATARES allows different countries to use their own assets. Unlike EATC, it doesn’t require unified operations, and encompasses a much larger set: 20 countries.