Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Secretary of State for Defence (19 November 2001)

  I am writing to tell you that today, along with France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, we have signed a declaration to launch a joint programme with European industry to develop highly advanced technologies for combat air systems' capabilities. It will sustain and develop European capabilities in this area over the next two decades. The programme is known as the European Technology Acquisition Programme, or ETAP. Work in some high priority areas, such as secure and robust data communication, high-speed data processing, propulsion systems, and the command and control of uninhabited air vehicles will begin straight away.

  The capability to strike effectively and precisely over long distances at different sorts of targets is a vital defence need, as current operations against international terrorism show. The declaration shows the commitment of leading European nations to work together in this key area, where co-operation in the development and demonstration of advanced technologies is likely to reduce the risk and cost of future acquisitions. The programme of work is designed to ensure that the technologies needed to deliver the capability are mature and available when required.

  A joint study between the six nations, reporting next summer, will give an initial assessment of military capabilities that may be needed around 2020. It will also identify possible systems and technologies to deliver those capabilities, including those which would benefit most from joint development. Future combat air systems could include developments to manned aircraft, air and ground launched uninhabited air vehicles and uninhabited combat air vehicles, and conventionally-armed long-range cruise missiles. A command, control, communication, computing, and intelligence system would like the systems together.

  The declaration was signed in Brussels just before the EU Defence Capabilities Improvement Conference. It builds on previous agreements by the six nations that, to deliver nations' future capability requirements, Europe needs an efficient and globally competitive aerospace and defence electronics industry, supported by international co-operation on harmonising requirements and acquisition programmes. The declaration also calls on European industry to continue to invest in this work alongside government, and to come up with innovative and co-operative solutions, in order to make the best use of valuable tax-payers' money.

  I look forward to playing a key role in ETAP, as does UK industry, for whom the ETAP programme provides opportunities for work at the cutting edge of technology.

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