France, winner of the first class of the European Defense Fund

The European Commission will provide support of almost 1.2 billion euros to 61 research and development projects in the field of defense within the framework of cooperation between European industrialists. She had to sort through a total of 142 proposals. Almost 700 companies from 26 European countries and Norway, of which 43% are SMEs, will be involved in the 61 projects selected following the first calls for proposals launched under the European Defense Fund (EDF) awarded almost 8 billion 2021-2027. “With an investment of €1.2 billion, the European Defense Fund is today delivering concrete results towards a more integrated European defense industry that can foster innovation and deliver state-of-the-art capabilities to our armed forces”, estimated the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, quoted in the press release published on Wednesday by the Commission.

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

These choices were made in advance in accordance with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (CSP or PESCO), which allows cooperation between European countries in the field of defense within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty. The Commission services will now start preparing the grant agreements with the selected candidate consortia. Once this preparation has been completed, and following the adoption of an award decision by the Commission, the grant agreements will be signed before the end of the year. “LThe fact that SMEs represent 43% of the entities participating in the selected projects shows that the European Defense Fund program indeed concerns the entire EU industrial value chain.”, for her part, assessed the commission’s deputy chairman, Margrethe Vestager. They will receive almost 20% of the funding.

French manufacturers well represented

France is the best represented nation in this selection. Which is not illogical in light of the large investments it has made over more than 60 years for its arms industry and the skills and know-how it has been able to develop over this period. Thus, French producers were selected 178 times ahead of their Italian (156), Spanish (147), German (113) and Greek (75) counterparts. Of the allocated amount, 322 million euros will be used to finance 31 research projects and 845 million 30 projects aimed at developing defense capabilities.

One of the most emblematic projects, the future European corvettes (European patrol corvette), endowed with 60 million to finance studies and design of these ships (out of 65.8 million) brings together the main players in the European naval industry: Naviris, subsidiary between Fincantieri and Naval Group, but also Fincantieri, Navantia and Naval Group. In addition, the program HEROIC, endowed with 18 million euros and led by Lynred, a 50-50 subsidiary between Safran and Thales, will supply 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 choices on hypersonic

EDF has chosen to support defense capability projects such as the next generation of aircraft (EICACS project, lead by Dassault Aviation), tanks and battleships, as well as critical defense technologies such as combat cloud, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, space, cyberspace or medical innovations. It will also spearhead breakthrough technologies, especially in quantum technologies and new materials. Thus, more than 5% of the budget will be set aside for financing breakthrough ideas, which could “to make it possible to radically change the concepts and conduct of defense activities”said the commission.

However, some choices seem highly debatable. Entrusting the strategic European hypersonic project with 100 million euros (out of 109 million) to the Spanish industrialist Sener as coordinator of a consortium that excludes any French participation (especially ArianeGroup and MBDA) seems unrealistic. This project is to develop an interceptor The European Union with the capacity to respond to threats at high speed. MBDA, within the framework of the European Defense Fund and “Twister”, had proposed the Aquila project, which would connect several European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France.