European Commission primes Defence Fund pump with cyber, space situational awareness, satcom funding
Credit: European External Action Service
PARIS— The European Commission, in what it hopes will spur approval of its proposed seven-year, 13-billion-euro ($14.9-billion) European Defence Fund, has earmarked spending more than 200 million million euros for work in 2019-2020 on projects including space situational awareness (SSA), positioning, navigation and timing and secure communications.
The funding will be added to the relatively modest amounts already being spent on pooling military satellite telecommunications bandwidth needs and a similarly organized effort in SSA using existing European facilities.
The European Defence Fund has won initial approval from the the organizations that must approve it — the commission, the European Parliament and the council of European heads of state. But there has been no final agreement as negotiations continue both on its size and whether it can fit into the overall seven-year European Union budget.
The work approved March 19 is for co-funded projects that, if all are subscribed, carry a value of up to 525 million euros, the commission said.
Of this figure, 25 million euros has been set aside for a dedicated research effort on “Electromagnetic Spectrum Dominance and Future Disruptive Technologies.” The use of the word “dominance” suggests that language commonly employed in Washington has made its way across the Atlantic.
Commission officials have said that space applications will be knitted into both the defense and civil research areas in the seven-year budget, and that it’s up to Europe’s space sector to insert itself into consortia leading project bids.
The 2019-2020 work includes:
— Cyber and space situational awareness and early warning and maritime surveillance, budgeted at 182 million euros. The space-based SSA and satellite communications piece of this will have a budget of 22.5 million euros.
— Air or space intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and tactical drones, with a budget of 43.7 million euros.
— Positioning, navigation and timing and satcom, budgeted at 44.1 million euros.
The European Defence Agency will begin issuing calls for proposals on the the early research topics, with a deadline of late August for proposals. Grants could be agreed to by the end of 2019. A second series of proposals will be issued in June, with grants awarded by the second half of 2020.
European Parliament elections are scheduled for May 23-26 in the 27 European Union nations, assuming the United Kingdom’s planned exit means it does not take part.
For both the civil and defense budgets, commission officials have said they wanted to get as much support as possible confirmed before the elections in the event that the new parliament and commission are less enthusiastic about defense spending and space technology.