Strategic lift: European Defence Agency defines future capabilities
Strategic lift: European Defence Agency defines future capabilities

| Victor Riou | Source : Air&Cosmos 566 mots

Strategic lift: European Defence Agency defines future capabilities

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has just confirmed its participation in the two European projects for new-generation medium and outsize cargo under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PSC or PESCO).

FMTC and SATOC, European-designed air cargo for 2035+ 

On Jan. 27, the European Defense Agency formalized its support for the two projects of the Future Medium-Size Tactical Cargo (FMTC) and the Strategic Air Transport for Outsized Cargo (SATOC). They represent the future of tactical and strategic airlift for European Union countries and are scheduled to begin operations by 2035. Launched under the 4th wave of PESCO, FMTC and SATOC are the 9th and 10th PESCO projects to be supported by the EDA. The former will be coordinated by France and will bring together Germany, Sweden and Spain while the latter will bring together the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France coordinated by Germany.

According to the EDA, the objective of the FMTC is "to increase the air mobility capabilities of the armed forces of the Member States [...] including on unprepared narrow and short runways." SATOC on the other hand tends to become "a European solution for the transport of oversize and heavy cargo."

Replacing Europe's aging airlift fleets

EU member countries' tactical cargo air fleets currently consist of 99 Lockheed Martin Hercules C-130s, 33 examples of the Lockheed Martin / Alenia Tactical Transport Systems (LMATTS) joint venture C-27J Spartan, 43 Casa C-295Ms, and already 77 Airbus A400M "Atlas" out of 137 ordered. However, with the exception of the A400M, most of these aircraft will be nearing the end of their life cycle within the next decade. The FMTC project should thus anticipate their replacement and complement the Atlas in its missions while maintaining a European industrial solution.

The SATOC project will aim to address the "critical lack of strategic oversize and heavy cargo transport" of EU countries according to the EDA (see our article on the subject by following this link). In fact, European countries still outsource a significant part of their transport under the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS). SALIS provides for the management of outsized airlift by a multinational consortium of nine NATO countries, which charters three to five AN-124-100s from the Ukrainian company Antonov ASTC for countries that request them. Notably, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) signed a five-year contract in October 2021 with Antonov-Logistic-Salis GmbH, the product of the alliance between Germany's Aircargonet GmbH and Antonov Airlines. However, although complementary solutions exist with the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet, the SATOC should ultimately provide EU countries with a European solution for strategic lift and their projection capabilities.

Antonov 124 Mining.jpg
Antonov 124 Mining.jpg ©
Antonov 124 Mining.jpg

European Defense Agency at the heart of the harmonization of the two projects

EDA's support for the FMTC and SATOC programs will last 24 months and will be aimed at "harmonizing the requirements of the project members and drafting a joint document of specific common guidelines for the research and development of the envisaged platform." SATOC already includes 3 steps:

  • identify a sufficient number of project members,
  • harmonize requirements,
  • identify and agree on a common European solution for the transport of oversized goods.

By harmonizing the requirements of the various stakeholders, the EDA recalls that it wishes to reduce the "life cycle cost by avoiding late design changes and excessive versions," an obvious feedback following the difficulties encountered on the European A400M or NH90 programs. It adds that it wants to prevent   "fragmentation of future air mobility fleets."

Once completed, the FMTC and SATOC projects should therefore increase the autonomy of European Union countries in their tactical and strategic deployments. 

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