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Spain in European defense programs: Yes, but not at any cost

For much of the more than 40 year history this publication collects, we have seen the periodic claim that Europe must take the reins of its defense, that strengthening capacities must be developed, and how EU countries must respond to European solutions for bet their main defense programs. By and large, the key messages have not changed. European industry needs to rationalize in order to survive in the context of shrinking budgets that are regularly hit by various crises. One of the proposed formulas for streamlining acquisitions and avoiding unsustainable layoffs is to consolidate the old continent’s industry and rely on reducing competing programs to achieve economics.

Economic theory defends the search for economies of scale, but also for competition in order to improve processes. In addition, the defense sector has its specifics and the weight of politics in Europe means that these rationalization initiatives are geared towards what interests the owners of industrial capacity or technology, which is, on the other hand, understandable. Some of the main European programs that Spain is participating in or interested in are not moving too fast. Suffice it to recall the delays in the Eurodrone, where Madrid is now looking to not allocate enough funds, or in the FCAS, where Spain has been betting heavily on being equal to France or Germany for However, none of them has the same industrial capacity as its partner.

The same applies to European programs for monitoring maritime traffic, since quite a few are suffering from the need for new aircraft for which joint solutions are also sought under the umbrella of NATO, but which do not materialize. Germany orders new Eurofighters for its Air Force that could be added to those requested by the Air Force to replace the Canarian F-18s. This is a window of time that threatens to close if there is no response. The only significant advance in Spanish participation is the European corvette, in which Navantia, a wholly Spanish company (publicly in fact), is actively participating, which is not the case in the area of ​​land and air platforms where we have production capabilities is hands of 100 percent Spanish capital.

When it comes to land platforms, Spain has not joined the future Franco-German main battle tank, but it has shown interest in participating in and even commanding a future medium tank together with European partners. It also participates in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) program to develop unmanned land-based skills. Let us remember that the European Industrial Defense Development Program (EDIDP) will invest € 7,000 million between 2021 and 2027 in weapon systems formed by consortia of three companies from three European countries.

As long as the mantra of the need to concentrate the European defense industry and reduce the number of competing programs is maintained, each of the various proposals must be examined in two ways. First, they must be suitable for the needs of the Spanish armed forces (don’t just put what is industrially interesting on them); and second, that the national industrial participation is really interesting and offers the highest possible value. You could say that Europeans do this, but not at any cost and, if possible, not only by providing a competitive workforce.

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