Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Comments by Sir Donald Spiers—Chairman, Foresight Defence and Aerospace Panel (December 2000)

  As a general comment it is worth noting that, so far as aerospace is concerned, a considerable restructuring has already taken place in Europe with the formation of EADS, involving aerospace companies for France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Also many UK aerospace companies have a significant presence (and indeed own companies) in the USA. In addition there is considerable experience, going back some 30 years, of the formation and operation of Transnational Defence Companies (TDCs) to undertake specific projects. (Sepecat for Jaguar; Panavia for Tornado; and Eurofighter for the Eurofighter Typhoon).

  The objectives laid out in the Agreement are entirely sensible but need further comment as follows:

  Article 1a. It is vital that Governments seek only to provide a framework and do not try to become involved in the setting up and operation of TDCs. In the long term companies will only succeed if they are set up on entirely commercial grounds and no one in Central Government has significant relevant experience of doing this.

  Article 1d. This is a particularly important area where governments can help considerably. Exports are vital in reducing costs to the national budget and hindrance by Government regulations can be a real problem.

  Articles 1f and 1g (and Article 30). One of the major changes in aerospace over the last 10 years has been that, whereas previously military R&T led the way and then spun off into civil application, it is now quite common for civil R&T in such things as aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics and gas turbine technology to lead the way and then spin off into defence applications. This is also particularly true of aircraft computing and control systems. Thus control of technical information and intellectual property rights may not be in the gift of Governments. However, where the Government does invest in R&T, as for example in the proposed MOD Towers of Excellence programme, it will be important for industrial participants to be quite clear from the outset where intellectual property is to be made available to third parties.

  Article 1h (and Article 45). This is again a most important area under the direct control of Governments. Just as facilitating exports helps to give economy of scale so does enhancing the home market by having a harmonised requirement. But it is vital that Governments do restrict themselves to the military requirement as defined in Article 45 and not get involved in defining the actual equipment be it hardware or software. (In the Eurofighter programme, Government Ministers actually laid down the wing area, engine thrust and basic mass empty of the aircraft as political requirements!)

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