Letter to the Chairman of the Committee
from the Secretary of State for Defence (19 November 2001)
I am writing to tell you that today, along with
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, we have signed a declaration
to launch a joint programme with European industry to develop
highly advanced technologies for combat air systems' capabilities.
It will sustain and develop European capabilities in this area
over the next two decades. The programme is known as the European
Technology Acquisition Programme, or ETAP. Work in some high priority
areas, such as secure and robust data communication, high-speed
data processing, propulsion systems, and the command and control
of uninhabited air vehicles will begin straight away.
The capability to strike effectively and precisely
over long distances at different sorts of targets is a vital defence
need, as current operations against international terrorism show.
The declaration shows the commitment of leading European nations
to work together in this key area, where co-operation in the development
and demonstration of advanced technologies is likely to reduce
the risk and cost of future acquisitions. The programme of work
is designed to ensure that the technologies needed to deliver
the capability are mature and available when required.
A joint study between the six nations, reporting
next summer, will give an initial assessment of military capabilities
that may be needed around 2020. It will also identify possible
systems and technologies to deliver those capabilities, including
those which would benefit most from joint development. Future
combat air systems could include developments to manned aircraft,
air and ground launched uninhabited air vehicles and uninhabited
combat air vehicles, and conventionally-armed long-range cruise
missiles. A command, control, communication, computing, and intelligence
system would like the systems together.
The declaration was signed in Brussels just
before the EU Defence Capabilities Improvement Conference. It
builds on previous agreements by the six nations that, to deliver
nations' future capability requirements, Europe needs an efficient
and globally competitive aerospace and defence electronics industry,
supported by international co-operation on harmonising requirements
and acquisition programmes. The declaration also calls on European
industry to continue to invest in this work alongside government,
and to come up with innovative and co-operative solutions, in
order to make the best use of valuable tax-payers' money.
I look forward to playing a key role in ETAP,
as does UK industry, for whom the ETAP programme provides opportunities
for work at the cutting edge of technology.