Germany and Norway join operation of NATO-owned A330 MRTT fleet
Germany and Norway have followed the Netherlands and Luxembourg and formally entered the European/NATO program regarding the purchase of Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft.
The two countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding at NATO HQ to express their dedication to cooperate in the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF). The program was commenced by the European Defence Agency (EDA) back in 2012 and has its purchase stage managed by Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), which on behalf of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) serves as Contract Executing Agent. Once the purchase stage is finalized NSPA will be accountable for the entire life-cycle management of the aircraft.
“The MMF is a prime example of European defense cooperation which shows that once a capability shortfall has been jointly identified, European nations can pull together, work on a common project aimed at filling the gap, and eventually deliver. It’s Pooling & Sharing at its best,” EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq.
The decision to join the program at this particular moment may come from the current political and social framework in Europe and the US. Notably, from the rise in popularity of EU and NATO skepticism, as it may heavily influence the upcoming Norwegian parliamentary and German federal elections, both taking place in September 2017. The US pressure regarding NATO spending is also considered burdensome among the European members of the alliance.
The tension from the American ally and tone of the president, Donald Trump, as well as the political partition of the UK from the EU is not contributing positively to the sense of military solidarity of the Union’s member nations. That also led to the separate EU army being a prevailing subject in the region.
"Europe needs to be able to act for its own security," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian commented on EU defense plan in November 2016. "This will allow Europe to take a step towards its strategic autonomy."
The Program is financed by the four countries that will have the exclusive authority to use the NATO-owned MRTT aircraft present in the pooling arrangement, which is also expected to add Belgium and Poland to its members list. Such a program will also allow the nations to decrease military aviation spending.
The aircraft will be configured for in-flight refueling, the transport of passengers and cargo, and medical evacuation flights. Airbus is scheduled to deliver the first two tankers in 2020, from its Defence and Space’s tanker conversion line at Getafe, Spain.
“As NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency, we are proud to be a key enabler of this critical project to help European nations meet their air transport and refueling requirements. The successful cooperation in this project - bringing together all our capabilities - bodes extremely well for further future NATO / EU collaboration,” said NSPA GM, Peter Dohmen.