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Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles and Military Aeronautics of the Future

Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles and Military Aeronautics of the Future

Recommendation 754 on unmanned combat air vehicles and military aeronautics of the future. Report (Document A/1884) submitted on behalf of the Technological and Aerospace Committee by Mr Braga, Rapporteur (Portugal, Socialist Group). Source: WEU, Paris, November 30, 2004.

      The Assembly,

  1. Recalling that the aerospace sector with its specific technical constraints and requirements is a driving force for progress and innovation;

  2. Noting that the technological challenge posed by UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) is mobilising increasing resources in the United States, Europe and other states with advanced defence industries;

  3. Considering that the emphasis placed on future military UAV (Unmanned Aerial Air Vehicle) and UCAV programmes in terms of investments and research, technology, development and evaluation (RTD&E) will inevitably have an impact on the civilian component of that industry;

  4. Considering that tactical UAVs have always been and continue to be regularly deployed by the armed forces of European countries for operations in Europe (Kosovo war) and elsewhere (Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq) and that their transportability and ease of use, as well as their modular structure and cost-effectiveness have made them indispensable and unavoidable;

  5. Recalling that UAVs have up until now been used for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance missions;

  6. Noting that the advent of UCAVs opens a new chapter in the history of military and civilian aeronautics, because more than remotely controlled machines, they are genuine multi-mission, multi-role combat aircraft that are autonomous and capable of adapting to their specific environment;

  7. Considering that the UCAV concept constitutes a new weapons system whose introduction will significantly change military doctrines and the rules of engagement for military forces, and that the use of this technology is perceived as a means for rationalising air forces by limiting human intervention and the corresponding constraints;

  8. Noting that there are a number of different European UCAV projects or ongoing programmes, such as the Neuron programme led by France with the participation of Belgium, Greece, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland;

  9. Considering furthermore that the use of UAVs is a logical development arising out of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and technological progress, particularly in the fields of information technology and miniaturisation;

  10. Noting that only those countries that have a well-developed aeronautics industry and technological/IT base will be able to play any decisive role in the area of strategic UAVs and UCAVs;

  11. Stressing the need to avoid a dispersal of European efforts in this area as has often been the case in the past for other weapons systems;

  12. Stressing that these questions are relevant for a crucial aspect of the ESDP: the European defence industrial and technological base (EDITB) and European research, technology, development and evaluation (RTD&E) capabilities;

  13. Noting that the industrial effort that is under way also requires staunch political support and an overall vision of the integration of these new weapons systems and that the ECAP (European Capability Action Plan) project groups and the European Defence Agency (EDA) are responsible for that integration;

  14. Underlining the importance of continuing the ETAP programme (European Technology Acquisition Programme) for future combat aircraft, among which the UCAV demonstrators are one of the most promising elements;

  15. Recalling furthermore that interoperability is essential for UAV/UCAV systems and that at Euro-Atlantic level, NATO bears the responsibility for defining a "common language" among the allies and for designing the architecture of a common operating system;

  16. Considering, finally, that unless there is a common effort − which also requires a readiness on the part of the United States to cooperate with Europe on all types of unmanned vehicle projects − American and European forces will no longer be able in the medium term to conduct joint operations in low-to-medium intensity conflicts,

      RECOMMENDS that the Council invite the WEU countries

  1. To actively support European efforts to design and develop UAV and UCAV technology demonstrators by increasing their political, financial, technological and industrial participation;

  2. To take account in this regard of the following factors:

  • the concept of unmanned remote-controlled or autonomous vehicles applied to air-based, land-based or naval weapons systems will have repercussions for defence doctrines and the operational engagement of forces;

  • it is necessary to have an overall vision of the integration of these new weapons systems designed to augment and/or supplant existing manned systems;

  • European countries must avoid a fragmented approach, competition among themselves and a duplication of efforts, for these are costly and ineffective in the long term;

  • some degree of specialisation and interdependence must be accepted in order to avoid these programmes becoming bogged down in conflicting requirements;

  • Europeans must develop their own networks that can be adapted in modular fashion to European or transatlantic coalitions in keeping with the effective multilateralism advocated by the European Security Strategy of December 2003;

  • maintaining an optimum level of transatlantic interoperability is essential and the responsibility for finding a common operating system among the United States and its allies lies first and foremost with NATO;

  • it is up to the European military bodies and the European Defence Agency (EDA) to develop a common, interoperable and interchangeable European standard which could provide a reference for interaction between European and American systems.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).