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          • Year: 2012
          • The military jets that divide the EU

          • BCSP Guest Researcher Diego Scarabelli gives his opinion on the influence of key players in the international skies in terms of military technology. Diego is an MPhil candidate at the University College of London, Italian Department.

        • In April 2011, the Indian Air Force shortlisted the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon as the two final contenders for the construction of its new multi-role fighter fleet. At the end of January 2012, New Delhi announced the French aircraft as the preferred bidder in the competition. Finally, on 31st January 2012, India decided that its new multi-role fighter will be the Dassault Rafale. An important victory for President Nicolas Sarkozy and a great defeat for the European consortium formed by Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Spain.

          The competition between the Typhoon and the Rafale already started in the 1980s. In 1986 the German EADS, the British BAE Systems, and the Italian Finmeccanica formed the holding company Eurofighter GmbH; later the Spanish company Casa joined them. These four European member states shared their military expertise in order to create the future jet that would protect the members of the European Community. France was expected to participate too; however, Paris opted for another project: the Dassault Rafale. France wanted a jet that could also carry nuclear bombs, a feature that the Typhoon was not able to incorporate in its specification, and therefore decided to work independently. If Paris joined forces with the other European capitals, together they might have initiated a path that would lead to integration among their defense companies. Economic integration may have then led to political integration. But this did not happen.

          Undoubtedly, both Rafale and Typhoon achieved great results from a technical perspective. As a matter of fact, the Indian Air Force favored them to their American counterparts. The choice made by the government of New Delhi seems to confirm that the “Made in Europe” badge can still compete and even stand superior to the “Made in USA” badge, when it comes to defense technology. 

          However, this is not necessarily the case. The United States can provide much more advanced military equipment; equipment that the EU states cannot build on their own for lack of know-how and/or resources. A clear example is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 is a multi-role stealth jet fighter produced by the American company Lockheed Martin. The UK and Italy are also partners in this project, and will acquire several aircrafts. On their own, these two midsized European powers could not construct such a sophisticated weapon, and thus they opted to rely on the Pentagon. They did not promote cooperation at the European level and directly worked with their American ally. Their choice will have repercussions for the future of their military industry since they may become more and more US dependent.

          The Eurofighter, the Dassault Rafale, and the F-35 JSF represent military aircraft that divide the members of the European Union. The European states worked together only when they wanted to, otherwise they pursued national defense policies that served their individual interests. If the EU members want to remain key players in the international skies, they need closer cooperation in military terms, otherwise they will become importers and not exporters of military technology in the future.

          Diego Scarabelli, BCSP Guest Researcher - February 3rd, 2012

        • Tags: military, jets, eu, military equipment, equipment, european security
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