European Union countries have agreed to pool their helicopter capabilities to better support international operations.
EU defense ministers meeting May 26 charged the European Defence Agency with coordinating the initiative in league with NATO. The effort is to cover joint training, logistics and upgrading of helicopters to operate in austere environments. That could benefit manufacturers of engine inlet barrier filters and particle separators; European nations’ helicopter operations in Africa and Southwest Asia have been limited by their aircraft’s vulnerability to sand and dust ingestion.
"This is a political act, but we don’t want it to remain on paper," Slovenia’s defense minister, Karl Victor Erjavec, told reporters. Slovenia held the rotating presidency of the union. "This operation is crucial for our credibility."
The move builds on a French-British initiative launched in March. The lack of deployable helicopters has hindered both EU support for NATO operations in Afghanistan and the deployment of 3,700 troops to aid Sudanese refugees in Chad.
In a related development, the German Federal Office for Defence Technology and Procurement hired Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH to retrofit six more German Army/Sikorsky Aircraft CH-53Gs with ballistic self-protection and specific mission equipment. The order is worth about €24 million (more than $37 million). The army is to take delivery of the helicopters between May and November 2009.