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Brussels arms bod: Don't buy Yankee deathware

Pry my bloated tech base out of my cold dead fingers

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The chief of the European Defence Agency says that EU nations must develop more sophisticated weapons technology jointly among themselves in order to be free of dependence on American exports. Specifically, Alexander Weis believes that European countries should club together to build spy satellites and heavy-lift helicopters.

"Both programs would allow the European Union to close very important capability gaps," said Weis, according to a report yesterday by AP.

EU nations collectively have very few heavy lift choppers, and those few are mostly US-developed CH-47 Chinooks or CH-53 Stallions. Heavy helicopters are really only made in America and Russia - Europe is even further behind the former superpower rivals in the spy-sats stakes.

The European Defence Agency is part of the Brussels bureaucracy, intended to promote a thriving European deathware-industrial base. It is not the same thing as the fledgling EU military staff, a uniformed organisation which does plans and assessments for Euro military operations outwith NATO.

According to AP: "The Agency was set up by the EU in 2004 with the aim of coordinating European defense procurement and development and eradicating wasteful duplication among European nations."

This is to be done in this case by duplicating existing American and Russian tech capabilities in Europe, rather as in the case of the ongoing A400M military transport-plane project distributed across the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Turkey. Europe could not build such aircraft until A400M got underway, but it will be able to in a few years.

An A400M is projected to cost the British forces around £100m to acquire and will be able to carry 30 tons over a distance of 2,500 nautical miles. By way of comparison, smaller numbers of American C-17s thus far seem to be costing the UK £200m each including support: but they can carry nearly 80 tons to the same distance as an A400M - rather faster, too.

Roughly speaking, you get a third more for your money buying American (probably more once support for A400M is factored in). The C-17 has been available for many years, too; the A400M has yet to arrive.

Still, at least the Euro option involves no dependence on horrid George Bush for spare parts etc. That's worth something, isn't it?

Well, no, actually. The A400M is chockful of American stuff. It would cost even more if it weren't.

Numbers on the existing British-Italian Merlin HC3 and Future Lynx helicopters - as compared to imported American alternatives - are even worse, and the Merlin and Lynx too are brimming with US bits. Only a lunatic would recommend to the cash-strapped British MoD that it get involved in another project of this sort.

That lunatic is named Alexander Weis, and we're paying for his thoughts.

So we're not actually talking about being free of US influence here. We're just talking about paying well over market rate for our deathware - and sometimes widening our tech-support dependency beyond the EU, as in the case of A400M - so that some business guys here in Europe can make money off our taxes, and our armed forces can have less and crappier gear that arrives later.

"We have to consolidate before we come to a real transatlantic cooperation," says Weis, apparently.

No shit. Like we could consolidate our bloated, horrifyingly expensive helicopter biz for a start, by closing it, and cooperate with the Yanks by buying from them. If they got out of hand, we could buy or lease Russian, as we (and indeed the Americans) already do.

The AP report is here

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