OCCAR, when European collaboration is a success!

(To Andrea Cucco)

Occar (Organization Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'Armement) has as its target the promotion of cooperation, efficiency and cost reduction of arms acquisition programs.

The prospect, since its establishment in 1998 with the signing of the "OCCAR Convention" by the Ministers of Defense of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (Belgium and Spain joined in 2003 and 2005), has been of become a European center of excellence in the implementation of defense systems.

The results of the programs - in progress and in the process of being inaugurated - have reached budgets that were probably unexpected at the time of its birth.

To understand the real significance of the numbers of an organization that marks continuous records, we interviewed its director, Admiral Matteo Bisceglia.

Admiral, has OCCAR practically doubled the overall value of the programs in recent years?

"Over the last three years, the number of programs managed by OCCAR has undergone a significant increase. Currently, OCCAR manages 16 programs for a total value of approximately 80 billion euros. The imminent signing of the MALE RPAS Stage 2 and TIGER MKIII contracts will increase the budget overall administered by OCCAR for approximately 90 billion euros.

In 2021 the integration activities of the LWT Programs (Light Weight Torpedo), VBAE (Véhicule Blindé d'Aide à l'Engagement), REACT (Responsive Electronic Attack for Cooperative Tasks), WWGC - TRITON (Wide Wet Gap Crossing) which will lead to a total of 20 programs managed by OCCAR and with a forecast of budget overall close to 100 billion euros. "

A constant trend?

"Knowing the strength and professionalism present in OCCAR, I am convinced that the growth of OCCAR will not stop. In the short-medium term, OCCAR will be able to seize various opportunities to integrate and manage further challenging defense systems acquisition programs. under evaluation by the States. "

For example?

"I mean the programs Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS), Timely Warning and Interception with Space-based Theater (TWISTER), European Patrol Corvette (EPC), just to name a few.

Over the course of its twenty years of operation, OCCAR has demonstrated that it can manage defense systems acquisition programs with the full satisfaction of the States and in compliance with the requirements of cost, time and PERFORMANCE. OCCAR is now a reality capable of contributing to the challenging standardization and interoperability project in the military sector.

Although OCCAR continues to be proactive in the defense arena, it is nevertheless up to the Nations to decide how to benefit from the capabilities that the Organization I have the honor to lead can ensure. In line with its own participants' vision, OCCAR is ready to take on a role leader in procurement in Europe, but the support of nations will be essential. "

Spain recently approved the MALE RPAS Program, a confirmation of the goodness of the project for a European drone. What are the next steps?

"Very shortly, on a mandate from Germany, France, Italy and Spain, as director of OCCAR, I will sign the Contract with Airbus Defense and Space, for the start of the Intership 2 del MALE RPAS program. In fact, the signing by the Participating States of the Intergovernmental Agreement (so-called Implementing Arrangement) and the related mandate to OCCAR (cd Program Decision) marks the start of the technical-administrative activities aimed at the development and production of the European MALE RPAS unmanned weapon system.

A highly challenging project that will enhance the strategic capabilities of the four states businesses in the field of air operations conducted by remotely piloted systems at intermediate and long-range altitudes capable of integrating into civil air traffic. The European MALE RPAS will be able to allow the development of a portfolio of Defense and Homeland Security'able to meet the needs of defense, support forintelligence, prevention and contrast of criminal phenomena, monitoring and contrast of migratory phenomena, contrast of illicit traffic by land and sea, study of the national territory for its enhancement or prevention of natural phenomena, prevention and support in the event of natural disasters, through ISTAR missions (Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition Reconnaissance) and through the use of state-of-the-art sensors of European design and production. "

A few more details?

"The system will be entirely designed and manufactured by a European industrial team that includes Airbus Germany as Prime Contractor who is entrusted with the task of managing the global development, production and initial logistic support contract; it will work in collaboration with the three main ones Subcontractors: Airbus Spain, Dassault and Leonardo, and will involve SMEs in the defense and electronics sectors of the Old Continent, representing an epochal challenge towards achieving future European independence in this particular defense sector, currently manned by international companies.

Through the joint effort of the 4 Participating Countries, Europe will fill a gap technology that a single country could hardly have supported.

The signing of the contract comes after the signing in July 2021 in Rome of the Grant Agreement with which the European Commission sanctioned the co-financing of the program with 100 million euros, as part of the EDIDP financing plan, in recognition of the high technological value of the European MALE RPAS Program.

The operation of the contract will mark the immediate start of the Development activities aimed at defining the detailed configuration of the Weapon System, the activities of testing on the ground and in flight with the prototypes and the qualification and final certification of the System by the National Authorities of the Participating Countries.

Based on the positive results of the flight activities, the series production of the systems will be started, of which 5 for Italy (each system consists of 3 aircraft and ground control stations). Furthermore, an initial logistic support of 5 years is envisaged under this contract.

This is undoubtedly a great success for OCCAR and the participating States, but I am aware that there is still a long way to go. A tortuous path, not without programmatic, technical and administrative risks that I am sure OCCAR will be able to face with the utmost professionalism and effectiveness that has distinguished it in the course of more than twenty years of operation. "

How does competition between companies in programs happen?

"Today we live in a geopolitical context in which the European continent is called to face new security threats that require capacitive assets that are difficult to develop independently by a single Member State.

The awareness that the only effective solution is cooperation in the defense sector is now ripe. This is also reflected in the many initiatives aimed at encouraging collaboration on a governmental and industrial level. I refer to EDIDP projects (European Defense Industrial Development Program) and EDF (European Defense Fund), as well as PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and in the matter of procurement defense systems, introduce clear economic and strategic advantages for both Member States and industries.

In this complex scenario, OCCAR plays, and I am sure it will continue to do so, a fundamental role in promoting cooperative programs for the acquisition of defense systems. This mission is clearly spelled out in our Convention which establishes the political determination of the Member States to improve the efficiency and reduce the costs of their arms cooperation, as well as to strengthen the European defense technological and industrial base.

Along this line, OCCAR enhances the centers of industrial excellence to develop competitiveness through the search for cooperative industrial structures that ensure complementary technological and industrial solutions. "

How does he do it?

"Through the renunciation of the Just return, according to which the industry receives a volume of orders equal to the financial contribution of the home state, and the simultaneous application of one of the founding principles of OCCAR: global balance. In fact, the excessive emphasis on rigid contract-sharing agreements has proved to be a limiting factor in exploiting the potentially derivable advantages of competition and industrial cooperation.

Il global balance, on the other hand, it derives from the desire to seek solutions of procurement 'open competition' with the best cost-effectiveness and ensures the pursuit of a comprehensive and flexible multi-program / multi-year budget policy of work share versus cost share.

Furthermore, the application of this principle represents a signal of integration between the participating States, as it can support the slow process of harmonization of national capabilities in the defense field with a view to standardization and interoperability, favoring greater integration and partnership. with joint military activities at the level of their respective capabilities.

Joint efforts are still needed, however indispensable to achieve a complete and more effective application of the global balance.

OCCAR, seeking the solution that is the best in terms of cost-effectiveness, therefore encourages competitiveness at an industrial level and contributes to the establishment of a robust and competitive Industrial and Technological Base of European Defense (European Defense Technological Industrial Base - EDTIB), essential not only for the research of advanced technologies necessary for the development of new capacities, but also for the competitiveness of European industry in international contexts. "

Photo: OCCAR