The effort, led by Germany, aims to create a European air and missile defense system “through the joint acquisition of air defense equipment and missiles by European nations”, NATO announced on Thursday.
“With this initiative, we are assuming our common responsibility for security in Europe – by pooling our resources,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels where 14 countries signed a letter of intent, according to Reuters.
The initiative will allow all participating nations to jointly develop an air defense system using interoperable, off-the-shelf solutions, according to a NATO press release. “This multinational and multi-faceted approach provides nations with a flexible and scalable means of enhancing their deterrence and defense in an effective and cost-effective manner,” NATO said.
The ESSI “aims to enable European allies to procure these much-needed capabilities better and faster, and to optimize their costs”, NATO Assistant Secretary General Mircea Geoană told a press briefing. after the signing ceremony. “It should also bring synergy between allies with similar requirements, covering the full spectrum of air and missile defense needs. It should promote interoperability and integration between them and with NATO’s integrated air and missile defence.
ESSI is “a major effort to generate more resources and ensure that the necessary capabilities are acquired and deployed quickly. I warmly welcome Germany’s desire to be a leader in the field of integrated air and missile defence.
Being supported by 15 European nations “is also a tangible expression of fairer burden-sharing,” he said. “Strengthening NATO’s air and missile defense will increase the security of all allies and our alliance as a whole.”
The aim is to “work together making maximum use of existing NATO structures, mechanisms and processes to ensure that the alliance as a whole has the necessary sensors, interceptors and command and control – in essence fully interoperable and seamlessly integrated into NATO’s missile defence”. , which has significantly improved our ability to defend the Alliance against all missile threats.
Lambrecht said countries were looking to move quickly to early agreements.
In addition to providing a longer-range capability against traditional “air breathing” threats such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and even drones, the Patriots could provide nations participating in the initiative with the robust capability to protect key areas against ballistic missile attacks. Patriot, especially in its later iterations, we designed to do that, especially against short-range ballistic missiles. Although no air or missile defense system is close to perfection, it could significantly reduce the damage Russian missiles can cause. The Patriot system has been absolutely critical in reducing the effectiveness of the Houthi rebels’ constant missile barrages in Yemen on key targets in Saudi Arabia, for example.
The ESSI will also discuss the acquisition of upper layer defense systems against ballistic missile threats, such as Arrow 3 produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) as well as short-range systems designed to protect smaller areas or military convoys, Reuters reported.
IAI, in conjunction with Boeing, has been developing Arrow 3 since 2008 with considerable financial and other support from the US government. This support also extended to ongoing development and testing work, including live-fire testing in Alaska. The Arrow 3 entered operational service with Israel in January 2017, and the system shot down an errant Syrian surface-to-air missile about three months later.
The Arrow 3’s main targets are all kinds of ballistic missiles, including the most destructive intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, flying at very high altitudes and at extremely high speeds. Targeting ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere provides an added degree of security, especially when dealing with weapons that may carry nuclear warheads, or even biological or chemical payloads.
In Israeli service, the Arrow 3’s primary role is to provide defense against ballistic missile threats emanating from Iran. The overall system also includes Elta’s Green Pine L-band family of Active Electronically Scanned Radars (AESA) used for target acquisition. Although it is unclear whether Green Pine would be part of a proposed German Arrow 3 deal, the system can also be used in conjunction with other sensor systems, such as the US AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar and even space-based early warning satellites. of a wider missile defense network.
Lambrecht, saying it wanted to procure the Arrow 3 system for next-level air defense, urged rapid development of the ESSI.
“We need to close these gaps quickly, we live in threatening and dangerous times,” Lambrecht said, according to Reuters.
“No decision has been made yet but I think it would be the right system (Arrow 3),…it would be a very good system to meet the challenge in Europe,” she noted.
You can read more about Germany’s interest in the Arrow 3 in our coverage here.
It is unclear at this time whether Israel will sell air defense systems to the ESSI, which includes Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and the UK, but we see no major reason why this would not be the case. We have contacted the Israeli Ministry of Defense for comment and will update this story if we get a response.
The ESSi announcement comes as more Ukrainian towns were hit by Russian strikes on Thursday, the latest in a series of barrages that began Monday in response to Saturday’s attack on the Kerch Bridge. More than 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured in these attacks, according to Ukrainian officials.
“This commitment is even more crucial today, as we witness Russia’s ruthless and indiscriminate missile attacks in Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying critical infrastructure. In this context, I warmly welcome Germany’s leadership in launching the European Sky Shield initiative,” said Geoană.
“The new, fully interoperable and seamlessly integrated NATO air and missile defense assets would significantly enhance our ability to defend the Alliance against all air and missile threats.” said Geoana.
It is not yet known how quickly the ESSI will make its first purchases or how it would fit into the mutual protection conditions described in Article 5 of the NATO charter, especially since the Finland has not even been approved for membership yet.
We will follow these important developments closely.
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