A key NATO official wants to see European allies draw from "a much better, greater common industrial base" to develop needed military capabilities, as the world returns to a state of "global power competition" with China and Russia.
Lamenting the “major redundancies” across the European Union, German Air Force Gen. Chris Badia, the NATO deputy supreme allied commander transformation, called for “a more cooperative” path forward that focuses on equipment standardization, in addition to broader interoperability.
“The lack of joint procurement [in] Europe has resulted in a fragmented defense landscape,” Badia told an audience at the Association of Old Crows symposium in Washington, DC today.
While he emphasized that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown existing Western capabilities and technology have maintained an edge, he underscored the difference in focus between competitors like China and Russia compared with NATO over the last two decades that has led to the present-day dynamic.
While Badia said both Russia and China spent that interim investing in emerging areas that allowed them to close the gap technology-wise in unmanned aerial vehicle and hypersonic development, NATO leaned in “for too long” on terrorism and nation-building, while failing to target “game-changing technologies, edge technology.”
“F-35, great machine, no doubt about it,” he said. “We buy it in Germany as well. But it’s sixth-gen. It’s nothing that’s really groundbreaking; it’s just the next step.”
Underlying the current landscape is a declining rate of common procurement across European allies. In 2020, Badia said the European Defense Agency found EU countries conducted 11% of their total equipment purchases in collaboration with other member states, compared with 25% in 2011.
At the same time, he noted European armed forces host 29 different types of destroyers, 17 varieties of battle tanks and 20 kinds of fighter aircraft, compared with the four destroyers, a single battle tank and six fighter jets within the U.S.
“How do we take it forward in order to become better?” Badia said of boosting common procurement. “Because at the end of the day, it’s the warfighter who suffers if he does not get what he needs.”
In comparing the defense markets of the U.S. with that of European nations, he noted the former has seen consolidation, while in the latter, “the home industry is important to them, no doubt about it.”
“The European Commission and European Union, they have to set much more incentives and set better rules in order to really realign and streamline,” he said.