Due to the nature of modern warfare, the demand for precision has grown, both to increase the effect against the opponent and to avoid casualties amongst friendly forces and non-combatant third parties, reducing collateral damages and providing European soldiers with better tools to fulfill their missions.
Precision Guided Ammunition (PGA) is tailored to achieve precision effects. For this reason it is identified as an area of strategic importance both from the military capabilities perspective as well as from technological and industrial point of view.
The current situation shows that the European Capability to provide Precision Guided Ammunition (PGA) needs to be preserved and further developed to fulfill future needs and to avoid dependencies on non-European sources for critical skills and technologies. To assure future military operations, the supply of European PGA must be secured.
In December 2010, EDA signed a contract for a one year study, to provide a step by step plan to develop a more robust competitive ammunition industry, able to provide the member states with the PGA capability required in the time frame of 2020.
Main objective of the study was to provide a Roadmap and Implementation Plan on Precision Guided Ammunition, capturing military requirements and analyzing the capability of the European industry to develop and produce PGAs able to meet Member States’ requirements.
The study-contractor (an industry team lead by BAE Systems and including Diehl BGT Defence, EXPAL Systems, MBDA, Nexter Munitions, OTO Melara, Rheinmetall Defence, SAGEM and TDA Armements SAS) conducted the study and reported to EDA and its Member States’ representatives coming from various fields of expertise (capability development, Research & Technology, procurement, etc.) Input was collected from companies all around Europe, including primes and major as well as small subcontractors in the ammunition area, but also institutes and academia’s Sub Matter Experts.
The starting points of the study were some studies analyzing capability needs, (including EDA’s Capability Development Plan), EU/EDA’s Capability ‘Lessons learned’ documents, and also relevant LoI and NATO/NIAG studies. This was complemented with Member States expert’s views, collected through questionnaires and workshops.
The complete Precision Fire Support Engagement process has been evaluated by use of 12 scenarios, derived from previous land studies and pMS’ requirements. Areas such as engagement cycles, fire support organizations and key requirements have been studied.
The results were presented to the Member States and other stakeholders for review, feedback and further comments either during workshops or by sending out completed documents.
The State of Play of the European industry was evaluated in a similar way. A significant amount of data about existing and planned products, capabilities and resources for development and testing and crucial technologies for precision guided munitions in Europe was collected from experts in main suppliers and subcontractors, academia, institutes and Ministries of Defence.
Preliminary results were discussed with focused expert groups, such as the European Network of National Safety Authorities on Ammunition (ENNSA) and EDA’s group on the Defence Test & Evaluation Base.
After collecting data on Future Capability needs in Europe and about the industrial State of Play in PGAs, a deep gap analysis was performed. The objective was to make an assessment of the European industry concerning its ability to develop and produce Precision Guided Ammunition, using European and ITAR-free components and to identify potential gaps to perform against future national and EU scenarios.
The analysis assessed existing or potential obstacles and other factors, such as Technology Gaps, Economic Shortfalls or Non-EU Dependencies. Conclusions from this analysis fed the next phase of the project that consisted in the design of the Roadmap and Implementation Plan of Actions - which was the final delivery of the Study.
At the end of the Study some clear key conclusions can be derived:
Member States have a clear need for Precision Guided Ammunition. The study identified similarities but also differences amongst Member States requirements concerning for example the expected precision, dispersion, etc. The requirements do not differ in essential parameters between artillery, mortar or naval support areas, except for range capability of the projectile. Different kinds of communication tools to permit additional functionality, such as mission abort, or to change the terminal effect, are considered important.
Certain levels of conformity in requirements among Member States have been identified. A harmonization of these requirements (fully or in part) would be preferred to achieve both improved interoperability and increased Security of Supply. The latter requirement in particular may support the creation of a new business model across Europe.
State of Play Analysis
The data collection also gave a good view of the Ammunition industrial base in Europe. Few delivered PGA products and on-going development programs were identified within the EU. However, sufficient capabilities exist (dispersed around various countries) for development, qualification and manufacturing of Precision Guided Ammunition and would create a solid base for a secured chain of supply for future PGA military requirements.
The bigger part of the main technology or capability base is ITAR-Free, but on critical areas dependencies is an existing (or potential) threat for Europe’s capacity on PGAs in the future. GPS receivers were the most frequently mentioned ITAR component; it was noted that several Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers are available in Europe. However, in other critical areas like rare earth materials or production of electronics, dependencies and cost issues were identified. Some of these areas are shared with other parts of civilian and defence industry and a joint solution would be preferred. Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products might be introduced to PGA military solutions on component level.
Standards for qualification and testing and the need of appropriate test facilities for PGAs were especially evaluated and discussed with both pMS and specialised EDA’s groups of Member States experts. This area is considered to be very demanding both in terms of costs as well as provision of sufficient safety areas during tests.
The gaps that have been identified in the areas of technologies, funding and other resources can be sorted in three main groups.
The first group which is considered to become critical is the one of components, materials and technologies not existing in Europe. This group would need an early investment and additional sources in Europe need to be established to secure the European sovereign supply of military components.
The second group is technology gaps where there are few resources or little knowledge available in Europe. Products may be world-class but with only one source, or others may not be purchased for development programs very often, with the additional risk that those resources (or that knowledge) may disappear if not exercised or supported. A number of components and products were identified in this group.
The last group includes the capabilities that are currently available in Europe but about which there is a perceived real risk of total loss of that capability if the resource is not exercised in any development programmes.
Mapped safety and qualification standards have been analysed. Existing standards are not considered to be sufficient for new versions of PGA. Given the expected time consuming process to achieve a set of European standardized test requirements, it is recommended that activities should commence very soon to get agreements in place in the next five years by leveraging on the ENNSA group. The culture of the low-quantity missile testing regime may need to influence the traditional thinking about ammunition thinking, based on high numbers of live firing.
European facilities and proving grounds have been assessed and analysed. For military systems, a lot of testing and qualification procedures are normally required, which is time-consuming and very expensive - especially in the Precision Guided Ammunition area - and activities to preserve existing resources are needed. Some proposals regarding test facilities are included in the study-results for future considerations. In addition, it is clear that development and qualification costs can only be reduced by collaboration and sharing of international test facilities.
Economic gap analysis was done according to the ability to deliver a PGA capability in within the upcoming decade. The impact of the upcoming economic crisis cannot be clearly seen. Other rationales such as political priorities, ongoing military contracts and personal expenditures will have influence on Defence spending. Improvement of coordination between countries will support cost reduction efforts, both on short and long-terms. Meanwhile, the funding of relevant technologies by non-European countries, is increasing. The need for economic cooperation between European Ministries of Defence is seen to be the most important factor in achieving a European PGA capability and the only real possibility.
Roadmap and Implementation plan
The study has identified and described five generic PGA concepts which cover the full potential of precision enhancement. These concepts are evaluated both against general requirements, associated technologies knowledge base and the need for facilities.
Priority measures to close identified gaps in the supply chain have been identified and prioritised. Some identified areas, such as material dependencies, are shared with a wider community and joint solutions are preferred.
The major result of the study is the Roadmap and Implementation Plan that covers a ten years cycle of proposed activities. It includes the foundation of a European PGA forum, discussions about European production of identified critical components and, the definition of a joint European PGA program. A full list of actions is proposed, with an assessment based on priority, risk and cost.
Member States are currently assessing the study-results to evaluate and undertake necessary actions on the implementation of the Roadmap. A timely start of the implementation process is an imperative for maintaining the European option for a capability at the required moment. The European Precision Guided Ammunition Forum is an effective instrument to ignite the process.
EDA will present the study results to the proper Member States’ experts working groups and to relevant fora, to better assess the results and to better assist Member States’ decision making process. In that frame, specialised workshops are also planned with the participation of industry and academia/technology institutes.
*By Pieter Taal, EDA’s Industry & Market Assistant Director, and Vassilis Tsiamis, Senior Officer Defence Industry, Industry and Market Directorate