What is the EUMC’s view on the operational use of unmanned capabilities such as RPAS in the framework of CSDP missions and operations?
Back in 2013, the then High Representative/ Vice President (HR/VP), Ms. Catherine Ashton, pointed out that “RPAS are very likely to constitute a key capability for the future” and that they offer “a broad spectrum of capabilities that can contribute to various aspects of EU-led military and civilian operations”. In line with this, the EUMC tasked the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) to draft a concept for the operational employment of RPAS in the framework of EU-led military operations. With input from several Member States, EU institutions and agencies, and in cooperation with the NATO Joint Air Power Competence Centre, the EUMC agreed in March 2014 on the “Concept for the contribution of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems to EU-led Military Operations”. The document provides a conceptual framework for the use of RPAS in EU-led military operations.
Noting that RPAS have been used by armed forces for three decades as effective operational capabilities, the concept describes the features of RPAS and underlines their potential to contribute to various aspects of EU-led military and civilian operations. The document also refers to the potential dual-use benefits of RPAS which can also be useful in conflict prevention and peace-building civilian activities. In accordance with the EU Treaties, the remit of CSDP will cover the whole spectrum of crisis management ranging from peace enforcement to post-conflicts tabilisation operations. Within this framework, the use of RPAS is envisaged for a wide variety of tasks where military means might be considered in order to address a crisis, from the separation of fighters by force to assistance with humanitarian operations.
In your view, which are the most important operational benefits that unmanned systems such as RPAS can provide to CSDP military missions and operations, today?
The global landscape evolves and information is more and more critical. Thanks to their broad capability spectrum and long endurance, RPAS can effectively contribute to EU-led military and civilian operations and missions. Regarding payloads and missions, RPAS are flexible and adaptive and, therefore, can be employed in multi-task roles or be easily re-tasked within the same single sortie. RPAS can operate as local tactical assets or at long range for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, RPAS are not technically limited by human performance or physiological characteristics and some of them may potentially perform tasks in high threat environments or contaminated areas where the use of manned aircraft would constitute an unacceptable human risk.
Situational awareness in crisis management missions and operations requires clear and concise information and intelligence on all aspects of the air, ground and sea situation within an area of operation. This requires reliable, permanent and persistent surveillance. Especially long endurance RPAS, able to carry out Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR), Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) and Target Acquisition (TA) from an airborne platform can contribute to early warning, operational assessment, situational awareness and target intelligence. This supports the decisionmaking process, as well as the planning and execution of CSDP missions and operations at all levels of command.
Information superiority has also become a key concern in crisis management. EU forces can benefit from airborne assets like RPAS operating as a force multiplier and complementing other assets in providing permanent, all weather coverage with high quality sensors.
Additionally, we expect European-led military forces to face more and more asymmetric tactics and strategies. For example, the increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in conflicts. Equipped with specific sensors for IED detection, RPAS could effectively contribute to the protection of ground forces, providing vital information to counter IEDs.
In accordance with the EU Concept for the contribution of RPAS to EU-led military operations, these systems are expected to operate over both land and sea. On maritime missions and beyond the littoral, RPAS can effectively conduct ISR missions, in support of naval operations, for instance anti-terrorism and anti-piracy missions.