The military in the Single European Sky

On July 3rd, the European Defence Agency (EDA) held the 5th policy meeting of the Single European Sky Military Aviation Board (ESMAB) with representatives of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), DG MOVE, NATO… What is the Single European Sky? Why and how is the military involved?

What is the Single European Sky ?

The idea of a Single European Sky (SES) was born in 1999. The objective was to instaure common rules and procedures at EU level, in order to cope with the increasing air traffic flows. The current European Air Traffic Management (ATM) system handles around 26,000 flights a day and should handle twice as much by 2020. But the goal was also to cut costs and improve performance, capacity, safety and the environmental impact :

Single European Sky goals
Single European Sky goals

The SES heavily relies on the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programme to improve ATM efficiency. Many stakeholders across the industry hence focus on it, with more than €2 billion committed to the development phase and around 3,000 people engaged.

The encouraging results of this development phase have demonstrated that new concepts are feasible, however the benefits will be much delayed and at a reduced level than orginally planned. That’s why a SESAR Joint Undertaking was tasked with defining a new roadmap [1].

Single European Sky implementation
Single European Sky implementation

Interactions with the military

Over the years, it also became clear that the military could and should be part and parcel of the initiative, in order to avoid any diverse impact on national and collective defence capabilities and to take the opportunity of any possible benefits for the military [2].

An EDA SES Military Aviation Board (ESMAB) was created by the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board on 30 September 2015. Ever since, ESMAB meets at two level :

  • Management / Expert level
  • High-level Executive / Policy level

The last high-level meeting took place on 3 July 2018, to discuss the challenges of the Digital European Sky and opportunities for the military.

In his opening speech, EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq welcomed that, thanks to the joint efforts of many stakeholders involved, “the military are now considered as a key partner in aviation and in single European Sky”, adding that “working closely with civil aviation stakeholders should allow the military to remain innovative, notably taking advantage of recent European security and defence initiatives such as CARD, PESCO and EDF”.

The European Defence Agency is very active in the Single European Sky

As an example, EDA takes on a lot of responsibilities in the Digital European Sky [3], though it is a fairly recent part of the initiative, dealing with cybersecurity challenges and establishing a military aviation strategy so that the military aviation is considered an integral part of the air traffic.

If we look at the bigger picture, here’s what EDA has been doing for the Single European Sky [4] :

Single European Sky facts and figures
Single European Sky facts and figures

© Photo credit: Pixabay, military aviation

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