The origins of the EAG extend back to the 1991 Gulf War, during which the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) and France’s Armée de l’Air (French Air Force or FAF) worked closely together on a range of operations. Subsequently, the two Air Forces collaborated again, this time on missions in support of United Nations forces in the former Yugoslavia and in operations over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As a result of these experiences, both France and the UK realized that to improve their level of interoperability, a new organization was needed that would provide focus and momentum. Consequently, the intention to form the Franco-British European Air Group (FBEAG) was announced at the Chartres Summit in 1994 and the FBEAG was formally inaugurated at a joint ceremony involving French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister John Major the following year. From the start, the word ‘European’ was included in the organisation’s title, to enable other nations to join the initiative.
As the FBEAG evolved, it was decided that other nations would be invited to become ‘correspondent’ members, which became the catalyst for a more permanent arrangement. Italy became the first nation to apply for membership, soon to be followed by others, and on 1 January 1998, the name of the FBEAG was changed to ‘the European Air Group’ (EAG). Shortly afterwards, the new Headquarters Building was formally opened at RAF High Wycombe in June 1998 by the UK Secretary of State for Defence, the Right Honourable George Robertson MP, who the following year became the Secretary General of NATO.
The new EAG was formally endorsed by the Ministers of France and the UK, Alain Richard and George Robertson, who jointly signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement on 6 July 1998. This date marks the formal start point of the EAG, which rapidly expanded under an Amending Protocol signed on 16 June 1999 to allow the accession of new members and reach its current composition of seven Member nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.