Since its inception, the European Air Group (EAG), formally the Franco-British European Air Group (FBEAG), has been involved in many productive collaboration successes focussed around the numerous interoperability studies that have been carried out over the years.
These studies have brought about positive change within the member and partner air forces of the EAG community. From the VOLCANEX Force Protection (FP) training exercises that bring Force Protection Command elements closer together, to studies that bring about an understanding of the legal framework of multinational fuel supply operations across Europe, and everything in between.
Two of the most successful cases are the European Air Transport Command (EATC) and the European Personnel Recovery Centre (ERPC). Both of these agencies carry out vital collaborative work every day and have been so successful that many European non-EAG members or partners have expressed an interest in joining both.
Established on the 1st of July 2010, the European Air Transport Command (EATC) exercises operational control of the aerial refuelling capabilities and military transport fleets of the seven EATC member states. As of January 2015, the combined fleet under the authority of the EATC, represented 75% of the European air transport capacity.
Located at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands, the Command also bears a limited responsibility for exercises, aircrew training and the harmonisation of relevant national air transport regulations. In short, its main objective is to provide more efficient management of the participating nations’ assets and resources in this field. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain are all current members of the EATC, with Austria, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Sweden (after joining NATO) all expressing an interest in joining.
The EATC does not come under EU authority but, it and its assets may contribute to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and is not a project of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) of the CSDP.
Originally a Franco-German initiative, that came into being in 1999 as a politico-military proposal to develop collective goals for rapid capability, including in the area of strategic transport, in 2000, the EAG conducted a study that recommended that it would be beneficial to coordinate the international military airlift requirements and the means to meet them. It also advised the establishment of a permanent element to manage airlift coordination needs, by smoothly transferring competencies from existing national structures.
In June 2001, the member states of the EAG established the European Airlift Coordination Cell (EACC) as a first step to improving the utilisation of European military air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft by identifying spare military airlift capacities and sharing this information with interested nations.
The EACC was so successful in its first year, that the savings made exceeded its operating costs. As a result of this, in June 2003, the EACC member states decided to further develop this cell by increasing the mission scope and responsibility and the European Airlift Centre (EAC) was established. On paper, the EAC was to have increased responsibilities over planning and harmonisation of air transport-related regulations. Alas, the political will to transfer satisfactory levels of authority to the EAC, was not strong enough and as a result, France and Germany agreed on the next step – to create a multinational air transport command.
On the 12th of October 2006, it was decided at the 7th Franco-German Ministerial Council, to create a common strategic airlift command. The other member states of the EAC were invited to join and Belgium and the Netherlands did so by signing a note of accession. The EATC concept was approved in May 2007 by the chiefs of defence staff of the other four participating nations. This set the framework for working processes, as well as defining the levels of responsibilities and for further negotiations for the implementation of this new headquarters. A final decision was made to locate the command in Eindhoven and the interim legal framework was signed by all nations in the summer of 2010.
The EATC fleet consists of some 200 separate aircraft across 14 different airframe types.
The European Personnel Recovery Centre’s motto “That others may live”, epitomises everything the organisation does. Based at Poggio Renatico Air Base in Italy, it is an intergovernmental military organisation that contributes to the development and harmonisation of policies, doctrine and standards related to personnel recovery (PR). PR can be described as military, diplomatic and civil efforts to prepare for and execute the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel from crisis areas. It is recognised that the isolation, capture and exploitation of personnel during operations can have a significant negative impact on operational security, morale and public support. Personnel Recovery has been identified to be a key military task and a pillar supporting the reduction of threats to a force.
An EAG Study on European PR capability identified that it lacked cohesion, international structure and standardisation. It recommended the creation of a Multinational Personnel Recovery Centre (MPRC) that would provide the vehicle to train and educate leaders and specialists, assist in doctrine development, identify lessons learned, and improve interoperability whilst also acting as the joint hub for all international PR activities in Europe, across all levels of command.
The EAG study was presented on 3 July 2013 during the 2013 EAG Steering Group Meeting in Madrid, and a decision was made by the 7 Chiefs of Air Staff to create a European Personnel Recovery Centre (EPRC). An interim EPRC was initially established and situated at RAF High Wycombe, in the UK. It had 8 Staff Officers under the control of the Director of the EAG. This structure allowed the EPRC to accept non-EAG personnel as part of the team to develop the operational infrastructure necessary to allow the EPRC to reach initial and then full operational capability.
On the 8th of July 2015, the EPRC reached initial operational capability, splitting from the EAG to become an independent unit. A ceremony of inauguration was held at Poggio Renatico Air Base on the same day and the EPRC was officially opened by the Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, General Pasquale Preziosa.
Continuously working to improve the four phases of: Personnel Recovery; Preparation, Planning, Execution and Adaption, by using established clear lines of communication with partners and stakeholders, the EPRC also provides support for education, training, exercises and operations.
The centre has seven participating states:
- United Kingdom
It should be noted that these are the same seven nations that make up the European Air Group.
As with the EATC, the EPRC does not come under EU authority but, it and its assets may contribute to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and is not a project of the Permanent Structured Cooperations (PESCO) of the CSDP.
THE EPRC consist of the following components:
- Concept and Document Management Division – develops, reviews and maintains concepts, doctrine, directives and initiatives aimed to harmonise personnel recovery policy, doctrine and standards as directed by the EPRC Commander.
- Education and Training Area – supports the development and conduct of courses and training events for commanders, staff and recovery forces.
- Operations Advice and Assistance and Lessons Identified/Lessons Learned (OAA/LI/LL) Section – supports the participating states and international organisations with joint personnel recovery expertise in support of exercises and operations
- Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Extraction (SERE) Section – develops and promotes relevant forms of standardisation and provides a forum for participant states’ SERE schools.