Le JSF à l'Assemblée

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Le JSF à l'Assemblée


7 juin 2002 — Nous référant à ce que nous avons écrit sur l'apparition à l'Assemblée de l'UEO, pour la première fois dans un débat parlementaire au niveau européen, de la question du JSF en Europe, nous proposons ci-après les minutes du débat de l'Assemblée de l'UEO concernant les trois amendements concernant le JSF ajoutés à un projet de résolution et, d'une façon plus générale, tous les passages du débat où il est question du JSF.

• Nos lecteurs peuvent de toutes les façons se référer au texte officiel complet des minutes de débat, sur le site de l'Assemblée de l'UEO.

• Il existe également une version française de ces débats. Nous avons préféré donner la version anglaise dans la mesure où la plupart des interventions sont en anglais, et pour éviter l'''interprétation'' en français des interventions anglaises, nécessairement imprécise.

• Nous avons l'intention de revenir sur ce débat pour les commentaires, certains arguments employés se révélant très intéressant.

@TITREDDE = FOURTH SITTING - Wednesday, 5 June 2002

(The sitting was opened at 10.00 with Mr Bühler, President of the Assembly, in the Chair)

Le premier extrait que nous donnons provient du débat intitulé sur le troisième point à l'ordre du jour de cette séance, sur le rapport «Equipping our forces for Europe's security and defence: priorities and shortcomings (conclusions of the Assembly's Colloquy) - reply to the annual report of the Council», avec l'intervention du secrétaire d'État à la défense italien, M. Berselli.

(...)

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - Minister, I have two questions. (...) My next question is about the purchase of fighter aircraft. Your country is part of the Eurofighter project, but you also have a project concerning the Joint Strike Fighter. I am curious about the state of the discussion in your country about those two projects. Will you buy both European and American aircraft, or will you buy only European aircraft? Is the discussion about the Joint Strike Fighter finished?

(...)

Mr BERSELLI (State Secretary for Defence of Italy, representing the Presidency of the Western European Armaments Group) (summary) answered (...). On the question of the Eurofighter, the Italian programme for a ground attack aircraft did not conflict with this project, but complemented it. Italy was a second level partner in the project which he believed was a responsible and reasonable position to adopt, and other countries not yet involved in the project might well follow suit in the future.

(...)

Les extraits suivants proviennent du débat sur le cinquième point à l'ordre du jour, à ropos du document «Equipping our forces for Europe's security and defence: priorities and shortcomings (conclusions of the Assembly's Colloquy) - reply to the annual report of the Council». C'est dans la recommandation mise aux voix dans ce débat que sont introduits les 3 amendements van't Riet. Dans ce débat, MM. Wilkinson et Atkinson sont deux députés conservateurs britanniques, le premier intervenant à plusieurs reprises de manière critique à l'encontre des arguments, le second intervenant de manière purement formelle comme président de la Commission de défense de l'Assemblée.

(...)

The PRESIDENT - I call Mr Wilkinson.

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) – (...)

(...) In the case of Afghanistan, half the air attacks against targets in that country were prosecuted by United States naval aircraft operating offshore. They needed long range and, in some instances, the capability to refuel in flight. By and large, the Europeans do not have adequate naval air forces. They should be a priority, because that is a shortcoming of the European component of our Atlantic Alliance.

The French, to their credit, have put in service what we hope will be the first of a new class of aircraft carrier, namely the Charles de Gaulle, and the first squadron of Rafale aircraft has been embarked. However, the United Kingdom seems to be moving, at least temporarily, in the opposite direction, in that our Harrier interceptor planes on the Invincible class carrier are to be withdrawn from service in 2006. That will leave an air defence gap of some six years before the new class of aircraft carriers comes into service — in 2012, we hope. To do that is to forget all the lessons of the Falklands war: a fleet offshore is intensely vulnerable to attack by even the most basic of air forces. For that reason, I urge Her Majesty's Government to think again about the Sea Harriers.

Looking beyond that temporary gap, the United Kingdom and the French navy face exactly the same problem in that from 2012 to 2017 the British will have only one new aircraft carrier in service. We can be certain that if there is only one, it will either be in refit or in the wrong part of the world just when it is needed. It is therefore important that naval aviation be given the priority that it deserves and that the shortcomings in aircraft and aircraft carriers be addressed.

As far as aircraft are concerned, in the United Kingdom we are sure that the Joint Strike Fighter will meet our requirements. That is the view of the staff, and who am I, as a non-professional, to gainsay their expert judgment? Of course, the JSF can be operated equally well at sea as on land and it will have the versatility to enable interoperability between the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force.

(...)

The PRESIDENT - The next speaker is Mrs van't Riet.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - I thank Mr Díaz de Mera for his report, which gives me the opportunity to emphasise a development that is contrary to the recommendations of the report. Airforces in Europe will replace their fighters within the next decade. After a successful period of using the F-16 and F-18, countries are preparing to renew their air power. Such large orders are expected that some countries are even talking about ''the order of century''. European countries possess 3 500 fighter aircraft, many of which will reach the end of their life cycle in the coming years.

American and European candidates are trying hard to prove that they are the most attractive companies, and they offer participation or compensation orders. As ever, the opportunity to buy off the shelf remains. The United States is anxious to invite countries to participate further by becoming involved in the system development and demonstration phase - SDD - of the Joint Strike Fighter. There are several reasons for that. The guarantee of adequate financing for the project is probably less important than strategic considerations. The United Kingdom is taking part in level 1. Yesterday, Italy and the Netherlands decided to participate in the development at level 2. I disagreed with the comparison by the State Secretary for Defence of Italy of different types of aircraft. I have a comparison that shows that Eurofighter can replace the F-16 as well as JSF. No other European countries have decided whether to participate in the project. Some may participate at level 3, but that is the same as buying off the shelf.

An explicit offer has been made to the Netherlands to undertake level 2 participation, which will cost about $800 million. Dutch participation is crucial for the United States Government because it wants to get a foot in the door in Europe. It is therefore not so much a financial as a political choice. In Europe, there are several candidates: the Eurofighter, which is represented by the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, the French Rafale with four versions and the Saab Gripen.

Questions need to be answered. Are replacements for the current fighters necessary? How many aircraft do we need? What type is required? No proper answers have yet been forthcoming. After 11 September, there has been some debate about needs and preferences with regard to the composition of national airforces, but there is no coordination between NATO member states. The Netherlands, for example, believes that the need for multi-role fighters will persist, but no one knows how many will be required. The American marines have already reduced the number originally planned.

In Europe, every country goes its own way. Some countries intend to purchase different types of aircraft and it is astonishing that the case for ''buying European'' is not being considered. There is a big gap between Europe and the United States on defence spending and performance. Although we are trying to bridge the gap through the EU's headline goal and NATO's defence capabilities initiative, there is no sign of progress on planning and efficiency in the biggest defence project for years.

Other developments are also taking place. They include unmanned aerial vehicles, both reconnaissance and combat, and cruise missiles. Current fighters can be expected to be partly replaced by unmanned planes. Perhaps all of them will be replaced in future. An American marine told me that the marines believe that one third of their fighters will be unmanned by 2010.

Most countries are not prepared to make concessions on quality or price. Governments are free to procure equipment, and they can buy American or European. It may sound strange, but the discussion on the European Security and Defence Policy does not imply that we must buy European. On the other hand, there is no doubt that European products will be sufficiently attractive and able eventually to compete with what the United States can offer. European aircraft are currently more expensive because fewer are produced. A European Capability Action Plan has been proposed, whereby every country will make an inventory of its investments. A study will be undertaken on how far coordination can go.

The purpose is to strengthen military capacity in Europe. The replacement of fighters could be part of the action plan, but no country has taken the initiative so far. As I said earlier, there is considerable lack of cooperation between EU member states. Working together on equipment policy forms no part of the ESDP. The project of replacing fighters could be the first big challenge for Europe to bring about some change, but it takes courage to take the first steps towards progress.

The current United States proposal is premature. Lockheed Martin told me that it can deliver the first aircraft in 2015. How is it possible to compare the performances and cost of aircraft that are at such different stages of development? Rafale is airborne and operational. I believe that it is the equal of JSF but without the stealth facility. Typhoon is still undergoing tests and assessments and the JSF remains a prototype. It exists only on paper not in reality.

An American company estimated the cost of one aircraft at $35 million but experience shows that other US aeronautical programmes have seen their costs soar by twice the original estimate. For example, the cost of the F-22 Raptor has increased from $37 million to more than $100 million. The price is therefore unclear. The pre-development stage has already taken some years and costs have risen by 20%.

There is no commitment to technology transfer. There is a risk that the European defence industry will be excluded from the studies and design of the most sophisticated aspects of the aircraft. The disclosure policy did not go with Clinton. Indeed, there are signs that responsibility for the technological core of the JSF programme will remain with American companies. Furthermore the attitude of the Bush Administration to technology transfer is even more restrictive than that of the Clinton Administration. That could have dramatic consequences for the future of European defence aeronautical companies. Richard Aboulafia, the internationally renowned analyst who writes for ''Aviation Week'', said in January that ''the JSF could do to the European military industry what the F-16 almost did: kill it''.

The choice of JSF by several European countries is therefore surprising in political terms because it is in complete contradiction with statements made by ministers in the EU and the Western European Armaments Group about the importance of having a competitive and solid European industry.

(...)

(...) I think that we should vote separately on Amendments 12 and 13.

Mr DÍAZ de MERA (Spain) (Translation) - No, sir, we want to use the same procedure so that all the amendments are voted on and accepted as a group. It will then only remain for us to adopt the draft recommendation as amended.

The PRESIDENT - Thank you, Mr Díaz de Mera, but I do not think that that will be acceptable to everyone.

I call Mr Wilkinson on a point of order.

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - I am happy to accept all the amendments proposed by Mr Díaz de Mera, but I want to debate and vote on those amendments proposed by Mrs van't Riet. They are of the utmost importance and I do not want them to go through on the nod.

The PRESIDENT - I, too, am not comfortable taking all the amendments together. I ask Mr Díaz de Mera to accept a separate debate and vote on Amendments 12 and 13.

Amendment 12 reads as follows:

12. After recital (xiv) of the preamble to the draft recommendation, add the following new recital: ''Considering that the American proposals for the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) do not guarantee significant technology transfers or that programme costs can necessarily be held within their original estimates;''.

I call Mrs van't Riet to move the amendment.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - It is not necessary to move the amendment because I made the arguments in its favour clear in my speech.

The PRESIDENT - Does anyone wish to oppose the amendment? ...

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - I strongly oppose the amendment. We heard this morning from the Italian Minister who has specific responsibility for armaments. He told us that there is no incompatibility between the JSF and the Eurofighter. The American proposals for the JSF allow for technology transfer, not just from America to Europe but from Europe to America. For example, the power plant has been developed in part by Rolls-Royce of the United Kingdom. A big work share is envisaged for European manufacturers. The staff of armed forces need the aeroplane. It fulfils different roles. It has a short take-off and vertical landing capability which will allow it to operate from the Principe de Asturias of the Spanish navy, from the Italian navy and from British carriers and others. No other European aeroplane of that generation has a similar capability.

Although the amendment is well intentioned, it is technically wrong. The Italian Minister took that view. I ask the Assembly to reject it.

The PRESIDENT - I call Mrs van't Riet to respond.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - Mr Wilkinson is reflecting the comments by the Italian Minister. I know the arguments, but they are wrong. The JSF is being developed now. The Eurofighter has been developed. Although the JSF will be produced in 2015, Eurofighter has the same technological capabilities. All it does not have is the stealth facility.

The amendment deals with the discussion taking place now in Europe on the issue. We have the time to consider developments that take place before 2015. I ask that we give Europe a chance.

The PRESIDENT - What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom) - We support the amendment.

The PRESIDENT - I shall now put the amendment to a vote.

(A vote was taken by show of hands)

Amendment 12 is adopted.

... We now come to amendment 13, which reads as follows: 13. After recital (xv) of the preamble to the draft recommendation, add the following new recital: ''Judging that the choice of the JSF for equipping the air forces of a number of member of states will have adverse consequences for the future of the European aeronautics industry and in terms of interoperability of equipment between European states in the context of implementing a European security and defence policy;''.

I call Mrs van't Riet to move the amendment.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - I want to give Europe the chance to consider developments in Europe at the moment.

The PRESIDENT - Does anyone wish to oppose the amendment? ...

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - I am grateful for your indulgence, Mr President.

It has to be borne in mind that British military staff and, for that matter, Dutch military staff are clearly of the view that the JSF is the right aircraft for them. It need have no adverse consequences for interoperability, because we are part of an alliance. The British and the Dutch will need to interoperate. That will also be the case for the Americans, by which I mean the American airforce, navy and marine corps.

Furthermore, the Dutch know better than anyone the benefits to their industry that they have obtained from the F-16 programme, which they shared with the Norwegians, Belgians and Danes. Their participation did them no harm and Europe no harm. It enhanced the operational capability of Europe. In exactly the same way, I believe that the acquisition by the Netherlands and the UK of the JSF will be good for European industry and the operational capabilities of our airforces and navies.

I ask the Assembly to vote against Amendment 13.

The PRESIDENT - Normally speaking, I should not give Mrs van't Riet the floor, but I crave the indulgence of the Assembly because she has been patient and stood for a long time. I do not think that anyone objects, so I call Mrs van't Riet.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - I shall be brief but Mr Wilkinson keeps triggering me. We discussed this matter in our parliament, and the vote was 50-50 before the election. There was a big argument about its relation to the development of industry. When the matter was examined by an investigator who has many powers in our country, the benefit was found to be zero.

The interoperability advanced as an argument against my amendment is also debatable, because interoperability exists with the Eurofighter and Rafale as well. There are different types of Eurofighter and the JSF, so it is not one aircraft against the other. They can replace each other.

The PRESIDENT - Mrs van't Riet is pressing her amendment.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom) - The Committee was in favour.

The PRESIDENT (Translation) - I will now put the amendment to the vote.

(A vote was taken by show of hands)

Amendment 13 is adopted.

(...)

We come now to Amendment 14.

Amendment 14 reads as follows: 14. After paragraph 5 of the draft recommendation proper, add the following new paragraph: ''Ask the member states concerned to reconsider their participation in the JSF programme, bearing in mind European solutions now available and the fact that the effect on the future of the European aeronautics industry of any choice in favour of JSF might be detrimental to strengthening European military capabilities;''.

I call Mrs van't Riet to move the amendment.

Mrs van't RIET (Netherlands) - I will try to make myself clear. I am asking member states to reconsider the JSF programme. At the moment we are deciding whether to take part in the development phase. That does not mean that we have to choose the plane right now. We should look at the European developments that are taking place.

If countries want to take part in the development phase and think that that is good for their industry, that is their choice. But no orders have yet been placed for JSF; there are no orders yet from the Americans. When countries decide about orders, they should look at what is going on in Europe and make their decision then.

The PRESIDENT - Does anyone wish to oppose the amendment? ...

Mr WILKINSON (United Kingdom) - Thank you for being triply patient, Mr President.

I really must insist that this amendment is fallacious, quite apart from anything else. It refers to ''bearing in mind European solutions now available''. There is only one modern naval aircraft - the Rafale. That is an admirable aeroplane which we all admire, but it is not interoperable with Eurofighter. Of course, Rafale is suitable for big aircraft carriers with catapults and arrester gear like the Charles de Gaulle but not for smaller carriers like the Garibaldi or the Principe de Asturias.

In considering the future of the ''European aeronautics industry'', British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce have been assured that they will participate not just in the order from the United Kingdom but in the orders for all the American services. That is a work share of vast proportions that will literally last for decades. The naval version of Eurofighter has not been developed. It does not exist.

In conclusion, to say that procuring the JSF, which is the most modern combat aircraft available, would be ''detrimental to strengthening European military capabilities'' is moonshine. The Eurofighter, wonderful aeroplane though it will be, was first conceived in 1982, 20 years ago. It is still not in squadron service. The JSF will be in squadron service in 2010 or 2012, only some 20 years after it was conceived. We must stick to reality even though our emotions, rightly, urge us to do our best for European industry.

The PRESIDENT - What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom) - Within the context of our Committee's report, the Committee supported the amendment.

The PRESIDENT - I shall now put the amendment to a vote.

(A vote was taken by show of hands)

Amendment 14 is adopted.

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