Tuesday 26 July 2005

The New European Army

Dawn breaks. Out of the belly of an Airbus A400M "Eurolifter" military cargo transport whines a squat armoured vehicle. Powered by an innovative diesel-electric motor, this Swedish-built "SEP" vehicle is equipped with a high-power French built cannon and turret, and the magazine is stacked with French shells, manufactured to EU CEN standards. The vehicle bristles with high-tech sensors and threat detectors, also Swedish built, and is protected by a new generation of "electric armour", made by an European armament consortium.

The "Eurolifter" took off from Eindhoven, the headquarters of the European Air Transport Command, under commands issued through the EU military headquarters Command Information System (CIS), the Permanent Joint Headquarters for EU military operations, in Northwood, North London, and was guided en route by the EU's Galileo satellite global positioning system.

To reach its destination, it was refuelled from a European-built Airbus A330-200 and its passage was safeguarded by Eurofighter patrols, each aircraft armed with next-generation European medium-range air-to-air Meteor missiles. Tranche 2 Eurofighters now fly overhead, launching French-built Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG air-launched cruise missile at targets over the horizon.

Already, in the distance, Italian-built Panther reconnaissance vehicles are roaming the countryside, while French-built, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) scour the hinterland for potential threats. As more "Eurolifters" land, they disgorge from their holds the first of many German-built MAN tactical supply trucks, which immediately move to the designated positions shown on their in-cab, German-built logistics support system screens.

Meanwhile, officers, schooled in tactics and European doctrines at the EU Military college, gather in their hastily set-up command centre, consulting the latest intelligence from the GMES earth observation satellite, beamed via the European Union Satellite Centre in Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain, while awaiting final orders from Force Command in Brussels.

Above the command centre flutter two flags. One is blue with a ring of 12 yellow stars, symbolising the first full-scale deployment of the European Rapid Reaction Force. The other is a Union Jack. It is only this flag - which was made in China, as were the soldiers' uniforms – that identifies the British Army contingent, in action circa 2020 as an integral part of the ERRF, the New European Army.

That is the reality of what awaits us - not fiction, not a Eurosceptic fantasy but fact, based on my analysis of current MoD equipment procurement plans and co-operation agreements. The result will be that, as British armed forces undergo major re-equipment and transformation over the next decade, not one of the major systems will be of British design or manufacture.

In physical as well as organisational terms, the British Army will be wholly integrated into the European Rapid Reaction Force - the New European Army - no longer able to act independently without permission from Brussels.