The Luxembourgish (LUX) Minister of Defense, M. Etienne Schneider, announced that the first Luxembourgish A400M shall be based at Melsbroek, Brussels military airport. The smallest Participating Nation of the European Air Transport Command (EATC) provides pilots and loadmasters, will pay 1/8 of the functional costs of the unit and the new infrastructure of Brussels military airport.
A long way to go for the MNU
In 2008 the Minister of Defense of Belgium (BEL), France, Germany and Luxembourg intended to increase the cooperation between their countries by e.g. gathering ideas to implement a multinational A400M unit (MNU). This unit should have been composed of the seven Belgian, the one Luxembourgish and several French and German A400M aircraft. The unit was aimed to be put under the operational control (OPCON) of the EATC located at Eindhoven Air Base. EATC itself implemented and recommended such plan, its employment branch was the right place to create such new structure for a future European military air transport (AT).
Due to budget cuts, the respective national reorganization of the defense area as well as national reductions of the A400M fleet, Germany and France reassessed their intention and decided to withdraw from the given MNU proposal. Meanwhile - as a result of the nations deciding to reduce their fleets during the course of the A400M program - the establishment of a multinational A400M unit and joint multinational stationing was not pursued anymore.
Reshaping the military AT-landscape
However, both ministers of defence (LUX and BEL) announced that networking of the national/bi-national A400M fleets, especially regarding operational matters as well as flight training and technical-logistical training, remains to be useful and necessary. For the time being, cooperation in the area of European air transport should therefore continue to focus on common integration under the EATC area of competence.
While the nations have already done the first step by building up the EATC, the given new cooperation is another stepping stone towards the development of a final European Air Transport fleet. This final aim could offer more efficiency, make a better use of scarce resources and reduce costs in operations, maintenance, etc: some economies of scale will be achieved from the outset immediately, others will surely show in the long-term.
Pictures: Bjoern Trotzki