The European Defence Fund is financing numerous projects for the innovation of war technology throughout the continent and the Community investment program has already allocated, for 2021, approximately 1 billion and two hundred million euros to participate in the development of 60 projects chosen among the 134 proposals sent from all over Europe by companies specialized in war technology. Italy is the second most committed nation, after France, in the development of new projects, financed by the European Defence Fund, managing 5 out of the 61 chosen by the Commission.
For the first time in history, the European Union, on the initiative of the previous president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has decided to invest, as early as 2018, in the armament systems industry and the choice has proved to be decidedly useful especially in recent months, due to the war unleashed by Russia, with the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. The current geopolitical situation does not allow Europe to risk an obsolete defence structure in the face of a war threat as close as the one that has developed in Ukraine and NATO itself has decided to launch funding programs similar to the European one for keep up.
The Italian companies, which have always been at the forefront of technological development for the war industry, have received important funding for the development of some of the most interesting projects in the programme, including the one relating to the naval sector, worth 65 million and almost completely covered by EU funds. Italy will therefore have the task of building, within two years, a European corvette for patrolling the seas which can be used, from Brussels, in various contexts relating to the surveillance of the European seas and which can guarantee greater efficiency and more security as regards cyber defences, never as useful as in recent years.
In Italy, projects related to air defence will also be developed with the construction of sixth generation military fighters that will mount new propulsion systems, with a community budget of around 48 million euros for a project program that will require at least another 10 million and almost five years of work that will involve companies from all over the country and will require active collaboration with university and research institutes such as the Politecnico of Turin, Bari, Milan and the universities of Florence, Padua and Salerno.
The huge Italian defence industry named Leonardo will then, in collaboration with other specialized companies, take care of the creation of new extremely sensitive and technological sensors that can be used in operations on land, in water and in the air. The new family of cutting-edge radars, therefore, will equip European defence teams in the near future, with the implementation of technologies also based on Artificial Intelligence and the total digitization of useful data. In the management of this project, the Italian Leonardo will have the task of directing the development operations and the distribution of the necessary funds.
Another important project entrusted to Italian companies is that relating to an advanced and exclusive system for Europe, capable of monitoring suspicious activities related to chemical-biological threats and possibly alerting the competent bodies to intervene. The program is based on the creation of new-concept sensors that will be mounted on vehicles that can be controlled remotely both on the ground and in flight and that can also operate completely autonomously thanks to the ability to analyse the environment even from a physical and geological view so as to create three-dimensional maps of the areas to explore and analyse.
Again with the aim of having as much information as possible relating to the areas in which military operations are to be carried out, another Italian company will have to supply Brussels with a microsatellite which will have to be invisible to traditional terrestrial surveillance systems and which will have to capture terrestrial images with extreme optic accuracy, in the order of centimetres and which can orbit the earth with an autonomy of up to 5 years and the project has already been classified as extremely confidential precisely because of the strategic importance of a similar device in the dynamics of a war conflict .
Then, together with other European countries such as Greece, Holland, Cyprus and Norway, another Italian company, specialized in high-level information technologies, will have to develop programs useful for the immediate detection of any military intrusions of any kind, in particular European areas, through artificial intelligence.
Part of the funds of the European Community destined for the program of updating military technologies will also be destined for universities and research institutes, above all in Italy, so as to guarantee future development of the planned military innovations, also in the civil sphere. Many of the projects assigned to Italian universities are based on the development of technologies that can improve the energy performance of new generation military instruments, making them extremely efficient and similarly more manageable.
The European Commission, when allocating funds for the development of technologies for warfare, took into account the amount of funds received from partner nations, giving priority to their companies. Another important criterion, taken into consideration, was based on the operational capacity and ethical characteristics of the company that proposed the collaboration. The companies selected for the development of new technological projects must have the ability to organize the necessary work phases, entrusting them to small and medium-sized collaborative enterprises so as to structure the related industries in the best possible way.
The only non-EU country to have been chosen for the development of the program is Norway but the basic policy was to involve only EU nations so as to form the longed-for technological sovereignty of the old continent and try, in future years, to depend less and less on countries such as China and the United States, which have always been producers of war technology, imported into Europe. The main objective of Brussels will be to guarantee the member states a state-of-the-art military structure capable, possibly, also of exporting technology to non-European countries.
Between 2019 and the following year, Italy played a key role in managing projects required by European industrial development programs, capturing most of the project-related fees for the development of simulation technologies, of the sensors and for systems for the counter-offensive in the event of an attack by drones.
According to data collected by the European organization against the sale of weapons (ENAAT), the largest number of funding for the development of the war industry went to 15 companies, among the main ones in Europe in the development of new armaments, which include big industries in France and Italy such as Airbus and Leonardo, as well as other major companies such as Indra, Saab and Safran. A team of experts from the European Commission will have the task of monitoring the progress of companies in developing the required commissions and will evaluate the work done.
However, the European Defence Fund program will have to undergo strict analysis by experts who will have to guarantee its security and fairness in financial management. The risk, according to some, is that the commissioned projects may exceed demand and that, in order to monetise, companies may export the technologies produced, effectively nullifying the strategic advantage of development within the continent.