An initiative to develop a common air and missile defense system was agreed upon by 14 NATO members and Finland in a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
Spearheaded by Germany, the “European Sky Shield Initiative” aims to create a European air defense system through the common acquisition of air defense equipment and missiles by European nations.
NATO members that signed the letter of intent for the program include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and the United Kingdom.
According to NATO, the initiative will allow all participating nations to jointly develop an air defense system using interoperable, off-the-shelf solutions. NATO argues this multinational and multifaceted approach would offers a scalable way for nations to strengthen their deterrence and defense “in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
“This commitment is even more crucial today, as we witness the ruthless and indiscriminate missile attacks by Russia in Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying critical infrastructure. In this context, I strongly welcome Germany’s leadership in launching the European Sky Shield Initiative,” said NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană.
“The new assets, fully interoperable and seamlessly integrated within the NATO air and missile defense, would significantly enhance our ability to defend the Alliance from all air and missile threats.”
The initiative was signed after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz first touted the idea of integrating various European systems into a common Europe-wide defense system during a speech in the Czech Republic in August this year.
It is yet unclear whether the initiative would be aimed at procuring systems for all layers of air defense. German defense minister Christine Lambrecht told reporters that the first move could be to identify joint procurement options, pointing to the US-built Patriot system as a potential contender for the medium layer of defense.
It is also worth noting that Germany just supplied the first IRIS-T medium-range air defense system to Ukraine. German armed forces do not have the Diehl Defence-developed system in their inventory, but they do operate Patriot systems.
When it comes to the upper layer, Lambrecht identified the Israeli-developed Arrow 3 as a suitable contender. “No decision has been taken yet but I think it would be the right system,” Lambrecht added.