France challenges German-led European Sky Shield initiative

France and Germany are coming into conflict regarding a joint air defense plan for the European Union (EU)

On the sidelines of the 2023 edition of the Paris Air Show, the French government, through its Minister of Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, will convene with 18 European counterparts to discuss a joint air defense effort within the European Union.

This project comes as a direct challenge to a similar initiative announced by Germany in October 2022, called the European Sky Shield. The project aimed at mutualizing air defense capabilities over Europe through joint acquisitions. On June 15, 2023, the Bundestag approved funding for the acquisition of Israeli Arrow 3 missile defense systems and German IRIS-T SLM air defense systems as part of this initiative.

Shortly after the European Sky Shield was announced, French President Emmanuel Macron was criticized, mostly likely because it had shunned the Franco-Italian ASTER 30-SAMP/T system [also called MAMBA – ed. note] developed by MBDA.

“The air defense of our continent is a strategic, united, and multi-faceted issue that cannot be reduced to the promotion of a national or third-party industry at the expense of European sovereignty,” Macron commented at the time.

With this new meeting, France hopes to broaden the procurement choices of its defense partners and introduce more European-made platforms.

“A capability is not only interceptors but also radars, intelligence, a command and control structure,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces said, quoted by Ouest France. “European air defense thinking must therefore address all of these issues.”

This effort is taking place ahead of the NATO summit due to take place in Vilnius on July 11 and 12, 2023. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is expected to attend the meeting.

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