Russia’s war in Ukraine has transformed the EU’s defence role, and the scale of defence challenges and opportunities is now immense. Euractiv spoke to Jeff Shockey, senior vice president, Global Government Relations, RTX, about the industry’s role and its outlook for the future.

EV: How has the emergence of new threats to the EU and NATO changed planning at the strategic and political level?

JS: No event has demonstrated the enduring importance of partnership and NATO more than the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The three most important lessons we draw from this war are the importance of integrated and updated defense capabilities, sufficient military supplies, and interoperability of our equipment.

As we have seen, adversaries have demonstrated the ability to synchronize complex attacks against a diverse set of threats. Effective defenses are therefore critical – especially defenses that can be rapidly upgraded to adapt to new operational conditions and countermeasures.

Even as we deliver the most technologically advanced systems, we know that we must produce them at the speed needed in the field to defeat the enemy. That is why it is so important that NSPA signs these large, multinational contracts to procure defense systems in large volumes. Similarly, NATO countries can apply commercial industry practices to ensure that we deploy systems that can be renewed and upgraded as needed.

And finally, our alliance will work best when we go to war as 32 member states that are coordinated and that can communicate and operate together. Our nations must strive to be not just synchronized on the battlefield, but when it comes to the development and production of battlefield tools.

EV: What impact does the European Defence Fund have? Where is more investment needed at EU level?

JS: The European Defence Fund is a welcome step to break through the stale approaches to defence research and development in Europe and to stimulate more innovation and investment. This fund and other proposed EU defence initiatives have increasingly attracted the attention of industry, on both sides of the Atlantic.

As we have seen in Ukraine, continued investment in integrated air and missile defence is crucial. Protecting critical infrastructure and urban areas from an increasingly diverse range of air threats, from hypersonic missiles to militarised commercially available UAVs, is indispensable for Europe’s security.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are also critical. Militaries must be able to operate and win in electromagnetic warfare, including GPS-contested environments.

EV: How responsive is the European defence industry?

JS: International partnerships play a crucial role in ensuring the European industry’s ability to respond and adapt in a timely manner to growing geopolitical challenges. As an intrinsic part of the European aerospace and defense industry, with over 24,000 employees, 80 facilities and more than 10,000 suppliers across Europe, RTX is increasing production of several key defense capabilities and expanding collaboration with our European industrial partners.

At RTX, we are working to reduce dependencies and improve resiliency by adding production lines and shifts, strengthening our supplier base, and taking steps to increase capacity and meet our customers’ needs.

We are investing and developing new partnerships with other European defence and aerospace companies, such as Germany’s MBDA and Spain’s SENER, to jointly produce components of the GEM-T missiles used in Patriot air defence systems.

EV: Is Europe on the right track in terms of capacity? Is there sufficient anticipation of potential new threats in the coming years?

JS: Ultimately, the European Defence Industrial Strategy will strengthen joint production, increase transatlantic production capacity and enhance the interoperability of NATO forces. The priority that Europe gives to expanding its defence industrial base will give us the additional capacity needed to meet NATO’s needs.

The threat is constantly evolving, which is why RTX invests more than $7 billion per year in research and development to anticipate and develop the technologies needed to address that future threat. Close collaboration between industry and governments is critical to understanding and predicting threats and demands, and determining where to best focus our development efforts.

EV: How does the EU address interoperability and interchangeability? Has this problem been solved?

JS: Close coordination with NATO and adherence to NATO standards ensures that European forces can work seamlessly with other NATO allies. Companies like ours know that we need to work with the U.S. government and other countries’ procurement requirements to be fully aligned with NATO interoperability and interchangeability standards.

There are three complementary approaches that address interoperability that will also help the industrial base increase production speed – investing in common systems, such as Patriot, demand aggregation, and dual sourcing components. These three tactics allow countries to take advantage of common architectures, reduce costs, and increase delivery speeds.

EV: What should be the priority in terms of partnership with NATO and other countries? Especially the transatlantic relationship?

JS: At RTX, we understand the importance of transatlantic partnerships. We are always looking for opportunities to co-develop, co-produce and co-maintain with our European partners, where practical, and with other partners around the world. We are proud of our 10,000+ suppliers across Europe and will continue to integrate their content into our products, bringing European content to the global market.

EV: How does the EU reconcile national sovereignty, cooperation, consolidation and joint programmes? Are there any gaps?

JS: As President Ursula von der Leyen recently said, European sovereignty in defence is crucial, but it should not come at the expense of NATO. It is encouraging to consider the prospects of a more sovereign Europe strengthening NATO even further by ensuring dedicated defence funding and capabilities, which in turn will strengthen transatlantic cooperation and collective security.

We believe that it is crucial to maintain partnerships as we develop a robust European defence industry. These are not mutually exclusive objectives. On the contrary, they are complementary.

(By Jennifer Baker, edited by Brian Maguire | Euractiv’s Advocacy Lab)

Read more with Euractiv