As technological competition gradually upticks between the US and Russia, activity between European and US defense forces has taken on renewed importance. There has been a wealth of comment recently about the increasing visibility of hypersonic testing by both nations; the success of which will be causing both governments to assess their current regional strategies. This will cause some friction for the DoD as they continue along their path to orientate towards the Indo-pacific region, forcing focus back on the importance of European defense interoperability. US defense companies seem to be a step ahead of this government reorientation with their presence still strong in the European defense market.
Madeline Wild, Associate Defense Analyst, comments: “Preparations are underway for the Air Defender 2023, with German and US defense forces examining the current Eurofighter capabilities in Germany this week. The ongoing and increasingly public hypersonic competition between the US and Russia is interrupting the strategic pivot eastwards by the DoD. Subsequently, it makes sense that the US government will be keen to ensure European capabilities in the face of Russia whilst US attentions are focused elsewhere. Air Defender 2023 is a forthcoming multinational air power exercise; while many details are yet to be announced about the new event it will involve Germany, US and other members of NATO to demonstrate and practice interoperable air-based exercises.”
“Former President, Donald Trump had been keen to criticize European allies for their perceived low defense spending which prompted plans for the withdrawal of US troops from Germany. This was frozen by President Biden shortly after his inauguration marking a softer approach to the US’ relationship with Europe. Biden’s presidency has thus far cast a more lenient shadow over European defense spending, recognizing the importance of ongoing European interoperability and co-operation in the face of intensifying Russian competition. Subsequently, US companies, supported by their government, are still the dominating exporter to European nations accounting for many ongoing acquisition programs, in Eastern European countries especially, the US companies account for a significant proportion of programs underway. For example, Lockheed Martin are the primary supplier for half of Bulgaria’s ongoing programs. Moreover, European interest in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning is still strong with the jet competing against European platforms to meet Finland and the Czech Republic’s new fighter requirements. Spain and Greece have both expressed official interest in procuring the model and earlier this year, Switzerland chose the F-35 and joined the other European customers of the jet: the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Norway and Denmark.”
There has also been pressure from European states themselves to regroup and refocus attentions on European security in the face of Russia. Ukraine and Romania have appealed to the US Senate’s Europe and Regional Security Cooperation subcommittee to increase the number of troops on the Black Sea to respond to increasing Russian militarization in the region. The presence of US defense companies in the region as discussed above suggests that the industry has recognized and reacted to the intensifying security situation.