The European Union is looking to create a consortium for military aerial refueling in response to a clear deficiency on the part of NATO’s European members in this capability during the alliance’s military intervention in Libya last year, said NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. The United States “carried the lion’s share of the load” in aerial refueling during that operation, Vershbow told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 29. Now, the EU is looking to create its own tanker fleet for “EU-led” or “NATO-led operations,” he said. The consortium won’t necessarily be based on the model of the three-aircraft C-17 wing jointly operated by a consortium of 10 NATO and two alliance partner nations at Papa AB, Hungary, said Vershbow. The multinational C-17 organization operates “kind of like a timeshare arrangement,” he said. “Your investment gives you a certain number of hours of use . . . for a month.” Vershbow said he doesn’t know whether that model would work for aerial refueling, but the arrangement could be “similar.”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.