Towards a new era of European defence: the first-ever EU live military exercises

By Asia Corsano (Finabel - European Army Interoperability Centre)

“Today we are creating a new page for European defence”, declared Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on the first-ever EU live military exercises (MILEX) that are taking place in the Rota Naval base in Southern Spain this week.


Around 2,800 military personnel from nine Member States – Austria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Romania and host country Spain – plus 25 aircraft, six ships and cyber assets are taking part in the exercises, which simulate an intervention in a third country that has requested EU assistance. They will include a landing on a beach to secure a port in the fictitious country and deploying land forces to rescue trapped civilians.



The aim of the exercises is to test the capability and preparedness of the bloc’s future 5,000-strong Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC), established by the EU’s Strategic Compass, the first military strategy endorsed by member states in March 2022. The RDC re-shapes the existing EU battlegroups, a rotating on-call unit composed of member states’ armed forces. However, the lack of political will resulted in member states never deploying the unit during a crisis, instead preferring to rely on NATO or ad hoc coalitions.

Ultimately, the goal for the EU is to have a fully-fledged military deployment force by 2025. The ensuing exercises will occur in the second half of 2024, most likely in Germany.



According to Lieutenant General Michel Van der Laan, the Director General of the European Union Military Staff (DG EUMS), the results of this joint operation will be the key to identify the gaps and improve the operational processes of the EU RDC, as well as a crucial point to enhance the interoperability of the latter.


This article was originally published on the website of Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre.



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