Is European Style Defence Industrial Co-operation Possible In Indo-Pacific?

The cold war witnessed the highest ever arms race between the US and then the Soviet Union. It was more predominant in Europe as Europe became the epicentre of the cold war between these two superpowers. In the cold war, the Soviet Union and the USA were the main players and Europe was a playground for it. In that phase, both the Americans and Soviets were heavily invested in arms build-up against each other and were modernizing technologies to cope up with each other’s capabilities.[1] In this game Europe was divided into two blocks, one was in a Soviet tent and another one was in an American tent. Both blocks were getting enough sophisticated arms and technical support from their respective ally but still some of the European countries emphasis on their defence technology and defence industrial base.[2] As a result of this, the Joint Defence Industrial Programs like Jaguar tactical bomber, Panavia Tornado fighter jet, and Eurofighter Typhoon program started taking place.[3] The Eurofighter project is the world’s first-ever largest military co-operative program with the participation of four founding countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain.[4] Before that Jaguar and Tornado were also there but its partners were limited e.g. for the Jaguar fighter bomber program only the UK and France were partnered and for Panavia Tornado the UK, Germany, and Italy were partnered.[5] So, Eurofighter was the first of its kind which had maximum participation from European countries. This kind of defence partnership has allowed partner nations to have equal rights to manufacturing, technology development, foreign sales, supply chain, and long-lasting Diplomatic, political, and industrial tires. This strong alignment has allowed these partner nations to have enough capable and sovereign defence technology against their mutual adversary.

Sukhoi Su-27/ Image source: Wikimedia

In 1980 western counties were deeply concerned over the technological advancement of the Soviets in terms of airpower. The two major Soviet aerospace projects Su-27 and MiG 29 were comparatively advanced against American F-16s and F-15s fighter jets. [6] Hence, the European nations were looking for a new option along with great economic gains. The British were seeking to replace aging aircraft like Jaguars and Phantoms. But the main objective was to achieve both the objectives of national defence and economic gains like boosting industrialization and employment. [7] Along with the UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy were also looking for a new fighter jet to modernize their respective air forces. Before the Eurofighter program Europe had one more successful joint aircraft development program called Panavia Tornado. Which had three partners from the Eurofighter programs like UK, Germany, and Italy so, again, the new joint aircraft development program was not a new thing for Europe.

In the 1960s the Labour government in the UK faced people’s outrage over the US-made Phantom fighter jet over the indigenous fighter program. Because it was a cause for unemployment for thousands of British citizens. Hence, the Indigenous fighter jet was a need of the time to achieve both the national defence and employment in the country.[8] The basic idea behind this joint development was that, sharing of R&D costs and resources whereby the partner nations can have much more expensive and sophisticated fighter jet at a lower cost. Thus, economically it would be a more viable option as the development cost of the fighter jet will be divided into partner countries and it won’t be an economic burden for any country. Initially, five NATO nations were the participants, they were the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. But, due to different operational requirements, France quit the program in 1985 and went for its fighter jet called Dassault Rafale. Finally, in 1988 official contract was signed among four NATO allies for the development of a new fighter jet. Thus, in 2003 aircraft become operational in all air forces of stakeholders not only this the Eurofighter Typhoon has been successfully exported to various international customers like Austria, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia thus it is giving good revenue to the multinational consortium. At present, around seven air forces around the globe in different continents operate over 563 jets and around 60 on order. [9]

Atlas A400M/ Image source: Wikimedia

Apart from this Eurofighter Program, many other joint defence programs are now going on in Europe, e.g., Atlas A400M strategic airlifter, C-295 tactical airlifter, A300MRTT multirole refueling & transport aircraft under a consortium called Airbus.[10] For weapons, it has a consortium called MBDA.[11] These types of joint ventures and military-industrial co-operations allows European states to minimize their defence expenditure on R&D and production as well as these collaborations allow them to exploit maximum economic and commercial benefits from these defence projects. This eventually contributes to their respective economies in terms of investment, employment, and favorable diplomatic relations among partner countries. The solo Eurofighter Typhoon program has caused the creation of thousands of jobs in partner states, e.g. 40,000 jobs in the UK, 25,000 in Germany 24,000 jobs in Italy, 22,000 in Spain i.e. nearly 100,000 to 105,000 personnel have been employed directly or indirectly so far through 400 companies spread in four founding states.[12] With such collaborative defence projects no money goes out of the economies of these four founding states thus, taxpayers’ money gets invested in economies of relative countries. Such collaborative defence projects provide dual benefits to the partner states like national defence and economic benefits. The development cost of the Eurofighter Typhoon was around Euros 18 billion, which got divided among four partner states thus, its economic burden did not affect their economies. [13] Hypothetically, if this money had been invested by a one-state it would have a huge economic burden for that particular state.

In Indo-Pacific, the same Defence Industrial Cooperation is possible as major states like Australia, India, Japan, and South Korea (ASEAN deliberately has ignored as their Military-industrial Base is comparatively bare against this Indo-Pacific powers) facing similar threats of aggressive China European states were feeling during the cold war due to the aggressive Soviet Union. These Indo-Pacific states are a combination of developing and developed states, As India, which has the developing economy , whereas the remaining three economies are developed On other hand, China is comparatively stronger in terms of economically and militarily. Hence, solo efforts by any country won’t work effectively. Moreover, China is heavily investing in high technology defence technologies like fifth and sixth-generation fighter jets, hypersonic missiles, advance naval platforms, UAVs, and laser technology.[14] To cope up with these advanced Chinese defence technologies, these countries have to invest more in developing indigenous defence technologies which will not be an economically viable option for these states. There are various futuristic defence projects in which these countries can have good Defence Industrial Co-operation. Programs like fifth generation and sixth-generation fighter jets, jet engines, strategic airlifters, laser technology, and so on. For the present, India, Japan, and South Korea have their own indigenous fifth-generation fighter programs out which only Japan has its jet engine to power its fifth-generation aircraft. [15] The remaining two countries Indian and South Korea depend on the American GE-414 engine to power their respective fifth-generation fighter jets. Hence, in the jet engine technology segment, these countries can have joint ventures which will be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders. For economic reasons fifth-generation fighter programs are so costly Hence, collaborative projects like Eurofighter will economically more viable options for these countries. But for such deep defence co-operation politically strong bonding is very essential among these states. The ongoing defence co-operation among these states is China-centric and kind of defensive in its nature. It is not that much deep as mutual co-operation and political understanding of European states were against the Soviet Union during the cold war. Especially, India which is yet hold a defensive stand against China as other Indo-Pacific states is comparatively more offensive e.g. Australia, Japan, and South Korea this might be possible due to strong diplomatic ties with the USA.

Despite all this, in recent years the security co-operation between these Indo-Pacific states has grown significantly. The defence co-operation between South Korea and India has increased in recent years. The deal for 100 K9 Vajra self-propelled guns, an upcoming deal for 104 BIHO self-propelled defence air defence guns is to be signed in the future. Not only this, but South Korea has also shown interest in various ongoing defence projects of India like P75i (6 next-generation SSK submarines), NUL (111 Naval utility helicopter), and Short-range air defence missiles for the Indian navy. Apart from South Korea India also increasing its defence co-operation in other Asian states like Australia and Japan. In Sep 2019 India and South Korea signed a deal for naval logistic support. In June 2020 India and Australia signed the same type of logistic exchange agreement. The same type of military logistic agreement soon will be signed between India and Japan. It indicates the growing defence and security related co-operation among these countries to counter their mutual threat in the region. This growing mutual co-operation and understanding can be converted into Defence Industrial Partnership through joint ventures. Similar to European countries have been doing since the cold war, this partnership will give all stakeholders the required technological edge against China in terms of quality and quantity.

Chengdu J20/ Image source: South Front

The Chinese defence expenditure is far bigger than the collective defence budgets of Australia, India, Japan, and South Korea. In the coming years, it is estimated to be an increase as China is rapidly modernizing and consolidating its defence capabilities to cope up with the US military supremacy in the world. [16] Therefore, the Chinese are heavily investing in the development of new technologies like aerospace, propulsion, jet engines, material science, artificial intelligence and robotics, electromagnetic, cyber, and Space field. Any country in Indo-Pacific individually can’t match that level of R&D expenditure on the development of advanced defence technologies due to restricted economic conditions and comparatively bare military-industrial base. Hence, mutual defence collaboration will be a more fruitful option for countries in the region. Especially, for India where economic development is yet not up to the mark and very less amount of GDP is being spent on defence R&D. Which is quite inadequate to fulfill the needs of the country’s armed forces for the development of futuristic defence technologies domestically. There are various areas in which defence industrial collaboration is possible between countries in Indo-Pacific to develop futuristic defence technologies. Like laser technology, Quantum technologies, space warfare, cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, and advanced robotics, fifth and sixth-generation fighter jets, submarines, long-range airborne radars, Arial, and underwater UAVs, rail guns. Even for some contemporary defence technologies, these Indo-Pacific countries can have a joint development program for which they are either relay on western countries or Russia. The defence platforms like submarines, warships, fighter aircraft, tactical missiles, airlifters, rifles, machine guns, tanks, howitzers, armoured carriers, etc. are still being imported by these countries from the international market. This market can be exploited by themselves with their defence technology thus it will offer them both economic and security benefits through this defence industrial co-operation. For a country like India with a huge young population and landmass can play a vital role as a manufacturing facility or key supplier of raw materials and final products due to the availability of a comparatively cheaper labour force. Thus, investment, industrialization, and employments will automatically raise in the economies of all participating countries. Because of joint military-industrial co-operation, the defence expenditure will become productive and defence industrialization will boost overall civil industrialization. Thus, development and defence along with capacity and capability building, these two objectives can be accomplished without any economic burden and it will help to strengthen strong strategic partnerships among these Indo-Pacific countries. As well as the Scientific and military-technical equilibrium with China can be easily achievable for Indo- Pacific countries very feasibly those who mostly feel insecure due to growing Chinese aggression in the region.


[1] Kyle Mizokami, “The cold war lead to amazing military innovations, but these fives are the best”, The National Interest, Nov 2019, accessed at, Accessed on 17th Aug 2020.

[2] Moritz Weiss and Felix Biermann, “Defence Industrial Co-operation”, Research Gate, Aug 2018, accessed at, Accessed at 17th Aug 2020. p. 3-4

[3] Ibid 2. p. 10-15

[4] Professor Keith Hartley, “The Industrial and Economic Benefits of Eurofighter Typhoon”, Centre for Defence Economics University of York England, June 2006, accessed at, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[5] Air force technology, “Sepcat Jaguar ground attack aircraft”, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[6] Robert Farely, “Russia’s Su 27 flanker was made to clear Europe’s skies of the NATO fighters,” The National Interest, Aug 2020, accessed at, Accessed at 18th Aug 2020.

See also, Dario Leone, “MiG-29 vs.F-16 fighting Falcon: which fighter jet wins in an Arial ‘Knife Fight'”, The National Interest, Aug 2019, accessed at, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[7] Ibid 4, p.6

[8] Eurofighter Documentary, Gabriele Mongni,, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[9] The Eurofighter Official Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

See also, Chris Johnston, “Qatar buys 24 Eurofighter Typhoon jets in £6bn deal”, BBC News, Dec 2017, accessed at, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

See also, Christopher Harress, “Middle East Eurofighter Typhoon Deal: Kuwait to buy 28 jets from Italy”, International Business Times, Nov 2015, accessed at, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[10] Airbus Official,, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

See Also,, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[11] MBDA-Defence Official,, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

See also,, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[12] Ibid 9

See Also, Ibid 4, p. 9-11.

[13] Ibid 4, p.9

[14] Kristin Huang, “China’s goal of quantum leap in defence technology makes waves at Pentagon”, South China morning post, May 2019, accessed at, Accessed on 18th Aug 2020.

[15] Kosuke Takahashi, “Update: Japan rejects foreign plans for a next-generation fighter”, Jane’s 360, April 2020, accessed at, Accessed on 19th Aug 2020.

See also, Franz Stefan Gady, “Japan to pursue locally developed next-generation ‘future fighter’ project” The Diplomat, Feb 2019, accessed at, Accessed on 19th Aug 2020.

See Also, Josh Smith and Ju-min Park, “South Korea unveil fighter jet mock-up amid program challenges”, Retures, Feb 2019, accessed at, Accessed on 19th Aug 2020.

See Also, Shiv Aroor, “Exclusive: India’s fifth gen AMCA jet to be public-private Program”, Livefist Defence, June 2020, accessed at, Accessed on 19th Aug 2020.

[16] Patrick Tucker, “China rapidly increasing, Nuclear, naval and next Gen tech”, Pentagon warns”, Defence One, Sep 2020, accessed on, Accessed on 3rd Sep 2020.

See Also, David Lague, “Special report: Pentagon’s latest salvo against China’s growing might- cold war bombers”, Retures, Sep 2020, accessed at, Accessed on 3rd Sep 2020.

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Rahul Yelwe

Rahul Yelwe is an M. A. second-year student of Defence Studies at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies in the Savitribai Phule University of Pune

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