The Secretary of State for Defence, Esperanza Casteleiro, number two in the ministerial portfolio headed by the magistrate Margarita Robles, took part in the Dialogues for Democracy Club to present the key aspects of the new Defence Technology and Innovation Strategy for the Spanish Armed Forces in the 21st century.
In front of an audience made up of the top executives of the Spanish industrial fabric linked to Defence, senior officials of the department, the Armed Forces and the Armada, Esperanza Casteleiro has insisted on at least four occasions that the organisation she heads aims to provide the Spanish armed forces with "the appropriate means to provide them with the necessary superiority over the adversary, whatever they may be".
As head of the body responsible for the direction and management of armaments, materiel and information and communications technology policies, as well as for establishing the financial framework for obtaining and sustaining weapons systems, the Secretary of State for Defence (SEDEF) highlighted the two main new features of the new Technological Strategy.
On the one hand, the need to merge defence planning with the technological and industrial base, since the best way to effectively guide research, development and innovation (R&D&I) by companies is a consequence of "knowing the current and future technological needs of defence".
The second novelty is to achieve the multiplier effects offered by dual-use technologies. The new strategy emphasises combining the development of new projects with the promotion of dual-use systems, for which Casteleiro aims to achieve the "cooperation of other ministries and the autonomous communities".
From the point of view of economic resources, national projects will be taken on through "shared funding", especially in the "phases associated with Research, which are completely dual and can generate innovation in a wide range of fields".
In the international sphere, additional efforts will be made in the various frameworks in which Spain participates, especially in initiatives that seek greater autonomy for European defence, but "without losing sight of our transatlantic links", Casteleiro stressed. In order to provide them with economic resources, "access to the European Union's different funds and resources will be promoted".
Framed by the Spanish Technology and Innovation Strategy 2021-2027 approved by the government, the new Defence R&D&I approach has as its first objective to contribute to the development of military capabilities, but providing "advanced technological solutions that provide the necessary advantage and superiority for the success of the task of national security and defence," the SEDEF stressed.
Secondly, it aims to form a "national industrial technological base" in order to have the necessary and essential capabilities for defence and to have "freedom of action to obtain and improve the military capabilities pursued". The data offered by the Spanish defence industry "support the second objective" to which the Ministry of Defence aspires, it stresses.
The SEDEF has highlighted that the national defence industrial sector has an annual turnover of around 6,000 million euros - an increase of more than 100% compared to 2011 - and that 80% of this economic volume is due to exports, all of which "generates 22,500 direct jobs dedicated to exclusive defence activities and another 30,000 indirect or induced jobs".
Esperanza Casteleiro said that a "priority objective" pursued by her Ministry is to have a financial scenario that is "more stable and sustained over time". This would involve having a legal framework equivalent to the six-year Military Programming Law - as exists in France - or an update of the Law on Budgetary Allocations for Investment and Support of the Armed Forces, which was published in 1992 during the mandate of President Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo for the period 1983-1990.
Despite public proclamations to this effect by senior officials of the department, neither during the period as minister of María Dolores de Cospedal - Minister of Defence during the government of President Mariano Rajoy - nor during the period of the current minister Margarita Robles, neither of the two has obtained sufficient parliamentary support to officially present the initiative in the Congress of Deputies.
The SEDEF has announced that "in the coming weeks" the new Concept for the Employment of the Armed Forces will see the light of day, a document it has described as "essential" in defining the military strategic framework and its possible evolution, which establishes the military capabilities needed to safeguard Spain's Security and Defence over the next six years. The document, signed by the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Teodoro López Calderón, replaces the one in force since May 2018, and is the consequence of the approval in June 2020 of the new National Defence Directive.
In relation to the main armament programmes that the Secretary of State has underway, Esperanza Casteleiro stated that the one relating to the new F-110 frigate "meets all the contractual and design milestones", that its construction "will begin in 2022" and that it is the ship "of greatest interest at this time from a global point of view". He sees the Army's Force 2035 project as "a paradigm shift" in its conception of the Force, organisation and logistics, which is also "meeting its milestones".
With regard to the Franco-German-Spanish programme for the future European FCAS combat aircraft, he recalled that the government of Pedro Sánchez sees it as "a state project". Its progress "is going well", its budgetary environment "is identified" and that the participation of other countries, such as Italy, "would be at a later date, but nothing can be ruled out".
Casteleiro is less optimistic about the proposal presented by Airbus to provide the Spanish Air Force with a new training jet. He said that it would make it possible to have a "complete product from start to finish" in which the entire national industry would participate. However, he made it clear that Defence "does not have the funding" to take it on and that one possibility would be to include it as a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) project of the European Union.