European Amphibious Initiative (IAE / EAI)
There are two principal European initiatives on naval interoperability, the European Amphibious Initiative (EAI) and the European Carrier Group Interoperability Initiative (ECGII). Both initiatives seek to enhance European interoperability and capability in Amphibious and Carrier Strike Group operations respectively through greater cooperation and combined training and exercising at both the tactical and operational level. The main objective of these initiatives is that, by working more closely together in peacetime, it will allow for a more rapid and effective deployment of a multinational Amphibious or Carrier Strike Group force, when required, in the framework of NATO or EU-led operations.
Amphibious forces’ cooperation, in the form of the European Amphibious Initiative, was launched by five European nations in 2000, to forge close ties between the Spanish-Italian, UK-Netherlands and French amphibious forces. The aim is to improve use concepts to facilitate simultaneous engagement in a European and a NATO framework. This joint endeavour is validated by large-scale European or NATO exercises. Cooperation under the European Amphibious Initiative (EAI) involving Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France, brings together a projected force potential of up to three brigades (9,000 troops).
Three amphibious forces are concerned by this initiative, they are:
- the British/Dutch amphibious force (UKNLAF), that is 2 LPD (Landing Platform Dock) and 1 LPH (Landing Platform Helicopter) and 1 "Royal Marines" brigade., The United Kingdom Amphibious Force (UKAF) exists to provide 'a worldwide, balanced and independent expeditionary capability'. Alongside the UKAF, the UK's joint amphibious force with The Netherlands – the UKNLAF – is designed to conduct operations and training as a single force under unified command.
- the Spanish/Italian amphibious force (SIAF), that is 5 LPD and 3 Marine Infantry battalions including their combat service and combat service support components,
- the French amphibious force (FRAF), that is 4 LPD and 2 light armored brigades designed for amphibious operations, plus the helicopters from the airmobile brigade.
At the center of ARGONAUT 02 were the two NATO amphibious exercises: DESTINED GLORY and ABELIA. Taking place in the littorals of Italy and the south of France they provided the first opportunity for nations involved in the European Amphibious Initiative to develop their operating procedures. During the exercises HMS Ark Royal worked with ships and submarines from a number of different nations, including the USS George Washington. As well as being highly successful, this was an extremely busy time for HMS Ark Royal with an additional 200 staff from Commander UK Amphibious Forces and the US Amphibious Group 2 embarked to command and control the exercises.
Dutch and French forces worked closely to enhance amphibious capabilities under the European Amphibious Initiative. Multi-national operations are a key training component of NATO Exercise Destined Glory 2004, which takes place from 30 September to 16 October 2004 on and near the coast of Sardinia. Destined Glory 2004 was the biggest amphibious exercise for NATO this year. It involved almost 9,500 personnel, over 47 ships and 46 aircraft from 11 NATO nations.
In terms of amphibious vessels, as of 2003 the European Union had 13 craft of over 7,500 tonnes, and modernisation of its fleets through procurement of larger-capacity vessels was under way.
- The United Kingdom commissioned three 20 000-tonne vessels and was building four 15 000-tonne ships (similar to the “Rotterdam” LPDs). In addition to its existing three 24 000-tonne Roll-on/Roll-off cargo vessels, it had started building six new ones. The United Kingdom was undoubtedly acquiring strong force-projection capability.
- France, for its part, maintained its capability of four large amphibious vessels. However, that capability greatly increased in 2004, with the commissioning of its new 20 000-tonne BPCs (Bâtiments de projection et de commandement) to replace 8 500-tonne vessels.
- Spain and the Netherlands had each recently procured two 13 500-tonne amphibious ships
- the German Defence Staff had plans for two vessels of this type
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