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European Defense Agency Deploys 3D Printing at Permanent Tactical Airlift Center in Zaragoza

On June 8 the new European Tactical Airlift Centre (ETAC) will be officially opened by Head of the European Defense Agency (EDA), High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini and Minister of Defence of Spain Dolores de Cospedal. ETAC represents one of the largest transfers of a project, created and developed by the EDA, to one of its Member States on a permanent basis.

Zaragoza will officially become the home of the European Air Transport Fleet (EAFT) Programme on June 8th in a ceremony marking the transfer of this project from the EDA to Spain. Created in 2011 by EDA, and signed by 20 participating nations, the EATF partnership aims to increase the EU’s airlift capabilities by addressing shortages and increasing interoperability. The establishment of a permanent multinational airlift training centre (ETAC) marks a major step forward in European defence collaboration in the critical capability domain of tactical airlift.

An EDA first: Joint Deployment of EAATTC 17-3 and 3D Printing Lab 

The third European Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course for 2017 (EAATTC 17-3), hosted by the Spanish Airforce at Zaragoza airbase will run from 28 May to 9 June 2017. This edition of EAATTC gathers five aircraft from four different countries (Belgium: C130; Germany: C160; Poland C130 and Spain: C295 and C130). This training aims to provide air transport crews with a robust airlift tactics training syllabus in order to enhance interoperability between European air forces. The graduation ceremony for participating aircrew will take place as part of the opening of the ETAC on June 8 2017.

As part of EDA’s approach to explore new avenues for defence cooperation and enabling technologies, its innovative project on 3D printing in defence will be deployed as part of EAATTC 17-3. The project, officially titled “Additive Manufacturing Feasibility Study & Technology Demonstration”, aims to assess the areas where Additive Manufacturing (AM) (3D printing)  can have a positive impact on defence capabilities and to demonstrate its feasibility.

The second work strand of this project is a technology demonstration of AM in a simulated deployment scenario. Its aim is to demonstrate the feasibility and operational utility of deploying these technologies in support of a military operation. The deployment of the 3D printing lab represents a significant step in bridging the data gap on 3D printer performance in deployed conditions and will demonstrate the operational utility of these technologies.

First of all the lab will be deployed on a test flight to examine its feasibility to be deployed by air. During the exercise the lab technicians will interact with the officials deployed at EAATTC 17-3, presenting the possibilities offered by the equipment, and identifying in a close dialogue with them what are the main needs in an operation that could be fulfilled with an AM facility. Together, the technicians the officials will select a number of different test parts to be produced on site and on demand, with different grades of complexity.

The project represents a clear example of how cross-fertilization of ideas from different domains, from R&T to operations, will enhance defense capabilities, especially when supporting deployed missions. The overall study has the objective of raising awareness in the defense community and of promoting a better understanding of the potential held by these technologies, thereby stimulating their implementation in defense specific areas.

 

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