by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the ceremony marking Belgium’s official accession to multinational effort to acquire multirole tanker-transport (MRTT) aircraft.
Thank you very much indeed and a warm welcome to everyone. This signing ceremony is a truly exciting event. It is for the ongoing multinational effort to create and operate a multinational Multi-Role Tanker and Transport Capability.
In addition to the five Allies here today, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, the European Defence Agency, and the Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d'Armement, who are all providing invaluable support to this effort.
The ceremony today follows the signing of a Declaration of Intent one year ago, and the subsequent expansion of the effort last summer.
Four nations – Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway – are already participating in the initiative.
I am delighted that today Belgium officially joins the group. So, welcome.
Air-to-air refuelling is a crucial capability for the Alliance. Increasing our ability to keep our planes flying – for longer periods and farther distances – has a direct bearing on our ability to defend our citizens and our territories.
With Belgium joining, the multinational fleet will now expand to eight aircraft, with delivery expected between 2020 and 2024. I am hopeful that today’s ceremony will encourage other nations to join this important effort.
The benefits of this initiative – and this approach – are clear. Through this project, nations are addressing European Allies’ shortages in this area – and demonstrating in a very tangible way how NATO and the European Union are cooperating in an important project. .
I believe it also makes a strong case for the value of a multinational approach to capability development. These flexible and cost-effective solutions can, I believe, be applied far more widely than they are today.
Finally, this initiative is further proof of European Allies’ commitment to fair burden-sharing. Not just in words, but deeds.
So thank you all for being here today. Thank you ministers for being here today. And again a very warm welcome to Belgium !