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European Air Transport Command
Published: October 2015

The EATC was founded by Belgium, France, Germany and The Netherlands on September 1st, 2010 - with the goal to better utilize the members states Air Transport (AT)- , Aeromedical Evacuation (AE)- and Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) assets and missions. Right from the start in 2010 till the end of 2014 a number of successes have been achieved by the EATC: It reached its Full Operational Capability on November 28th, 2013. Three new members, Luxembourg, Spain and Italy joined and lead to a situation where more than 70% of all European AT aircraft are conducted under the Operational Command (OPCON) of the EATC.
The EATC Functional Division also plays an important role in the successful introduction of the Airbus Defence & Space A400M. EATC is also a European Defence Agency (EDA) partner in the lead of different measures to find short term solutions overcoming the European AAR shortfall. One measure led to the first dedicated European AAR training exercise (EART) held at Eindhoven Air Base in April 2014. EATC is located at Eindhoven Air Base, also home of Royal Netherlands Air Force 334 and 336 squadrons equipped with the KDC-10, Gulfstream IV and C-130 Hercules.

EATC organization

The command structure above the EATC organization is the Multinational Air Transport Committee which is better known as MATraC. Each member nation is represented by its Air Chief. MATraC is currently lead by Dutch Lieutenant General Alexander Schnitger.

ATC command is being rotated between France and Germany every two years and lead by a Major-General. From July 2014 German Air Force Major-General Christian Badia took over command from French Major-General Pascal Valentin. At the same time the Chief of Staff position changed as well between the two countries. EATC consists of a Functional and Operational division which itself are divided into branches. The divisions are commanded by either a Belgian or Dutch Colonel with their deputy assigned from another nation. These positions rotate every three years.

Operational division branches: Long Term Planning, Tasking, Mission Control, Intel,  Aeromedical Evacuation Control Centre (AECC) and Management of European Air Transport (MEAT).

Functional division branches: Training & Exercise, Technical & Logistics and Employment.

Functional Division


Within the Functional Division the staff members are working on procedures for the fleet or aircraft controlled by EATC. At current a lot of work is related to the introduction of the Airbus Defence & Space A400M into service.  The French Air Force was the first to receive the new transport aircraft and has received six by the end of December 2014. The German Air Force saw its first A400M delivered in December 19th. Of the aircraft for the French Air Force all except one are flying under EATC OPCON.

Belgium with Luxembourg  and Spain also purchased the airlifter and are awaiting delivery (see notes at the squadron and wing overview.

Manuals and procedures written by technical  and logistic branch can directly be used by the other national partners thus saving valuable time, resources and money. Another accomplishment of the Functional Division was made in harmonizing the rest times for the aircrews of the participation nations.
Within the EATC member states, these rules are now the same for each type operated and countries joining EATC will also adapt these rules into their squadrons The Functional Division also succeeded in implementing  a system to easier achieve diplomatic clearances (DC), needed to overfly all countries in the path of the planned flight. Normally a DC is granted on a bilateral agreement between two countries. Within EATC countries the AT-aircraft can operate free flights into each other’s airspace. This way of cooperation didn’t stay unnoticed and the European Defence Agency (EDA) is working on a similar program extending the procedure to all European nations. The United States also benefits from the work conducted by EATC. Where in the past several DCs had to be requested, now they need only one to overfly EATC countries.

Operational Division

Royal Netherlands Air Force Captain Coert van Putten worked at Eindhoven Air Base and transferred to EATC right from the start in 2010 - serving as planner, tasker and supervisor of mission preparation.  His current role is Tasking Officer for AAR-missions.  The Air Transport (AT) and AAR process is the same for all member nations. As an example see below AT request  for a Dutch military unit (remark: within EATC the requests for AT/AAR are received by each nations national transportation department).

“Mission preparation and planning takes place within the Operational Division, afterwards Mission Control monitors all actual flights. A request for AT by one of the Dutch Armed services (Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines, and Military Police) has to be send first to the Defensie Verkeers & Vervoers Organisatie (DVVO – Defence Traffic & Transport Organization). They use four modules which are: transportation by road, water, rail and air. Depending on the destination the request might lead to a mix of the modules. Depending on the urgency, time and range, equipment can also be moved by rail or truck to a harbor and then being shipped to its destination – but then continue by truck, rail or air. When the transport request leads to a decision to movement by air, the DVVO creates an Air Transport Request (ATR). This request is entered in the EATC application called MEAT (Management of European Air Transport). The ATR contains modules for: Passenger (PAX), Cargo, Ammunition, Hazardous Materials, VIP and Aeromedical Evacuation. It also states the departure and destination air field, and requests either an arrival or departure time. The DVVO for instance can request an arrival date and time at Eindhoven Air Base. The request is then picked up within EATC where the ATR checkers validate all required fields - having been filled out to correctly process the ATR. When the ATR is completed, the status is changed into ‘In Process’. The next step is a check, whether a flight already exists and can be combined with the new ATR.  If that is the case but the flight is already planned with another arrival time, EATC will report to the DVVO that this flight is an option. Should this flight not be an option for the DVVO, the ATR is treated as a new mission and therewith send over to Mission Preparation Section (part of the Tasking Branch).

This Tasking Branch is divided into the following cells (sections):

Stategic: Flights operated e.g. by the different A310, A340, A321 and KDC-10.
Tactical: Flights operated by the CN235, C-130 and C-160, in future also A400M.
AAR: Flights operated mainly by A310 MRTT and KDC-10.
Corporate Flight:  Flights operated by Gulfstream IV, Falcon 20E/900, ERJ-135/145
Mission Preparation: (see following text)

he Mission Preparation Team validates the flying times, prepares the diplomatic clearances for the over flight of countries and works out the route to be flown (air crews are responsible for flying the actual flight plan). The process of providing diplomatic clearances can last several working days up to several weeks.  The total status of an ATR can be followed by DVVO and provides the information whom to contact in case there could be a need to request a change or update. All these information is provided by the MEAT-software. It is available to all EATC nations’ users. The DVVO can anytime monitor the request, as well as the squadron to operate the flight.

EATC provided an example of a MEAT ATR-excerpt: green dots need to be completed while the red triangles indicate that some tasks are still in process: a kind of check-list to guarantees the quality management.

Statusbalk MEAT

The status of an ATR changes from “In process” to “planned”, “launched” (wheels off runway) and finally “executed”.  24 hours before the departure of an aircraft the mission preparation team hand over its results to Mission Control during a briefing and explains specific mission if needed.

Mission Control is manned on a 24/7 basis 365 days/year. Every Friday the briefing takes places for missions to be executed during the next weekend including next Monday. Each mission will be discussed and Mission Control can monitor all the items which still have a status red (red triangle, see above).

Analysis and reporting is the last section of the Operational Division. It is implemented right below the Operational Divisions Head. After a mission has been executed, the aircrews fill out a form, providing information to EATC about the last mission performance. As example, a mission was planned for two hours, but actually turned out to take three hours. EATC will investigate the reason and will try to solve recurring issues accordingly.
With mutual feedback between EATC and aircrews, the lesson learned shall improve further missions and therewith optimize future mission- planning and execution.

EATC assigned fleet

When joining EATC, a new member nation agrees to transfer a significant part of its AT-fleet. The Netherlands chose to transfer all AT- assets right from the start. Belgium did same for its tactical and strategical assets and from January 1st 2014 transferred its VIP fleet. Germany transferred its Transall fleet as well as all A310 (PAX and MRTT), but didn’t transfer their VIP aircraft (two A340, two CJ 319 and four Global 5000). France transferred its C-130 and C-160 fleet, its Casa CN 235s, two A340 and three A310. The Dassault 7X and 900 are operated under national control as well as the entire KC-135 fleet due to their assignment to the French Strategic Fleet. Another exception takes place for aircraft based overseas, e.g. in Africa, Latin American or Pacific regions. Spain withheld their VIP fleet (A310, Falcon 900) but will transfer its Casa C-295M, three B-707 tankers as well as major parts of their Hercules fleet. On December 4th, 2014 Italian Air Force General Pasquale Preziosa signed the respective Note of Participation which made Italy the seventh member of EATC. Work will now be started to integrate the some of the Italian Air Force squadrons and its aircraft under EATC OPCON which would see the actual transfer and share of aircraft in January 2016. The Italian contribution will consist of the following aircraft: Alenia-Aermacchi C-27J Spartan (7), Boeing KC-767A (4), Lockheed-Martin C-130J/C-130J.30/KC-130J (all).  As the Italian Air Force is conducting a program to upgrade aircraft to MC-27J ‘Gunship’ variant only seven C-27J will be transferred to EATC OPCON. Alike their French and German colleagues the Italian VIP operated aircraft missions (Airbus D&S A319CJ, Dassault Falcon 7X and Falcon 900) have not been transferred to EATC.

Each country has the right to withdraw aircraft from the EATC assigned pool by wish of the nation Air Chief – simply by emailing the request to withdraw a national needed aircraft.  This procedure is called RTOA: Revoke of Transfer of Authority. Recalling aircraft to national command occur often enough – but does not harm the EATCs mission at all. Some examples: The Netherlands consulted EATC with respect to already planned missions during the conflict in Libya when NATO requested a Dutch tanker to support the AAR missions. It lead to the withdrawal of one KDC-10 from EATC operations which was then NATO tasked.

EATC challenges

Challenges are also ahead for EATC. The A400M is currently being fielded, but it will take several years before enough aircraft are available. In the meantime the Transall aircraft from both France and Germany are withdrawn from service – for example when they have reached their maximum flying hours. Apart from their age, those aircraft were designed for tactical troop transport in Cold War scenarios, though nowadays are assigned to sometimes long range transport missions.

At the end of the decade also the Dutch KDC-10 fleet needs to be replaced. Within EDA, the Netherlands implemented a project group to identify and purchase a new MRTT capable aircraft. On December 18th, 2014 it was announced  by the Netherlands MoD that the international cooperating project Multi Role Tanker Transport will start a process to procure four Airbus D&S A330MRTT aircraft. The participation nations (Netherlands, Norway and Poland) strive to a signing the contract in 2016. That should lead to the first aircraft being delivered in 2020. The purchase will be done by NATO who will also be responsible of maintaining the aircraft. Eindhoven air base is a potential candidate to house the MRTTs.

EATC squadrons and wing overview

Below squadrons/wings are operated by the EATC for the member nations. The overview includes the Italian Air Force see above. The Spanish Air Force squadrons and aircraft will be transferred to EATC Operational Control starting in April 2015.

Country: Unit: Aircraft: Air Base:
Belgium 20 Smaldeel C-130H Melsbroek
  21 Smaldeel A321, Falcon 20E, Falcon 900B, ERJ-135, ERJ-145 Melsbroek
France ET 01.061 "Touraine" A400M Orléans
  ET 02.061 "Franche Comte" C-130H, C-130H.30 Orléans
  ET 01.062 "Vercors" CN-235 Creil
  ET 03.062 "Ventoux” CN-235 Creil
  ET 01.064 "Bearn" C-160NG Evreux
  ET 02.064 "Anjou" C-160NG Evreux
  ET 03.060 “Esterel" A310, A340 Creil
Germany LTG 61 C-160D Landsberg
  LTG 62 A400M Wunstorf
  LTG 63 C-160D Hohn
  Special Air Mission Wing MoD A310PAX, A310MRTT Köln-Bonn
Italy 2° Gruppo, 50° Gruppo C-130J, C-130J.30, KC-130J Pisa San Giusto
  8° Gruppo, 14° Stormo KC-767J Practica di Mare
  98° Gruppo, 46 Brigata Area C-27J Pisa San Giusto
Netherlands 334 Squadron KDC-10, G-IV Eindhoven
  336 Squadron C-130H, C-130H.30 Eindhoven
Spain 47 Gruppo B-707 Torrejón
  Ala 31 C-130H, C-130H.30, KC-130H Zaragoza
  Ala 35 C-295M Getafe


Planned delivery dates for the first A400M with expected number between brackets provided by Airbus D&S:

Germany (53) first delivered December 2014.
Spain (27) first quarter 2016.
Belgium (7) and Luxembourg (1) in 2018.

EDA and the Dutch lead in AAR matters

At the end of the decade the Dutch KDC-10 fleet needs to be replaced. France still uses older Transall and (not EATC assigned) KC 135 aircraft, Germany adds its Airbus A310 MRTT, Spain its older KC 707. This comprises today the EATC assigned tanker fleet. Within EDA, four project groups were implemented to overcome the European lack on tanker resources. One project group is lead by the Netherlands in order to identify and purchase a new MRTT capable aircraft. On December 18th, 2014 it was announced  by the Netherlands MoD that the international cooperating project Multi Role Tanker Transport will start a process to procure four Airbus D&S A330MRTT aircraft. The participation nations (Netherlands, Norway and Poland) strive to a signing of the contract in 2016. That should lead to the first aircraft being delivered in 2020. The purchase will be done by NATO who will also be responsible of maintaining the aircraft. Eindhoven Air Base is a potential candidate to house the MRTTs.

The author would like to thank EATC Captain Coert and Capt Norbert Thomas for their contribution to write the article.
EATC Photogallery
A321 C-130H Hercules Falcon 20E
Falcon 900B ERJ-135 ERJ-145
A310 A400M C-160NG
A310MRTT A400M C-160D Transall
C-27J Spartan C-130J.30 Super Hercules KC-767A
C-130H Hercules C-130H.30 Hercules G-IV
C-130H Hercules KC-130H Hercules C-295M