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The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) is NATO’s lead organisation for multinational acquisition, support, and sustainment. We strive to obtain the best capabilities across all military domains at the best value – for NATO and Allied Nations – generating economies of scale while leveraging emerging and advanced technology.

Stacy Cummings (Photo: NSPA)

The Agency also provides equipment and services to NATO member countries and its partners in all domains – air, ground, maritime, cyber and space. This support ranges from the multinational acquisition of complex platforms, such as aircraft, helicopters and uncrewed systems, to the provision of supplies such as fuel, spare parts and ammunition, or services including the maintenance of radars for air defence, or deployable infrastructure, transportation, medical and catering services.

To fulfil our mission, we work as a link between NATO members and industry to find the best capabilities, primarily through international competitive bidding. Our objective is to obtain the best service or equipment at the best price for the customer by consolidating requirements from multiple nations in a cost-efficient way through our proven multinational acquisition framework.

Our Agency has been operating since 1958, when the North Atlantic Council (NAC) formally approved the establishment of the NATO Maintenance Supply Services System, and its executive element, the NATO Maintenance Supply Services Agency (NMSSA). During the last six decades, we have successfully evolved from the support of only three main weapon systems and the supply of spare parts, to our current portfolio. Today we support more than 100 weapon systems across many different programmes, and we provide full multinational acquisition and logistical support.

An Airbus A330 MRTT of the MMR refuels two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft of the Luftwaffe.
Credit: NSPA

NSPA currently manages a large number of key NATO and multinational projects throughout their lifecycle. One example is the Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF), based on the Airbus 330 aircraft, which provides strategic transport, air-to-air refuelling and MEDEVAC capabilities to six Allies. The MMF is not only a prime example of cooperation between the EU and NATO and their respective agencies, but also illustrates how nations can cooperate by pooling and sharing resources to obtain access to state-of-the-art capabilities that would be difficult, or impossible to access individually. All the nations involved, regardless of size and the required number of flying hours, have access to these capabilities. The programme has developed a transparent and fair cost share mechanism based on flying hour costs, enabling smaller nations to join with assured access to an entire fleet of aircraft. The approach recognises the benefits of economies of scale, commonality and interoperability deriving from multinational acquisition of military off-the-shelf platforms.

NSPA also manages the acquisition of other complex multinational systems, from initial concept to capability delivery, product support and lifecycle logistics, and disposal. Another good example is the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC), a multi-generational digital transformation programme designed to support multi-domain operations for decades to come. This programme represents NATO’s largest and most complex capability development initiative to date, with NSPA managing the concept stage.

Another NSPA-led multinational programme involving European companies is the Next Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC). Many of the medium-lift/multi-role assets currently in service across NATO Allies will reach their end of life cycle in the 2035–40 period. These existing inventories are based on designs dating back to the previous century. The NGRC programme will provide participating nations with options to replace their aged medium-lift assets, in a timely and cost-effective manner, while concurrently leveraging a broad range of recent advances in technology, production methods, and operational concepts.

In December 2023, we awarded a pioneering contract for the first Novel Powerplant Study to fulfil NGRC’s requirements. The contract study was awarded to GE Aerospace, with work performed by its Defense & Systems organisation in the United States and Avio Aero in Italy. This achievement embodies NSPA’s unwavering commitment to be the premier choice for NATO’s multinational defence acquisition programmes, signifying a substantial leap forward in technology while enhancing the transatlantic defence industrial base.

The Agency also provides full life-cycle management support to the other key NATO capabilities, such as the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS), the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC), the PATRIOT missile system and Boxer armoured vehicles, to name a few.

NSPA and the European defence industry

The level of demand that industry faces today is something we have not seen since the Cold War. This is paired with global supply chain challenges and the consensus formed around the notion that Allies and partners benefit from working together, opting for interchangeable and common defence systems, which help facilitate the effort to enhance industrial capacity, generating stable requirements with a common configuration.

Earlier in January 2024, the Agency signed one its most significant contracts for up to 1,000 PATRIOT Guidance Enhanced Missiles – TBM (GEM-T) supporting a coalition of nations including Germany, The Netherlands, Romania and Spain. The Agency awarded the production and delivery contract to COMLOG, a joint venture between Raytheon and MBDA. To support production and delivery, COMLOG will expand the production capacity of GEM-T missiles in Europe. This contract demonstrates that NSPA, as a primary enabler of the Alliance, can successfully deliver effective and cost-efficient multinational solutions to nations, while reinforcing European industrial capacities. It also demonstrates the value of the transatlantic partnership and the benefits of consolidation of national requirements to the Alliance and industry.

This diagram illustrates the key components of the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) programme.
Credit: NSPA

Our Support Partnerships bring together member countries to aggregate their demand and allocate production capacity according to their priorities. Established upon the initiative of two or more NATO members wishing to organise common support and services activities, this unique mechanism enables the consolidation and centralisation of requirements reducing costs and logistics footprint and provides a common and efficient support base under a ready-to-go legal framework.

NSPA and the new security environment

In response to Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO has implemented a fundamental shift in its deterrence and defence posture, strengthening forward defence, enhancing battlegroups on the eastern flank and increasing the number of high readiness forces.

NSPA has been supporting this global effort, providing logistical assistance to NATO forces located on the eastern flank, including fuel, accommodation and other services on demand. In addition, NSPA has been assisting individual Allies with the procurement of materiel, such as winter clothing, rifle scopes, helmets, ammunition, medical equipment and logistics services including the provision of fuel.

Member countries engaged in collaborative efforts in defence before the current conflict, but the war has accelerated this trend. The Agency has identified the need to continuously adapt in response to increased and increasingly urgent demands. To assure the best possible support to NATO Allies and partners, the Agency has developed a strategy that balances efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness.

Beyond interoperability, interchangeable and common systems among Allies represent a key NATO strength. Therefore, when nations pool and share resources and act together they achieve tactical, operational and strategic objectives in a more efficient and coherent way.

Cooperation with industry is one of NSPA’s major strengths and enables us to develop state-of-the-art solutions and source the latest technologies for the Alliance. To successfully deliver these current and future capabilities for NATO and Allies, and gain access to the latest developments, NSPA engages and works closely with industry at different stages of the acquisition and sustainment cycles. We also organise ‘industry days’ by nation or by specific capability or domain to foster engagement with the private sector and brief companies on our procurement processes, opportunities and regulations.

An in-flight USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft of the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) initiative fleet.
Credit: NSPA

Cooperation among European organisations and institutions is also equally important. The current security environment challenges us to be more efficient, effective and responsive. We are stronger together, as partners.

“It is by leveraging our synergies that we will be able to build collective strength.”

In December 2023, I hosted an unprecedented trilateral meeting between NSPA, the European Defence Agency (EDA), and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). Our meeting focused on navigating the evolving security landscape and fortifying joint initiatives to optimise use of resources and enhance complementarity.

Our candid exchange focused on the impact of the current security environment on our respective roles and missions. We delved into strategic discussions aimed at identifying synergies and areas of collaboration. The emphasis lay on identifying common challenges and unlocking opportunities for strengthened cooperation. We also discussed pathways to bolster collaboration and coordination, addressing concerns regarding potential competition and overlapping capabilities, and identifying objectives for unified messaging when engaging with common stakeholders.

This meeting represented a step forward as we leverage past successes and continue to join forces towards enhanced cooperation, reinforcing our commitment to enabling and supporting nations across Europe and within the Alliance.

As NSPA embarks on a new year marked by increasingly urgent requirements, nations will continue to benefit from working together to jointly design and invest in common capabilities. Together, we will reinforce the Alliance’s industrial capacities, particularly in Europe, to tackle current challenges and support NATO’s deterrence, as we look forward to the end of global conflicts. This is where NSPA relevance to the Alliance is strongest.

Stacy Cummings