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Defence Industry and Space

EU Aeronautics Industry

The European aeronautics industry develops and manufactures civil and military aircrafts, helicopters, drones, aero-engines and other systems and equipment. It also includes companies that provide support services, such as maintenance and training. The civil branch of the industry constitutes the backbone of the European aerospace and defence ecosystem. It represents 50% of its annual turnover, generating high-skilled jobs and innovation.

Industry profile

Civil aeronautics is one of the most successful EU’s high-tech sectors. European industry is world leader in the production of civil aircraft, including helicopters, aircraft engines, parts and components. It provides 405000 jobs, generates €130 billion revenues and plays a leading role in exports, amounting to €109 billion (in 2019). However, with aircraft production rates cut by one third, the entire aeronautics supply chain has been strongly impacted by the severe drop in air travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The competitiveness of civil aeronautics industry strongly depends on its capacity to innovate in order to deliver ever safer and greener products. Industry spends a sizeable share of its revenues on research and development (R&D), which is reflected in an increasing number of patent applications. R&D expenditure from both industry and governments was estimated at the level of €8bn in 2019.

Although the large aeronautical enterprises are located in a few Member States (in particular in France, Germany, Italy and Spain) the industry is characterised by an extended supply chain and a fabric of dynamic small- and medium- sized enterprises throughout the EU, some of them world leaders in their domain.

What the Commission is doing

The European Commission implements a number of policy actions, to address key issues that impact the aeronautics industry, including those listed below.



The Commission promotes the sustainable competitiveness of European aeronautics industries through several initiatives.

Over the recent years, particular focus has been placed on emerging sectors such as unmanned aircraft (also known as drones).

Read more on unmanned aircraft

The Commission intends also to support industry efforts to mitigate aviation's carbon footprint. Based on the Destination 2050 roadmap, the European aeronautics industry together with other European actors of the aviation sector has recently taken the strong commitment to ensure that air transport in Europe meets Europe 2050 climate’s objectives. This includes the development of zero-emission aircraft based on novel propulsion technologies. Such environmentally sustainable aircraft have huge market potential and may strongly contribute to industry’s future competitiveness in all market segments. In order to federate the efforts required to prepare the aviation market to these new configurations of aircraft the Commission is considering the launch of an Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation.