German Defense Minister Struck has said Berlin will honor its commitment to purchase 180 Eurofighter aircraft, ending speculation Germany might renege on its order due to budgetary constraints.
Coming soon to Germany.
Under the catchphrase 'Bundeswehr in Transformation,' the German defense minister is currently engineering the biggest overhaul of the German armed forces in their 55-year history.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck
Struck (photo) aims to radically change the face of the monolithic Cold War standing army in an effort to get in shape for Germany’s new security challenges such as anti-terror operations, conflict prevention and nation building.
On Tuesday, Struck said military procurement and the pan-European Eurofighter aircraft project are essential elements of the reform drive. "Germany sticks to its order of 180 Eurofighter jets," Struck said. "The first aircraft will come into operation this month. We will also ask parliament for the completion of this aircraft with modern air-to-air missile systems when they will be available in 2006."
Ambitious military shopping spree
Struck thus ended speculation that Germany might cut the most expensive arms deal in its history and reduce the order to 140 aircraft due to budgetary constraints.
Struck also announced that 60 wide-body A400M (photo) transport planes would be purchased as planned, as part of a European defense effort to boost military transport capabilities.
Military plane Airbus A 400 M
The funding of the ambitious military projects, however, still remains unclear. The Eurofighter is expected to cost the government €18 billion ($22 billion), while the A400M planes amount to €8.3 billion.
The defense minister’s military shopping plans include major investment in satellite-based military communication and surveillance as well as upgrading the equipment of soldiers on the ground.
Keeping up with partners
In addition, Struck also announced investments in the German armed forces of more than €20 billion, which he hopes to finance by major troop reductions and scrapping outdated military hardware.
Projects that are to be shelved include purchasing a new navy helicopter and a new pilotless surveillance drone also for the Navy. All in all, Struck hopes to be able to spend up to €26 billion in new armaments, enabling Germany to keep up with its partners in NATO and Europe.
"The Bundeswehr is on the right path to reach three essential goals," Struck said. "First of all, we will create modern structures in the military. Secondly, we will make contributions to the overall transformation of NATO and the European defense effort, and thirdly, we will provide planning security for Germany’s arms industry and for all of our Bundeswehr staff."
National defense not sidelined
Germany’s highest-ranking officer, Inspector General Wolfgang Schneiderhahn, defended the defense minister on Tuesday against accusations the new Bundeswehr would neglect national defense.
Germany’s opposition conservatives have claimed the transformed armed forces would be unable to react efficiently to national emergencies and in the case of a terror attack at
home. They want to create a U.S.-style national guard to boost home defense.
"These tasks have been taken very seriously by our planners," Schneiderhahn said. "But we don’t need structures requiring the storage of enormous amounts of hardware for potential mobilization which would be too costly to maintain and upgrade."
The defense minister’s spending spree, experts say, can only materialize when the planned reductions of 35,000 troops are really carried out, and the funds freed up by the reforms remain in the armed forces. Struck is confident he will be able to defend his budget against attempts by Finance Minister Hans Eichel to cut government spending wherever possible.