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Germany sends fighter jets to Indo-Pacific

August 15, 2022

Germany is participating in joint exercises with Australia amid rising tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific. The fighter jets will need to be refueled 200 times en route to the Pacific.

German Eurofighter on the tarmac with pilot inside
The German Luftwaffe is participating in joint exercizes with Indo-Pacific allies in its largest peacetime deploymentImage: Daniel Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

Germany is sending 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia, in one of the German air force's largest peacetime deployments amid rising tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific

The aircraft will participate in the "Pitch Black" training exercise, along with forces from Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. 

"Of course, our current focus is clearly directed towards the east," German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said, referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"But we must also direct our attention toward other regions," she added. 

Six Eurofighter jets took off on Monday from a base in Neuberg an der Donau, in the southeastern German state of Bavaria. Three A330 tankers and four A400M transporters took off from Cologne around 30 minutes prior. 

During the three-day pilots will conduct almost 200 mid-air refueling maneuvers, said German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz. The deployment also includes detours to Japan and South Korea.

German Eurofighter in the air
A 'Eurofighter' aircraft takes off from a German base en route to AustraliaImage: Daniel Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

Since at least 2018, Berlin has committed itself to playing a security role in the Indo-Pacific, as has almost every other major Western power. 

In September 2020, Berlin published its "Indo-Pacific" guideline paper, outlining Berlin's st

"Germany and the EU want to deepen their security engagement in the [Indo-Pacific] region in order to help strengthen the rules-based international order," a German Foreign Ministry statement asserted ahead of Europe's first Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum on February 22, an event overshadowed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine two days later.

In August last year, a German frigate, Bayern, set sail for the Indo-Pacific for the first time in 20 years, docking in 11 countries during its seven-month voyage, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore. It was denied a port visit by China

Exercises not a 'threat' to China 

Gerhartz told reporters that the route taken by the jets will "barely touch" the South China Sea and won't pass through the Taiwan Strait. The two areas are a source of tensions with Beijing.

"The South China Sea, Taiwan - these are obviously the sticking points in the region," Gerhartz said. "We will fly at an altitude of more than 10 kilometers and barely touch the South China Sea, and we will move on international routes."

Gerhartz added that he didn't think Germany was "sending any threatening message towards China by flying to an exercise in Australia."

Australia's ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, said that there is no reason why China should see the exercise as destabilizing.

"We are seeking a region which will be stable, peaceful and prosperous, strategic equilibrium where each country can take their own sovereign choices," Green said.

Tension between China and Western countries has risen in recent weeks following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be part of Chinese territory.

'A sign of solidarity: Taiwanese diplomat Shieh Jhy-Wey

sdi/wmr (Reuters, dpa)