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Germany joins European tanker project, signs transport deal with France

16 February 2017
Germany has joined Belgium and Norway in a European effort to jointly buy Airbus A330 tanker aircraft, among a series of German co-operation agreements signed in Brussels on 16 February. Source: AirTanker

Catalysed both by US pressure on the allies to spend more on their defence, and by Berlin's political desire to strengthen Europe's own military capabilities, Germany signed off on a quartet of new multination equipment and capability initiatives on 15 February.

"Germany is pushing ahead with co-operation," its defence ministry announced when releasing details of the initiatives, signed in the margins of a NATO ministers' meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

As one German diplomatic source noted prior to the announcements, "we have to work on our shortfalls and that means investing in new material. The [German army] needs to be able to do crisis management in terms of collective defence."

The new memoranda of intent entails beefing up Germany's air transport capabilities and submarine fleet and expanding its anchor role as a "framework nation" by boosting structured training and exercises with two allies.

The first accord will create a German-French air transport unit of C-130J aircraft, consisting of 4-6 German aircraft and up to eight from France. The accord includes provision for a training facility - probably in Évreux - with all falling into place by 2021 when Germany's ageing fleet of C-160 aircraft reach the end of their life cycle. The Bundestag is expected to give its blessing to the arrangement in the first quarter of 2019.

This is complemented by the second accord, which lays out Germany's intention to join the multirole tanker transport (MRTT) fleet programme. Sponsored by the European Defence Agency (EDA), the MRTT project will cover a multination purchase and flight-hour sharing of up to eight A330 tankers. Germany said it will acquire a "flight hour contingent equivalent to a requirement of five aircraft" - 5,500 annual flight hours - and thus joins Belgium and Norway in participating in the programme.

Germany's third accord formalises the already announced plan to jointly develop and procure with Norway six submarines and co-operation on the Naval Strike Missile (NSM).

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