Germany leans into Eurofighter with new order of 20 jets

Germany leans into Eurofighter with new order of 20 jets

COLOGNE, Germany — The German government will buy 20 more Eurofighter combat aircraft in addition to 38 already on order, a move intended to bolster the country’s defensive posture while propping up the aerospace industry, according to Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

He made the announcement Wednesday on the opening day of the Berlin Air Show, where Germany’s major contractors are eager to display how tens of billions of extra euros for defense, prompted by Russia’s war against Ukraine, had jolted a sleepy industry from which politicians have traditionally sought a healthy distance.

Now, the 20 new Eurofighters, expected to cost about €2 billion (U.S. $2.2 billion), will help aircraft manufacturer Airbus keep the production line humming “continuously,” Scholz said.

He announced additional “perspectives” on future exports of the jet, made in conjunction with the U.K., Italy and Spain — a reference that some industry officials took to mean yet another sizable tranche is in the offing.

Beside the four core nations, the air forces of Austria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar also have Eurofighters in their fleets. The issue of exports to some Middle Eastern nations with questionable human rights records periodically leads to political flare-ups here and, by extension, to friction with European co-producers less squeamish about such things.

Germany’s newest line vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia is that the monarchy will be allowed to buy more Eurofighters through Britain as the seller.

Airbus is currently working on a tranche of 38 Eurofighters of the Quadriga configuration at a cost of almost $6 billion. The last of those jets is slated for delivery in 2030.

Meanwhile, Germany is involved in a next-generation aircraft under the banner of the French-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System. Whatever type of aircraft that effort ends up producing is meant to see the light of day in 2040, though that date appears to be slipping.

To hedge against additional delays, or even program failure, officials in Germany and France are incrementally souping up their legacy fleets — the Eurofighter in Germany and the Rafale in France — with new capabilities, though leaders have said there is no alternative to FCAS.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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