VMinister of Defense Christine Lambrecht (SPD) sees good chances of procuring the American F-35 combat aircraft for the Air Force in good time and at a reasonable cost. Lambrecht and the ministry rejected warnings of significant risks in the procurement and approval of the jet on Monday.
Corresponding reports on alarming letters from the Ministry of Defense were classified as follows: In a current submission, the Bundestag was only informed about which aspects of the project were still unclear and how the consequences and the likelihood of problems should be mitigated. A spokesman said: “There is no crisis. There is currently no problem with the planning, not even with the infrastructure.”
Nevertheless, both the minister and Armament State Secretary Benedikt Zimmer and the Inspector of the Air Force, Ingo Gerhartz, considered it necessary on Monday to explain the letter to budget politicians in the traffic light coalition, from which the “Bild am Sonntag” had initially quoted. In the letter accompanying a financing proposal, a risk description is made, including the statement that the schedule is “highly ambitious” and “delays and additional financial requirements until the infrastructure is completed must therefore be expected”.
Three times as expensive as European Eurofighters?
About 800 examples of the American-made aircraft have been produced to date and have also been exported to several European countries. Germany plans to buy 35 fighter jets. A Swiss order of a similar magnitude was estimated at around seven billion euros, for the Bundeswehr around 8.5 billion had been estimated in the summer. In the meantime, it is already at almost ten billion euros. This would make the F-35 about three times more expensive than the European Eurofighter.
However, the costs include shares of ammunition, training and maintenance in different configurations, making it difficult to give precise figures. However, the householders demand clarification before they agree to the project and release the money. The first machines should be available for training in America from 2026 and in Germany from 2027.
Comprehensive clarification required
The budget spokesman for the Greens, Sebastian Schäfer, said after the briefing: “The Ministry of Defense must urgently and comprehensively address the self-predicted risks in flight certification and infrastructure. The question of infrastructure at the Büchel site in particular will occupy us intensively over the next few years. Before a parliamentary decision can be made, open questions, in particular on national value creation and price developments, must be answered.”
The Ministry of Defense was also exposed to critical questions from the SPD parliamentary group. MP Andreas Schwarz, SPD rapporteur on the budget committee for the defense budget, told the “Bild am Sonntag”: “It is unacceptable that Parliament is only now learning about the problems.” want to get risks under control. “We are currently trying to get rid of responsibility,” says Schwarz.
There was a lack of understanding among members of the traffic light coalition as to why such a risk assessment and its political classification were only transmitted shortly before the parliamentary approval of hundreds of millions of euros for the project. The funds are part of the 100 billion euros in special spending that the Bundestag approved for upgrading the Bundeswehr after the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24. Contrary to what was hoped, almost none of the money has been spent; the F-35 transfer can help improve the annual balance of spending.
In addition to the purchase and the complex approval of the aircraft, their accommodation must also be planned and built. This applies above all to the Büchel site, where those aircraft are stationed that ensure nuclear sharing for Germany.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently wrote in an article for the magazine Foreign Affairs: “Germany is sticking to its commitment within the framework of the NATO agreements on nuclear sharing, including through the purchase of F-35 fighter jets with dual operational capability. “
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