COLOGNE, Germany — Top German defense officials plan to finish an analysis of the country’s air defense requirements in March, according to a new strategy paper co-written by the defense minister and the chief of staff of the armed forces.
The announcement amounts to a promise of conceptual clarity about where future investments are headed, even though funding decisions will have to wait until a new government takes up the matter sometime after the September national elections.
German officials have been brooding over what to do with the TLVS program, an envisioned next-generation missile defense weapon originally designed to replace the country’s Patriot fleet. The upcoming analysis is expected to show to what degree — if at all — the program still fits into plans to protect deployed formations from missiles and drones.
Also up for a decision between the spring and the summer is the path forward for a new heavy transport helicopter, dubbed STH in German, wrote Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Gen. Eberhard Zorn. By that time, officials hope to have sufficient information from the Pentagon about potential purchases of either the Boeing-made Chinook, or the King Stallion made by Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky.
As in the case of TLVS, the next government will have to try to get the helicopter program across the finish line of parliamentary funding approval.
Plans about the future of two key acquisition programs are embedded in a raft of proposals by the two defense leaders aimed at positioning the Bundeswehr as a powerful policy tool for German leaders as they confront challenges emanating from Russia and China.
On Russia, Kramp-Karrenbauer and Zorn wrote that Moscow is “defining itself as a counter-power to the West,” with massive military modernization of its conventional and nuclear forces.
Germany must follow suit and sharpen its own military prowess by weeding out needless programs and upping overall defense spending, the pair argued, lest Berlin exposes itself to blackmail on the geopolitical stage.
Christian Mölling, a senior defense analyst with the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations, said the new strategy document reflects Kramp-Karrenbauer’s goal of remaining defense minister in the next government.
The publication of a defense-themed manifesto out of Kramp-Karrenbauer’s own agency, presumably without cross-government coordination, presents perhaps the greatest chance of success in advancing reforms across the Bundeswehr, Mölling said.
At the same time, Kramp-Karrenbauer will have to contend with anemic financial trend lines that may make her vision of a more ready and deployable force difficult to realize. As a result, recent government spending decisions bear the imprint of a pure “budgetary logic” rather than a strategic, military calculus, Mölling said.