The criticism of Christine Lambrecht does not stop. Her company rejects reports of a crisis in the procurement of the F-35. But in view of the Swiss conditions for the stealth aircraft, it’s time to shake your head. What’s the matter with the secretary of defense?
Anger from the Defense Committee leaked out. It shows that something seems to be going wrong with the Scholz administration’s prestige armaments project, the purchase of the US F-35 fighter jets. The Büchel Air Base might not be able to be rebuilt in time and the project harbored one or the other risk, it was suddenly said.
The CDU took this as an opportunity to question the F-35 procurement itself and to point out the allegedly better decision by Christine Lambrecht’s predecessor at the head of the Ministry of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, for the Super Hornet F-18.
The unfortunate fact is that no one really knows which decision would have been the better one. Advantages of the F-18 are that it is cheaper and available on the market as a proven and mature product. But it is also a generation older and, despite modernization, a fourth-generation fighter aircraft, like the Eurofighter.
The argument against the F-35 is that it is a single-engine aircraft, like the equally sophisticated “Starfighter” once was, which considerably increases the risk of a crash. And furthermore, that even after 15 years of development, the usage quota, i.e. the state of the machines, has not yet exceeded the 50 percent mark.
dr Joachim Weber is a Senior Visiting Fellow in the area of strategic foresight and risk analysis at the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (CASSIS) at the University of Bonn. Before moving to CASSIS, he researched geostrategic and security policy relevant developments in the Far North in the Arctic project of the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel (2017-2019). Weber is co-founder of the Kavoma (disaster prevention and management) course at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (2006 ff.). In addition, Weber held various positions in various authorities, such as the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (BMWi).
But one should also see that this applies in one way or another to most highly complex armaments projects. Greetings from the A 400 M transporter and the NH 90 helicopter. Not only the leap in avionics, stealth properties etc. speaks in favor of the F-35, but also the fact that most of the militarily relevant NATO and European nations have opted for this ultra-modern aircraft model.
Including even neutral and accurate calculating Switzerland, to which we will come back later. The decision for the F-35 is a decision that could definitely be made and should not be dismissed as wrong from the outset. The F-35 has much more potential than the competitor model, but also more risks.
However, the gradually leaking conditions of the procurement, which once again raise the question of whether all actors in political Berlin are still able to meet the responsibility entrusted to them, are somewhat incomprehensible. The German taxpayer is to raise ten billion euros for a complete package with service, maintenance and later upgrades for 35 machines. That sounds expensive, and it is, because we’re talking about a unit price of 286 million euros per flying unit.
Once again, before the German Michel goes black, a look over the garden fence could help: Switzerland placed its order on the way last year, and Bern bought an almost identical package in terms of size and duration. Of course, the Confederation shelled out almost exactly six billion Swiss francs for its 36 machines, which comes to around 167 million euros per unit for exactly the same F-35 version “off the peg”. But Switzerland can procurement.
Berlin, on the other hand, seems to be once again specializing in shoveling its taxpayers’ “stupid German money” out the window with coal shovels. How is that possible, and who is negotiating something like this for Germany? Should the government in Berlin have committed itself so blindly to its F-35 “booms” that they are willing to pay any price just to save the great success for the shop window?
Some sources from the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) speak for this, which of course does not seem to be completely innocent in this devastating deal: The tornado is 40 years old, from the perspective of the Air Force, the sheer necessity is now forcing you to close your eyes and through, you want have the award signed and sealed in 2022.
The consequences for German industry are devastating. Not only is the overpriced price ridiculous, Berlin has apparently also completely dispensed with the so-called “off set”, i.e. the usual compensation orders for its own industry, while Bern has ensured that almost 50 percent of the order value goes back to Switzerland through participation and counter-deals .
Worst of all: Maintenance and upgrades of the F-35 are to be carried out exclusively by the US armaments companies, so that Germany has neither an insight nor even a share in the technology (“Intellectual Property”, IP) of the aviators and thus an entire generation cycle technologically left behind. And so Germany remains completely dependent on the goodwill of the USA, which has lasted 25 years, for maintenance.
But what if Trump returns or another figure of this provenance? In view of such a negotiation result, almost all experts who can show a little insight into armament matters in this country are once again bewildered.
A few weeks ago, Minister Lambrecht called her generals together in a booth and urged them to be loyal to their decisions, probably for good reason, because there is a lot more grumbling in the Bundeswehr, which nine months after the start of the war in Ukraine still has no prospect of there is an imminent replenishment of their empty ammunition depots.
How about loyalty? The minister also took an oath of office to “avoid harm to the German people”. It probably needs to be remembered.