Friday, November 04, 2011

Out of the public eye

While much of the focus on things German in the last few days has been on Frau Merkel, back home things have been far from happy, particularly on the military front. Rather than lining up serried ranks of storm troopers, ready to goosestep over the borders, Merkel's administration has been trimming hard on the military capacity.

Already, the size of the army has been reduced to 170,000 troops, following then end of national service for school leavers. Now for the chop are a goodly number of the troubled A400M transport, the numbers of which are to be reduced from 60 to 53.

The number of Eurocopter Tiger UHT combat helicopters has been halved to 40 and the number of NH90 transport helicopters is also being cut by 40. Germany ordered 80 NH90s in 2000, and a further 42 in June 2007.

Overall, a 20-percent reduction in the defence budget is being sought and, like the UK, Germany is making deep cuts. Also to go is a Tornado fighter-bomber wing, two Transal airlift wings, one transport helicopter regiment, one combat helicopter wing and a naval aviation unit.

Another casualty is the Eurofighters. With a total of 143 aircraft already ordered, there is now no chance of any further orders.

As regards the A400M, Airbus has also been told by the French government that it will not take delivery of the aircraft it has ordered, starting in 2013 "unless Airbus improves the terms of a maintenance contract for the planes". This, though, is seen as a back-door way of slowing down deliveries in order to deal with a major budget shortfall.

Further to add to the woes of Airbus, the South African government is suing it for the return of R2.9 billion for eight aircraft, ordered in 2005 but still undelivered.

The only good news on the horizon for defence contractors is the final stage of the Indian competition for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, for which Eurofighter and the French Rafale are bidding. Purchase of the Eurofighter option would make India a bigger operator of the type than Germany.

However, when Germany has Frau Merkel as a secret weapon, who needs Eurofighters?