Germany and France Propose Drastic Defense Cutbacks

 - July 16, 2010, 12:57 AM
On show last month at ILA in Berlin is one of the Luftwaffe’s IAI Malat Herons, operated by Rheinmetall under contract. Planned cuts may see more of these acquired and the end of German interest in the EADS Talarion. (D. Donald)

Armed forces in Europe are bracing themselves for severe cutbacks as governments tackle budget deficit problems. The scale of the cuts is evident in a couple of proposals made public last week. Germany’s defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has tabled a plan that saves €9.3 billion ($11.7 billion) in the long term, with current fleets and acquisition programs hit hard. On the table are reducing the Eurofighter EF2000 buy by 37 aircraft, and that of the A400M transport by seven. NH90 procurement would be cut to 80 from 122, and only half of the 80 Tiger attack helicopters would be bought. Of the current fleets, it is proposed that the Luftwaffe would retire 100 of its 185 Tornados, and that the Marineflieger should withdraw the Sea King. The proposal also advises against pursuing the EADS Talarion MALE UAV for the SAATEG requirement, in favor of further orders for the interim IAI Heron currently operated by Rheinmetall under a service contract in Afghanistan.

France, too, has outlined a proposed series of defense cutbacks intended to save €3.5 billion ($4.4 billion). Major procurement programs such as the Rafale and A400M are left largely untouched, but the plan proposes to put the Mirage 2000D upgrade program on hold, and shelve the acquisition of a multi-role tanker/transport fleet to replace the Boeing C-135FR. The UK is also expecting to implement large cuts in its Strategic Defence and Security Review, publication of which is due in October.