Billions for European Wars

BERLIN | | frankreich

BERLIN (Own report) - The German Defense Minister announced new multi-billion Euro armament projects, aimed at Germany's and the EU's greater independence from the USA. Ursula von der Leyen announced yesterday that the Bundeswehr would purchase the Medium Extended Air Defense System "MEADS" to replace the "Patriot" air defense system. Whereas the "Patriot" system had to be imported entirely from the United States, a consortium with significant German participation will manufacture MEADS. It is estimated to cost about four billion Euros, with another four billion having been already invested. With MEADS, Germany would achieve more "autonomy in security policy," according to a CSU party military policy specialist. The German Navy will also receive four MKS 180 multi-role warships worth around four billion Euros, better suited for waging distant wars more effectively and over more extended periods. Other armament projects, such as a German-French battle tank, serve the consolidation of the EU's arms industries or - as with the "Euro-drone" - are aimed at achieving more independence from the US arms industry. The A 400M Airbus airlifter crash in early May is seen by observers in the context of these efforts to achieve autonomy.

"MEADS" rather than "Patriot"

The Bundeswehr will purchase the Medium Extended Air Defense System or "MEADS," as Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen confirmed yesterday. Because of the financial magnitude and significance for armament policy, the decision is considered to be one of the most important of this legislative period. The costs of this project are estimated to reach around four billion Euros with another four billion - including one billion from Germany - having been already invested. MEADS will be developed by a consortium, which includes the German MBDA subsidiary, based in Schrobenhausen (Bavaria), MBDA Italia and the US Lockheed Martin Corporation. This consortium won out over its US rival, Raytheon, which had offered to sell the Bundeswehr a modernized version of the "Patriot" missile defense system, currently in use. The new system should be ready in 2025, at the latest, when the operational period for the "Patriot" batteries ends.

Autonomous Security Policy

With its decision in favor of MEADS, Berlin is pursuing its efforts to strengthen the German-European arms industry in relationship to its US counterpart. A US company, Lockheed Martin, is involved in the project. Experts considered years ago that, MEADS, the only large-scale transatlantic project, "offers German companies a rare opportunity … to benefit from the technology transfer with the USA in that domain."[1] In comparison to purchasing modernized US "Patriot" batteries, MEADS offers Berlin the chance to produce and further develop modern sensor technology in Germany. Last year, Defense Minister von der Leyen declared this to be the "key technology."[2] The German government is taking considerable risks in expanding German-European autonomy vis à vis the USA in the arms industry. Raytheon's "Patriot" has been field-tested, while MEADS' development remains quite risky. It guarantees, however, an "autonomous security policy," according to defense expert Florian Hahn, CSU.[3]

European Decisions

The efforts to create an arms industry that is as independent as possible from the USA, is another reason for the recent decision to produce a strictly European drone. May 18, German Defense Minister, von der Leyen, and her counterparts from France and Italy signed a declaration of intent to this effect. A study is now to be commissioned - for approx. 60 million Euros - to determine, by the end of 2017, which capabilities the "Euro-Drone" should have. Officially, it is supposed to be "weapons capable." The Bundeswehr specifically demands that combat drones be procured. They should be operational by 2025, at the latest. Until then, the Bundeswehr will temporarily use the (Israeli) "Heron" or (the USA's) "Predator" or "Reaper" drones. However, "Europe's" perspective must be to have its own drones - independently from the United States, von der Leyen declared. "The goal of the Euro-drone is that we can decide by ourselves in Europe on where we deploy the Euro-drone and how we use it," she said.[4] Two more EU nations, Spain and Poland, have already joined the project.

Tanks against Russia

While Berlin is expanding its military-technological autonomy vis à vis the United States, it is simultaneously reinforcing the consolidation of the European arms industries. For example, the tank manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann is considering signing a fusion agreement in mid-July with Nexter, its French counterpart. The merger of these two enterprises was decided in the summer of 2014. Last spring, Paris provided the formal prerequisites for the deal. Both companies are comparable in size and together have an annual turnover of around two billion Euros - with more than 6,000 employees in Germany and France. In Berlin, the fusion had been a source of dispute, out of fear that Paris could prove stronger than the German side in the project. However, now the deal has been approved, not least of all, because France is "much more generous than Germany with arms deliveries to foreign countries beyond the borders of the EU and NATO," according to the business press.[5] Once united, Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann and Nexter would begin developing a new battle tank, which will replace the German Leopard 2. One of the objectives is to keep pace against the newly developed Russian tank, now in the process of realization. Recently, military experts called for procuring depleted uranium rounds to counter the new model of Russian tank. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6])

Higher Perseverance Capability

Berlin also seeks to cooperate militarily with Paris in outer space. As was confirmed by the defense ministry, the German government plans to invest 210 million Euros in financing the French "Composante Spatiale Optique" (CSO) satellite surveillance system. Two of these satellites are already in construction; one will go into operation next year. A third has been planned, for which Berlin seeks to finance two-thirds and, at the same time, insure access to the other two satellites. This is essential to "cover the Bundeswehr's supplementary electro-optical satellite imagery requirements," according to the defense ministry.[7] It remains to be seen, whether also the four MKS 180s multi-role warships, von der Leyen announced yesterday, will also be included in the German-French cooperation. These MKS 180s will cost four billion Euros. For the MKS 180s' development and construction contracts, "companies throughout Europe are eligible to compete."[8] The warship should have the capability of effectively engaging enemy aerial, maritime, and underwater targets, providing aerial protection to other vessels within a range of 20 km (12 miles), be capable of attacking land targets, and engage in amphibious operations. According to the defense ministry, this provides "space for several crews, making it possible to significantly prolong the missions' duration and raise perseverance capabilities."[9]

Showcase Project

Berlin's resolute focus on autonomous German-European arms projects is not only expensive, but already is having deadly consequences. According to reports, engine failure had caused the Airbus A400M military airlifter's crash near Seville in early May, killing four people. Originally, Airbus had wanted to use a Canadian company's field-tested engine. "However, to avoid dependence on overseas manufacturers, the European governments involved in this showcase project favored a native consortium," to later be able to "jointly construct the largest propeller engine of the western world," it was reported.[10] Because the members of this consortium "had never before worked together," serious problems soon developed. However, Berlin insisted - and continues to insist - on maintaining the planning. The future capability of waging wars autonomously, without the United States, is considered essential. The magnitude these European wars of the future will have can be seen in the magnitude of these current arms projects.

[1] Gerrit Wiesemann, Gerhard Hegmann: Struck forciert neues Raketensystem. Financial Times Deutschland 10.02.2005.
[2] Christian Thiels: MEADS - das nächste Milliardengrab? www.tagesschau.de 15.05.2015.
[3] Christoph Hickmann: Bundeswehr setzt auf Flugabwehrsystem "Meads". www.sueddeutsche.de 08.06.2015.
[4] Euro-Drohne soll 2025 fliegen. www.sueddeutsche.de 18.05.2015.
[5] Deutsch-französische Panzerfusion ab Herbst. www.handelsblatt.com 23.04.2015.
[6] See The Renaissance of the West (II).
[7] Startschuss für Euro-Drohne noch in diesem Jahr. www.euractiv.de 31.03.2015.
[8], [9] "Neues Herangehen": Startschuss für Rüstungsprojekte MEADS und Mehrzweckkampfschiff. www.bmvg.de 09.06.2015.
[10] Ulrich Friese, Christian Schubert: Airbus kämpft gegen Zweifel am A400M. www.faz.net 12.05.2015.