Germany to deepen military ties with EU allies

Germany and France plan to set up a joint fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130J military planes. [Charlie Jackson/Flickr]

Germany will move forward this week with plans to set up a joint fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes, defence ministry sources said on Monday (13 February).

Those and several other initiatives with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic are part of a broader drive to expand European defence cooperation to be announced at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, the sources said.

MEPs urge EU countries to boost defence cooperation ‘in times of external crisis’

In light of the new fragile status quo in international politics, MEPs passed yesterday (09 February) a resolution urging member states to show greater political will to cooperate in the defence field.

The agreements come as Germany and other NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO’s target of devoting 2% of gross domestic product to defence spending.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who last week said US demands for greater burden-sharing were “fair”, will sign an expanded declaration of intent for a joint C-130J fleet with France, a plan first floated in October, the sources said.

German minister backs European 'defence union'

Germany’s defence minister called for a European “defence union” on Thursday (8 September) during a visit to the Baltic state of Lithuania, where Berlin is preparing to lead a battle group of about 1,000 troops as a deterrence against neighbouring Russia.

The declaration calls for Germany to buy four to six Lockheed planes from the U.S. government and pool them with France’s fleet. France is buying four C-130Js from Lockheed and could purchase several additional aircraft in coming years, according to an additional source familiar with the programme.

A Lockheed spokeswoman referred questions to Germany and France but said the company looked forward to supporting those countries’ airlift needs.

Germany will also sign a declaration of intent to join a European multinational fleet of Airbus tankers that is led by the Netherlands and already includes Luxembourg.

If Belgium and Norway also join the group, the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) could expand to cover 8,800 flight hours a year, according to documents provided to German lawmakers last year. That would equate to about eight tankers.

The ministry said last year it could spend up to €1 billion in coming years for use of new Airbus planes that would be bought for the joint fleet.

France leading the campaign for EU military HQ

France and Germany both support the idea of creating a European military headquarters, but Paris has the most to gain from the project. EURACTIV France reports.

The planes would be based at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands and at a German military base at the Cologne-Bonn airport, the sources said.

Germany will also sign an expanded defence cooperation agreement with Norway that already includes procurement plans for submarines and missiles, as well as joint training, logistics and maintenance efforts.

There will also be declarations of intent for joint training and deployments of land forces with the Czech Republic and Romania, the source said.