German trade unions and aerospace industry bodies have continued to up their pressure on the country’s government to commit to a new order of Eurofighter combat aircraft and secure thousands of jobs.
At present, Germany’s final Tranche 4 aircraft from its 38-unit Quadriga purchase will be delivered in 2030, while high-rate production of the New Generation Fighter being developed alongside France and Spain through the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme is unlikely to start much before 2040.
A ‘Week of Action’ concluded on 15 November with a rally at the Manching site of Eurofighter consortium member Airbus Defence & Space.
Speaking at the event in front of 3,000 employees, Thomas Pretzl, chairman of the general works council of Airbus Defense & Space, said: “The Eurofighter creates opportunities for Germany and literally ensures more security.
“The resulting production gap from 2030 must be closed today. Otherwise, it will lead to the loss of expertise and strategic capabilities along the entire Eurofighter value chain and endanger future European programmes such as FCAS.”
IG Metall is calling on Berlin to honour pledges to not order any more Lockheed Martin F-35s and to commit to the evolution of the Eurofighter.
“If Germany wants to continue to be involved in military aircraft construction within the European framework, we must now build the industrial bridge to the future,” adds Michael Schoellhorn, president of Germany’s BDLI industry association and chief executive of Airbus Defence & Space.
He says the country must commit to a Tranche 5 buy and the aircraft’s future development through the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) upgrade during the current legislative period running until 2025.
“We have to give our highly qualified employees at more than 120 companies throughout Germany a reliable perspective – or we will lose our competence in combat aircraft construction,” he states.
“A performance-enhanced Eurofighter is the necessary technological and production bridge to FCAS for the entire supply chain.”
Speaking at the Dubai air show, Michael Schreyogg, chief programme officer at MTU Aero Engines, a partner in the Eurojet consortium that build’s the jet’s EJ200 engines, said: “We need the evolution of Eurofighter under the LTE to bridge the technology gap to FCAS.
”It is the natural successor to the [German air force’s Panavia] Tornados – we definitely have to avoid buying more F-35s because we have not taken a decision on LTE.”
Industry’s message to the government is that an order for 50 needs to be placed in 2024 “and we will push them really hard on this,” he adds.
Airbus Defence & Space has stressed to the German government that a contract needs to be signed in late 2024 or early 2025 before the Federal election puts everything on hold.
Privately, company leaders appear confident that the administration understands the situation and remains committed to the programme. An agreement on the scope of the LTE – which also requires sign-off from the governments of Italy, Spain and the UK – is also thought to be likely.
Less clear, however, is whether Germany’s coalition government will cave in to pressure from its partners and permit the export of additional Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia via the UK.
“They are in a coalition so it is difficult to take this decision but the understanding is definitely there – and the implications of not doing it are also clear,” says Schreyogg.
“I think we will eventually get there but pressure is good. Besides, the world has changed – you need more friends than enemies these days.”