Europe’s challenged strategic environment has prompted one of the biggest transformations in military posture of recent years, with Germany now meeting NATO’s benchmark for defence spending – and looking to invest more.

Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the western military alliance’s unfaltering support for Kyiv has led to many European nations now considering themselves as in a “pre-war” era.

Indeed, Moscow’s aggression has driven Germany to make rapid strides towards substantially bolstering its armed forces’ capabilities. This means that multiple major acquisitions are currently under way, which will deliver a combined total of almost 240 advanced combat aircraft, surveillance assets and rotorcraft.

German Eurofighters

Source: Jane Schmidt/Bundeswehr

Air force acquisitions are to include a further batch of 38 Eurofighters

“We are spending more on our armed forces this year than ever before,” German defence minister Boris Pistorius says. “And I am working very hard to increase this level of defence spending substantially,” he adds.

Speaking at an Atlantik-Bruecke event held in the nation’s capital on 25 April, Pistorius said the financial action is intended to counter the threat posed by an “authoritarian and warmongering Russia”. Ukraine’s invasion was followed by Berlin announcing a special fund for its Bundeswehr, which has added €100 billion ($107 billion) over previously planned investments.

The war in Ukraine has forced Berlin to “grow up fast in security terms, [and] to take more courageous steps”, Pistorius says. These steps have included its government’s provision of personnel training and weapon systems to Kyiv, including Diehl Defence surface-launched IRIS-T and Raytheon Patriot air-defence missile batteries – it recently pledged to donate a third system of the US-produced defensive equipment.


Other notable donations have included Leopard 2 main battle tanks, examples of which were also freed up for transfer from other nations after concerted lobbying eventually persuaded German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to approve the step.

The German government says the contributions and commitments it has made to Ukraine so far value €28 billion, which puts it as the largest European donor of military aid to Kyiv.

But Berlin has not – so far at least – yielded to pressure to also supply the Ukrainian air force with Taurus stand-off-range cruise missiles. Such a provision would follow the transfer of MBDA SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow weapons already supplied by France and the UK.

Given Germany’s economic might, many had long argued that the nation needed to commit significantly more resources towards strengthening its armed forces.

NATO figures show that Germany’s defence spending equated to just 1.35% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 – a time when its military was supporting the alliance-led mission in Afghanistan, albeit in a strictly non-combat role.

While that fell well short of the alliance’s 2% spending target for member nations, it was a significant increase from only a few years earlier: in 2014, its allocation represented just 1.19% of GDP.

Buoyed by extra funding, Berlin’s level of investment was expected to climb to 1.66% last year, and has now come into line with the NATO objective, which its members had agreed as a goal in 2006.

“The fact that Germany now invests 2% of GDP on defence matters for all allies,” NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on 26 April.

Berlin’s 2023 allocation was estimated at around €68 billion, which would rank it second behind the UK among European NATO spenders by value.

While Stoltenberg notes that two-thirds of the bloc’s 30 European members are expected to hit its spending target this year, NATO cautions: “Allies will need to spend more than 2% on defence if they are to remedy existing shortfalls and meet the demands of a more contested security order.”


In terms of current equipment orders, the German air force is to take delivery of a combined 73 new-build combat aircraft.

This total includes a so-called Tranche 4 acquisition of 38 Eurofighters via Project Quadriga. To replace already-retired Tranche 1 examples, these will comprise 30 single-seaters and eight twin-seaters, to be assembled at Airbus Defence & Space’s Manching site near Munich.

German procurements table
Major German aircraft procurements 
Type On order First delivery
Airbus Helicopters H145M 62  
Boeing CH-47F 60 2027
Eurofighter (Quadriga) 38 2025
Lockheed Martin F-35A 35 2026
NH Industries NH90 (Sea Tiger) 31 2025
Boeing P-8A 8 2024
Bombardier Global 6000 (Pegasus) 3 2027
Total 237  

Under a contract signed in late 2020, the Quadriga jets will be delivered between next year and 2030. New equipment to be provided with the latest model includes an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

Germany also has ordered 35 Lockheed Martin F-35As to replace part of its Panavia Tornado fleet. To be delivered from 2026, the stealth fighters will perform roles including meeting Berlin’s nuclear deterrent commitment to NATO.

The 5-9 June ILA event will be the first Berlin air show to feature the F-35 in the flying display.

Once operational at Buechel air base, the German air force’s F-35As will receive technical support from local industry players including ESG, Lufthansa Technik Defense and Rheinmetall. The last of these also will be involved in central fuselage production in support of the F-35 programme, with work to be undertaken at its Weeze facility.

In addition to those new-build assets, 15 of the Luftwaffe’s in-service Eurofighters are to be modified for electronic warfare (EW) duties. This will see the new EK-model variant gain sophisticated equipment including Saab’s Arexis EW system and Northrop Grumman AGM-88E AARGM anti-radiation missiles.

Eurofighter EK

Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Fifteen in-service Eurofighters will be upgraded to the EK electronic warfare standard

The modified jets will replace the Luftwaffe’s aged Tornado electronic combat and reconnaissance aircraft in service by 2030.

Meanwhile, Germany is conducting an AESA radar upgrade to its existing Eurofighter fleet, with Hensoldt to provide the new sensors for integration by Airbus’s defence unit. The type also is to gain MBDA Brimstone 3 air-to-surface missiles.

Airbus is also trying to encourage the German government to pursue a future Tranche 5 buy of 50 more Eurofighters. This would help the company and its supply chain to bridge the gap until a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme currently being advanced with France and Spain delivers an operational capability from around 2040.


An extra order from Berlin also would help to ensure production continuity while Airbus and its Eurofighter programme partners BAE Systems and Leonardo seek additional export sales.

Underscoring its domestic campaign, Airbus notes that the combat aircraft programme currently sustains around 25,000 jobs in Germany.

Late-March saw the 30th anniversary of the Eurofighter’s debut flight from Manching. The German air force – which earlier this year deployed examples to Lielvarde air base in Latvia as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing commitment – plans to continue operating the multi-role type until beyond 2050.

And in recogntion of another significant anniversary, a Luftwaffe Tornado will appear at ILA in the prototype’s striking white and red livery to mark 50 years since the variable-geometry type made its first flight.

P-8A Germany

Source: Boeing

Deliveries of eight P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft are due to commence later this year

Meanwhile, Germany is bolstering its special mission aircraft capabilities via several further acquisitions. Last November, its BAAINBw federal procurement agency signed a €1.1 billion contract with the US Navy to take three Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). That deal boosts its total commitment for the 737NG-based type to eight examples.

To be delivered from later this year, the heavily modified twinjets will replace the German navy’s Lockheed P-3C Orion fleet, which the nation purchased secondhand from the Netherlands.

The Luftwaffe’s Persistent German Airborne Surveillance System – or Pegasus – signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft fleet is now expected to enter service from 2027, having been delayed.

The defence ministry’s equipment report of early 2024 details a 20-month slippage to the more than €1 billion programme, with costs also having increased by €211 million, or almost 12%.

A trio of adapted Bombardier Global 6000 long-range business jets will be fielded under the project, with prime contractor Hensoldt to provide the platform’s mission equipment.


Source: Hensoldt

Three-strong Pegasus fleet will reinstate Berlin’s lapsed airborne signals intelligence capability

“The first two Pegasus aircraft were used for structural modifications to later accommodate the SIGINT system,” the report says. The airframes will be transferred to Hamburg ahead of work by Lufthansa Technik, and a critical design review activity was approved by the BAAINBw in November 2023.

Although the Pegasus capability was placed under contract in mid-2021, it has been financed from the Bundeswehr’s special defence fund since last year.

The type will close a capability gap which has existed since 2010, when Berlin retired its SIGINT-roled Dassault-Dornier Atlantiques. It originally intended to replace them with high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles via the subsequently axed EuroHawk project with Northrop Grumman and Airbus.

Also in the surveillance sector, Germany will in the future field the Eurodrone system, the development of which is being led by Airbus Defence & Space. A preliminary design review was completed in May 2024.


Source: Airbus Defence & Space

Eurodrone programme will provide 20 systems for use by partners France, Germany, Italy and Spain

Also involving Airbus Defence & Space Spain, Dassault Aviation and Leonardo, the Eurodrone programme will provide 20 systems for use by partners France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Each will include three medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft and two ground control stations (GCS).


First flight should occur in January 2027, with Germany expecting to take its first aircraft and GCS in April 2030. Its aircraft will replace modified Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TPs in operational use.

The Luftwaffe’s fleet of airlifters continues to grow, meanwhile, with Cirium fleets data showing that 44 of its eventual 53 Airbus Defence & Space A400M tactical transports have been received. All but one of its six Lockheed C/KC-130J transports/tankers are also now in use.

Berlin is also investing heavily in its rotorcraft fleet, having signed for 62 Airbus Helicopters H145M light-twins, plus 20 options. These will be acquired in an armed configuration, and serve as a “bridge solution” while the army’s future attack requirements are defined.

The H145Ms will replace the service’s Tiger attack helicopter inventory. The defence ministry early this year announced that it will retire its 55-strong fleet of the Airbus Helicopters-built type by early 2033: six years sooner than previously expected. This move stems from its decision to not participate in a MkII+ upgrade for the European type being performed by France and Spain.

Under a gradual handover of duties, Berlin will reduce its Tiger fleet to 33 aircraft by 2028, and then 24 by 2032.

In another major acquisition effort, the Bundeswehr also will receive 60 Boeing CH-47F Block II transport helicopters, as replacements for its aged Sikorsky CH-53 fleet (see box, below).

And the German military continues to expand its inventory of NH Industries NH90s, with 31 examples of the new Sea Tiger anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare variant on contract. First flown on 30 November 2023 at Airbus Helicopters’ Donauworth site, the new model will be delivered to the German navy between late 2025 and 2030, replacing its Westland Lynx.

Still in its definition phase, meanwhile, is one of the most significant developments to be pursued by Germany since its involvement in multi-national projects like the Tornado and Eurofighter.

Now in Phase 1B, the FCAS project between France, Germany and Spain is due to deliver new platforms to enter service from 2040, including a so-called “sixth-generation” manned fighter. Belgium also holds observer status.

French airframer Dassault is prime contractor for the manned fighter, the next major investment decision on which – whether to advance to a Phase 2 development activity – will be taken in mid-2025.


Chinook acquisition to transform Germany’s rotorcraft operations

Berlin’s years-long search for a new heavy transport helicopter came to an end when it selected Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook to replace its aged Sikorsky CH-53G-series rotorcraft.

It will acquire 60 Block II-standard aircraft via a more than €7 billion ($7.6 billion) deal that was agreed last year, with deliveries to run between mid-2027 and 2032. Operations with its current assets will end in 2030.

The Chinook buy is one of several major purchases being made using the Bundeswehr’s €100 billion special fund: a budgetary boost announced following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Others include taking Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Arrow 3 missile defence system.

Germany initially considered making a direct commercial buy from Boeing, “but the cost got out of hand”, says Colonel Christian Guntsch, advisor to the air chief for the CH-47F procurement at German air force headquarters. Instead, it will acquire its aircraft using the US government’s Foreign Military Sales mechanism – fortuitously agreeing to doing so just months before the US Army also committed to buying the Block II version.

Berlin’s aircraft will be built in a configuration almost identical to the US Army’s, with only three national-specific modifications. These are an intensive care-standard aeromedical evacuation kit, Link 16 communications, and BOS radios, which will enable crew members to speak directly to law enforcement and disaster relief personnel.

German CH-47F

Source: Boeing

First CH-47F is due to arrive at Schonewalde air base in 2027

Other roles will include combat search and rescue, and supporting special operations forces (SOF), and three-quarters of the German fleet will be assigned to supporting NATO missions if required.

The CH-47F will introduce new capabilities, with the aircraft fitted with an in-flight refuelling probe to enable operations to be supported using the Luftwaffe’s Airbus Defence & Space A400M and Lockheed KC-130J tankers.

“This is new for us, and a great co-operation potential,” Guntsch says, pointing to the potential to conduct joint training with France and the USA.

The Luftwaffe does not plan to overlap the use of its current and future models, he notes. “We don’t envision parallel flight operations as the new type comes in. We don’t want to operate a CH-47 like we did a CH-53.”

The air force’s main operating base for the Chinook will be at Schonewalde, where 47 will be assigned. The location also will house two full-flight simulators, plus rear-crew and maintenance trainers.

A further squadron with 12 aircraft will be located at Laupheim, to support SOF tasks. And one aircraft will be assigned to supporting work at the service’s flight-test centre in Manching.

Once deliveries commence, Guntsch says “the first couple will stay in the USA to support certification”, along with providing conversion training for pilots.

Its first aircraft is due to arrive at Schonewalde in the third quarter of 2027, when so-called “delta” training also will commence in Germany.

“There is a three-year period to assure that this capability [update from the CH-53] can be done,” Guntsch notes. “We have to train probably 30 pilots per year through 2030 – that’s a challenge,” he said at Defence iQ’s International Military Helicopter conference in London in late February.

Related files/tables