Interview with Vice Admiral Carsten Stawitzki, National Armaments Director at the German Ministry of Defence.
ESD: What are the most important military aerospace programmes in your country, both current and forthcoming?
Stawitzki: As of now, we are particularly focussing on the EUROFIGHTER and A400M programmes with regard to our fixed wing capabilities.
Once the 143rd German EUROFIGHTER, which is the last one for the time being, is delivered in the second half of 2019, we will return our focus to the phase of in-service use for this complex weapon system. At the same time, we are planning continuous further development of this system, and its operational availability continues to present us with major challenges. We support the ongoing export campaigns and plan to replace the first aircraft of Tranche 1 with new EUROFIGHTERs in due time. This weapon system is also a possible candidate for eventually replacing the TORNADO, which is scheduled to be phased out starting in 2025.
The A400M is also showing us what it means when a complex weapon system is simultaneously in the phases of development, delivering and in-service use. The A400M is already successfully supporting our international operations such as Mali and Afghanistan and is proving its enormous potential. At the moment, it is chiefly used for strategic air transport and – depending on the threat situation – for protected air transport. An A400M is also permanently on twelve-hour alert for medical evacuation operations. Additional flights are conducted for operational suitability tests. The crews are particularly enthusiastic about the A400M’s cockpit design (human-machine interface), available engine power and handling qualities.
At the same time, different variables have posed challenges, for example in starting in-service use of a new system. As a result, the availability of the system is not yet satisfactory. Everyone involved is working to change that.
Nevertheless, negotiating the contract amendment in the process known as “Global Rebaselining” means that we will have a solid basis for further development and delivery planning for this important weapon system in the foreseeable future. Thus, I expect a continual increase in the fleet’s capacity.
In addition and having identified a capability gap in missions abroad with regard to the access to certain places with limited infrastructure we have set up together with France the procurement of a small C 130 J transport fleet, which will be homebased in Evreux. This programme once again proves us to foster the delivery of interoperable and commonly used capabilities to our armed forces shoulder by shoulder with partner nations.
In the area of our rotary wing capabilities as of now the multinational European NH 90 and TIGER programmes serve as the main basis, together with our ageing “working horse”, the CH-53 G.
To replace the latter, we officially started an open tender for a future heavy transport helicopter in spring this year.
For the NH90, we are preparing a retrofit programme addressing more than 50 requirements to improve the capabilities of this weapon system for future scenarios. These retrofit improvements will be implemented in a national and international context in the next decade.
As far as the TIGER programme is concerned, we have commenced the multinational midlife upgrade programme “TIGER MK III” in cooperation with France and Spain. We expect the deliverance of the upgraded helicopters starting in mid-2020.
ESD: What is the focus of the forthcoming programmes?
Stawitzki: While the ongoing projects already bear witness to intensive European cooperation, it is important to consistently put the lessons identified from these programmes into practice and continue to increase the level of cooperation with all possible partners. Our aim is to refrain from taking separate national approaches to future cooperative programmes and instead to consistently collaborate on meeting the challenges involved in planning, delivery and especially operation of the systems in these complex programmes as the in-service support has to be assured for decades.
The programmes for the Next-Generation Weapon System (NGWS) in a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and for the Eurodrone are pointing us in the right direction.
Based on the High Level Common Operational Requirements Document signed in 2018, we are now initially cooperating with France to finalise the first steps in designing and developing the FCAS, which will be more than a mere replacement for the Eurofighter and Rafale. We are in discussions with other countries with France as the lead nation in the role of a caretaker in this regard. In terms of the industry, Dassault and Airbus will play key roles in designing, developing, producing and maintaining the system, in close association and involvement with other industrial partners.
The Eurodrone is a programme we are advancing with France, Spain and Italy to develop and procure an unmanned aircraft system for aerial imaging surveillance and reconnaissance from medium altitudes down to the depth of operations. The capabilities for long-term intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) are to be supplemented with the ability to engage stationary and mobile point targets. This programme is a significant step forward towards the development of a European capability in this operational area. The programme is led by the multinational armaments agency OCCAR’s location in Hallbergmoos, Germany. The main industrial contractor is Airbus D&S with the support of Dassault and Leonardo.
ESD: What role does Europe play in these programmes?
Stawitzki: The Eurodrone receives support from the EU through the European Defence Fund (EDF) and is to present further opportunities for European integration through use in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Following completion of the definition study at the end of 2018, the industry is currently preparing an offer, which is expected in mid-2019. Development and qualification are scheduled for completion as of 2025, meaning that the first aircraft will probably be available starting in 2026.
ESD: What share of your procurement funding is invested in military aerospace R&T, and what are you focussing on?
Stawitzki: In 2018, the German Federal Ministry of Defence invested a total of €61.5M in R&D activities in the field of military aerospace. These activities range from applied basic research to system and solution-oriented studies. They are primarily geared towards identifying, investigating and achieving the technical maturity of technologies:
- For the participation of unmanned aerial systems in general air traffic
- For innovative propulsion systems for the Bundeswehr’s aircraft
- For the implementation of a future aerial combat system
- To improve rotary aircraft systems
- For satellite-based air-ground imaging reconnaissance
- To protect space infrastructure
These activities will still be points of focus for the next few years.
ESD: Which of these activities are being carried out in international partnerships, and who are your partners?
Stawitzki: We aim to implement a large portion of our R&D activities in cooperation with international partners. Current projects include:
- Investigating technologies for the participation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in general air traffic within the framework of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in cooperation with Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK
- Joint studies on rotary aircraft with the US
- Analysing innovative technologies for the further development of aerial combat systems in cooperation with the countries in the European Technology Acquisition Programme (ETAP): France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the UK
- Space-related activities, currently in cooperation with Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the US.
The questions were asked by Peter Bossdorf.