The Budget Committee of the German Bundestag has approved more than €5Bn for the procurement of 38 Tranche 4 EUROFIGHTER aircraft, also known as the QUADRIGA project.
The new aircraft, which will replace the Air Force’s first batch of EUROFIGHTERs, will be equipped with a new AESA radar, among other things. Four aircraft will also to serve as test and trial platforms. According to experts, this will provide experience for the use of the aircraft as a platform for electronic warfare. The release of the procurement budget was considered to be safe after the Bundestag had already authorised Airbus in summer to procure so-called long-range parts for aircraft production. According to an Airbus spokesperson, the project will enable production capacity in Germany to be maintained until 2030.
The Bundestag’s decision comes at a favourable time for Airbus, as the company must submit its bid in response to the Swiss requirement for a new fighter aircraft by 18 November. In addition to the EUROFIGHTER, the RAFALE, the F-35 and the F-18 are contenders. The Swiss procurement authority armasuisse expects to receive bids from all manufacturers.
It is understood that Airbus will offer the Swiss an aircraft in the same configuration as the QUADRIGA version that the German Air Force will receive. Should Bern choose the German aircraft, this could bring advantages in terms of joint spare parts procurement or training with the Luftwaffe. As reported, in case the EUROFIGHTER turns out as preferred bid in Switzerland, the German Government made further offers to Switzerland, beyond the military arena.
According to armasuisse, the total benefit of each system will be determined after receipt of the offers. The results and the risk analysis will then be summarised in evaluation reports to be forwarded to the Ministry of Defence in Bern. The selection decision will then be made by the Swiss Government, namely the Federal Council, in the second quarter of next year. In addition to Switzerland, Finland also intends to procure new aircraft to replace the F-18 jets currently in use. Airbus is also in the running with the EUROFIGHTER. Observers expect competitors to submit bids next year.
The next steps in the Luftwaffe’s elderly TORNADO fighter-bomber replacement effort appear to be still open at the moment. Experts anticipate that a decision may not be taken until the next legislative period.
Juergen Hensel and Lars Hoffmann