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GÖTTINGEN, Germany — The German armed forces has shortlisted the CH-53K from Sikorsky and the CH-47F Chinook from Boeing as potential successors to its aging fleet of CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters, a spokesman for the German Air Force confirmed.

A selection should be made by the end of this year, the spokesman said, but added there is currently no favorite.

A military aviation strategy paper published by the German Defense Ministry last week stated that the conclusion of a contract is expected for 2018 and helicopter deliveries should start in 2022. According to the paper, the multirole helicopter should increase the air mobility of the ground forces and contribute to medical evacuation, the support of special forces and to personnel recovery missions.

The Air Force spokesman said he expected 40 to 70 helicopters to be procured.

According to a status report of the Bundeswehr in December, the Air Force had 75 CH-53s in stock. This number is to be reduced to 64, and 40 of these are being converted to the improved variant GA. Germany had acquired 112 CH-53s starting in the 1970s.

The Defense Ministry strategy paper highlights that a next-generation weapon system (NextGenWS), complementary to the Typhoon  Eurofighter, will be developed as successor to the Tornado, which is specialized for ground attack. The NextGenWS might be unmanned, manned or optionally manned, the paper states. A more precise definition will be carried out after further analysis.

In order to preserve the warfare capabilities of the Luftwaffe, the NextGenWS should enter service no later than when the Tornado is taken out of operations. According to current planning, the aircraft will fly until the middle of the next decade, but a decision might be made this year about extending the lifetime of the Tornado into the mid-1930s.

Also in planning is a so-called future combat air system (FCAS), which the ministry describes as a "system-of-systems." It should incorporate the capabilities of existing aircraft, such as Eurofighter, Tornado and the combat helicopter Tiger, but also future weapon systems, such as a new medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft and the NextGenWS.

The Defense Ministry intends to define conceptual ideas and operational requirements for an FCAS and a NextGenWS in 2016. These are to serve as a basis for multilateral cooperation and the examination of common requirements and technological feasibility.

According to the paper, the realization of the NextGenWS and the FCAS has to be made with partner nations in a European context, because a purely national approach to develop weapon systems of this complexity is deemed impossible. The ministry wants to initiate a dialogue in Europe soon on common objectives, lines of development and options for action.

Email: lhoffman@defensenews.com

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