WASHINGTON — German lawmakers today passed a €100 billion (U.S. $107 billion) defense budget boost, initiating a major spending spree over several years that is expected to include seven new P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance planes in addition to five copies ordered last year.
The bill to establish a special fund for Germany’s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, passed parliament by a vote of 593-80, with seven abstentions. Together with the country’s regular defense budget of roughly €50 billion, the money is meant to get Berlin to spend an average of 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense over five years — a fiscal target set for NATO members.
The vote makes good on a push announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in late February to boost Germany’s defenses following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Defense officials have said they want to use the extra money to reverse deep cuts made to Germany’s military during the post-Cold War period, when a conflict in Europe involving Russia appeared unlikely.
Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht called the special fund’s passage “historic” for its unprecedented value and scope. “A lot will change in the coming weeks and months, as the measure has to be implemented, and it must arrive quickly,” she said, adding that her ministry’s acquisition policies would have to be “considerably changed.”
In a statement on Friday, the Defence Ministry said it would forward a bill to that effect to lawmakers before the summer recess, which begins in early July. Officials did not respond to an email seeking information about the timeline for getting individual spending requests approved by the Bundestag’s defense and budget committees, though the panels have been known in previous years to greenlight billions of euros worth of equipment spending in a last-minute push before the break.
A longstanding list of equipment priorities, attached to the special fund legislation, is expected to serve as a blueprint for new investments, according to German defense blog Augen Geradeaus.
The document includes a number of Foreign Military Sales transactions with the United States, including the purchase of 35 F-35 fighter jets and a heavy-lift helicopter program, which Boeing won this week with its Chinook.
Defense officials also have set their sights on seven of the company’s P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft, the office of Enak Ferlemann, a lawmaker with the Christian Democratic Union party, told Defense News. German news website Nord24 was first to report the potential purchase.
Ferlemann’s district includes Nordholz Naval Air Base, where the country would base the planes.
The list of investment priorities attached to the special fund bill doesn’t mention P-8s by name, saying only that an unspecific number of additional planes in the maritime-surveillance category should be bought. Defense officials did not return a request for comment on Friday afternoon.
German lawmakers last year approved the purchase of five Poseidons for about $1.6 billion. Officials want the planes for their advanced submarine-hunting capabilities, as Germany’s existing fleet of P-3C Orion aircraft is on its last legs.
Allied European navies in the United Kingdom and Norway also operate the planes, raising the prospect of interoperability when keeping tabs on Russian submarines in the North Sea and North Atlantic, in particular.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.