STUTTGART, Germany — The German Air Force has sent a fleet of aircraft around the world for its first-ever deployment to the Indo-Pacific region, a move meant to demonstrate its operational capability during two regional exercises and to show solidarity with its allies there.
Six Eurofighter jets — painted with the flags of Germany, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, and Japan — left Neuburg Air Base Monday afternoon followed by four A400M multirole aircraft, and three A330 multirole tanker transport aircraft. The goal is to reach Singapore within 24 hours, with a pilot change taking place in Abu Dhabi. Upon arrival in Singapore, the aircraft will be transferred to Darwin, Australia, ahead of the biennial Pitch Black exercise taking place Aug. 19 to Sept. 9.
“We want to demonstrate that we can be in Asia within a day,” said Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, the air service’s chief of staff.
During the Pitch Black exercise, the German air force Eurofighters will practice air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks and defense while in larger formations with allied and partner fleets, according to the Luftwaffe. Once Pitch Black has concluded, the aircraft will also participate in the Royal Australian Navy’s Kakadu exercise, to be held Sept. 12-26. There, the Luftwaffe assets will help to protect naval vessels from the air, per the service.
Following the two exercises, the German air force fleet will train with the Singapore air force, and sub-fleets will also visit Japan and South Korea. Despite recent announcements that Germany will procure the U.S.-made F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, a Luftwaffe spokesperson told Defense News that there are currently no plans to discuss F-35 interoperability with Tokyo or Seoul, both F-35 foreign military sales (FMS) customers as well.
The Rapid Pacific 2022 deployment shows that Germany “is also thinking of security beyond Europe,” the nation’s defense ministry said in a tweet Monday.
Germany’s first deployment to the Indo-Pacific is intended to reinforce alliances across the region, Air Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz told Defense News last October. The air deployment follows the August 2021 deployment of the German Navy’s “Bayern” frigate, which spent six months at sea and stopped at 12 ports on its route.
Germany and its NATO allies are increasingly turning toward the Indo-Pacific, even as they face challenges on the European continent with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. NATO’s recently released Strategic Compass document warned for the first time that the People’s Republic of China’s stated ambitions and policies challenge the alliance’s interests, security, and values.
Berlin released a set of policy guidelines related to the Indo-Pacific region in 2020, and the Rapid Pacific deployment builds off of those guidelines, officials said.
The German Ministry of Defense has cited the security of global trade routes as a key area of interest. “An impairment of the transport routes in the Indo-Pacific, and thus the supply chains to and from Europe, would have serious consequences for the prosperity and supply of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the ministry said on its website. The increased defense spending by Indo-Pacific nations, and presence of nuclear powers including India, Pakistan, China, and Russia, are also cited as security risks.
Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.