WASHINGTON — Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany will spend “substantially” on air defense in the coming years, offering a German-led arms architecture for other European nations to plug into.
His comments at an Aug. 29 speech at Charles University in the Czech Republic capital of Prague outlined the German government’s renewed vision for defending the EU from the air following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Officials have spoken of a “German Shield” concept, with different countermeasures for threats in different altitudes and distances – low, medium and upper – tied with Airbus’ Surface-to-Air Operations Center battle management system.
The SAMOC system can stitch together components from NATO and non-NATO states, Airbus said on its website. Current user nations are Germany, Hungary and Saudi Arabia.
The German and Dutch militaries joined their air-defense equipment together during previous exercises. Scholz mentioned Poland, the Baltic nations, the Czech Republic and the Scandinavian countries as additional countries for integration.
Earlier this year, German air force officials began shopping for an upper-tier defense system, buoyed by support in parliament for the Israeli Arrow-3 weapon. While the initial enthusiasm for such a move has since ebbed, the plan is still on the table.
Officials concede that an Arrow-3 purchase could stress the country’s technical acquisition requirements optimized for NATO and EU standards while doing little to alleviate concerns about the threat of Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad.
For the lower-tier defense layer, local companies Rheinmetall, Hensoldt and Diehl Defence teamed last year with a package based on Diehl’s Iris-T SLM interceptor. MBDA and others have also begun marketing highly mobile defense systems aimed specifically at small drones.
In the medium-range segment, which targets fast jets and missiles, Germany has sought to take a leadership role with a Patriot replacement weapon called TLVS, short for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem. Officials canceled the program last year amid concern the investment required would siphon off funds from a dedicated anti-drone focus.
The fallout from that decision may still undermine German aspirations for a leadership position on air defense, said Christian Mölling, research director at the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations.
“For many years, Europeans were hoping Germany would take the lead because the field of air defense was seen as uncontroversial, politically speaking,” Mölling said in an interview.
Because Berlin decided to drop the next-generation program, other nations looked elsewhere and simply ordered upgrades for their Patriot fleets, he added.
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.