The German commitment to NATO is a fundamental pillar of our national stability and peace, and the Luftwaffe is at the heart of our national engagement within the alliance. The challenge for NATO is not only in the reorientation toward a common defense against a peer competitor, but also to respond proportionally to adversaries testing our security across multiple domains every day. The access to - and use of air and space - are of the upmost national and alliance importance; and therefore, they must be protected from misuse by state, industrial and individual hostile actors.

The multinational air power exercise Air Defender 2023 is one of the Luftwaffe’s key events. I am proud to say that the impetus for this exercise came from the Luftwaffe, and it was very well received by the U.S. Air Force, by NATO’s Allied Air Command, by the Pentagon and by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The Luftwaffe will engage with the maximum participation for Air Defense 2023 by integrating existing exercises and offering German air bases as a way to deliver supporting functions.

In line with the German Federal Republic’s security assessment, the Luftwaffe has also been assigned to demonstrate deterrence capability by projecting presence over great distances. The initial deployment of fighter and tanker aircraft to Australia will begin in 2022. This significant deployment cannot be underestimated: It is not just about the Luftwaffe deploying aircraft. It is about deploying and projecting air power over thousands of miles away from home.

The future of the Luftwaffe’s fighter aircraft will be seen through the lens of the Defence Ministry’s proposed replacement of the aging Tornado fighter-bombers with the U.S. F/A-18F Super Hornet for air-to-ground missions, and the EA-18G Growler for jamming purposes. This electronic warfare aircraft will bring a unique capability to NATO in Europe and would become a key element in the Luftwaffe’s approach in addressing current and future challenges in the electromagnetic spectrum. The multi-role Eurofighter will be upgraded to the new Tranche 4 level, and in conjunction with the F/A-18F and EA-18G, it would strengthen and carry the German fighter wings into the future operating environment.

Alongside the fast-jet modernization program, strategic air transport and air-to-air refueling capabilities are paramount to both national and alliance air power. The steady growth of the A400M fleet enables the Luftwaffe to cover strategic air transport needs for national and allied mission support, including humanitarian relief operations. As the first European air force to provide air-to-air refueling capabilities with the A400M in operations over Syria, we delivered a positive message to our allies and a demonstration of capability to any potential aggressors.

Intra-theater air transport is vital to success in current and future operations; therefore, Germany and France are rapidly progressing their road map to create a joint air transport squadron equipped with C-130J Hercules by 2021.

Furthermore, the helicopter force will need to modernize its aging “war horse” — the Sikorsky CH-53G — to ensure the fleet can continue to deliver the “field delivery” capability in time and under all conditions, from the Arctic regions to the jungle or desert.

Over the past years, space has developed into a highly dynamic and evolving domain. The Luftwaffe will resume responsibility for both air and space to ensure unity of effort and command for the entire domain.

Confronted with a contested and congested environment in which potential aggressors could deny us access to our own area of operations, the concept of “Joint All-Domain Operations” will counter new threats and continually improve to defeat future challenges. Interoperability — with the connecting of sensors and platforms across all operational domains — will drastically increase the speed of our own decision-making cycle and therefore operational output.

A significant challenge of this generated and shared data is that it needs to be handled and processed in order to make it available in a useable format in a timely manner for our own and allied forces. “Combat Cloud 2040+” is a long-term Luftwaffe goal in this information-heavy environment. In this context, the Next-Generation Weapon System program — combining command fighter aircraft with unmanned systems (Future Combat Air System) — will be at the core of the “new” German Air Force. This program will be delivered in cooperation with France and Spain.

In sum, the German Luftwaffe is upgrading its assets to bring it up into the pinnacle of today’s military aviation capabilities. Being ready, capable and reliable is our ambition, and we know that our nation, our partners and our allies count on us.

Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz is the chief of the German Air Force.

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