European Sky Shield is slowly taking shape
Dusseldorf, Berlin At the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin provided the most recent proof of how important it is to develop European air defense systems. His announcement of transferring tactical nuclear weapons to Belarusonce again shows the need to build a protective shield against delivery systems such as the Russian Iskander missiles.
The aim is to acquire short, medium and long-range defense systems that are as coordinated as possible in order to be able to ward off all threats from the air, from drones to cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
With a view to the Russian capabilities, it is “urgent to close these gaps quickly,” said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense in Berlin. There have already been various talks at state secretary and expert level and concrete negotiations are already underway.
“When several European nations procure together, there are economies of scale,” says an armaments manager who does not want to be named. The higher the production rate, the lower the price. In addition, the states could work together on logistics and support: “An important advantage would be that the nations could exchange missiles with each other if war actually occurs and an area is particularly shelled.”
The Israeli system Arrow 3 is designed to protect against ballistic missiles
When it comes to ballistic missile protection, it all boils down to that Germany will opt for the Israeli-American Arrow 3 system. It can fight rockets and other missiles at a distance of up to 2400 kilometers. During the state visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Berlin Scholz recently confirmed interest in the system.
In the business plan for the 100 billion euro special fund armed forces Up to three billion euros are estimated for Arrow 3. The first templates for the budget holders of the Bundestag, who have to approve expenditures of 25 million euros and more, should be ready in September.
An alternative would be the US system THAAD, which is said to be more expensive than Arrow 3. So far, these systems are the only ones that offer protection against ballistic missiles.
It is assumed that the proven Patriot system will play a central role in combating medium-range missiles. Loud armed forceswhich the system uses, it can engage up to five targets at a distance of up to 68 kilometers at the same time.
Submissions for new Patriot missiles and system upgrades are expected to be submitted to the Budgets Committee in November and December. Overall, the federal government wants to spend around 1.2 billion euros on maintaining the ability of the Patriot air defense.
There are also advanced discussions with the manufacturers Raytheon and MBDA about setting up its own production line in Germany. According to industry circles, a contract could be concluded in the course of this year or early next year.
Chancellor Scholz has also repeatedly emphasized that Diehl Defense should be able to use the Iris-T SLM air defense system, which is also used in the Ukraine. “We are now getting feedback from Ukraine on how good the system is,” Diehl Defense boss Helmut Rauch told Handelsblatt: “If the system is used as intended, then every shot is a hit.”
Each fire unit should be able to protect a medium-sized small town and hit targets up to 40 kilometers away and 20 kilometers above the ground. Each unit includes a radar, a guidance system and at least three launchers, each with eight rockets that can be fired every second.
The Iris-T SLM defense system, which has been used successfully in Ukraine, is to be retained by the Bundeswehr
“We see Iris-T SLM as the best possible air defense system for the ESSI initiative and as a key anchor point,” says Rauch. According to the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), the Iris-T SLM costs around 140 million euros per system plus 400,000 euros per guided missile. The company does not want to comment on prices.
According to an internal overview by the Ministry of Defense, the proposal for the procurement of eight Iris-T fire units is to be submitted to the Budget and Defense Committees in the first half of the year. In industry circles it is assumed that six systems will be ordered.
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The guided missile Iris-T can be used in various weapon systems, in Germany they are part of the armament of the Eurofighter. Sweden and Norway have acquired ground-based systems.
It is still unclear whether defense systems against threat scenarios in the short and close range should also be procured together. Rheinmetall-Boss Armin Papperger is confident in this regard and also has a suitable offer: “I am very, very sure that the Skyranger will be part of the European Sky Shield,” he told the Handelsblatt.
It is a modern anti-aircraft tank with a 30mm revolver cannon. After the decommissioning of the Gepard tanks, which are used successfully in Ukraine, the Bundeswehr no longer has the appropriate systems. With integrated short-range missiles, the Skyranger has a range of up to four miles, Papperger says.
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik misses Germany’s leadership role
However, he does not expect a decision to be made too quickly: “The conception will probably last until the end of the year.”
The Federal Ministry of Defense did not want to comment on the question of how exactly the talks between the European partners are taking place and where they are being coordinated. In addition to Germany, the initiative includes Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark.
In January, researchers from the Science and Politics Foundation criticized Germany’s weak leadership role in the project. The fact that important partners such as France, Italy or Poland are not willing to follow Germany shows that the German initiative does not take European security interests sufficiently into account.
French President Emmanuel Macron had in February at the Munich Security Conference required, hold a European conference on air defense. The federal government only says that the Sky Shield initiative is open to other interested nations.
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