After mishaps series, Germany to acquire new governmental plane
After the recent failure of the plane that was supposed to take Angela Merkel to the G20 summit in Argentina, the German minister of Defense announced the decision to acquire a new governmental aircraft.
On November 30, 2018, after the A340 VIP “Konrad Adenauer” was forced to an emergency landing in Cologne, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel had to give up on attending the opening of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. As the backup A340 was not available at the time, she was forced to take a commercial flight from Madrid to Argentina. The problem was later found to be caused by an electronic distribution box, which caused several systems, including the communications, to shut down. The flight crew had to land using a satellite phone.
This incident was the latest in a series of mishaps. A month earlier, in October 2018, the same aircraft was already grounded in Indonesia and left the German minister of finance Olaf Scholz stranded during the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting. Rodents had made their way onboard and managed to gnaw through some cables.
The two Luftwaffe A340s were acquired second-hand in 2011 from Lufthansa, and refitted to governmental standards (secured communication systems, anti missile systems…) for a total of about €740 million. The one that failed on November 30, 2018, was built in 1999 and had more than 50000 flight hours when it was acquired. Funny fact: it was the 2000th plane ever delivered by Airbus, according to Planespotters.net.
A procurement could soon be brought to the table to refresh the governmental fleet. “It was bitter that the Chancellor came late for G20,” said Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “So that this does not happen again, we are now catching up with the crews and checking the procurement of one or two more aircraft for the long haul.”
Between €200 and 300 million, depending if the aircraft are new or not, should be taken from the federal budget. “Of course, the transportation of government members on important dates should not be at the expense of the air force, which needs its budget for helicopters and planes in operation,” said von der Leyen.
Leaving the budget of the Luftwaffe untouched seems like a sensible choice. On March 31, 2018, the German newspaper Der Spiegel revealed the content of a report from the Ministry of Defense stating that the 93 Panavia Tornados currently in use by the Luftwaffe need more urgent modernization than planned. The conclusions were clear: as it is, “the Tornado weapon system could no longer participate in any NATO operation.”
While Germany recently started developing a fighter jet conjointly with France, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), the country is currently looking into acquiring either the Eurofighter Typhoon, or Lockheed Martin F-35, or Boeing F-18 and F-15 to replace its now 85 Tornados, which entered service in the 1970s. Von der Leyen said that “there will be a decision” by the end of 2018, but it seems unlikely that it will concern the choice of the aircraft.
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