German government to buy three new Airbus A350 for €1.2 billion
The Budget Committee of the German Bundestag approved the acquisition of three new Airbus A350s on April 11, 2019, to renew the governmental fleet. They should be delivered by 2023.
The total cost is estimated to be around €1.2 billion, making it one of the most expensive governmental fleet on the planet.
The three A350-900s should be acquired from Airbus for €640 million. Refurbishing the cabin to a VIP standard should cost €288 million, while specific defense systems will add another €229 million to the bill. The latter should include the integration of a Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measure system (LAIRCM) to protect the planes from incoming missiles. The order will be placed by April 15, 2019, according to the Ministry of Defense.
A transition from two to three aircraft should increase the readiness of the fleet. Due to maintenance work, the government often had to rely on only one of the two A340s. Moreover, the Ministry argues that the “aircraft of the type A350 are [only] produced since 2015, which provides a long availability of spare parts”.
Discussions to acquire new aircraft for the German government attracted the spotlight in November 2018, when Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to give up on attending the opening of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. The official plane that was supposed to take her to Argentina, the A340 VIP “Konrad Adenauer”, was forced to an emergency landing in Cologne after an electronic distribution box caused several systems, including the communications, to shut down. The chancellor eventually took a commercial flight from Madrid to Argentina.
More recently, on March 1, 2019, the head of German diplomacy, Heiko Maas, was stuck in Mali due to a failure of an Airbus A319, also part of the governmental fleet.
The two Luftwaffe A340s that currently compose the backbone of the German governmental fleet 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 German minister of Defense announced its decision to replace them with new governmental aircraft in February 2019.
As the aircraft will not be used solely by the German Armed Forces and the Federal Ministry of Defense but will be available for the transport of all government members, the purchase will be financed using 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 Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen when the procurement was announced.
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