F-35 Back In Contention As Germany Plans Defense Hike

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaking to the Bundestag Feb. 27, 2022
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaking to the Bundestag Feb. 27, 2022
Credit: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Germany is pledging to create a €100 billion ($112.7 billion) fund for defense investment this year and promising a dramatic uptick in annual defense spending in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a special session of the German Parliament on Feb. 27 that he wanted to create an “efficient, ultramodern, progressive Bundeswehr [German Armed Forces] that protects us reliably. We must put a stop to warmongers like Putin. That requires strength of our own.” 

As well as the fund's creation, Scholz said Germany would now spend 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, meeting NATO’s target for defense spending. 

Scholz also promised accelerated decisions on the procurement of the country’s Panavia Tornado replacement, the platform that performs Germany’s NATO nuclear mission, and that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 would be under consideration while the Eurofighter may undertake the electronic warfare mission. There was no mention of Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet. 

The pledge marks a significant turning point in Germany’s defense spending plans. The Merkel administration had planned for defense spending to reach only 1.5% of GDP by 2024.  

Raising the spending ceiling will make Germany Europe’s biggest spender on defense. But Scholz has not said how quickly the 2% target will be reached, and Berlin may find it difficult to spend the money quickly because of its notoriously slow and bureaucratic defense procurement processes. The promised increased may, however, be good news for key projects such as the Future Combat Air System with France and Spain and the much-delayed TLVS air and missile defense system, which has been repeatedly put on the back burner by the German defense ministry.  

The move comes days after the chief of the German Army, Lt. Gen. Alfons Mais, wrote on social media in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that the service was bare in terms of capability. 

“The options we can offer policymakers to support the Alliance are extremely limited,” he wrote.  

Former Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also took to social media, saying, “I’m so angry at us for historically failing.  

“After Georgia, Crimea and Donbass, we have not prepared anything that would have really deterred Putin,” she said. 

Creation of the defense fund was part of a five-point plan announced by Scholz, which also includes major reforms to its energy policies that have been reliant on supplies of gas from Russia. Scholz had already announced that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would not be certified. Now it plans to create Liquified Natural Gas terminals for supplies from other parts of the world.  

“The special fund of €100 billion will enable us to have a strong Bundeswehr and to play the right role in NATO as a reliable and effective partner,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.