The German Ministry of Defense will next week submit to the Bundestag the helicopter procurement package it has renegotiated with Airbus HC, which covers 168 NH90, MH90 and Tiger helicopters at a cost of €8.7 billion, said the Defense-Aerospace.com. Thus, the first major arms deal concluded by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is much more expensive than it is expected before.
Precisely, that is about 430 million euros more than the Ministry of Defense’s previous plan, concluded in 2013 by Leyen’s predecessor Thomas de Maizière. The extra cost is due to the cost of spare parts and equipment for the so-called «Sea Lion» – MH90 naval helicopter, which was not included in the previous plan. These are the main points that emerge from a confidential submission by the Ministries of Finance and Defence to the Budget Committee of the Bundestag, and obtained by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) news service and Spiegel Online.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen wants to end the long-running dispute over new helicopter procurement. This deal would be a first milestone of her term of office. Starting with the promise to clean up the chaotic field of armaments, she is renegotiating existing contracts. The new deal, although «not optimal», was «the best achievable result», according to an MoD staffer, who pointed out that the new MH90 Sea Lion helicopters are more capable than the naval NH90s which were originally planned.
According to the draft agreement, manufacturer Airbus Helicopters will receive 8.7 billion euros in payment for a total of 168 Tiger, NH90 and MH90 Sea Lion helicopters. That is about 240 million euros more than the 8.46 billion euros originally planned for 202 helicopters. The reduction in the number of helicopters was decided by Maizière as part of the Bundeswehr reform in 2011. Other weapons systems were also reduced, and negotiations were launched with several manufacturers.
The deal now agreed with Airbus calls for the following changes to the original contract:
- 68 instead of 80 Tiger combat helicopters for €3.55 billion instead of €3.77 billion. Only 40 Tiger will actually be used by the Bundeswehr, the others (older models already delivered) are to be used as spare parts.
- 82 instead of 122 NH90 transport helicopters for €3.77 billion instead of €4.69 billion.
- The Navy will also receive 18 MH90 (new designation) Sea Lions with special equipment for €1.38 billion.
The bottom line is that Airbus will deliver fewer helicopters (168) for more money, so instead of savings the new deal will bring additional costs. This is because, unlike her predecessors, von der Leyen has included the cost of technical support in her calculations.
Green Party MP Tobias Lindner says the Ministry has still failed in its reform. He says the Minister could have obtained more in her negotiations with Airbus: «Ursula von der Leyen has renegotiated de Maizière’s global deal, and though it has been renamed it is not substantially corrected». Overall, it remains «a bad and questionable deal, and anyone who found that the framework agreement of two years ago was bad, cannot approve this new deal».
The Budget Committee of the Bundestag is expected to decide next week on the helicopter deal, and German media consider it is highly likely that Bundestag will agree with the governing coalition’s plan.