The German Bundestag on Friday approved a a significant increase in funding for major weapon systems acquisition programs. The approval of an additional 5.7 billion euros ($6.47 billion) included funding to to procure a new U.S.-built heavy-lift helicopter, a program that was recently in doubt based on cost growth.
As Reuters has reported, approval of the revised budget plan – which adds 326.5 million euros to increase the 2019 military budget to 43.2 billion euros – means that the Ministry of Defense — can now move forward with a tender for 45-60 new heavy-lift helicopters.
“This is very good news for the readiness of the Bundeswehr because we urgently need to replace old equipment,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, citing the wear on Germany’s current fleet of CH-53G helicopters during 17 years of operation in Afghanistan.
German parliamentarians also approved 1.33 billion euros in funding for a new submarine to be developed with Norway, and work on a new air and missile defence system. The revamped budget plan also includes 1.77 billion euros for upgrades to Germany’s existing Eurofighter warplanes, including a new radar system, but no new jets, a ministry spokesman said.
Flight Global notes that Germany had been expected to launch the helicopter recapitalization program this year, choosing between the previously-shortlisted Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Lockheed Sikorsky’s new CH-53K. However, both bidders were told in late September that the process had been put on hold. A formal request for proposals had been expected by the end of September, but the relevant budget — now approved — had yet to be authorised by the German parliament.
Previous timelines for the expected 60-unit buy envisaged a contract award in 2020, with the first aircraft to arrive in 2023. The current fleet of elderly CH-53G/GA/GS helicopters is due to be phased out from 2025.