Four years ago, Airbus did not dare to show the armament. Apparently that wasn’t wanted. When the then Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart Florence Parly presented a model of the new European super drone Eurodrone at the ILA in 2018, she was supposed to appear as peaceful as possible.
But at the air show that opened this Wednesday, the model builders have now clearly hung guided missiles under the wings. And Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz was not afraid to stand in front of armed models during his opening press tour.
It is a striking sign that the “turning point” has also arrived at the ILA. With Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the SPD gave up its long-standing negative or at least delayed approval of armed drones overnight. In his historic speech to the Bundestag shortly after Russia’s invasion, Scholz himself mentioned the future drone armament that was presented to him now. The military and armaments companies in the USA and Europe are rejoicing because the Bundeswehr is finally ordering urgently needed material again.
Scholz’s tour of the air show just outside Berlin was therefore similar to armaments shopping, which is all newly procured, mainly financed by the 100 billion euros from the special fund purse for the Bundeswehr. The military are putting their stamp on the Air Show this year. Due to a changed concept, however, the ILA with 550 exhibitors is only half the size of the last event in 2018.
When the Chancellor floated in at 12:35 p.m. by helicopter of the Bundeswehr’s flight readiness service, he began his tour of a model of the giant Airbus A380 from Emirates.
Other stations with civil models or presentations followed, also on the second major ILA topic, the sustainable, environmentally friendly flying of the future. The air taxi company Volocopter, for example, will be presenting its electric transport plane that takes off vertically.
“The core issue is how we restructure our economic model, which was based on burning coal, oil and natural gas for almost 200 years, in such a way that we secure the future of our planet,” said Scholz. “So it’s good that your industry is doing everything it can to make Europe’s aviation sector carbon-neutral by 2050.”
Scholz showed no fear of contact at the many stations with military equipment. There were no price tags on the models, such as the new heavy transport helicopter ordered from Boeing. Technical details were given for this.
With the Eurodrone model, for example, a good 40 hours of use, a top speed of 490 km/h, and a maximum payload of 2.3 tons. The main task of the model currently being developed by Germany, France, Italy and Spain is high-altitude electronic reconnaissance. Market launch is expected in 2029.
Scholz was also shown the American F-35 stealth bomber, which is also on the German shopping list. Scholz was interested in the aircraft for almost five minutes – comparatively much in his otherwise tightly scheduled tour. The directors of the ILA cleverly placed the US model right next to a Tornado, i.e. the old Luftwaffe fighter plane that is to be replaced by the US model by 2030 at the latest.
At a press conference, Lockheed F35 manager JR McDonald made it clear that the Bundeswehr should use the future US model as soon as possible. He personally thinks a first delivery in 2026 is possible. The manager points out that not only does the aircraft have to be produced, but also investments have to be made in training and education. In addition, due to the Ukraine war, other F-35 customers wanted delivery as quickly as possible. Lockheed currently produces 156 F-35s annually at its three final assembly sites in the US, Japan and Italy.
Although Germany sent a first procurement request to Washington, said the Lockheed manager. But Berlin will certainly also want German industry to be involved in the billion-euro program. The details were still missing. The Lockheed manager put the unit price of the fighter jet at around $80 million. However, industry experts point out that there are still considerable additional costs for the armament, spare parts, training and infrastructure for the model.
The German-French-Spanish air combat system FCAS (Future Combat Air System) is presented with a future new combat aircraft at the ILA rather bashfully. A small pavilion, a larger photo wall, which Scholz also walked along – no more.
Recently there has been increasing speculation that the project could still fail. The fact that French President Emmanuel Macron has now lost the majority in the parliamentary elections “certainly doesn’t make the project any easier,” says a high-ranking Airbus manager.
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