Germany, 14 NATO allies agree to procure air defense systems

Thursday, 13 October 2022 (18:13 IST)
Germany and 14 NATO allies held a ceremony to sign a letter of intent for the joint procurement of air defense systems at the alliance's Brussels headquarters on Thursday.

Countries agreeing to the German-led network are seeking to protect European skies with air defense systems like the Arrow 3 and Patriot under the so-called European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI).

"A total of 15 states have come together to organize joint procurements under German coordination with regard to European air defense. It is something where we have gaps," said German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.

The signatories include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, along with the UK, Lithuania, Romania and Estonia, according to diplomats.

"It is about being interoperable. It is about being able to design prices accordingly. And, of course, it is also about being able to support each other in terms of maintenance," Lambrecht said.

"It's a win-win situation for the countries involved," she added.

The signing occurred on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

What is the European Sky Shield Initiative?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the initiative in August, calling it a "security gain for all of Europe."

At the time, Scholz argued that combined air defense would prove more cost-effective than each country racing to defend its own skies or building its own air defense systems.

The German chancellor said Berlin would need to invest heavily in air defense in the years ahead and would get a head start if other allied nations could participate at the ground level from the beginning.

With Russia sending missiles flying into Ukrainian cities Monday, Europe is again on alert as Moscow appears to target civilians.

The fundamentally rearranged security picture in Europe has meant new measures are required to prevent an elevated threat to the continent due to Russia's war against Ukraine, now in its eighth month with winter looming.

What is the state of air defense in Germany?

The Bundeswehr is said to have a capability gap in that it cannot defend against ballistic missiles that travel at high altitudes.

At present, Germany has 12 Patriot launchers. This is not nearly enough to cover the whole country. Earlier this week, Germany transferred IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine.

One possibility being discussed is the Bundeswehr acquiring the Arrow 3 air defense system from Israel. It was jointly developed with Boeing in the US.

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