March, 4

    Germany spends $2.3 billion on Airbus light attack helicopters

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    COLOGNE, Germany — The German Defence Ministry has signed a contract with Airbus for 62 H145M light attack helicopters, with a portion of the fleet equipped to fight tanks from afar — a direct lesson from the fighting in Ukraine.

    Under the order, 57 of the aircraft will go to the Army and five to Air Force special operations forces. Twenty more are envisioned under a future option, Airbus Helicopters said in a Dec. 14 statement. Deliveries will begin in 2024, according to the vendor.

    German lawmakers approved the requisite funding request of €2.1 billion (U.S. $2.3 billion) on Dec. 13. All aircraft will be capable of carrying an armaments package that is slated to include the Spike LR guided anti-tank missile, but only 24 will initially be set up to that end, according to parliamentary defense sources in Berlin that spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

    The purchase, including the envisioned anti-tank capabilities, comes against the backdrop of new insights into the requirement for standoff capabilities when countering tanks. In Ukraine, Russian helicopters were able to pick off Ukrainian armored vehicles by firing their missiles from a safe distance.

    The latest version of the Spike LR missile, an Israeli design marketed by Eurospike in Europe, can reach targets 10 kilometers (6 miles) away when fired from helicopters, according to the manufacturer.

    “We will ensure that the Bundeswehr [German military] receives the helicopters in accordance with the very ambitious delivery schedule which includes first deliveries in 2024 less than a year after contract signature,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters.

    The new helicopters are slated to replace Germany’s fleet of Tiger choppers. Despite the hefty buy, defense officials consider the H145M fleet a “bridging solution” until a new generation of drones and loitering munitions are ready for fielding in the longer term.

    The H145M is a military-specific derivative of a family of helicopters also available to the law enforcement market. The German military already operates 24 of the twin-engine aircraft for special operations as well as search and rescue missions, an Airbus statement read. The U.S. Army’s 500-strong fleet of Lakota light utility helicopters is based on the same design.

    Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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