COLOGNE, Germany – German government officials are seeking approval from lawmakers to purchase five P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance and spearfishing aircraft from the United States before Washington’s offer expires by end of the month.
The request is detailed in an information pack drawn up by the Ministries of Finance and Defense for members of the Bundestag Budget Committee. The panel is due to meet on June 23 to consider a series of last-minute defense spending demands before lawmakers head for summer recess ahead of the September 26 federal election.
As is the case with other major military investments pending a decision, the acquisition of the P-8 would exceed current budget estimates. The defense and finance ministries are negotiating an off-cycle budget increase to provide the necessary funding of around 1.4 billion euros, or $ 1.7 billion, until 2026.
The US government’s bid for the plane, dated April 5, is $ 1.1 billion. Taxes, training, parts and support make up the rest of the demand for lawmakers, according to the document.
The German Navy has long advocated purchasing the Boeing-made Poseidon aircraft to replace the service’s aging P-3 Orion fleet. Readiness rates for these planes are deteriorating so quickly that the Navy believes it needs an interim solution before a new joint program with France is expected to put new equipment into service by around 2035.
The new expense request, obtained by Defense News, presents an elaborate case to defend the suddenness and inevitability of the P-8 choice – two key justifications for the types of creative budgeting officials come up with in the absence of available money.
For example, officials cite an analysis earlier this year that found the P-3 fleet to be in such poor condition that only two of the planes would be usable from the end of 2023, unless the government invests considerable sums in maintenance.
Added to the P-3 Orion’s woes are âtank damageâ to a plane last year that officials deemed too expensive to repair, according to the document.
Officials also cite pressure from NATO to deploy sufficient anti-submarine capabilities. The alliance’s defense planning process had identified Germany’s impending aircraft gap for this purpose as an “area of ââconcern,” the document tells lawmakers.
German defense executives also want to jump on the P-8 offer because it is less than the amount they previously thought they would have to spend from 2025, according to the missive.
Berlin is hoping to catch up with the end of Boeing Poseidon production before the line ends in 2024, officials wrote. If lawmakers approve the plan this week, the five planes for Germany are expected to be delivered in the first half of 2025, according to the government.
Defense analysts here have highlighted Russian investments in underground weapons as a key reason for Germany to deploy capable countermeasures. The country also has nascent ambition to play a larger role in the Asia-Pacific region, with naval capabilities prominently featured in these plans.
Sebastian Sprenger is Associate Editor for Europe at Defense News, which covers the state of the defense market in the region, as well as US-EU cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. Previously, he was the editor of Defense News.