Lesson from the Ukraine war: Only credible deterrence protects In view of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, Europe finally needs a coordinated, defence-oriented security policy, says René Obermann.

Almost overnight, Germany recently adopted the most far-reaching changes to its foreign and security policy in 30 years. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a special fund of 100 billion euros for defence and wants to spend more than two percent of the gross domestic product on the Bundeswehr every year in future. If implemented in this way, Berlin would not only fulfil a long-agreed NATO commitment, but would actually exceed it.

These changes have come with a speed and decisiveness that stunned even seasoned security experts. The new course is due to the realisation that our freedom is under concrete threat. The atrocities of the current war, the suffering and fierce resistance of the people of Ukraine have created a great sense of urgency. Suddenly, EU members are reaching that consensus that was often painfully missing before. This could result in tectonic shifts.

Hopefully, the next few years will see the emergence of a modern, integrated and efficiently managed European armed force. This could give more weight to a likewise integrated European foreign policy, because it would effectively deter aggressors. It is encouraging that Europe is finally pulling together - but the new unity must last beyond the current threat situation. That is why we must now initiate a long-term transformation of our security policy.

René Obermann

René Obermann

Only credible deterrence protects

In view of the Russian president's implicit threat to even use nuclear weapons if necessary, only credible military deterrence will ultimately protect us. As bad as it sounds, we must not be blackmailed by his arsenal of awfulness. In times of peace, politicians sometimes face nasty attacks when they pursue strategies that impose burdens on society in the short term but whose benefits only become apparent in the long term or, due to their preventive nature, do not become apparent at all - except precisely in the form of peace, which we have long taken for granted.

This also applies to defence policy. And now, after the turn of the times? We must protect our politicians better and support their work more strongly. How else are they to muster the strength and courage for prevention policy? Such a policy is all the more urgent as the world seems to be entering a permanent crisis mode. The next conflicts are already looming or running in the background.

Against the backdrop of the Ukraine war, the German government has decided to change its paradigm. Despite the depressing current situation, it must now also be a matter of facing up to the pressing questions of the future: Can we permanently flip the switch to avert wars in Europe in the future through credible deterrence? How do we overcome short-term thinking in legislative periods when it comes to geopolitical developments? Will we finally succeed in developing strategic foresight, for example in questions of raw material supply?

Good cooperation instead of endless debates

Incidentally, these questions also arise during election campaigns. The last Bundestag election campaign was a total failure in terms of strategic foresight. Foreign economic issues and geopolitical developments played almost no role. At least the reactions of the past weeks give hope that Europe is capable of change - and unity. It is up to all EU member states, but especially France and Germany, to now push for the necessary changes and, if possible, to take all partners with them.

For a defensible EU foreign policy, we need good cooperation, but not endless debates and not necessarily unanimity in the European Council. In Germany, we must finally be prepared to make comprehensive structural adjustments, for example in public procurement law and the procurement of the Bundeswehr. Moreover, despite the Brexit, close cooperation between the EU countries and the UK is indispensable when it comes to developing modern security systems.

Furthermore, we must no longer view our security industries through national glasses. Instead, we must strengthen joint projects and efforts to secure European sovereignty. The focus must be on the common result for Europe - the time of particular, national interest representation is over. Only in this way can we achieve sovereignty in key technologies that serve Europe's security.

A jolt must go through the old continent

But it is not only higher defence budgets that are needed to jolt the old continent. The major industrial partners of the states on both sides of the Rhine must also take responsibility if we want to realise future projects such as the common European combat aircraft system, which goes by the abbreviation FCAS or Future Combat Air System. The core companies must be prepared to pool their expertise - out of conviction for a sovereign Europe.

We will not achieve the necessary technological leaps in FCAS if we threaten to divide ourselves over almost childish national leadership debates. Europe has a lot at stake in FCAS, which is on the threshold of entering the development phase - and not just militarily. For the programme also offers us the chance to decisively reduce our dependence on non-European providers in cloud consolidation. This much I can say: Airbus, which is based on multinational, European cooperation like no other company, is prepared to put everything on the line for this.

In the light of current events, it is not without a certain irony that Airbus had to fight for admission to the Dax 40 last year simply because we develop European defence technology. Our Eurofighters, for example, are currently a cornerstone of NATO missions in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. Our A400M transport aircraft were used in the evacuation of Kabul in 2021. They are also playing a supporting role these days.

In future, there must be no more war in Europe

Not long ago, access to the capital market was to be made even more difficult for defence companies in the EU. The drafts of the new "social taxonomy" did not bode well in this respect. Some banks, also in Germany, had already announced that they would no longer finance important companies in the defence industry in future.

In the meantime, this taxonomy debate has fallen silent for the time being. Let's see if it picks up again later. In any case, it would not serve Europe's security. For one thing is certain: Democracy, human rights and freedom are not God-given; unfortunately, they must increasingly be defended. Precisely because of our German past, we have a duty to ensure that there is no more war in Europe in the future. But this can only be achieved if we demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves through credible deterrence.

The author: René Obermann is Chairman of the Board of Airbus and Co-Chairman Europe of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus.


The A400M centre in Wunstorf: A hub for Germany’s security

Wunstorf will become the maintenance centre for the world's most versatile transport aircraft. This is because the Bundeswehr's LTG 62 air transport squadron serves as the hub for the German A400M fleet. This underlines the central importance of the A400M for Germany and Europe. This is because the Airbus transport aircraft plays a leading role in the European security architecture.

The A400M is a central building block of the European security architecture. In terms of payload, transport volume, speed and range, the tactical transport aircraft reaches a new level and enhances European capabilities in the strategic airlift. In addition, the A400M's multi-role capability enables the flexible use of the aircraft, whether as a transport, Medevac or tanker aircraft.

This enables the armed forces in Europe to react quickly in the event of crises occurring both within and outside of Europe. Currently, the evacuation of people in Afghanistan demonstrates the A400M's indispensable role.

Hub in Germany

The decision of the Federal Ministry of Defence to establish the air transport squadron LTG 62 in Wunstorf as a central hub is now further strengthened by the decision for an A400M maintenance centre in Wunstorf. In the future, up to 40 aircraft will be stationed in Wunstorf. In the maintenance centre now being built in Lower Saxony, eight so-called C-checks per year can be carried out in the future. Every four years, each A400M will undergo a detailed, three months inspection of its aircraft structure and systems. The local proximity of the squadron and the maintenance centre will ensure the efficient operation of the fleet. This way, the air transport squadron LTG 62 is developing into a hub for Bundeswehr transport flights. This strengthens the German air force.


A400M on Static Display at Dubai Airshow 2019

Airbus’ A400M, shown on static display during the 2019 Dubai Airshow, fulfils current and future military requirements for multi-mission transportation


Technology from Germany for the security of Europe

The A400M doubles the payload and the range compared to previous generation models, representing a quantum leap in tactical airlift. The possibility of air-to-air refuelling increases the range even further; with a conversion kit, the transporter itself becomes a tanker aircraft. Key parts of the aircraft are made in Germany: the fuselage comes from Bremen, the vertical stabiliser from Stade and the engine is assembled in Munich. This secures thousands of jobs in Germany and contributes significantly to the security of Germany and Europe.


Currently in continuous operation for Germany and Europe

The A400M fulfils an indispensable role in the evacuation of people from Afghanistan for many European countries. The aircraft is appropriately equipped to land on short unpaved runways, unpaved runways in the area of operations or close to a natural disaster area, despite its heavy payload. The world's most versatile transport aircraft thus enables rapid operations in difficult terrain. Especially with a view to the timely evacuation of people from crisis areas, the A400M is unrivalled. The aircraft confirmed this once again during the recent crisis in Afghanistan. The new maintenance centre in Wunstorf will strengthen Germany as a business site and underlines the importance of the A400M for Europe.

Status: Sept 2021

Flood in Germany: Airbus provides support with aid from the air

The floods in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia have had devastating consequences. The German Armed Forces played a key role in fighting the crisis and relied on German high-tech. Special aircraft ensured rapid crisis analysis, an immediate rescue of the victims and initial medical deployment on site.

The summer of 2021 was overshadowed by extreme continuous rain and flooding. The floods in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia demonstrated the importance of effective air rescue. Special helicopters and aircraft were deployed in the immediate crisis response by the air force and private first responders. This made it possible to respond to particular challenges and to protect lives.

Data from the air saves lives

Reconnaissance aircraft helped with a precise overview of the disaster situation. For example, the German Armed Forces flew a special A319 as a surveillance aircraft over the affected areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The open-skies observation aircraft can fly below the minimum altitude of 1,500 metres and thus contribute substantially to situational awareness. With highly sensitive cameras on board, this enabled detailed reconnaissance. The collected data was then evaluated at the Bundeswehr's Centre for Verification Tasks and enabled targeted crisis response.

Numerous federal and state roads in the greater Euskirchen area were so damaged that the area was hardly accessible. In order to record the exact extent of the damage, the North Rhine-Westphalia Road Construction Authority, Straßen.NRW for short, is relying on help from above. And Airbus provided it: The remote-controlled and battery-powered Altair airship delivered exact data and photos with its precise optical sensors, while keeping faces and license plates unrecognisable. 



Airbus unterstützt mit Hilfe aus der Luft

The strategic use of specialised aircraft and helicopters supports disaster response.

Protecting lives with helicopters

To reach the destroyed villages, the Bundeswehr used specialised helicopters. The H145M flew relief supplies to remote areas. In addition, helicopters flew people out of areas which were not yet or barely accessible to relief workers on the ground or where the danger situation was coming to a head due to the threat of dam bursts. The advantage of these helicopters was clearer than ever: the H145M requires little space for landing and is equipped with a hoist to rescue people. The H145M was also used to deliver food and water bottles to communities that were hit particularly hard by the floods.

First aid in the helicopter

The ocean-going Airbus H155 played a central role for the provision of first aid. When emptied of its medical infrastructure, the helicopter can transport up to four passengers. Otherwise it has room for one emergency patient. In disaster operations, emergency paramedics are roped down and affected patients can be pulled up to the helicopter. 

Together, these aircraft have contributed to rapid and effective disaster rescue. This underlines the importance of aviation for emergency operations. Especially in view of future disaster situations, effective aviation is of great importance.

Status: Aug 2021

Eurodrone is a central pillar of European security

Europe must be able to defend itself. In order to guarantee the continent's security in the future as well, technological sovereignty in the air is indispensable. The Eurodrone plays an essential role to achieve this.

The demands on European defence policy are evolving and new geopolitical challenges require new technologies. Advanced and innovative concepts such as drones are indispensable for modern security policy. Unmanned aerial vehicles can support armed forces from the air and thus significantly increase security on the ground. 

The Eurodrone as an innovative pioneering project

The Eurodrone, also known as the European MALE RPAS, can perform real-time reconnaissance of a target area at medium altitude over a long period of time. As a medium-altitude remotely piloted aircraft with a long flight time, the Eurodrone is well-suited to reconnaissance, surveillance and protection of soldiers in the areas of operations. Delivery will begin in 2028, hence strengthening European defence.

Cooperate across borders

The Eurodrone has the potential to be a European flagship project. Drone technology is a key element of European defence policy, so there is a need to develop a European model. As a continental community programme, the aircraft will be developed and implemented together with the European partner nations France, Italy and Spain. This means that Europe will own the sophisticated technology and the know-how in the production. The ability to develop and build critical components of the European system on home territory – thereby controlling their use – is essential for the participating states.

The Eurodrone plays a key role in the future European defence architecture.

Autonomy in the sky and digitally 

The Eurodrone enables the strengthening of European data sovereignty. Thanks to the use of European technology, information could be collected and analysed independently of other states in the future. This strengthens the quality of reconnaissance and ensures independent European access to central information for the defence.

Europe must be able to defend itself

In times of global challenges, individual EU member states are not in a position to face all geopolitical developments on their own. As part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the Eurodrone can also accelerate the further integration of European defence. This strengthens Europe's ability to defend itself with its own means.

Political support is essential

The Bundestag's budget committee will vote on a corresponding bill in March. The German Bundeswehr has an important role to play as the main customer for the technology.

Status: Feb 2021

Green light for the FCAS demonstrator

With the signing of the framework contract for the first demonstrator phase, Europe’s most significant political security project has cleared an important hurdle. FCAS strengthens Europe’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy in times of geopolitical uncertainty. 

In February, the governments of France and Germany signed the framework contact for the demonstrator phase 1A of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). The contract covers a period of 18 months and initiates technology development, which will lead to airworthy demonstrators by 2026.

In the current geopolitical situation, FCAS is of prominent strategic significance. In order to preserve Europe’s freedom, independence and economic prosperity, the foundations must be laid today. Europe must be not only economically strong, but also politically and militarily; only thus can we safeguard European sovereignty on the long run. FCAS contributes to this. 

A system of systems

FCAS is much more than ‘only’ an aircraft. The project encompasses the development of four programme areas that are essential to Europe’s security: a next-generation fighter-jet, unmanned components called Remote Carriers, a new engine, as well as a Combat Cloud, which provides a comprehensive situation picture in real-time to all parties involved in a mission. The combination of these four building blocks enables their deployment within a network and thus creates a comprehensive ‘system of systems’.


FCAS ensures Europe’s sovereignty for the coming decades.


Spill-over advantages for the entire industry

FCAS does not only represent a milestone in military aviation. The expected technological leaps will lead to positive effects in the civil aerospace industry and beyond. FCAS sustainably strengthens the European industry along the entire supply chain, including small- and medium-sized enterprises. It is a significant future project for the European industry, in which over 100 German companies have already expressed interest. 

Safeguarding Europe’s sovereignty

Spain’s entry was an important step in the further Europeanisation of FCAS. FCAS is a cornerstone of European security policy and ensures that the continent can continue to maintain its sovereignty in the future—industrially, technologically, strategically! 

Status: Feb 2020

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