Germany, France and Netherlands to pool military aircraft


Germany will move forward this week with plans to set up a joint fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes, defense ministry sources said on Monday.

Those and several other initiatives with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic are part of a broader drive to expand European defense cooperation to be announced at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, the sources said.

The agreements come as Germany and other NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO’s target of devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who last week said U.S. demands for greater burden-sharing were “fair,” will sign an expanded declaration of intent for a joint C-130J fleet with France, a plan first floated in October, the sources said.

The declaration calls for Germany to buy four to six Lockheed planes from the U.S. government and pool them with France’s fleet. France is buying four C-130Js from Lockheed and could purchase several additional aircraft in coming years, according to an additional source familiar with the program.

A Lockheed spokeswoman referred questions to Germany and France but said the company looked forward to supporting those countries’ airlift needs.

Germany will also sign a declaration of intent to join a European multinational fleet of Airbus tankers that is led by the Netherlands and already includes Luxembourg.

If Belgium and Norway also join the group, the Multinational MRTT Fleet (MMF) could expand to cover 8,800 flight hours a year, according to documents provided to German lawmakers last year. That would equate to about eight tankers.

The ministry said last year it could spend up to 1 billion euros in coming years for use of new Airbus planes that would be bought for the joint fleet.

The planes would be based at Eindhoven Air Base in the Netherlands and at a German military base at the Cologne-Bonn airport, the sources said.

Germany will also sign an expanded defense cooperation agreement with Norway that includes already procurement plans for submarines and missiles, as well as joint training, logistics and maintenance efforts.

There will also be declarations of intent for joint training and deployments of land forces with the Czech Republic and Romania, the source said.