Decision is approaching – 1.6 billion for a new jet fighter fleet


The long-awaited rain of money from the army is also falling on the air force: the purchase of a new jet fighter fleet is currently being put on track and the Eurofighters could also receive reinforcements thanks to the German army. The “Krone” knows the first details – and a first sum.

According to internal documents in Krone’s possession, the army will spend 1.6 billion euros on, among other things, the purchase of a completely new second jet fleet. This is to take over training and surveillance flights, similar to the Saab 105OE, which was retired at the end of 2020, but with the addition of ground attack capabilities. The amount provided is generous. It is only slightly lower than the amount paid for the purchase of the entire Eurofighter fleet in the early 2000s – but then under different inflation conditions.

Eurofighter retrofit also budgeted
Included in the 1.6 billion are up to 18 subsonic jets of an entirely new type not yet introduced in Austria and the associated training and maintenance packages. Also covered by the amount is the long-planned retrofit of our already obsolete Eurofighters from the first installment of construction, which show significant shortcomings in identifying night targets. This retrofit should include three points that are rumored over and over again:

  • The making of a ability for night combat, i.e. a way to identify and if necessary engage targets at night. In the simplest case, this can be done with night vision goggles, in the more modern case with reconnaissance sensors in a pod worn under a wing.
  • The possibility to self-protection by sensors that detect when the aircraft is detected by radar and automatically eject decoys when a missile approaches (“DASS”)
  • The addition of the current short-range missile IRIS-T to longer-range missiles of type AMRAAM or METEOR

Always the Italians
Exactly which jet it will be, must be decided by the summer. For years the M346 from the Italian manufacturer Leonardo had been mentioned in the choice of the type, which would be equipped with radar in an “FA” version and would also be optimized for air-to-ground combat. The relationship with Leonardo is currently excellent, just a few months ago another batch of AW-169 multipurpose helicopters was purchased from the Italians.

Outsiders in front again
But a second candidate is putting pressure: The L-39NG from the Czech manufacturer Aero, which has long been written off, is currently luring with attractive counter deals and would have brought itself back into play. Both deals would be made as a government-to-government deal, that much is certain. Austria would source the M346 directly from Italy, or the L-39NG from the Czech Republic. This form of acquisition has also been chosen for the AW-169 helicopters and is intended to prevent excessive bribery, as was the case with the purchase of Eurofighter in 2007.

Back to the solution with two fleets
Both types fly in the subsonic range and are generally less powerful than the Eurofighter, but are significantly cheaper to operate and purchase. Of the two applicants, the M346FA is considered superior, while the L-39NG is cheaper. A maximum of 18 pieces are planned. Critics of this two-fleet solution complain that due to a lack of synergies, parallel operation ends up being more expensive than a single-fleet Eurofighter solution with training on jet trainers abroad.

Video: Eurofighter on a target practice in Austria

Jets return to Linz
According to army officials, Linz-Hörsching is the only possible location for the new subsonic jet fighters: from a purely political point of view, it would hardly be possible to handle the entire jet operations of the armed forces in Zeltweg due to the noise development. where the Eurofighters already leave the Murtal for their training and training camps launch surveillance flights daily. And historically, the Saab 105OE fleet was based in Hörsching.

Photo gallery: Saab 105OE shaped the image of Linz for decades

Four Eurofighter two-seaters
However, the relationship between the Republic and Airbus threatens to thaw: with the participation of the manufacturer group, the German Bundeswehr would have shown a willingness to hand over four of its two-seat training Eurofighters to Austria. Three of them are intended for flight operations. It is unclear how many additional flying hours are available per year. It was learned from the troops that two-seaters are subject to significantly higher maintenance requirements.

Tanner: ‘Must be the boss in your own house’
The defense minister will be responsible for the planned purchases: “The war in Ukraine shows that we must regain control of our own home in Austrian airspace,” says Klaudia Tanner about “Krone”. “That is why investments in active airspace surveillance and in-house pilot training are essential. And that is exactly what contributes to the strengthening of our entire army.”

Heracles successor
Since 2007, two-seaters have been at the top of the military’s wish list because they can be used for training. At the moment only single-seaters fly in the army, the two-seater training takes place in Germany. Next Monday, the tender for the successor to the C-130 will also be prepared, the propeller-driven “Herkules” is at the end of its service life. This is followed by a powerful transport aircraft and the Brazilian jet C-390 from the manufacturer Embraer or a newer version of the Hercules have also been mentioned as favorites for years.

Source: Krone


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