The German Air Force (Deutsche Luftwaffe) will order 3 Airbus A350 aircraft to replace its aging Airbus A340 aircraft. Reportedly, the German Government has been trying to decide between the A330 and the A350. Apparently, now the decision has been made in favor of the A350.
The German Air Force, more specifically the “Flugbereitschaft” (Executive Transport Wing of the Federal Ministry of Defense), is responsible for transporting the chancellor and other high-level governmental and parliamentary officials. The Flugbereitschaft’s current fleet consists of 2 Airbus A340-300s, 5 Airbus A310s, 2 Airbus A319s, 1 Airbus A321, and 4 Bombardier Global 5000s.
Why is the German Air Force replacing its A340s?
The German Air Force has experienced several issues with its two A340s, “Konrad Adenauer” and “Theodor Heuss,” lately.
At the end of last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended up taking a commercial flight to the G20 summit in Argentina after her A340 “Konrad Adenauer” experienced technical difficulties. More specifically, the crew had to return to the airport in Cologne, Germany, for an emergency landing due to an electrical fault. The situation was described as “serious” by Angela Merkel. She arrived late to the summit. Consequently, her meeting with President Trump had to be postponed to a different day.
Last week, Germany’s President Frank Walter Steinmeier was stuck in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a few hours. This time “Theodor Heuss” experienced some problems. The APU would not start at first, but Air Force technicians were able to get it started eventually.
These are just two of the most recent technical issues that have been scrutinized by the German press. All in all, the incidents have been rather embarrassing for the German Air Force.
Furthermore, both aircraft are almost 20 years old. The German Air Force purchased both of them from Lufthansa and has operated them since 2011.
When are the A350s expected to enter service?
Even though the first aircraft will be delivered later this year, it is not expected to enter service until 2020 or even later. The aircraft will be delivered in a standard commercial layout. Accordingly, it will have to be retrofitted to meet the demands of the German Air Force. In its VIP configuration, the aircraft will feature conference rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as advanced communications and self-defense systems. There is a chance that the interior work will not be completed until 2022.
The cost of an A350 is about $280 million. Additionally, the cost for the retrofit is estimated at $100 to 150+ million per aircraft. It is very likely, however, that the German Air Force will purchase a cheaper prototype.
Germany’s Air Force will be the first air force to operate the Airbus A350. It will be interesting to see if other countries will also purchase the aircraft to transport its government officials.
Do you think the A350 is a good choice for the German Air Force?