Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Germany, France Seal Airlift Agreement Amid Trump's NATO Push

  • European forces to base Lockheed Martin planes in Normandy
  • Must face reality and defend ourselves, German minister says

Germany and France agreed to buy as many as 12 U.S.-made military transport planes to boost Europe’s airlift capability as U.S. President Donald Trump presses NATO allies to spend more on defense.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian sealed the accord in Berlin on Monday, confirming an October 2016 plan to jointly operate the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules from a base at Evreux, France. They will add to a fleet of Airbus A400M transports that have been plagued by delays, cost overruns and breakdowns.

“In view of the changed security situation, we, as Germans, French and Europeans, must face the realities as hard as it may seem to many: we must strive to protect and defend ourselves -- with all its consequences,” von der Leyen said in prepared remarks. A Defense Ministry spokesman said it’s too early to provide a cost estimate for the C-130J plan.

The French-German accord underscores how the European Union’s two biggest continental economies have struggled to mount joint capabilities, just as the Trump administration threatens to pare its NATO commitments unless European countries meet the goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Germany spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, while France spends almost 1.8 percent.

Airbus, Europe’s biggest planemaker, announced a 2.2 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) hit to cover the cost of the latest A400M glitches in February and asked government buyers to help ease the burden going forward. It has taken 7 billion euros in charges against the A400M over the past decade following a 2003 deal to build 180 of the turboprop planes for 20 billion euros.

The C-130J, which can operate from airstrips that are too small for the A400M, is meant to replace the Transall C-160, a Franco-German tactical transporter first commissioned in the 1960s.

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