German "Zeitenwende" to materialize in encrypted radios, ships and air defence

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FILE PHOTO: Eurofighters land at the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, in Constanta
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By Holger Hansen and Sabine Siebold

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will use a 100 billion euro special fund set up for its military to buy encrypted radios, new frigates and corvettes and a short range air defence system, according to a draft seen by Reuters and a defence source.

The draft gives a broad sketch of how the German government aims to spend the fund announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in what he called a "Zeitenwende", or turning point.

It was a major policy shift after decades of military restraint that were rooted partly in Germany's bloody 20th-century history and resulting pacifism.

Hours after Moscow launched what it calls a "special military operation" on Feb. 24, the chief of the German army said his troops were starkly ill-equipped for military action and that he was "fed up" with Germany's neglect of the military.

With the 100 billion euro fund, Scholz aims to bring the Bundeswehr's weapons and equipment back up to standard after decades of attrition following the end of the Cold War.

Some 20.7 billion euros of the fund will be earmarked to modernize the military's command and control systems alone, the document said, including the acquisition of encrypted radios, integration into the vehicles and the roll-out of a battle management system.

In the past, German troops have borrowed encrypted radios from forces they cooperated with in places such as Mali in order not to jeopardize joint operations.

Berlin will also buy five more corvettes of the K-130 type, according to the defence source, likely to replace an older batch of these ships, and trigger an option to purchase two more F-126 frigates.

The German shipyard Luerssen was the main contractor for the latest batch of corvettes, whereas the frigate is produced by the Dutch Damen shipyard in cooperation with Blohm + Voss.

The draft also lists the acquisition of an air defence system, which the source specified as a ground-based short and medium range air defence as well as a drone protection system.

This kind of air defence, which is in very short supply with the German military, is used to protect troops while they are vulnerable on the way into and during a deployment close to the frontlines.

The military will also get more Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, according to the source, and more and more heavily armed light utility helicopters.

The Bundeswehr is flying the H145M helicopter built by Airbus, and arming this model more heavily will bring it closer to the capabilities of an attack helicopter.

The lion's share of the special funds, with some 40 billion euros, will be spent on air capabilities, as Reuters reported in April.

The list also includes projects already announced, such as the planned purchase of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet and the development of an electronic warfare capability for Airbus' Eurofighter, including the purchase of additional Eurofighters for this role.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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