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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 10:59 IST

Germany relaxes stance over the sale of Eurofighters to Saudi Arabia amid help against Houthis

This change in perspective follows Saudi Arabia's assistance in intercepting Houthi-fired missiles aimed at Israel, as reported by German media.

Yuvraj Tyagi
Eurofighter Typhoons
Eurofighter Typhoons | Image:NATO
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In a significant policy shift, the German government has reportedly eased concerns over the proposed sale of 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. This change in perspective follows Saudi Arabia's assistance in intercepting Houthi-fired missiles aimed at Israel, as reported by German media. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz affirmed Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's stance on the Eurofighter sale during a visit to Israel. 

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit conveyed this support, indicating a departure from Germany's previous objections. Baerbock, while in Israel, declared that Germany would no longer oppose the U.K.'s sale of Eurofighter aircraft. Germany, as a co-producer of these jets alongside the U.K., Spain, and Italy, previously had the authority to veto such sales to countries outside the core user group. The Eurofighter consortium comprises Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo. 

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Saudi Arabia's demand and Germany's opposition 

With Saudi Arabia already operating a fleet of over 70 Eurofighters, the nation expressed interest in acquiring more. The German governing coalition had maintained a policy against weapon sales to parties involved in Yemen's civil war, citing both the conflict and human rights concerns related to Saudi Arabia. 

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The surprising reversal by the German government, leading to criticism, particularly within Baerbock's Green Party, stems from the perceived constructive role played by Saudi Arabia in preventing an escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict. This change is underscored by Riyadh's deployment of Eurofighters to intercept Houthi missiles and drones targeting Israel.

German Eurofighters arrive in Romania, following deployment to Estonia earlier this month. November 25, 2023. | Credit- @NATO 

Analysts attribute the shift to British pressure on Germany to lift export objections and a new pragmatic approach in Berlin following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This marks a departure from Germany's traditionally critical stance on Saudi Arabia's human rights record. 

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The evolutionary journey of the Eurofighter Typhoons

The Eurofighter Typhoon stands as a remarkable European multinational endeavor, designed as a twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter. Originating from the Future European Fighter Aircraft programme in 1983, it involved collaborative efforts from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. The consortium, comprised of Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo, operates under Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, with project management handled by the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency.

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Initially conceived as an air-superiority fighter, the Typhoon faced challenges during development, marked by disagreements and France's departure from the consortium to pursue the Dassault Rafale independently. The British Aerospace EAP, a technology demonstration aircraft, took flight in 1986, while the first Eurofighter prototype followed suit in 1994. The name "Typhoon" was adopted in 1998, and production contracts were signed the same year.

Credit- Eurofighter.com

Renowned for its high agility, the Eurofighter Typhoon was initially designed as a dogfighter. However, its adaptability has grown over time, with later production models equipped for air-to-surface strike missions. The aircraft is compatible with a diverse array of armaments and equipment, including Storm Shadow, Brimstone, and Marte ER missiles. Notably, the Typhoon made its combat debut during the 2011 military intervention in Libya, where it played a pivotal role in aerial reconnaissance and ground-strike missions. Across various nations, it has taken on primary responsibilities for air-defense duties, showcasing its versatility and effectiveness in a range of operational scenarios. 

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 10:59 IST

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