A group of German air force fighter jets were due to arrive in Singapore after a marathon bid to fly them some 12,800 kms (8,000 miles) from their home base to Southeast Asia in just 24 hours.
The scheduled arrival of the jets on Tuesday demonstrates the ability of a European nation to move air power quickly to the region and comes at a time of heightened tensions between China and the United States and its allies over Taiwan.
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The European Union unveiled a new strategy in September for boosting economic, political and defence ties in the Indo-Pacific region.
German defence minister Christine Lambrecht told reporters that despite the war in Ukraine being a priority at the moment, Germany’s Eurofighter mission underscores that Asia has not been forgotten.
“We are at the side of all of those who stand for our values such as democracy, freedom and security, and are also willing to contribute,” she said as the German air force planes took off from Neuburg, Germany, on Monday, the dpa news agency reported.
“Our focus at the moment is naturally on the eastern flank, for which Russia’s brutal war of aggression is to blame, but we also have to keep an eye on other regions,” Lambrecht said.
— Team Luftwaffe (@Team_Luftwaffe) August 16, 2022
Part of the EU’s new strategy for the Asia Pacific is focused on improving maritime security and ensuring safe passage through sea lanes, and several European nations have sent naval assets to the region for manoeuvres this year.
As China has grown more assertive in the region, the United States, Britain and others have also made the Indo-Pacific an increasing priority.
Germany sent the frigate Bayern to the region on a near seven-month deployment that wound up earlier this year, the first time a German warship had been in the Indo-Pacific for nearly two decades.
The Bayern took part in joint exercises with allies including Australia, Singapore, Japan and the US, and was denied a port call in China.
‘Pitch Black’ exercises
The six multirole Eurofighter jets involved in the current exercise were accompanied by four transport aircraft and three tankers. They were refuelled in-air along the lengthy flight, and also made stops along the way for refuelling, inspection and rotations of pilots.
During a stop at a base near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe, said that two of the Eurofighters were found to have technical problems. One was fixed on site but the other had a defect in its hydraulics system so was held back.
The Luftwaffe said personnel were sent from Germany to repair it further so that it would be available for upcoming military exercises in Australia, where all the aircraft are heading after Singapore.
The so-called Pitch Black exercise is bringing together some 2,500 personnel and 100 aircraft from around the globe for three weeks in Australia’s Northern Territory.
In addition to Germany, European NATO members France, Britain and the Netherlands are participating, along with the US, New Zealand, Korea, the UAE, India, Japan, Thailand and others.
The exercise is designed to test and improve multinational force integration, and “recognise Australia’s strong relationships and the high value we place on regional security and fostering closer ties throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” the Royal Australian Air Force said.
Following their participation in the August 19 to September 8 exercise in Australia, the German jets are scheduled to stop in Japan and South Korea on their way back home to Germany.