How to Assess Core Platform Decisions: The German Case

By Robbin Laird

With the launch of our defense information website ( , we introduced a micro-site on defense decisions.

We wrote: “In this new section of the website, we will address U.S. and allied upcoming procurement choices and decisions.

“We are focused on how platform and system choices affect the evolution of the capabilities, concepts of operations of a particular ally or of U.S. services or the joint force.

“Too often, the focus of the defense press or of analysts is narrowly focused on platforms, rather than placing platform decisions or system decisions into the broader context of the evolution of core capabilities.

“We will focus on such decisions by placing them in a broader context.

“In particular, we are focused on the building, shaping, operating and sustainment of what we have called the integrated distributed force.

“We have built a separate micro site focused on this theme, but here we are focused on procurement, or equipment decisions which play into this strategic shift.”

To further develop a discussion of how to evaluate platforms in the evolving concepts of operations for full spectrum crisis management forces, we will focus on Germany, and key procurement choices which they face in the context of the direct defense of Europe.

We are publishing this Fall our book entitled The Return of Direct Defense in Europe: Meeting the 21st Century Authoritarian Challenge.  In this book we identify the key trends reshaping the direct defense challenge and the approaches being taken to reshape capabilities for enhanced direct defense

In that book, we focus on how key states in Europe are reshaping their forces and their approach to defense to deal with the new strategic challenges.

Clearly, Germany is a key lynchpin state in how Europe is reshaping its approach, and within that approach key procurement decisions will be taken in the period ahead.

In particular, Germany is currently facing three key procurement choices which illustrate the complexity of choice.

Too often, a simple platform versus platform presentation is made which confuses rather than clarifies what the tactical and strategic implications of particular platform decisions in a key functional area for force development and tactical and strategic evolution of a nation’s defense posture.

With regard to this series, we will address, the following procurement choices facing Germany in three key operational areas:

The first is the face-off between the legacy Chinook medium-lift helicopter versus the new generation CH-53K heavy lift helicopter.

The second is the decision to pursue signals intelligence with a manned aircraft option versus an unmanned option, or the face-off between the Pegasus versus the Global 6000 program.

The third is the question of how Germany will replace the Tornado aircraft in its nuclear role.

In each case, much of the analysis has been to compare platform versus platform: Chinook versus CH-53K; a Triton variant versus a manned Canadian aircraft with both systems delivering signals intelligence but in very different ways and with very different implications for force structure development; how to transform the legacy Tornado into its replacement with no clear lineage from Tornado to what will replace it.

The German case provides an opportunity to address the broader question of how to analyze platform choices in a very different strategic context and with significant changes in how US and allied force structures need to evolve to meet the challenges of full spectrum crisis management.

For a PDF version of the report, see below:

German Defense Decisions

For an e-book version of the report, see below: