“Our claim at Airbus is to always be on mission for our customers,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO Airbus Defence and Space, at the anniversary event at Airbus in Manching on May 8. “’Always on’ for us means doing everything necessary to ensure that our customers have the best equipment to fulfill their mission: to defend our values, freedom and democracy. The close cooperation between the German Air Force and Airbus in Manching is a shining example of how much our cooperation model has established and proven itself over the past two decades. We count on each other – also in the future.”
Airbus employees and soldiers work side-by-side in joint departments and under cooperative management teams in the cooperative ventures in Manching. The advantages are obvious: there is no need for cost-intensive, duplicate provision of infrastructure and resources; the knowledge gained from operational activities at the German Air Force and the industrial know-how in development and production result in comprehensive system support, and the competencies required for the mission remain with the German Air Force.
“Manching is exemplary for the efficient cooperation between the German Armed Forces and defence industry,” said Lieutenant General Dr. Ansgar Rieks, Deputy Inspector of the German Air Force. “Our cooperation is characterised by the clear understanding that we – Air Force and industry – are committed to joint success, also for our country, the Alliance and our allies and partners.”
Mission Fleet Availability
The collaboration kicked off in 2003 when the German Air Force and Airbus established the Eurofighter Cooperation Cell (EKZ). Since then, servicemen and women and Airbus employees there have been pursuing a common mission: to ensure that the German Air Force’s Eurofighter fleet is ready for action when and where it is needed. To date, EKZ teams have performed some 350 Eurofighter inspections and repairs and 1,000 customer service calls. Over the past two decades, they have increased the availability of the Eurofighter fleet. In addition, the EKZ team is covering the increased inspection demand that is a consequence of the increased flight-hour volume during the Ukraine war – for example, to secure NATO’s Eastern flank.
In-Service Support and User Help Desk
On April 1, 2003, Airbus and the German Air Force also established the Eurofighter System Support Center (SUZ EF). Here, colleagues provide technical and logistical in-service support. They support the Air Force squadrons via a user help desk and in-system analysis for technical issues arising from Eurofighter operations, 24/7 if required. In addition, the SUZ EF takes care of Eurofighter software maintenance and modifications. In this context, the SUZ EF independently performs certified modifications for the entire weapon system for the German Air Force. This also applies to software and hardware components that were not originally part of the German development share. More than 40 such national modifications have already been scaffolded into the German Eurofighter fleet in order to respond independently and directly to operational requirements.
In September and October 2022, the SUZ EF also supported the German Air Force in the first deployment of a Eurofighter contingent (Operation Rapid Pacific) to the Indo-Pacific region. The mission was a complete success: after 40,000 kilometers per aircraft, 700 flight hours and more than 500 air refuellings, all six Eurofighters landed safely at their home base in Neuburg.
Software upgrades and life-extending measures for the Tornado
The Luftwaffe-Airbus team also ensures the operational readiness of the German Air Force’s Tornado fleet. In the Tornado SUZ (established November 24, 2004), Bundeswehr soldiers and Airbus employees develop and maintain the jets’ software for avionics, mission evaluation and the Electronic Combat Centre. The Tornado Cooperation Cell (established on November 28, 2014) takes care of maintenance work, extensive major overhauls and service life-extension measures, also known as Service Life Enhancements or SLEs.
Together into the future
Currently, about 270 servicemen and women and more than 500 Airbus employees work in the EKZ, SUZ EF, SUZ Tornado and TKZ. Together – for more operational readiness and a successful future.