The Austrian president Dr. Thomas Klestil
The Federal President of
the Republic of Austria
Dr. Thomas Klestil

(Foto: HBF/Litscher)

Draken still in Service

Swedens last 5 Drakens as sparepart-sources

Brigadier General Josef Bernecker,
Austrian Airforce Chief of Staff

Mirage 2000-5 and Cougar maybe not available for Austria

Despite the danger of growing bilateral-isolation within the EU, with Israel and the USA because of a coalition with the Freedom-party (FPOE) of right-wing populist Jörg Haider, the Austrian president Dr. Thomas Klestil will swear in the new centrist-right cabinet of OEVP and FPOE today (Feb. 4th) 12.00 noon. Altough not Dr. Klestil's first choice, no other coalition-version seems possible for the moment, after 30years-ruling SPOE broke talks with the OEVP on Jan. 22nd. This nights final talks to form a new coalition-government of 104 of 183 seats after Oct. 3rd's inconclusive elections have produced defence-related items, that represent historic changes in the future defence-policy of Austria and the future of its armed forces. With former minor conservative coalition-partner OEVP in the past backing the drop of neutrality and more funds for the Bundesheer while the former leading Socialist's SPOE trying to further shield the neutral status and dry-out funds for necessary equipment, the new coalition-programme of Chancellor Dr. Schüssel, ratified yesterday by the two party-councils of OEVP and FPOE, shows surprising new perspectives. The FPOE has insisted more funds and material for the armed forces since years, lead by its long-time defence-speaker Herbert Scheibner (37 !), who is fixed to be sworn-in today as the new defence-minister.

National defence and funds:
Until the end of 2000, a "high-ranking" commission of the MoD (moist likely lead by General-Troop Inspecteur Gen. Pleiner) will work out the decision-base for the transition of the Bundesheer to a professional-army with a strong militia-component. Related to that is the preparation for the possible drop of the common conscripts-character. The commission should have extensive talks with the chancellor and ministries of foreign-affairs and interior, before, to find out if a professional army is possible and runable. This is because of large numbers of cheap civil-servants in social and rescue-services which have chosen this way against serving in the forces. Really sensational for Austrias military is the basic common decision, embedded within the declaration, that there will be a follow-on type after the 23 remaining aeging Austrian Saab J-35OE Drakens ! Due to be retired as late as from 2003 on, the replacement-plans started in 1996 but were long overdue since. After a catalouge of demands was finished and handed over in 1997 nothing moved and 5 old Drakens were even flown in from Sweden as sparepart-sources in 99. Also the service has only 19 fully-combat pilots anymore, beacuse a rising number left the Surveillance-Wing due to no perspectives. Now a selection will be done this year and the budgetary timeframe have to be done this year. This could easily be within the last second, as Brigadier Bernecker, Chief of Austrias Air-Staff told JDW last year: "I have decided to report the run-down of the task active air-surveillance in later 2000, if there is no mentioning of a Draken-replacement in the next governmental-declaration ! Nobody would fly against rising risks and without any sunrise on the horizon !" Before the rapid-isolation of the last days, an array of types was expected to be asked for an offer. Due to the long-time close-relations with Sweden the BAe-Saab Gripen was most likley the MoD's candidate. The new programm says that it must be the most cost-saving solution, so budgetary limits could also see used F-16's or F-18's as a possible solution, togehter with a likley to expect, and logistically MAPS/DASA-backed renewed russian MiG-29 SMT offer against partial debt-reduction. In the past the Mirage 2000-5 was a contender, but this maybe highly questionable now as France is leading the EU-protest against Austria's new government. The Mirage and the Gripen were already tested within Austrias national "Goldhaube" surveillance system and over the alpine topography. A force between 18 and 24 single-seaters and 4 to 6 combat-trainers is to expect to be the subject.

To secure the programme tro buy 9 to 12 new multi-role transport-helicopters, an annual extra 400 mill. ATS for every four years of the governmental term is fixed. Funds for the rest should be granted. Albeit Sikorsky's S-70 maybe the MoD-favourite in the ranking to be published soon, the Eurocopter Cougar Mk.1 seems to offer the larger offset-volume in front of the important economics-board as they are in EC-120 ‚s industrial-cooperation with Austrian companies since the AS-355 deal for the ministry of interior. But again, the European product maybe made not available for the Bundesheer by the EU now. The budget for the Austrian defence-forces - with 0,79% of GNP the lowest in Europe - will rise to at least 1,0% within the legislation-period. Additional funds for the financing of the "Armoured-Package" ("Mech-Paket") of the Leopard 2's, Ulans and Pandurs will come from the sell or privatisation of barracks and properties. Austrias missions abroad (SFOR,KFOR, UN-participations) will be similarly refunded into the defence-pot by the finance-ministry as the assistance for the border-patrol along the eastern (Schengen)-border.

Security policy:
OEVP and FPOE have dedicated themselves to an "active and solidaric participation on the development of a functional european security- and defence-policy !" Against former positions, Austria now wishes the fixation of a European peace-, security and defence-community, on which Austria and the other EU-states should have equal rights to participate including a mutual-assistance demand. If this assistance-guarantee is not to be concluded between the Nice-Conference and the end of the french EU-presidency, the government will have the right to proove "other options", under them starting the entry-talks with WEU and also NATO. A NATO-membership - the unthinkable in Austria before - is clearly named as a serious option. On the basis of these talks or earlier dialogs, the NATO-PfP "Membership Sction Plan" is prooved. Participation within the new EUROKORPS is sought. Austria will go into the Western European Armament Group (WEAG) as a full-member to open-up advantages for its national defence-industry. To later eventually finally drop the former sanctuary-lived neutrality against the the context of the Petersberg-, Amsterdam-, Colougne- and Helsinki-treaties of the EU, a national referendum must be hold.

Despite brave steps in the document of leaving the strictly neutral-status in the direction of a common European defence and full Austrian participation, realisation of such steps will have to be awaited in the light of the new "paria-status" of Austria.
(Picture from trinational exercise Amadeus99)

Declaration (Preamble) of the new Gouvernment - Responsibility for Austria - A Future in the Heart of Europe

Statement of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) concerning the most recent developments in Austria's domestic policy situation

Herbert Scheibner, Minister of Defence

Interview with the new Austrian Minister of Defence, Herbert SCHEIBNER

Austrian Armed Forces Facts & Figures - MoD

Georg MADER, Vienna, for JDW's Ian KEMP, Feb. 4th 2000

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Letzte Aktualisierung: 10. Feb. 2000