But what was not in the governmental-declaration and what immediately became to the main goal of the whole governmental period was a strict "zero-deficit"-policy within the governmental household, according to the European stability criteria for the Euro-currency. This leads to a delay on the way to reaching the targeted goals in governmental declaration and - again what is most common for the Austrian forces - funds are beeing directed to areas where it is more popular or visible for the public. And so - the defence-budget is now at 0,75% GNP !
Minister of Finance Karl-Heinz Grasser (FPOE) is not a fan of new fighter aircrafts and until today remains unwilling to sign the tender-file.
Although by the same party, Minister of Defence Herbert Scheibner (FPOE) and MoF Karl-Heinz Grasser in the meanwhile have nothing more substantial to communicate between each other.
Frozen is not only the climate on Ministers level but also on the sub-level between negotiating officials of MoF and MoD.
Later the disagreement was reported to centre also on a BMF‘s request for the technical requirements documentation for the tender - the MoD considers that documents classified and believes the request to be outside the responsibility of the Finance Ministry. An MoD spokesman said on August 1st that "only administrative details were holding up the tender and that the MoD would deliver 'additional files' throughout August, but in return expects that the RfP should be issued by 1st September".
In early September it became known that the MoD might be forced to reduce the material-ammount asked within the papers down to a humiliating idea around 24 single-seaters and a handful of missiles, while the primordially RfP-attempt asked for material up to a level of ATS 40 billion ($2.6 billion) ! It looks like this process is still ongoing because official speakers within BMF not announced any date asked about when the needed signature might be given. After the ministerial-council on 4th September, the federal chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel pointed out that he insists on this purchase and "will not allow that Austria will become unprotected, if this might be popular or not" , but his Minister of Finance said no more than "everything like before.."
Update by September 15th, 2001:
On September 14th 2001 Minister of Finances Karl-Heinz Grasser finally signed the file for a tender to replace the highly ageing Draken-Jets. 90 mins. of hard discussions on the evening of September 13th brought the change ! Despite the coincidating datum, Matthias Winkler - speaker of Minister Grasser - first pointed out that the signature provided now has nothing to do with the fatal terror-attacks in the USA. He reported that the delay in the signment was neccessary to check further documents since July. Winkler again accentuated his ministers ongoing opinion that the GO for the RfP not automatically means an enshrined procure of fighters.
The companies have to answer the RfP until January 18th 2002.
1st Remark: In fact it is an earmarking of the funds and Minister Grasser has left behind his strongest point of resistance. Now he is no more able for rising up further obstacles against the procurement on it’s own, than he would need the majority within the ministerial-council to furhter prevent the process. But the majority of the ministers - especially along with Federal Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Schuessel - supports the procure of new fighters for the Austrian Air Force.
2nd Remark: In the light of a tighter security status troughout Europe, the Minister of Defence has also ordered higher readiness for Austrias air-surveillance. A most recent inspection at the Zeltweg AB by him only brought 8 flyable Drakens on strength - of which four were armed. That figures are thus highlighting the desperate need of the described steps now taken...
The 1st Aviation-Regiment at Langenlebarn gets the 9 Black Hawk's.
In exchange the 3rd Aviation-Regiment at Linz/Hörsching get all 24 AB-212's.
But this may only be the beginning of a major re-equipment within the helicopter fleet as Austria’s financial court pointed out a further urgent need of transport space within the fleet in May 2001. This could not only force the avionic upgrade of the AB-212 fleet to a realization better than the stumbling start, but also the acquisition of at least three additional S-70A-42 Black Hawk’s, noted as options within the contract of December 2000.
Main challenge on the way to a broadened helicopter fleet is the short numbers of available helicopter pilots within the forces. Currently the numbers of helicopters are greater then the numbers of qualified pilots in some Army's Sqns.
See the piece by Georg Mader upon the way to a new Austrian defence-doctrine