Aerospace and Defence29.11.2021 Newsletter

German Federal Election 2021: What plans does the new coalition have on armaments and defence?

The SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and FDP have been negotiating for about five weeks. On 24 November 2021, the ‘traffic light’ coalition jointly published its coalition agreement. Innovations are also envisaged in the armaments and defence sector. The different fundamental standpoints of the coalition partners remain discernible, even if the effort to deliver more than the lowest common denominators is evident: investment is to be made in equipment and, as expected, a "restrictive export control policy" is to be pursued and international disarmament "revived". So what can we expect from the new government? We have summarised the most important points for you.

The coalition agreement between the SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and the FDP envisages several innovations in the armaments and defence sector. The coalition partners are clearly focussing on a "genuine common foreign, security and defence policy" in Europe. Investment in equipment and a new national arms export control law are also at the forefront. After years of debate, the coalition partners now approve the use of armed drones capable- as long as their lethal use is not completely removed from human control. In the future, the SPD will be in charge of the Ministry of Defence.

National Arms Export Control Act

Efforts to introduce a national arms control act have not been crowned with success in recent years. The coalition partners are now in favour of such an act. Together, they wish to expedite such a regulation. The EU Common Position with its eight criteria as well as the political principles of the federal government concerning the export of war weapons and other military equipment, the small arms principles and the extension of post-shipment controls are to be anchored in this act. However, the act is also to allow scope for comprehensibly documented exceptions. The fact that the aforementioned principles are now to be anchored in law can be welcomed under constitutional law. However, beyond this, no significant changes in content have been announced. The SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and the FDP also reiterate that they will continue to refrain from issuing export licences for military equipment to countries as long as such countries are demonstrably directly involved in the war in Yemen.In the digital arena, the transfer of surveillance technologies to repressive regimes is to be stopped.

Bundeswehr equipment

Bundeswehr equipment is going to be improved and the procurement system modernised. The coalition partners want to "maintain" credible deterrent potential. Here, priority is to be given to replacement purchases and systems that are available on the market.

After years of discussion, the SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and FDP have now spoken expressly in favour of arming Bundeswehr drones in the coming legislative period. However, they reject use of lethal autonomous weapon systems, which are completely removed from human control. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 20th legislative period, a successor system for the Tornado combat aircraft is to be procured to ensure nuclear sharing. The Bundeswehr shall also be put in a position which enables it to operate successfully in cyberspace. 

In the first year of the legislative period, the new federal government intends to present a comprehensive national security strategy.

International cooperation

The coalition partners plan to strengthen defence cooperation in Europe, in particular with "high-value cooperation projects". Small and medium-sized enterprises are to be involved in this process.

They want to work towards a "genuine common foreign, security and defence policy"in Europe. This is to be implemented primarily through joint command structures in Europe and joint civil-military headquarters.

At the same time, in many places in the agreement, the coalition partners reaffirm the important role of NATO.


On the one hand, the coalition agreement affirms that there will be an upgrade or at least a maintenance of capabilities in many areas. At the same time - presumably under the influence of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen - there is a plea for disarmament. The coalition partners wish to work towards a "revival" of international disarmament and arms control. How this is supposed to go hand in hand with efforts to better equip the Bundeswehr, or whether this is limited just to nuclear disarmament, remains open.

In summary it can be said that, apart from the concrete statements on armed drones, the successor to the Tornado combat aircraft and the confirmation of the will to pass an arms export control law, little concrete emerges from the coalition agreement on the subject of armaments and defence. It therefore remains to be seen how the new government will ultimately position itself here. Ministers from Bündnis90/Die Grünen in both the Foreign Office and the Economics Ministry could provide new impetus in the area of defence policy and the export of armaments. Leadership of the Ministry of Defence has been transferred to the SPD.  

More information about the coalition negotiation can be found here:

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Michael Abels

Michael Abels


Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer 23
50668 Cologne
T +49 221 2091 600
M +49 172 2905 362


Mareike Heesing<br/>LL.M. (Köln/Paris I)

Mareike Heesing
LL.M. (Köln/Paris I)

Junior PartnerAttorney

Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer 23
50668 Cologne
T +49 221 2091 320
M +49 172 5798 005