Update: 2022/07/31  by Robert Kysela / CHK6

PIONEERING AEROSPACE – this was the motto under which the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) opened its doors at Berlin Brandenburg Airport – BER on June 22nd, 2022. In total, more than 530 exhibitors with 56 aircraft and equipment showed the current state of the art in the aviation industry. Although the ILA did not come close to matching the figures of past trade shows, a cautious mood of optimism in the industry was nevertheless evident everywhere. This time, the topics were geared more than ever to current and future politics. Accordingly, the proportion of visitors from this sector was high, starting with the current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (who officially opened the ILA on June 22) as well as numerous ministers from the red-green state and federal governments. Just as in the energy as well as in the automotive sector, the German aerospace industry has committed itself at the ILA to implement the political direction of the government. Accordingly, the Inspector of the German Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, saw the focal points of the trade show in the topics of security and sustainability in his opening speech.

Whereas in the past the main focus was on comfort, safety and, of course, costs in the civilian sector and technical superiority in the military sector, climate protection is now making its way into development

Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz / Chief of Staff Luftwaffe - © by Robert Kysela
Hydrogen powered Airbus - © by Robert Kysela
However, the reason General Gerhartz gave for why the Bundeswehr must also be more sustainable in the future was also interesting. For young people, it is incomprehensible that the Air Force is not sustainable. In order to win these young people as employees and soldiers for the future, it is necessary to introduce the topic of sustainability in the military sector as well! Accordingly, this topic was treated almost inflationarily at the ILA. Improving proven technologies and developing new ones has always been the goal in aviation – in the military as well as in the civilian sector. Only the approaches have shifted. Whereas in the past the main focus was on comfort, safety and, of course, costs in the civilian sector and technical superiority in the military sector, climate protection is now making its way into development. One possibility for greater sustainability in the military sector is the use of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel). This is fuel that is produced from waste products (cooking oil, kitchen waste) and renewable raw materials and then added to normal fuel. The first field trials are due to start soon with the Airbus A400M, although initially only one engine of the Luftwaffe´s new wide-body transporter will run on SFA. The long-term goal is to switch completely to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (by 2050). The German Luftwaffe currently has 38 Airbus A400Ms in service, with another fifteen to follow in the coming years.
Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 SUPER HERCULES / very first landing in Germany - © by Robert Kysela
Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 SUPER HERCULES - © by Robert Kysela
The newest model in the Luftwaffe´s inventory, the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 SUPER HERCULES made its debut at ILA 2022. Following the retirement of the C-160 TRANSALL, the Ministry of Defense was forced to find an adequate replacement for a tactical transport aircraft. The Bundeswehr ordered a total of six aircraft, including three KC-130J tankers, as well as three C-130J-30s – which, with an overall length of 34.37 m, are a full 4.6 m (15 ft) longer than a standard Juliett-model. The cargo variant’s payload is just over 20 t. With its four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 propeller turbines (4,591 WPS each), it can reach a top speed of over 650 km/h. All German HERCULES are stationed in the French town of Évreux, more precisely at Base Aérienne 105 in Évreux-Fauville, where they are maintained and flown by a mixed German-French crew.

In total, the German government has earmarked 100 billion euros for the armed forces, 41 billion of which is earmarked for the flying units

Lockheed Martin F-35A LIGHTNING II - © by Robert Kysela
EuroDrone - © by Robert Kysela
The massive presence of the German Luftwaffe at this year’s ILA had a lot to do with the unexpected windfall made available by the current security situation. In total, the German government has earmarked 100 billion euros for the armed forces, 41 billion of which is earmarked for the flying units. Accordingly, German and, above all, American companies have been busy making their presence felt. The Americans in particular see the Bundeswehr as a lucrative business partner. Shortly after the start of hostilities in Ukraine, Lockheed Martin secured its first major order for the delivery of 35 F-35 LIGHTNING II aircraft. These are the successors to the Panavia TORNADO weapon system, which has become obsolete in the meantime. The first delivery is scheduled for 2026. This is to be the Block 4 version of the F-35, which can carry a total of six guided weapons in its internal weapons bay instead of four. In the coming weeks, the contract modalities will be worked out so that the whole thing can be submitted to the various bodies and parliaments for ratification. Current plans call for all F-35s to be stationed exclusively at the NATO base in Büchel in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Airbus A-400M - © by Robert Kysela
Airbus A-400M - © by Robert Kysela

On the trade visitor days, the crowd of spectators was rather restrained, which was hardly surprising given an admission price of 60 euros and a flight program that did not even begin to live up to the name. Just three aircraft were to be seen in the air throughout the day, none of which took off or landed near the exhibition grounds. Besides an Airbus A400M of LTG 62 from Wunsdorf, as well as a Eurofighter EF-2000 of TLG 73 “S” from Laage/Rostock, a Boeing HC.Mk 6 CHINOOK of the Royal Air Force could be seen in the flight program. The flimsy reason given for the greatly reduced flight program was that they did not want to disturb civilian air traffic at BER. The airport has two runways and the aircraft movements during the ILA would have easily allowed a normal flight program. If BER does not allow an event of this magnitude, then relocating future ILA’s to an adequate airport, such as Leipzig, is the only logical alternative! Dear ILA – sorry, but that was crap!

For the very first time, the Luftwaffe's newest aircraft could be admired on German soil - the Lockheed Martin C-130-30 Hercules.

Boeing P-8 POSEIDON - © by Robert Kysela
Airbus BelugaXL - © by Robert Kysela

The static display was also modest compared to ILA 2018, but there were some very interesting and rare samples on site. For the very first time, the Luftwaffe’s newest aircraft could be admired on German soil – the Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 SUPER HERCULES. The Luftwaffe was also represented by just about everything that (still) flies under the iron cross. Among them was a venerable Panavia TORNADO IDS. In the civilian sector, it was Airbus that made up the lion’s share of the exhibited aircraft. The highlight was the BelugaXL. The latest generation of this wide-body transporter is based on the A330 and can carry bulky goods weighing up to 53 tons. Airbus plans to put six aircraft of this type into service. The German Navy will also replace their Lockheed P-3C ORION´s with modern Boeing P-8A POSEIDON in the near future. A total of five aircraft of this type, which is based on the 737 model series, are to replace the aging ORION from the end of 2024. As a foretaste, a U.S. NAVY P-8A POSEIDON was on static display at the ILA.

Eurofighter EF-2000 - © by Robert Kysela
Boeing CHINOOK HC.Mk6a - © by Robert Kysela
Verdict: An aerospace trade show is always a benchmark for the performance of the domestic industry. Business deals are concluded there, contacts are made, and one career or another has its start at a trade show. In all these areas, the ILA 2022 scored full points. Only the spectators, and above all the numerous aircraft enthusiasts, were left behind this time. A flight program like the one at the ILA is sustainable – in the negative sense! Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this mistake and the next ILA will once again be what it has always been: a mega-event for all involved!

Robert Kysela / CHK6

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