Germany Focusing On Indo-Pacific With Participation In Australian Military Exercises

On August 15th, Germany sent multiple military aircrafts to join 17 other nations in the biennial warfare exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force. The 2022 Exercise Pitch Black marks Germany’s first participation in the joint drills in the Indo-Pacific. This deployment underlines Berlin’s increased focus on the Indo-Pacific amidst increasing tensions with China and marks the German Air Force’s largest peacetime deployment.

The German Federal Ministry of Defense has cited the security of global trade routes as a motivating factor, stating, “An impairment of the transport routes in the Indo-Pacific, and thus the supply chains to and from Europe, would have serious consequences for the prosperity and supply of the Federal Republic of Germany.” The ministry also noted security risks in the region, exemplified by increased defense spending by Indo-Pacific nations and the presence of nuclear powers including India, Pakistan, mainland China, and Russia.

German Air Force Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz reported that “The Indo-Pacific is of great importance to Germany. We share the same values with many partners in this region. Defending those values in case of a war emergency and being able to support our partners is something that needs to be practiced.” When asked whether the war planes will pass the contentious South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, Gerhartz told reporters that the aircrafts would use civilian air traffic routes and that no passage of the Taiwan Strait was planned. Gerhartz said that the intention of the deployment was rather aiming to send a signal to Germany’s partners than China: “I don’t think we are sending any threatening message towards China by flying to an exercise in Australia.” Gerhartz’s sentiments were emphasized by Australia’s ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, who stressed there was no reason why Beijing should see a regular exercise of diplomacy as destabilizing to the region: “We are seeking a region which will be stable, peaceful and prosperous, strategic equilibrium where each country can take their own sovereign choices.”

Though self-serving, Germany’s actions appear to be rooted in fairly favorable intentions, with regional and worldwide stability reportedly being a leading factor of its decision to participate in Pitch Black and deploy fighter jets to Australia. Although such action could be done in a more progressive and productive manner, specifically without the involvement of the military, it seems as though participation is more of an opportunity to create diplomatic ties rather than put further stress on transnational tensions. So long as tensions do not further increase, Germany’s participation in the multinational military exercises could certainly lead to increased peace between nations. 

Last year, a German warship sailed into the South China Sea for the first time in almost 20 years, representing Berlin joining other Western nations in expanding military presence in the region amid growing alarm over Beijing’s territorial ambitions. Such action sets the stage for the six Eurofighter jets, four A400M multirole aircraft, and three A330 tankers that left Germany’s Neuburg Air Base on August 15th for a flight to Singapore. These German aircrafts then flew to Darwin in Australia for the drills, which started on August 19th and will continue until September 9th, according to the Australian defense department.

Germany’s Air Force could be furthering the expansion of its military presence, as recently observed in its naval endeavors in the same region. However, this deployment shouldn’t be quickly or simply be written off as negative because, as opposed to the sailing warship, in this instance there is opportunity for the creation of stability, diplomatic ties, and further peace. So long as Germany’s intentions remain as purported, its participation in Pitch Black could create a space for the development of new networks of diplomatic ties.