Germany is considering whether to launch airstrikes in Syria, according to German media. The strikes would target Syrian military installations should the Assad regime employ chemical weapons against the last rebel forces holding out in Idlib province.
Meanwhile, in July, German media reported that most of the Luftwaffe's advanced Eurofighter jets had been grounded for maintenance issues with their defensive systems. Considering that attacking the Syrian government could pit Luftwaffe aircraft against advanced Russian air defenses, this could be a problem.
Germany had previously ruled out joining the U.S.-British-French air campaign in Syria. But "if Assad is proven to attack its own people again with poison gas, this time armed Bundeswehr Tornadoes could fly attacks on military infrastructure such as barracks, air bases, command posts and ammunition depots," according to Germany's Bild newspaper (Google English translation here ). The Tornadoes would fly joint missions with the other coalition partners.
This would be the first time that German aircraft would drop bombs since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. To be fair, German Tornado jets have already been flying reconnaissance missions over Syria -- even though they can't fly at night . But Germany's military has been besieged by persistent revelations that much of its equipment, including ships, tanks and aircraft, has been sidelined by maintenance issues and manpower shortages .
The German air force has participated in some overseas missions, flying reconnaissance flights over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. But the German public and government are reluctant to become involved in wars, a legacy of history not helped by the fact that modern Germany's air force is still called the Luftwaffe (literally "air weapon").
Even if the German government does authorize airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria, most likely they would be likely be very limited operations, given public hesitation. But this still risks a confrontation with the Syrian government's ally Russia, which has troops, aircraft and air defenses in the country.
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This could pit the Luftwaffe's aging Cold War Tornadoes, rather than the troubled but modern Eurofighters, against advanced Russian air defenses such as S-400 anti-aircraft missiles and Su-35 fighters. Presumably the German planes would be supported and escorted by U.S. aircraft, but the Luftwaffe would be facing an advanced air defense system for the first time since the Cold War (or the Battle of Britain).
Shooting down a Luftwaffe aircraft might provide a certain satisfaction to Russia, after the pounding it experienced from Hitler's air force . But given existing tensions between Russia and Europe over Ukraine and the Baltic States, a military confrontation would be in nobody's interest.
Image: Creative Commons.