October 14. 2022


Germany is the single largest capacity provider of ballistic missile defense in Europe. Germany does not possess nuclear weapons, nor would it be a threat even if it did. It did, however, play an important role in the negotiations for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the USA and USSR in the late 1980’s when the former Chancellor of West Germany unilaterally decided to dismantle all the Pershing IA missiles after dismantling the IRBMs of the USA and USSR.

Germany also played a major role in the joint development of the Medium Extended Air Defense Systems (MEADS) with the USA and Italy. MEADS International, with participating Lockheed Martin and MBDA earned the selection to start making what would be called the MEADS system, which would be run with a large amount of support from MBDA Deutschland GmbH. After litigious protests by the losing companies, MEADS garnered a definitive contract for $2 billion and € 1.4 billion. Since then, the Italian and German Branches of MBDA started developing anti-missile systems while the United States continued to bolster its own missile defense initiative.

In 2008, Germany began developing a laser-based ground-mobile anti-missile system, which uses of a concentrated beam of infrared laser that can track, identify and destroy missiles.[i] Tests run with the new laser have proven its proficiency in taking down missiles as far as 2km away. This same technology will be used in the future to develop anti-IED and anti-artillery systems.

Germany’s Ballistic Missile Defense Capabilities

 SystemOperatorNumber DeployedPlatform 
Patriot/PAC-3GermanyThree battalions Ground-based; road-mobile 

Germany’s Air Defense Capabilities

SystemRoleNumber DeployedPlatform 
Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)Medium-Range Air Defense ThreeSachsen class frigates
MIM-23 HawkMedium-Range Air Defense UnknownGround-based; road-mobile 
Skyshield 35Short-Range Air DefenseUnknownGround-based
LeFlaSysShort-Range Air DefenseUnknownGround-based; road-mobile 
IRIS-TMedium-Range Air Defense1 (in Ukraine)Ground-Based, road-mobile


Current Developments

In June of 2015, the German Federal Ministry of Defense chose the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) as the basis for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS), a next-generation network-based tactical air and missile defense system.[ii] It will replace Patriot air defense systems initially fielded in the 1980s.

In November 2017, German airman from the Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 worked with soldiers from 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment to create an integrated air and missile defense system construct as part of a NATO tactical evaluation.[iv]

The team of Lockheed, MBDA Deutschland and Italy’s Leonardo submitted a complete proposal to the German government to develop the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS, in late 2016. The long-delayed German medium-range air and missile defense deal with Lockheed Martin and MBDA is expected to be complete by roughly the end of 2018, two years behind schedule.[v]

In March 2018, Germany expressed interest in boosting cooperation with Germany on naval matters, specifically dealing with missile and air defense.

Most recently, in June 2018, the US military has been in preliminary talks with Germany about deploying a THAAD system in the country. No final decisions have been made yet. [vi]

In October 2022, Germany delivered the first IRIS-T Surface-Launched-Missile system to Ukraine in order to protect vital targets from aerial threats. The system consists of three elements: the missile launcher, the radar, and the fire-control system. It has a range of up to 25 miles (40 km) with a maximum altitude of 20 miles, making it perfect for intercepting cruise missiles. So far, only one system has been fielded, the one in Ukraine, with three more expected to be deployed by 2023. [vii][viii]

Recent News

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany has provided Ukraine with some defense capabilities. For instance, in June 2022, it was announced that Germany would send IRIS-T air defense missiles. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, “It’s the most modern air defense system that Germany has. This will enable Ukraine to protect an entire city from Russian air raids.” [ix] As of October 2022, Germany has delivered one of the four IRIS-T SLM systems to Ukraine.