Germany to phase out Tiger combat helicopters by 2038 - ministry

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to phase out its Tiger combat helicopters by 2038 and replace the fleet over time with H145M light military helicopters, built - like the Tiger - by Airbus, the defence ministry said on Saturday.

The decision had been expected as Germany effectively withdrew from a multinational programme to modernise the helicopters years ago while France and Spain in 2022 agreed to participate. Berlin has repeatedly complained about the Tiger's low availability for operations due to technical problems.

A German Defence Ministry spokesperson said the Tiger fleet would be phased out by 2038 unless further measures were taken, confirming a report by Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The ministry had looked into different scenarios and decided that the MkIII programme to modernise the helicopters carried too many risks with regard to cost and timely execution to take part in it, she added.

Instead of keeping the Tiger alive, the ministry plans to purchase H145M light military helicopters from Airbus to be able to fulfil its commitments to NATO in the future, she said, without giving details on numbers and costs.

The ministry plans to present a deal to parliament's budget committee for approval by the end of the year, according to the spokesperson.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Frances Kerry)