Anyone who is unfamiliar with the Bundeswehr should drive around Schönefeld extensively in the coming days. There is practically no escaping the ILA aerospace show at the exhibition center on the southern edge of BER Airport in Schönefeld. But if you’re looking for contact with the troops and their outfitters, cheered up with fresh billions in taxes, you’ve come to the right place: Right behind the entrance, a truck painted in a fashionable angular camouflage pattern has unfolded its steel steps. Those who take the steps reach the “career base”, as it says in large letters on a sign. You quickly get into conversation with officers.
This is how it continues on the entire site: The US armaments group Lockheed Martin, which after years of lobbying efforts is finally allowed to sell 35 of its particularly expensive F-35 multi-purpose combat bombers to the German Air Force, via Airbus, Liebherr, Diehl and MBDA: All outfitters offer customers and potential employees a lot to look at and touch: You can try out the Eurofighter, in front of which the entire arsenal of high-tech missiles that you can equip it with is spread out. Or you can try out a helicopter flight simulator with Luftwaffe soldiers.
All of this has happened before, the Bundeswehr is traditionally the largest exhibitor, but the military is particularly noticeable at this ILA because far fewer civilian companies have come. Young and medium-sized companies such as Volocopter from Bruchsal in Baden-Württemberg, which would have been lost in the huge range at the ILA in the past, suddenly stand out as one of the few providers of civil technology. At least it is not known that the Bundeswehr also wants to buy their “flying taxis”. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) took a seat in the cockpit of one of the company’s prototypes during his tour of the trade fair on Wednesday.
In short, the usual proportions are not right at the ILA 2022: there are significantly fewer exhibitors from fewer countries and fewer flight demonstrations than in most previous years up to 2018. That was the last time the ILA took place in person. The 2020 edition of this biennial show had to be banned from the internet because of Corona. And because BER Airport has now opened, Messe Berlin was no longer allowed or willing to organize a large flying circus with the character of a folk festival on the southern part of BER Airport. Hardly anyone in the industry regretted this by the end of February, as airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers continue to suffer from the travel restrictions.
But then Russia’s army attacked Ukraine, and now little is the same: the long-neglected armed forces will be awash in cash. And the interest of the population seems unbroken. The reduced ticket contingents (only 15,000 per public day Saturday and Sunday) are already sold out. Those who are not afraid of the increased ticket prices of up to 65 euros per day ticket on the trade visitor days up to Friday still have a chance of gaining admission to the site.
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In any case, in his opening speech in the scorching midday heat, Olaf Scholz dreamed of an aerospace industry that was “climate-neutral, low-noise and, above all, highly innovative”. That’s not science fiction, you can already admire a lot of it at the ILA, said the Chancellor.
At times, the efforts of the industry and the military to present themselves as the avant-garde of climate protection seem to be trying very hard: an air force officer in a blue uniform is giving a presentation in a hall. On the screen behind him you can see the outlines of a military Airbus A400M colored in three shades of green with the words “Ready for action, worldwide, sustainable.” In another hall, suppliers are presenting themselves who are already promising to fly with climate-neutral hydrogen. Airbus does not want to mass-produce such a jet until 2035.
Luckily, there are also a few corners at the ILA that are refreshingly free from the military and climate protection: For example, the model construction manufacturer Herpa is offering a small set with models of two Air Berlin Boeings on a scale of 1:500 at a special price at its stand on. A moment of happiness for fans of Berlin’s aviation history at a price of 49.95 euros.