The German Air Force has sent warplanes to take part in Australia’s upcoming multinational military exercises for the first time as B erlin steps up engagement with the Indo-Pacific . Six Eurofighter jets, four A400M multirole aircraft and three A330 tankers left Germany’s Neuburg Air Base on Monday for a flight to Singapore, according to the German Air Force. The German planes will then fly to Darwin in Australia for the Pitch Black multinational military drills, which will start on Friday and continue until September 9, according to the Australian defence department. “The Indo-Pacific is of great importance to Germany. We share the same values with many partners in this region,” German Air Force Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz was quoted as saying. “Defending those values in case of a war emergency and being able to support our partners is something that needs to be practised.” Xinjiang claims and zero Covid spur shift in China-Germany economic ties The 13 aircraft are Germany’s largest peacetime deployment in the Indo-Pacific and the first to take part in the joint drills, which involve 17 countries, including the United States, Britain and Canada as well as Southeast Asian nations. Observers said Germany’s participation reflected Berlin’s growing intention to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific and to join Western allies to counter Beijing’s military expansion in the region. German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht told German news media that the country’s focus was still on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but “we must also direct our attention towards other regions”. After Pitch Black, the German fleet will take part in Exercise Kakadu before continuing on to Japan and South Korea, according to the Australian Department of Defence. Taiwanese media reports said the fleet would fly near the Taiwan Strait on its way home, but Gerhartz said the route taken by the jets would “barely touch” the South China Sea and would not pass through the Taiwan Strait – a source of tensions with Beijing. Germany released a comprehensive Indo-Pacific strategy in 2020, signalling its shift away from a Beijing-centred Asia policy. In 2021, it sent a navy frigate to waters off Taiwan for the first time in around 20 years to conduct joint exercises with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo. Beijing tells Germany to keep up pragmatic China policy and cooperation The German defence ministry has cited the security of global trade routes as a key area of interest. “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 said. It also said increased defence spending by Indo-Pacific nations, and the presence of nuclear powers including India, Pakistan, mainland China, and Russia, posed security risks in the region.