Outdated equipment, bureaucratic function, demotivated soldiers: Germany has a lot on its plate to modernize its army in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The disillusioned observation of one of the highest-ranking officers in the army in the early hours of the Russian invasion served as an electric shock in Germany. “The army I lead is more or less dry,” Alfons Mais admitted. The Bundeswehr was founded in 1955 and is in an “alarming” state, added Federal Defense Commissioner Eva Högl in her annual report.
It would not even be “able” to fulfill the function assigned to it by the Constitution, namely the “defense” of the country in the event of an attack, the Liberal deputy, Marcus Faber, a specialist in defense issues, confirms to AFP. incrimination of the “austerity policies” pursued in recent years. The examples are legion.
In the Navy, less than 30% of the buildings are “fully operational,” according to the December State of the Army report. In the Air Force, a large number of troop transport or combat aircraft are flightless. In the Army, of the 350 Puma combat vehicles, only 40 are considered “fit for war”. The numbers themselves would not measure up: officially equipped with 180,000 men (compared to 500,000 in 1990), the army would actually suffer from thousands of vacant positions.
Modernization in sight
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s promise to set aside more than 2% of GDP for defense spending each year “will not be enough: planning and acquisition structures need to be modernized”, advises Eva Högl. In fact, the army has suffered since its creation during a decentralized operation, which leaves the regions (Länder) in control of the construction and maintenance of buildings. Result: the smallest works can take years.
Lack of hot water
There are many examples of barracks that lack hot water, even drinking water, lack sanitary facilities or electrical outlets. In a fire station, it took 23 years to complete the rehabilitation of a facility. This situation “leads not only to the frustration of the soldiers, but sometimes also to the loss of confidence in the ability to act politically,” Eva Högl sums up in her report.
Sacrifice for its bureaucracy?
The Koblenz-based procurement centralization office, which employs almost 10,000 people, also focuses criticism on its administrative burden. “Even for small purchases, cumbersome procedures have been established over the years,” confirms Marcus Faber. For years, the Bundeswehr has been waiting for the successor to the G36, the current aging standard rifle. Several manufacturers have developed new weapons, but the process has stalled.
Waiting for … skiing
Alpine hunters have been waiting a long time for new skis. As for the renewal of the parachutes, it was slow to get approved despite outdated equipment. To improve the situation, the government plans to raise the spending ceilings above which a tender is needed.
Which army for tomorrow?
The first clues are known: Berlin will replace its aging fleet of Tornado fighters with American stealth F-35s and Eurofighters, at a cost of around 100 million euros each. Germany also continues to focus on European fighter jets (SCAF) in the longer term. It will also buy armed drones from Israel, an option rejected by the ruling coalition until the Russian offensive.
The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), a new European tank, is also expected, but not before 2035. Germany will also equip itself with an anti-missile shield, the Israeli “Iron Dome” capable of protecting, from 2025 , its territory, as well as Poland, the Baltic States and Romania. Another necessity: the replacement of aging transport helicopters, no doubt by American Chinooks.
Eight years are needed
In total, “up to eight years” should be necessary, according to Mr Faber, for “the complete equipment of the Bundeswehr”, investments that are not unanimous in Germany. Thus, around 600 personalities – political, religious, artistic, etc. – thus expressed in a forum on Tuesday their opposition to this “arms race”, which is likely to lead to cuts in other sectors.