German military faces ‘big gaps’
Germany’s military is being pushed beyond its limits amid greater international commitments but stagnant investment, according to a report.
“The army’s readiness to deploy has not improved in recent years, but instead has got even worse,” parliamentary armed forces commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels told the media, pointing to “big gaps” in personnel and equipment.
A separate Defence Ministry paper said this week that troops did not have enough protective vests, winter clothing or tents to adequately take part in a major Nato mission.
All Germany’s submarines were being repaired and none of the air force’s 14 A400M transport planes were airworthy at some times.
Fighter planes, tanks, helicopters and ships were all incapacitated by bad planning and a lack of spare parts, the report said.
Pilots were regularly unable to train as their aircraft needed maintenance for much of the year.
Spending on defence has been cut repeatedly since 1990, leaving the army with outdated equipment and a supply chain unable to increase production to fill the gaps.
West Germany officially joined Nato in 1955 but it was not until after reunification in 1990 that the government considered “out-of-area” missions led by the alliance.
“Tasks for which there are supposed to be additional people and equipment in future are already upon us,” Bartels said.
“Soldiers already have to accomplish them today as best they can, using whatever is at hand.”
There were 21,000 personnel vacancies, depriving the troops of leadership and contributing to low morale, the study claimed.
Last year, the German government announced the first personnel increase since 1990 and a spending boost over the next seven years.
But there had been no “substantial increase” in the budget since, Bartels claimed.
In 1995, Germany participated in its first Nato deployment in a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
The Bundeswehr has been deployed in Nato countries to the east to deter Russia and in Mali and Iraq.
After 2003 Germany became the third-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan in the relatively peaceful north of the country. More than 50 German troops were killed and more than 1,000 are still deployed as part of Operation Resolute Support.
Around 550 German troops are still stationed in Kosovo.
In 2016, Germany deployed its combat support ship Bonn to lead the Nato-EU mission in the Aegean Sea, conducting “reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of illegal crossings” in Greek and Turkish waters during the migration crisis.
A German army CH-53GS. Picture credit: DMAF