Germany can’t keep its armed forces in working order

Ruben Veenstra for Veenstra & De Vries Aviation Publishing

Germany is politically considered a big player in current European events. But when it comes to putting it’s armed forces to use it lacks a serious punch. The reason: the Bundeswehr has serious and wide spread problems in keep its forces in working order.

German Eurofighter at Frisian Flag 2014

German Eurofighter at Frisian Flag 2014

Case in point: two weeks ago a jet serviced at southern Erding Air Base took off only to return after two minutes because of a technical failure. In this case it was a Tornado of which the Luftwaffe has 89. However, only 38 are ready to fly after unconfirmed reports. It’s a symptom of a wide spread problem throughout the whole German Luftwaffe and not limited to only the Tornado nor the flying arm of the armed forces.

The Washington Post reported that Germany sent a Navy ship to the Horn of Africa for anti-piracy missions but had to do so without it’s Sea Lynx helicopters. Of the 43 helicopters the Navy operates, only 7 are fit to fly. Of the four German Navy submarines, only one is ready to deployed. The list goes on and on.

It is reminiscent of the state of the German armed forces back in 1962 when it was reported as being “partially ready to defend” by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and angering Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss. So much so that Strauss ordered the search of several homes of Der Spiegel journalists and confiscating thousands of documents. He also directed the seizing of the newspaper’s offices and, last but not least, incarcerated three editors. All the while the Minister of Justice was deliberately kept out of the loop. Not surprisingly this did not sit well with the population and after a series of riots and protests, Minister Strauss had to resign. At the end of the affair one of the editors, Rudolf Augustein, had been incarcerated for 103 days.

Of course, times have a-changed and today no journalists are being arrested. But the problem is so widespread within the armed forces that Germany cannot keep up its obligations as a NATO member. And while Merkel is willing to increase Germany’s defense budget from 1,3% GDP up to 2%, many are skeptical she will succeed in doing so in the short term.

Even officers on active duty are ringing alarm bells. Today, aforementioned Erding Air Base is host of the 1st Maintenance Regiment which mostly services the air fleet’s engines. In 2019, however, this role is transferred to Manching Air Base leaving Erding to work on other parts. Colonel Alder, commanding officer of the regiment at Erding, warned reporters of Merkur Online that Manching is not expected to be ready to take over all the duties in 2019. It looks like Germany’s state of readiness is lacking so far behind that it will take years to get back to an acceptable level. Germany may be partially ready to defend but is hardly capable to act.