Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Bundeswehr: Scandal after Scandal

After the constant flow of news reports in recent months about the inadequacy of the Bundeswehr, I thought it interesting to examine the current problems that the Bundeswehr is facing. As a country that has led the way in deploying troops to conflict zones such as Afghanistan and the Balkans, a modern military is needed. In order to maintain its position in the E.U. as one of the leading fighting forces, the following problems must be addressed.
            One of the biggest debacles facing the Bundeswehr currently is the problem of the G-36 rifle. This rifle is the standard issue rifle of the Bundeswehr and soldiers have long complained about it having issues in firefights. The German Defense Ministry admitted this week that it has been proven through tests that when the gun heats up due to firing the accuracy rapidly decreases. It has been shown that the accuracy varies by up to half a meter during extended firing after multiple complaints from soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Not only is this an embarrassment for the Defense Ministry, but also for Heckler and Koch, which has sold more than 180.000 of the rifles to the Bundeswehr.
            The German Luftwaffe is also having multiple issues which have been highly publicized in German media recently. The Eurofighter, produced by Airbus, was shown to have massive problems incurred during the production process. As a result of this, Airbus was forced to reduce the life expectancy of the plane from 3000 to 1500 flight hours. Moreover, only 42 of the 109 fighters are combat ready. The newest attack helicopter, the Tiger, is also not free from embarrassment. For example, due to problems with the fuel tank, an inspection is required after every 25 flight hours. Only 10 of the 31 Tigers are also combat ready. Pilots of the helicopter also are not very fond of it, as stated: “Not only must our pilots maneuver so, that the enemy combatants on the ground are exactly in front of them, but they must also fly much closer to the combatants than other helicopters. Due to that, the Tigers are the ideal target for enemy troops.
 One of the most present examples of the problems that the Bundeswehr has been facing recently is the MH-90. Used by the Deutsche Marine as a transport and rescue helicopter, it is not even permitted to perform one of the most basic missions that it was designed for: flying over the Baltic and North Seas. It is also not allowed to fly medical rescue missions as well. Other technical problems include issues with the engine, the fact that the seats cannot hold fully donned soldiers, lack of space in the helicopter and even the fact that soldiers with muddy boots cannot board, as the interior section is extremely sensitive to impurities such as dirt and mud.
            Until 2011, Germany, like several other nations in Europe, relied on the Wehrpflicht or general conscription in order to maintain its troop levels. Due to political pressure, this policy was reversed and now the Bundeswehr is beginning to feel the effects. In order to maintain the current active duty levels of 185,000 troops, around 13,000 new soldiers per year need to be recruited. Without the Wehrpflicht, a mix of recruits from all social classes is not achievable. Additionally, the German economy is experiencing a boom and potential recruits find better paying jobs in the private sector. One could also include the reputation of soldiers or the military in Germany in general when examining the problem of recruiting. When there is a large and vocal portion of society that is viciously anti-intervention and anti-military, potential recruits might lose interest due to social and societal pressures.
            All in all, if the Bundeswehr intends on maintaining combat readiness in a period where, as already seen, countries such as Russia are becoming more aggressive, drastic changes need to be made. An army is only as useful as its resources allow it to be, and when even the standard issue weapons do not function as required, it is doubtful how effective the Bundeswehr can remain.

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