|In addition to the challenges of its operational tempo and staffing, the German military has faced cost and schedule problems with its Tigers and NH90s. Photo courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
German leaders are working toward a decision this month on how to best bolster military forces that face steady demand to support multinational peacekeeping and counter-terrorism missions and counter possible threats from Russia.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed Germany to assuming more responsibility internationally. She has reversed a decision to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan after the U.S. did the same; about 900 personnel in Afghanistan.
German troops shortly are to relieve Netherlands units deployed to the West African nation of Mali as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.
Forces also are bombing Islamic State fighters in Syria and dealing with migrants flooding into Europe. They are assigned to the counter-terrorism Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Germany also must maintain NATO commitments, including countering Russia.
But military forces have been pared back steadily since Germany was reunified in 1990. Then, the Bundeswehr had about 600,000 soldiers. Today, it is budgeted for 185,000 troops, but has 177,000.
This month, officials are to weigh in on a proposal to raise troop levels by 7,000, with another increase to follow. In a related move, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has laid out plans to increase by 85% defense procurement and modernization spending over the next 15 years.
Von der Leyen is calling for 130 billion euros (about $142 billion) in those spending categories over that period. Germany today is investing about 4.7 billion euros a year in defense procurement and modernization. Von der Leyen’s plan would raise that annual spending to 8.7 billion euros for the next decade and a half. The German army’s budget for 2015 was 33 billion euros.
While most of that is expected to go toward the nation’s ground forces, recent operations have taken a toll on military helicopters. Germany, for instance, is moving up the planned retirement of its Sikorsky Aircraft CH-53Gs, which Airbus Helicopters has been modernizing to the -53GA configuration.