German Tiger UHT. Photo courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
The German federal parliament is questioning the combat readiness of military equipment, including A400 military transport aircraft, Tiger attack helicopters and NH90 multi-role helicopters delivered to Germany's armed forces, or Bundeswehr.
A Report on the Operational Readiness of the Bundeswehr Primary Weapons Systems by Hans-Peter Bartels, the Bundestag' s military commissioner, earlier this year found a low readiness rate of brand-new military aircraft. For example, of seven Tiger attack helicopters and seven NH90s delivered last year to the Bundeswehr, just two and four were operationally ready, respectively, according to the report.
The ongoing controversy over the relationship between industry and the German military caused Airbus to cancel an Innovation Day scheduled for Nov. 14 in Bonn, Germany. Airbus builds the A400M and Tiger helos, while NHIndustries — a collaboration among Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Fokker Aerostructures — builds the NH90.
The decision to cancel the Innovation Day "was not easy for us," Judith Metschies, head of operational marketing for Airbus Defense and Space, Intelligence, told R&WI. "The background is the current public discussion in Germany about the close proximity between the Bundeswehr and industry. We regret the cancellation very much, but wanted to respect the current discussions and avoid possible criticism of participants and organizers."
The Innovation Day was to include presentations on helicopter digitization and the H145M and NH90 helicopters, as well as speeches on future air power and meetings with Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space; Wolfgang Schoder, Airbus' executive vice president of light helicopters and governmental programs and the CEO of Airbus Helicopters Germany.
Germany, which annually spends less than eight percent of what the U.S. Defense Department does on defense, is in the middle of a debate about the proper place of the Bundeswehr in German society. The U.S. presidential administration has called on Germany to increase its military contributions to NATO, and Germany has made moves to do so under Minister of Defense Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen, who has been the minister since 2013.
"For years, we have heard from Mrs. von der Leyen and the entire federal government the complaint that the Bundeswehr had been broken down and therefore currently only poorly equipped and mostly not ready for action," Matthias Hohn, a Die Linke/Left Party member of parliament, said Oct. 31. "To remedy this situation, defense spending would have to be significantly increased in order to finance new arms projects."
"I asked the federal government how much the operational readiness of brand new military equipment delivered directly from the warehouses of the armaments industry actually exists," Hohn said. "One should assume that what the Bundeswehr takes from industry is also 100 percent operational. It is not so."
Hohn called the low rates a "scandal" and has called for the Bundeswehr to return funds to the federal government for spending on social programs. Other members of parliament have not followed Hohn's lead, but have called for the Bundeswehr to correct the low operational readiness rates of Bundeswehr equipment.