The Bundeswehr continues to struggle with considerable restrictions on the operational readiness of important weapon systems. Above all affected are helicopters and aircraft, which would be relevant for possible new foreign missions. They are only partially operational. Even with the tanks, there are still significant failures.
According to SPIEGEL information, the problems with the helicopters NH90, the combat helicopter "Tiger" and the transport helicopter CH53 are particularly large. Corresponding figures were presented by the armed forces recently in the home of Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU). The lists have since been kept under wraps.
The numbers are the raw material for a report to the Bundestag. Since 2014, these annual reports on material readiness have always been anathema to the extent to which the Bundeswehr's weapons systems are bad. Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to present the report for 2019 at the beginning of December.
Technical problems with new and complex weapon systems such as the helicopter NH90 are particularly dramatic. Of the 75 helicopters in the Bundeswehr's inventory, only 44 are currently available, according to the internal lists, and the remainder are for repairs or maintenance work in industry. Of the 44 helicopters, in turn, according to the statement, only nine aircraft are really operational. In 2018 there were still 17.
The "Tiger", the modern combat helicopter of the army, does not look much better: out of 53 combat helicopters delivered, only 36 are currently available. In the so-called Klarstand one finds only twelve machines, only these are actually airworthy. A "Tiger" mission would be militarily indispensable for any new Bundeswehr mission abroad, since the combat helicopter serves to protect ground forces from the air.
Of the 71 CH53 helicopters, which are still the burden of foreign missions, only 48 are available and only 18 are capable of flying. The helicopter, with which troops and material are transported, is regarded as a classic car of the Bundeswehr. Particularly scarce are the models with a self-defense equipment against missile attacks, which is mandatory for operations abroad. An improvement in the situation is not in sight: A new transport helicopter is indeed in planning, but at the earliest from the year 2023, because the contracts are not signed until next year.
Problems with helicopters, fighter jets, tanks
Of the 93 Luftwaffe "Tornado" combat jets, only 57 are currently available. In turn, only 20 jets can fly. The "Tornado" is international as a discontinued model. The coalition, however, has not been able to agree on a successor to the "Tornado" until today, as the SPD was banned from buying US fighter jets.
It also does not look rosy with the transport planes. Out of 31 A400M aircraft, only 19 were on average in 2019. In the year 2019, however, only eight of the huge, gray Luftwaffe airmen were able to fly. Of the 7200 flight hours planned, only 3700 were completed. At the moment, the A400M fleet is severely limited by elaborate safety checks on the engines, which is the backlog of flight hours and the training of pilots tightened.
The picture is equally dramatic for the armored infantry fighting vehicle "Puma", one of the Bundeswehr's latest weapons systems. Of the 284 tanks purchased, only 191 are available, only 67 are ready for use. An internal paper from the army says soberly: "So far, the newcomers to the industry are compensating only the high default rates. " A "noticeable increase in material commitment" could "not be achieved".
Willingness to do well in international comparison
Kramp-Karrenbauer must now decide how she deals with the explosive numbers. While the reports went to the Bundestag since 2014 as "classified information – only for official use" and were discussed publicly, Ursula von der Leyen decided last year to classify the report as "secret". Consequently, he could only be seen in the secret protection office of the Bundestag.
Von Leyens successor will also have to fundamentally rethink how the effectiveness of the Bundeswehr is calculated under her leadership. For example, the reports of the past few years have generally revealed that the Bundeswehr, with an operational readiness of more than 70 percent, stands well in international comparison. For 2019, according to insiders, a bottom line only marginally worse number.
One important reason for the reasonably good overall value is the amount of systems considered. Instead of analyzing only the relevant main weapon systems of the Bundeswehr, server databases and other rather non-military components have also been included in recent years. Their good values compensated for the poor numbers of the important deployment systems and ensured a justifiable result.
Curious numbers game
The calculation of operational readiness is also intransparent in principle. Thus, the ministry always states only the rate of operational systems in relation to the number of available tanks or aircraft. That, for example, in 2019 out of a total of 245 "Leopard" tanks of the troupe only 183 were available at all, because the others were serviced or repaired, can not be recognized at first glance.
The example of the main battle tank is well suited to illustrate the curious numbers game. Thus, in the numbers of the army for the annual report is expected to readiness of a good 55 percent reported because of the 183 available tanks 101 were ready for use. If one compares this number, however, with the "leopard" total stock of 245 tanks, the rate of operational readiness would be just over 41 percent.