It’s been an embarrassing year for the German military. Earlier this year, German soldiers participated in a drill using black-painted broomsticks as stand-ins for guns, while the government was forced to dispatch its equivalent of Air Force One because none of its other military aircraft were kept airworthy.
But now Berlin appears to be stepping up its game. This summer Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen vowed to increase spending, and now the defense ministry has announced it will commit over six billion euros to a program to upgrade German planes, helicopters, and other military equipment, according to an Agence France-Presse report published by Yahoo News:
Der Spiegel news weekly, which first revealed the investment programme, said the army planned 120 measures to boost personnel and stocks of spare parts.
The paper Der Spiegel cited “numerous” defence documents, which confirmed the “hardware problems constraining the capacity” of the Bundeswehr.
It listed radar problems with Eurofighter jets and with winches on board the NH90 transport helicopters that hampered their use in operations.
Only four of military’s 39 NH90 helicopters are currently useable, Der Spiegel said.
Germany remains the strongest power in Europe, and its failure to maintain a serious military force stands as a testament to NATO’s lackluster commitment to defense spending as a whole. For the U.S., this trend, which is only able to persist because NATO and other allies assume the Americans can deal with any serious military issues, is no small problem. Global threats are on the rise, and the U.S. needs other NATO members to make real, though not equal, contributions. Germany’s program to scrape the rust off its considerable fleet of weaponry is a good if limited sign there—now if only we could get a few more countries to buy into the idea of meeting their NATO obligations to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.