The German Bundeswehr will be getting a much-needed injection of funding in 2019 following approval for the spending hike in parliament on November 9. Under the budget that was passed following more than 15 hours of negotiations and revisions the defense budget got an additional €326.5 million ($368 million) top-up on its planned FY19 earmark. This will bring the total defense earmark up to €43.23 billion ($48.72 billion) in 2019.
This extra funding will enable the launch of a project aimed at replacing the 1970s-vintage VFW-Sikorsky CH-53G Stallion helicopter fleet that perform the medium- and heavy-lift roles for the Air Force.
The Defense Ministry intends to acquire between 45 and 60 new-build heavy-lift helicopters under a €5.6 billion ($6.31 billion) program that despite its urgent nature continued to fall victim to electoral, budgetary timeline and financial pressures.
Previously, in January 2016, the Bundeswehr shortlisted two heavy-lift options to meet its German Heavy Transport Helicopter Program (Schwere Transporthubschrauber, or STH) requirement: Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook and Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion. Despite having yet to formally release definitive specifications for this requirement, the German Defense Ministry has already approached both Boeing and Sikorsky about pricing.
Funding proposed for a new submarine class to be developed in tandem with Norway was also given approval by the Bundestag, as well as for the TVLS (Taktisches Luftverteidigungssytem) German tactical air and missile defense system project.
These represent just three of a slew of longstanding procurement goals aimed at improving the Bundeswehr’s poor readiness levels.
The bulk of the #tanks, #FighterJets and #helicopters delivered to the #Bundeswehr were not ready for deployment, the Defense Ministry has said. Manufacturers delivered 97 large items but only 38 were fully operational. https://t.co/J5E0RyOafo
— Geopolitics & Empire (@Geopolitics_Emp) November 9, 2018
The poor state of Bundeswehr readiness and the lack of investment towards defense by Berlin as seen under NATO metrics have brought Germany under criticism, particularly since the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
While Germany’s topline defense budget – €38.52 billion ($43.4 billion) – is one of the world’s ten largest the Bundeswehr has increasingly little to show for its expenditure.
Since NATO’s 2014 Wales summit, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been pushing for improvements in Germany’s equipment and equipment support pipeline with what might be described as – at best – uneven results. These have included combat ships delivered to the Navy but not accepted, a submarine fleet entirely out of commission for over half a year, tanks lacking in spare parts and with low readiness levels, and a lackluster recruiting push despite earnest appeals by the Defense Ministry.
Little appears to be working for the Bundeswehr. A report by Der Spiegel earlier this year noted that just 10 of the Air Force’s fleet of 128 Eurofighter Typhoons was mission-ready. Worse, only four had enough available missiles to be deemed combat-ready. This falls far short of Germany’s NATO obligation to have 82 fighters combat-ready and available to partake in crisis situations.
The onus is on Germany to tick up its annual defense expenditures so that they begin approaching the NATO minimum requirement of equaling 2% of GDP per year. Rather than making a concrete declaration of meeting that benchmark, German diplomats used a more evasive standard at the 2014 NATO summit, instead declaring their intention to bring investment up towards 2 percent.
Instead of meeting the NATO minimum spending standard of 2 percent of GDP by 2024, Germany’s current spending plans foresee the defense budget ‘rising’ to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2025. The budgetary hike earmarked for 2019 – a nominal year-on-year rise of €4.71 billion ($5.31 billion), or 12% – will aid in this effort.
The additional monies should aid the Defense Ministry in its effort to recruit and train proper military procurement staff, rebuild a broken supply chain, and improve the lackluster state of the Bundeswehr in terms of capability and readiness levels. But the effectiveness of such initiatives will only be made clear further into the future rather than up front.