Germany must urgently overhaul its approach to arms procurement if it wants to contain rising costs and address the poor state of its military hardware, an independent report said on Monday.
Half a year after vowing Germany would take a more active role in international crises, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been forced to acknowledge that some equipment is in such disrepair that Germany is unable to meet NATO commitments.
The shortcomings came to light after two planes taking arms and trainers to help Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State militants broke down, as did a plane taking aid to African states hit by Ebola.
The military says a large proportion of equipment such as helicopters and fighter jets is unfit for service, casting doubt on Germany's ability to help provide air defense for its NATO allies in the Baltics if the Ukraine crisis escalates.
The report, drawn up by KPMG consultancy at the request of the defense procurement office, identified 140 problems and risks facing nine key arms projects worth 57 billion euros.
They include the A400M transporter made by Airbus, the Eurofighter Typhoon jet made by BAE Systems, Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, and the Puma tank made by Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
“The analysis of selected defense projects and plans shows that improvement in the management of national and international projects is urgent and needed without delay,” the report said.
Nearly 200 recommendations
It makes 180 recommendations to address problems of rising costs and changing project parameters, which would take at least two years to implement. Von der Leyen, who said the report would help focus efforts, blames the problems on delays in deliveries of spare parts and inadequate inspections and maintenance.
The report said defense buying required a culture of leadership and responsibility, close cooperation with industry and precise contracts with clear incentives and penalties.
The military said only 70 of 180 Boxer armored fighting vehicles, seven of 43 navy helicopters, 42 of 109 Eurofighters and 38 of 89 Tornados are operational. Transall transport planes are also in poor condition, with only 24 out of 56 deployable.
Regarding a Puma tank project which will be six years behind schedule if the first of the tanks is in use by November, KPMG said original projections were too optimistic in allocating 2.5 years to come up with a demonstration model for the new tank.
“The intention of the procuring party to keep both the time frames short and costs low, while trying to achieve a maximum amount of technical innovation, can be viewed as the main reason for the huge delay,” the report said.
Former military chief Harald Kujat has blamed the problems on cost-cutting.
At 1.29 percent of output, Germany's defense spending is “shamefully” under NATO's 2 percent target, Kujat said.