Sébastien Roblin for The National Interest in a piece called Germany Does Not Have One Working Submarine:
One unfortunate consequence is that the submarine crews are completely unable to gain badly needed operational experience. Only by mid-2018 will three German submarines be operational, followed by possibly a fourth that November.
But the kicker is that the Deutsche Marine would not be able to deploy its full submarine force even if all six were in operational condition. According to Bartels, there are only three trained crews available to man the six Type 212As.
Indeed, the German military, which transitioned to being a purely volunteer force in 2011, has struggled to fill its ranks […]
Low readiness rates afflict other branches of the Germany military as well. For example, Germany is currently expanding and upgrading its fleet of Leopard 2 tanks. However, according to NTV, out of 244 Leopard 2 tanks already in service, only ninety-six are combat-ready, while eighty-nine are awaiting spare parts, seven are devoted to R&D and fifty-three are under maintenance or receiving upgrades. Of fourteen new A400M transport planes, sometimes none are in operational condition; one broke down in February 2017 while transporting Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. In 2015, it was revealed that out of ninety-three Tornado strike jets officially in service, only thirty were combat ready.
Meanwhile some are still speculating how Germany could possibly spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.
German tanks are in a terrible condition, according to Janes:
German media reported on 16 November that only 95 of the 244 Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) in service with the Bundeswehr are operationally ready. A further 53 vehicles – thought to be Leopard 2A6Ms – are being converted to the new Leopard 2A6M+ standard, and 86 are in a state of disrepair without any spare parts. The German report states that “the unavailability of the required replacement parts would be detrimental”.
Apparently the German system cannot handle the increased exercise intensity that has developed over the last few years. And that has led to concerns as to how long the German logistics system could function in case of a real conflict.
Janes mentions that there was a similar predicament in August when German forces in Mali suffered from a lack of spare parts. I might add the ridiculous lack of spare parts that left all of Germany’s submarines inoperative. Germany needs to fix this quickly.
Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Bild:
“Of course, everyone knows the direct link between Mr Schröder and Gazprom but I think the SPD’s view on Nord Stream goes back to Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and a view that cross-border commerce can help to build a rapprochement between estranged states. This is a noble position to hold, but in my many dealings with Vladimir Putin over the years, I’m afraid it is a little naive. President Putin wants to restore Russian greatness, and that means keeping his sphere of influence in central and eastern Europe. The tool he has to leverage his position is Russian energy. I also doubt whether SPD support for Nord Stream 2 accurately translates Brandt’s approach into the 21st century. If you want to bring about change through trade today, it is surely accomplished by increasing commerce between small and medium-sized businesses, not by buying a highly valuable energy source from Russia’s state-run monopoly.”
It looks like Germany might join the F-35 family around 2025. According to Janes the Joint Strike Fighter is the preferred choice as a replacement for the Tornado.
The Tornado will retire around 2030, and the transition to its successor will take about five years. It makes a lot of sense to replace the Tornado with a fifth generation fighter, and the F-35 is the only one available at this time schedule.
Earlier Germany had set its hopes on Airbus to be ready with its New Fighter. However, now it seems that this aircraft will not be ready before the 2040-timeframe. It is therefore much more likely as a replacement for Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoons and the French Dassault Rafale.
The New Fighter is the manned fighter jet in a concept that Airbus calls Future Combat Air System (FCAS). In addition to the New Fighter, Airbus envisions a future where different kinds of manned aircraft and UAV’s operate interconnectedly as a family in the FCAS. One must hope that Airbus makes it easy to integrate products from other manufacturers into FCAS, because otherwise Germany might find itself in a complicated mixed family situation. Connectivity is vital for future air operations, and if Germany’s 85 Tornados and 125 Eurofighters are replaced by the same numbers of F-35s and New Fighters respectively they have to be able to exchange data smoothly.
A few weeks ago I passed the German submarine U 35 in Kattegat, and as always the encounter with a submarine caused a bit of attention on the bridge. She was heading North, and we suspected that she was going to Skagerrak for some test dives. Turns out we were right. Unfortunately she also hit a rock and damage a rudder during the tests, so now she has returned to the shipyard in Kiel for repairs.
With the damage of U 35 all of Germany’s six submarines are now unoperative. Closer investigations will reveal whether U 35 can be repaired by taking spare parts from one of the other unoperative submarines, but if this is not possible, Germany will be without submarines well into next year.
This is bad news for several reasons. Most obviously it means that Germany cannot use the submarines until they are operative again, so some tasks will not be solved in the meantime. But in the bigger perspective it also underscores the fragility of NATO’s ability to operate submarines in the Baltic. Danish Rear Admiral Nils Wang made some headlines last month stating that for Denmark to invest in submarines number 15, 16 and 17 in the Baltic would be a flagrant waste of money, but that argument doesn’t hold up very well if Denmark’s most obvious training partner and provider of submarine gathered intelligence is severely restrained in its resources. The expectation is that Germany will have four operative submarines before the end of 2018, and they are taking measures to improve the maintenance schedule so hopefully they won’t end up in a similar predicament again. But it does show that NATO’s submarine weapon in the Baltic is currently dependent on a logistics system that doesn’t seem to be working.
It is interesting to notice the candor with which the German Navy explains its own problems with the provisioning of spare parts for its submarines. Apparently the problem is the lean management system that has been implemented to reduce costs by guaranteeing just-in-time availability of necessary parts. The official statement as well as the accompanying Twitter message and the explanations by the spokesperson make no secret of the fact that the situation is appalling. The system doesn’t work, and the Navy is not shy to admit it. Fingers are directly pointed at the policies which have forced the navy to implement a broken logistical system. I find it refreshing to see such clear messages from a military organization, because that’s just not the style of communication I am used to from a military leadership.
Europe desires a fundamentally disinterested protector, but the European countries better realize that America’s unwillingness to provide that security will continue to grow, writes Jeremy Shapiro in this insightful piece in [War On The Rocks] [WTHR link]:
But presidential incompetence and the public’s lack of interest is a weak foundation on which to build a durable foreign policy. The disinterested nature of America’s security relationship with Europe means that its commitment to the continent is usually first in line for the foreign policy chopping block. For a public that wants to put America first, it is particularly hard to explain why America should protect a relatively stable continent of rich democracies. Trump has made a lot of rhetorical hay out of Europe’s freeriding on America. Neither the American foreign policy establishment nor their European allies have found an effective political counter-argument.
All of this creates a deep challenge for Europe. Europe has an intense strategic and psychological dependence on the United States, yet Trump’s America, and arguably any future America, is both uninterested in, and unable to fulfill, its traditional role in Europe.
The states of Europe should be preparing for that day. But, as the mild reaction to the radical Trump presidency shows, internal divisions mean that by and large they are not. For all the upsetting changes in America and Russia, for all the crises that have rocked Europe in the last several years, and for all the destabilizing developments in Europe’s neighborhood, E.U. member states clearly prefer the old bargain that has served them so well. For the most part, they will cling to it until its demise becomes clearer than truth. In the meantime, no one will block Trump’s photo opportunity at the next NATO summit.
In my story about the Danish submarine debate I described how Danish rear admiral Wang and German commodore Reineke expressed fundamentally different expectations about the probable American support in case of a regional conflict in the Baltic Area:
Wang’s argument was that […] Denmark would […] find itself in a position where the navy must play the offensive role in a mission to escort troops to the Baltic states under the support of allied forces counting several carrier strike groups located in the North Sea. […]
[T]he German point of view was that the regional powers must be prepared to manage a conflict in the Baltic Sea without external support from allies.
Jeremy Shapiro’s argument supports the German position.
Maks Czuperski has a fascinating look at the role of Russian botnets in the propagation of fake stories about election fraud in Germany:
Comments from the fringe on the eve of the German election took various forms, including official posts, posts from probable fake accounts, and bot amplification. While no evidence of fraud was presented in the posts, the narrative they all spread is the same: the AfD is in danger of election fraud, and its members should be on the alert to prevent it.
This behavior seems pitched to increase tensions, not least in the polling stations and counting areas. Should the AfD fail to perform well at the urns, it is likely to lead to online accusations of election fraud, potentially undermining the legitimacy of the vote.
The line between war and peace is getting hard to define.
The Defense Commission of the Danish parliament yesterday conducted a hearing on the question of whether Denmark should reintroduce submarines and sea mines in the naval arsenal. Both were phased out in 2005 but especially the importance of submarines has been a question of intense debate ever since.
Rear admiral Nils Wang, commandant of the Danish Defence College, made some headlines in local newspapers with a statement from the hearing that an investment in submarines would be “a flagrant waste of money”. Wang’s argument was that a military conflict in the Baltic area would encompass a Russian invasion of the Baltic states and a subsequent Russian defensive posture in the Eastern part of the Baltic basin. Denmark would thus find itself in a position where the navy must play the offensive role in a mission to escort troops to the Baltic states under the support of allied forces counting several carrier strike groups located in the North Sea. In this scenario Wang primarily sees a need for area air defense, land attack strike missiles, a range of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets, and mine counter measures (MCM). However, Wang does not see a role for submarines in this scenario as, supposedly, they do not give any particular advantage in ASW in littoral areas.
Commodore Ulrich Reineke of the German Navy begged to disagree with his Danish colleague, saying that Germany finds submarines crucial for ASW and Read more