Only 8% of German soldiers ‘fully confident’ with personal weapons – poll

© Regis Duvignau
Only 8 percent of German soldiers "fully" trust their personal weapons, a poll by a military research center suggests, adding to previous revelations about poor reliability and low accuracy of the German military’s standard issue rifles.

Forty-three percent of German soldiers said their personal weapons are “rather not reliable” or “not reliable at all,”Bild newspaper reported on Monday citing a poll by the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) research center.

Twenty-eight percent of servicemen admitted they could trust their weapons “partly".

The poll was, according to Bild, conducted last autumn during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise and involved 800 German troops taking part in the war games.

German soldiers also said they do not trust their light weapons such as heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles and other man-portable systems operated by a small team.

Thirty-six percent claimed their team’s weapons could not be trusted at all, with 21 percent and 30 percent respectively saying this type of weaponry is “rather” or “partly” reliable.

The report did not mention specific names or types of those weapons, but soldiers were likely referring to the G36, Bundeswehr’s standard issue assault rifle since 1996.

Initial doubts over the G36’s reliability were raised in 2012, when the military’s domestic investigation seen by Der Spiegel claimed that the rifle’s accuracy sank by one third at ranges of 300 meters and above.

Thomas de Maiziere, the then-defense minister, added fuel to the fire by saying that all G36 rifles tested by the military had various defects, meaning that “an enemy at a distance of 200 meters can no longer be safely engaged."

Last September, current Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the G36 had accuracy problems, announcing the replacement of some 167,000 rifles through a Europe-wide tender by 2019. Supporters of the replacement say the assault rifle’s lifespan is due to expire and the military needs a brand new weapon suitable for modern warfare.

Others argue that the G36 is time- and combat-proven, have been in use with the militaries and security forces of over 40 countries.

Earlier, media reports suggested that German military’s arsenals are in surprisingly poor condition. In 2014, Spiegel reported that only 24 out of a total of 109 Eurofighters are ready for service, and that 38 out of 89 – less than half – Tornado fighters could be utilized properly.

Several days later, it was revealed that the German Navy only had three operational helicopters and just 280 of Bundeswehr’s 406 Marder armored fighting vehicles were in full working condition. 

Bundeswehr comprises some 87,000 civilian personnel and 177,000 military staff being the second biggest armed forces in the EU behind France, and ahead of the UK.