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7 Mar, 2023 22:44

German army struggling with NATO obligations – media

The Bundeswehr is short of battle-ready tanks to bolster the bloc's rapid deployment force, German media report
German army struggling with NATO obligations – media

Germany would be ill-equipped to fulfill its NATO commitments in the event of an emergency requiring an immediate military response, state broadcaster ZDF has reported. Berlin was scheduled to form the core of the military bloc’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) this year. However, the military unit responsible lacks battle-ready tanks for the mission, the broadcaster said on Monday, citing internal documents.

The VJTF is expected to be the first to meet an adversary if NATO is attacked. The 8,000-strong force must be ready to send its troops to the front within two to seven days, but the Bundeswehr Tank Battalion 393 is hardly up to the task, ZDF revealed.

The unit, based in the central state of Thuringia, is the only one in the Bundeswehr equipped with state-of-the-art Leopard 2A7V main battle tanks. However, not enough of them are combat-ready.

At least 30 of the unit’s 44 heavy equipment tanks must be battle-ready at any time through the year to meet the VJTF requirements. In January, the unit had only 17 tanks ready for action, according to the internal documents seen by ZDF. In February, this number increased to 20, still below the VJTF standards.

Estimates by the Bundeswehr seen by ZDF show that the battalion will not be ready for the VJTF mission this year, since the number of combat-ready tanks in its possession is unlikely to exceed 23 at any time.

The German military has already extended the period for mandatory tank maintenance from 12 to 24 months in order to increase the number of combat-ready panzers in the 393rd Battalion. Otherwise, 11 more tanks would have been deemed unfit for service, ZDF reported.

According to the broadcaster, the unit would have to “borrow” tanks from another battalion based in the southern state of Bavaria. However, that unit has its own issues with tank availability, and its armor has not undergone an official VJTF certification.

The issue was blamed on a maintenance plant owned by the German defense industry giant KMW. Internal documents showed that the maintenance backlog was discussed during a top-level “crisis meeting” in mid-February.

Officially, Berlin still maintains that it is ready to fulfill its NATO obligations. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius did admit a “backlog of maintenance and repairs” during his visit to Lithuania this week, but insisted that the issue “will now be resolved.”

“There is no doubt that the mission can be accomplished,” he told journalists, referring to the VJTF.

The news comes as Germany prepares to send 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kiev as part of another Western military aid package.