German military grappling technical failings

Germany's military cannot currently live up to all its NATO commitments due to equipment problems, the defence minister said Sunday, pointing to the need for more funding in the future.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview with a German newspaper that the Bundeswehr could meet its pledges in ongoing operations and responding to crises in the short-term.

"But with the airborne systems we are, at the moment, below the target figures announced a year ago on what we want to put at the disposal of NATO within 180 days in the case of an emergency," she told Bild am Sonntag.

Supply shortfalls on replacement parts for aircraft and the breakdown of naval helicopters are behind the problem, she said.

Last week, a small group of German military personnel sent to train Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State jihadists arrived in northern Iraq days behind schedule due to technical problems with several transport aircraft.

The first German arms delivery to the region also only arrived behind schedule.

According to media reports, numerous Bundeswehr helicopters and transport planes are not fit for service due to technical defects and fighter jets and armoured vehicles are also beset with problems.

Von der Leyen, who last week visited northern Iraq, said the focus had been to concentrate on the "very good equipment" available for military operations, and less on the maintenance of stock at home.

"For example, the production of replacement parts has been reduced for years. Maintenance and inspections proceed slowly," she told the Sunday paper, adding this could in part also hold up modern equipment.

Working on improving things would take years and more money down the line, she warned.

"Developing stocks, faster repairs and the acquisition of better equipment will cost more money in the medium term," she said.

"That will also be reflected foreseeably in the budget."

The German military is looking into leasing additional transport planes to help relieve its old Transall aircraft while it waits to receive A400M models and builds up a fully-operational fleet, she added.

On the need to raise military spending, the defence minister received backing from fellow conservative politician Henning Otte.

"From 2016, an increase of the budget will be necessary, for as much money as is necessary to fulfil all tasks," the conservative bloc's spokesman for defence matters was quoted as saying by German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

kjm/cah