Criticised for many years for its immobility regarding its armed forces, Germany seems finally to have turned its attention to defence issues. Over the past weeks both Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble had been holding out the prospect of a significant rise in military spending. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has now provided details of these plans. In a statement entitled “Investing Billions in the Coming Years” she has pledged to increase “spending on the equipment of the armed forces by around €130bn over the next 15 years to ensure a flexible functionality.” The plan is no longer “as it was in previous years, oriented towards a lowering of defence spending, but rather to increasing it.”
The plan, revealed by von der Leyen on ARD television on Wednesday 27 January, will allow the defence budget to “gradually” and “steadily” go up. The days of “tightening our belt” are over, Von der Leyen said. She plans to put a stop to the 25 years of budgetary cuts during which the gap between the funds available and the tasks to be performed had only increased.
Speaking to the defence committee of the German parliament later the same day, Von der Leyen insisted that the emphasis would be on upgrading the military’s heavy machinery by 2030. The numbers go further than those previously made public. The number of Fennek scout vehicles, produced by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, has risen from 217 to 248 whilst the numbers of PzH 2000 howitzer tanks have increased from 89 to 101. Von der Leyen also confirmed the rise in the number of Leopard 2 combat tanks from 225 to 320. In addition to this, the ministry will acquire 342 Puma tanks, the successor to the Marder, whose 196 remaining vehicles could stay in service.
The planned upgrade described by Von der Leyen for the future fleet of transport vehicles for the Bundeswehr should bring the total to 1,300 including 900 Fox and 400 Boxer armoured transports. Finally the defence minister confirmed the procurement of 59 new heavy helicopters to replace the elderly fleet of CH-35Gs bought in the 1960s. With this in view Germany recently down-selected Sikorsky’s CH-53K and Boeing Defense’s CH-47F Chinook.
Whether the plan is approved by the German parliament or not, it certainly seems to have found solid backing from the German government. According to the German daily Der Spiegel, Schaüble has already “declared that he is prepared to raise the Defence ministry’s budget” and to “invest a total of €130bn for armaments between now and 2030.”