The German Navy is in the process of obtaining five new warships. However, the purchase, despite Germany’s latest aspirations, is not intended to initiate a paradigm shift within the Bundeswehr but is instead about German efficiency – unfortunately.
The Currently Subpar Status of Germany’s Military
Germany’s armed forces are currently in a sorry state. Foreign missions that would require combat operations are out of the question. The troops’ reputation in their own country is practically non-existent, and allies know that German soldiers can, at best, be utilized for basic and routine services abroad.
For the first time last year, the country’s leaders opened a serious discussion making the Bundeswehr fit to face the new challenges in the world, but the majority of the population still does not support the idea, and thus the grand coalition remains divided over the force’s future.
Why the Purchase? Buying New Warships is Cheaper Than Repairing the Old Ones
Accordingly, the new warships are not intended to start a larger German present, but because the acquisition costs of 2.8 billion are cheaper than having ailing ships repeatedly repaired.
The Ministry of Defense has already approved a corresponding motion by Christian Democratic Union (CDU) MP Ingo Gädechens. According to this, further action on the file was currently being coordinated by the ministry.
The Bundeswehr currently possesses five K130 corvettes, which they purchased in 2008 to replace 15 speedboats. The 89-meter-long warships are suitable for use near the coast, such as in the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. They are currently involved in the UN mission outside Lebanon.
The Navy Steps up to the Plate
Defense politicians in Germany have declared their goal to strengthen the Bundeswehr again after decades of saving. Of the Bundeswehr’s armed forces, the Navy has best managed to comply with this declared will.
At the end of 2016, the advance for five additional K130s arrived. They were appointed in 2017, shortly before the general election. The argument: the Bundeswehr has too few ships to increase the number of foreign deployments and Russia’s growing threat. Another argument at the time was that the second batch of five corvettes could be built faster than larger frigates of the multi-purpose combat ship MKS 180.
Four years later, this is no longer unreservedly true. The old corvettes suffer from “obsolescence”; in other words: their technology is out of date. From 2025, they would have to be overhauled. Even the Federal Audit Office has recommended to the Ministry of Defense several times over the past few years to plan new acquisitions at an early stage instead of continuing to operate old weapon systems for decades.
What is certain is that the old corvettes no longer meet the requirements of international missions, so from 2025, they will probably have to go to the shipyard for weeks or even months to modernize. They would not be available for use for so long.
With the second batch order in 2017, the Bundestag also decided that the Bundeswehr should have ten operational corvettes. If a structurally identical third batch of five corvettes were ordered during this legislative period, the Bundeswehr would always have ten corvettes.
In addition: The repair of the old corvettes would not extend the 30-year service life, because of the wear and tear of the ship’s hull, according to the ministry letter. In 2038, the Bundeswehr would need to replace then. The ships of the third lot to be ordered now, which would be delivered from 2025, could, on the other hand, be used until 2055. The opportunity to order new ships is also favorable because the government has promised the armaments industry with the 130-billion-euro economic stimulus package to promptly give them orders.
The Bundeswehr’s Future
Hence, the desperately needed paradigm shift in Germany’s Bundeswehr to address new and existing geopolitical threats and to address German aspirations in the Indo-Pacific has yet to be initiated. With German financial efficiency alone, Berlin will remain without an influential voice outside of the European Union.