Forces: March 20, 2003

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Once America's strongest military ally, Germany is now so far behind the technology curve in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that a senior NATO official in Brussels described their military as "a basket case". While the Germans have more troops deployed overseas than any other country besides the United States, military experts say it would find it hard to fight alongside the modern American military.

The Germans recognize that they need to overhaul their armed forces for the 21st century and have engaged in the biggest reform in their history, yet they also realize that a series of constant changes is counterproductive to creating a stabile organization. 

The goal is to create more modern, mobile and flexible units while keeping the conscription system. The Germans' 290,000 man military currently has 90,000 conscripts who get minimal training and the majority of the rest are aging professionals, although efforts are made to give all of them operational experience abroad. While the Germans are retooling to be able to field 50,000 troops outside its borders at any one time, they are also retiring nearly half of their remaining 1,500 tanks (the Leopard 2A6s will be kept for fighting and 2A4s for training). 

Defense Minister Peter Struck told the German press that the Bundeswehr will be a highly modernized army of 285,000 soldiers by 2006. They want to increase the number of KSK [Special Forces Command] soldiers to 400, but decrease the number of civilian employees by 30,000 (to about 90,000). By 2006, 16 army bases will be closed, another 36 substantially reduced and over 100 battalions dissolved or shifted to other organizational sectors.

The budget for high-tech items is Spartan, but Air Force "Hawk" and "Roland" anti-aircraft defense systems will be replaced by Patriots. They will also decommission at least 80 to 90 of the more than 300 "Tornado" combat aircraft. The Navy will only keep modern high-speed vessels and plans to take 12 fast patrol boats at Warnemuende out of service by 2005. Even some of their cargo trucks are approaching the 25-year mark. - Adam Geibel


 


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