Germany’s top army soldier sees enormous pressure to quickly buy the weapon systems handed over to Ukraine. This is necessary in order to fulfill the tasks of national and alliance defense.
According to Army Inspector Alfons Mais, the 100 billion euro special fund for the Bundeswehr will not be sufficient for full equipment. However, the lieutenant general is making progress in the procurement process.
“I see a great deal of pressure to move forward with the replacement purchases at the highest speed. We have not yet handed in the Leopard tanks and are rightly considering how we can replace them as soon as possible,” Mais told the German Press Agency in Berlin. “It took a very long time for the self-propelled howitzer and the rocket launchers, but there is now extremely high pressure there too.”
In addition to replacing material that was handed over to Ukraine, the “material growth towards full equipment” is important, emphasized Mais. “However, the special fund alone will not be enough.”
“Try to stop using the term ‘blank'”
Immediately after the Russian attack on Ukraine, Mais had criticized the years of neglect in the operational readiness of the Bundeswehr with unusual sharpness. The Bundeswehr is “more or less blank,” he wrote, causing a stir.
“I try not to use the term “blank” anymore. That no longer does justice to the situation today, a year later,” said Mais. A lot has happened since then and the readiness for action should not be limited to the material. “Things are moving forward.”
Aid for Ukraine is a “huge effort, but it has to be.” The troops know that, but ask about the future. “It is very important that we all give the signal that the material that is being handed over will be replaced as soon as possible. That these gaps are not simply accepted,” said Mais. “The gaps don’t match the future orders. The government has promised NATO capabilities, and of course we want to keep that.”
“Completely different approach”
The scenario for national and alliance defense is different than in Afghanistan. Germany’s security policy goal in international crisis management has already been achieved to a large extent if you are there with the politically opportune skills. In addition, a personal upper limit is set. And in the end, “the protection of the troops from the effect on the target” stands.
“If it got too dangerous outside, we could all stay in the camp for two days. That’s completely absurd in the national and alliance defense scenario. The goal isn’t to ‘take part’, it’s to win,” said Mais. “When I send a battalion on a mission, I have the expectation that it will fulfill its mission and emerge victorious from this battle. This is where effect comes before cover, effect before protection. It’s a completely different approach that we also have to mediate to our troops, who have experience in Afghanistan.”
In Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr did not actively seek combat; in principle, it was forced upon them. Mais: “It would be different now. In national and alliance defense, the associations are looking for a battle. That means: taking up space, defending space, these are completely different terms. Initiative is the key word here.”
“My generation lived through the Cold War”
The 60-year-old now sees three generations in the Bundeswehr who have had different military experiences. “My generation lived through the Cold War. It was about keeping the deterrence factor so high that the enemy could not calculate the costs of aggression. At that time it was deterrence, being able to fight so that you didn’t have to fight”.
The mid-level staff is shaped by Afghanistan. “I have brigade and division commanders who fought battles, who 13 years ago as battalion commanders sent their companies and platoons into battle and thus also ordered the killing.” This was against “asymmetric opponents” fighting with booby traps from ambush.
“But we still have a core from that time in our teams and in the non-commissioned officer corps, to whom we don’t have to explain what it means to be in combat. Then there are the very young soldiers who, thanks to their affinity for technology, you certain awareness of what it means to work in the information environment.”
“I am convinced of the Puma”
The 10th Panzer Division is currently being reorganized as Division 2025 in order to provide NATO with a combat-ready division by this year. In return, the 1st Armored Division gave up material, took on current orders and covered the backs of the other large formation. Their gaps are to be filled again from the special fund.
Mais reiterated earlier statements that he was firmly convinced of the modern Puma infantry fighting vehicle as a replacement for the Marder infantry fighting vehicle after the background to the damage had been clarified during an exercise in December. “I therefore have an extremely high interest in the Puma’s brakes being released again as soon as possible,” he said. It is important to enter the so-called second lot – a second bulk order for the weapon system. He hopes that April will give the green light to close the contracts.
“I’m convinced of the Puma,” said Mais. In the past, thousands of weapons systems such as the Marder or Leopard had been procured, and all teething problems had been eradicated with “combat value increases”. In the meantime, relatively small quantities are made to order. Permanent adjustment processes are necessary in the software-based systems.
“Troops must learn to deal with these systems”
“It’s quite normal, we see it on our cell phones. There are new software updates every week and bugs that have been identified are removed,” said Mais. “And I say, my troops need to learn how to use these systems. The belief that we can go back to systems that can only be repaired with a 20mm wrench and a sledgehammer is wrong.”
The battalions that have had the Puma the longest made him optimistic. “They know that they have to invest more time in maintenance and care. But none of them would ever think of bringing the marten back,” said Mais, referring to the outstanding reconnaissance and combat ranges. He said: “To put it figuratively, the puma starts fighting when the marten doesn’t even know that it’s at war.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.