“It’s a real disaster for the Navy, it’s the first time in history that there will not be any submarine operating for months,” warns the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Parliament, Hans-Peter Bartels, in an interview published on Sunday in the Berlin weekly Bild am Sonntag.

The problem, he explained, has worsened over time due to the German military not replacing out of date equipment.

The German Navy lost its last submarine in October, as the rudder of its last Type 212A was severely damaged in a collision with a rock off the Norwegian coast while the rest of the fleet was out of service.

It is also understood that none of the new frigates, the Type 125s, are able to enter into operational service due to defects and a similar situation is faced by auxiliary ships, Berlin and Bonn, which were sent to dry dock for a year and a half of repairs.

In 2015, it was revealed that only 29 of Germany’s 66 Tornado jets are airworthy. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen then stressed that only six of the operational Tornado jets would be needed for the proposed German mission in Syria. German chief of staff General Volker Wieker said:

“The state of our flying systems remains unsatisfactory”

A defence ministry report obtained by German media blamed the problem on the “lack of availability of various spare parts”.

The readiness of Germany’s armed forces has long been the subject of criticism. Technical problems grounded German military aircraft delivering weapons to Kurds fighting IS in northern Iraq and medical aid to West Africa during the Ebola outbreak. Defence cuts announced in March 2003 resulted in the decision to retire 90 Tornados from Luftwaffe service. This led to a reduction in its Tornado strength to four wings by September 2005.

In January 2004, the then German Defence Minister Peter Struck announced further major changes to the German armed forces. A major part of this announcement is the plan to cut the German fighter fleet from 426 in early 2004 to 265 by 2015. The German Tornado force was reduced to 85, with the type expected to remain in service with the Luftwaffe until 2020.

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Germany has been free loading off NATO and Europe for years.

They were the first country to break the Euro fiscal rules (that they insisted upon) and also have more EU “infringement” cases awaiting court than any other country in the EU.

Seems to me that Germany isn’t very interested in the EU at all but its own interests and has made a mug of everyone, including its own armed forces.


Germany & France play by their own rules whenever it suits them.

EU a state of equals only some are more equal than others.


Sadly very true which is why I have over 40 years or so gone from an avid supporter of the Union expecting it to eventually be a union or relative equals to increasing skeptic realising over most of my lifetime no such equilibrium has taken place. The influx of new members (esp Poland) that was supposed to bring that about (at least in the hopes of the UK Govt) has in fact just solidified the status quo as those countries realise which side their bread is buttered on economically. Sadly the dice are loaded where it matters.

Stephen G.

Germany and France have kept massive heavy industries (as just 1 example their steel production is huge compared with ours) whilst Britain’s, also a major European country, has been all but destroyed.

Stephen G.

Germany and France also have massive commercial shipbuilding industries (building cruise ship after cruise ship after cruise ship after cruise ship), we have practically none. They both have numerous car manufacturers all in their own hands, every single last one of ours is foreign owned. They both make their own trains, we make none.
We have to rebuild Britain’s heavy industries with modern state of the art equipment. If they can do it, we can too.

Mark L

There are 2 train factories in the UK Stephen – Bombardier in Derby and Hitachi in County Durham – foreign owned, but nonetheless we do make our own trains.

Joao Goncalves

Thant’s why for every other little country it is so important the UK stays inside the EU.

andy reeves

we won’t be the only country to leave the E.U in the relatively near future, another major player, maybe holland will follow the u.k then the french and germans will have their fields of influence removed.


I think they just assumed not much point spending on defence, in any war with the Soviet Union & now Russia, they just expected the country to be turned into a nuclear wasteland anyway within a few days of conflict starting.

…which is probably accurate.


That strategy has worked beautifully in the Ukraine.

andy reeves

the u.s spends billions on maintaining its surplus kit take a look at amarg inventory showing, over 400 f 16’s and 15’maintained in a state where they can be reactivated. the NATO countries would benefit from relieving the costs to the u.s of maintaining all this kit, a country could buy a whole ‘off the shelf’ armed forces.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Well, we can complain about our own government’s ineptitude, bureaucracy and vote-winning at the cost of capability, but at least we’re not this badly off


Germany has the money to out do us if it wants to.


The trouble is you tend not to get 2+ years notice of an attack by an enemy. No wonder Turkey was boasting about being able to reach the channel inside 2 weeks not long ago. I thought it but ridiculous bluster but not quite so sure now. Disgraceful that they dominate European industrial strength and profits yet leave it to others to protect them. As for the EU fact is Germany and France still totally dominate the Union in a Industrial/Political sense and as it exercises more political influence/power increasingly Germany (who had always deferred in that regard to France)… Read more »


Maybe in Armoured vehicles, but they certainly have no capability to outdo the UK in terms of Naval & Aerial power.


The Turks can’t even handle the Kurds. President Erdogan’s post coup crackdown pretty much eliminated the professional Officer and NCO Corps ability to wage war. They claimed they would be Afrin in 48-72 hours and that was weeks ago.
Repairing those institutions will likely years if done properly. Decades or never if done on political lines like Erdogan’s personality would dictate.

andy reeves

if and its a big if, the u.k can make up their mind what they want quality(cost) or quantity(similar cost) then nations in the alleged shadow of france and germany will be able to flourish when freed of all that led the people of the u.k to reject them will. be able to go back to what made them the ‘fat cats’ that they are today. if say the u.k cancelled another type 26 and, instead put the money into the reopening of a coal mine, then the country wouldn’t have to buy coal in, when it still has vast… Read more »

[…] Entire German submarine fleet out of action: “It’s a real disaster for the Navy, it’s the first time in history that there will not be any submarine operating for months,” https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/entire-german-submarine-fleet-action/ […]


What do you expect from a ‘former’ communist who’s running Germany!


Another story regards the poor state of the German Military: German military short on tanks for NATO mission The German military is under-equipped to take on its upcoming role as leader of NATO’s anti-Russian defense force, a leaked document shows. Opposition politicians say the defense minister is to blame.The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO’s multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of next year, but doesn’t have enough tanks, the Defense Ministry document said. Specifically, the Bundeswehr’s ninth tank brigade in Münster only has nine operational Leopard 2 tanks — even though… Read more »

Tim sinnett

Interesting article Farouk. I always assumed that whilst their military wasn’t a primary focus, they had a small but well organised military. How wrong.
Perfect time for Russia to take advantage.


Didn’t they sell most of their tanks to Eastern European countries in large volumes…


P27 wrote: “Didn’t they sell most of their tanks to Eastern European countries in large volumes…” Not just the Germans the Dutch as well, anybody with an open cheque book has been seen as most welcome in which to get rid of surplus stock, the following countries operate the Operate the Leo 2: Austria Camada Chile Denmark Finland Greece Indonesia Poland Portugal Qatar Singapore Sweden Swizterland Turkey Mind you the recent bunfight the Turks had with ISIS when they invaded Syria the other year, didn’t promote the Leo2 in a good light. (Granted from the videos I have watched the… Read more »


It refers to the German Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 tanks.


Their new Baden-Württemberg class can’t be summed up with just “defects”. They are the first ships in German Naval history to be even refused delivery. Apparently not only did the people who designed the ship not know how to build one. They didn’t eve communicate with the systems integrators and designers so they could all screw up the same way. The class has the following issues: A list in excess of 1.5 degrees. Ship is over designed weight. Cannot meet the minimum specifications for speed. The new Atlas system which is supposed to be on every new German warship doesn’t… Read more »


Wow! Somewhere out there on the internet there is probably a site like this one dedicated to following news about the German armed forces and with a bunch of enthusiasts like us (well, like most of us – hello TH 🙂 ) commentating on the articles posted. We think we have it bad sometimes but after reading the above I feel really sorry for those German commentators if this is the sort of depressing news that they are seeing posted on their site. I would be distraught if T26 ended up in this terrible situation. The T45 engine problems are… Read more »


T45 intercooler = relatively cheap
B-W listing = Well floating was kind of the basic objective of a boat.

John West

It’s not just the Germans though is it.

The USA seems to have blundered badly with the Zumwalt destroyer (cutting its capability and ditching the composite tumblehome for the 3rd ship in favour of a steel one).

Its sensor suite spec has been reduced and it has no CWIS.

They have banked everything on the Arleigh Burke hull and completely mucked up the LCS (which they now call a frigate).

The QEC, T45, T26 (not sure about the T31 yet) is starting to look like a sensible direction.


Zumwalt was dead in the water the moment the Iraq war started. Due to budgetary priorities changing. Zumwalt was designed under Rumsfeld and in order to get him to sign off on you had to pack it with as many bells and whistles as possible. They were meant to replace the Spruance class which were themselves budget builds of the Kidd class meant for surface warfare, land attack, and sub hunting. What they were NOT meant for is and this is a important distinction was fleet air defense. That was Kidd, Ticonderoga, and later the Burke’s jobs. However the Rumsfeld… Read more »


NATO has had its day in truth, the Europeans sit back and let the USA spend all the money whilst they do very little. Germany is a really big transgressor as it has more than enough money to fix the problem, but they refuse to have a budget deficit, instead expecting the USA and to a lesser degree the UK to have deficits to essentially pay for their defence. Its time this was stopped. I can see a day when NATO is dissolved, the UK should have no problem building a mutual defence pact with the USA, which lets be… Read more »

Alan Reid

I think Putin is hoping for the same, David!


They really shouldn’t bother.

The German military is non-functional across the entire spectrum.

The smartest thing for them to do would be to scrap it all together and spend the money elsewhere.


Joe wrote:
“The smartest thing for them to do would be to scrap it all together and spend the money elsewhere.”

It appears that under Mrs Merkel (an East German no less)
comment image
They have.

Mike Saul

The US president described the Germans and some other NATO members as “free riders” on the US defence budget.

Germany needs to sort out its defence requirements and commitment to NATO.


So, apart from having no working subs, frigates, tornados or tanks the German armed forces are doing just fine ?


You really don’t need Germans with guns.

Mark L

The Germans went on exercise not so long ago with broom handles painted black attached to AFVs pretending to be machine guns….

Mind you, given the Germans previous keenness on starting major wars part of me wonders if perhaps this situation isn’t all bad!

R Flagg

The last time the Germans practiced with brooms was the 1930s.
The current German flag was created in the mid 19th century as a people’s flag to oppose the despotic power of the ruling nobility in the various German states. The rise of nationalism was actually a class led struggle against the former aristocracy, particularly in the Austro-Hungarian Empire where ethnic differences were more pronounced and in the European states of the Ottoman Empire.
Germany was involved in comparatively few external wars until the nazis came to power.


What German military? It’s almost non-existent. Perhaps Merkel works for Putin after all. One thing is for sure. They are toast if Russia actually invades Europe.


“It is also understood that none of the new frigates, the Type 125s”

According to wiki there is only 1, the other 3 are being built. Meanwhile Germany still has 3 air defence and 4 anti-sub plus 2 GPFF – how many are in service is another matter. Supposedly 3 of the 6 subs will be back in service by July.

They do seem to have been very poor managing spares all the same.


Problem = opportunity. We should offer Germany a trade in deal; new Typhoons for old Tornados, at a price they can’t refuse. This would jobs in Germany, the UK and other Eurofighter countries and go down very well everywhere, except possibly France…..

Peter French

How is it that the richest Nation in world with a massive balance of payment in surplus. allows its Armed Forces deteriorate such as they cannot defend themselves, and we moan about the underfinancing of our services .
They it seems are just happy to let others defend their borders. THey are extracting the urine.
Not only that , their trade union , yes the German military have trade union , decrees that overtime must be paid whether fighting or not, and as i understand in Afghanistan the Luftwaffe was not allowed to fly at night.


Germany doesn’t have borders.
There is nothing to defend.

Their aircraft couldn’t fly at night during their brief tokenistic contribution to the anti-ISIS campaign.
They weren’t allowed deploy any munitions either.


And now maybe people will see exactly why the Germans are playing politics and finding (non existent) faults with the A400M which they ordered to get more work and now are reneging on their orders (as they did with Tornado and Typhoon). They even managed to screw up the India bidding for Typhoon The Germans have been freeloading off the UK and more so the USA ever since WWII. It is an utter disgrace but no one in the EU will say so because after all they run that show. Never argue with the boss …. We must learn the… Read more »


The 4 nation co-operation on Typhoon was succcessful in that it produced a world class fighter plane, and the UK works OK on a bilateral basis with European nations, like France and Belgium. Where it doesn’t do well is in the EU framework, and even ignoring Brexit, though it supported PESCO in principle, it wouldn’t and probably shouldn’t have joined. Denmark and Malta haven’t joined either, with Denmark being part of NORDEFCO, though Finland and Sweden also part of NORDEFCO, have. Personally I don’t think the UK and the MOD handles the defence budget badly. Mistakes are made, like with… Read more »


“a similar situation is faced by auxiliary ships, Berlin and Bonn, which were sent to dry dock for a year and a half of repairs.” And how much did those Berlins cost, it’s, even more, when their size is taken into account, and how Germany (like France, Italy etc) circumnavigates eu rules to avoid taxpayer-funded ships being tendered abroad? Because the crew is mostly military, so they get away with it. Incidentally, does any have any sources where you can find out just the shipbuild cost Of British ships without the UK content that was not included for the South… Read more »