British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has hosted his  counterpart from Germany, Ursula Von der Leyen, in London where stronger ties were discussed.

According to the MoD, the pair and their teams met to discuss strengthening defence ties. The German Defence Minister and Gavin Williamson also took the opportunity to meet a group of German junior officers, who have been learning about UK defence at the Ministry of Defence.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The UK and Germany face the same intensifying threats to our way of life and we work closely together to protect our citizens from harm.

Germany is one of our closest allies and I look forward to even closer cooperation.”

Germany was formally recognised as a ‘tier one’ ally in November 2015’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. However recently, we reported that the vast majority of major weapons systems in the German military are unavailable for training exercises or deployment, according to a new German Defence Ministry report.

The ‘Report on the Operational Readiness of the Bundeswehr’s Primary Weapons Systems 2017,’ has been seen by local media and is set to be presented to Germany’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday.

The Defence Ministry’s report comes after the Bundestag’s military commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, complained about “large holes in personnel and equipment” in the Bundeswehr in a separate paper published in mid-February.

Number of weapon systems ready for action:

  • Typhoon jets: 39 of 128
  • Tornado jets: 26 of 93
  • CH-53 transport helicopters: 16 of 72
  • NH-90 transport helicopters: 13 of 58
  • Tigre attack helicopters: 12 of 62
  • A400M transport aircraft: 3 of 15
  • Leopard 2 tanks: 105 of 224
  • Frigates: 5 of 13
  • Submarines: 0 out of 6

According to local media, the German Defence Ministry said that a higher number of training missions and deployments since Russia’s intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014 had caused existing equipment to wear down quicker than it had previously.

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The problem, he explained, has worsened over time due to the German military not replacing out of date equipment.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

It gets worse. According to local media, the fuel used by the German Tornado fleet appears to have been mixed with ‘too much bio-diesel’. According to news site Frankfurter Allgemeine, this was noticed during a routine check last Monday:

“The tolerance values ​​are minimally exceeded,” said Colonel Kristof Conrath of the Tactical Air Force Squadron 51. “It’s not that the aircraft would fall from the sky. For safety reasons, all tanks of the aircraft must be flushed.”

It is understood that this breakdown is particularly annoying for the Luftwaffe, as training of new Tornado pilots is already three months behind.

This comes after we reported that The German military is under-equipped to take on its upcoming role as leader of NATO’s Russian-aimed Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. 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, a leaked Defence Ministry document said.

Specifically, the Bundeswehr’s ninth tank brigade in Münster only has nine operational Leopard 2 tanks — even though it promised to have 44 ready for the VJTF — and only three of the promised 14 Marder armored infantry vehicles.

The paper also revealed the reason for this shortfall: a lack of spare parts and the high cost and time needed to maintain the vehicles. It added that it was also lacking night-vision equipment, automatic grenade launchers, winter clothing and body armor.

The German air force is also struggling to cover its NATO duties, the document revealed. The Luftwaffe’s main forces — the Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and its CH-53 transport helicopters — are only available for use an average of four months a year — the rest of the time the aircraft are grounded for repairs and rearmament.

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Harry Bulpit

Great. Free basing and a European friend in Brexit negotiations seems a fair price.

David Steeper

We have few friends in the EU Harry and Germany is def not one of them.


So they want to damage us economically, isolate us diplomatically and we make them a tier 1 ally ? Lets sort out BREXIT first, then we can move forward after seeing the true face of our “friends”.

Andy Smith

Completely agree, this is the stupid way the Elites work, no common sense what so ever. Meanwhile our greatest ally America we cant organise a simple state visit, that ever tom dick and harry gets. We need to drain the swamp in the so called super Foreign office, who has might i add a very nice budget that could be given to the MOD


I feel the time has come to include defence into the BREXIT deal? Germany is out with the begging bowl and, that is an opportunity to get some realism into the talks.


Of course. We don’t want the richest country in Europe wasting their own money on defence do we when the UK can tax us all and pay for German defence issues. The same country that spends it time now belittling the UK for all it’s worth.


Comee on Jason you have little proof that the Germans belittle us, any more than we do them and the French. I never thought I’d support a strong German military, after the unpleasantness in the 20th Century, but it’s better than it being weakened, for all our sakes.


If you speak German, perhaps browse the Fora in the online versions of Der Spiegel, Die Welt and FAZ, for example, for an insight into the mostly highly unpleasant and belittling comments by almost all commentators to articles in any way about Brexit and anything to do with the UK in general. The words spite, malice, schadenfreude and envy spring to mind.


Germans learned from WW2 more about themselves and human vulnerability than we or the French learned about ourselves. IMO the concept of a European Community based on social democracy ( aka Catholic social teaching) is sound. Sadly the like of Mitterand, who succumbed to the lure of masonism in his later years, and the essentially Naploeonic model of EU governance screwed things up.


All good natured ribbing. Don’t underestimate the regard in which BAE and RR engineering is held by the Germans. They also consider us more trustworthy than other nations I could mention. That said they do think we are too reserved and socially slow off the mark.

David Steeper

Maurice n Paul they are perfectly prepared to fight to the last drop of our blood to defend themselves and charge us £m’s for the right to do so.


LOL. Only if we let them get away with it. They respect an assertive response.


If history could be rewritten, I wonder if a British and German trading pact with the two governments forming an economic trading core, in the early 1950’s, to which other countries could have applied to join, but with reduced powers. How much more stable and collective would have this been, rather than the tin-pot EU we have today is a mute point? B.A.O.R would have still formed and the same for N.A.T.O. I do believe a German/British trading pact could have proved to be a long-term success, and considerably more stable, dynamic, and proactive, than the political molasses we appear… Read more »


Germany spends its money on industry to dominate Europe through alternative means.

Germany and France have for years stopped a single market in services to protect their own.

Germany (some might say for good reasons) has relied (freeloaded) off UK & US for European defence and security.

Why we were so weak when it came to leaving defence and security out of the Brexit negotiations I simply do not understand.


All the comments on this article are good but Ian yours is spot on. It highlights how the Germans and French both pretend to be true Europeans. Of course the Germans and French are all for the EU, the Germans get an undervalued currency to support their exports and France gets its agriculture subsidised. The single market is perfect for them but the same approach to services is not in their national interest so is greeted with a predicable no. We unilaterally sell off our gold reserves and reduce are rebate for the greater of good of the EU and… Read more »


sjb1968 – I was right with you until your unnecessary ‘despicable little Englanders’ comment. Was it sarcasm ??


Irony I think, could be wrong.


Sorry guys just a bit of irony on my part. We seem to live in a time where rather than being able to discuss and respect each other’s views it has become the norm to group those with a different perspective with a derogatory term. Little Englander has been adopted as such to suggest anyone who voted out is some kind of old fart who lives in a 1940s time warp. Hardly a reasoned position when over 17m people voted out.

Daniele Mandelli

Brilliant post. I’m with this all the way.

Mark B

Excellent. If the EU countries have 10 carriers and support ships plus a land army and supporting aircraft in sufficient numbers to deter any likely opponent without threatening them too much – it does much for the securuty of the UK. In addition we can happily supply much of the kit but the Germans must understand that the days of subsidised defense are over – they must take responsibility financially.


I know where I’d be telling them to stick their closer ties.

Nathan Dale

I agree with the sentiment here. Germany is the single primary obstacle between the UK and a friendly and amicable EU exit and yet they want to play happy families when it suits them. Do the Germans not see the irony of attacking the UK politically and economically and asking us for defence ties militarily. I was once a great fan of Germany but since Germany threw Greece to the dogs, unilaterally undermined Anglo-French attempts to build a coherent EU foreign policy response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine and invited a million “refugees” to march through half a dozen… Read more »

David Stone

Slightly worrying that Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is tipped for one of the top NATO posts, after the job she has done on the German military


maybe she is after a job here to make sure our defence is as bad as there,s…

Ben P

Germany lacking winter clothing again. Kind of ironic considering who our main foe is.

Stuart Willard

Hugo Boss always was style over substance.


Hugo Boss were the designers and suppliers of the (admittedly smart) SS uniforms…


So what is it they want from us, boots on the ground, joint training, spares?

What exactly?


Probably trying to sell us the Boxer, Challenger 2 upgrade and asking if they can “borrow” some Typhoons (possibly with pilots and support included), SMH.


Win-win. Extend the Typhoon production jobs at Wharton, create jobs in Germany and get a decent UK army wheeled APC while stuffing the French Vehicule Blindé. What’s not to like?


There is a very easy response to this: Dear Mrs Merkel Please instruct your minions Juncker, Tusk and Barnier to stop being arses and generally making life difficult for the UK both in our domestic politics (which is none of your business) and in EU negotiations. Their latest effort published today in the full fanfare of a Press Conference risks peace in Ireland and is utterly despicable. You seek to re-position an internal UK border and to annex Northern Ireland and we have to ask why? Is this payback to the Irish Prime Minister who has been a patsy for… Read more »


Yeah none of that is going to happen…Ever and the army is leaving European soil anyway while the Americans aren’t and won’t regardless whether or not the German military ups it’s game so they won’t be too bothered


to be fair most of the problems with the brexit negotiations, appear to be coming from the fact that our policiticans don’t appear to know what they want. The EU isnt being overly unreasonable so far.

Daniele Mandelli

I think most of the problems, apart from the EU side, are actually the magnificent opposition in Parliament, along with Tory rebels. They, instead of supporting the government and getting on with carrying out the wishes of the majority in the biggest vote in the UK’s history are intent on using party politics and hampering the government at every step, such as now threatening to defeat the government in a Customs Union vote. The referendum vote was for Brexit, not some crap where the UK leaves in name only. The voting slip made that quite clear, so did the government… Read more »


“The EU isnt being overly unreasonable so far” WTF ? I bet i can guess which way you voted Steve, LOL.


They are acting like the bunch of lapsed fascists/comnunists they always were.


Steve – This EU mantra of ‘more clarity’ and ‘we don’t know what the UK wants’ is utter bullcrap and you know it. Our position has been laid out very clearly by the PM in two major speeches in Europe, the Article 50 letter, 14 position papers, a White Paper and numerous press conferences. We want a Free Trade Deal with no tariffs and access for our Services industries to the EU Internal Market given we are already perfectly aligned in Law and Regulation matters. More importantly we do NOT want FoM, SM, CU or CoJ. You would think that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Love it. You should be at the talks instead of our plastic politicians.

Mr J Bell

We certainly live in interesting times. The EU are a belligerent and forgetfully lot. We are leaving get over it. You have 2 options remain our friends and allies as we leave, like we would like you to. Yes this does mean a comprehensive free trade deal and not some bullshit whereby we have to remain in the eurozone or abide by EU laws, the jurisdiction of the EU courts etc etc before we can get a free trade deal Option 2 no free trade deal, we leave EU and then withdraw militarily from Europe leaving the entirety of their… Read more »



Alan Reid

I surrender to no-one in my enduring interest in WW1 & WW2! (And my gratitude and respect to the generations in Britain who fought in those wars). But it really would be refreshing to stop viewing our European friends through the distorted prism of two war worlds; it was 70 years ago – we need to move on! Young Germans need have no guilt complex for events in the past, and owe the current generation of Britons nothing. We’re a great country, and despite the muddle that is Brexit – can still have a great future. But please, let’s stop… Read more »


If Germany, Europe’s wealthiest country spends less on defence than the U.K. then why do we need to waste so much on weapons of war?

Ben P

Germany after WW2 lives in a fantasy world where they think everything can be solved via diplomacy. They have little interest in military interventions, so they badly fund their military. Which leaves us in a situation where we need to rely on the US to protect Europe because our own members are too weak. Which makes us an easy target, especially when the US is getting pissed off with the situation.

David Steeper

Ben they don’t live in a fantasy world. They’re very clever they ‘allow’ us to defend them ‘thanks british army’ and use the money they save to bend us over and rear end us economically. What’s fantasy about that ?


In what world is Germany a military ally?

I ask because it certainly isn’t in this world.


The Germans are sitting idly by while the EU is trying to split up our country in the Brexit ‘negotiations’, yet apparently want to defend us if the shit hits the fan.

I would have thought that one does not automatically follow the other. We are being played as mugs. No European defence unless they stop trying to destroy us and do a decent trade deal. And they can quit the passive-aggressive statements and pompous tone, too.


* want us to defend them.

Ben P

Stronger ties literally just means stuff such as more joint training and joint research projects.


Threats from us or the EU will not work but as someone who reluctantly voted to leave I now feel totally convinced it was the right choice. The EU is a quasi superstate with a clear political agenda and has long since given up being an economic group whose aim was to enhance the wealth of its member states and populations. That it is prepared for some of its remaining citizens to be worse off by erecting trade barriers tells its own story. That it is also trying by any means to undo the referendum result is very predictable and… Read more »


The bigger problem for us in the UK is that our own political institutions are clearly Europhile and are working 24/7 to either completely scupper BREXIT or reduce it to something meaningless. Scrap the House of Lords and vote out those working to against the will of the people.


The problem I have with all of this – is that the Europeans want their cake, eat it and get the UK to pay the bill (see what I did there Mr Barnier)

They all break EU rules and other agreements when it suits them, but make out the UK is a bad citizen when we do something or try to hold our ground.

It is bullying and we should let them get on with it.


Very interesting. Ursula von der Leyen comes from old German nobility. She and Frau Merkel, daughter of an east German pastor make a fascinating girlpower team. She is new to the job and I see it as encouraging that she is visiting her UK opposite number early on. Brexit and national stereotypes aside the Germans have significant practical defence issues both politically and financially. The UK is in a position to help them and help ourselves at the same time. Just throwing ideas out: can we help them with servicability and availability of their current Typhoon fleet? How about they… Read more »

David Steeper

Yes so they’ll promise to buy a squillion of them when the workshare is being decided then cancel their orders after the first couple. Remind of you anything ?


Forgive and forget and you create jobs in Wharton, German leverage on Belgium to buy Typhoon, knock out the F-16, F-18 and Rafale production lines, get a good deal on Boxers and Brexit negotiations. Alternatively go into an indignant huff and cut off your nose to spite your face. Your choice, well actually Theresa May’s. Von def Leyen has been sent here by Merkel to do business.

Alan Reid

Great posts, Paul.


Thx. Agree with your later posts that Tornado and Typhoon are overall successful projects. The working relationships forged between Wharton and Munich are a real asset we should leverage them. I see von der Leyen’s visit as prompt and positive outcome of May’s Munich security speech.


I am going to quote Sun Tzu… 1. Use alliances and strategic control points in the industry to “shape” your opponents and make them conform to your will: “Shaping you competition” means changing the rules of contest and making the competition conform to your desires and your actions. It means taking control of the situation away from your competitor and putting it in your own hands. One way of doing so is through the skilful use of alliances. By building a strong web of alliances, the moves of your competitors can be limited. Also, by controlling key strategic points in… Read more »


Nothing wrong with German politicians creating jobs for German industry. We could learn a lot!


The U.K. really needs to work on getting Five Eyes expanded from an intelligence sharing alliance to a full on military alliance with a NATO style ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’ principle. Then we know that even if the EU undermines NATO, the USA will have our back.
In fact, we can then consider whether we should defend the EU. If the EU isn’t prepared to trade with us on equal terms, why should we be prepared to sacrifice our servicemen to defend it?
Defence should be our trump card in Brexit negotiations.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. I would be very happy with this.

David Fulop

The EU are ready to trade on equal terms.They will never let us access to their single market from the outside looking in though. We could be out of the EU and in the customs union and / or the single market but never be out of everything but enjoying the same terms in trade just because. If there was a political will we could walk tomorrow and negotiate a trade deal starting on Brexit day. I’d be happy with that as it would give some time for business to prepare for what’s coming. However, we simply cannot afford to… Read more »


David I like your comments they spell many of the hard facts we are about to learn but I think we have forgotten in the UK that our friends and allies in Europe and elsewhere are of course our are main economic competitors and therefore rivals. The hostile act was inevitable given the development of the EU in ways that many in the U.K. dislike. They have been aided and abetted by our politicians who have used every trick in the book to avoid an honest discussion about this direction of travel. This built up a resentment that one day… Read more »

David Fulop

Unfortunately my time does not allow me to answer in length today but thank you for your thoughtful reply and perspective. I have no doubts that all this posturing will eventually lead to compromise on both sides and that total catastrophe will be averted. There is simply no possibility for the UK to suddenly cut itself off from its most important market. Neither is one for the EU to let one of its richest and most influential members isolate itself. I do not necessarily have a problem with existing outside of the EU but we could have done it quietly,… Read more »

Mr J Bell

Paul you cannot invite the Germans into our defence procurement projects.
Look at the recent history
Tornado delayed and German orders reduced
A400M delayed, over budget and German orders very much reduced
Typhoon delayed and over budget German orders reduced


Agree about the history. It would be something of an act of faith. That said the fundamental drivers for multinational european projects remain. R&D costs cannot be supported by a single nation. We need the economies of scale. If we don’t want to become completely dependent on the US for all weapons we need to make europrojects work. F-35 is a done deal. I would be astounded if Germany went into a 2 nation partnership with France for a 5th gen fighter. That would be pouring money down the drain. Fact is the UK is a world leader in aerospace… Read more »

David Fulop

I completely agree with you and I think the UK government should do everything in their power to preserve the aerospace industry. I believe at least enough Typhoon orders should be in the pipeline to keep manufacturing going at all costs. Brexit or no brexit I am convinced that the UK will inevitably play a key role in a future European defence cooperation.

Alan Reid

Mr J Bell, Interesting comments – but I feel you’re being a bit hard on our German friends. I think they’ve been very good industrial partners in Panavia and Eurofighter, and I understand the BAE team at Warton has forged good long-term relations with their counter-parts in Munich. They’ve certainly always been better team players than Dassault! As for the Typhoon delays in 1992, you need to cut the Germans a wee bit of slack – they had a funding crisis, following reunification between West and East. In any event, that coincided with technical issues in the flight control system.… Read more »

David Steeper

I’m sorry I’ve read most of your comments but haven’t seen the obvious one. They want us to co-operate ? With what ?


I did not realise UKIP had so many people interested in UK defence matters.

Mr Bell

David- I did not realise Corbyn’s labour party had many people that could actually read

David E Flandry

What the heck is wrong with German politicians? Six submarines and none operational, only a fraction of combat a/c operational. They need to spend some money on maintenance.


I agree with the general sentiment by other posters, the UK government completely missed a perfect opportunity by attaching security relations to economic (i.e. deal negotiations). EU won by detaching the issue. Thus EU nations, France and Germany, win by gaining ever more leverage on deal negotiations, while getting UK security ties / guarantees free of charge. As a result present UK-EU deal details are not preferable to the UK at all. They are frankly terrible. As a non-UK person, the current deal details will destroy any ability of the UK to implement competitive policy post-Brexit. Data shows the UK… Read more »