February 27, 2018 / 3:52 PM / 4 months ago

Less than half of German submarines and warplanes ready for use

BERLIN, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Missing spare parts and quality defects at a time of increased operations mean less than half of Germany's submarines, warplanes and some other key weapons are ready for use, according to a government report on Tuesday.

The defence ministry delivered a 106-page report about the still "unsatisfactory readiness" of many key weapons systems to parliament on Monday, amid growing public outcry about the military's failure to get a handle on the issue.

It confirmed the gist of a parliamentary report released last week that cited big, persistent gaps in military personnel and equipment.

The report said readiness was improving slowly, with 550 more weapons available in 2017 than in 2014. But more time and money were needed to recover from decades of spending cuts.

"We will need significantly more funds in coming years so the Bundeswehr (armed forces) can accomplish the missions and assignments that parliament gives it," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

If approved, a new governing coalition would add 10 billion euros to the military budget over the next four years.

Germany sharply curtailed military spending after the end of the Cold War, but began boosting spending again after Russia's annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014.

The new report cited "quality deficiencies" that occurred during maintenance for the "limited and clearly lower-than-expected" availability of the Airbus A400M military transport. Just three of 15 aircraft delivered by the end of the report period were ready for use on average in 2017.

It said only 39 of 128 Eurofighter fighter jets, built by Airbus and other European arms makers, were available on average in 2017, largely due to long maintenance periods and "a shortage of a wide variety of replacement parts".

It said it had enough jets for air policing missions in the Baltic region and to participate in NATO missions, but the lack of aircraft constrained pilot training, a concern ahead of Germany's leadership of a NATO rapid response force from 2019.

The ministry said readiness rates were higher than average for the 13 overseas missions currently underway, albeit at the expense of "basic operations", and Germany could still meet its obligations to NATO.

But it said it need to end the deployment of its NH-90 helicopters and Tiger helicopters as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali from mid-2018 because the sustainability of the aircraft was in danger.

The ministry said it would need intense coordination efforts to ensure sufficient Leopard 2 tanks for their continued deployment in Lithuania under NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence initiative, and for Germany's rotational leadership of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in eastern Europe. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal)

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