A German military transport plane delivering medical aid to Ebola-stricken regions spent the weekend grounded by technical problems in the Canary Islands, further highlighting the country’s poor state of military readiness.
Coming less than a week after a leaked government report to lawmakers showed that some of the German military’s oldest hardware is falling into disrepair, the incident is piling pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to fix the country’s defenses.
One of two aging Transall C-160 transport planes scheduled to arrive in Dakar, Senegal, on Saturday couldn’t take off from an airport on the Atlantic island of Gran Canaria because of a mechanical defect, a spokesman for the German Air Force said. A substitute airplane en route from Germany Monday afternoon was expected to drop off spare parts for the stricken plane and bring its medical payload to Dakar in the evening, two days behind schedule.
The problem came days after equipment problems delayed German weapons and trainers being sent to Kurds fighting Islamist militants in Iraq. According to last week’s leaked defense ministry report, seen by The Wall Street Journal, no more than seven of the Navy’s 43 helicopters, one of four submarines and 70 of the Army’s 180 Boxer armored vehicles are operational—largely because of a lack of spare parts and other problems, the report said.
Opposition parties have seized on the string of mishaps to criticize Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who is the first woman to hold the post and a close ally of Ms. Merkel.
“Problems that have piled up over the years will of course not be solved in one fell swoop,” Ms. von der Leyen told German public radio Monday. “This is truly a large building site.”
Ms. von der Leyen suggested in an interview published in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that the military may need budget increases in the medium term. But despite the revelations, leading politicians in all major parties have shown little appetite to spend more money on defense. The government’s focus on delivering a balanced budget and voters’ longtime aversion to the use of force mean German leaders have little incentive to increase to military spending.
Read More:German Ebola Aid Plane Grounded – WSJ.