Manufacturers of equipment used by Nato forces have experienced a surge in demand and profits since the September 11 attacks. We look at what a German soldier in Afghanistan is given as standard kit, from high-tech night vision apparatus to food rations and body armour.
Germany’s most famous small arms manufacturer developed the G36 Assault Rifle in the 1990s and it is now issued to the armed forces of Germany, Spain and Greece. Heckler & Koch, founded in 1949, made parts for bicycles and sewing machines before moving into arms in the 1950s. In 2002 the firm was sold to private investors.
Improved body armour and better medical care have changed the ratio of soldiers killed in combat to those injured from 2.5:1 in the Vietnam War to 16:1 for US troops in Afghanistan. The German Mehler group has been a maker of ballistic armour for the past 30 years and its Mehler Vario System is capable of stopping an AK-47 Kalashnikov bullet.
Night vision goggles intensify existing sources of light and offer infrared illumination. Thales Angénieux, founded in 1935, originally produced lenses for cinema projectors and later, in 1964, it supplied the lenses that captured the first images shot from the surface of the moon. Today this Thales subsidiary deals in the aerospace, defence and security markets.
The venerable German optronic equipment company Carl Zeiss acquired Carl Zeiss Sport Optics in 1928 (up until three years ago it was called Hensoldt). The NSA 80 II third-generation night sight is designed for use with the G36 rifle. The Zeiss Group recorded revenue of €2,604m in 2006/7, its fourth successive year of growth.
All German soldiers are issued with a Soldier knife originally made for the Swiss Army by Victorinox. The first Swiss Army knife was designed in the village of Ibach-Schwyz in 1897 and today 28,000 of them are produced every day by a staff of 920. The New York Museum of Modern Art displays the Swiss Army knife as a design classic.
An army marches on its stomach, and German soldiers in the field often eat pre-prepared meals from a Nestlé subsidiary, Herta, specialising in meat products. Herta was founded in 1902 in the town of Herten by a local butcher. The Herta brand was created in 1947 and the company was acquired by Nestlé in 1986.
Induyco was founded in 1955 in Madrid and is principally known for its women’s fashion wear. Less well-known, however, is Induyco Technology, the division that is the largest producer of military helmets in Europe. It supplies more than one million helmets to the armies of Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France and Austria.
Founded in 1967 in California, Hatch began by making gloves for law enforcement officers and moved on to supplying the military with knee and elbow pads (although German soldiers buy their own pads). Part of Hatch’s success is due to careful testing: the general manager trialled its best-selling XTAK knee pads on a five-mile hill run.