Since 1969 the German defence ministry has irregularly published its assessment of the country’s security and its implications for policy and the army in the so-called Bundeswehr White Paper. This year’s edition – only the third since reunification and adopted as government policy in July – lays out Germany’s plans to play a bigger role in shaping the international order. It singles out Isis, Russian expansion and cyber attacks as threats to be addressed, and raises the spectre of internal deployment of the army.
However, it’s a subclause in a chapter about the Bundeswehr’s personnel policy that has attracted attention. Ever since abolishing universal conscription in 2011 the Bundeswehr has struggled to maintain its official size of 185,000 soldiers, down from its pre-reform 250,000. The white paper proposes to reverse the trend not only through flexible working conditions, better childcare arrangements and cultural diversity but also by introducing the possibility of opening up the Bundeswehr to non-German citizens of other EU countries.
André Wüstner, head of the soldiers’ association Bundeswehrverband, argues that German citizenship must remain fundamental to the army because of the “reciprocal loyalty of country and soldier”. Yet Dr Patrick Keller, co-ordinator of foreign and security policy at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin, sees the proposal as less a solution to the Bundeswehr’s personnel problems and more a statement in support of the EU. “The current government has a soft spot for the EU and this is a way of thinking about integration without dropping the brick of the EU army,” he says.
Still, he believes Wüstner raises an interesting point. “There is something distinct in the profession of a soldier that we as a post-heroic society don’t understand anymore. Whether EU citizens can have this fiduciary relationship is something we should at least discuss."
As Ukraine continues to combat Moscow-backed insurgents in the country’s east, president Petro Poroshenko wants the country’s air defences to “become a force to hold back aggressive Russian ambitions”.
According to Poroshenko, to achieve these aims Ukraine is to acquire new aircraft, modernise dozens of its existing military planes and helicopters and further develop its electronic warfare and air-reconnaissance capabilities. With these efforts in mind, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence allocated some uah2.5bn (€87m) to overhaul 35 aircraft and 15 helicopters this year. “The Ukrainian government is struggling to meet budget demands,” says professor Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw. “Its survival will largely depend on the success of the military modernisation programme.”
After a dip of 18 per cent in 2014, Spain’s defence sales appear to be bouncing back. Despite turbulence in the development stage, the Spanish division of Airbus Defence and Space sold 30 units of its A400M Atlas transport aircraft (pictured) and A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport in 2015, accounting for about 86 per cent of the €3.7bn total sales.
In addition, a further 54 purchases – worth €10.7bn – are already geared for take-off in the years ahead.
Name: Zephyr S
Defence and Space
The UK is stocking up on the next generation of battlefield-surveillance hardware. After purchasing two Zephyr S high altitude pseudo-satellites earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence has announced its order of a third. Manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space, the Zephyr, an ultra- lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle, is designed to bridge the gap between traditional drones and satellites. Running exclusively on solar power, the Zephyr will be able to reach more than 70,000ft for extended flights of up to 45 days. The mod’s third Zephyr comes as part of a £13m (€15m) deal and the Ministry plans to test its newly acquired hardware as early as 2017.
Israel is to launch a third generation of Unmanned Surface Vehicles, the ocean equivalent of the drone. The four new craft were built in the US and developed by Israel’s state-owned defence company Rafael.