Military Procurement

Playing Offense on Defense

Ursula von der Leyen is ready to splash out on some new warships. Source: DPA
Welcome aboard or walking the plank? Ursula von der Leyen.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The internationalization of the tendering process could hurt the German arms industry but also help to break the dominance of U.S. air defence suppliers.

  • Facts


    • Recent procurements by Germany’s armed forces have been plagued by cost overruns and shoddy quality, including melting guns.
    • Historically, big arms deals have been the sole preserve of German companies.
    • But the ministry of defense has recently openly tendered for a new air defense system and new warships.
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Germany’s military is not well known for its extravagant spending or surplus of hi-tech battle equipment. So when it places a big order, it causes a bit of a bang.

Recently, the defense ministry made its first big procurement deal in years, noting a long list of criteria for the new weapons systems: Better integration with Germany’s allies, lower costs and longer lifetimes. But conspicuously absent from the list was something that always used to be a big part in selection: Securing jobs at German defense contractors.

A new class of warship, the MKS 180, and the MEADS missile defense system will cost billions, but Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has decided to make a distinction between the needs of the military and those of the German arms industry.

Ms. von der Leyen apparently blames meddling MPs chasing fat contracts for their districts for several of the armed forces’ (Bundeswehr’s) recent equipment disasters.

“The Bundeswehr’s goal cannot be to subsidize the industry’s jobs,” said a source close to the defense minister.

And it certainly looks as if those days are over – or at least that’s the impression Ms. von der Leyen hopes to give.

The contract for the MKS 180, a versatile mid-sized warship, will be worth roughly €4 billion ($4.24 billion). It will be the first time such a large defense project for the Bundeswehr is tendered Europe-wide. The defense minister is breaking with the tradition of handing navy contracts to German shipyards in the hope that the increased competition will be to the military’s advantage.

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