Forces: May 20, 2003


It's become news in the last year that the European nations have allowed their armed forces to decline in capability. It's been noted that one exception is Britain. But there's another. Germany is in pretty good shape. It's not just that military tradition (German's have been known for their battlefield prowess for some 3,000 years), but the way the German armed forces are organized. While their air force has only some 480 warplanes, these include a number of large warplanes (260 Tornados and 130 F-4s) and the pilots who get a lot of flying time. One of the major German training bases is located in the Western United States (more flying time because of better weather than in Germany.) The Luftwaffe can operate using the same effective techniques pioneered by the US air force. Next to the British, the German Luftwaffe is probably the best equipped and trained air force to operate along side American warplanes. German ground forces have lots more modern armor (1700 Leopard 2 tanks, an M-1 class vehicle) than any other European nation (including Russias more, but less capable and poorly maintained vehicles.) The Germans have what is recognized as the best self-propelled artillery in the world (the 155mm PZH 2000) and are building a new generation of armored infantry vehicles. The navy is mainly for coastal defense, but the Germans have designed and built the first non-nuclear subs that can stay under water for extended periods. The German armed forces are also one of the more professional forces in Europe, even though 36 percent of the army are draftees (lower proportions in the air force and navy). The Germans want to go all volunteer, but it's a question of cost. The defense budget is only $30 billion a year. But unlike France and Britain, Germany does not have nuclear weapons, or nuclear submarines to deliver them. These weapons and ships are very expensive to build and maintain. With the decline of the Russian armed forces over the last decades, Germany is arguably the most potent ground force in Europe. For the first time in over 60 years. Britain has a larger fleet and an air force of equal size, but a far smaller army. The French army is not nearly as well equipped as the Germans and not organized for a major war. The Germans don't make much of their military supremacy, but there it is.


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