Helpless at the Mercy of Drones: Germany to Boost Military Spending to ‚Win‘ Modern-Era Wars

Written by | Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Germany should strive for an increase in military spending and uphold its NATO promise to spend 2% of GDP on defense, chancellor candidate Armin Laschet said amid revelations the German Federal Armed Forces, or Bundeswehr, is under-equipped for drone combat. The German military is so cumbersome and poorly prepared for a drone-based offensive that it would lose a hypothetical conflict with a smaller but nimbler force such as Azerbaijan’s, according to an analysis by the Bundeswehr think tank GIDS. Bundeswehr‘s large but slow battle groups, supported by unwieldy air defences and outdated electronic warfare capabilities, would be sitting ducks for swarms of enemy drones, the experts behind the study warn. Western analysts have been particularly unsettled by the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia last autumn, in which Azerbaijani drones helped to wipe out more than 200 pieces of armour and artillery systems.
Politicians in Germany have long been discussing whether the Bundeswehr should be equipped with combat drones for offensive use. At least as urgent, however, is the acquisition of appropriate defense technology. Because other armies, such as Azerbaijan’s, have long been fighting with autonomous kamikaze drones. According to the GIDS’ analysis, Germany is hardly equipped against the increasingly complex technology for attacks with combat drones. The experts from the Hamburg institute examined the international market and the course of the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, where Azerbaijan defeated its neighboring country Armenia with drones last year. “To put it very drastically: If the Bundeswehr had to fight against Azerbaijan in this specific conflict, it would hardly have had a chance,” states Lieutenant Colonel Michael Karl, GIDS expert on modern warfare and new technologies. “With weapon systems that were used such as combat drones and kamikaze drones, we would not have been able to defend ourselves adequately. The lack of army anti-aircraft defense alone would have been our undoing.”
Germany is “jointly responsible for the security of many of our partners” and must also take on more military tasks in the future, said Armin Laschet in a recent interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “In Africa and around the Mediterranean, Germany must do more.” He also cited the example of the military operation in Mali, where German and French forces are part of EU and UN missions, battling Islamic militants, to help stabilize the country. Meeting the 2% NATO defense spending target had been a bone of contention among the transatlantic allies, particularly Berlin and Washington. “If we have agreed on something internationally, we should stick to it,” Laschet said. But his position is in stark contrast with that of the other frontrunner for the chancellorship – the Green Party’s Annalena Baerbock – who has previously criticized the NATO target as “absurd” and “not really helpful” because, in her view, 2% goal would not “achieve greater security.”

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