Rand three weeks after the mass failure of Puma armored personnel carriers at a military training area, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) sent the Bundestag a one and a half page report on the situation. Without going into detail, he raises doubts about the weapon system’s suitability for use, but also emphasizes its qualities as a “technologically high-quality weapon system” that has “promising performance data”.
With the exception of one tank, all were basically repaired. The brief presentation provoked strong opposition from members of the government and the coalition. The budget spokesman for the Greens, Sebastian Schäfer, said that the Lambrechts report “does not provide any answers to the many open questions about the Puma. The Ministry continues to grope in the fog, which has led to the failure of the systems.”
The defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, Florian Hahn (CSU), told the FAZ: “We had to wait more than two weeks in the defense committee for this extremely narrow information about the Puma.” The AfD defense politician Rüdiger Lucassen spoke of “extremely poor information”.
Individual serious damage
While at the beginning of the week the defense technology industry was talking about “trifles” that had already been repaired except for one damage, the Lambrecht report contradicted this. There it says that the result is a “differentiated picture of predominantly small and medium-sized damage, but also some more serious damage”. And further: “The failure of individual high-quality parts and fire damage, however, require further investigations.”
Restoring full operational readiness requires “further work in some cases”. They are “currently being worked on at full speed”. In addition, the ministry issues an updated interim certificate for the entire system, which is insufficient with regard to its actual suitability for war: “Currently, the system can only be operated in a closely interlinked system made up of troops, army repair logistics, project management and industry.”
The Puma can therefore only be sent into battle if the army, two authorities and industry cooperate closely at all times. This might be difficult to implement under combat conditions. For example, the failure of an overheated electronic component would be technically trivial and easy to repair outside of the battlefield. In the fight itself, however, even such a “little thing” could be deadly for the crew.
After Minister Lambrecht initially failed to immediately inform the defense and budget committees about the loss of all 18 Pumas, on December 20 she promised a damage report by the end of the year, which she failed to do. One day after the failures, but before they became known, Parliament approved a proposal for 850 million euros to modernize other Pumas.
50-year-old infantry fighting vehicle as a replacement for NATO
The mass failure of a training company for the NATO rapid deployment force (VJTF) means that all Pumas intended for this purpose are temporarily replaced by around 50-year-old, albeit modernized, Marder armored personnel carriers. Green politician Schäfer said it was “very regrettable that Germany can only meet its obligations to NATO with material from the Cold War – despite spending billions on a new armored personnel carrier.”
AfD defense politician Lucassen said that in the current situation, the ministry “is not tasked with protecting Christine Lambrecht’s political survival, but must restore the operational readiness of the German armed forces.”
The defense policy chairman of the Union, Florian Hahn (CSU), also assigned responsibility to her: “One thing is certain, dealing with the Puma is another communicative disaster for Ms. Lambrecht. Instead of first getting to the bottom of the facts, she immediately leaned far out of the window, followed by the typical Lambrechtian attempt to cover up, to cover up and to distract from her own responsibility as a minister.” The minister was “completely wrong in place at the Ministry of Defence”.
At least there is agreement between industry and the Bundeswehr that they want to continue using the infantry fighting vehicle, if only because there is no alternative. In the advertising lines of the Lambrecht report it says that the Puma basically has the ability “to provide the troops with superior effectiveness in combat”. However, robustness and reliability are also required.