Germany Orders Thousands of Military Trucks Amid Rearmament

Trent Barr
Trent Barr
Trent has years of experience and training in open source intelligence gathering and journalism. He specializes in Latin American, German, and Vatican affairs, with a broader interest in European politics. Trent serves as the Latin America Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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The Bundeswehr placed a €3.5 billion euro order for up to 6,500 military trucks on July 1, the largest order for the contractor in history and placed amid rising tensions in Europe while the nation struggles to rearm amid fears of a military conflict with Russia.

Another Order

The order for more unprotected transportation vehicles follows a speech given by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in February 2022, known as the “Zeitenwende speech,” or “turning point.” In this speech, Scholz announced that Germany would increase its military spending from 1.5% to NATO’s target of 2% of the nation’s GDP in response to perceived Russian aggression in Ukraine. Not only does Zeitenwende seek to increase military spending, but the policy also aims to secure Germany’s independence from Russian gas, instead moving towards renewable energy.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz during the Zeitenwende speech. (Photo – Bundesregierung)

The order was approved following a budget committee in the Bundestag on June 26, allowing the Bundeswehr to purchase over 610 trucks worth an estimated €32 million euro under the first call-off order, while 250 of these trucks are expected to finish production by the end of 2024. The contract between the Bundeswehr and the contractor, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles, allows the German military to flexibly order trucks for seven years, an advantageous contract for the Bundeswehr, which continues to suffer from budgetary constraints through their rearmament.

The vehicles ordered by the Bundeswehr belong to the Ungeschützte Transportfahrzeug (UTF)-family, a key family of vehicles which are used across the Bundeswehr for logistical operations. UTF’s themselves are based on Rheinmetall’s HX family, a family which is used across NATO with nations such as the UK, New Zealand, Sweden, Hungary, Ukraine, among other members of the international alliance. The HX family is largely used due to their high mobility and efficiency in rough terrain while the usage of the vehicle family across NATO allows for ease of use for nations within the alliance.

Continued Efforts to Rearm

The historic order for logistical trucks comes amid efforts by the German government to reform their largely underfunded military, an effort which experts believe could take decades before results materialize.

Germany’s first effort to reassert military dominance was the construction of a new NATO base in Lithuania in early April, sending 20 German soldiers ahead of the 5,000 total to the Baltic nation to prepare for the arrival of their comrades while also providing oversight for the construction of barracks, accommodations, and other forms of infrastructure.

The total force expected for the new base will consist of 4,800 active soldiers alongside 200 civilian Bundeswehr members and employees to maintain the base. Soldiers have been redirected from their stations in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, while a third detachment would be a NATO battle unit.

The advance unit which is comprised of 20 members of the Bundeswehr. (Photo – DW)

The Inspector of the Army, Lieutenant General Alfons Mais, stated that the move was a “very important signal that Germany is living up to its responsibility” to its NATO allies, ensuring the protection of Europe’s eastern states.

In early June, the Bundeswehr placed another order to Rheinmetall, requesting an additional 200,000 155mm artillery shells, which are set to cost the government €880 million euros ($960 million USD). The Defense Ministry stated that the newly requisitioned shells are intended to refill the German military’s reserves after the nation sent a significant number of arms and munitions to Ukraine amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

In order to fulfill the order, Rheinmetall announced plans to open a new munitions factory in Unterluess, Lower Saxony. The Defense Ministry’s letter stated that the new munitions factory would help secure Germany’s independence from international arms deals, allowing the country to maintain a secure supply of munitions for future conflicts while maintaining the national budget in the long term.

Days after the order from Rheinmetall, Chancellor Scholz announced on the first day of the Berlin Air Show that Germany would purchase an additional 20 Eurofighter aircraft. The new aircraft are expected to cost nearly €2 billion euros ($2.2 billion USD) and will be produced by Airbus, one of the world’s largest aircraft producers, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.

Olaf Scholz speaking with the CEO of Airbus during the Berlin Air Show. (Photo – Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

One German official told Reuters that the nation is planning to order eight additional Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in addition to Germany’s 35 already commissioned F-35s. Officials stated they are currently looking into the cost of additional jets, with the previous jets costing around €10 billion euros ($10.89 billion USD). The F-35s would replace Germany’s Tornedos, an aircraft that has been in service since the 1980s, with the country hoping to phase them out between 2025 and 2030. The 35 ordered jets are set to be completed by 2026 and will remain in the United States for pilot training before being transferred to Germany.

Later that same month, the German government introduced a bill on Wednesday that would send a questionnaire to all citizens who have turned 18 regarding their willingness to enlist in the Bundeswehr. The new bill was announced by the nation’s Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius, who has previously campaigned for Germany to strengthen the nation’s military.

The proposed law’s letter would ask a variety of questions regarding young men and women’s ability and willingness to serve in the Bundeswehr. From the answers, the Bundeswehr would choose the most suitable and interested in serving, scheduling a medical checkup for those chosen before being enlisted for a minimum of six months with the option of voluntarily signing up for an additional 17 months.

German Soldiers participate in the 90th Infantry Division Monument Memorial Ceremony in Picauville, France. (Photo – Specialist 1st Class Sean Spratt/ US Navy)

It is important to note that this law is not a conscription law, as Germany’s previous conscription law was dissolved in 2011. However, conscription can be reintroduced if the government declares an emergency of defense. Rather, this law is intended to attract new soldiers into the ranks of the Bundeswehr amid record low enlistment rates. In 2023, the Bundeswehr reported 181,672 active duty personnel, a slight increase from the country’s record low in 2016, when the Bundeswehr registered only 176,015 active duty personnel compared to the nation’s high of approximately 495,000 active duty personnel in 1989.

Women will also receive letters from the Bundeswehr; however, Pistorius stated that they are not obligated to answer, as enacting conscription for women is not in Germany’s foreseeable future.

Pressure From Russia

A key reason for Germany’s recent military buildup is the perceived threat from the Russian Federation toward mainland Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“Russia has now been waging a war against Ukraine for two and a half years—it is not only calling the rules-based international order into question, it is destroying it,” Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius told reporters. “This is a new-threat situation.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the sole contributor to a desire for the rearmament of the Bundeswehr; Russia has also been accused of launching cyber attacks targeting nations across Europe, ranging from Germany to the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius. (Photo – POOL/AFP-JIJI)

In May, the German government, alongside the Czech Republic, the US Department of State, and NATO accused the Russian government of initiating cyberattacks against Germany’s defense and aerospace firms alongside the ruling Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) party.

NATO further claimed that entities in Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Sweden, along with government bodies and “critical infrastructure operators,” have also been targeted in attacks organized by Russia, while the Russian Embassy in Germany called the accusations “another unfriendly step aimed at inciting anti-Russian sentiments in Germany.”

The group responsible is known as “Fancy Bear,” an organization affiliated with the GRU that used an exploit in Microsoft Outlook while utilizing a tool known as GooseEgg to compromise Outlook email accounts. Despite these compromises, the FBI released a statement detailing the bureau’s actions in preventing compromised accounts and devices from being used for cyber-espionage.

Fancy Bear was also allegedly responsible for the hacking of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails, which led to a number of controversies in her campaign and led some to believe former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to weaken his political opponent.

German police at the scene of a shooting in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, October 9, 2019. (Photo – Marvin Gaul/Reuters)

In another cyberattack connected to the Russian Federation, Poland’s National News Agency (PAP) released two false reports on May 31 which stated that the country would mobilize two hundred thousand military personnel on the first of July. Following the article’s release, the PAP denied being the source of the reports before stating that the article was not written or published by members of staff.

The PAP stated that the news outlet was the target of a cyberattack, allowing the false reports to be published. The outlet further stated that information regarding the attack had already been sent to authorities who traced the origin of the attack. The report was originally published at 2:00 p.m. local time, with the news agency removing the article only eight minutes later. After its removal, the news agency suffered another attack, wherein the same post was published again only to be taken down a second time. Further attacks have not been reported.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk claimed the attack originated from Russian hackers, stating in a post on X that the attack “illustrates Russia’s strategy of destabilization on the eve of European elections.” These elections were conducted on June 9th in Poland and held significant importance due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war. Analysts believe that if politicians who are supportive of Russia or wish to cease supplying Ukraine with military equipment manage to gain a majority within the European Parliament, Ukraine’s war effort may falter.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk prior to a meeting with Slovakian Prime minister Robert Fico in 2016. (Photo – John Thys/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian-backed cyberattacks have proven to be a significant issue across the international community, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) reportedly opening its own investigation into attacks targeting Ukraine in June. One official working on the case told Reuters that the ICC probe sought to investigate cyberattacks that targeted water and power infrastructure, jeopardizing the lives of civilians in the process. These attacks allegedly cut communications from emergency responders, while attacks against mobile data services impeded civilians’ ability to receive warnings regarding missile attacks from Russian forces.

Those working on the case stated that they have worked alongside Ukrainian teams in order to document and investigate a number of cyberattacks that occurred before the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Officials told Reuters that the probe may uncover evidence of cyberattacks by Russian entities as far back as 2015, the same year Russia annexed Crimea.

As cyberattacks against Western-aligned powers continue, a number of European nations have expressed concerns regarding Russia’s current and possible future actions. Because of this concern, these nations have opted to increase their own military spending, hoping to eventually dedicate the suggested military spending budget established by NATO.

Germany itself has seen relative success in this regard, with Germany’s 2024 budget set to meet the 2% goal imposed by NATO for the first time since the late 1990s amid the Cold War. This policy coincides with numerous other NATO member’s increases, with every member of NATO excluding the United States, Croatia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom increasing their budgets since 2014. Despite these increases, however, many NATO members still fail to meet the 2% threshold, with a significant portion of countries that have hit the quota being Eastern European nations close to Russia.

A chart showcasing NATO members’ increase in military spending based on GDP. (Graph – DW)

Germany’s newly expressed desire to hit NATO’s military spending goal signals a significant change in the nation’s foreign policy amid the Russo-Ukrainian war. Despite this desire, however, Germany has historically faced a severe funding crisis in regards to its military spending, with Bastian Giegerich, the head of the London-based International Institute for Security Studies, theorizing that it could take Germany a decade to be prepared for a conflict. Furthermore, Germany faces societal aversion to rearmament, showcased in the rise of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany political party, which has called for the government to cease sending aid to Ukraine, claiming that aid would prolong the conflict and “could make us [Germany] party to a nuclear war,” German news service DW reports.