The German army radio scandal

You may have read about the German army radio scandal: The German ministry of defence is about to purchase up to 20,000 radios of an analogue technology model from the early 1980's. The price per copy is expected to be outrageous (you could buy two new small cars for one museum piece-styled radio), and the order is going to Thales because they bought the developer of those Cold War era radios long ago.

The need to replace the old radios was obvious many years ago already (and published). We already missed out on buying late 1980's/1990's technology radios. The British Bowman program disaster and the huge excess of 1980's radios after the downsizing during the early 1990's may have contributed to this.

The scandal is a scandal because the need to replace the old radios was obvious, the technological progress in the field was obvious and the German army is obsessed with talking (and writing) about "Führungsfähigkeit", the ability to lead (for Americans; Command and Control, C2). And it interprets this ability in large part as the technical ability to communicate.

I have not yet any special insights into why the bureaucracy (and politicians!) failed so grossly, merely a couple suspicions. The list of my suspicions is topped by the guess that they went for a gold-plated maximum ambition solution, and then failed to get it done for the all-too-usual reasons of bureaucratic impotence. They clearly tried to get something customised to their requirements, for there are evidently plenty battlefield radio systems on the market, military-off-the-shelf and there was enough money in the budget all along if you know how to prioritise.

Some blame was put on politicians who spent on other things (such as warships - the parliamentary defence committee is infested by directly elected politicians from election districts with shipyards). The bureaucracy didn't put the necessary priority and bureaucracy resources on the radio procurement, though.

The radio procurement scandal also involves (though not mentioned in the recent reports that I saw) a miniscule quantity purchase of some modern radios a few years ago. AFAIK only special forces and the AFVs of a battalion for deployments received modern radios (aside from civilian satellite radios).


I have zero confidence that this extremely embarrassing scandal will lead to decisive change for the better. This is not a specific critique of any particular politician or any particular party. I simply don't think that ANY party has understood that the Bundeswehr is a bureaucracy that needs a harsh political leadership that breaks it away from the current path and forces a change of course towards doing the constitutional job of the armed forces. I don't expect any officers to be fired and no civilian bureaucrats to be kicked out of their positions of relevance at all in this most embarrassing Bundeswehr scandal of the post-Cold War period.

The blathering in writing will go on as well. They will write about a fantasy world in which the army is focused on getting command & control right, on getting combined arms right, on getting training realism right, on getting technical readiness up and in which 30+ years old concepts and hardware are still top notch. No concerns about them being easily countered by capable opposing forces will be part of the cheerleading articles. The senior officers will tell each other that they'll keep doing their job in the ultra-competent way they've always done it, and the tactics and techniques they learned at the Führungsakademie are the global gold standard.

I'd be surprised if the politicians who take the reins (ceremonially at the very least) will be able to see  through the B.S..



  1. Could not agree more with you here. Or lets look for example at the Gorch Fock scandal. In fewer time a new and bigger and better ship was built in spain by the exact same people who now repared the gorch fock in the end and that for half the money ! Half the money for a new and better ship in half the time. It is ridicolous!

    This overall scheme is everywhere in this "army". Lets take for example the last exercise with the bundeswehr and the bavarian police in hof. It was bordering to insanity so extreme was the incompetence in every aspect. It is not only about procurement of equipment, this extreme incompetence is thriving in nearly every aspect of this "army".

    As you see the solution in the politicans, here i disagree. The political bureaucracy is militarily as incompetenc as the generals and the high ranking officers. They are not interested in the military anyway, they only see it as an opportunity to enrich themselves or to enhance their political career (CDU et al) or the hate it anyway (Leftists).

    Especially for this scandal i have at least some insight. It was not even what you are suspicion here, they did not even searched for any high end gold plated solution which then come to late, the simple easy answer is only extreme incompetence and stupidity as annoying as this is.

    The rest of the explanation is the complete paralysis and paralysis due to the blind and literal adherence to rules and regulations which ultimately result in the absolute inability to act. It is not possible to change anything at all, because everyone is absolutely rigid and unable to follow the rules and firmly believes that any other action endangers their own career and must therefore be avoided.

    The primary reason behind all of this is therefore egocentricity, and the self-centered careerism which has led to the fact that no one is interested in the matter itself.

    It is therefore much more than just a scandal. It is the proof of the complete inability to defend the Federal Republic.

  2. Radio seems essential for a working military. How does such a mismanagement of core competencies happen?

    1. No one can tell for sure. The circumstances are to absurd even to be explained by corruption etc. Another example: the bundeswehr is actually buying another kind of radio, the following one:



      They buy this one for 100.000 euro per one unit. The US Army has ordered the same radio some years ago for fewer than 5000 dollar per one unit.

      Explain this ! Because i can´t.

    2. There should be a parliamentary investigation committee. The current minister of defence is outgoing becuase her party lost the elections and will be out of power. The new governing coalition would need to launch the investigation (as the new opposition parties won't), but it's uncommon to harass a ministry under the own control with such a committee.

      More likely they'll hand over the MoD as a consolation prize to some failed politician who has no defence policy expertise (could be Baerbock). I suppose Kühnert is too smart to accept the office which he may be offered in an effort to kill his career.

  3. Had to think about this one after hearing about the Russian use of commercial&open radios.

    Shows once again that it is more important to have enough good modern stuff then some few gold-plated objects among many fossils.