Washington has been very critical of Berlin in the past due to the latter’s failure to meet NATO’s defence spending target, with a shortage of planes also signaling Germany’s inability to meet the required training practice for its pilots.
The German Air Force is currently experiencing not just a shortage of planes, but pilots, Deutsche Welle revealed, citing officials at the Laage Air Base near the northern German city Rostock.
It was previously noted that the German Air Force failed to meet a 180 flight hour target in 2018, which is the minimum training requirement set by NATO, due to the shortage of planes available. Only 58% of German pilots currently meet the 180 flight hours required per year, 40 of which can be completed in a flight simulator.
However, interviews carried out at Laage Air Base, a showcase training site for the air force that schedules up to 20 practice flights per day, revealed that this branch of the German military is also experiencing a functional shortage of pilots.
“I don’t have enough pilots”, says Jan Gloystein, a deputy wing commander of the Steinhoff squadron where the Eurofighter pilots are trained. He explains that there are currently only 23 pilots, while 20 more are needed, noting that the reason for the shortage is that there are simply not enough applicants willing to join the air force.
A recent report by the government’s parliamentary military commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels argued that other German Air Force facilities are experiencing similar problems, with only two-thirds of the available positions for the combat pilots being filled.
According to reports, six pilots resigned in the first half of 2018 in comparison to 11 pilots resigning in the previous 5 years. For some time the staff shortage could be seen as a result of a lack of flight experience due to the scarcity of operational aircraft.
Although 70% of the 24 Eurofighter twin-engine jets have now been made operational and are ready for training, according to Lieutenant Colonel Gloystein, the shortage of operational aircraft could be an long-term problem for Germany’s military in the future.
In June 2019, two Eurofighter jets crashed in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with one pilot killed during the mission carried out from Laage Air Base.
In the meantime, Washington has been criticising its German ally for a failure to meet a 2% NATO target on defence spending, with US president Donald Trump accusing the EU of “not paying their bills” for the protection the US provides and calling Germany “the biggest offender” of all.
“Germany doesn’t want to pay. They’re supposed to pay 2 percent. They’re paying 1 percent. And I say, ‘You got to pay, Angela. You got to pay, Angela. Please pay, Angela'”, Trump said, by recalling his negotiations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump also suggested at the start of August that the US could relocate its troops from Germany to Poland if the current situation doesn’t change – an idea praised by US Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell, who claimed that Berlin has abused its good relationship with Washington by failing to allocate enough money on defence.
“It is really insulting to expect that the US taxpayer pays for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany, but the Germans use their trade surplus for domestic purposes”, he said in an interview with a German news agency on 9 August.
It was later reported by the German Finance Ministry in a parliamentary session that Berlin spent around €243 million on US military personnel in the past 7 years, but still failed to allocate more than 1.3% of its GDP on defence. Less than 10 states have managed to reach the voluntary goal of 2% of GDP set by NATO in 2014.