The Bundeswehr’s billion-dollar prestige project for the “Digitization of Land-Based Operations” (D-LBO), which primarily involves the purchase of new radio equipment, suffered a serious setback early on. In December, the Bundestag Budget Committee released 1.35 billion euros for the procurement of an initial 20,000 radio devices. Tens of thousands of vehicles, from tanks to trucks to off-road vehicles, will gradually be equipped with it. The contracted manufacturer, Rohde & Schwarz, has reportedly delivered the first around 400 devices. However, they cannot yet be installed at all and have therefore initially been sent to the depot.
It’s about problems with adapter plates, insufficient battery capacity and cooling and alternators that are too small, the “Welt” wrote at the weekend. Apparently, no one in the responsible departments of the Ministry of Defense and the subordinate Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use addressed the issue of assembly in a timely manner. “The effort required for sample and series integration into the vehicles is considerable and can only be carried out in cooperation with the defense industry,” explained a spokesman for Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD). The votes on this are ongoing, but there is currently no timetable for the integration.
25,000 vehicles in 350 vehicle classes
Lieutenant Colonel Mitko Müller spoke of a “challenging task”: “We are talking about over 25,000 vehicles in around 350 vehicle classes.” It’s all about the right adjustment. According to the blog “Augen straight ahead”, vehicle manufacturers say it is astonishing that they were only asked to make an offer for the installation and integration of the radio devices quite late this summer. Apparently the coordination between those responsible for radio and vehicles in the Bundeswehr procurement office did not work. In the worst case, after the award process and contract negotiations, the order will not be awarded until the end of next year.
Pistorius initially emphasized on a trip to the Baltics on Monday that the wrong radio equipment had not been purchased. A little later, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung and ARD, he became more annoyed: the order had been given in December, before his time at the head of the department. He assumed that before ordering, people would think about how the installation would work: “We’re now clarifying that that didn’t happen or that it wasn’t sufficient – and we’re trying to heal what needs to be healed.” However, no more damage than a delay is currently expected.
Wire to NATO
As early as the end of 2018, the authors of a Ministry of Defense report on arms matters warned that “the major challenges and risks of D-LBO” lay in the timely “integration into the different platforms”. In March 2022, the cyber department in the defense department again called for rapid sample integration of the new radio devices in the different types of vehicles. The impact of the skid could be massive. In the worst case scenario, the functionality of the army division with three brigades and 15,000 soldiers, which Germany has promised to NATO from 2025, is at stake.
To achieve this, around 10,000 vehicles would have to be available with initial digital qualification (“D-LBO basic”). The Bundeswehr special fund will also be used to procure special single-channel radios of the type PRC-117G. For example, they allow encrypted communication with US satellites and aircraft, which is crucial for the NATO division.
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