This week in Austrian defence | April 2

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Bundesheer foreign missions: figures updated >>> New commanding general for EUFOR ALTHEA >>> New weapons and personal gear for Austrian soldiers >>> Doskozil: Withdrawal from UNDOF “a mistake”  >>> Chief of Defence facing criticism >>> Deployment to Hungary extended

TWIAD is your weekly, English-language briefing on national security and defence affairs in the alpine republic. The most relevant news reports, press releases, articles and announcements are recapped and, where necessary, given some context for greater accessibility. Feel free to get in touch with us and give us your feedback and thoughts, ask questions in the comments and join the #TWIAD raucity on Twitter!

Bundesheer foreign missions: figures updated

March 2017 figures were published for the Austrian Armed Forces’ foreign deployments. 1,105 personnel are currently serving in 15 overseas missions.

Mission Name Mission Area Personnel
EUFOR ALTHEA Bosnia-Herzegowina 313
KFOR Kosovo 474
UNIFIL Lebanon 180
EUTM RCA Central African Republic 3
OSCE Armenia Armenia 1
AUTCON HUN Hungary 50
OSCE SMMU Ukraine 11
RCM Afghanistan 10
MINURSO Western Sahara 5
EUTM Mali Mali 6
EUNAVFOR MED SOPHIA Mediterranean Sea 23
RACVIAC Croatia 1
UNFICYP Cyprus 4
UNTSO Middle East 4
EUMM Georgia Georgia 4
TOTAL 1,105

New commanding general for EUFOR ALTHEA

Austrian GenMjr (MAJGEN) Anton Waldner assumed command of EUFOR troops in Bosnia-Herzegowina on March 28. Austria is the largest supplier of troops for the peace mission, with Turkey coming second among 19 partner nations in total. Diplomatic rows between the two top contributors are said not to negatively impact collaboration on the ground. (See last week’s TWIAD for details.)

New weapons and personal gear for Austrian soldiers

On March 29, a range of small arms and new personal equipment for Bundesheer soldiers was announced. Among the items were:

  • Steyr AUG A2 assault rifles in various configurations (4,200 in total)
  • Light, medium and heavy sniper rifles (294 in total)
  • Personal protective equipment
  • CRC gear (5,515 kits in total)
  • Thales MINIE NVGs (400 pairs)
  • New light combat boots and other uniform items

While current acquisitions have been portrayed as the largest “procurement offensive” in several decades, raw figures suggest that few of the items will see ubiquitous introduction.

Check out our article for a more detailed breakdown and analysis.

Minister Doskozil presents new gear on March 29. | Austrian Armed Forces Photograph / Pusch

Doskozil: Withdrawal from UNDOF “a mistake” 

Defence Minister Doskozil in a March 31 interview called Austria’s 2013 pullout from United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) “a mistake, without question”. Austria, the mission’s lead nation for 39 years, had rapidly withdrawn from the mission in a reaction to a the UN’s slow response to the escalating war in Syria, in a move that attracted international criticism. Bgdr (BGEN) Thaller, the then-Deputy Force Commander, is the author of a comprehensive account (German).

Chief of Defence under fire

Gen (GEN) Othmar Commenda, Austria’s Chief of Defence has repeatedly been scrutinised for an intervention into the reappointment procedure of GenLt (LTGEN) Freyo Apfalter for the position of National Armament Director in early 2013. Austria’s supreme court ruled in Apfalter’s favour in late 2016 and OeVP MP Ottenschlaeger on March 30 asked the Minister of Defence to provide clarity on who would come up for possible compensation claims.

A 2012-2013 reappointment commission, headed by the current Chief of Defence, had found GenLt Apfalter “suitable to a high extent” to carry on in his position. Only a verdict of  him being “suitable to the highest extent” would have left then-Minister Darabos no choice but to reappoint him. He was subsequently transferred to a lower-paid position from which he retired. Seen as a victim of a political purge, he is in the company of GEN Entacher, then-Chief of Defence, who was similarly ousted but won a court battle over his reinstatement.

Bundesheer deployment to Hungary extended

The deployment of 50 Bundesheer soldiers to the Hungarian border region to Serbia will be extended on Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

The “Austrian Contingent Hungary” was dispatched last November in what has been emphasised to be a “humanitarian mission”. Army engineers with construction machinery, supported by medical personnel, are tasked with road construction and infrastructure following Hungary’s formal request for support for its own border protection efforts.

The mission is subject to controversy among MPs, with the Green Party questioning its humanitarian character and advocating for a withdrawal. While Austrian soldiers can currently only be deployed under an international mandate or for humanitarian missions, Defence Minister Doskozil has been arguing for an amendment to the clause. (See last week’s TWIAD for further details.)

Featured image (top): Philipp Hartberger

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Bernhard Völkl

Bernhard Völkl


Bernhard is a reserve officer in the Austrian Armed Forces and works in e-commerce.

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