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!
Eurofighter Typhoon committee of inquiry specifies its schedule
The parliamentary committee for the inquiry into the Eurofighter Typhoon deal has penciled in a schedule: sessions are to be held twice a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with two to three witnesses per day. The schedule is to be confirmed on May 9, with sessions to commence thereafter.
Row over sexist recruitment ad
A media row ensued after the Armed Forces released a recruitment ad containing a pun building on the homonymic German abbreviations for bra and Bundesheer. The MoD spokesman was quick to admit a mistake and said that the hurried release ahead of a nationwide recruiting event for women had not undergone the usual checks. (Indeed, even the armed forces’ URL was spelt wrongly in the ad.)
The headlines dealt a blow to the current recruitment drive for more female uniformed personnel, which were recently reported to number just 473, compared to 24,990 males.
Pilot shortage: too few applicants
The Austrian Bundesheer does not have enough pilots for its air arm: a recent article counts 160 active fliers (for a fleet of 113 aircraft) instead of 185. This is due to years of declining budgets and a shortfall among applicants: 800 hopefuls applied in 2006/07, but that figure fell to 150 in 2015. 2016 saw an increase to 400, but Bundesheer officials hope for higher figures to be able to select and train eight new aviators per year.
Just 13 fully qualified pilots are available for the 15 EF-200 Typhoon, just enough to keep three aircraft and two pilots on alert most of the time. They conduct roughly one alpha scramble per week and are able to reach every given location in the Austrian airspace within seven minutes.
Bundesheer reopens permanent helicopter pad at Klagenfurt airport
Having closed down its helicopter pad at Klagenfurt airport by the end of 2015, the Bundesheer air arm re-estanlished a permanent presence there on April 13. Three ground personnel and a changing number of rotorcraft and crew are to be stationed at the country’s southernmost major airport. Annual costs for maintaining the outpost have been stated at € 90,000.
Doskozil wants air rescue to become a military task
Minister of Defence Doskozil voiced his desire to incorporate air rescue into the armed forces’ task portfolio. State governors reacted with only cautious interest, pointing out that the current model is well-established without obvious shortfalls. The proposition came as part of governmental debates over a new national crisis management doctrine, in which the ministry of the interior and the ministry of defence are at loggerheads over several competencies.
Enhanced military cooperation with Cyprus
Minister of Defence Doskozil on a visit to Cyprus together with his counterpart Cristoforos Fokaides announced the signature of a memorandum of understanding on April 20. Its aim is a deeper defence cooperation between the two EU member countries, with an emphasis on training and the conducting of exercises.
Austria has a considerable history of deployments to the mediterranean island: a Bundesheer military field hospital was established there in 1964 and a full infantry battalion followed in 1972. Over the next decades, 15,255 Austrian servicemen served in UNFICYP until the contingent was withdrawn in 2001. four Austrian personnel are currently deployed to Cyprus.
Procurement of 34 ‘PANDUR 6×6’ APCs
The procurement of 34 additional APCs made headlines once more as Minister of Defence Doskozil paid a visit to the GDELS factory in Vienna where the vehicles are manufactured. The Bundesheer introduced a first batch of 71 PANDUR vehicles starting in 1994; the first copies of the new and upgraded vehicle are are due for delivery in 2018. In contrast to their older peers, the new batch will “have significantly higher ballistic and mine protection” and include a remotely controlled weapon station. (A number of older vehicles have been similarly upgraded starting in 2015.)
Further reading: milnews.at published an expansive article (German) in February.
Featured image (top): Austrian Armed Forces Photograph/GUNTER PUSCH