Two Weeks in Austrian Defence | Mar 25

In Blog, English by Chiara Libiseller

TWIAD is your bi-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, put into context for greater accessibility. Feel free to get in touch and leave us your feedback and thoughts, ask questions in the comments or join the #TWIAD raucity on Twitter!


MoD paper highlights financial and material gaps

In early March, excerpts of a paper prepared by the General Staff and circulated by various media (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), have caused some irritation. According to the Bundesheer, the paper, which voices dire warnings about the financial and material state of the Bundesheer, is still in its draft stage and was not meant to be published.

In the paper, Gen Brieger echoes President Van der Bellen’s earlier remarks about the Armed Forces’ dire budgetary situation, pointing to a “discrepancy between the constitutional task, the budget, and the real situation” of the Austrian Armed Forces: “The Bundesheer has in recent decades ever further strayed from being able to defend Austrian territory. It is currently unable to fulfill its purpose as mandated by the Austrian constitution. Soon, the Armed Forces will cease to possess even core military capabilities due to the obsolescence of almost all essential weapons systems.”

With a current budget of EUR 2.2bn, Brieger requests an increase of 50% until 2022. The chronic budgetary shortfall is said to have created “security gaps” and a backlog in urgent investments amounting to EUR 3bn. Without these investments, a further loss in capabilities is projected in aerial surveillance and defence, troop mobility and all tasks requiring equipment ranging from large systems to individual kit.

The paper goes on to describe that compared to 2004 levels, besides having let go of much real estate and properties such as barracks, the Bundesheer now has 41% fewer aircraft, 62% fewer heavy weapons systems, 61% fewer combat vehicles, 56%  fewer trucks and 49% small vehicles. Regarding its personnel, the Bundesheer is now 16% smaller than 15 years ago, with a whopping 50% cut to mobilisation strength, and 47% fewer conscripts on an annual basis. 65% of buildings are described as in need of “large” repairs and 25% of stationary infrastructure requiring minor overhauls.

Two days after the paper’s initial disclosure, Minister of Defence Kunasek confirmed its findings.

The Kleine Zeitung has suggested that the paper might have been leaked on purpose to put pressure on the upcoming budget negotiations.

UPDATE MARCH 27: Today, the general staff’s paper has been publically released. We’ll have a closer look soon!

Update: Parliamentary inquiry into Eurofighter deal

March 7 saw a surprising twist in the parliamentary inquiry into the Eurofighter deal, when MAJGEN Hans Hamberger, during his statement before the committee, hinted at last-minute changes to the deal, disadvantaging Austria. These changes had allowed EADS, now Airbus, to deliver Typhoons from the technically inferior tranche 1 rather than tranche 2 as originally agreed. The committee will now summon Edwin Wall, chief negotiator and signatory of the contract, who has already denied these allegations.

Meanwhile, on March 14, minister of defence Kunasek appeared before the committee and used his statement to call again for a quick decision on the future of air-traffic control. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, however, has tied this decision to the outcome of the ongoing inquiry, which will run until the end of June.

The parliamentary committee is the third on this topic and enquires into possible bribery in connection with the acquisition of Eurofighter Typhoons from EADS, now Airbus, in 2002.

→ Continue reading here for an account of Austrian air power from 1950-2007, and an introduction to the ill-fated procurement of EF-2000 Typhoons.


Header image: Austrian Armed Forces

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About the Author

Bernhard Völkl

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Bernhard is a reserve officer in the Austrian Armed Forces and works in the technology industry.

About the Author
Chiara Libiseller

Chiara Libiseller

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Chiara Libiseller is a doctoral candidate and Teaching Assistant at the War Studies Department, King’s College London. Her research traces the evolution of contemporary military concepts to understand broader patterns and fashions in the ways Anglo-American scholars and military professionals study and understand war. Her broad interests include military strategy, military history as well as Austrian and European defence.