Two Weeks in Austrian Defence | Dec 10

In Blog, English by Chiara Libiseller

Saab 105 fleet grounded >>> Positive trend in public opinion on the Bundesheer, conscription >>> Eurofighter – whistleblower alleges bribe taking during procurement >>> Dogs killing handler: Kennel not defective

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!

Saab 105 fleet grounded

The entire fleet of Saab 105 jet trainers has been grounded since late November. Following the discovery of damaged bolts with the Swedish fleet of the same type, similar damage was found to be afflicting the remaining Austrian aircraft.

The Bundesheer spokesperson noted that this would broaden existing gaps in Austrian aerial surveillance, 25% of which are quoted to have been conducted with the decades-old jets. Meanwhile, an increased deployment of EF-2000 Typhoon to the aerial surveillance mission is compounding cost – flight hours for the two types are quoted at EUR 3,000 vs EUR 30,000, respectively.

At its peak, the Bundesheer’s fleet of Saab 105 numbered 39 aircraft, with around 15 still airworthy in 2019 – check out our in-depth article.

In another twist, one of the Bundesheer’s three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft was stuck in Sarajevo due to malfunction on Dec 6. Minister Starlinger, on an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, had to make the return trip to Vienna by car. 

 

Positive trend in public opinion on the Bundesheer, conscription

Der Standard, a leading liberal daily hosted a user discussion on its web page in late November, asking whether Austria was still in need of its armed forces. The page is currently featuring two user posts advocating both an Austrian and a European military; likewise, most posts with an upvote point in the same direction.

In early December, the same outlet published results of an MoD-commissioned poll (n=1,500) on conscription: according to the same, three out of four Austrians have ‘a positive attitude’ towards the Bundesheer. Furthermore, 58% think that conscription – six months and no obligation to remain in the active reserves – is ‘too short’, an uptick of 6% from a similar poll in July. Duly, about half of those questioned are in favour of obligatory military exercises after an individual’s period of active service. 

 

Eurofighter – whistleblower alleges bribe taking during procurement

A cheque for EUR 1.5 million and a statement by a whistleblower detailing the flow of said money from EADS to a former Austrian politician provide new substance to the bribery allegations connected to Austria’s acquisition of Eurofighter Typhoons from EADS, now Airbus, in 2002. According to the whistleblower’s written statement to the investigating authorities, the cheque was issued by an EADS letter-box company in 2006 and made its way indirectly to Elisabeth Kaufmann-Bruckberger – presumed innocent -, a BZÖ politician at the time. 

Even though the cheque already surfaced a few months ago, the parliamentary commission inquiring into the bribery allegations at that time could not further explore this new evidence as it was brought to a premature end after the sudden break-up of Austria’s coalition government in May 2019. The final inquiry report found no evidence of bribery, but judge Ronald Rohrer did identify a ‘network of bogus companies and … company constructions with ever-increasing complexity [on the part of EADS], which shuffled around money for no apparent reason.’

 

Dogs killing handler: Kennel not defective

Investigators a handler having been killed by military dogs on November 14 suggest that the kennel was not defective.The two dogs have been quarantined after the incident. Investigations currently point to a course of events whereby the handler took both dogs out of their kennel for an exercise; he is believed to have assumed a defensive body posture to avoid injury, which in turn might have led the dogs to not recognise him as their handler.

The lawyer of the victim’s family meanwhile accuses the Armed Forces of negligence and a lack of protective measures.


Header image: Bundesheer/Georg MADER

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Über den Autor

Bernhard Völkl

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

Über die Autorin
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.