German defence needs to spend billions to rebuild munition stocks -source

BERLIN, July 6 (Reuters) - Germany needs to spend 14 billion euros ($15.48 billion) on replenishing its badly depleted stockpile of munitions as part of a broader plan up to 2030 to upgrade military equipment after years of decline, a German military source said.

Government sources said earlier this year that Germany sought to invest about 130 billion euros ($143.74 billion) over the next 15 years on modernising equipment to enable the army to better fulfill its missions abroad.

Military sources said that a vital part of that upgrade would be to restore stocks of munitions to acceptable levels.

Hans-Peter Bartels, military ombudsman in the German parliament, said current stocks had fallen to a two-day supply, far below NATO’s old Cold War requirement of 30 days.

Bartels, a member of the Social Democrats who are the junior partner in the right-left coalition, said Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea had put a new focus on NATO’s collective defence responsibilities.

“And having adequate supplies on hand, from munitions to fuel to logistics, is a big part of that capability,” he said.

Henning Otte, a defence expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, acknowledged that current German munition supplies were not good. “Personal equipment, weapons and munitions are the life insurance of our soldiers,” he said.

A defence ministry spokesman would not comment on the state of the military’s munitions supplies on the grounds that the data was classified.

However a confidential ministry report seen by Reuters acknowledged that the stockpile had shrivelled and would limit any deployment by Germany to aid NATO allies in eastern Europe.

The report prepared by the ministry in March concluded that additional spending was needed to beef up supplies of equipment and munitions.

Barring additional funding, “it would not be possible to execute national and allied defence with larger, rapidly deployable forces”, the report said.

“Negative consequences for allied commitments and structures would be inevitable, and it would be possible to maintain capabilities only at a low qualitative and quantitative level.”

Critics say they are uncertain whether Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen will succeed in securing the full 130 billion euros in funding she hopes to spend to rebuild capacity through 2030.

Current budget plans for 2017 include just 359 million euros in funding for new munitions, only 30 million more than in 2016. ($1 = 0.9044 euros) (Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Balmforth)