The German armed forces – Bundeswehr – should lead as a frame army NATO’s rapid reaction force for securing the alliance rimlands in 2019, with focus on the East. Core of the German brigade size engagement is to provide the lead battle group for the so called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). The German VJTF battle group is a mechanized one, consisting of 700 soldiers. Its main units: Two Leopard-2 tank companies (each with 14 tanks) from the Panzerlehrbataillon 93 and one company of armored infanterymen with Marder fighting vehicles from the Panzergrenadierbataillon 401. Furthermore the battle group is supplemented by sappers, joint fire support specialists and medics from other units.
Now those units are certified by NATO as combat ready for their task. The combat readiness evaluation (CREVAL) took place at Schnöggersburg, a hugh training area with the focus on urban warfare of Germanys armed forces which construction is nearing completion. At the close of the combat readiness evaluation, the Germans presented their fighting skills with Norwegian and Dutch units of the upcoming VJTF with a fictive assault operation at Schnöggersburg – to retake a city and its airport which had been conquered shortly before from mechanized enemy forces. Germanys land forces chief of staff, lieutenant-General Jörg Vollmer, was visibly proud to announce that the Bundeswehr units passed CREVAL with the grade „excellent“.
But the event in Schnöggersburg shows also two remaining and crucial Achilles‘ heels of Germanys VJTF engagement – material and logistics. The Bundeswehr is still doomed to equip its VJTF units by cannibalizing others. The gear for the rapid reaction force is marked and spreaded all over the army; circeling between the owner units and those of the VJTF for training efforts. Only shortly before Germanys VJTF take off in January 2019 the most important equipment should be centralized at the German battle group to minimize the lack of training. Other gear should be „pulled together in the case of alarming the VJTF“ according to lieutenant-general Jörg Vollmer. That’s a hardly credible material backbone for rapid reaction and in 2019 units of Germanys land forces will suffer because their stuff is not avaiable for practice. It’s the aim of the Bundeswehr to enter it’s next VJTF engagement in 2023 with a fully equiped brigade.
Even if the material problems could be solved in the future, the plausible reaction time of the VJTF is totally unclear. The Bundeswehr, like the other European NATO armies, lacks transport capabilities, especially in the sector of strategic airlift. Designated VJTF commander brigadier-general Ullrich Spannuth is passing the buck: „The German land forces VJTF units show that they can face a potential adversary and be ready for first deployment in three days, logistics are NATO.“ So Germany’s VJTF soldiers are ready to fight, their material and their logistics are still not.
The upcoming decisive test for the VJTF 2019 as a whole should be the NATO maneuver „Trident Juncture“, starting October in Norway. The focus of this exercise its the effective deployment of the rapid reaction force under German lead into a theare.
Further information about the certification of the German VJTF units at the „augengeradeaus!“ blog from colleague Thomas Wiegold (in German):