The attitude of Western European countries to defense was not criticized only by the lazy. There are reasons for this. Suffice it to recall the "strange" savings of the British on catapults for their new aircraft carriers Queen Elizabeth, or, for example, the recent rumors that the second of these ships, the Prince of Wales, would be given to the United States. Or you can recall the "eternal" construction of a small French nuclear submarine "Suffren", which was laid down in 2007 and has not yet been handed over to the naval forces.
But this applies to the fleet, which by default is hypersensitive to economics and economy (the current position of the Russian Navy is also a very good example, by the way).
But what about the ground forces, namely the tanks? Everything here is far from unambiguous. For a long time, the leading role in European tank building was played by the Germans, who, we recall, created the world "bestseller" Leopard 2, built in a series of more than 3,500 tanks. In the world ranking of tanks, which is compiled by the Military Ordnance magazine, the vehicle traditionally took first place. In general, experts do not skimp on praise.
But the German army and, in particular, its armored vehicles (including, of course, Leopard 2) are actively criticized. Recently, a well-known expert in the armored industry, Aleksey Khlopotov, spoke about the situation in the Bundeswehr with reference to the German media. “Only 101 Leopard 2 tanks out of 245 available in the army are in readiness. Of the 284 heavy infantry fighting vehicles "Puma", only 67 units are combat-ready. Of the 237 Boxer armored personnel carriers, 120 are on the move, and 116 of the 220 Fenneck armored reconnaissance vehicles. Of the 121 PzG2000 self-propelled howitzer, 46, "Khlopotov notes in his blog" Gur Khan attacks!"
The well-known (and not too fond of the Russian Ministry of Defense) blogger Kirill Fedorov went further. Speaking about the state of the German armed forces, he recently described an almost total "apocalypse" (here you can use another word if you like). Practically nothing drives, flies or shoots. Well, if it does, it is the "super-expensive" PARS 3 LR, which is no better than the Hellfire.
The biggest hit was Ursula von der Leyen, the former defense minister and current president of the European Commission. At the same time, her critics are modestly silent that it was under Mrs. von der Leyen that Europe began developing a sixth generation fighter and a new generation main battle tank. And the 2020 budget for the Bundeswehr is planned for two billion euros more than this year (Ursula von der Leyen herself demanded even more significant increases in defense spending). It turns out that a number of points do not converge or we misunderstand them. What is the problem?
Easy to learn - hard to fight
Naturally, we do not have the opportunity to compare in detail the state of all European armies, but we have something. In 2016, the first Strong Europe Tank Challenge was held, in which many European countries and the USA took part. The competition includes twelve stages, including offensive and defensive shooting, as well as a number of exercises.
In terms of the results, the German army is the absolute favorite. The Bundeswehr won twice: directly in 2016 and 2018. In 2017, he took an honorable second place. In the last competition, the Germans scored 1,450 points in Leopard 2 tanks. At the same time, the United States was in the penultimate (!) Place, bypassing only one country - Ukraine. And then, the reason for the defeat of the Ukrainians lay in the fact that very old and practically incapacitated T-84U "Oplot" were sent to the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (not to be confused with the more modern BM "Oplot").
By the way, if you look closely, you get an even more entertaining situation: all three winners of the last competition used Leopard 2: the Germans had a Leopard 2A6, the Austrians had a Leopard 2A4, and the Swedes had their version of the Leopard called Stridsvagn 122.
There are never too many tanks
But maybe this is an exception to the rule and in general … is it possible to fight when you have only one hundred combat-ready tanks out of two hundred (if you believe the German media)? In fact, a person interested in military equipment should understand that it is practically impossible to achieve one hundred percent combat effectiveness. Some of the machines will be under maintenance / modernization / repair, etc. all the time. This is a completely normal and natural practice in the world.
But the thesis about the total disarmament of Germany and the tricks of the "evil" von der Leyen is an outright farce. Just to remind you that on October 29, 2019, at a ceremony in Munich, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) handed over the first modernized Leopard 2A7V to the Bundeswehr. Under the 2017 contract, 68 Leopard 2A4, 16 Leopard 2A6 and 20 Leopard 2A7 tanks are to be converted into the Leopard 2A7V variant. On March 28, 2019, KMW received a second contract for upgrading an additional 101 Leopard tank to the 2A7V level.
It is worth saying that the new version is de facto the most advanced and technically perfect version of the famous tank, claiming to be the best main battle tank in the world in terms of the sum of its qualities (mainly due to advanced electronics).
According to the bmpd blog, the implementation of the contracts will make it possible to implement the program to strengthen the Bundeswehr announced in 2016 by Ursula von der Layen by 2020: according to it, the number of tanks of the German army should be increased from 225 to 329 units. At the same time, of this number, 205 tanks will belong to the Leopard 2A7V modification, and another 104 - to the Leopard 2A6 version. Also, by the way, very modern.
As you can see, the Bundeswehr shows very high (the best, to be more precise) results in international competitions and at the same time will be able to boast of a large tank fleet with some of the most advanced MBT in the foreseeable future. We are already silent about the fact that it is not a good idea to judge the German armed forces based on the speculations of the German media. In every country there is a heated political struggle, and many of those who claim this very power have a desire to denigrate their opponents.
On the other hand, you need to understand something else: not every European country can afford to have a budget at the level of France or Germany. Moreover, even their partial strengthening is the result of Russia's actions and fears of a "threat from the East." In this regard, the most reasonable option seems to be the creation of a pan-European army: this would both reduce spending and increase the EU's defenses. At least in theory.
Europeans, of course, can continue to rely on Uncle Sam, only, as world practice shows, the paths of Europe and the United States can diverge at some stage. And then all these issues will have to be resolved urgently, which, of course, will not bring satisfaction to anyone either.