German MCM-Replacement Project Fails, Current Fleet to Undergo Life-Extension

This setback suggests a possible failure to fulfill Germany's NATO commitment of providing at least 11 modern MCM vessels by 2031.
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  • 11:51 AM, December 11, 2023
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German MCM-Replacement Project Fails, Current Fleet to Undergo Life-Extension
German minesweeper FGS Groemitz @NATO Maritime Command

A new report from the German federal audit office (BRH) on December 7 outlined the failure of Germany's Mine Countermeasure (MCM) replacement initiative.

The effort, initiated in 2014, aimed to replace the aging fleet but faced budgetary and capability conflicts, resulting in a cost almost double the set budget.

The current German MCM fleet, comprising 13 boats, consists of ten Type 332 Frankenthal-class minehunters and three Type 332CL "Hohlstablenkboot" command boats. The fleet, commissioned between 1993 and 1998, has seen notable reductions over the last 15 years due to cost-cutting measures, with disposals halving the original 22 vessels.

The decade-long planning for the MCM-successor faced escalating costs, starting at €2.8 billion in 2014 and reaching €6 billion by 2018. Conflicts among stakeholders, including the Navy and the Federal Ministry of Defense, emerged over key requirements and budget constraints.

In 2014, the plan aimed to spend €2.8 billion on modern mine warfare drones, self-defense capabilities, and command and control facilities. The BRH report indicated that meeting all requirements required larger hulls, approaching corvette size. The Navy argued that specifications could be met within existing size parameters.

By February 2017, the Bundeswehr Planning Office estimated a replacement cost of at least €4.4 billion, recommending separate vessels for command-and-control capabilities. By 2018, the total cost was assessed at €6 billion.

Despite a €3.5 billion cost ceiling set by BMVg, the Ministry didn't reduce requirements, leading to considerations of a mixed fleet by 2021. This involved purchasing only six new boats to meet budget objectives, but this proposal was dismissed due to additional costs and infrastructure burden.

In 2022, the Ministry reduced funding to €1.3 billion, acknowledging the procurement's failure. The allocated funds will now extend the existing fleet's life for ten years, with a new replacement effort planned for 2025.

This setback indicates a potential failure to meet NATO obligations, as Germany pledged at least 11 modern MCM vessels to NATO by 2031. The German Navy now faces the prospect of operating up to thirteen mildly modernized MCM boats until 2040, well beyond their intended lifespan and almost 50 years old by that time.

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