Austrian Army to cut two thirds of armoured vehicles by 2014


Austria will retire two thirds of its armoured vehicles, including half of its Leopard 2A4 tank fleet, in order to save money. The process will be complete by 2014.

“We are retiring higher-cost equipment, which is an expensive drag on the army and which we no longer need in order to take current and future threats into account,” Defence Minister Norbert Darabos said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Lieutenant General Freyo Apfalter. The savings will be used to protect investments in multi-purpose vehicles.
“We are challenged more than ever in our ability to adapt to realistic scenarios,” Darabos said, explaining that, by implication, this also means that skills that are not needed for the foreseeable future should be cut back. “My credo for Defence is that we should invest only in those branches of the service that we actually need for our operations,” Darabos said.

As one example, the Minister cited the IVECO LMV multipurpose vehicle, which began to be delivered this year. “We have invested 105 million euros for the protected mobility of our troops,” said Darabos.

Lieutenant General Freyo Apfalter, Head of Section III (procurement) emphasized that it may come through the utilization of “substantial savings in operating expenses [as] freed-up funds to will benefit other areas.”

The reduction will be accompanied by scrapping, recycling or sale of the retired vehicles, under a “coordinated approach” which will meet all legal requirements. This will be closely coordinated with the Foreign Ministry when selling to export customers, Apfalter said.

By 2014, about 750 armoured vehicles will be disposed of, out of the 1 150 currently in service with the Austrian army. Earlier cuts, decided in 2007, had already reduced armoured vehicle holdings by 260 vehicles.

Tanks will be sold, scrapped or recycled to obtain spare parts.

Their disposal is expected to generate revenue of up to 17 million euros. Medium- and long-term savings in related operating costs could, according to expert estimates, amount to over 15 million euros annually.

The Kürassier tank-destroyers, the M578 armoured recovery vehicles and the Saurer armoured vehicles will be completely retired.

The fleet of Leopard 2A4 battle tanks will be cut by half, and only about half of the current inventory of M-109 self-propelled howitzers will be retained.

However, the entire fleet of Ulan armoured vehicles, Pandur armoured transport vehicles and other armoured recovery and combat engineer vehicles will remain in service, the Austrian ministry of defence said.

Austria is not the only European country to implement drastic defence cuts. The Dutch defence force has been hit hard by defence cutbacks in the wake of the global recession, making the government force the Ministry of Defence to save nearly a billion Euros. The cuts include the disbandment of two tank battalions, the elimination of all 17 Cougar helicopters, half a dozen fewer ships for the Navy and 19 fewer F-16s, for a remaining total of 68.

In May the Dutch ministry of defence said farewell to its Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks. The recently upgraded tanks were put up for sale, together with six PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers. The army is left with 18 front-line howitzers, which will be brought together with the 120 mm mortars under a single field artillery battalion.

The Royal Netherlands Navy will reduce the number of Almaar-class minehunters from 10 to 6. Two of its four new Holland-class offshore patrol vessels being built and outfitted will not be taken into service and will instead be sold to another country immediately after being constructed. One of the two supply ships will be phased out. The oil replenishment vessel HNLMS Zuiderkruis will be taken out of service at the end of this year, after the planned deployment as part of the European Union’s operation Atalanta. HNLMS Amsterdam will remain in service until 2014 and will be replaced by the Joint Support Ship.

Last year the United Kingdom announced its defence review, which is intended to cut defence spending by 8% over four years. The RAF and navy will lose 5,000 jobs each, the Army 7,000 and the Ministry of Defence 25,000 civilian staff. . In July UK defence secretary Liam Fox announced long-awaited cuts that will shrink the army from 101 000 to 82 000 by 2020. The UK army will shrink to its smallest in more than a century as deep cuts are made to help fill a budget hole estimated at 43 billion pounds.

Harrier jump jets, the Navy’s flagship HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier and the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft were also cut. Axing the Harrier and Ark Royal means no planes will be able to fly from British aircraft carriers until 2019.

Tanks will be cut by 40% and heavy artillery 35% – but there will be 12 more Chinooks and communications equipment and more money for unmanned planes, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

He said the government would procure a fleet of hunter killer Astute class submarines, complete production of six Type 45 destroyers and start a programme to develop “less expensive, more flexible, modern frigates”.

The British Labour government left a £38 billion black hole in the Ministry of Defence’s budget, the BBC reported.

Defence spending by NATO countries has been falling over the last several years.