As there seems to be some international interest in the story on German army ammunition degraded in storage, here’s a quick summary in English:
Today, the German Bundesrechnungshof – an equivalent to the U.S. General Accoutability Office – published its annual report, called Remarks of the Bundesrechungshof. Now there was a lot on the Euro situation and other fiscal stuff in it, but with regard to defense one of these remarks got a lot of attention:
For about 40 years, the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) has been storing large numbers of ammunition, currently, among others, 227 million cartridges, worth 116 million Euros. Large parts of these, at least 40 per cent, have been stored incorrectly und thus are no longer safe to use. Literally 46 million Euros are rotten. This does not come as a surprise, as we (the Bundesrechnungshof) had informed the Bundeswehr in 2002 already that there are problems with the monitoring of its ammunition supplies.
When re-checking this year, we found that
• the Bundeswehr did not learn about corrosion until 2004
• in 2004, the Bundeswehr decided to unpack each of said 227 million cartridges to check them and
• ordered 30 storage workers and soldiers to do the checking.
(…) This negligigence leads to the necessity to purchase new cartridges for at least 17 million Euros.
(Translation by me.)
Now this is a waste of defense material, but what’s almost worse: for at least 20 years, soldiers are complaining about limited ammunition supplies when in training – the ombudsman for the armed forces (Wehrbeauftragter) made public in his 1994 (!) report that troops had to shout boom and bang on the training ground because cartridges were in short supply. Meanwhile, stacks of ammo were rotting in the warehouses.
Most probably, the ammunition in question is 7,62x51mm NATO, the calibre in the – outdated – G3 assault rifles, and not the ammunition needed for the current Bundeswehr standard weapon, the G36. However, the 7,62 ammo is still used in the MG3 machine gun, and refurbished G3’s are finding their way to the Afghanistan mission, as designated marksman rifles, as the larger calibre is more powerful.