A German plane carrying emergency Ebola supplies bound for West Africa will arrive two days late, thanks to an engine malfunction that required it to stop on a Spanish island on Friday, raising questions about Germany's commitment to taking on the pandemic as well as its own military preparedness.
The military transport plane carrying Ebola supplies was a Transall C-160. After pilots noticed a defect of some kind, it reportedly had to land on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, where it was forced to wait for replacement parts to be flown in.
“The plane looks like a dinosaur of flight history. In fact, it’s older than most of the soldiers it transports,” reads a report from Deutsche Welle describing the aircraft, which was first flown in 1963.
The situation, which was brought to light by recent media reports, has drawn criticism of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position. The country's military forces have been stretched thin by increasing budget cuts, an aging fleet and a lack of interest in military spending.
“With our airborne systems we are currently below the target figures announced one year ago, defining what we would want to make available to NATO within 180 days in the case of an emergency,” she told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “Delays for replacement parts for our planes and the missing helicopters are the reason for this.”
Earlier this year, Germany reduced its spending costs by 800 million euros, to 32.4 billion euros ($41.3 billion), which accounts for just above 1.3 percent of its economic output, according to the Associated Press. In comparison, the United States spends 4.4 percent of its GDP on its military. NATO recommends a rate of 2 percent.
The budget cuts have become painfully obvious. Leaked defense ministry reports show that just seven of the German navy’s 43 helicopters and 70 of the German army’s 180 Boxer armored vehicles are actually operational, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
The German military has ordered 53 new Airbus A400M models to replace the older ones, but they still haven’t been deployed due to “technical problems and arguments about its cost and features,” according to DW.
German officials estimate that the Ebola supplies will arrive in Dakar, Senegal, two days later than expected.