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The problem is known to the armed forces for years: The ammunition still used for the 120-mm mortar of the army today comes mostly from the 1980s and early 1990s. The fuel and basic charges are too old, there is a risk of malfunctions. That was probably the cause of an incident on Friday, May 25, on the military training area Wildflecken.

At practice firing with explosive ammunition, the propellant charge of a cartridge did not ignite at all, as evidenced by a widespread network in the video. Only the ignition charge for the actual propellant charge - also referred to as the basic charge - lit and led to an extreme short shot: The grenade plopped in slow motion from the pipe and fell to the standing before the mortar gun loader on the back. Fortunately for the surrounding soldiers of the properly functioning detonators did not resolve the grenade - 50 meters to the detonation site of a 120-mm cartridge of as a deadly zone.

The Bundeswehr Procurement Office BAAINBw confirmed that as part of a training firing at the military training area of ​​Wildflecken in the 22nd calendar week is "DM61 abnormalities with the mortar round 120mm - - an explosive cartridge rapprochement detonator come," but did not provide any details. As insiders report the same shooting a large number to be exploding cartridges too soon in the air. Such air explosions suggest that the fuses of the cartridges have not worked reliable.

If the malfunction during firing of the cartridge is in fact due to the superposition of the blowing agent at the moment can not be said with certainty. According BAAINBw the incident is still under investigation. "There are not yet known before," the agency writes. However, experts believe it is highly likely that the propellant charge was the reason for the failure.

The Bundeswehr has apparently taken some precautions for some time, in order to reduce risks of ammunition. Insiders report that for several years the own troops with the old 120mm cartridges must not be overshot. The use of the propellant charges is regulated accordingly, neither the full nor the lowest number of propellant charges may be used. After the incident in the affected spots Wild ammunition (DM 61) was completely blocked until further notice. It is said that there is danger to life and limb.

According to the BAAINBw two ammunition generations used in the Bundeswehr. Ammunition old species was therefore established in 1988 to 1991, is used for educational purposes. The new ammunition was procured in the years 2008 to 2010, and stands for the assignments. The now occurred incident concerns the old ammunition. As ES & T has learned to have been bought only small amounts of ammunition recent.

Sluggish procurement

According to our information a project for nearly half a decade running for the exchange of propellant and base charge for the stored ammunition old style - so far only with no apparent results. In December last year, interested suppliers are being asked for the modernization of ammunition again to participate competition. In general, this step, which takes place before the actual tender is completed in a few weeks. Currently, however, the prospects are still waiting for feedback from the BAAINBw, as they say.

Dabei is there already for the second call attempt. The first attempt was made well-informed sources said in 2016. At that time are three manufacturers have come on the short list. Allegedly, a German-Israeli consortium should receive the award. But that complained of at least one of the two competitors, as it is called in industry circles. The BAAINBw dismissed the complaint apparently not decrease, but instead took the call back and started the process again last year.

As can be heard from the office, a conversion of the old munitions is planned for the start of operations this year. "Depending on the findings at this incident" should this measure, however, if necessary re-evaluated.

Basically, the professionals exchange of propellant charges for reasonable and much cheaper than the new purchase ammunition. It must only be ensured that after the exchange of basic and propellant charge the same performance of the ammunition be reached to more expensive adjustments to avoid in fire control. However, by the current delay is always questionable whether the upgraded ammunition still - as originally planned - can run in 2020 in order to be in time for use in connection with the VJTF available.

In addition to the short shot to a further aspect is interesting. As can be seen in the video, the affected soldiers wear a forage cap instead of a helmet. Because of an EU regulation soldiers in mortar shooting must wear a double hearing protection for noise abatement reasons obviously. This is in conjunction with the standard combat helmet or not the knight helmet Bundeswehr possible. As it says in well-informed circles, the central procurement was omitted a suitable helmet. Therefore, the soldiers have to make do with a cap for several years.

What harm can even cause small mortars, shows an example from the Netherlands. In 2016 two Dutch soldiers were killed and a third was seriously injured when they used a 60mm mortar during a practice shooting in Mali. As a commission of inquiry later found that grenades had become unstable due to design weaknesses and were not cooled despite high temperatures. As a result of the investigation report were Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and the head of the Dutch armed forces, Tom Middendorp, from their posts back.

Author: Lars Hoffmann