German howitzers facing problems in Ukraine

German soldiers train on a Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzer during an exercise in Munster, northern Germany.  AFP 

German Panzerhaubitze 2000 artillery guns are failing to withstand the rigors of combat in Ukraine, and Berlin hasn’t sourced enough spare parts to keep the cannons working, Der Spiegel has reported.

Germany has sent Ukraine 14 of its state-of-the-art Panzerhaubitze (PzH) 2000 self-propelled howitzers, but problems emerged the moment they hit the battlefield.

The guns were suffering from “wear and tear” and displaying error messages back in July, and six were recently sent to Lithuania for repair, the German newspaper reported on Friday.

Of these, only five will be heading back to the battlefield. Neither the German military nor its arms industry could provide the necessary spare parts to fix all the guns, the report continued, explaining that technicians had to cannibalize one of them to fix the others.

The German government has been aware of this parts shortage since late summer, when the military warned it to order “extensive spare parts packages,” Der Spiegel claimed. Such an order was apparently not made, and the shortage has hampered Germany’s plans to set up a repair hub in Slovakia.

In planning since September and announced by German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht earlier this week, the repair hub will maintain howitzers and air-defense systems sent to Ukraine by Berlin.

German military officials believe that Ukraine is firing as many as 300 rounds from each PzH 2000 per day, Friday’s report stated. Der Spiegel’s first article on the malfunctioning guns in July noted that 100 rounds per day is considered high-intensity use, and that ammo shortages were forcing Ukraine to load the cannons with incompatible ammunition.