German Troops Replaced Their Armored Vehicles’ Grenade Launchers With Broomsticks
The Boxer won’t deter Russia without weapons
The German army has a long history with armored personnel carriers. It’s most numerous APC is the 1980s-vintage TPz Fuchs. But during the 1990s, Berlin decided to buy a newer, more heavily-armored transport.
Germany worked with France and Britain to develop its next armored utility vehicle. France pulled out in 1999, and the United Kingdom left the project in 2003. Each country cited a desire to develop their own systems.
The Netherlands stepped in to fill the gap, and the result was the GTK Boxer. The vehicle didn’t have any noteworthy flaws, unlike other German weapon systems developed during the ’90s, such as the G36 assault rifle and newer variants of the Leopard tank.
The Boxer was a success … for awhile. Recent equipment problems and upcoming reforms to Germany’s military strategy have made the vehicle’s future uncertain.
Case in point is one recent exercise in Norway, when German troops didn’t have enough barrels for the Boxer’s grenade launcher — so they put broomsticks in their place.
It was part of a multi-national exercise designed to counter Russia. We can say without a doubt — Germany will not make Vladimir Putin back down like that.
The Boxer is an eight-wheeled, weaponized troop taxi. In German, it’s known as a Großraum Transport Kraftfahrzeug, or large-capacity transport vehicle. But really, this means it has multiple roles. It can shuttle soldiers around the battlefield, and it can fight.
According to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Boxer qualifies as an APC — not an infantry fighting vehicle.
The difference is somewhat academic. An APC mainly carries troops, and an IFV mainly fights — though they can usually carry some troops, too. The Boxer also comes in different variants. Some of them are more like APCs, while others are more like IFVs.
The basic infantry configuration carries eight fully-equipped soldiers. For added firepower, the Boxer has a remote-controlled weapon station holding a heavy machine gun — such as the Browning M2 — or an HK GMG grenade launcher.
There’s little difference between the Boxer and the Fuchs when it comes to crew capacity. Some of the Fuchs have Milan anti-tank guides missiles, but no Boxer does.
The Fuchs is versatile, but it takes more time to modify it for different missions. The Boxer has heavier armor and offers more multi-role flexibility — as it comes with “platform interchangeable mission modules,” making it faster and easier for troops to swap out its components.
The crew module is one variant, and can expand to include command, medical and many more modules. This includes more aggressive configurations, such as a 120-millimeter mortar and an artillery cannon.
That all sounds great … on paper. The Boxer recently drew attention in the German media for two reasons. First — and most serious — is that it’s missing equipment.
More specifically, the 371st Mechanized Infantry Battalion — based in Marienberg — was missing barrels for their Boxers’ automatic grenade launchers, among other gear, according to a leaked German army document.
How and why this happened is both unknown and incomprehensible. Berlin deployed the Boxer to Afghanistan with barrels for its grenade launcher.
The 371st is part of the NATO Response Force. The alliance expanded the NRF in 2014 to counter Russia, and the multi-national force can deploy — in theory — anywhere in Europe within five days. This makes the lack of critical material an incredible oversight.
In short — it’s bad. But it’s most likely a temporary problem. The German army can hopefully make up for this lack of equipment with material that should be available in depots.
There’s also a series of long-running questions regarding how the German military should prepare for the future. In February, Berlin began updating its Weißbuch, which outlines the country’s key military and strategic priorities.
But Germany has also cut its total number of APCs — part of a broader trend of military reforms and reductions. The Bundeswehr currently has 898 Fuchs and 272 Boxers in service. In both cases, these are total numbers and include every variant.
Berlin’s plan is to slowly phase out the Fuchs, replacing it piece by piece with the Boxer.
Cutting armored vehicles made a lot of sense … a few years ago. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the near-universal consensus among German military analysts was that Central Europe faced no major threats for the next decade, at least.
Now Germans are reconsidering disarmament, while Berlin’s most modern armored vehicle doesn’t have enough equipment.
At this stage, Germany’s new military strategy is still in the works. Updating the Weißbuch is a lengthy process, and we can’t expect results until February 2016.
Once the Weißbuch is out in the open, the reform process will begin once again, hopefully ending the German army’s current mess. It appears to be almost certain that the new strategy will include the Boxer — likely with more missions modules than before.
As for the near future, Germany has announced it will step up its joint training with NATO partners, including handing over a German battalion to Polish command, and vice versa.
About 5,200 German soldiers will take part in seven multi-national exercises this year. It’s all part of a massive training and cooperation effort meant to deter Russian aggression.
Certainly the Boxers will see a lot of activity, hopefully equipped with real barrels for its grenade launcher next time — instead of broomsticks.