In ConversationDialogueSociety

“Mission Forwards!”

12. February 2024

In an interview with DIMENSIONS, Austrian defence minister Klaudia Tanner and Major General Harald Vodosek, the Austrian Army’s National Armaments Director, discussed protected mobility and the modernization of Austria’s armed forces.

Made in Austria

At its plant in Vienna’s Liesing district, Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles produces a vast variety of vehicles for numerous customers, including the German Bundeswehr (shown here), the Austrian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

Madam Minister, just like Germany, the Republic of Austria is stepping up its defence spending. The Austrian Army is now being thoroughly reequipped. What security policy considerations explain this new course?

The protracted war in Ukraine and Israel’s fight against the terrorist organization Hamas pose stark new security challenges to Europe and the international community. These historical events caused us to rethink the role of the Austrian Army and chart a new course. But political instability in the western Balkans, in West Africa and the Sahel, resulting from climate change and characterized by growing criminality, i.e., people trafficking and drug smuggling, have a negative impact on Europe, too, and should also be included in this spectrum. Crisis situations elsewhere affect Europe and Austria, too. It’s important to be prepared.

This also means that Austria needs to play an active part in the ongoing development of Europe’s Common Security and Defence Policy – and has to be able to mount an effective, resilient, comprehensive military defence of our own national territory.

General, what tasks are in store for trucks from Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles in the Austrian Army?

We’ll be using protected and unprotected RMMV trucks with a wide variety of build-ons primarily to transport cargo – ammunition, operating materials, equipment, all kinds of things. But the Army will also be using these new vehicles for recovery and towing operations.

In addition, command and control and other special purpose vehicles come under the “Swap Body System” programme introduced by the Austrian Army. Moreover, some of the vehicles will be equipped with hook systems that enable maximum multifunctional flexibility in container and flatbed transport operations. Tanker trucks are of course specially designed to transport large quantities of fuel – another vital mission! And there are other heavy duty systems capable of carrying heavy vehicles weighing up to eighty tonnes.

Madam Minister, in financial terms, what importance do you attach to the Army’s logistical capabilities?

We’re going to assure mobility on the ground with protected vehicles and transport capabilities; high-mobility vehicles for special operations units and the infantry; and protected combat engineer vehicles and field ambulances. We’re basically talking about armoured personnel carriers here in various configurations.

The Austrian Army obviously operates nationwide. Operations primarily take place in built-up urban areas, but also in Alpine terrain and for protecting critical infrastructure as well as aid missions. But our men and women in uniform are regularly called on to assist in natural disasters as well. So, as you can see, the bandwidth is very wide and we need to be able to move our troops around in a hurry. We’re talking about considerable distances here. And when troops are deployed they have to be continuously resupplied.

When they’re properly supported, especially when it comes to medical support, soldiers can focus fully on their mission. At the same time, this enhances the resilience and operational effectiveness of the entire Austrian Army. Since mobility and logistics are crucial factors for the Austrian Army, it’s enormously important that we modernize these areas. Under our 2032+ expansion plan, we’ll be investing around €5.6 billion in these areas through to 2032.

General, what criteria do modern trucks have to meet to pass military muster?

Modern trucks have to meet a wide spectrum of military requirements. Depending on their intended use, the vehicles must be medium-, high-, or extremely high-mobility systems. And – once again depending on the mission – being able to equip them with a protected cab is crucial. For military purposes, concealment and camouflage are vital prerequisites, too. Special paint, for example, and IR blackout lighting. Military vehicles must be robust, durable, dependable, and handle well in different climate zones. Moreover, in the interests of logistical uniformity, the full range of protected and unprotected transport, command and control, and special purpose vehicles must meet the Austrian Army’s standardization criteria. Here, a reliable supply of spare parts, operating materials and tools is essential. Finally, in addition to all these characteristics, the vehicles naturally need to be economical to operate, reasonably priced, and environmentally friendly.

Madam Minister, trucks from Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles have proven themselves in action with numerous armed forces. Did this help to influence your procurement decision?

Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles is a longstanding partner of the Austrian Army. Vehicles from RMMV have proven their worth in numerous operations of our armed forces. And the fact that they’re partly produced in Vienna was a clear advantage; the company plays an essential role in the Austrian economy.

General, which Austrian Army departments are involved in the procurement process and exactly where do Rheinmetall and the Army interface here? How does cooperation actually work in this case?

Basically speaking, obtaining materiel for the Austrian Army is the job of Directorate 5, which I’m in charge of. But a whole bunch of other departments of the Austrian ministry of defence are involved in the procurement process, too, making sure that whatever we buy is ready and safe for the troops to use. These departments include Structure Planning, Organization Planning, the Office for Armaments and Defence Technology, Infrastructure, Internal Auditing, and Training.
For the vehicles from RMMV, the responsible systems department is the Department for Vehicles, Devices and Personal Equipment, which is in overall charge of processing complex military procurement projects like this one.

Very briefly, cooperation between RMMV and the Austrian Army, which is based on existing framework contracts with our procurement agency, works like this: the responsible systems department, once again the Department for Vehicles, Devices and Personal Equipment, or FGP, informs the relevant department at RMMV that the Austrian Army needs a particular vehicle. A specifications profile is jointly prepared and a proposal submitted to FGP. Following intensive negotiations and the potential award of a contract to RMMV, the systems department watches over the project right through to final delivery to the Austrian Army. The expert staff of the Office for Armaments and Defence Technology play an essential role here, monitoring production and conducting subsequent quality inspections.

Madam Minister, you recently visited the RMMV factory in Vienna. What was your impression?

I came away with an extremely positive impression of the plant, a centre of excellence for producing protected and unprotected military logistic vehicles which, as far as I’m concerned, is unique in Austria. I could clearly sense just how motivated the men and women who work there are in every department. And it’s this kind of motivation that will make sure we get this done together and make our slogan “Mission Forwards!” a concrete reality. I’m very upbeat about this.

General, how would you rate the importance RMMV’s Vienna plant for the Austrian security and defence industry as a whole?

It’s certainly a significant factor. For the Austrian Army, it’s especially important to be able to rely on a local defence industry presence like this. But as I see it, RMMV’s ‘military impact’ extends far beyond our own borders, since a whole host of other armies operate large numbers of vehicles made at the factory in Vienna.

Developments in the security and defence policy arena in recent months and years show how important having a largely autarkic domestic defence capability can be. Being able to rely on powerful partners in the defence industry will help us respond to the challenges facing Europe in coming years.

This interview was conducted by Jan-Phillipp Weisswange

Notification Icon

Never miss an article

Click here to receive push notifications. By giving your consent, you will receive constantly information about new articles on the Dimensions website. This notification service can be canceled at any time in the browser settings or settings of your mobile device. Your consent also expressly extends to the transfer of data to third countries. Further information can be found in our data protection information under section 5.

Share article