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German troops head for Lithuania NATO exercises

July 28, 2019

Germany's Bundeswehr overcame another potentially embarrassing aircraft glitch by flying tank battalion troops from Leipzig to Kaunas in Lithuania — one day later than planned. The tanks traveled by train.

NATO soldiers take part in a military exercise at the Rukla military base in Lithuania
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Kulbis

A series of German military aviation glitches peaked in November last year when Chancellor Angela Merkel had to switch to a commercial airliner to attend the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The latest incident with aircraft came on Saturday when the Bundeswehr's transport wing (Flugbereitschaft) kept an Airbus A310 at its base near Cologne because of what was described as an engine defect.

On Sunday the intended flight went ahead, with troops departing for Lithuania without further delay.

Six trainloads of equipment, including 17 mostly "Marder" vehicles, went by rail from a base in the eastern state of Thuringia. The tank personnel will replace Bundeswehr troops deployed in Lithuania since February.

Enhanced Force Presence

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began "Enhanced Force Presence" in 2016. It places multinational units on a six-month rotating basis in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The exercises were started after Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Germany has a lead role in what will be its sixth rotational deployment at Rukla in Lithuania, which involves 1,000 troops and armored vehicles.

The latest deployment involves about 900 Bundeswehr troops, including medics, cyber experts and logistics personnel.

There are also troops from Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic.

ipj/jm (AFP, dpa)

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