The Bundeswehr, Germany's armed forces, grounded all its "Tiger" helicopters on Wednesday, due to technical faults found in their machinery. As a result, flight operations involving all 53 aircraft were temporarily suspended.
"Certain bolts that are installed in the helicopter could have a flaw," said the Army Press and Information Center. Before new flights the machines must be "thoroughly checked and bolts replaced if necessary."
"Security is the top priority for the Bundeswehr," the statement added.
Bundeswehr's enduring equipment woes
The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassments for the Bundeswehr and the German government concerning equipment, especially as regards government-issue aircraft. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz have all been delayed by faulty airplanes while carrying out official duties in the past year.
Bundeswehr officials have also long complained that much of their equipment is outdated and broken, as increasing defense spending becomes more and more unpopular politically. In July of this year, two pilots were killed in a military helicopter crash near the city of Hanover.
Just a week earlier, one pilot was killed when two Eurofighter military jets collided in northeastern Germany.
Expert panel to probe safety
The Air Safety Committee will conduct an assessment on Friday and is then expected to discuss the next course of action.
The bolt in question is also installed in the transport helicopter NH90 and in the training helicopter EC135 of the Bundeswehr. But since these bolts are not in any safety-relevant points, their flight operations can continue.
According to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel, the defective component in the case of the "Tiger" is a connecting bolt within the rotor control. The manufacturer Eurocopter had pointed out that some of these titanium components could be made brittle by hydrogen. They could therefore break during the flight, which according to experts could cause a crash.
jsi,es, jns /kl (dpa, AFP)