Private mercenaries from the arms wing of Airbus fly the German Heron drone in Afghanistan and in Saxony-Anhalt the defense group Rheinmetall operates the most advanced combat training center of the German army, the Bundeswehr. In another barracks in Bückeburg, Lower Saxony, a consortium of Rheinmetall, Airbus and other companies provide helicopter pilots for the Bundeswehr.
According to Die Zeit, the outsourcing of military tasks to private companies is a growing trend, with a global turnover estimated at US$112 billion a year.
However, civil rights groups in Germany have accused the government of using political reasons for outsourcing the work of the Bundeswehr — particularly in foreign missions. They claim private contractors are being used to increase the number of 'troops' by stealth.
They also claim that civilian casualties are now counted as official war wounded or dead and that private contractors do not enjoy the in-service benefits nor post-traumatic stress and other support that military staff benefit from. The German Government does not make compensation payments to the relatives of civilians who lose their lives or for injuries.
In Afghanistan, Germany's International Security Assistance Force mission in Mazar-i-Sharif was reduced from 3,000 with a "massive military personnel replaced by civilians," according to sources close to Airbus. This was confirmed by the German Defense Department.
Nearly 60 employees of the German company Ecolog AG have been injured while working as contractors to the US military, according to the campaign group ProPublica. Four Ecolog employees were kidnapped and murdered by the Taliban. Over a hundred non-US civilian passport-holders died working for the US during the Iraq War alone.
The Bundeswehr say that civilian employees can be more economically and flexibly used, especially for the maintenance of weapons systems, according to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Makowski from the Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Saxony-Anhalt. The defense group Rheinmetall operates the center with 250 employees on a seven year contract for the Bundeswehr.
"We have calculated. If soldiers would take over the responsibilities of the service, that would be much more expensive," Makowski said.