Germany’s naval brass in 2005 dreamed up a warship that could ferry marines into combat anywhere in the world, go up against enemy ships and stay away from home ports for two years with a crew half the size of its predecessor’s.
First delivered for sea trials in 2016 after a series of delays, the 7,000-ton Baden-Württemberg frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: It doesn’t really work.
Defense experts cite the warship’s buggy software and ill-considered arsenal—as well as what was until recently its noticeable list to starboard—as symptoms of deeper, more intractable problems: Shrinking military expertise and growing confusion among German leaders about what the country’s armed forces are for.
A litany of bungled infrastructure projects has tarred Germany’s reputation for engineering prowess. There is still no opening date for Berlin’s new €6 billion ($7.2 billion) airport, which is already 10 years behind schedule, and the redesign of Stuttgart’s railway station remains stalled more than a decade after work on the project started. Observers have blamed these mishaps on poor planning and project management, which also figured in major setbacks for several big military projects.