Merkel's VIP jet set to fly soldiers home
One of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s VIP jets is set to be used to ferry soldiers home who are stuck in Afghanistan, due to ongoing problems with the German military’s transport planes.
The government jet, an Airbus A340 which is normally reserved for the Chancellor and President Joachim Gauck, is expected to land in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, on Friday to fly some of the 150 stuck troops back, according to military blog Augen geradeaus (Eyes front).
A spokesman from the German military (Bundeswehr) confirmed to The Local they were looking at using the government jet. He said another plane, possibly a chartered flight, would also be needed for the 150 soldiers as the VIP jet carries fewer passengers than a normal Airbus A340.
It was specially fitted out for government use by Lufthansa, cutting its capacity from around 300 to 143.
A chartered plane is also expected to be used to get the remaining troops back.
By Friday, the troops will have been waiting to get home from their Afghan mission for almost a week.
They have been stuck since Saturday due to the military’s lack of working transport planes, which has continuously caused embarrassment for the Bundeswehr over the past two weeks.
Only a fraction of the Bundeswehr's Transall planes are operational and its A310 transport planes have limited use. The A310s are not meant to fly higher than 25,000 feet because of a problem with the emergency oxygen supply, the defence blog said.
Germany currently has around 1,700 troops left in Afghanistan and all soldiers are meant to have left the last German bases in the country by the end of 2014.
One of the Chancellor’s planes, an Airbus A319, made headlines last year when an intruder in underpants and high on drugs managed to board the empty plane and held a one-man party.