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German soldiers won't get new combat boots until 2022

Berlin(CNN) German soldiers will have to wait until 2022 to get new combat boots, in a setback that has angered politicians and raised questions about the readiness of the country's military.

The rollout of the new footwear, which began in 2016, was scheduled to be completed by 2020 but has now been pushed back to mid-2022, the German Defense Ministry told CNN.

"Due to limited production capacity in industry the schedule could not be kept," a ministry spokesperson said. "Thousands of boots are being produced at the same time."

The ministry had planned to provide soldiers with two types of "heavy combat boots" and one "light combat boot" -- but it admitted only around a sixth of all soldiers had received the light combat boot and none had been given the second pair of heavy combat footwear.

The first pair of heavy combat boots had been given to 160,000 of 183,000 soldiers, the ministry added in a response to an inquiry by opposition parliamentarian Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann.

The delay was heavily criticized by a number of opposition lawmakers, who said the government had failed to adequately prepare the key NATO member's military for combat -- a charge that has frequently been levied against the defense ministry in recent years.

"Boots are the key to everything," Strack-Zimmermann told CNN. "You don't go skiing with a pair of trainers and you don't go hiking in high heels."

"It is important that soldiers are equipped with the right pair of shoes -- in Mali you need different footwear than in other places. So it's a question of safety, and not that of fashion," she added.

"Everyone in the armed forces should have received their new pair of boots by the end of 2020," Strack-Zimmermann noted, calling the inability to provide the footwear on time "extremely embarrassing."

The rollout was initiated under the watch of Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's controversial former defense minister who left her post earlier this year to become the European Commission President.

Von der Leyen's five-year stint in the post was beset by controversies, with many of her domestic critics arguing she left the military unprepared for combat.

A parliamentary report published in January, for instance, found that "far too few" troops had been provided with equipment such as "protective vests, boots, clothing, modern helmets or night vision devices."

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