Armed Forces Overviews

German Air Arms

Other Forces

By John van Golen

The current status of the Federal Republic Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) was influenced by two major historic events; WW II and the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990. The Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) was constituted May 23rd 1949. Later Germany was allowed an army with a personnel strength of 500.000. On 9 may 1955 the Federal Republic became a NATO-member.

The 'new' Luftwaffe was founded on September 24, 1956. The other air arms (Heeresflieger and Marineflieger) followed in 1957. The first aircraft to arrive were Republic F-84Fs and RF-84Fs, Harvards, Dakota's and Piper Cubs. Later followed by Canadair Sabres and locally built Do27s. The sixties were dominated by many of the 916 F-104 Starfighters the Germans used and the Fiat G91s. Both types have been replaced by the F-4 (1970s) and the Tornado (1980s). Currently the EF 2000 is being delivered to TLG73 (Laage), TLG74 (Neuburg) and TLG31 (Nörvenich). 143 Eurofighters will enter service with TLG71, TLG73, TLG74 and TLG31. Most of them are allready delivered to these squadrons. The EF 2000 replaced all F-4Fs and the major share of the Tornados. The Tornado will stay in service, al least for the time being with TLG51 and TLG33. Transport needs are filled by the C-160 Transall. The Transall will eventually be replaced by the Airbus A400M (all with LTG62 at Wunstorf). The first A400Ms are allready flying missions with LTG62 at Wunstorf. The Air Force will operate the RQ-4E, a European version of the RQ-4, in the future for recce operations. Another reorganisation saw the transfer of all CH-53s from the army to the air force. The air force, in return, had to hand in all their NH90s. Recently the Luftwaffe expanded his Air Force with the aquisition of  six (15 ordered) H145M LUH SOF helicopters.

The army started with Bell 47s, H-21s, Choctaws and Sycamores. The Do27 also played a major role in the army. Gradually these a/c were replaced by Alouette IIs and UH-1Ds. Nowadays NH90, Tigers, EC135s and UH-1Ds are on strength. The NH90 and Tiger helicopters are available in smaller numbers only. As with many new types, the programmes are being hindered by lots of problems. The newest round of cut-backs foresees only 40 Tigers to enter service and 80 NH90s. 

The navy used the SeaHawk and several types of helicopters in the very beginning. During the sixties the Starfighter was also introduced into this air arm and continued flying until the mid-eighties. The Starfighter was replaced by the Tornado and two Marinefliegergeschwader (1 and 2) flew the Tornado. Both units have been disbanded and fighter operations within the navy stopped during 2005. Today the Orion (replacing the Atlantic, that replaced the HU-16 Albatross) and Do228 form the fixed wing part of the Marineflieger. The Sea King and Sea Lynx helicopters are currently used for SAR- and ASW-operations. All assets are concentrated on Nordholz. Recently, the first NH-90 Sea Lion was handed over to the German Navy. Eventually the Navy will recieve 18 NH-90 Sea Lions to replace the Sea King.

In the beginning, a code system was used indicating the wing and squadron the aircraft belonged to, but new serials (20+01 etc.) were allocated by the release of 'Herausgabe der algemeinen Versorgungsweisung' Nr M5, dated november 13, 1967.

In autumn 1949 the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) was formed. The reunification of East and West Germany on 3 October 1990 meant that the GDR ceased to exist. Of the hundreds of a/c from the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) only the MiG-29s and some of the transport a/c and helicopters were incorporated into the Luftwaffe.

The German Air Force Wings are divided into 2 or 3 squadrons (Staffeln) but, contrary to many other air forces, these squadrons only include the aircrew (and a very low number of non-flying servicemen). The aircraft however belong to the Wing itself and therefore the squadrons are not included in the order of battle. The same goes for the army-units, where the helicopters are not spread over the separate squadrons.