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Air Force

The air force (Luftwaffe) has faced dramatic changes in structure and strategic concepts as a result of the diminished threat in Central Europe and shrinking budgetary resources for modernized weapons systems. Prior to the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the air force had as its primary mission the air defense of Central Europe in conjunction with other NATO air forces. This included reconnaissance to forestall surprise attack, interdiction of enemy ground and air forces, prevention of enemy aircraft from reaching strategic targets, protection of friendly forces against air attack, and close battlefield support for NATO ground troops. The new security environment in Europe has brought a change in tasks for the Luftwaffe. With the absorption of the former East Germany, the national airspace that had to be patrolled increased substantially. With a major confrontation in Central Europe now only a slight possibility, the Luftwaffe has had to adjust its missions to take account of the possibility of involvement in conflict beyond the borders of Europe and in unstable regions within Europe.

As of early 1995, the Luftwaffe had a personnel strength of 83,000, including 25,000 conscripts. The principal combat units were eight squadrons of fighter-ground attack aircraft, equipped with Tornado fighter-ground attack aircraft. There were seven fighter squadrons, six with F-4Fs and one with MiG-29s (see table 25, Appendix). Developed as a joint effort by Britain, Italy, and West Germany, the Tornado is a high-speed, low-altitude, all-weather attack aircraft. The McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom, introduced in the United States in the 1960s, is still regarded as an outstanding fighter and attack aircraft of exceptional versatility. However, it is scheduled to be replaced by a new combat aircraft in the late 1990s, the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA).

Ground-based air defense consisted of six groups, each with six squadrons, equipped with Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers; six groups, each with six squadrons, equipped with Hawk launchers; and fourteen squadrons equipped with Roland launchers for point defense. The German air defense units covering Central Europe and the Baltic approaches were fully operational, subject to control by NATO's integrated air-defense system even during peacetime.

By 1998 two squadrons of Tornado fighter-bombers are scheduled to be transferred from the navy to the air force, along with 800 naval personnel, as part of the plan to transform the naval air base at Jagel on the Baltic Sea into a Luftwaffe base. Of all the equipment taken over from the East German air force, only one squadron of MiG-29 fighter aircraft was absorbed by the Luftwaffe.

The ranking uniformed member of the Luftwaffe is the air force chief of staff, with headquarters in Cologne. Also at Cologne is the Combat Command, subdivided into the Southern Tactical Command and Northern Tactical Command. The Southern Tactical Command is collocated with NATO Combined Air Operations Center at Messstellen in the southwestern corner of Germany; the Northern Tactical Command is at Kalkar near the Dutch border. The Transport Command at Münster also comes under the Combat Command, as does the Communications and Electronic Command. The Air Force Office in Cologne is responsible for personnel, training, communications, and armaments. The Air Force Logistics Command, also in Cologne, is responsible for logistic units, training installations, and matériel.


The basic objective of Bundeswehr training is to impart the technical knowledge necessary for mastery of advanced weaponry while instilling the discipline required in combat situations. Educational opportunities offered to service personnel vary with the length of enlistment and are intended to produce combat readiness while, to the extent possible, providing skills that will ease the eventual transition to civilian life. The Bundeswehr operates more than forty schools in addition to thirty-three apprentice workshops and ten nursing schools at station hospitals.

Basic and small-unit training are scheduled on a continuing basis. For conscripts, the entire period of service is devoted to one kind of training or another, but conscripts are not eligible for attendance at advanced service schools unless they voluntarily extend their term of service. After an introductory assignment to basic training regiments, air force conscripts prepare for their special tasks in on-the-job training. Because the Luftwaffe wishes to attract a higher proportion of longer-term personnel, it offers temporary career training and regular officer advanced training at air force extension schools, as well as at training facilities of the other services and other Allied forces. In the navy, sailors prepare for their duties at schools ashore before being assigned to ships for more on-the-job training. Volunteers receive advanced training at various schools offering courses in supply, engineering, radar, weapons, and other specialties. In both the air force and the navy, training culminates in national operational exercises and large-scale NATO exercises.

About 2,000 pilots and missile personnel of the air force and navy are trained in the United States under long-standing agreements between the German and United States governments. Primary pilot training is conducted at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas on Beech Bonanzas, followed by jet training on T-37Bs and T-38As. A Tornado squadron is based at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico for advanced weapons training. German personnel attend the Patriot and Hawk missile school at Fort Bliss, Texas, and navigator training at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio. Helicopter training is conducted at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Much training is conducted jointly with service personnel of other NATO countries. Joint courses include forward air controller training at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Force Base, training at the army engineer school in Munich, and NATO logistics courses at the Bundeswehr Logistics School in Hamburg. German and other NATO pilots train in low-level flight techniques in Canada at Goose Bay, Labrador. German troops are shuttled to the Canadian province of Manitoba for armored infantry training on German equipment permanently maintained there.

The basic qualification for voluntary enlistment in the Bundeswehr is completion of five years at the secondary school (Hauptschule ) level (see The Education System, ch. 4). Those with a university or technical college admission certificate can apply to become temporary career or regular officer candidates. Junior NCO training lasts about fifteen months and stresses leadership qualities and practical skills. An opportunity for further training leading to senior NCO rank usually comes after about four years of service. Particularly qualified NCOs are admitted to a three-year course whose graduates are commissioned as officer specialists with the rank of lieutenant or captain. Officer specialists fill positions corresponding to those occupied by warrant officers in the United States military.

Officer candidates in the army, navy, and air force face a long, arduous training program. Those aspiring to be regular officers, as well as temporary career officers who serve up to twelve years on active duty, generally spend about five years in formal training programs. Officer candidates generally begin their career with nine months of basic training and specialized weapons training followed by twelve months at an officer candidate school--the army school in Hanover, the air force school in Fürstenfeldbruck, or the naval academy at Mürwik in Flensburg.

After a year or more as a small-unit leader, officers with at least a twelve-year enlistment begin a three-year course of study at the Bundeswehr's military academy in Hamburg or the military academy in Munich that leads to an academic degree or technical diploma. Most officers leave the service between the ages of thirty and thirty-two after serving as company commanders or the equivalent. A smaller number of senior captains or navy lieutenants qualify for attendance at the four-month staff officer course at the Federal Armed Forces Command and General Staff College in Hamburg.

Those officers with outstanding grades in the staff officer course and a generally excellent record--about 10 percent of the officers completing the course--are selected to undergo the twenty-four-month general and admiral staff training program, also offered at Hamburg. The remaining 90 percent attend an eight-week staff officer course in various specialties such as operations, logistics, personnel, and transportation. Promotion to the rank of major follows completion of the course. Field-grade officers not selected for general staff training usually retire as lieutenant colonels; general staff officers can expect to be promoted to colonel or naval captain. About 80 percent of the officers who reach the rank of general or admiral have been selected from the general staff group.

Data as of August 1995

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