|Unit Name:||German Air Force |
|Country:||Federal Republic of Germany|
|Role:||Air Defence Force|
|Size:||35,559 personnel |
|Current Commander:||Lieutenant General Aarne Kreuzinger-Janik|
|Colors:||Blue, Grey and White|
|Battles:||Spanish Civil War |
World War II
Operation Deliberate Force
War in Afghanistan
|Notable Commanders:||General Josef Kammhuber|
General Johannes Steinhoff,General Gerhard Back, 2004–2007 JFC Brunssum Commander
|Anniversaries:||9 January 1956|
|Identification Symbol Label:||Roundel|
|Aircraft Fighter:||F-4 Phantom II, Eurofighter|
|Aircraft Trainer:||T-38 Talon, G-120, T-37|
|Aircraft Transport:||CL-601, A310, A319, Cougar, C-160|
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956.
Schweizer Luftwaffe is also the name of the Swiss Air Force in German. Two other historic German air forces are the World War I-era Luftstreitkräfte of the era of the German Empire, and the Luftstreitkräfte der NVA in the GDR. The air force of Austria is called Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte.
The forerunner of the Luftwaffe, the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte), was founded in 1910 with the name Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches, and changed to the name "Luftstreitkräfte" by the end of 1916, with the emergence of military aircraft, although they were intended to be used primarily for reconnaissance in support of armies on the ground, just as balloons had been used in the same fashion during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 and even as far back as the Napoleonic Wars. It was not the world's first air force, however, because France's embryonic army air service, which eventually became the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air), had been founded in 1909. Britain's Royal Flying Corps (which merged on April 1, 1918 with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force) was founded in 1912.
During World War I, the Imperial Army Air Service utilised a wide variety of aircraft, ranging from fighters (such as those manufactured by Albatros-Flugzeugwerke and Fokker) to reconnaissance aircraft (Aviatik and DFW) and heavy bombers (Gothaer Waggonfabrik, better known simply as Gotha, and the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI "giant" heavy bomber). Missions were also flown in a wide range of theatres, from the Western Front to the plains of Russia and even as far away as bombing raids on British Suez Canal positions in support of the Ottoman offense in 1915. The air war on the Western Front received the most attention in the annals of military aviation, since it produced aces such as Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the Red Baron, Ernst Udet, Hermann Göring, Oswald Boelcke, Werner Voss, and Max Immelmann (the first airman to win the Pour le Mérite, Imperial Germany's highest decoration for gallantry, as a result of which the decoration became popularly known as the Blue Max). Like the German Navy, the German Army used Zeppelins as airships for bombing military and civilian targets in France and Belgium as well as the United Kingdom.
After the German defeat, the service was dissolved completely on 8 May 1920 under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, which mandated the complete destruction of its airplanes.
Since the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to have an air force, German pilots trained in violation of the treaty in secret. Initially, civil aviation schools within Germany were used, yet only light trainers could be used in order to maintain the façade that the trainees were going to fly with civil airlines such as Deutsche Luft Hansa. To train its pilots on the latest combat aircraft, Germany solicited the help of its future enemy, the USSR, which was also isolated in Europe. A secret training airfield was established at Lipetsk in 1924 and operated for approximately nine years using mostly Dutch and Russian, but also some German, training aircraft before being closed in 1933. This base was officially known as 4th squadron of the 40th wing of the Red Army.
In February 1935, Adolf Hitler ordered Hermann Göring to establish the Luftwaffe, breaking the Treaty of Versailles's ban on German military aviation. Germany violated the treaty without sanction from Britain, France, or the League of Nations, and neither the League nor either country did anything to oppose this. Although the new air force was to be run totally separately from the army, it retained the tradition of according army ranks for its officers and airmen, a tradition retained today by united Germany's Luftwaffe and by many air forces throughout the world. Before the official promulgation of Göring's new Luftwaffe in 1935, Germany had a paramilitary air force known as the Deutscher Luftsportverband (DLV: German air sports union). The DLV was headed by Ernst Udet and its insignia were taken over by the new Luftwaffe, although the DLV "ranks" had special names that made them sound more civilian than military.
Dr. Fritz Todt, the engineer who founded the forced-labor Organisation Todt, was appointed to the rank of Generalmajor in the Luftwaffe. He had served in an observation squadron during World War I and had been awarded the Iron Cross. He died in an aircraft crash in February 1942.
The eagle, an old symbol of the German Empire, was used as the emblem for the Luftwaffe, but in a different posture. Since 1933, when Hitler's National Socialist Party came to power, the eagle held between its claws the symbol of the party—the swastika (an old symbol of sunrise)—which was usually enveloped by an oak wreath. Göring rejected the old heraldic eagle because he felt it was too stylized, too static, and too massive; instead he chose a younger, more natural and lighter eagle with wings spread as if in flight, as he considered this a more suitable symbol for an air force. While the Wehrmacht eagle held the symbol of the National Socialist Party firmly in its claws, the Luftwaffe eagle held the swastika with only one claw while the other was bent in a threatening gesture.
The Luftwaffe attempted to incorporate all military units that had anything to do with air warfare. Given the strong Nazi origin and influence in the Luftwaffe, this was seen as a way to increase Nazi influence in the army (alongside the other project in this respect, the formation of SS divisions), as well as boosting the personal prestige of Göring. Thus the anti-aircraft (Flak) and airborne troops (Fallschirmjäger) fell under direct Luftwaffe command, and the navy (Kriegsmarine) never established its own air branch; naval aviation was executed by the Luftwaffe. Even the aircraft flown from the (never finished) aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin were to be operated by the Luftwaffe. By the middle of the war, when personnel assignments for the Luftwaffe were disproportionate to a shrinking number of aircraft, the excess personnel were not transferred to the army (Heer), but instead organized into Luftwaffe Field Divisions in 1942. Their performance as ground units was so poor that command was transferred to the army in 1943, although they retained their name.
The Luftwaffe had the ideal opportunity to test its pilots, aircraft and tactics in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, when the Condor Legion was sent to Spain in support of the anti-Republican government revolt led by Francisco Franco. The aircraft used included modern types which became world famous: the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber, Dornier Do 17 "Schnell" (fast) bomber, and the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Since the aircraft were seconded to Franco's Nationalist air force, Luftwaffe markings were replaced to avoid giving the impression that Germany was actively supporting the revolt. Instead of the Nazi Party's swastika on the tail, the German aircraft used the nationalist air force aircraft markings (a Saint Andrew's cross over a white background, painted on the rudder of the aircraft and a black disc on fuselage and wings). All aircraft in the Legion were affiliated to units given a designation ending in the number 88. For example, bombers were in Kampfgruppe 88 (combat group 88, K/88); and fighters, in Jagdgruppe 88 (fighter group 88, J/88. Following the Munich crisis, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe be expanded fivefold.
A grim foretaste of the systematic bombing of cities during World War II came in April 1937 when a combined force of German and Italian bombers under Spanish-Nationalist command destroyed most of the Basque city of Guernica in northeast Spain. This bombing received worldwide condemnation, and the collective memory of the horror of the bombing of civilians became more acute because of a famous painting, named after the town, by Pablo Picasso. Many feared that this would be the way that future air wars would be conducted; the Italian strategist General Giulio Douhet (who had died in 1930) had formulated theories regarding what would be dubbed "strategic bombing" - the idea that wars would be won by striking from the air at the heart of the industrial muscle of a warring nation, thus demoralizing the civilian population to the point where the government of that nation would be driven to sue for peace.
The destruction of the town was not the aim of the mission; the targets were the roads and the Rentaria bridge. The devastation was primarily caused by the inaccuracy of bombing techniques of the day and the fact that the mass of refugees moving through the town was misidentified as "troop movements". The Basque Government had previously decided to fortify the town and there were 2000 of its troops present. The propaganda claims that it was intended a "terror attack" are demonstrably untrue as Wolfram von Richthofen "had no time for this tactic and was at first as bewildered about the town's destruction as everyone else".
See main article: History of the Luftwaffe (1933–1945).
See also: Air warfare of World War II. At the outset of the war, the Luftwaffe was one of the most modern, powerful, and experienced air forces in the world, and dominated the skies over much of continental Europe with aircraft much more advanced than their foreign counterparts. The Luftwaffe was central to the German operational methods, as the close air support provided by various medium two-engine bombers, Stuka dive bombers and an overwhelming force of tactical fighters were key to several early successes. Unlike the British and American Air Forces, the Luftwaffe never developed four-engine bombers in any significant numbers, and was thus unable to conduct an effective long-range strategic bombing campaign against either the Russians or the Western Allies, with only the troublesome Heinkel He 177 as a comparable multi-engined aircraft with which to conduct heavy bomber raids.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most widely-produced fighter aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe and was designed when biplanes were still standard. Many versions of this aircraft were made. The engine, a liquid cooled Daimler-Benz DB 600, initially generated up to almost 1000hp. This power increased as direct fuel injection was introduced to the DB 601 engine and this type was upgraded to the DB 605. In 1941 another interceptor entered service, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 . This fighter had relatively short wings and was powered originally by a radial BMW 801 engine, and later by an inline Junkers Jumo 213 (Fw 190D), and held its own against new, improved Allied aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang. The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was a main asset for Blitzkrieg, able to place bombs with deadly accuracy. The leader of the Luftwaffe was Hermann Göring, a World War I fighter ace and former commander of Manfred von Richthofen's famous JG 1 (aka "The Flying Circus") who had joined the Nazi party in its early stages.
In the second half of 1940, the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain over the skies of England, the first all-air battle. Following the military failures on the Eastern Front, from 1942 onwards, the Luftwaffe went into a steady, gradual decline that saw it outnumbered and overwhelmed by the sheer number of Allied aircraft being deployed against it. Towards the end of the war, the Luftwaffe was no longer a major factor, and despite fielding advanced aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me 262, Heinkel He 162, Arado Ar 234, and Me 163 it was crippled by fuel shortages and a lack of trained pilots. There was also very little time to develop the new aircraft, and they could not be produced fast enough by the Germans.
See main article: Cold War.
German aviation in general was severely curtailed, and military aviation was completely forbidden when the Luftwaffe was officially disbanded in August 1946 by the Allied Control Commission. This changed when West Germany joined NATO in 1955, as the Western Allies believed that Germany was needed in view of the increasing military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Throughout the following decades, the West German Luftwaffe (Bundesluftwaffe: federal air force) was equipped mostly with U.S.-designed aircraft (e.g. F-84F, F-86, F-104, F-4) manufactured locally under licence. All aircraft sported—and continue to sport—the Iron Cross on the fuselage, harking back to the days of World War I, while the national flag of West Germany is displayed on the tail.
Many well-known fighter pilots who had fought with the Luftwaffe in World War II joined the new post-war air force and underwent refresher training in the U.S. before returning to West Germany to upgrade on the latest U.S.-supplied hardware. These included Erich Hartmann, the highest-ever scoring ace (352 enemy aircraft destroyed), Gerhard Barkhorn (301), Günther Rall (275) and Johannes Steinhoff (176). Steinhoff, who suffered a crash in a Messerschmitt Me 262 shortly before the end of the war that resulted in lifelong scarring of his face and other parts of his body, would eventually become commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, with Rall as his immediate successor. Hartmann retired as an Oberst (colonel) in 1970 at age 48. Josef Kammhuber, mentioned above, also served in the post-war Luftwaffe, retiring in 1962 as Inspekteur der Bundesluftwaffe (chief inspector of the Federal air force).
During the 1960s, the "Starfighter crisis" developed into a political issue, as many Lockheed F-104 Starfighters crashed after being modified to serve for Luftwaffe purposes – specifically for terrain, weather, and ground mechanic support issues. In Luftwaffe service, 292 of 916 Starfighters crashed, claiming the lives of 115 pilots and leading to cries that the Starfighter was fundamentally unsafe from the West German public, which referred to it as the Witwenmacher (widow-maker), fliegender Sarg (flying coffin), Fallfighter (falling fighter) and Erdnagel (tent peg, literally "ground nail").
Steinhoff and his deputy Günther Rall noted that the non-German F-104s proved much safer – Spain, for example, lost none in the same period. The Americans blamed the high loss rate of the Luftwaffe F-104s on the extreme low-level and aggressive flying of German pilots rather than any faults in the aircraft. Steinhoff and Rall immediately went to America to learn to fly the Starfighter under Lockheed instruction and noted some specifics in the training (a lack of mountain and foggy-weather training), combined with handling capabilities (sharp start high G turns) of the aircraft that could cause accidents.
Steinhoff and Rall changed the training regimen for the F-104 pilots, and the accident rates quickly fell to those comparable or better than other air forces. They also brought about the high level of training and professionalism seen today throughout the Luftwaffe, and the start of a strategic direction for Luftwaffe pilots to engage in tactical and combat training outside of Germany. However, the F-104 never lived down its reputation as a widow-maker and was replaced much earlier by the Luftwaffe than other national air forces.
The Starfighter was replaced by the American-built McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter and the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber; the latter was designed and produced by a cooperative of companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. These fighters remain in Luftwaffe service today, with upgrades to their electronics and the addition of the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile for the air defense of Germany.
From 1965 through 1970, two surface-to-surface missile wings (Flugkörpergeschwader) fielded 16 of the Pershing I missile systems with nuclear warheads under U.S. Army custody. In 1970, the system was upgraded to Pershing IA with 72 missiles. Although not directly affected by the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Luftwaffe unilaterally agreed to the removal of the Pershing IA missiles from its inventory in 1991, and the missiles were destroyed.
Beginning in June 1979, the Luftwaffe took delivery of 212 Panavia Tornado fighters.
See main article: Reunification of Germany.
The GDR air force, the Luftstreitkräfte der NVA, was supplied exclusively with Eastern Bloc-produced aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-17 "Fitter" and Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) family of aircraft, such as the MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29 fighters, and served primarily as an extension of Red Air Force units in Eastern Germany. The East German Air Force was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in that it was often equipped with Soviet-standard combat aircraft instead of downgraded export models. Operated as an extension of Soviet air power, the East German Air Force enjoyed less autonomy than other Eastern Bloc air forces. The markings on the aircraft reflected the identity of the country as belonging to the Communist bloc. These markings consisted of a diamond-shaped design, with three vertical stripes in black, red and gold surmounted by the stylized hammer, and wreath-like ears-of-grain design, which was also on the Flag of East Germany.
After East and West Germany were unified in October 1990, the aircraft of the NVA were taken over by the Federal Republic of Germany, and their GDR markings were replaced by the Iron Cross, the first time Soviet-built aircraft had served in a NATO air force. Most of these were taken out of service, in many cases being sold or given to the new Eastern European members of NATO, such as Poland and the Baltic states.
An exception to this was the Jagdgeschwader 73 "Steinhoff" (Fighter Wing 73 "Steinhoff") stationed in Laage. The pilots of the JG 73 flew MiG-29s acquired during the reunification and were some of the most experienced MiG-29 pilots in the world. One of their primary duties was to serve as aggressor pilots, training other pilots in dissimilar combat tactics. The United States sent a group of fighter pilots to Germany during the Red October exercise to practice tactics against the aircraft they were most likely to meet in real combat. The MiG-29s of JG 73 were fully integrated into the Luftwaffe's air defence structure and, from February 1995 became the first Soviet Bloc aircraft to be declared operational within NATO. In 2004, with the introduction of the Eurofighter Typhoon imminent, the decision was taken to withdraw the MiG-29. JG 73's aircraft were withdrawn in August 2004, following which they were sold to the Polish Air Force.
The United States provides nuclear weapons for use by Germany under a NATO nuclear sharing agreement. As of 2007, only 22 B61-4s are still present, stored at Büchel Air Base for delivery with German Air Force Panavia Tornados. These bombs are likely to be withdrawn when the Tornados at Büchel are replaced with Eurofighter Typhoons after 2012, since it is not planned to integrate the B-61 bomb into the Eurofighter. B-61s stationed at Nörvenich and Memmingen Air Base (fighter-bomber wing JaBoG 34 "Allgäu") have already been withdrawn in the mid- to late-1990s. All nuclear bombs formerly stored at the Ramstein Air Base have been returned to the U.S. or elsewhere (the U.K. is possible), due to ongoing construction work at Ramstein AB, and they will not be returned to Germany.
The Luftwaffe saw action for first time since World War II in September 1995 during Operation Deliberate Force, when 6 IDS Tornados, equipped with infrared recce devices and escorted by 8 ECR Tornados, supported NATO's artillery missions on Bosnian Serb positions around Sarajevo. 
In March 1999 the Luftwaffe eventually became involved in direct combat role as part of the NATO-led Kosovo War. This event was noted as significant in the British press with "The Sun" running the headline "Luftwaffe and the RAF into battle side by side". The Luftwaffe deployed the Fighter Bomber Wing 32 which flew suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) sorties with ECR Tornados. The fighter-bombers were equipped with an electronic countermeasures pod, a AIM-9 Sidewinder missile for self-defense and an AGM-88 HARM air to ground missile. The bomber wing flew 2108 hours and 446 sorties, firing 236 HARM missiles on enemy targets. No manned Luftwaffe aircraft was lost during the campaign.
In 2006, to support coalition operations across Afghanistan, the Luftwaffe deployed Panavia Tornado reconnaissance aircraft from Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 "Immelmann" (the 51st Reconnaissance Wing "Immelmann"), stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan. There are also various army helicopters in operation at the German air base in Mazar-i-Sharif and Luftwaffe C-160 Transall conduct air transport sorties into and within Afghanistan.
Since the 1970s, the Luftwaffe of West Germany and later the reunited Germany (as well as many other European air forces) has actively pursued the construction of European combat aircraft such as the Panavia Tornado and, more recently, the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was introduced in 2006.
On 13 January 2004, the Defence Minister Peter Struck announced major changes to the German armed forces. A major part of this announcement was a plan to cut the German fighter fleet from 426 aircraft in early 2004 to 265 by 2015. Assuming the full German order for 180 Eurofighter Typhoons is fulfilled, this will see the Tornado force reduced to 85. The German Navy's air wing (Marineflieger) received 112 Tornado IDSs. In late 2004 the last Tornado unit was disbanded. The maritime combat role has been assumed by the Luftwaffe, a unit of which has had its Tornados upgraded to carry the Kormoran II and AGM-88 HARM missiles.
In light of the destroyed infrastructure of West Germany post–World War II, the restrictions on aircraft production placed on Germany and the later restrictive flying zones available for training pilots, the reconstructed Luftwaffe trained most of its pilots tactically away from Germany, mainly in the United States and Canada where most of its aircraft were sourced.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a very large number of Luftwaffe jet crashes—the Luftwaffe suffered a 36 percent crash rate for F-84F Thunderstreaks and an almost 30 percent loss of F-104 Starfighters—created considerable public demand for moving Luftwaffe combat training centers away from Germany.
As a result, the Luftwaffe set up two tactical training centres: one, like those of many of the NATO forces, at the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Goose Bay; and the second in a unique partnership with the United States Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico (F-104 pilots had already been trained at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, since 1964). Both facilities provide access to large unpopulated areas, where tactical and combat training can take place without danger to large populations.
In September 2004, the Luftwaffes chief of staff, Klaus-Peter Stieglitz, announced a reduction in its training program of roughly 20%.
On 1 May 1996, the Luftwaffe established the German Air Force Tactical Training Center (TTC) in concert with the United States Air Force 20th Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which provides aircrew training in the F-4F Phantom II. The TTC serves as the parent command for two German air crew training squadrons. The F-4 Training Squadron oversees all German F-4 student personnel affairs and provides German instructor pilots to cooperate in the contracted F-4 training program provided by the U.S. Air Force (20th Fighter Squadron). A second TTC unit, the Tornado Training Squadron, provides academic and tactical flying training, by German air force instructors, for German Tornado aircrews.
The first contingent of Tornado aircraft arrived at Holloman in March 1996. More than 300 German air force personnel are permanently assigned at Holloman to the TTC, the only unit of its kind in the United States. The German Air Force Flying Training Center activated on 31 March 1996, with German Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Portz and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan present. The Luftwaffe has since stationed up to 800 personnel at Holloman for training exercises, due to limited training space in Europe.
In 2004, the Luftwaffe announced a reduction in its training program. By the end of 2006, 650 Luftwaffe personnel and 25 Tornado aircraft were assigned to Holloman.
Structure of the German Luftwaffe as of November 2009
The German Air Force Command is the superior command to all combat forces of the German Air Force.
Subordinate elements are:
| Surface-to-Air Missile Wing 2
| Surface-to-Air Missile Wing 1
||-style="background:#efefef; color:black"| German Air Force Tactical Training Center Italy||German Air Force Regiment "Frisia"||}
The former Air Transport Command is now part of the newly formed European Air Transport Command.
The German Air Force Office is responsible for supporting the air force combat units. Main tasks are maintenance and logistic support and provision of basic training and education.
Subordinate elements are:
|F-4 Phantom II||Fighter Aircraft||F-4F||45||Being replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon.|
|Panavia Tornado||Electronic Warfare|
|Fleet to be reduced to 85.|
|Eurofighter Typhoon||Fighter Aircraft||Typhoon||55||Total order of 140.|
|Global Express 5000||VIP Transport||4|
|Airbus A319CJ||VIP Transport||2|
|Airbus A340||VIP Transport||2|
|Transall C-160||Tactical Transport||C-160D||80||Being cut to 60 C-160s then replaced by 40 A400M.|
|Airbus A400M||Tactical Transport||A400M||0||40 on order.|
|Airbus A310||Strategic Transport|
|Bell UH-1 Iroquois||Utility Helicopter||UH-1D||54||To be replaced by the NH90|
|NHI NH90||Utility Helicopter||NH90 TTH||1||42 on order. Will be|
transferred to the Army.
|EuroHawk||SIGINT||RQ-4B Block 20||0||5 on order.|
|A Eurofighter in the 2-seat trainer versionFile:German Panavia Tornado.JPG||A Tornado IDSFile:Transall C 160 02.jpg||A Transall C-160File:Airbus A310 MRTT.jpg||Luftwaffe Airbus A310 MRTT ready for refueling, shown at the Paris Air Show 2007File:F-4Fs JG74 1998.JPEG||F-4F Phantom IIFile:Airbus A340 of the German government 16+01.jpg||A340 VIP transport aircraft for the leaders of the German governmentFile:EuroHawk.JPG||EuroHawk|
Hundreds of books, magazines and articles have been written about the Luftwaffe. A select few are listed here.