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East Germany Air Force / Air Defense Force

The air force of the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee - NVA), known as the Air Force / Air Defense Force (Luftstreitkrfte / Luftverteidigung), maintained headquarters at Strausberg. The main mission of the air force was to prevent penetration of East German airspace by hostile missiles or aircraft. To perform this mission, both aircraft and antiaircraft units were made organic to the air force. The antiaircraft assets assigned to the ground forces were to defend NVA ground formations from attack by hostile aircraft and were not part of the national air defense.

The operations of the NVA's air force were closely linked with those of the GSFG, and the air defense component was fully integrated into the Soviet and Warsaw Pact air defense system. Both interceptor aircraft and missile units were fundamental parts of the Duty System, in which Soviet, Polish, Czechoslovak, and East German air defenses were maintained in a continuous high state of alert.

In 1989, the Air Force numbered approximately 40,000 personnel, of whom 38 percent were conscripts. The latter figure, which was substantially lower than the 60 percent for the ground forces and the 50 percent for the People's Navy, reflected the higher proportion of officers and NCOs in the air force. Officer candidates were trained at the Franz Mehring Officer School in Kamenz. Much of the pilot training was conducted in Bautzen, not far from Kamenz, and in Rothenburg. Many East Germans received flight training as teenagers, through participation in the GST, and were licensed pilots when they entered military service. Essential in the training of air force officers was a good knowledge of Russian, the language of the Warsaw Pact's Duty System of air defense.

Except for a few Czech trainers, the approximately 380 aircraft, 70 armed helicopters, and other equipment of the air force were of Soviet design and manufacture. In the mid-1980s, there were two regiments of fighter aircraft, probably composed of six squadrons--three with thirty-five MiG-17s and two with twenty-four MiG-23Fs. There were some Su-22s as well. The NVA's single reconnaissance squadron had eighteen MiG-21s. The transport regiment was made up of three squadrons equipped with eighteen An-26s, fifteen Tu-134s, An-2s, An-14s, An-26Bs, and some six L-410UVPs. This regiment provided the airlift for the airborne battalions of the ground forces. The three helicopter regiments included nine squadrons: three attack squadrons with thirty Mi-24s; three assault/transport squadrons with thirty-six armed Mi-8s; and three transport squadrons with some forty-five Mi-8s.

The Air Defense Command, with 26,000 troops -- almost 67 percent of the manpower total for the Air Force/Air Defense Force -- was organized in two air defense districts. The 6 air regiments included 6 squadrons with 100 MiG-21Fs, MiG-21MFs, MiG-21PFs, and MiG-21Us, and 12 squadrons with 200 MiG-23s. The seven surface-to-air missile (SAM) regiments had SA-2 and SA-3 missiles at some thirty sites. The missile inventory included 205 strategic SAMs and 270 tactical SAMs. Two radar regiments were available as well.

Other assets of the Air Force/Air Defense Force included an inventory of some sixty Yak-11, L-39, Zlin 226, MiG-15UTI, MiG-21U, and other small aircraft controlled by the chief of flight training. The available liaison aircraft included Zlin Z-43s. In addition, the NVA had AA-2/ATOLL air-to-air missiles and AT-3/SAGGER guided weapons for antitank warfare.

The air force could provide limited ground attack support for the ground forces and defense of the country's airspace. Acquisition of heavily armed assault helicopters suggested an increased emphasis on developing the capability for close air support. The air transport capability was adequate for the logistic and airlift needs of the NVA. Its helicopter component provided a degree of air mobility for NVA ground forces. The air arm of the NVA was, however, basically a tactical air force that was totally reliant upon the Soviet Union for strategic or long-range operations.

Poland acquired 23 of its 45 MiG-29s from Germany who inherited them from the former East German Air Force after Germanys reunification. The German government essentially donated these aircraft to Poland for a symbolic one euro per aircraft in exchange for Polands future cooperation with the German defense industry. Delivery of the MiG-29 aircraft took place in 2003. Although seemingly very cost effective, many of the donated aircraft were in poor repair and required extensive servicing and upgrades.



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Page last modified: 06-10-2014 18:47:32 ZULU