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East Germany Ground Forces / Landstreitkrfte

The ground forces [Landstreitkrfte] in 1989 made up 68 percent of the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee - NVA), having a total strength of 120,000, of whom 60 percent were draftees. Ground forces included two tank divisions, four motorized rifle regiments, two surface-to-surface missile brigades, two artillery regiments and one antiaircraft artillery regiment, eight air defense regiments, one airborne battalion, two antitank battalions, and several support units.

Because East Germany produced primarily military supplies--such as computers, clothing, military vehicles, and communications equipment--rather than arms, major items of weaponry and equipment were obtained from the Soviet Union. Of the equipment used by the ground forces, only some wheeled vehicles were of East German design and manufacture. Some small arms and ammunition were also of local manufacture but were licensed copies of Soviet designs. The NVA had purchased 170 RM-70 122mm multiple rocket launchers and a number of FUG-70 scout cars from Czechoslovakia, but most of its weapons and equipment were of Soviet design and manufacture.

In 1989 the tank inventory included an estimated 1,500 T-54s, T-55s, and T-72s assigned to units and approximately 1,600 more armored vehicles, including T-34s, in storage. Reconnaissance units were equipped with 1,000 BRDM-1 and BRDM-2 scout cars. Motorized infantry units had 1,000 BMP infantry combat vehicles, as well as 1,500 BTR-50Ps, BTR-60Ps, and BTR-152s and 200 BTR-70s (armored personnel carriers) and MT-LBs (multipurpose towing and transport vehicles).

The artillery inventory included the following guns: 400 D-44s and self-propelled SD-44s (85mm); M-1931s and M-1937s (122mm); and 72 M-46s (130mm). There were also 108 M-1937 gun howitzers and 54 self-propelled M-197 and D-20 (152mm) gun howitzers, as well as various other kinds of howitzers: D-30s, M-1938s (M-30s), and self-propelled M-1974s (122 mm). Other artillery assets were 250 mortars (120mm); 24 FROG-7 and 18 SCUD-B tactical missile launchers; and multiple rocket launchers, which included 108 BM-21s, Czechoslovak RM-70s (122mm), and BM-24s (240mm).

The NVA's antitank inventory consisted of 120 T-12 guns (100mm) and various quantities of AT-3 SAGGER (including self-propelled BRDM-2s) and AT-4 SPIGOT antitank guided weapons. In terms of air defense assets, the East German ground forces had ninety-six self-propelled ZSU-23-4 guns, as well as SA-4, SA-6, and SA-9 antiaircraft missiles.

In support of its external security function, the NVA pursued an increasingly assertive role since the 1950s, promoting both East German and Soviet interests in the Third World. Having gained the Soviets' trust and having assumed the role of the Soviet Union's leading surrogate in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, by the 1980s the NVA had come to play a large part in Moscow's Third World strategy.

In Africa, where East Germany has been active since the late 1950s, early efforts were modest, motivated partly by a desire for international recognition and a quest for a stable supply of raw materials. The diplomatic isolation imposed by West Germany's Hallstein Doctrine--which precluded diplomatic relations between West Germany and any state that had such relations with East Germany--ended in 1972, and the coming of dtente altered East Germany's international standing. In 1973 the East German regime renewed interest in military aid to Africa, and in the same year East German military advisers were seen in Brazzaville, Congo, for the first time. As involvement continued to diversify and increase, other motivations became pre-eminent.

New intentions included a desire to demonstrate the permanence and prestige of the East German republic; a determination to compete in the international arena with West Germany, which the East Germans depicted as the sole heir to German imperialism and colonialism; and an eagerness to prove its value as the front runner for the Soviet Union in endorsing liberation movements and acting on the Leninist tenet that Moscow's road to Europe leads through Africa. In providing assistance in military, security, scientific, technical, and economic spheres, East Germany's goals, both national and international, remained consonant with those of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Estimates of the numbers of East German military advisers in Africa varied widely, as did reports on their location. According to the West German Foreign Office, in the mid-1980s East German military advisers in Africa--members of the NVA as well as the Ministry of State Security--numbered between 2,000 and 4,000, the majority being in Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. Their influence reached far deeper than the numbers suggest, since the East Germans concentrated on establishing internal security organizations and intelligence services, training cadres and guerrilla commanders, and organizing national military systems.

In 1982 East Germany acknowledged that it delivered arms and military technology, educated cadres, established plants for defense industries, granted patents for production of defense matriel, and helped organize and train troops in East Germany as well as in their home countries. According to some sources, East Germany was training all categories of African officers except staff officers, who received their training in the Soviet Union. Angolan paratroopers, for example, reportedly participated with an East German paratrooper battalion in joint exercises on Rgen Island in the Baltic Sea.

In the 1980s, East Germany's primary clients in Africa were Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. Others receiving East German military aid included Algeria, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zare, and Zambia, as well as the South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) and the African National Congress (ANC). East German military exports to Africa generally averaged about US$60 million in the 1980s. This reflected the underdeveloped state of the republic's armaments industry as well as competition within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), but the low figure may also have resulted from diversion of arms shipments through a third country, Czechoslovakia being the most likely conduit. Some assistance not labeled as military, but as scientific-technical, had clear potential for military application: port expansion and modernization; construction of hospitals and training of physicians; and development of transportation and telecommunications systems.



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