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People's Navy - Volksmarine

The People's Navy (Volksmarine) of the National People's Army (Nationale Volksarmee - NVA) had a total strength in 1989 of approximately 16,300, of whom 50 percent were conscripts. The navy comprised three flotillas, the Coastal Border Brigade, and several supporting units; the command was in Rostock-Gehlsdorf. The naval forces were viewed as the forward contingent of the Warsaw Pact's Combined Baltic Fleet. The commander of the Soviet Baltic Fleet was also the head of this alliance of the three Warsaw Pact fleets in the Baltic.

The Soviet Navy--unlike the Soviet ground and air forces in the GSFG--had no bases with personnel of its own in East Germany. The People's Navy, which had surface and naval aviation forces but no submarine component, performed intelligence and patrol missions in the western Baltic, antisubmarine warfare operations, minesweeping and minelaying, and amphibious landing operations.

The Coastal Border Brigade patrolled the east-west border into the Baltic to secure the sea border against "those GDR citizens who turn their backs on the republic." The Border Troops maintained their own boat companies on the ninety-three kilometers of the Elbe between East Germany and West Germany and in the waterways around West Berlin. These units, although linked through their work to the People's Navy, were subordinated to the Border Troops rather than to the NVA. The boat crews wore naval uniforms and held naval ranks, but bands on their caps and sleeves identified them as Border Troops.

In the late 1980s, East Germany's naval forces were structured as follows: the 1st Flotilla, headquartered in Peenemünde; the 4th Flotilla, based in Rostock-Warnemünde; the 6th Flotilla, headquartered in Dranske on Rügen Island; the Coastal Border Brigade in Rostock, and one communications regiment, stationed on Rügen Island. Also subordinated to the People's Navy Command were a naval fighter regiment in Laage; a naval helicopter squadron in Parow; a combat swimmer company in Kühlungsborn; a naval engineer battalion in Stralsund; the Naval Hydrographic Service in Rostock; the Karl Liebknecht Officer School in Stralsund; the Walter Steffens Fleet School in Stralsund; the Naval Manning Division, with offices in Rostock, Stralsund, and Wolgast; a testing facility at Wolgast; the Central Military Hospital in Stralsund; at least one coastal rocket regiment, probably in Tarnewitz; the Central Supply Depot in Waren; and coastal artillery detachments.

The People's Navy had bases at Peenemünde, Warnemünde, Rostock, Stralsund, Tarnewitz, and Dranske. The People's Navy and the Coastal Border Brigade also made use of berths at Darsser Ort, Greifswald, Ueckermunde, Wisborn, Kühlungsborn, and Sassnitz. According to one source, patrol vessels from the Soviet Baltic Fleet were frequently present at Sassnitz. The construction of a large rail ferry port at Mukran on Rügen Island, linking East Germany with Klaipeda in the Soviet Union, might indicate an intention to make Sassnitz into a base as well.

The approximately 130 surface combatants and 50 auxiliary craft operated by the People's Navy in 1987 were designed and built at shipyards in East Germany or in the Soviet Union. The largest were three Soviet Koni-class frigates -- Rostock, Berlin, and Halle -- which were commissioned in 1978, 1979, and 1986, respectively. There were also sixteen Parchim-class corvettes; fifteen OSA-I (three of which were in reserve for training and were to be replaced) and two Tarantul-I-class fast attack craft (missile); and fifteen Shershen-class and twenty-five Libelle-class fast attack craft (torpedo). The mine force included twenty-five Kondor-II-class coastal minesweepers.

The amphibious capability was structured around twelve Frosch-I- class amphibious vehicle landing ships. The Coastal Border Brigade had ten Bremse guard boats and eighteen Kondor-I-class submarine chasers. In addition to the combatants, the navy operated two salvage and rescue ships; six underway replenishment ships; a training ship, the Wilhelm Pieck; thirty-nine other auxiliaries (including intelligence-collection ships, hydrographic survey ships, and cargo ships); and a large number of service craft.

The naval aviation branch was equipped with twenty Mi-8 and Mi-14/HAZE helicopters configured for antisubmarine warfare, coastal observation, and reconnaissance, and ten jet fighter-bombers. The Coastal Border Brigade, headquartered at Rostock, accounted for approximately 2,750 of the 16,300 members of East Germany's naval forces. The brigade was organized into eight boat groups to patrol coastal waters and twelve battalions to patrol beaches and shores. The Coastal Border Brigade operated its own school.

Amphibious forces were subordinated to the 1st Flotilla, based at Peenemünde. Although the NVA did not have a naval infantry as such in 1987, the Ernst Moritz Arndt Motorized Rifle Regiment 29, stationed at Prora on Rügen Island, and the Wilhelm Florin Motorized Rifle Regiment 28, at Rostock, were trained as amphibious landing units. Both were equipped with the BTR-60PB, an eight-wheeled amphibious armored personnel carrier; both participated in amphibious training in cooperation with landing ships of the People's Navy. If the NVA were to create a force of naval infantry, these motorized rifle regiments undoubtedly would form its nucleus. In 1987 the principal shipyard supporting the People's Navy was the Peenewerft shipyard in Wolgast. Peenewerft was apparently the primary source of amphibious ships.

The People's Navy was generally rated by Western observers as professionally competent and fully capable of securing the country's Baltic seacoast. For more ambitious operations, however, the navy would be employed as part of the Combined Baltic Fleet.

At unification the East German navy had a substantial fleet of twenty-three frigates, fifty-two missile boats, and twenty-four mine warfare vessels. Because the West German navy was already facing a sharp reduction, all East German ships were scheduled to be scrapped or sold, rather than absorbed within the unified navy. In assessing the impact of arms transfers, serious analysts do not focus on financial measurements because prices vary radically with circumstances, and many sales are not meaningful in terms of combat effectiveness. A good example of the mismatch between quantitative and qualitative valuations is the sale of the bulk of the former East German navy to Indonesia at a fraction of its original value.

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