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Luftwaffe - German Air Force - 1995

The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) 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. 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 were 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 Mnster 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 matriel.

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Page last modified: 15-04-2013 12:15:00 ZULU