UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Luftwaffe - German Air Force

Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. With its extensive special capabilities to deliver effects in and from the air, including space, the Air Force contributes to German security. These include its operational flexibility, its considerable responsiveness plus its capability to deliver effects over great distances. The fighter wings and the Air Force’s corresponding command and control facilities are permanently tasked with safeguarding air sovereignty in order to ensure the protection of our citizens and own territory against air attacks at all times.

The Air Force and its assets make a key contribution to the capability profile of the Bundeswehr, given the wider set of tasks. It thus makes valuable political options available in the context of conflict prevention and crisis management, as well as the capability for national and alliance defence, and, with its special capabilities, guarantees the safety of the population at home and of forces abroad during joint operations.

The Air Force plays a significant part in maintaining political and military freedom of action in the context of international crisis management and conflict prevention beyond our own borders. It directly supports land and maritime forces and establishes the prerequisites for protecting own and allied forces against attacks from the air.

On account of their specific characteristics and capabilities, air forces also have an important political role. By demonstrating timely presence and/or delivering graduated effects, it is possible to react to situational developments in an escalatory or de-escalatory manner. Their capability to carry out the strategic lift of personnel and equipment enables rapid deployment of force contingents and their reliable sustainability in crisis areas. They additionally support national rescue, disaster relief and evacuation operations all over the world. Ever since the Air Force was set up, internationality and multinational cooperation have been its hallmarks. Consequently, the Air Force has already assigned substantial forces to NATO.

Official figures put the German Air Force at fourth in the NATO alliance. But on 27 September 2014, German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported that the fleet of 60 Eurofighters previously pledged could not currently be provided. On 26 September 2014, there was an emergency meeting over the matter, reported Süddeutsche Zeitung. At that time, only 24 out of a total of 109 Eurofighters were ready for service, and 38 of 89 – less than half - of Tornado fighters could be utilized properly. In a war in the Baltic, the army would be overwhelmed.

Lashing out at Der Spiegel, the military claimed the magazine had misinterpreted the report on the state of the Air Force, which lists, among other things, aircraft requiring routine maintenance – a fact Der Spiegel apparently mistook as meaning they were inoperable. Defense officials believe the report also doesn’t match the official logs and that certain parts of the classified document are an internal matter. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s spokesperson declined to comment further, but did say the troops were “well-equipped.”

Berlin would not currently be able to keep its defense promises to its NATO allies, Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen told Bild am Sonntag 28 September 2014. “With our airborne systems we are currently below the target figures announced one year ago, defining what we would want to make available to NATO within 180 days in the case of an emergency,” von der Leyen stated. “From 2016 it will be necessary to increase the budget - by whatever amount of money is necessary to fulfill all our commitments,” Christian Democrat defense expert Henning Otte told the “Welt am Sonntag.”

The military said in late 2014 that a large proportion of equipment such as helicopters and fighter jets is unfit for service, casting doubt on Germany’s ability to help provide defence for its NATO allies. The military said only 70 of 180 Boxer armored fighting vehicles, seven of 43 navy helicopters, 42 of 109 Eurofighters and 38 of 89 Tornados were operational. Transall transport planes were also in poor condition, with only 24 out of 56 deployable.

The defense minister was forced to concede that Germany will not reach its 2014 NATO Defense Planning Process targets for its airborne systems. In the event of an Article 5 attack on a NATO member state -- in the Baltics, for example -- the Bundeswehr has pledged to make 60 Eurofighters available, but it is currently incapable of supplying them. These are symptoms of Germany's push for fiscal austerity. Germany has pushed strict austerity measures in order to combat deficits and public debt.

In December 2015 a military report surfaced saying that less than half of its arsenal of Tornados was actually ready for deployment. Out of 93 commissioned fighter jets, only 66 were operational in general terms, out of which only 29 were combat-ready at the current time. While a general inspection in 2014 had revealed that 58 percent of the Tornado aircrafts were ready for deployment, the same number for this year had fallen to 44 percent. The chiefs of staff for the German armed forces recommend running at 70 percent capacity.

The 81-page Defense Ministry document also criticized the availability of spare parts, saying that these had proven to be difficult to procure for Tornados, which have been in the process of being gradually phased out of the German military arsenal.

Inspector-General Volker Wieker, part of the team that had prepared the report, said that despite a planned investment of 5.6 billion euros ($5.9 billion) over the next ten years into a general overhaul of Germany's military equipment, there should be "no expectations for a quick-fix" to the current problem. The report also highlighted shortcomings in newer military aircrafts, including the new fleet of Eurofighter warplanes, which are starting to replace Germany's fleet of Tornados.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 02-12-2015 19:55:40 ZULU