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Heer - German Army - Army Structure 4 - 1982

Under "Army Structure 4" plan of 1982, the German Army continued at the level of three corps and 12 divisions. The number of combat brigades, with an additional three armored brigades, was increased to a total of 36. These brigades, all assigned to NATO command, had a high active duty personnel strength of 87 percent; while units assigned directly to a corps had a peacetime strength of only 46 percent and those assigned to divisions maintained 51 percent. Cadrification was fairly far advanced with these units. Official thinking held that not a great deal more can be done in this direction without risking weakening the army's combat strength.

Among the changes introduced were the assignment of three army aviation regiments with anti-tank helicopters at corps level as well as the reorganization of an anti-aircraft regiment with the Roland missile system assigned to each corps. The divisions received the Gepard anti-aircraft armored vehicle in regimental strength and further, as an augmentation of its infantry capability, two light infantry battalions. With the exception of the 6th Armored Infantry Division in Schleswig-Holstein, which already was assigned its own squadron of anti-tank helicopters and two reduced-strength light infantry battalions, these light infantry units would, during peacetime, only exist on paper as TE [equipment only] units.

The Territorial Army followed a similar pattern, even though some of the most significant changes under "Army Structure 4" would take place in this area. Six of the newly formed 12 home defense brigades remained purely TE units. The other six, however, which were assigned at various command levels within NATO, were for the first time to be equipped as combat brigades, similar to armored infantry, though with older equipment. One of them had an active duty strength of 85 percent, three were at 65 percent of authorized strength and two at 52 percent. This meant, at least in organizational terms, a conventional increase in Bundeswehr strength to 42 brigades.

The Territorial Army, which was assigned the duty of securing NATO's rear area in the event of emergency with all its regiments, battalions,companies and platoons, had been in somewhat bad odor as a shadow reserve force where overage, sidetracked officers could find a warm place. At the infantry combat school at Hammelburg, where training courses for Territorial Army unti leaders were conducted, assurances were given that there would soon be an end to this kind of thinking. Nevertheless, equipment for these units was requisitioned at second hand from the Field Army. In addition, there were widespread problems involved in the retaining of the reserves.

The more extensive cadrification of units in both the Territorial and Field Armies brought about a generally higher number of reservists and reserve training courses in all of these partial strength units. In the future in the Army alone, 210,000 reservists instead of the 130,000 as of 1982 were scheduled to take part in reserve training. On the surface there may seem to be a militia system surfacing, yet the Bundeswehr was a long way from moving in that direction. Such a move would not be possible in the light of its alliance committments or the country's domestic or social policy, it was stated firmly at the ministry of defense.

Tighter "leadership distribution," greater facility of control and enhances mobility were cited as the result of the restructuring made possible by the increase in conventional effectiveness which was put intoeffect within the Bundeswehr under the designation "Army Structure 4." It also affected armored infantry battalions, whose 50 Marder armored personnel carriers were reduced in number to 34 without any accompanying increase in combat strength. The 17 armored and 15 armored infantry brigades were now made up of four instead of the previous three combat battalions and the number of combat companies per battalion increased from nine larger companies per battalion to 12 smaller ones.

The newly added battalion, however, was normally a somewhat theoretical one, being reduced to cadre strength: its headquarters and headquarters company would only be brought to strength upon mobilization, with its personnel drawn from the other three battalion staffs and from reservists. It was estimated that some 120 men would thereby be released. The three combat companies ofthis "mixed" battalion, made up variously of armored and armored infantrytroops depending upon the type of brigade, would in peacetime continue to be under the control of the three active duty battalion staffs as a fourthcompany.

This was the other side of the coin of this restructuring, in which not only the adaptation of combat tactics to new developments in military technology was decisive, but also the need for economy. Some of its administrative consequences such as the manpower-thin concentration of logistical support at battalion level, while company size was being reduced, aroused criticism at unit level. One or the other unit commander may go so far in his criticism of the trend toward centralization as to see a contradiction to the traditional German leadership concept of the task force which demands free decentralized initiative at every troop level. The grumbling was directed exclusively at the peacetime unit organization, where the theoretically desirable elimination of administrative and red-tape problems through reductions in personnel strength was still a long way from having been attained. The improvement of unit control in the event of an emergency, on the other hand, drew universal acclaim. The fact that only the battalion and not the individual companies were assigned a motor transport NCO was pretty much accepted.

The Bundeswehr of 1982 consisted of highly mechanized units, criticized by some experts as overmechanized, awkward and far too expensive. These criticisms were part of the complex of questions concerning the politically, financially and technically defensible "weapons mix" of a modern army. A number of proposals for an alternative defense concept had been put forward. The charge that the Bundeswehr, with its tanks, was an offensive rather than a defensive armed force can be responded to by the fact that one German armored division had only as many tanks as a Soviet motorized rifle division. The tactics of the numerically inferior force must be mobile, was the response of one experienced tank battalion commander, and this implied in the tactical sector the capacity to undertake an offensive defense. Without tanks the firepower necessary for a counter stroke cannot be massed even within a relatively small area.

Given the doctrine offorward defense, meaning along the eastern border of the Federal Republicwith a minimal abandonment of territory, heavy armored forces would continueto be necessary. Another question appeared to be the degree to which such units should still be concentrated so far forward in the smallest tactical framework and still be effective. The advance of large concentrations of tank artillery on the Soviet side could relatively quickly bring about a softening up of the first Western defense line so as to avoid an initial hostile barrage and be able to halt such an attack through a counterattack.

In any case, the periodically heard assertion that the day of the tank had passed owing to significantly improved antitank weapons was not convincing. To rely on a single defensive weapon such as anti-tank missiles without a balanced "weapons mix," reminded military thinkers of the "Maginot doctrine" however mobile such a concept might be. Such a one-sided concentration would immediately provoke technological and tactical evasive action.

One possibility for the future was that, for a variety of reasons, the old motto, "active duty strength is everything," may be replaced by increased emphasis on and development of the capability of mobilizing the entire Bundeswehr at a strength of 1.2 million men in case of emergency, without what haf become much maligned under the heading of "cadrification." This would mean more brigades, so organized as to serve as vehicles for quickly mobilizable reserves. Such considerations were only likely to be ready for discussion after a few years. Until then the result of "Army Structure 4" would remain in force.

The alternative concepts of Loeser and Afheldt seem more on the order of contributions to a debate on strategy. Both had reservations about the credibility of forward defense and "flexible response" which pose the threat of employment of nuclear weapons which would destroy what was intended to be defended.

Loeser saw the current alternatives as nuclear apocalypse or capitulation, to which he opposed, under the motto of "neither red nor dead," the concept of a defense in depth. While abandoning tactical nuclear weapons strategic nuclear deterrant potential would remain primarily air and sea based a total of 76 brigades of varying composition would be deployed asa shield in border areas and in the interior. This concept comprised national as well as allied, military as well as civilian forces within a concept of total defense. In addition, 24 highly mobile brigades would be organized as operative units and as a counter-attack reserve. Whether this concept of conventional defense possesses sufficient deterrant potential may be doubtful. Nonetheless, his proposal deserved a thorough assessment by policy makers.

Afheldt's partisan warfare proposal, on the other hand, which would deploy thousands of tiny, autonomous commando units, specially equipped with only light antitank weapons, operating from a large number of resistance pockets, seemed scarcely realistic for Germany, even if attractive to Austria or Switzerland. While this concept did not depart formally from its alliance framework, it was characterized by an obsession with national interests. Furthermore, it abandoned completely the use of armored units, an air force and the deployment or use of nuclear weapons in the Federal Republic. What was dominant here was a kind of understandable wishful thinking even to the point of its ten thousand fold assumption of the mythical combat readiness of a sort of German William Tell.

The concept of the "social defense" put forward by the Berlin political scientist Theodor Ebert appeared, by contrast, to be relatively more thoroughgoing in its utopianism by proposing to abolish the army altogether. His proposal for non-violent refusal of obedience and passive resistance was historically rooted in the initial illusions of the Czechoslovak people's resistant attitude during the Soviet invasion of 1968. That it can lay claim to no deterrent effect was the mildest criticism that can be brought against this Utopia. Nonetheless, even this proposal deserved a place within the spectrum of alternatives which must be brought to bear on the bureaucratic routine of traditional military organizational planning, since without sufficiently provocative criticism any army structure threatens in the end to become a self-serving hierarchy.

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Page last modified: 18-11-2012 13:11:41 ZULU