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Central Army Group [CENTAG]

The southern half of the Central Front was organized into the Central Army Group (CENTAG). CENTAG had four national corps in the late 1970s - two German and two U.S.-which together comprised the equivalent of 13-2/3 divisions. Because France no longer belongs to NATO's military alliance, it is not included in this discussion of alliance forces. In the event that French troops did participate in a NATO war, however, they could be most easily deployed to CENTAG. French forces are also stationed in the western portion of CENTAG, near the French-German border.

CENTAG's terrain is more favorable to defense than is NORTHAG's. This is largely a mountainous and wooded border area. There are two narrow corridors that could be used for an invasion: the Fulda Gap and the Thuringer Mountain Hof area. Once in this area, Warsaw Pact forces would have a considerably longer and more difficult line of march to the Rhine. Scenarios used in studies of the Warsaw Pact threat to NATO and in alliance military exercises commonly assume a major enemy attack against the four allied corps in the north, with only a holding action against the U.S. and German corps in the south.

By the mid-1980s ground forces of this group comprised the Central Army Group, which included 4 corps with 11 divisions, several independent brigades and 2 tank regiments. In its armaments were included 48 Lance launchers, up to 5,000 tanks, about 3,500field artillery pieces and mortars, more than 6,700 anti-tank weapons, andover 1,200 helicopters. CENTAG strength exceeded 300,000 American, West German and Canadian officers and soldiers. The ground forces would be supported by the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force, to which American, West German and Canadian formations and units were assigned from their national air forces. There were about 900 combat aircraft, 36 PERSHING 1A launchers and up to 150 surface-to-air missile launchers in it. Air defense missile units from the American forces, concentrated in CENTAG's area, were also operationally subordinate to this command.

In the center of this group of forces were American formations and units which would be deployed in the region of Fulda, Weisbaden, Stuttgart and Wurnberg in a crisis situation. On their left it was planned to deploy the West German 3rd Corps (on the CENTAG left flank), and on the right the American 2nd Corps with Canadian forces. American forces possessed the main NATO nuclear strength and were the most powerful of all the U.S. forces deployed outside the United States: two corps, a PERSHING brigade, the 32nd Air Defense Command (Army) and three numbered air forces. On a daily basis, they were subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief, Europe (Stuttgart). Command sections of the former 7th Army (headquarters in Heidelberg), as is known, were replaced by the U.S. Army in Europe (USAREUR), also located there. The 5th (American) Corps (Frankfurt-on-Main) contained a mechanized (Bad Kreuznach) and armored (Frankfurt) division, an armored cavalry regiment (Fulda), separate LANCE battalions (three), 203- and 155-mm self-propelled howitzers, an army aviation group, and also service units and subunits.

The 7th (American) Corps (Stuttgart) consisted of a mechanized (Wurzburg) and armored (Ansbach) division, a separate brigade from the 2nd Mechanized Division (Geppingen), a separate armored cavalry regiment (Wurnberg), separate LANCE battalions (three), 203- and 155-mm self-propelled howitzers, an army aviation group, and other units. In the 56th PERSHING Missile Brigade (Schwebisch-Gmund), there were three battalions which were stationed in Schwebisch-Gmund, Neu Nem, Neckarzulm, and Heilbronn (FRG). At the end of 1985, all 3 of the battalions (108 launchers)stationed in the FRG, were converted to IRBM PERSHING 2s. One of the four batteries (three firing platoons, nine launchers) in each battalion was constantly on alert, deployed to launch sites. Others may be located at their permanent garrisons, in training sites or in maintenance. Since one of these must be in a high alert status, it is possible to quickly double the nuclear firing strength of the brigade on site. The 32nd Air Defense Command of USAREUR (Darmstadt) had subordinate to it battalions of NIKE HERCULES, PATRIOT battalions and IHAWK, CHAPPAREL gun andVULCAN missile battalions.

The 17th Air Force, whose headquarters was located in Senbach, FRG, had 5 five fighter wings, 1 command wing, and several separate squadrons (including electronic warfare), altogether as many as 330 planes and 40,000 personnel. The main air bases of this organization were Bitburg, Hann, Spangdahlen, Ramstein, Zweibrucken, and Senbach. The 3rd Air Force, based on the territory of Great Britain (Mildenhall), hasa principal mission of delivering strikes in support of CENTAG. It included three tactical fighter (F-111 fighter bombers and A-10 attack aircraft),reconnaissance (RF-4C) and tactical transport (C-130 HERCULES) wings. The 16th Air Force, which could be employed in other theaters also, isstationed at Torrejon, Spain.

Altogether in the arsenal of the forces in Germany, in the mid-1980s there numbered 108 PERSHING 2 launchers, 36 LANCE launchers, up to 2,000 tanks (up to 4,000 if those in storage were included), about 1,500 field artillery pieces andmortars, more than 3,000 ATGMs, up to 1,000 helicopters and nearly 730 combat aircraft.

The West German forces stationed in the south include two corps, two air divisions, and service units and subunits. The 3rd Corps (Koblenz) consists of a motorized infantry (Kassel) and two tank (Ditz and Feitshocheim) divisions, a battalion of LANCE launchers and othercorps units. In its armament were 6 LNCE launchers, more than 800 tanks, upto 400 guns and mortars, more than 690 anti-tank weapons, 1,200 IFVs, CFVs andAPCs, and 56 anti-tank helicopters. The 2nd Corps (Ulm) was intended to be employed in conjunction with Canadian forces on the right flank. It had a motorized infantry(Regensburg), tank (Siegmaringen), mountain (Garmisch-Dartenkirchen) and airborne (Bruchsal) division (the last would operate in brigades with the corps), a LANCE battalion and service units (altogether about 80,000 personnel). The corps arsenal included 6 LANCE launchers, more than 800 tanks, over 500 guns and mortars, about 1,000 anti-tank weapons and other combat equipment.

The FRG air force in this region included the 1st Aviation Support Division (Lautungen) and the 2nd Air Defense Division (Birkenfeld). They total 36 PERSHING 1A launchers, 230 combat aircraft and almost 150 NIKE HERCULES and IHAWK. Main air bases included Lechfeld, Buchel, Memmingen, Pferdsfeld,Frstenfeldbruck, Bremgarten, and Neuburg. Canadian forces hade a mechanized brigade (nearly 3,200 personnel) and an aviation group at Lar, In its arsenal were more than 60 tanks, 24 155-mm self-propelled howitzers, 54 airplanes and 10 helicopters.

The French 2nd Corps (Baden-0os) could be deployed in the CENTAG zone on FRG territory with its three tank divisions (Trier, Freiburg, Landau). Its strength in the 1980s was about 50,000 personnel. During wartime the Corps may be reinforced by one or two infantry divisions and support units. To reinforce CENTAG, it was planned to activate the "South" territorial command and two border defense commands ("Center" and "South").

Operationally the two American Corps stood side by side blocking traditional invasion routes such as the Fulda Gap, the Hof Corridor, and the Cham Gap. Utilizing "Forward Defense" or defending as close as possible to the Inter-German Boder (IGB), these two Corps could defend against an enemy in depth. Using both air and ground reconnaissance forces, the U.S. forces would first "find and fix" the incoming enemy forces in the Covering Force Area. The Armored Cavalry Regiments in each Corps were superbly tailored for this Covering Force mission.

Once this mission was completed the ACR's along with their supporting units would conduct a "battle hand-off" to tne Mechanized and Armored units in what was known as the "main battle area." Here as the name implies the main defensive attrition of enemy forces would occur. Utilizing the compartmentalized and urbanized terrain that characterizes the area of operations, the mission of the MBA forces would be to wear down, delay, and if possible stop the enemy in time to allow reinforcing forces from the United States to arrive. Armed with the relatively new "air-land" doctrine planners expected to employ deep air strikes to inhibit and slow enemy follow-on forces. Meanwhile, fast moving M1 main battle tan s and M2 Bradley Fighting vehiclss would be in a position to seize the initiative locally through attrition of enemy forces and counterattacking in sector.

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Page last modified: 03-02-2019 19:05:34 ZULU