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Northern Army Group (NORTHAG)

The responsibilities of the national armies defending NATO's Central Region were allocated by sectors. NATO's Central Region was divided into eight national corps areas. The northern half of the Central Front is organized into the Northern Army Group (NORTHAG). By the late 1970s eleven allied army divisions composed NORTHAG; Dutch, West German, British, and Belgian corps were stationed from north to south along the border, although all corps-assigned troops were not deployed on-line at the border.

This northern area was considered to be the most important and vulnerable portion of NATO's defenses. The North German Plain, with its flat, open terrain and good east-to-west roads, was viewed as the most favorable area for a Warsaw Pact attack. Although northern Germany had become more heavily urbanized over the years, it still had large expanses of open land with no urban construction to impede an invasion. Once in northern Germany, Pact forces would have relatively direct lines of march to the Rhine and major Western European cities.

By the 1980s NORTHAG included four corps with 12 divisions and independent units from Great Britain, FRG, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the US. There are 220,000personnel assigned to this formation, and it had up to 3,500 tanks, about 2,000 field artillery pieces and mortars, over 500 nuclear delivery assets. NORTHAG HQ was located in Monchen-Gladbach (FRG). An English general was normally appointed commander of this group (who simultaneously was the commander of the British Army of the Rhine). Dutch forces were deployed on NORTHAG's left flank, basically comprised the 1st Corps (Apeldoorn). These included three motorized rifle divisions, with bases in Harderwijk, Schaarsabergen, and Apeldoorn, an independent infantry brigade,an independent LANCE missile battalion, two independent field artillery and three air defense battalions, and supply and service units and subunits.

West German ground forces in N0RTHAG were represented by the 1st Corps (Munster), which was the most powerful organization in the Army Group. During peacetime it numbered about 106,000 and during wartime it was to expand to 170,000. It had one motorized rifle (Oldenburg) and three tank (Hannover, Buchstskude, and Unna) divisions, a LANCE battalion, an artillery regiment, an air defense missile regiment, two air defense artillery battalions, an anti-tank regiment, and two regiments of transport helicopters. The right boundary ran along the Weser-Elba canal.

Altogether, the West German forces in this region had 6 LANCE launchers, up to 1,200 tanks, more than 500 field artillery pieces and mortars, more than 1,000 anti-tank weapons (of which 800 were guided missiles), more than 2,000 IFVs and APCs, 36 ROLAND-2 missiles, 144 GEPARD anti-air guns, 56 anti-tankhelicopters, 250 combat aircraft, 36 PERSHING 1A launchers, up to 290 NIKE HERCULES and IHAWKs. During training, the West German corps normally includes units and organizations of the Heimatshutz, in particular the 52nd Brigade (Lingen). This haf a combat potential which nearly surpassef that of a regular motorized infantry brigade.

The British Army of the Rhine (BA0R) and the English Air Force Command constitutef Great Britain's armed forces in Germany. Even in peacetime they were deployed close to the borders of the socialist countries. The core of the BA0R (Rheinclahlen, 57,000 personnel, at the outbreak of war up to 150,000) was the 1st Corps, which included a headquarters (Bielefeld), three armor divisions (Verden, Soest, Herford), an artillery division (Bielefeld) and other units and subunits. The right boundary ran from Goslar to Paderborn. The BA0R Commander, when tallying his combat strength, also counted a motorized infantry brigade stationed in West Berlin (3,000 personnel, 3 motorized infantry battalions). The corps was equipped with over 600 medium and morethan 250 light (recon) tanks, 12 LANCE launchers, up to 250 field artillery pieces, more than 400 ATGMs, about 170 surface-to-air missiles, and nearly 15-helicopters, of which 70 were TOW-equipped.

Belgian forces were concentrated along the N0RTHAG right flank - the 1st Corps (Weiden, FRG) and the tactical aviation command (Evere, near Brussels). The 1st Corps had two divisions (Verviers, Belgium, and Neheim-Hustein, FRG), a LANCE battalion, three battalions of field artillery, two IHAWK battalions and two air defense artillery battalions, as well as combat and service supportunits. Many of the corps organizations and units were stationed in WestGermany even in peacetime. The Belgian forces were equipped with 6 LANCE launchers, up to 400 tanks, about 180 field artillery pieces, more than 200 anti-tank weapons, 40 IHAWKs, and 54 GEPARD air defense guns. The aviation command possessed over 40 NIKE HERCULES.

In extreme circumstances, NORTHAG would receive reinforcing American forces from which it is planned to form an American corps. The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division (Garlstedt) was in the NORTHAG AOR. The 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (about 20 F-15s, Susterberg, the Netherlands), belonging to the U.S. 17th Air Force, was subordinate to 2ATAF for air defense missions.

A major danger facing NATO was that Warsaw Pact forces could take advantage of the weakest aspects of NATO's posture by exploiting the attacker's initiative. That is, given that the Pact nations can choose when and where to attack, they would probably strike NATO's weakest areas. These vulnerable spots are in the Belgian, British, and Dutch sectors of the North German Plain, where the terrain is best suited to armored advances. Here NATO's forces are relatively less able to meet the challenge. A Pact thrust into this area could sever the main artery of communication to the U.S. and German forces in southern Germany.

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