German Bundeswehr
Transforming for Deployability
Sep 15, 2004

The reduced post Cold War threat, attendant budget reductions, and numerous regional conflicts are driving factors behind the comprehensive restructuring of the Bundeswehr (Military), since German reunification, from a large Mechanized (MECH) force, structured to repel heavy armoured attacks by Warsaw Pact forces at the inner German border, to lighter rapidly deployable units suited for UN-missions and Peace Support Operations (PSOs).

Recent multinational operations, such as Kosovo (with some 3,350 troops deployed in the GE/IT Brigade), have seen increased emphasis on flexible-response, with some 8,500 troops dispersed worldwide on PSOs – including previous ISAF command in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Reorganization has eliminated the Crisis Reaction Forces (previously some 60K) and Main Defence Forces, and replaced them with: 150K High Readiness Forces (HRF); Graduated Readiness Forces; and Forces of Lower Readiness (FLR) – mobilization reserves assigned on a per-unit basis throughout the Bundeswehr.

This will provide forces capable of conducting one large-scale (50K troops) operation for one- or two-year medium-scale (10K troops) operations for extended periods, in addition to several simultaneous small-unit commitments.

Gepard class 143A and Albatros class 143 Fast Attack Craft (FAC) on exercise in the Mediterranean. (Photo: Detmar Modes)

Fiscal parsimony is exemplified by recent German plans to cut some EUR6B in military spending through 2006, including reducing MECH formations by 45%.

By 2006, Heer (Army) combat arms Battalions (Bns) will comprise: 18 tank (13 active – including 6 w\2A6, 5 FLR); 17 MECH Infantry (13 active, 4 FLR); and 5 Reconnaissance vs current 75 Battalions – contrasted with 56 tank Battalions alone during the Cold War.

Besides massively culling it’s main battle tank fleet from 2,125 Leopard 2A4, Heer disbanded numerous formations and integrated it’s Corps HQs. Additionally, Poland was given: ex-German Mig-29s; surplus Leopard 2’s; and associated support vehicles for it’s 10th Cavalry Brigade – assigned to German 7th Panzer Division.

Approximately 40% of Deutsche Marine (Navy) and Marineflieger (Marine air) assets are available for short notice operations, plus maintaining ships with all of NATO’s Standing Naval Forces, with some: 880 personnel; 2 Frigates; 2 Support vessels and 3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft deployed on PSOs.

Vice Adm Hans Lussow, Chief Naval Staff, stresses that “we want to be able to provide forces across the whole ­spectrum of naval operations [to] contribute in a significant way to interna­tional crisis management ­operations if required.”

Although structured for rapid deployment, the Luftwaffe (Air Force) greatly reduced it’s frontline strength, and is scaling down from 437 to 302 combat aircraft by 2014 and from 73 Surface-to-Air Missile Squadrons to 46.

Army (Heer) ISAF (Photo: Medienzentrale Der Bundeswehr)

Concurrent with force structure reductions, Germany pared back partici­pa­tion in multinational procurement programs, including the Tornado mid-life improvement program – similar to UK’s Tornado GR4A upgrade, which sought to upgrade 200 Luftwaffe and Marineflieger Tornados to last till 2020.

Reductions include: acquiring only 80 vs 212 Tiger attack helicopters for the Heeresflieger (Heer Aviation); just 600 vs 1,488 Meteor beyond-visual-range; and 1,250 IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles vs 1,812 (a program Canada fortuitously withdrew from); and most telling: only 60 A400M instead of the 73 it had ‘committed’ to in 2001, after much prevarication over guaranteeing full funding and further delaying closure of a serious gap in strategic airlift capability.

Germany’s history of failing to honor it’s commitments to joint programs (causing their cancellation or leaving multinational partners shouldering an increased burden), bodes ill for Canadian participation in the German-led NATO ‘airlift pool’ that aims to provide up to 16 ‘C-17 equivalent’ airlifters in the long-term under the Prague Capability Commitment (PCC), and understandably casts doubt on Berlin’s credibility as a reliable multinational partner.

On a more positive note, the German-led initiative to convert four A310s into multi-role tanker-transports,  to address the shortage in tanking capacity, proved extremely beneficial to the fiscally constrained Canadian Forces, as “by co-operating with our German allies, we save C$50 million and reduce the work schedule by three years,” stated former Defence Minister John McCallum.

Meanwhile, Germany favours chartered Ukranian/Russian An-124s for the NATO airlift pool, with hundreds of An-124 flights already completed to support their Afghanistan contingent. The PCC nations signed a Letter of Intent guaranteeing 3,600 hours of An-124 charter yearly on 7-day notice – pricey at over US$29,000 per hour.

Germany’s defence industry remains on the forefront of technological innovation, while “armoured fighting vehicle manufacturers and their component companies represent one of the remaining sectors able to offer overall national solutions. The Puma IFV [infantry fighting vehicle] is therefore a key programme to maintain that ability,” notes German Defence Minister Dr Peter Struck. Other than modernization ­programmes, there are very few new acquisitions planned till post-2020, because Heer equipment procurement allocations were reduced by two-thirds since 1996.

Navy (Marine, Marineflieger) German officers on the bridge of a FAC. (Photo: Medienzentrale Der Bundswehr)

Germany also introduced light-armoured Wiesel 1 for HRF FalschrimJager (FJ - Airborne) units in the early-1990’s in both Tank Destroyer and 20mm-armed close reconnaissance versions (including 60 upgraded w\AOZ night vision sensor pods).

To equip the HRF’s three Atlas Short-Range Air-Defence (ASRAD) batteries, stretched Wiesel 2 (twice internal volume of Wiesel 1) was developed to field the LeFlaSys with each battery comprised of two FlaFü command vehicles, and three platoons with five Ozelot (w\4 pedestal Stingers) and one AFF (with HARD 3-D radar).

This evolved into “a complete family of lightweight, air-transportable equipment, [using] Wiesel 2 vehicles, [for HRF light units], in 120mm mortar; command and control variants and LeFlaSys” noted Chief Army Staff LGen Gert Gudera (battallion commanders [9]; ambulance [20]; ammunition transports [38 required, w\2 per mortar platoon supporting 5 mortar Wiesels]; engineer reconnaissance vehicles [6]).

With 3,459 in service or ordered by some 11 countries, the Leopard II ‘EuroLeopard’ is the European and Nordic standard Main Battle Tank, including dedicated variants based on the Leopard II chasis: some 167 Buffel Armoured Recovery Vehicle in or entering service with seven nations, 50 PSB2 Armoured Vehicle-Launched Bridge entering Dutch/German service, plus 16 Armoured Engineer Vehicle 3s for Switzerland. Upgrades, in various national versions, comprise 557 Leopard 2A5 – which include an enhanced armour package on frontal turret arc and optics upgrades, plus 647x 2A6 – with: L/55 gun replacing original L/44; DM53 round capable of penetrating double-reactive armour; and IFIS battlefield management system.

The 2A6 and mine-protected 2A6M are important for HRF because, with increasing PSO emphasis, “the protection of our soldiers on active duty has top priority in the equipment planning process” stresses Gen Gudera, as evidenced by Nordic acquisition of Leopard IIs for PSOs.

206A class submarines in the German port of Eckernfoerde. (Photo: Detmar Modes)

Besides procuring COBRA and 155mm/52cal PzH2000 (24 per Bn) – fast becoming the ‘Euro Howitzer’ with 151 sold to: Greece; Italy; Netherlands; and Norway, fire support is receiving a boost with acquisition of 9000 DM702 SMArt sensor-fuzed artillery projectiles, and development of a GPS-corrected Fuze ­– for use with standard HE and cargo rounds – which could be available by 2005.

Adm Lussow affirms “our currently-planned frigate fleet of 15 hulls [eight F122s, four F123s, three F124s] should not be reduced because otherwise we can’t meet our commitments [roughly 30% in each of: Mediterranean, Baltic and North Atlantic] requiring us to field two task groups of three frigates each... our main challenge is to keep our fleet modern at a time when resources are limited,” although several major procurement programs are in progress.

Additionally, the Type 702 Berlin-class combat support ships, equipped with a containerized MERZ field hospital for some 50 patients, recently entered Marine service. The MERZ’s 26 containers are erectable on the main deck, or on land, to ensure comprehensive medical care (including surgery, intensive care, X-ray, dental, pharmacy and laboratory facilities) during military and humanitarian operations.

Meanwhile, the Italo-German U212A SSKs, fitted with integral fuel cell Air-Independent Propulsion, and equipped with 73 new indigenous DM2A4 heavyweight torpedoes, are entering service – with two further quadruple batches planned from 2009 and post-2015 – as the first new-construction submarines built since 1975, enabling Germany to maintain it’s preeminence in submarine technology.

The F124 Sachsen-class AD frigates, part of a trilateral cooperative project with the Netherlands and Spain, are equipped with a 32-cell Mk41 tactical-length vertical launching system to provide area air-defence with the SM-2 BlkIIIA (utilized by Canada’s Iroquois-class) out to 150km, local air-defence with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) out to 30km (load-out likely comprising 24 SM-2s and 32 quad-packed ESSMs), and like most Marine combatants: utilize 21-cell RAM Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) launchers for self-defence and two quadruple Harpoon missile launchers for anti-surface warfare.

Air Force (Luftwaffe) (Photo: Medienzentrale Der Bundswehr)

The common (with Netherlands) AD system, developed jointly with Canada, utilizes: 3D SMART-L radar – providing automatic detection and tracking of 1,000 air targets out to 400km; APAR (Active Phased Array Radar) – allowing 16 simultaneous terminal-phase engagements with 32 missiles airborne; plus SIRIUS infra-red surveillance and tracking system – reinforcing horizon search capabilities against sea-skimming missiles and\or providing CIWS targeting data.

The eight projected post-2010 F125 general-purpose frigates, with a Vertical Launching System infrastructure, will replace the F122s (modified Dutch Kortenaer-class) and could allow land-attack and ballistic-missile defence ­configurations. Meanwhile, the reduced radar cross-section K130 corvettes ­represent a shift away from FAC, optimized for anti-invasion ‘knife-fighting’ in the confined North/Baltic Sea areas, to medium-size combatants with a ­primary surface-strike role (using ­retargetable Polyphem-S fibre-optic-guided missiles w\60km range, also capable of land-attack) in overseas ­littoral crisis-response/surveillance operations, but reroleable for more complex scenarios under the protective umbrella of a task-group. Admiral Lussow notes that operational requirements dictate “15 vessels the size of a corvette, [although,] the high capital costs make it necessary to spread the programme over a longer timeframe. Procurement [of larger follow-on versions equipped with a helicopter to counter swarms of inshore attack craft] in batches will enable us to develop a vessel best suited to meet changing challenges” and eventually replace the S143A Wiesel-class Fast Attack Craft (FAC). Land-based Marineflieger Tornados, capable of launching Kormoran anti-ship missiles or HARMs for Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD), plus undertaking armed reconnaissance, are being transferred to Luftwaffe.

From 2004 thru 2015, delivery of the Eurofighter (equipped with integrated defensive aids sub-systems to provide protection from missile attacks) will occur, at 15 per year, with five wings (36 aircraft each) eventually equipped, of which three will be air-defence (JGs 71, 73 & 74) – replacing remaining Phantoms, and two multi-role swing-wings (JbGs 31 & 33) – replacing life- expired Tornados. As Eurofighter is introduced the Luftwaffe Tornado fleet (optimized for 60m low level attack) will be reduced to 125 during this decade by retaining the least-flown tail numbers to avoid a “very expensive structural upgrade for the older airframes” notes Chief Air Staff LGen Gerhard Back.

Remaining wings will comprise: AkG-51 specializing in armed reconnaissance with former Marineflieger Tornados equipped with new all-weather recce pods, JbG-32 specializing in SEAD with it’s ECR (Electronic Combat, Reconnaissance) Tornados – which are the the most lethal SEAD aircraft in service worldwide, and JbG-38 equipped with the basic IDS (InterDictor/Strike) variant – but equipped with 40 Litening laser-designator pods for precision strike with Paveway III series bombs. Tornado’s, and eventually multi-role Eurofighter, will receive some 600 Taurus KEPD 350 (w\350km range) turbo-jet powered stand-off cruise missiles between 2004 and 2009.

Eurofighter (Photo: Medienzentrale Der Bundswehr)

The Luftwaffe (and possibly Italy) is outfitting 24 of it’s NH-90TTHs to accept eight Combat Search And Rescue kits with crews already training for the role as morale is greatly improved when the military accepts it’s basic obligation to recover downed aircrew – even from hostile territory in times of crises or war, because it’s vital “to give our men and women the equipment that we owe them, so they can accomplish their missions with minimum risk to their lives” notes Gen Back (with the side benefit of assuaging social unease from unnecessary operational losses).

German military airlift co-operation is exemplified by European Air Group membership, as “what we are really aiming for is a truly European Air Transport Command, including all aspects of command and control as well as subordinate air transport organizations.” Meanwhile, most training has been consolidated in North America with Tornados and Phantoms based in USA for training and undertaking low-level (down to 30m) navigation training at Goose Bay in Canada as most areas in Europe incur adverse weather interruptions and have a minimum 305m altitude restriction.

The new Joint Support Service (JSS) with 70,500 personnel and four logistics regiments, plus Central Medical Service with 30,232 personnel, incorporate personnel from all three service branches. JSS groups include: territorial units and defence commands – responsible for defending key installations and providing rear-area security; host-nation support (for numerous allied formations, such as US and UK, still resident); logistics and administrative units; intelligence; strategic reconnaissance and strategic lift; training; overseas operations. JSS also provides centralized control over outsourced activities such as logistics transport. Chief of JSS Staff, VAdm Bernd Heise, stresses “the build-up of the JSS to allow the three services to concentrate on frontline tasks is well on the beam… we will complete this by the end of 2004.”

Mark Romanow is a defence analyst, and can be reached at
© FrontLine Defence 2004