Luftwaffe: Wikis


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German Air Force
Logo Luftwaffe.svg
Logo of the German Air Force
Active 1935-1945 (Wehrmacht)
1956-present (Bundeswehr)
Country Federal Republic of Germany
Role Air Defence Force
Size 43,200 personel [1] , 426 aircraft
Motto Team Luftwaffe
Colors Blue, Grey and White
Anniversaries 9 January 1956
Engagements Spanish Civil War
World War II
Kosovo War
War in Afghanistan
Lieutenant General Arne Kreuzinger-Janik
General Josef Kammhuber
General Johannes Steinhoff,

General Gerhard Back, 2004-2007 JFC Brunssum Commander

Roundel of the German Air Force border.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack Tornado
Fighter F-4 Phantom II, Eurofighter
Trainer T-38 Talon, G-120, T-37
Transport Challenger 600, A310, Cougar, C-160

Luftwaffe (German pronunciation: [ˈlʊftvafə]  ( listen)) (derived from the words "Luft"= air and "Waffe"=weapon) is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1933 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956.

Schweizer Luftwaffe is also the name of the Swiss Air Force in German (Forces aériennes suisses in French and Forze Aeree Svizzere in Italian). Two other historic German air forces are the World War I-era Luftstreitkräfte and the Luftstreitkräfte der NVA in the GDR. The air force of Austria is called Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte.



World War I


The forerunner of the Luftwaffe, the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte), was founded in 1910 with the name Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches, and changed to the name "Luftstreitkräfte" by the end of 1916, with the emergence of military aircraft, although they were intended to be used primarily for reconnaissance in support of armies on the ground, just as balloons had been used in the same fashion during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 and even as far back as the Napoleonic Wars. It was not the world's first air force, however, because France's embryonic army air service, which eventually became the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air), had also been founded in 1910. Britain's Royal Flying Corps (which merged in 1918 with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force) was founded in 1912.

During World War I, the Imperial Army Air Service utilised a wide variety of aircraft, ranging from fighters (such as those manufactured by Albatros-Flugzeugwerke and Fokker) to reconnaissance aircraft (Aviatik and DFW) and heavy bombers (Gothaer Waggonfabrik, better known simply as Gotha, and the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI "giant" heavy bomber). Missions were also flown in a wide range of theatres, from the Western Front to the plains of Russia and even as far away as bombing raids on British Suez Canal positions in support of the Ottoman offense in 1915.[2]

However, the fighters on the Western Front received the most attention in the annals of military aviation, since it produced aces such as Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the Red Baron (der Rote Baron), Ernst Udet, Hermann Göring, Oswald Boelcke, Werner Voss, and Max Immelmann (the first airman to win the Pour le Mérite, Imperial Germany's highest decoration for gallantry, as a result of which the decoration became popularly known as the Blue Max). As did the German Navy, the German Army used Zeppelins as airships for bombing military and civilian targets in France and Belgium as well as the United Kingdom.

All German and Austro-Hungarian military aircraft in service used the Iron Cross insignia until early 1918. Afterwards, the Balkenkreuz, a black Greek cross on white, was introduced.

After the war ended in German defeat, the service was dissolved completely on May 8, 1920 under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, which demanded that its airplanes be completely destroyed. As a result of this disbanding, today's Luftwaffe (which dates from 1956) can not claim to be the oldest independent air force in the world, since the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom is older, having been founded on 1 April 1918.

Interwar period

Since the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from having an air force, German pilots had to be trained in secret from the Treaty of Versailles. Initially, civil aviation schools within Germany were used, yet only light training planes could be used in order to maintain the facade that the trainees were going to fly with civil airlines such as Lufthansa. To train its pilots on the latest combat aircraft, Germany solicited the help of its future enemy, the USSR, which was also isolated in Europe. A secret training airfield was established at Lipetsk in 1924 and operated for approximately nine years using mostly Dutch and Russian, but also some German, training aircraft before being closed in 1933. This base was officially known as 4th squadron of the 40th wing of the Red Army.

Ruins of Guernica

On 26 February 1935, Adolf Hitler ordered Hermann Göring to establish the Luftwaffe, breaking the Treaty of Versailles's ban on German military aviation. Germany violated the treaty without sanction from Britain, France, or the League of Nations, and neither they nor the league did anything to oppose this. Although the new air force was to be run totally separately from the army, it retained the tradition of according army ranks for its officers and airmen, a tradition retained today by united Germany's Luftwaffe and by many air forces throughout the world. It is worth noting, however, that before the official promulgation of Göring's new Luftwaffe in 1935, Germany had a paramilitary air force known as the Deutscher Luftsportverband (DLV: German air sports union). The DLV was headed by Ernst Udet and its insignia were taken over by the new Luftwaffe, although the DLV "ranks" had special names that made them sound more civilian than military.

Dr. Fritz Todt, the engineer who founded the forced labor Organisation Todt, was appointed to the rank of Generalmajor in the Luftwaffe. He was not, strictly speaking, an airman, although he had served in an observation squadron during World War I and had been awarded the Iron Cross. He died in a plane crash in February 1942.

Hermann Göring personally chose an insignia for the Luftwaffe that differed from that of the other armed branches[citation needed]. The eagle, an old symbol of the German Empire, was used, but in a different posture. Since 1933, when Hitler's National Socialist Party came to power, the eagle held between his claws the symbol of the party—the swastika (an old symbol of sunrise)—which usually was enveloped by an oak wreath. Göring rejected the old heraldic eagle because he felt it was too stylized, too static, and too massive; instead he chose a younger, more natural and lighter eagle with wings spread as if in flight, as he considered this a more suitable symbol for an air force. While the Wehrmacht eagle held the symbol of the National Socialist Party firmly in its claws, the Luftwaffe eagle held the swastika with only one claw while the other was bent in a threatening gesture.

The Luftwaffe attempted to incorporate all military units that had anything to do with air warfare. Given the strong nazi origin and influence in the Luftwaffe, this was seen as a way to increase nazi influence in the army (alongside the other project in this respect, the formation of SS divisions), as well as boosting the personal prestige of Göring. Thus the anti-aircraft (Flak) and airborne troops (Fallschirmjäger) fell under direct Luftwaffe command, and the navy (Kriegsmarine) never established its own air branch; naval aviation was executed by the Luftwaffe. Even the aircraft flown from the (never finished) aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin were intended to be operated by the Luftwaffe. By the middle of the war, when personnel assignments for the Luftwaffe were disproportionate to a shrinking amount of planes, the excess personnel was not transferred to the army (Heer), but instead organized into Luftwaffe Field Divisions in 1942. However, their performance as ground units was so poor that command was transferred to Heer in 1943, although they retained their name.

The Luftwaffe had the ideal opportunity to test its pilots, aircraft and tactics in the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, when the Condor Legion was sent to Spain in support of the anti-Republican government revolt led by Francisco Franco. Modern machines included names which would become world famous: the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber, Dornier Do 17 "Schnell" (fast) bomber, and the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. However, since the aircraft were seconded to Franco's Nationalist air force, Luftwaffe markings were replaced to avoid giving the world the impression that Germany was actively supporting the revolt. Instead of the Nazi Party's swastika on the tail, the German planes used the nationalist air force aircraft markings (a Saint Andrew's cross over a white background, painted on the rudder of the aircraft and a black disc on fuselage and wings). All aircraft in the Legion were affiliated to units given a designation ending in the number 88. For example, bombers were in Kampfgruppe 88 (combat group 88, K/88); and fighters, in Jagdgruppe 88 (fighter group 88, J/88. Following the Munich crisis, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe be expanded by five times.[3]

A grim foretaste of the systematic bombing of cities during World War II came in April 1937 when a combined force of German and Italian bombers under Spanish-Nationalist command destroyed most of the Basque city of Guernica in north-east Spain. This bombing received worldwide condemnation, and the collective memory of the horror of the bombing of civilians has ever since become most acute via the famous painting, named after the town, by the Cubist artist Pablo Picasso. Many feared that this would be the way that future air wars would be conducted, since the Italian strategist, General Giulio Douhet (who had died in 1930), had formulated theories regarding what would be dubbed "strategic bombing", the idea that wars would be won by striking from the air at the heart of the industrial muscle of a warring nation, and thus demoralizing the civilian population to the point where the government of that nation would be driven to sue for peace—a portent of things to come, certainly, and not just during the war which would break out in Europe only months after the end of the civil war in Spain.

World War II


At the outset of the war, the Luftwaffe was one of the most modern, powerful, and experienced air forces in the world, dominating the skies over Europe with aircraft much more advanced than their foreign counterparts. The Luftwaffe was central to the German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) doctrine, as the close air support provided by various medium two-engine bombers, Stuka dive bombers and an overwhelming force of tactical fighters were key to several early successes. However, unlike the British and American Air Forces, the Luftwaffe never developed four-engine bombers in any significant numbers, and was thus unable to conduct an effective long-range strategic bombing campaign against either the Russians or the Western Allies.

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the most versatile and widely-produced fighter aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe and was designed when biplanes were still standard. Many versions of this aircraft were made. The engine, a liquid cooled Mercedes-Benz DB 601, initially generated up to almost 1,000 hp (750 kW). This power increased as direct fuel injection was introduced to the engines. The kill ratio (almost 9:1) made clear this plane was far superior than any of the other German fighters during the war. In this regard it was followed by the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at 4:1. This plane had relatively short wings and was powered by a radial BMW engine. The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka was a main asset for Blitzkrieg, able to place bombs with deadly accuracy. The leader of the Luftwaffe was Hermann Göring, a World War I fighter ace and former commander of Manfred von Richthofen's famous JG 1 (aka "The Flying Circus") who had joined the Nazi party in its early stages.

In the summer and autumn of 1940, the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain over the skies of England, the first all-air battle. Following the military failures on the Eastern Front, from 1942 onwards, the Luftwaffe went into a steady, gradual decline that saw it outnumbered and overwhelmed by the sheer number of Allied aircraft being deployed against it. Towards the end of the war, the Luftwaffe was no longer a major factor, and despite fielding advanced aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me 262, Heinkel He 162, Arado Ar 234, and Me 163 it was crippled by fuel shortages and a lack of trained pilots. There was also very little time to develop the new aircraft, and they could not be produced fast enough by the Germans, so the jet- and rocket-powered planes proved to be "too little too late".

Cold War

Bundeswehr Kreuz.svg
Teilstreitkräfte or TSK
Bundeswehr Heer.jpg Heer
Bundeswehr Luftwaffe.jpg Luftwaffe
Bundeswehr Marine.jpg Marine
(Organisational areas)
The Canadian version of the North American F-86 Sabre, the Canadair CL-13, had a long career in the Luftwaffe, with which 75 Mk. 5 and 225 Mk. 6 examples served. This preserved aircraft is in the markings of JG 74.
West-German Luftwaffe field cap from 1962

German aviation in general was severely curtailed, and military aviation was completely forbidden when the Luftwaffe was officially disbanded in August 1946 by the Allied Control Commission. This changed when West Germany joined NATO in 1955, as the Western Allies believed that Germany was needed in view of the increasing military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Throughout the following decades, the West German Luftwaffe (Bundesluftwaffe: federal air force) was equipped mostly with U.S.-designed aircraft manufactured locally under license. All aircraft sported—and continue to sport—the Iron Cross on the fuselage, harking back to the days of World War I, while the national flag of West Germany is displayed on the tail.

Many well-known fighter pilots who had fought with the Luftwaffe in World War II joined the new post-war air force and underwent refresher training in the U.S. before returning to West Germany to upgrade on the latest U.S.-supplied hardware. These included Erich Hartmann, the highest-ever scoring ace (352 enemy aircraft destroyed), Gerhard Barkhorn (301), Günther Rall (275) and Johannes Steinhoff (176). Steinhoff, who suffered a crash in a Messerschmitt Me 262 shortly before the end of the war that resulted in lifelong scarring of his face and other parts of his body, would eventually become commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, with Rall as his immediate successor. Hartmann retired as an Oberst (colonel) in 1970 at age 48. Josef Kammhuber, mentioned above, also served in the post-war Luftwaffe, retiring in 1962 as Inspekteur der Bundesluftwaffe (chief inspector of the Federal air force).

During the 1960s, the "Starfighter crisis" developed into a political issue, as many of these Lockheed F-104 Starfighters crashed after being modified to serve for Luftwaffe purposes — specifically for terrain, weather, and ground mechanic support issues. In Luftwaffe service, 292 of the 916 Starfighters crashed, claiming the lives of 115 pilots and leading to cries that the Starfighter was fundamentally unsafe from the West German public, which referred to it as the Witwenmacher (widow-maker), fliegender Sarg (flying coffin), and Erdnagel (ground nail).

Steinhoff and his deputy Günther Rall noted that the non-German F-104s proved much safer — Spain, for example, lost none in the same period. The Americans blamed the high loss rate of the Luftwaffe F-104s on the extreme low-level and aggressive flying of German pilots rather than any faults in the aircraft.[4]. Steinhoff and Rall immediately left their daily work and went to America to learn to fly the Starfighter under Lockheed instruction and noted some specifics in the training (a distinct lack of mountain and foggy-weather training), combined with handling capabilities (sharp start high G turns) of the aircraft that could create accident situations.

Steinhoff and Rall immediately changed the training regimen for the F-104 pilots, and the accident rates quickly fell to those comparable or better than other air forces. They also brought about the high level of training and professionalism seen today throughout the Luftwaffe, and the start of a strategic direction for Luftwaffe pilots to engage in tactical and combat training outside of Germany. However, the F-104 never lived down its reputation as a widow-maker and was replaced much earlier by the Luftwaffe than other national air forces.

The Starfighter was completely replaced by the American-built McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter and the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber, where the latter was designed and produced by a cooperative of companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. These fighters all remain in Luftwaffe service today, especially with upgrades to their electronics and the addition of the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile for the air defence of Germany.

One of 212 Panavia Tornado IDSs delivered to the Luftwaffe

From 1965 through 1970, two surface-to-surface missile wings (Flugkörpergeschwader) fielded 16 of the Pershing I missile systems with nuclear warheads under U.S. Army custody. In 1970, the system was upgraded to Pershing IA with 72 missiles. Although not directly affected by the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Luftwaffe unilaterally agreed to the removal of the Pershing IA missiles from its inventory in 1991, and the missiles were destroyed.

Beginning in June 1979, the Luftwaffe took delivery of 212 Panavia Tornado fighters.


GDR Air Force plane marking

The GDR air force, the Luftstreitkräfte der NVA, was supplied exclusively with Eastern Bloc-produced aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-17 "Fitter" and the more famous Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) family of aircraft, such as the MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29 fighters, and served primarily as an extension of Red Air Force units in Eastern Germany. The East German Air Force was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in that it was often equipped with Soviet-standard combat aircraft instead of downgraded export models. Operated as an extension of Soviet air power, the East German Air Force enjoyed less autonomy than other Eastern Bloc air forces. Unlike the West German Luftwaffe, the markings sported on the aircraft reflected the identity of the country as belonging to the Communist bloc. These markings consisted of a diamond-shaped design, in which could be seen the vertically oriented three stripes in black, red and gold surmounted by the stylized hammer, compass and wreath-like ears-of-grain design, which was also on the Flag of East Germany, although the stripes were a 90° orientation from those to be seen on either national flag of the two German nations between 1959 and 1990.

Roundel of the German Air Force border.svg

After East and West Germany were reunified in October 1990, the aircraft of the NVA were taken over by the unified Federal Republic of Germany, and their GDR markings were replaced by the Iron Cross, thus creating the singular situation of Soviet-built aircraft serving in a NATO air force. However, most of these would eventually be taken out of service altogether, in many cases being sold or given to the new Eastern European allies now part of NATO, such as Poland and the Baltic states.

Luftwaffe MiG-29UB

The exception to this was the Jagdgeschwader 73 "Steinhoff" (Fighter Wing 73 "Steinhoff") stationed in Laage. The pilots of the JG 73 flew MiG-29s acquired during the reunification and were some of the most experienced MiG-29 pilots in the world. One of their primary duties was to serve as aggressor pilots, training other pilots in dissimilar combat tactics. The United States sent a group of fighter pilots to Germany during the Red October exercise to practice real tactics against the aircraft they were most likely to meet in real combat. However, the MiG-29s of JG 73 were fully integrated into the Luftwaffe's air defence structure and, from February 1995 became the first Soviet Bloc aircraft to be declared operational within NATO.[5] In 2004, with the introduction of the Eurofighter Typhoon imminent, the decision was taken to withdraw the MiG-29. JG 73s aircraft were finally withdrawn in August 2004, following which they were sold to the Polish Air Force.


The United States provides nuclear weapons for use by Germany under a NATO nuclear sharing agreement. As of 2007, only 22 B61-4s are still present, stored at Büchel Air Base for delivery with German Air Force Panavia Tornados. These bombs are likely to be withdrawn when the Tornados at Büchel are replaced with Eurofighter Typhoons after 2012, since it is not planned to integrate the B-61 bomb into the Eurofighter. B-61s stationed at Nörvenich and Memmingen Air Base (fighter-bomber wing JaBoG 34 "Allgäu") have already been withdrawn in the mid- to late-1990s. All nuclear bombs formerly stored at the Ramstein Air Base have been returned to the U.S. or elsewhere (the U.K. is possible), due to ongoing construction work at Ramstein AB, and they will not be returned to Germany.

In March 1999, for the first time since 1945, the Luftwaffe engaged in combat operations as part of the NATO-led Kosovo War. This event was noted as significant in the British press with "The Sun" running the headline "Luftwaffe and the RAF into battle side by side".[6] The Luftwaffe flew suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) sorties. No Luftwaffe aircraft was lost during the campaign, but the force's role proved to be controversial in Germany because Germany was not and, indeed, still is not allowed to participate in "wars of aggression", as provided in its 1949 constitution (Grundgesetz). In addition to constitutional concerns, strong pacifist sentiment is present in the population that is opposed to the use of force by Germany in international affairs.


In 2005 and 2008, F-4F Phantoms, in 2009 Eurofighter and F-4F participated in NATO's Baltic Air Policing operation.[7][8]

In 2006, to support coalition operations across Afghanistan, the Luftwaffe deployed Panavia Tornado reconnaissance aircraft from Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 "Immelmann" (the 51st Reconnaissance Wing "Immelmann"), stationed in Mazar-i-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan.[9] There are also various army helicopters in operation at the German air base in Mazar-i-Sharif and Luftwaffe C-160 Transall conduct air transport sorties into and within Afghanistan.


A Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoon (two-seater trainer version)

Since the 1970s, the Luftwaffe of West Germany and later the reunited Germany (as well as many other European air forces) has actively pursued the construction of European combat aircraft such as the Panavia Tornado and, more recently, the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was introduced in 2006.

On 13 January 2004, the Defence Minister Peter Struck announced major changes to the German armed forces. A major part of this announcement was a plan to cut the German fighter fleet from 426 aircraft in early 2004 to 265 by 2015. Assuming the full German order for 180 Eurofighter Typhoons is fulfilled, this will see the Tornado force reduced to 85.[10] The German Navy's air wing (Marineflieger) received 112 Tornado IDSs. In late 2004 the last Tornado unit was disbanded. The maritime combat role has been assumed by the Luftwaffe, a unit of which has had its Tornados upgraded to carry the Kormoran II and AGM-88 HARM missiles.

Tactical training centers

In light of the destroyed infrastructure of West Germany post-World War II, the restrictions on aircraft production placed on Germany and the later restrictive flying zones available for training pilots, the reconstructed Luftwaffe trained most of its pilots tactically away from Germany, mainly in the United States and Canada where most of its aircraft were sourced.

During the 1960s and 1970s, a very large number of Luftwaffe jet crashes—the Luftwaffe suffered a 36 percent crash rate for F-84F Thunderstreaks and an almost 30 percent loss of F-104 Starfighters—created considerable public demand for moving Luftwaffe combat training centers away from Germany.

As a result, the Luftwaffe set up two tactical training centres: one, like those of many of the NATO forces, at the Canadian Forces Air Command base at Goose Bay; and the second in a unique partnership with the United States Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico (F-104 pilots had already been trained at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, since 1964). Both facilities provide access to large unpopulated areas, where tactical and combat training can take place without danger to large populations.

In September 2004, the Luftwaffe's chief of staff, Klaus-Peter Stieglitz, announced a reduction in its training program of roughly 20%.

Holloman Air Force Base

F-4Es of the 1st GAFTS.

On 1 May 1996, the Luftwaffe established the German Air Force Tactical Training Center (TTC) in concert with the United States Air Force 20th Fighter Squadron, which provides aircrew training in the F-4F Phantom II. The TTC serves as the parent command for two German air crew training squadrons. The F-4 Training Squadron oversees all German F-4 student personnel affairs and provides German instructor pilots to cooperate in the contracted F-4 training program provided by the U.S. Air Force (20th Fighter Squadron). A second TTC unit, the Tornado Training Squadron, provides academic and tactical flying training, by German air force instructors, for German Tornado aircrews.

The first contingent of Tornado aircraft arrived at Holloman in March 1996. More than 300 German air force personnel are permanently assigned at Holloman to the TTC, the only unit of its kind in the United States. The German Air Force Flying Training Center activated on 31 March 1996, with German Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Portz and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan present. The Luftwaffe has since stationed up to 800 personnel at Holloman for training exercises, due to limited training space in Europe.


Structure of the German air force in 2008
MIM-104 Patriot system of the Luftwaffe
Büchel airbase of the Luftwaffe, Germany

Structure of the German Luftwaffe as of November 2009

German Air Force Command

The German Air Force Command is the superior command to all combat forces of the German Air Force.

Subordinate elements are:

  • German Air Force Air Operations Command
    • National Air Policing Centre
  • Air Force Command and Control Regiment
  • The combat units are organized in three Air Divisions and the so called Air Transport Command:
1st Air Division 2nd Air Division 4th Air Division Air Transport Command
Tactical Air Command and Control Regiment 1 Tactical Air Command and Control Regiment 3 Tactical Air Command and Control Regiment 2 and 4
Surface-to-Air Missile Wing 5
  • SAM Battalion 22
  • SAM Battalion 23
Surface-to-Air Missile Wing 2
  • SAM Battalion 21
  • SAM Battalion 24
Surface-to-Air Missile Wing 1
  • SAM Battalion 25
  • SAM Battalion 26
  • Special Air Mission Wing, Federal Ministry of Defence
  • Air Transport Wing 61
  • Air Transport Wing 62
  • Air Transport Wing 63
German Air Force Tactical Training Center Italy German Air Force Regiment "Frisia"

German Air Force Office

The German Air Force Office is responsible for supporting the air force combat units. Main tasks are maintenance and logistic support and provision of basic training and education.

Subordinate elements are:

  • Surgeon General of the Air Force
  • Bundeswehr Air Traffic Services Office
  • Air Force Support Battalion
  • Legal Advisor Center
Air Force Training Command Air Force Weapon Systems Command German Air Force Command United States/ Canada
  • Air Force Officer School
  • Non-Commissioned Officer's School of the Air Force
  • Air Force Technical School 1 (with Air Force Bands 1 and 2)
  • Air Force Technical School 3 (with Air Force Bands 3 and 4)
  • Air Force Training Regiment
  • Maintenance Regiment 1
    • Center for Avionics
    • Center for Aircraft Technology
  • Maintenance Regiment 2
    • Maintenance Group 21
    • Maintenance Group 22
    • Maintenance Group 25
  • Weapon Systems Support Center
  • German Air Force Flying Training Center, United States Holloman AFB
  • German Air Force Air Defense Center, United States

Aircraft inventory

A Eurofighter in the 2-seat trainer version
Luftwaffe Airbus A310 MRTT ready for refueling, shown at the Paris Air Show 2007
A310 VIP transport aircraft for the leaders of the German government
Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Comments
Fighter Aircraft
McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II  United States fighter F-4F 55 In service until 2013 (to be replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon)[11]
Panavia Tornado  Germany electronic warfare
Tornado ECR
Tornado IDS
operated from Jagdbombergeschwader 32 (Lagerlechfeld)
operated from Jagdbombergeschwader 33 (Büchel), Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 and Jagdbombergeschwader 31 (Nörvenich)
Eurofighter Typhoon  Germany fighter Typhoon
Typhoon (Tandom)
140 on order
Northrop T-38 Talon  United States trainer T-38 35 flying under USAF roundel
Grob G-120  Germany trainer G120 6
T-6 Texan II  United States trainer T-6 Texan II 50
Airbus A310  France transport A310-300 7 3 former Interflug
Airbus A319CJ  Germany VIP transport Airbus A319-115CJ 0 2 ordered
Airbus A340  France VIP transport Airbus A340-313 0 2 former Lufthansa A340-313 ordered. Entry into service: 2009[12]
Airbus A400M  Spain transport/tanker Airbus A400M 0 60 on order
Bombardier Challenger 600  Canada VIP transport CL-601 6
Global Express 5000  Canada VIP transport Bombardier Global Express 5000 0 4 ordered
Transall C-160  Germany tactical transport C-160D 83
Transport/Utility Helicopter
UH-1 Iroquois  United States utility helicopter UH-1D 73 built by Dornier
Eurocopter Cougar  France VIP transport AS 532U-2 3
NHI NH90  Germany transport + CSAR NH90 TTH 0 42 on order (+12 options)
EuroHawk  United States
SIGINT RQ-4B Block 20 0 5 on order; to be built by Northrop Grumman and equipped with an EADS reconnaissance payload
Heron  Israel reconnaissance IAI Heron 3 3 plus 2 ground stations leased by the Luftwaffe as an interim solution until SAATEG becomes available

See also



  1. ^!!/delta/base64xml/L3dJdyEvd0ZNQUFzQUMvNElVRS82X0NfNENM
  2. ^ First World War - Willmott, H.P. Dorling Kindersley, 2003, Page 87
  3. ^ Ketley,Barry, and Rolfe, Mark. Luftwaffe Fledglings 1935-1945: Luftwaffe Training Units and their Aircraft (Aldershot, GB: Hikoki Publications, 1996), p.3.
  4. ^ German Starfighter losses
  5. ^ MiG-29s leave Luftwaffe - Flug Revue, April 2004
  6. ^ "Historic day for Germany". BBC News. 1999-03-25. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  7. ^ "Germans takes over Baltic NATO mission". The Baltic Times (Baltic News Ltd.). 2005-06-29. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  8. ^ "Germany hails Eurofighter's Baltic debut as 'mission accomplished'". (Dan Thisdell). 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  9. ^ Recce-Tornados nach Afghanistan
  10. ^ "Germany Announces Major Armed Forces Cuts". Air Forces Monthly (Key Publising): pp. 8. March 2004. 
  11. ^ German Phantoms still going strong, Air Forces Monthly magazine, Dirk Jan de Ridder, June 2008 issue, p. 40.
  12. ^ "General contractor for German government’s A340-300 jets". Lufthansa Technik. 28 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 

Selected bibliography

Hundreds of books, magazines and articles have been written about the Luftwaffe. A select few are listed here.

  • Aders, Gebhard (1992), History of the German Night-Fighter Force, 1917-1945 (edited and translated by Alex Vanags-Baginskis), Crecy. ISBN 0-947554-21-1. (Originally published by Jane's in 1979.)
  • Amadio, Jill (2002), Günther Rall: A Memoir, Seven Locks Press. ISBN 0-9715533-0-0.
  • Galland, Adolf (2000 [1957]), The First and the Last, Buccaneer Books, Inc. ISBN 0-89966-728-7.
  • Green, William (1990), Warplanes of the Third Reich, Galahad. [Second edition, following from original work published in 1970.] ISBN 0-88365-666-3.
  • Held, Werner and Nauroth, Holger (1982), The Defence of the Reich: Hitler's Nightfighter Planes and Pilots (translated by David Roberts), London, Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-414-6.
  • Mermet, Jean-Claude and Ehrengardt, Christian-Jacques (2002), Les Jets de la Luftwaffe: Aéro-Journal Hors-Série No.4, Aéro-Éditions International (French language edition only). ISSN 0336-1055 .
  • Orbis Publishing Limited, London (1974-77), Wings, a part-work encyclopedia of aviation in eight volumes, which included many articles about the battles during World War II in which the Luftwaffe took part, as well as biographies of some of its high-profile airmen.
  • Orbis Publishing Limited, London (1981-84) (second edition), World War II, a part-work encyclopedia in eight volumes about the 1939-1945 War.
  • Philpott, Bryan (1986), History of the German Air Force, Hamlyn. ISBN 0-600-50293-7.
  • Price, Alfred (2005), Battle Over The Reich: The Strategic Bomber Offensive Against Germany 1939-1945, Classic Publications. [Revised, second edition based on the previous work with the same title first published in 1973.] ISBN 1-903223-47-4.
  • Price, Alfred (2000), Blitz on Britain, 1939-1945, Sutton. [Revised edition of Blitz on Britain : the bomber attacks on the United Kingdom, 1939-1945, first published by Ian Allan in 1977]. ISBN 0-7110-0723-3 (1977 edition).
  • Sobolev, D. A. and Khazanov, D.B. (2001), The German Imprint on the History of Russian Aviation, Moscow, Rusavia (English edition). ISBN 5-900078-08-6.
  • Wood, Tony, and Gunston, Bill (1984), Hitler's Luftwaffe: A Pictorial History and Technical Encyclopedia of Hitler's Air Power in World War II, Book Sales (originally published by Salamander Books). ISBN 0-89009-758-5.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From German Luftwaffe, compound word from Luft ‘air’ + Waffe ‘weapon’.


  • IPA: /ˈlʊftvafə/

Proper noun



Luftwaffe (uncountable)

  1. The German air force until the end of the Second World War.



From Luft ‘air’ + Waffe ‘weapon’.



Luftwaffe f. (genitive Luftwaffe, plural Luftwaffen)

  1. airforce

Simple English

The Luftwaffe (pronounced IPA: ['luft.ʋɑ.fə]) is the name for the air force of Germany.



This was the name for the air force of Germany during the Third Reich when Adolf Hitler was in power (between 1933 and 1945) and was also the name for the air force during the era of the Cold War when Germany was divided into two: East Germany and West Germany. This meant that the Luftwaffe was the air force of West Germany between 1955 and 1990. In 1990, these two countries became one country again, so the Luftwaffe has been the air force of the united (together) Germany since 1990. Luftwaffe means Air force in English.

The early years including World War I

Germany first had aeroplanes in its army in 1910, four years before the start of World War I in 1914. At that time, aeroplanes had no guns. They were being used for reconnaissance duties, that is, they would fly over the battlefield to see what the enemy was doing and fly back so that the pilots could tell their generals what they knew. The generals would then use that information. Before aeroplanes came along, balloons had been used.

Developement of aeroplanes

During World War I, Germany used a few kinds of aeroplane to fight its war, such as fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aeroplanes, but the fighter aeroplanes became very famous because of its brave pilots. The most famous German pilot of World War I was Manfred von Richthofen, also known as "The Red Baron."

Developement of Zeppelins

Germany also used airships called "Zeppelins". They were named after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who had built the first airships in 1900, but he had wanted them to carry cargo and passengers, not bombs. He died in 1917, but people still use his name when they remember the German airships of World War I. (In fact, the Zeppelin company is still making airships today, but these are much smaller now.)

After the war

In November 1918, the "Allies", or the Allied forces (which included Britain and France) won the war, and Germany had to sign the Treaty of Versailles. It was told that it could not have any military aeroplanes at all because it was blamed for starting the war in 1914. Germany therefore had to destroy all its military aeroplanes as a punishment, so until 1933 it had no air force at all.

The years between the two world wars

For many years, Germany pretended to have no army pilots because the German army generals did not like the idea of not having any aeroplanes. At first, pilots would pretend to be training to become airline pilots but this was not much use because they really needed to fly fighters and bombers. The Treaty of Versailles did not allow Germany to have them, so Germany had to ask for help from Russia, its former (and future) enemy.

Secret training

In 1924, German army pilots started to fly Russian fighters and bombers at a secret training school near the Russian city of Lipetsk. These pilots would then become the first ones to fly for the new German air force, the Luftwaffe, when Hitler said that it now existed. The training school closed in 1933.

The new German Airforce

In 1935, Adolf Hitler finally told the world that Germany had a new air force, even if the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from having one. Hitler therefore was defying the Allies, who had won World War I, but they did not do anything about this, because many people still remembered the war in 1914-1918. They were frightened by the idea of war and did not want another one.

Testing the new airforce

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 gave the Germans the opportunity to test its new aircraft, pilots and weapons in battle. Hitler sent many aeroplanes and pilots over to Spain because he wanted to support a man called Franco, who wanted to get rid of the Spanish government. Amongst the aeroplanes were fighters called the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and dive-bombers called the Junkers Ju 87 ‘Stuka”.

Aftermath of the German airforce

The world now remembers one mission that the German air force carried out during the war. German bombers attacked the city of Guernica in the Basque region of northeast Spain, and many civilians (people who were not soldiers) died in the attack. Many governments and people around the world were horrified by the attack. The Artist Pablo Picasso painted a painting called Guernica that has become very famous. People see the painting as a symbol of the horror of war. A copy of the painting hangs in the United Nations building in New York.

World War II

The new airforce in action

The German air force was the strongest in the world when World War II broke out in September 1939. It supported the army on the ground and the aircraft were very effective at defeating all opposition, since the German armed forces, the Wehrmacht, had practised a very new and very fast way to defeat the armies of enemies. This was called Blitzkrieg or Lightning War. The French and the British were prepared for a trench war, it was impossible to fight back.


Within a year, Germany had conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. Britain supported the countries attacked by Germany but found herself on her own by June 1940 when Germany had conquered most of western Europe.



As the war went on, things began to go badly wrong for the Luftwaffe. The leadership of the Luftwaffe began to become quite bad, as generals were arguing about what the air force should be doing and blaming each other when the Luftwaffe was unable to stop the British from attacking German aircraft factories and other industrial targets in large numbers during the night since they had lost many planes when attacking them by day. Not only that, but Germany was suffering a shortage of materials needed to build the aeroplanes. Things got worse for the Germans when the USA joined the war in December 1941, because the Americans brought thousands of bombers to the United Kingdom, and they attacked Germany from there.

Soon, hundreds of American and British bombers were attacking Germany every single day both by day and by night.

Ground fighting

Germany could not hope to win the war on the ground. Since Russia was so huge, the government set up factories hundreds of miles away from the fighting in order to build aeroplanes, tanks, guns and other weapons for the Russian Army. This meant that the Russians would eventually start to push the Germans back west, especially after they defeated the Germans in great battles near the city of Kursk and in the city of Stalingrad itself. The Germans had failed to conquer the city of Leningrad, too.

Final attempt

On January 1 1945 the Luftwaffe launched a desperate plan called operation 'Bodenplatte' (Baseplate), a dawn air attack aimed at multiple Allied air bases in Belgium & Holland. Over 800 German aircraft were rounded up with many veteran pilots retired from combat duty pressesd back into service.


The plan cost more than it was worth, with over 280 German planes lost and 213 irreplaceble pilots killed or captured. As with the fog of war, over 100 German planes were shot down by their own ground fire who were not in on the plan.


Germany became famous as the country, which flew the first jet aeroplanes. In 1944, the Luftwaffe started to use the world’s first jet fighter plane, the Messerschmitt Me-262, even if the engines sometimes did not work properly. Once again, the shortage of the materials needed to build the plane as well as the continuing bombing of Germany meant that not as many Me-262s were built as Germany would have liked. Even so, Germany also built and flew the world's first jet bomber, the Arado Ar 234, the world’s first fighter plane powered by a rocket, the Messerschmitt Me-163, the world’s first "cruise missile", the V-1, and the world’s first ballistic missile, the V-2.

After the war the allies were quite impressed with Germany's technical know how & gleaned all they could from the vast array of Luftwaffe aircraft strewn across Germany.

The Cold War and afterwards

Once again, the Allies prohibited Germany from having an air force. The Russians were in the eastern half of Germany, and this half became East Germany. The British, French and Americans were in the western half, and this half became West Germany. These became countries in their own right, and East Germany became a Russian puppet state. In case a new war started with Russia and East Germany as enemies, the Western Allies finally allowed West Germany to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an organization of western countries which wanted there to be peace throughout the world. NATO allowed West Germany to have an air force because the country was right next to East Germany.


First use

Germany used military aircraft in war for the first time since 1945 when they supported British aircraft in the war in Kosovo in 1999, but many people still believed that Germany should never again go to war because of what had happened in the two world wars.

Other pages

This article is a simplified (and slightly reduced) version based on the one about the Luftwaffe in the (other) English Wikipedia. [1] A list of books about the Luftwaffe and about military aviation in general is there.

Internet sites

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