The Österreichisches Bundesheer (German for the "Austrian federal army") is the name of the Austrian Armed Forces, the military of Austria, a country in central Europe (not Australia, the country-continent).
MissionThe Austrian military has the following main tasks from its constitution:
- to protect the constitutionally established institutions and the population's democratic freedoms
- to maintain order and security inside the country
- to render assistance in the case of natural catastrophes and disasters of exceptional magnitude
Some HistoryBefore Austria became its own separate entity in 1918, it was part of Austria-Hungary so it had the Austrian-Hungarian Army and the Austrian-Hungarian Air Force (oh, and the Austrian-Hungarian Navy because it had land that extended to a body of water back then, so a navy was necessary back then).
Let's just focus on Austrian military history since 1918, shall we?
Here is a bit about the name of the military: The semi-regular military was called the Volkswehr, or "people's defence", from November 8, 1918 to 1921. From 1921 to 1938 and then from May 15, 1955 to the present, it has been called the Bundesheer.
What about from 1938 to 1955? Oh, Austria had the Anschluss, so it had the Wehrmacht to protect it. A lot of ex-Austrian soldiers wound up becoming famous (and in some cases, infamous) as German soldiers during World War 2. In 1945, the Allied countries occupied it after World War II. However, they did say in the Declaration of Moscow in 1943 that Austria would be considered the first victim of Nazi aggression, meaning that it would be considered liberated and independent after the war, rather than an aggressor nation. The occupation ended in 1955 because Austria's Parliament passed a Declaration of Neutrality saying that it would be permanently neutral.
StructureIt is divided into the following branches:
- Land Forces Command (Kommando Landstreitkräfte; KdoLaSK) - the ground troops
- Air Command (Kommando Luftstreitkräfte; KdoLuSK) - the air force
- Mission Support (Kommando Einsatzunterstützung; KdoEU) - should be self-explanatory
- International Missions (Kommando Internationale Einsätze; KdoIE) - you know, like UN peacekeeping
- Command Support (Kommando Führungsunterstützung; KdoFüU) - should be self-explanatory, too
- Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialeinsatzkräfte; KdoSEK) - Oh, come on. This should be obvious.
Is there something missing?
Yes, the Navy?
Oh, ja. Austria has no navy, because it's a landlocked country, so there's no need for its military to have one. It did have a naval squadron from 1958 to 2006, but that squadron went to the Federal Police since then. It definitely didn't have any U-Boats.
That's a big difference between the German and Austrian militaries (if you're into snarking about Germany's warmongering past, that is): Since Austria has no navy, it has no U-Boats. It is definitely not the Wehrmacht.
As for the people in charge, the Constitution says that the Commander-in-Chief of the military is the President of Austria, currently Alexander Van der Bellen since January 26, 2017. In practice, the Chancellor has control of the military through the Minister of National Defence. Currently, the Chancellor is Sebastian Kurz since December 18, 2017, and the Minister of National Defence has been Mario Kunasek as of the same date.
ConscriptionIt's not like a draft lottery that the U.S. had during 'Nam, where they draw numbers and birthdates from drums. Basically, every male Austrian who turns 18 years old has to serve for 6 months on active duty then about 8 years in the reserves. However, if the Army says it's okay, an Austrian man can ask to serve 7 months on active duty and shorten up their reserve obligation, or they can ask to get it done with by doing 8 months of active duty with no reserve obligations. They can also ask to do one voluntary year, in that case they get about quadruple pay and can choose to join the special forces or military school or train other recruits for the second half of the year. If they choose the voluntary year they also have a reserve obligation. Austrians can join earlier than that but no earlier than 16 years old, though. That would be pushing the boundaries of the United Nations' Children in Armed Conflict Protocol and be a major concern of Western countries, especially if Austria signed that protocol.
Women on the other hand are not required to serve, but they may volunteer and, since 1998, are permitted to become professional soldiers. In fact, it seems like every European country that conscripts its male citizens doesn't do the same with its female ones. Austria held a referendum on abolishing conscription and chose to hold on to the system. Note that conscription in modern Europe is basically a leftover from the the days of the Cold War, with only Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Greece and Estonia preserving it as of 2012. And Belarus.
For the time being, males who get the draft notice but are conscientious objectors can serve nine months in civilian service (German Zivildienst) instead, which has been in effect since 1975. It requires that males be complete pacifists and confirm that no matter what, they wouldn't pick up a weapon and kill somebody with it, not even if their girlfriend was getting raped in the woods. If approved, that conscientious objector can serve in one of many different non-government organizations, with the emergency medical services, nursing homes, hospitals, charitable organizations, or in several ministries, so they can still serve their country without having to kill somebody (no worries about the girlfriend in the woods being raped).
Equipment and UniformsThe standard-issue service rifle in the Bundesheer is the Steyr AUG (StG 77 or Sturmgewehr 77), a bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle that was designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG, a firearms manufacturer based in Steyr, Upper Austria, Austria. (The company used to be called Steyr-Daimler-Puch.) Austria adopted the Steyr AUG in 1977, and its military has been using it since along with the...
- Glock 17 (Pistole 80) sidearm - main service pistol
- FN FAL (StG 58) service rifle, used as ceremonial weapon by Austrian Guard Company
- Steyr SSG 69 sniper rifle
- MG 74 machine gun
- FN MAG machine gun (only used on Leopard 2A4 tanks, ULAN tanks and Black Hawk helicopters)
- Browning M2 (üsMG M2) heavy machine gun
- BILL 1 Anti-tank guided weapon (PAL 2000 "Bill")
- Carl Gustav recoilless rifle (PAR 66/79)
- L16 81mm Mortar (mGrW 82)
- Hirtenberger M12-1111 120mm heavy mortar (GrW 86)
Special Forces has its own "special" weapons:
- Steyr TMP submachine gun
- FN P90 submachine gun
- Remington 870 shotgun
- Steyr HS .50 anti-materiel rifle
- Barrett M95 anti-materiel rifle
The Bundesheer also has the following vehicles (some listed with how much of them is in inventory):
- Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks - 114
- SK-105 Kürassier tank destroyers - 48 (+71 in storage)
- ULAN infantry fighting vehicles - 112
- Schützenpanzer A1 armored personnel carriers - 261 (+ 106 in storage)
- Pandur I armored personnel carriers - 71
- Dingo 2 protected vehicles - 35
- Iveco LMV - 150
- Puch G 4x4
- M109 A2/A5Ö self-propelled artillery - 80
- Bergepanzer M 88A1 armoured recovery vehicle
- Bergepanzer Greif armoured recovery vehicle
- M578 Light Recovery Vehicle
- Pionierpanzer A1 armoured engineer vehicle
- Bandvagn 206 tracked articulated, all-terrain carrier
- Unimog - 268
- Steyr 12M18 truck - 1,000
- ÖAF SLKW truck
Did we forget about the Austrian Luftstreitkräfte (Air Force)?
Nein. Austria has air defense systems like the 20 mm Fliegerabwehrkanone 65/68 (FlAK 65/68), Zwillingsflugabwehrkanonen 35 mm (ZFlAK 85), and the Mistral missile.
It also has the following aircraft:
- Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighters - 15
- Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft - 3
- Saab 105 training aircraft - 28
- Pilatus PC-6B Porter transport aircraft - 13
- Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer training aircraft - 16
- Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopters - 9
- Bell OH-58 Kiowa Reconnaissance helicopters - 11
- Agusta Bell 212 Twin Huey transport helicopters - 23
- Alouette helicopters - 24
It was notorious for having the Swedish SAAB Draken jet fighter in service from roughly 1987 to 2005 — "notorious" because it was old. The Austrian State Treaty of 1955 said the Air Force couldn't have any air-to-air missiles (which gave the Austrian version of the Draken the dubious distinction of being the last fighter aircraft with an all-gun air-to-air armament), but dropped that restriction in 1993 because of the Yugoslavian Wars violating their airspace. In 2005, the country got itself some nice modern Eurofighters. (It has been a joke that they couldn't start, turn around, and land again without violating foreign airspace, but it's not actually true.)
Uniforms and Ranks
UniformsThe service uniform, which would be the "cammies", is olive drab. The dress uniform, which would be like a business suit, is grey. For formal occasions, such as dinners and whatnot, there is a white uniform. The air force uniform is just alike but has wings worn on the right jacket breastgold for officers and silver for enlisted personnel.
Branches of service are identified by beret colors:
- scarlet - honour Guard
- green - infantry
- black - armor
- cherry - air force
- dark blue - quartermaster
Insignia of rank are worn on the jacket lapel of the dress uniform (silver stars on a green or gold shield) and on the epaulets of the field uniform (white, silver or gold stars on a olive drab field).
RanksHere's a breakdown of the rank of officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted (NATO Codes are in brackets):
- Commissioned Officers (Offiziere):
- General (Gen) - "General" [OF-9]
- Generalleutnant (GenLt) - "Lieutenant General" [OF-8]
- Generalmajor (GenMjr) - "Major General" [OF-7]
- Brigadier (Bgdr) - "Brigadier General" [OF-6]
- Oberst (Obst) - "Colonel" [OF-5]
- Oberstleutnant (Obstlt) - "Lieutenant Colonel" [OF-4]
- Major (Mjr) - "Major" [OF-3]
- Hauptmann (Hptm) - "Captain" [OF-2]
- Oberleutnant (Olt) - "First Lieutenant" [OF-1]
- Leutnant (Lt) - "Second Lieutenant" [OF-1]
- Fähnrich (Fhr) - "Officer Cadet" [OF-D]
- Non-Commissioned Officers (Unteroffiziere):
- Vizeleutnant (Vzlt) - "Warrant Officer I" [OR-9]
- Offiziersstellvertreter (OStv) - "Warrant Officer II" [OR-9]
- Oberstabswachtmeister (OStWm) - "Warrant Officer III" [OR-8]
- Stabswachtmeister (StWm) - "Staff Sergeant" [OR-7]
- Oberwachtmeister (OWm) - "Master Sergeant" [OR-6]
- Wachtmeister (Wm) - "Sergeant" [OR-5]
- Enlisted With Rank (Chargen):
- Zugsführer (Zgf) - "Master Corporal" [OR-4]
- Korporal (Kpl) - "Corporal" [OR-3]
- Gefreiter (Gfr) - "Lance Corporal" [OR-2]
- Enlisted Without Rank (Rekrut):
- Rekrut (Rekr) - "Private" [OR-1]
A Few Interesting Facts:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger served in 1965 to do the one-year of mandatory service required at the time of all Austrian adult men. He did go AWOL during basic training to participate in the Junior Mr. Europe contest, earning a week in the brig. (Jesse Ventura once said on Larry King Live that he doesn't support Ahnold running for U.S. President, even if he could legally run with the removal or repeal of the natural-born citizen requirement for the office. Why? Because when Arnold served, he had to take an oath of allegiance to Austria. Read here for the transcript.)
- The late New Wave musician Falco (real name: Johann "Hans" Hölzel) did an 8-month stint at the age of 17. This would've been around 1974 or so.
- Adolf Hitler...did not serve in this military (well, the Austrian-Hungarian one). It was rumored that he failed the physical for it because he didn't want to serve in an ethnically-mixed army. We all know the rest, don't we?
- There has also been some Irish folks who have served in this military in the past. That Other Wiki has some of their names.