The Bundeswehr (lit. Federal Defence Force) is the military of West and later unified Germany. It was founded in 1955 on the initiative of the Western Allies, despite concerns about rearming Germany both in- and outside the country. The concerns about the neighbours seemed more pressing at the time.
At the height of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr was the second largest NATO military, with nearly half a million people under arms and a heavy focus on mechanized combat. Like their East German counterpart, they spent most of their time waiting for World War III and, occasionally, doing some humanitarian relief.
Following the reunification, the Bundeswehr has undergone an extensive reform process, integrating two different, conventional militaries into a single, high-tech international crisis intervention force. Engaged in a few UN, EU and NATO missions around the globe since the early Nineties, it has also undergone a transformation from conscript to professional army, with steadily declining recruitment rates and, finally, a moratorium on conscription in 2011.
The Bundeswehr is not especially popular with the German public. While other Forces around the globe might be the pride of their countries, the armed forces of Germany are rather seen as a necessary evil by most and as an unnecessary evil by quite a few. In Germany and its Medias, they (excluding fallen or traumatized soldiers) are usually portrayed as the Butt-Monkey and usually portrayed as stupid and badly equipped. The Bundeswehr complains regularly about "the lack of support at home" for the soldiers in Afghanistan and other places. This basically means, that people, as mentioned above, pretty much disrespect the Bundeswehr.
Consequently, it doesn't appear in German and other media very often; and its lack of experience in public relations shows quite painfully in the recruitment ads.
Not the Wehrmacht, god dammit!
While many former Wehrmacht members joined the Bundeswehr after its conception, it does not see itself as a continuation or replacement of it. Its tradition is, instead, based on the Prussian military reformers of the early 19th century and the German military resistance against Adolf Hitler. Ideally, every soldier is supposed to be a model citizen in uniform, not a soldier separated from civilian life, in reality, members of the Bundeswehr are as politically diverse as the rest of the country, with two notable exceptions: The far left, which wouldn't join if they could, and the far right, which would join but isn't allowed to. While the conscription still existed, admitting right-wing political views was one of the best ways to prevent being drafted; today, even if some manage to enlist, being caught expressing those views is the fastest way to be dishonourably discharged.
As in most Western militaries, German soldiers are obliged to refuse criminal orders and have the right to refuse any order that might violate human rights or dignity. This is heavily emphasized in basic training and might have something to do with historical reasons.
We are not efficient! Command Structure & Branches of the Bundeswehr
During peacetime, command of the Bundeswehr falls to the Bundesverteidigungsminister (secretary of defence), as of 2014, that is Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the position. As a rule, German secretaries of defence do not remain in office for very long, it is plagued with personal and administrative scandals ranging from the absurd to the very serious.
If a state of war is declared (either by the parliament or, in very, very dire circumstances, the Joint Committee), the chancellor takes command of Germany's armed forces.
The Bundeswehr is split into five branches plus a civilian support structure:
We are not THAT Heer - the Heer
The Heer (Army) is the largest part of Germany's armed forces. At the height of the cold war, it fielded 12 active divisions (150k+ combat troops, 300k+ total personnel); most of them armoured or mechanized infantry. Nowadays, it has been shrunk massively (to 68k total personnel) and is in the middle of transforming into something, although most politicians and top-level officers are not exactly sure what the result will be. It's very zen. Right now it consists of five divisions:
- 1st Armoured Division
- Rapid Forces Division, formerly known as Special Forces Division: This will soon include all army aviation, airmobile and airborne units, as well as the Special Forces Command, which is an independent unit at brigade strength.
- Airmobile Operations Division: Is in the process of being dissolved and integrated into the Rapid Forces Division and the future 10. Armoured.
- Division South, soon to be known as 10. Armoured.
- 10th Armoured Division: Is in the process of being dissolved, the name and most of the units will go to Division South.
Additionally, the Heer provides units for the German-French Brigade, the German-Dutch corps, and the Multi-National Corps North-East. However, none of the German land forces have a permanent assignment within the NATO command structure. The Heer is subdivided into eleven different troop branches, distinguishable by the combination of beret and branch colour, visible at the lapels and beneath the rank insignia. Combat troops wear black (armour), green (infantry both mechanized and not) or dark red (airborne, special forces) berets; except for the Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops), who wear mountain caps. Light red and two kinds of blue berets are worn by support troops.
The Heer was the second part of the Bundeswehr to take part in actual combat operations, learning that Afghanistan has not a lot in common with Central Europe, and was the last to be deployed beyond the borders.
We are not THAT Luftwaffe - the Luftwaffe
The Luftwaffe (lit. Air Arm) is the German Air Force. It has roughly 30k active personnel and five combat squadrons for the usual stuff; its other tasks include surface-to-air defence, tactical and VIP transport and air base security.
The Luftwaffe is purely tactical air force, with fighters and fighter-bombers, but no strategic bombing capabilities. In other words, it's all Blitz, but no Thunder, because no one thought it would be a good idea to give Germany too many offensive abilities. In case of World War 3, however, it would have access to Peace Through Superior Firepower via nuclear sharing.
During the Kosovo war, the Luftwaffe became the first branch to see actual combat, although they already supported earlier NATO operations in former Yugoslavia.
We are not the Kriegsmarine - the Marine
Germany's Navy. This cute little branch (only 16k people) was actually the first part of the Bundeswehr to be deployed abroad, clearing mines in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Despite that, is has not seen any combat yet, apart from capturing some pirates. The Marine is a pure frigate navy; the last destroyers (Rommel, Mölders and Lütjens) were decommissioned at the turn of the millennium. It consists of two operational flotillas, a naval aviation command and a few training and support facilities.
After securing the Baltic and North Sea isn't a top priority anymore, its mission has shifted to peacekeeping, with a touch of littoral warfare. There is no such thing as naval infantry (only a sea service battalion including special forces, raised 2014); for the same reason as the Luftwaffe has no strategic bombers.
For some reason they still have an honest to god Sailing ship in their arsenal (the Gorch Fock) which serves training purposes nobody is exactly sure about.note This got widespread attention during one of the more abstruse scandals involving - naturally - the resignation of the Defense Minister (over something else, but this was a contributing factor).
We are confused - the joint support and the joint medical service
The Streitkräftebasis (Joint Support Service) is a branch by itself - the second largest, in fact, but without its own uniform. It is, basically, the Bundeswehr's tail and responsible for logistics, administration, command, intelligence, military police, PsyOps, EOD, training, education (the Bundeswehr runs two universities), sports, music and dog handling.
The Zentrale Sanitätsdienst (joint medical service), on the other hand, is not a branch by itself, but the centralized authority for all things medical. It operates the Bundeswehr hospitals and the field hospital regiments, but not the specialized facilities for diving and aviation medicine.
We are not even the Bundeswehr - the Bundespolizei
The Bundespolizei (Federal Police, formerly know as Bundesgrenzschutz or Federal Border Guard) is not part of the German military, although it was founded as a somewhat paramilitary organization before West Germany was allowed to re-arm. It is primarily concerned with securing borders, transport infrastructure and diplomats. Its secondary task is to support the state police agencies when needed.
It is mostly known, however, as the home of GSG-9, Germany's elite counter-terrorism unit. Formed in response to the fiasco at the Munich Olympics in 1972, where Bundeswehr was not allowed to act inside Germany and the Bavarian state police had no clue how to deal with the situation, the GSG-9 rose to fame by freeing all 86 hostages from a hijacked Lufthansa plane in Somalia without any losses. GSG-9 originally stood for Grenzschutzgruppe (border guard group) 9; nowadays and without border guard groups, it stands for nothing except their reputation.
We would make the Wehrmacht blush! - the Bundeswehr Administration
Part of the Ministry of Defence, the Bundeswehr administration is responsible for equipment procurement, part of the logistics, base management (and often security as well) and a lot of paper pushing. Its upper echelons are generally regarded as the least efficient government agency in the history of ever; its lower end - the local base administrations - are usually the one thing even the dumbest recruit can look down to.
We have no ways of making you talk - Bundeswehr equipment
The following list includes most combat equipment in active service, as well as selected items that were decommissioned after 2000. Since most of the man-portable weapons are extensively covered under Cool Guns; this Useful Note focusses on which branch they are used at and the Bundeswehr peculiarities in fielding them.
And for those who are wondering what the hell an "Enok" is, German combat vehicles are traditionally named after land predators, with felines for tracked and canines for wheeled vehicles. Since the cool ones like Tiger and Panther were taken by someone else, the namesakes started to get a little obscure lately.
- P1 Now mostly found in the hands of the civilian security personnel, the P1 is the old service pistol, with "old" meaning that some of them have "P38" stamped on their slides. Whatever that means.
- It is also know as 7/4 ("Seven warning shots and four well-aimed throws.") for its 7-round magazine and its four components and ...sub-par accuracy.
- P7 The military version of the Heckler & Koch PSP and service weapon of the military police.
- P8 and P12 Different versions of the Heckler & Koch USP. The P8 (9 mm) is the standard sidearm of the Bundeswehr, while the P12 (.45 ACP) is only in use with the special forces.
- P11 This strange looking gun is only used by the Kampfschwimmer (commando frogmen). It is capable of firing five 4-inch steel darts underwater before it has to be returned to Heckler & Koch for reloading.
- MP2A1 The venerable Uzi, fielded back in 1959 and still an use, mostly as a weapon for tank and APC crews.
- MP5 Only used by the special forces and the military police.
- MP7 Heckler & Koch's attempt to buy into the P90 market, supposed to put very small holes (4,6 mm) into very thick armour. Widely fielded among officers and vehicle crews, it is very popular due to its small size and the fun it provides at the shooting ranges.
Battle Rifles and Assault Rifles
- G3 Supposed to be decommissioned in the early Naughties, but always finding a way back into the ranks, mostly as a Designated Marksmen Rifle (the G3A3ZF). Contrasting most of the other weapons in this list, it has proven itself highly popular on the range and in combat.
- G11 This unusual gun was supposed to be the G3's successor and was the worlds' first assault rifle with caseless ammunition. While the technical issues were mostly solved, it was too expensive to procure after the unification, and less than a thousand were actually fielded. They are still mothballed in a few places; whether there is any ammunition for them is another question.
- G36 Staying true to the Bundeswehr concept of fielding new weapon standards 25 years after the Americans did it, the G36 became the new assault rifle during the late Nineties. Frowned upon due to its plastic aesthetics, but popular to carry and to shoot at the range. Suffers from two main problems: It fires a bullet designed against body armour and for the typical combat distances in the forests and villages of Germany, which are in short supply over at the Hindukush; and having a barrel that loses a ridiculous amount of accuracy after firing more than 90 rounds. For now, the ministry of defence blames an ammunition factory rather than the plastic desperately trying to hold a hot barrel; and kindly asks the troops to please a) not fire the gun that much and b) pause the firefights to give it time to cool down.
- AK-74 Inherited from the NVA of East Germany, a small number of AK-74s are still in use for Op For training scenarios, and a surprisingly large number hangs at the walls of the base clubs for enlisted men and NCOs.
Designated Marksmen and Sniper Rifles
- G22, G23, G24 and G25 Different versions of the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare rifle. The G22 is an unmodified AWM-F that was bought because a sniper rifle was desperately needed in Afghanistan; it is now being replaced by the modified G23. The G24 is an unmodified AW50 that was bought because an anti-material sniper rifle was desperately needed in Afghanistan; it is now being replaced by the modified G82.The G25 AWC is a suppressed special forces sniper rifle.
- G27 and G28 Different versions of the HK417. The G27 is an unmodified HK417 that was bought because a Designated Marksmen Rifle was desperately needed in Afghanistan; it is now being replaced by the G28, a modified HK MR308.
- G82 A surprisingly unmodified Barrett M82 anti-materiel rifle.
- MG3 Simply put, an updated MG42 (which was found in the ruins left by a previous civilization) chambered in 7.62 NATO. In use on nearly every single wheeled Bundeswehr vehicle as an anti-air gun, as a coaxial gun on nearly everything that has a turret, and as a door gun on every helicopter that has doors. It still takes the Squad Automatic Weapon role in the kleine Kampfgemeinschaft from time to time.
- MG4 The new squad automatic weapon, part of the Infanterist der Zukunft (Infantryman of the Future) project.
- G8 A Heckler & Koch G21, only in use with special forces.
Shoulder Launched Weapons
- Panzerfaust 3 Disposable, recoilless anti-tank weapon, nowadays available with a number of different warheads.
- Panzerfaust RGW 90 Smaller calibre version of the Panzerfaust 3 for MOUT.
- MILAN Old anti-tank guided missile, slowly being phased out of the Bundeswehr and into the hands of rebels around the world.
- Spike Officially known as the light multi-role guided missile system, it is the new standard ATGM.
- Fliegerfaust 1 Ost Phased out in 2012. Fliegerfaust (flyer fist), similar to a Panzerfaust (tank fist), is the Bundeswehr term for MANPADS. The Fliegerfaust 1 Ost is nothing else than the old SA-7 Grail, kept in service after the reunification on the assumption that every army in the world flies 40 year old helicopters without flare launchers.
- Fliegerfaust 2 German version of the Stinger MANPADS.
- AG36 40mm grenade launcher. Can be mounted under the barrel of the G36 family and be used as a stand-alone weapon.
- Handflammpatrone A single-shot weapon that looks like a shotgun, but fires a red phosphorus round at up to 90 meters. Phased out in 2001, a sad day for everyone who ever saw one used.
- KM2000 Standard Bundeswehr fighting knife with a tanto blade, quite unique in that regard and the only Bundeswehr weapon legally available for civilians with 135 Euros to spare.
- KTM 400 LS-E Military aka Krad. A motorcycle in use by dispatch riders and the Military Police.
- Dingo Tough little patrol and reconnaissance vehicle.
- Duro aka Yak. A Duro is not an animal, surprisingly, but the acronym for "durable - robust".
- Eagle Small wheeled transport from the armoured command and function vehicles project.
- Mungo Wheeled multi-purpose vehicle in use with the special forces division and known for rolling over.
- Wolf/Enok/Serval All of them military versions of the Mercedes Benz G, different in their armour and mine protection scheme.
And, of course, a plethora of Trucks and other standard support vehicles both light and small, provided by every German car company in existence. There's a saying: If you want to double the price of a truck, give it an olive paint job.
- Wiesel Listed here, although it fits every land vehicle category. Officially designated as an Armoured Weapons Carrier, it sets the standard for "Light" in "Light Tank" by virtue of being smaller than most European cars. Originally developed for the airborne troops, it is extremely mobile, allowing it to go where the Leopards can't and being of the few tracked fighting vehicles that can be transported inside transport helicopters. There are a lot different variants, both prototype and fielded, from mortar to anti-air and anti-armour and ambulance.
- M-109 Old 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Phased out in 2007.
- PzH2000 The new 155mm self-propelled howitzer. In use by Dutch and German forces in Afghanistan, where it gained the name "Long Arm of the ISAF". Can fire ten rounds in a minute and, with M982 Excalibur guided munition, accurately hit a target the size of a sedan from over 40 kilometers away.
- MARS The German name for the M270 MLRS.
- Skorpion M113-based vehicle designed to throw 600 anti-tank mines across the battlefield, laying a 50- by 1500-meter minefield in five minutes. Yes, really, a perfect way to leave a quick and nasty surprise in the path of advancing Soviet armored columns.
- Gepard Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. Usually deployed with tank and mechanized infantry brigades, it was suddenly phased out in 2010 for budgetary reasons. Mounting twin 35mm guns on a Leopard 1 chassis, it is considered one of the best SPAAGs ever made and was extremely popular with the troops.
- Roland Anti-air missile system, mounted on either on a Marder chassis or on trucks. Phased out in 2005.
- MIM 104 Patriot Classic NATO self-defence system.
- Boxer New modular wheeled armoured transport with exchangeable mission module. Can be configured as an APC, an IFV, an ambulance, a C2-vehicle, a pioneer vehicle and a transport. Is already deployed to Afghanistan and, surprisingly, seems to work quite well.
- Fennek Light armoured reconnaissance vehicle. Co-developed with the Netherlands. One of the few programs that originated from a cold war mindset but actually works quite well in other forms of conflict.
- Fuchs Wheeled armoured personnel carrier. Exists in a wide range of variants, including new, mine- and IED-resistant versions, but is most famous for the NBC reconnaissance model, which is also used by US and British troops. Pronounced to rhyme with books.
- Jaguar Tracked tank destroyer, armed with HOT missiles. Phased out in 2005.
- M113 Well, everyone got those, right?
- Marder Quite conventional tracked IFV in use with the mechanized infantry. Is slowly being phased out.
- Luchs Reconnaissance armoured fighting vehicle. It was the predecessor of the Fennek and the former pride of the armoured recon troops. Based on the Sd.Kfz 231 and 234 of something called the Wehrmacht. Being eerily quite when running, it is one of the few AFV in the world that can sneak up on you. it was phased out because it offered no resistance against mines and roadside IEDs.
- Puma Successor to the Marder with modular armour, remote controlled turret, the somewhat dubious concept of a co-axial 5.56mm machine gun and the heftiest price tag of all IFVs in service worldwide, despite not being developed by Heckler & Koch. Supposed to be rapidly deployable, but the logistics involved are comparable to rapidly deploying a main battle tank.
- Leopard 1 The old workhorse of the Bundeswehr, well loved by the troops, but its best days were long past when it was phased out in 2003. Most of the German versions were scrapped or used for target practice; but the export versions are still in use with various armies around the world.
- Leopard 2 The pride of the army, which, for some reason, is very dedicated to tank warfare. Like the M1 Abrams, the Leo Zwo is descended from the aborted MBT-70 project and usually listed among the best main battle tanks of the world. Newer versions are optimized for mine-resistance and urban operations and have been proven to be worth their money by the Canadian army. Living proof that the German military has some traditions it is very, very good at.
- Eurofighter Typhoon Fourth generation multi-role combat aircraft, co-developed with the UK, Spain and Italy. (France was originally supposed to be part of the project, but they left and finished a prettier and better plane, ten years earlier, all by themselves.) Theoretically a very, very capable fighter and fighter-bomber, it will be even better once all electronics and weapons systems are finished and integrated. Right now (2014), it is kind of a late bloomer, still suffering from nursing problems after 28 years of development.
- Panavia Tornado IDS Third generation combat aircraft, co-developed with the UK and Italy. Famed for the British low-level attacks on Iraqi airfields in 1991. Luftwaffe Tornadoes fired the first German shots in anger in history during Operation Allied Force, suppressing enemy air defences. The Luftwaffe (and until 2006, the naval aviation arm of the Luftwaffe) uses three different versions for strike, SEAD and reconnaissance.
- F4F Phantom The former workhorse of the Luftwaffe, used as a fighter and fighter bomber. Upgraded versions with old F-18 radars and modern air-to-air missiles flew until 2013. German Phantoms were bought between 1973 and 1975, one year before the F-15 entered US service. They replaced the infamous widow maker F-104 Starfighter, bought in 1961, the year Phantoms entered US service.
- MiG-29 Inherited from the NVA, 24 of those were in service between 1990 and 2004, starring in dissimilar air combat training, scaring western air-to-air missile developers and shaming the Phantom crews. They have been sold to Poland (for one Euro per plane) in 2004.
- P3 Orion The new naval reconnaissance and anti-submarine platform. German Orions were bought in 2006, a few years before the P-8 entered US service and replacing an airframe that was actually younger than itself.
- Breguet Atlantic Multi-national naval reconnaissance and anti-submarine platform. It was in service for over 40 years before being replaced by the Orion, and helped a lot during SAR missions in the North Sea and Baltic.
- A400M The future tactical airlifter, already in use by the French. Capable, but like all EADS products these days, plagued with development problems.
- C160D Transall Small (about 90 troops or 16 tons of cargo) tactical transport with over 50 years of service history. Well loved and heavily improved these days.
- A310 MRTT The multi-role tanker transport is mostly known neither for aerial refuelling nor for transporting, but for being on of the best rapidly deployable MEDEVAC platforms in the world, containing what is, in essence, a small high-end hospital.
As well as a number of training and other, boring transport aircraft.
- Bo-105 The light multi-purpose helicopter of the army. Being mostly replaced by newer models with a civilian origin, it was even used as an anti-tank helicopter (called PAH 1) for a while.
- CH-53G Formerly the Heer's workhorse, now in the hands of the Luftwaffe. Lifts everything, everywhere.
- NH-90 Combined platform intended to serve as both the new Frigate helicopter and the new tactical transport for the army. Not solely an EADS project, but still having an astonishing number of design flaws in the tactical transport role, including a lack of ground clearance, a weak loading ramp, a floor that gets damaged by combat boots, not enough room for both infantry and a door gunner and not enough space for heavier infantry equipment.
- UH-1D Acually not a UH-1D, but a UH-1H. License built Hueys in use for anything Hueys are used for except gunship roles.
- UH Tiger Another (non-operational) EADS product and Germany's first real attack helicopter, famous for starring in Film/Goldeneye. Unlike the French version, the German Tigers do not carry a gun turret, but both versions are plagued by the same wiring troubles.
- Sea Lynx The standard anti-submarine helicopter of German frigates.
- Sea King Westland version of the Sikorsky S-61, the standard SAR and light multi-purpose helicopter of the naval aviation.
The Bundeswehr also operates a number of UAVs (but no UCAVs yet).
All modern German ships have been designed and built locally, although the weaponry is mostly American. Their design is based around a modular concept and quite popular around the world. Typically classified as frigates, both the F 123 and the F 124 are more or less destroyers in all but name and called frigates for the less martial sound. Larger vessels are named for states, cities and geographical features, while everything else only gets numbers.
- Lütjens (Z103)-class destroyers Modified Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyed and the only ships named after some guys who fought in some war with a certain military the Bundeswehr is most certainly not affiliated with in any way whatsoever. Phased out during the turn of the century and well loved by the crews.
- Bremen (F 122)-class frigates Modified Dutch Kortenaer class frigates, built as anti-submarine escorts for Atlantic convoys in case the cold war turned hot. They participate in nearly every naval operation and are, despite being slowly phased out, the quintessential Marine ship.
- Brandenburg (F 123)-class frigates Newer general purpose frigates, with a focus on anti-submarine warfare.
- Sachsen (F 124) class frigates Replacing the Lütjens class. Multi-role frigate with an anti-air emphasis and the first German ship with a phased-array radar. Less known for the fact that only two combat loads of anti-air missiles was purchased.
- Baden-Württemberg (F 125)-class frigates Coming up soon to replace the last F 122s. They are designed for littoral and asymmetric warfare, as well as very long endurance (up to two years, with rotating crews).
- Braunschweig (K130)-class Corvettes Designed as a replacement for the numerous fast attack craft, with better multi-role capabilities. Officially boats rather than ships, they have become dockyard queens, with a number of serious troubles like broken gears and an air-conditioning system that is highly attractive to moulds.
- Gepard (143a)-class fast attack craft The last of a long line of Exocet-equipped attack craft, designed for taking on Soviet landing forces in the Baltic sea. Despite that, they are happily patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean Sea because the new corvettes can't.
- U13-class Submarines (Type 206) Very small (for some reason, Germany wasn't allowed submarines larger than 1,000 tons for a while) conventional submarines for coastal warfare. Not in service any more, they were very stealthy for their time and popular among the crews for their regular training cruises to the Caribbean.
- U31-class Submarines (Type 212) Modern, air-independent (by means of hydrogen fuel cells) conventional attack submarine. Still small enough to pass the most dangerous part of the Baltic Sea without surfacing, they can launch torpedoes, mines, supercavitating torpedoes and lightweight multi-role missiles from their tubes. Future models are supposed to have a retractable mast that can launch small UAVs and fire an auto cannon while dived. Another proof that the German military has some traditions it is very, very good at.
- Mine-clearing and mine-laying vessels Listed here because they are the one thing the Marine has an extremely high reputation for internationally. Not as large a force as they once were, the German minesweepers were good enough that the US Navy asked for their help in clearing the Persian Gulf back in 1991.
- Berlin-class operational combat support vessel The largest ships in the inventory, used to support the combat vessels in foreign waters with everything they need.
- Gorch Fock One of the few sail training ships left in the world navies, among her sisters is the ex-German Eagle of the United States Coast Guard. Every officer candidate in the Marine has to sail on her as a cadet to learn basic seamanship. Sometimes called Germany's Ambassador, the tall ship does regular cruises to ports all around the world.
There is also the usual collection of tenders, transports, tankers, tugboats, as well as oil recovery ships.
We are not wacky! - Bundeswehr culture
The Bundeswehr magically appeared apropos of nothing in 1955, very definitely with absolutely no input whatsoever from unrepentant ex-Nazi war criminals mysteriously released early from prison for 'good behaviour' just in time for the organisation's founding like Erich von Manstein. The Bundeswehr went on to miraculously discover several hundred thousand experienced military personnel who had never helped war-mongering genocidal racists try to conquer Europe in any capacity. The Bundeswehr then prepared for an operation that didn't come - a massive Warsaw Pact mobile offensive on German soil, with the USA being expected to toss tactical nukes like candy to stop them. Learning a lot of lessons from some sort of vague skirmish or other fought in the general area against that sort of thing a while ago, but who's really keeping track 'ay, the Bundeswehr's tactical efficiency was actually well-regarded by the Western allies - if not by the Bundeswehr or the German public itself.
During the early years of the Bundeswehr (Adenauer was still chancellor), perhaps the biggest political scandal in post-war German history broke when an article in DER SPIEGEL under the (now oft alluded to) title "bedingt abwehrbereit"note suggested that there were major problems with the Bundeswehr should war ever happen. Then minister of defense Franz Josef Strauß, a conservative of Bavaria and something of a larger than life figure accused the writer of the article of publishing classified documents and military secrets and a police raid was ordered and Rudolf Augstein (editor in chief of DER SPIEGEL) went to jail. While Adenauer initially protected Strauß from the ensuing public outcry and Strauß even spoke about an "abyss of treason" note , ultimately Adenauer had to backpedal, Strauß had to resign - naturally, he was secretary of defense after all - and Augstein was released from prison. Strauß' political career seemed to be essentially dead by that point, but he eventually got back into the good graces of at least some Germans by his tenure as minister of the economy 1966-69 and eventually ran for chancellor (and lost in one of the nastiest political campaigns in post war German history) in 1980.
Suddenly finding itself with a shrinking budget, a lot of Warsaw Pact hardware, no mission and even less regard by the population in 1990, it slowly changed its operational focus to out-of-area deployments, taking part in United Nations, NATO and European Union military operations in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans. The Marine had a leading role there, mostly because it had the most experience in multi-national operations and because it was seen as a safe option by polticians and the public alike. In later years, the Luftwaffe took part in the aerial campaign against Serbia during the Kosovo War and, finally getting boots on the ground, the Bundeswehr thought it would be a good idea to take on Afghanistan, because it is way more capable than Alexander the Great, the British Empire or the Soviet Union.
Both deployments remain highly controversial to this day, and, taking a hint from all those anti-war demonstrations, former Chancellor Gerhardt Schröder decided against topping that up with invading Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Navy is cruising around the Horn of Africa, bitching that they have no idea how to deal with pirates, and the new Secretary of Defence has plans of establishing part-time career opportunities and more Kindergartens at military bases, because being a soldier is a job like any other.
Still owning the fourth largest military in the European Union, at least on paper, Germany spends only 1.3 percent of its GDP on it, which says a lot about Germany's GDP and its eagerness to go on military adventures. Of the roughly 180k people under arms, about 8k are really able to be deployed in combat operations - which is less than the upper mandate limits for all running operations.
Anytime you now hear about the Bundeswehr in non-fictional German Media today, it is almost always about a scandal of theirs, whether it's about their outdated weapons, that time they paid way too much for an outdated drone, that time they didn't had Wi-Fi in their Kasernen or that time they failed a missile test and set fire to an entire county in Lower-Saxony.
Training & Combat Philosophy
Bundeswehr basic training is focussed on living and fighting as a kleine Kampfgemeinschaft (small fighting community), usually squad sized, with the intention of forming strong bonds among the troops. Recruit squads are put under the care of a low-ranking NCO or officer candidate, taking the role of a reasonable older brother (or sister) put in charge of their unruly siblings. The part of the stern parents is usually taken by the platoon leaders and the senior company NCO.
During basic, recruits have to learn a number of skills that are required for all troops of all services, no matter if they are naval officer candidates or short-term enlisted army grunts. (It's almost as if the Bundeswehr had learned a lesson about having no fuel for its tanks, ships and planes somewhere in the past.) That skillset includes the aforementioned living and fighting as an infantry squad, anti-tank warfare, NBC-protection plus a heavy emphasis on first aid. And shooting, of course. Additionally, there is watch, guard and security training; in earlier times because the Bundeswehr used to protect its own facilities instead of using civilian guards; nowadays because that stuff comes handy when you're manning a checkpoint somewhere in the Balkans.
The Bundeswehr rank structure is roughly the same as everywhere in the NATO, for a detailed view, see Common Ranks. (That Wehrmacht thing mentioned there had, strangely enough, the same ranks.) German soldiers normally address each other either by rank and last name - Gefreiter Schmidt! (normally from above, with exceptions in tightly knit units) or by honorific and rank - Herr Major! (works both ways, but usually from below). There is no general honorific, especially not "Sir!", something every recruit who grew up watching too many American movies learns quite fast.
Everyone who is at least nearly 18 years old (and physically and mentally able) can join the Bundeswehr, the different options are:
- Voluntary conscription. For those interested in how life was for the typical 18-year-old German male before The Great Politics Mess-Up. The typical duration is between 6 and 23 months.
- Temporary-career volunteer. The usual option; duration depends on the career choice, the minimum for enlistees is two years (with a maximum of 15), for medical officers, the minimum is 17 years. NCOs and regular officers cover everything between.
- Professional soldier: Not available for enlisted personnel, and usually not available from the beginning - most soldiers start out as temporary volunteers and switch to soldier for life later. Service maximum is at 45 years of age for pilots, 55 for nearly everyone else and 65 for medical officers.
The availability of the different careers depends on the level of education. After leaving the service, every German soldier becomes a reservist (and can re-join the active service until a certain age), although reservist duty is nearly entirely voluntary. The exact number of available reservists varies well above 100k but most of them are replacement, not reinforcement troops. Since 2001, all career paths are available for women, before that, only the medical branch was open to them.
The Bundeswehr in fiction
- Red Storm Rising. Well, the Warsaw Pact does invade West Germany. They kick some serious ass.
- In Caludron, a novel by Red Storm Rising co-author Larry Bond, the Bundeswehr post-reunification are one of two antagonists in a 20 Minutes into the Future setting where they along with French army form the military arm of EurCom. They're shown to be largely sympathetic and an effective, professional military, contrasting heavily with the staggeringly incompetent French. Viewpoint character Wilhelm Von Seelow is from the former East Germany and served in the NVA, which gets him a lot of scorn from his West German contemporaries, who aren't particularly fond of former East Germans in the new military.
- Featured several places in John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata. The German military as a whole, from World War II to 20 Minutes into the Future, gets special attention from Tom Kratman, a co-writer in the series.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 features German Tank Destroyers on the Allied side, and at least one mission requires you to cross from Germany into Poland to destroy some Soviet nukes. Skirmish battles allow you to fight as Germany, granting you the Tank Destroyer.
- The Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality featured the Bundeswehr as a playable faction in version 0.95.
- The Battlefield 2 mod Point of Existence Two was initially about the Bundeswehr vs. the Ukrainian army, but added the USMC later on.
- Michael Bay wanted to have Bundeswehr troops appear as part of NEST in the Transformers sequel. The Bundeswehr was supposedly eager to do it too, but the German government shot down the idea.
- Damn you, Berlin!
- The Knight Templar villain Herr Starr in Preacher is a former member of GSG 9, although by the time he appears in the story he's a member of a completely unrelated organization.
- ARMA 2: Operation Arrowhead featured the Bundeswehr operating in the fictional Afghanistan-like Takistan, in a likely parallel to its real-world operations in Afghanistan. Turns out that it's also a thank you to German fans who supported ARMA 2. Same goes for the Czech fans, with Czech military units appearing in-game.
- World in Conflict. The NATO faction features quite a few Bundeswehr units, from Leopard 2 tanks to Tornado jets.
- In Red Army the Bundeswehr are the principle adversary the Reds have to overcome. The Soviets manage to thrash them.
- In one Episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Section 9 assists German military intelligence in capturing an international terrorist in Berlin. While the Germans are wearing contemporary Bundeswehr uniforms, the Federal Police would actually handle such operations. But being a Crapsack World, there might have been some considerable changes to the German constitution.
- The Bundeswehr gets brief but moving mention in World War Z.
- Bundeswehr forces are present in the wargame People's General.
- In a surprising turn of events, in Modern Warfare 3 the Americans fight alongside the modern German military. This is the first time in the Call of Duty series that Germans are allies instead of enemies, against Russia no less, which is now the opposing side.
- The German soldiers themselves aren't seen and only appear in one segment where a German tank column attacks Russian soldiers in Berlin. Gratuitous German is spoken without translation or subtitles. Unfortunately, their involvement ends in about 2 minutes because the Russians literally decide to drop a building on them.
- The German movie Kein Bund fürs Leben (also known by the comparatively unimaginative international title Military Academy) takes a humorous look into the lives of some average Bundeswehr soldiers (during the time when conscription was still in action). Also many War Tropes get spoofed when American soldiers from a nearby base come for a visit for a competitive manoeuvre exercise.
- The Bundeswehr is a playable NATO country in all installments of the Wargame series: European Escalation, Air-Land Battle, and Red Dragon.
- GSG-9 appears as a counter-terrorist faction in every Counter-Strike game.
- The TV series Deutschland 83 deals with an East German mole in the Bundeswehr of the 1980s.
- Bundeswehr mechanized and tank forces are playable in Flashpoint Campaigns.
- In the Rise of the Reds Game Mod for Command & Conquer: Generals, the German military makes up a significant part of the European Continental Army, including providing much of the heavy infantry and tanks for the ECA and, in the background lore, acting as the front line for much of the Russian invasion of Europe.