Bundeswehr structure - what I would do

It's easy to criticise details and develop ideas for niches, but difficult to balance conflicting preferences and needs. It's just fair to take a position on the whole thing for a change.

Here's my concept for a Bundeswehr structure.

The general idea is to

(1) maintain the competencies

(2) improve in order to remove known defects

(3) improve in order to meet new conditions

(4) be prepared for a rapid two-year expansion to a mighty continental army

(5) waste no national wealth

The conscription should be deactivated immediately. Its reactivation should not require more than a simple Bundestag majority. Its greatest short-term relevance would be in the mobilisation of civilian logisticians, technicians, medical personnel, construction personnel and pilots.

- - - - -

Luftwaffe (air force):

The air force should think of itself primarily as an operational level continental land war air force. Think of 1940, but more politically correct.

* The Typhoon is a fine aircraft for the 2010s, but we should begin to look for a successor concept (or two). A KWS (update) should be planned for the late 2010s. Numbers of aircraft and wings aren't nearly as important as are numbers of qualified pilots. We can draw an overwhelming quantity of qualified personnel for maintenance and repair from the private sector.

* Air defence is important, but it should be worth its money. Quantity of firing units needs to be meaningful; the present MEADS plans are crap.

* The Luftwaffe needs rather small air-lift capability and no NH90. Huge civilian air-lift and helicopter capabilities would be available in times of defensive alliance warfare.

Deutsche Marine (navy):

The focus should be on Baltic Sea, Mediterranean and North Sea. There's no need for a high seas or expeditionary navy as long as several European allies comply to their urge to be great naval powers.

* Only small quantities of frigates, mine counter-measure boats and submarines are necessary for retaining of competencies.

* Maritime SAR helicopters should be civilian (federal police, for example).

* Standardisation on one (on-board capable) naval multi-role helicopter with modest capabilities.

* Containerised solutions for minelaying, standoff mine countermeasures, support and other ship functions should be developed and tested on small chartered container ships.

* One squadron Typhoons should be transferred to navy command in order to ensure that the air/sea strike mission competence is retained. Air force pilots should be assigned to the squadron by the ministry.

* Land-based surface-to-ship missiles should be introduced.

Heer (army):

I propose a three-part army, optimised for the Eastern NATO border.

* A 99% German, exemplary (small) Corps with a good mix of forces for Eastern European defence - as good as it gets. (x)

* Bilateral or multilateral corps that are more than mere staffs. The typical German contribution per such corps would be the equivalent of a large brigade. The actual cooperations depend in part on our neighbours, of course.

* The army schools and a single mixed Lehrbrigade (training, experiment and show formation) that's NOT supposed to be high on any emergency deployment list.

The army units would also be divided into active force and dedicated reserve formations. The reserve formations would primarily train infantry and possibly engineers (for labour-intensive engineer tasks) and be based on very short-serving volunteers. The service would end exactly when they are trained. The purpose is the reserve, not having active formations. This reserve training component would replace the conscription both in regard to recruiting volunteers and to maintaining a strong trained personnel reserve.

Streitkräftebasis (combat service support):

* Huge personnel reductions are possible here.

* The whole concept of a tri-service CSS service should be revamped based on lessons learned.

Regrettably, I'm not very well-informed about the Streitkräftebasis and don't dare to offer more specific proposals.

- - - - -

The necessary strengths in peace, upon mobilisation and upon mobilisation after a two-year expansion would need to be defined with both possible threats and allied capabilities (EU allies) in mind. I suspect that an active strength reduction below 200,000 personnel is acceptable, but the minimum would likely be around 150,000. The goal for strength after expansion & mobilisation should be more than 500,000 + rear security forces and logistics units consisting of older (conscription-era) reservists.

The most important changes would be outside the scope of a force structure. Our personnel system and administration need to be revamped (this is probably true for all NATO forces). Failed experiments need to be concluded.

Politicians need to understand the concept and be ready to initiate the two-year expansion early once necessary. Such a build-up should be understood not as an escalation that leads inevitably to war but as the production of a subject for negotiation - it would after all only be necessary as a counterweight to another power's build-up.
It's similar with large-scale exercises; make them regular.

Likewise, soldiers need to understand the concept. The small size must not lead to approaches that would be unsustainable and unsuitable during an expansion. Instead, the small force should see the possibility of a quick expansion as its raison d'être.


(x): This is where my most unorthodox ideas are concentrated. An army corps of my design would look and operate very, very unlike present corps and divisions.

edited in 2015: Clarification: The strengths mentioned above are meant as peacetime strengths. Mobilized army strength should to be two corps, with the 2nd corps ready to go after a week. Also, four corps mobilized strength after a two-year expansion = West German peacetime strength of 1989.


  1. I'm a bit surprised you think the German Navy should venture as far south as the Med.
    Three of EUropes four carrier powers have coastlines in there, and geography is such that any part can be covered by the air with ease, even just from mainland bases.
    Germany is the only high tier power on the Baltic, and one of only three with reach into the high north, covered by only two carrier powers.

  2. It's unlikely that Europe will need to fight major wars in the Baltic and the Med at the same time. It's unreasonable that our outstanding SSKs and MCM boats would stay in the North during a war of necessity in the Med.

    The Med coastline is an alliance coastline - both for EU and NATO.

  3. I'm not sure I agree.
    Even if we arent fighting a major war on both fronts, we couldnt leave one front unguarded.

    By the same arguement, I wouldnt expect Italy to do much in the North, it would be better spent covering Frances Southern Flank, possibly Spains as well.

  4. But even during a war limited to the Med, the northern flank couldnt be left unguarded.
    Germanies (Coastal Defence) Navy would be better employed covering the British French Navies duties up north, allowing the expeditionary navies to fight at long range, what they are equiped and trained for.
    The 212A might be a great submarine (I have no idea) but its top speed appears to be 10 miles an hour, unless its based at a friendly port, its not going to contribute anything to a war around Crete.

    By the same logic, the Italian contribution to a war in the North Sea and Baltic would be to cover the Mediteranian duties of France and perhaps Spain.

  5. That's not how alliances fight wars.
    The members share the bruden - this means the Med navies woul probably not have opertional ships in the North Sea during a naval war in the Med, but the German navy would send ships down. We would probably not send all operational ships, but we would send some. And a cruise speed of 8-10 knots is actually faster than the cruise speed of German Atlantic subs in 1944 (snorkel boats were de facto restricted to 5 kts!).

  6. I'm not saying Germany shouldnt contribute, simply its (Navy) contribution should be to cover the peacetime missions of others, who are better equipped for the extended range warfighting bit.

    It would be much better for the RN to sail en masse and the GN to cover us, then for a detachment of the RN to sail south, and a detachment of the GN.

    Or thats my opinion anyway

    Dont worry, I think you should be left to handle an armour war in Poland without our meddling