The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Bundeswehr is the name of the armed forces of Germany. It is a federal defence force with Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), Air Force (Luftwaffe), Central Medical Services (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst) and Joint Service Support Command (Streitkräftebasis) branches. It employs some 250,000 personnel, 50,000 of whom are 18-30-year-old men on national duty for currently at least 9 months. In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence, currently Peter Struck (since 2002). If Germany is in a state of defence, the chancellor becomes commander in chief of the Bundeswehr.

Military manpower
Military age 18 years of age
Availability males age 15-49: 20,863,020 (2000 est.)
Fit for military service males age 15-49: 17,800,862 (2000 est.)
Reaching military age annually males: 485,422 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure $30.08 billion (FY04)
(EUR 24.06 billion)
Percent of GDP 1.5% (FY98)


The Bundeswehr was established in 1955 as the successor of the Wehrmacht and the earlier Reichswehr, after some discussion about re-militarizing Germany (the Wiederbewaffnung) after World War II; by changing the German Grundgesetz (basic law, Germany's constitution). In 1955 West Germany became a NATO member. The Bundeswehr adopted a form of the Iron Cross as its symbol. The Iron Cross has a long history, being awarded as a military decoration since 1813, and earlier associations with the Teutonic knights. A simplified form of the Iron Cross was used by its predecessors the Wehrmacht and the Reichswehr.

In 1956, a conscription for all men between 18 and 45 in years was introduced, later on augmented by the introduction of a civil alternative with longer duration.

During the Cold War the Bundeswehr was the backbone of NATO's conventional defence in Central Europe. It had a strength of 495,000 military and 170,000 civilian personnel. The Army consisted of three corps with 12 divisions, most of them heavily armed with tanks and APCs. The Air Force owned major numbers of tactical combat aircraft and took part in NATOs integrated air defence (NATINAD ). The Navy was tasked and equipped to defend the Baltic Approaches and to contain the Soviet Baltic Fleet.

After reunification in 1990, the Bundeswehr absorbed parts of the Nationale Volksarmee of the GDR, by the fact that the latter was dissolved.

In 1999, the NATO war on Yugoslavia was the first non-defensive war the Bundeswehr actively took part in.

In 2000 the European Court of Justice opened up the previously all-male (besides medical divisions and the music corps) Bundeswehr to women.


The Bundeswehr currently consists of about 250,000 military and about 100,000 civilian personnel. The Army is organized in 5 combat divisions and also owns partly multinational command structures at the corps level. The Luftwaffe is divided in 3 Divisons, and the Navy in 2 flotillas. The Central Medical Services and the Joint Service Support Command each are organized in four regional commands. All of these branches also have some general commands for training, procurement, and other general issues.


The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) (Art. 87a) as defensive only. Today defence is seen as including not only defence at the borders of Germany, but also as crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or broadly as saving the security of Germany. According to a definition by Defence Minister Struck, it may be necessary to defend Germany also at the Hindukush. This allows the Bundeswehr to take part in missions outside of the borders of Germany, as part of the NATO or mandated by the UN.

Since the early 1990s the Bundeswehr has become more and more engaged in international missions in and around the former Yugoslavia but also in other parts of the world like Cambodia or Somalia. After the September 11, 2001 attacks German forces were employed in most related theatres except Iraq. Currently there are Bundeswehr forces in:

In support of Allied stabilisation efforts for Iraq the Bundeswehr is also training the new Iraqi forces in locations outside Iraq such as the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

See also

German Federal Coast Guard, Luftwaffe, German Navy, ceremonial oath of the Bundeswehr, Aganauten

External links

Last updated: 08-26-2005 08:39:12