Germany and its navy these days (or "in the 21st century")

I admit, I'm a land warfare centric guy - kind of typical German. British folks tend to pay much more attention to naval affairs.

Look at how I tagged my blog posts; Army (202), Air Force (80, actually applied to air power topics in general) and Navy (58). One might conclude I neglect naval affairs, and not only so because they're terribly technology-dependant and thus difficult to decipher.

Well, from a German point of view, does this really constitute neglect? Or is the navy probably not that important to us?

German military history clearly taught a couple lessons.
(a) Germany doesn't win wars at sea.
(b) There's no way a geographically disadvantaged country as Germany could secure its maritime lines of communication against a potent naval opposition.
(c) Even geographically advantaged countries need a gargantuan effort to at least keep the loss rate of their maritime trade acceptable if challenged (the quantity of escort and patrol assets used in both world wars dwarfs the naval strength of even combined NATO navies).

Technology shows us that coastal defence on the other hand can be done with land-based assets efficiently. A single battery of anti-ship missiles inland could hit ships on the horizon of all German beaches. Same for a wing of combat aviation.

Today's submarine force - in both world wars an the tool of choice for challenging maritime transportation if it couldn't be done more overtly) cannot play its classic role. The alliance situation has changed, we're not going to challenge British convoys  any time soon.

The German naval strength is thus in my opinion mostly an unessential addition to the alliance's total naval strength. It's fair that we contribute to the alliances' efforts for securing maritime shipping, of course (albeit I doubt providing a couple frigates is the best way to do so).
It could not become an essential part of deterrence or collective defence - unlike quickly deployed manoeuvre brigades and even combat aviation.

I suppose I will keep neglecting the German navy and naval topics in general.



  1. How important are sea lines of communication to Germany?
    Geographic disadvantage resulted from a political choice to fight the UK and the Netherlands share this geographic position. What's the Dutch naval tradition and current development?


    1. The Dutch naval tradition has its roots in the 17th century when they fought the English in several wars to maintain their maritime trade strength. The also have the Dutch East Indies Company and later Dutch colonial navy (long time de facto separate from their home navy) as ancient naval tradition.

      During the Cold War they still had an oversized navy, with several frigate flotillas (AAW and ASW), much mine countermeasure ships and a submarine force, overall comparable to the navy of much bigger Germany.
      They still keep parity to the German navy.
      Their army is meanwhile down to one divisional equivalent while Germany maintains approximately a corps equivalent.
      The Netherlands are thus still a rather naval-minded continental small power, comparable to Denmark and Portugal (which has many old ships it should really decommission to save money) in this regard.

    2. Thanks for speaking your mind. The Dutch perhaps overdo it with their naval ambitions, but they and Denmark are in a similar position as Germany. Looking at the concept of the Dutch and Danish fleet, you'll find capabilities for global intervention to secure their sea lines via LPD. LPD are a Swiss army knife that is lacking in the German navy. In an age of increasing naval armament, what does the splendid isolation of the German navy in the Baltic Sea mean?


  2. This is a phenomenon of the post-cold war, isn't it? The Baltic has always been important to Germany, and the kaiserreich, Hitlerdeutschland, and the old-BRD all put a lot of effort into keeping control of it. (Even though the old-BRD didn't have east Prussia to worry about, it still had a lot of fast attack craft, minesweepers, and diesel subs there.)

    Now you're best mates with the Russians, and the Swedish campaign to reconquer the lost territories of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern seems a way off, so it doesn't matter much. After all, they can turn Nordstream off at the source without needing to fish for the pipeline at sea.

    Winston Churchill said the high seas fleet was in the nature of a luxury, and managed to bring the first world war measurably closer through his lack of tact. You couldn't say the same for the Baltic though and he didn't.