Bundeswehr garrisons

The basing of Bundeswehr units and formations inside Germany was typically the one aspect of its post-1990 downsizing that garnered the most public attention. Suddenly, military bases were considered an economic factor to the (often times rural) region rather than a noise nuisance.

Insiders were most concerned about such plans and reforms as well, since it often meant that they had to move to a different place. Children had to be separated from friends at school, some older NCOs and officers who had hoped to not need to move another time short before retirement had purchased homes which needed to be sold (often at lower prices because regional demand dropped by thousands of housing units).
In short, politicians often wanted to keep "their" base, and soldiers often didn't like to move.

Many criteria were used to determine the future location of bases; among them party politics and the quality and capacity of housing and training areas. Still, some recently renovated or even new-built barracks were given up. Mountain infantry was obviously based in the deep south, close to the Alps.

One criterion didn't seem to be influential; proximity to the Eastern NATO frontier.

It would probably make sense to have all mechanised army forces and most Typhoon wings based in Eastern Germany. The Typhoons could conduct CAP over Poland and Lithuania with little or no aerial refuelling. The mechanised forces might arrive 8-16 hrs sooner at Warsaw than if based in West Germany. Air defence units of the Luftwaffe could be sited for near-immediate protection of said East German bases and Oder bridges upon an alarm.
Schools and the type conversion aircraft units would be fine in West Germany, same as most of the ammunition depots and an Tornado wild weasel and recce wing each.*

The actual distribution of Bundeswehr forces across Germany looks random by comparison, with even elements of single brigades scattered among multiple barracks.

German Army bases, October 2012, (c) TUBS
The Luftwaffe's tactical air wings are located as follows:
one in south
one in north
two in west
one in northwest
one in northeast
This leaves but one of them fairly close to Lithuania and to Poland's Eastern border. It's the wing for type conversion to Typhoon, thus partially a training outfit. The Northern one is a Tornado and UAV recce wing.
The Luftwaffe could surely re-deploy its combat aircraft in a day, but the ground crews and their equipment would likely need 12-24 hrs to become mission ready at a distant airbase, and then there would still be but one fully operational and likely overcrowded airbase in the East. Some airports and Cold War air bases in Eastern Germany and even Poland could be used as improvised airbases, but the Luftwaffe isn't really trained for pulling this off as quickly as in a few days.

In summary; the basing of the German military is in no way oriented at a timely defence (and thus deterrence) at NATO's Northeastern border, the least unlikely defence scenario area.

The Polish land forces aren't deployed this randomly. They're based according a pattern - a pattern that's more stupid than a random distribution would be.
They're mostly too close to Kaliningrad Oblast or really close to Germany (old Cold War bases, obviously) and thus poorly located for intervention in Lithuania or protection of Warsaw against a threat from the East:

Polish land forces basing (c) TUBS - this would make sense only
if they wanted to surprise attack both Russia and Germany at the same time.
It would make much sense to base the field formations of the Polish army close to Warsaw, (north of the Vistula river) and to base the air force at the German border instead of the army. That's not quite where they are, of course.

Militarily purposeful basing of forces is a skill that seems lost to European politicians**.


*: I suppose they couldn't be used to good effect in the first days of conflict anyway, and could thus first deploy to more forward bases in the case of crisis or war.
**: Similarly questionable base distributions can be found in many other European countries.


  1. Take a look at the Wikipedia map of the Italian Army bases of 1989 and compare it the (possible) ones of 2017. From a strong concentration in the North-East we went to a dispersed force.

    What is not visible are how in some cases brigades are scattered over many different regions. See the link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/rb97j15xna3co1b/EI2016-Rev2-01072016.pdf?dl=0

    Much in the Esercito is in flux and there are some more or less understandable cases like the “Piemonte Cavalleria” which was only shifted to the Alpini Brigade "Julia" in 2013 and is still based in Trieste. However there is no military sense to have a Alpini battalion in Aquila (9th Regiment), central Italy while the rest of the Alpini Brigade "Taurinense" is more or less concentrated in the south-east of Turin. Those are some of the most extreme cases but many battalions of the same brigade are scattered, with the Alpini ones possibly the worst offenders. The greater density of bases in Friuli allows (or would so in the Julia case) have the battalions fairly close together.

    BTW I would prefer to call a regiment a battalion if it is de-facto one...


  2. There are 23 main military bases hosting < 22 000 Czech troops. Only one of these bases, Jince in central Bohemia, hosts complete brigade-sized element (13th Artillery Brigade with its outdated equipment, see http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/dana.htm). In other cases the upper limit to garrison is usually battalion level. If Czech army has to act as some kind of Polish reserve - which is IMHO the only reasonable plan, depending on actual situation in Europe - bulk of mobile troops should be based in Silesia, near Polish border. In fact, 7th Mechanised (heavy) Brigade will be soon concentrated in small town Přáslavice, 130 km from Polish border. However, main base of 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade you can find in Žatec, about 40 km from western (German) border. No element is based near Polish border except 53rd Recon Regiment in Opava (with its main 102nd Recon Battalion in Prostějov, central Moravia, cca 160 km from border...).

  3. There are often decisions involved like:
    1) Which region to bolster with a base for economic reasons.
    2) Do we still have proper/modern accommodations or only old Soviet barracks? Should we build new ones or can we save on these?
    3) Should we disperse the forces to have depot/barracks on many places for fast response?
    4) Should we respond to a new threat/situation with building entirely new bases (and eg. fight locals that don´t want a 24/7 airfield next to their village)?
    5) Many bases and garrisons are from an entirely different time period, historically grown over centuries or at least many decades.

  4. Reflecting further the whole garrison mess of the Alpini might offer an opportunity to attach one or two Julia battalions to the Armored Ariete for training purposes. The latter with only one infantry battalion has insufficent boots for many types of operations thus it will likely need such an attachment anyway...

    Still the 'Alpini mafia' will defend the seperate brigades and indeed the division fiercely against any attempt to break them up.

    Much more could be said, for example question why the Division HQ of the 'Friuli' Division which has all it's (combat) battalions east of the Appenines is stationed in Florence. Bologna would be also a nice city make direct interaction much easier...


  5. Overall it seems that closing and selling off (small) bases is quite an important tasks for a downsizing army. Not only do seem post and personnel stick to them but they will in turn hamper combat effectivness by making unit cohesion and training harder.

    Heavy resistence against the evil shrinking of the sacred military domain of the fatherland will in any case ensure...


  6. I know more jokes involving Poles ;)