Bundeswehr structure - what I would do (revisited 2018)


Regarding conscription: 

Conscription was deactivated. That was probably the only good major action of that horrible minister of defence. It can be reactivated easily, as I proposed.

Regarding the air force:

I do still largely agree with myself from 2010, though now I would mention that the Luftwaffe should largely get out of the air/ground business save for stand-off missile launches (Taurus) and air/sea strike (requires integration and purchase of 100...200 modern anti-ship and anti-radar missiles, only one Typhoon wing would have to train for it). I would also mention that I'm fine with a reduction in Typhoon numbers by a third in favour of better training and that I insist on better proofing against surprise strikes.
Ground attack efforts are likely not efficient early in a conflict, and I see Germany as a "first two weeks" defender of NATO and the EU in NE Europe. Other air forces that would first need to build up strength in the theatre of war are better suited for wearing down air defences and doing air/ground strikes with little or no stand-off.

Regarding the navy:
I didn't yet speak out freely by calling the German navy useless back in 2010. I did so in the meantime. The German navy could and should be disbanded because it's a useless diversion of resources. Coastal minehunting can be done without manned ships or boats and could also become a civilian or paramilitary task again, as in the early 50's (maybe that would be a fitting job for the civilian THW). 

Regarding the army:

Eight years later and I still didn't fully write about what I called "unorthodox ideas" back then. [sigh] Well, I would now certainly mention an emphasis on rapid deployment by road, more pontoon bridging for the Oder river, better air defences, better AT missiles, better combined arms TO&Es for the brigades and a vastly improved missile artillery.
I would also leave no doubt that all "special forces" but the Fernspäher (long range scouts, of which we should have many more) units should be disbanded in favour of an improved personnel situation in the infantry (or be re-roled into Fernspäher units).
edit: Last Fernspäher company was disbanded in 2015. My bad.
I did write about "an army corps for Germany" in much greater detail in the meantime.

Regarding the Streitkräftebasis:

It's still quite a blind spot of mine because I have no personal contacts there and hear or read very little about the Streitkräftebasis.

Regarding the centralised medical service:
I didn't pay attention to it in 2010. Now I would crash the inflated medical service, and brutally so. 11% of German military personnel is medical personnel - that's ridiculous! Military medical care can be limited to open wound, burn wound, blunt trauma, eye trauma and counter-biological/chemical agents care till the patient can be transported to a civilian hospital. The troops should simply be insured by the cheapest civilian health insurance (the rates depend on the region) for ordinary health care. I suppose the non-mobilised central medical service could and should be reduced to 2-5% of the personnel strength.

Overall, I don't think we need a permanent increase of military spending. A period of reform investments might require an increase for about four years, but then the spending could be slightly below current level and we could still greatly contribute to deterrence and if need be defence of NATO (and the EU)  in Europe. It's more a question of readiness, seriousness, stocks, doctrine, rapid reaction deployment capability and robustness than of a large budget. 
Four excellent mechanised army brigades with good corps-level support, 40 air superiority Typhoons and 20 air/sea Typhoons would be a plentiful contribution to collective deterrence and defence if they were quickly in action even after a powerful strategic surprise attack on NATO.


edit: To clarify; I'm not really in favour of the gold-plated long range scout concept that the Heer had till 2015.  A force of more than 200 personnel yielded only eight LRS teams. This kind of inefficiency makes LRS near-pointless. LRS need to be resources-efficient first and foremost. Efficient LRS can make large area surveillance affordable, and that would have extremely beneficial effects on battalion battlegroup- to corps-level tactics. An alternative to the employment of a LRS mesh is to rely on elusive militia small units that are from the area.


  1. This is just a suggestion - but could you do similar post about finnish and or swedish defence forces? Please.

    1. I refused to do this regarding the "How to fix ..." articles already.

  2. About navy;
    I think that submarines are useful: they can gather intelligence or insert troops with stealth... or fire a lot of missiles (not anly anti ship) and then "dissapear".

    About army (your "an army corps for Germany"):
    About non-line of sight combat: Your proposal is 105 mm soft recoil guns or high-low pressure guns as infantry guns... Perhaps is preferable a modern Sturmgeschütz with a high elevation gun -something like an AMX MK F3 but with a gun quicky aimed, and autoloader- that could act as heavy AAA and, perhaps, AT.

    1. You repeat the well-known lame propaganda about subs. Those tasks don't even only justify the operating expenses of a single sub.

      #05 mm for the Heer was rather meant as a 120 mm mortar repkacement IIRC.

  3. Air-Force:

    Without Stealth and/or a much stronger electronical warfare ability the Air Force would be useless in the air-superiority role, especially against russia. The Typhoon is near to useless therefore. The solution should be imo to replace the Typhoon and the Tornado at the same time (now, that means in this decade) and invest heavily in the EA-18 Growler instead of both. The Growler because its cheaper and its abilities are very worthy and interesting for the nato overall. 60 Typhoons are on the opposite nearly as useless as 0 Typhoons. Instead we should have at least 100 EA-18 Growler. Moreover we should invest in the A400M and use him as an transporter-bomber, arm him with very long range missiles (in combination with stealth-uavs as forward spotters and so on. And the Air-Force should invest in stealth-uavs and especially also in full autonomic systems. I also agree absolutly with the idea of yours to invest in air-force logistics, airfields, all this assets and have here abilities more than our own planes need - but for our allies in the case they had to bring their planes to us.


    I agree here completly with you. Perhaps germany should invest in (modular) armament for civilian ships and some infantry specialised in protection of ships sailing under german flag (such protection would make our flag also interesting for some civilian ship routes). Also uavs could deliver fighting power on see as on land and are because of this dual use more interesting than war ships. All this troops should be part of the army and no navy should exist at all as armed forces.

    Army and Support Services:

    The Support Troops should be (at least partialy) reintegrated into the army. For example military police and nbc-protection troops are nowadays part of the streitkräftebasis. Instead such troops should be part of the army.

    By the way: there are no Fernspäher any more. But i agree, that there should be many of them again. The special forces (ksk, airborne, mountain infantry etc) should be divided and some become part of the Jäger Units to strengthen their fighting power and the other should become the permanent part of the militia.


    There is none actually in germany but there should be one and it could be formed out of the remaining army reserves and the actual short time voluntary military service system and some of the infantry units, especially the special forces.

    Medical Service: i agree here absolutly. The todays situation is absurd. Should be cut down as much as possible.

    Civil Defence:

    This whole area including the THW and so on should become integrated into the armed forces and should be strenghtend very much. The stronger our civil defence, the better.


    Today the cyber command is on the same level as army, navy and so on. I would even increase this command and would melt it with the army secret service and other secret services of germany. It could be a intercept point between similar services of the police and civilian authorities and could collect and integrate their abilities for the armed forces.

    Overall: i agree with you, that this could be possible without a permanent increase o military spending because the savings in some parts of the forces could refund the higher costs in others.

    1. Typhoon isn't pointless. Its EW self defence suite usgood enough to ruin the porobability if kill of just about any radar-guided missile.

    2. Cyber command is a waste of time and money and actually makes a nation more vulnerable, not less.

      The fascination of military bureacracies with offense over defense leads to hoarding of software vulnerabilities even at the cost of own nation compromise.

      Case in point was the recent leaks of NSA, then CIA cyber-espionage tools. EternalBlue was quickly repurposed towards criminal ransomware into Wannacry and Not!Petya.

      These are vulnerabilities that our "security" agencies are with-holding from software vendors on purpose, in order to gain espionage capabilities. I have no doubt that the next leak of espionage tools will result in similar economic damage. And with known vulnerabilities in SCADA software - the kind that runs infrastructure like power plants, water purification plants and factories, determined attackers would do more damage than a cyber-espionage campaign would ever gain in terms of tactical or strategic surveillance.

      The best offense for a cybersecurity agency is an iron defense, with transparent operations and prompt reporting of zero days. It means prompt patching and extensively working with vendors and consumers to close security holes. No nation has heretofore committed to this. All "cybersecurity" government bureacracies are busy searching for, fuzzing for, and exploiting vulnerabilities. Even nuisances like phishing and credit card scams are economically costly activities that could be easily curtailed if only governments invested pennies on the dollar to harden systems and train people how to be safe online.

  4. Id say keep the subs in the navy. We're one generation from soley unmanned underwater operations. Keep the subs as test beds for lessons learned to be used for HDW. Undermining HDW now will remove the benefit from having a domestic cutting edge UUV manufacturing base.

    Denied air and next gen ASMs render the UUV sphere critical for defence in the future. Manned subs are the only defence in that operational environment if the opponent has a technological break out. (The yanks have done some work on a potential future like this. Lots of ops that you wouldnt think of can only be accomplished by UUVs or subs) Generally I dont think its smart to surrender ability to robustely (ie full autonomy of a sub) contest domains if the costs arent ruinous. We are not going to correctly predict what the next war will be. Politics are moving fast. We do not know who our next opponent will be.

    Also keep room in the air force for the new FRA-GER jet. Again, one generation left before solely UAVs and Europe needs a 5+ design ready to go if global politics move further.

    Fight tonight. Fight in two years. Fight in five years. Fight in twenty years. There always needs to be a plan for all of these. Gaps should be avoided. Investment avoiding gaps should not be seen as waste.

    1. We wouldn't surrender any navy capability because we should only fight on the strategic defence, and we would do so as an alliance. Allies jeep their capabilities. What matters is that Germany can plug a critical shortcoming of NATO if it focuses on it: First two weeks defence around Lithuania. No navy matters for that.

    2. And Germany will attack through the Maginot Line. Crude point, but the point stands.

      Alliances are going to be different within 5 years. Germany needs to hedge for the unexpected.

      RUS is retreating, rationalising its entanglements. UKR will likely get The Donbass back soon, RUS will continue its influence in central/eastern Europe.

      Technological advancements can render any domain absolutely vulnerable.

      I applaud your strides to define the threat against which the deterent force should be structured. However. There is a phrase in coding, 'optimisation is evil'. I think it applies here. Varying shades of grey. I agree with you, but my vote would be towards a slightly more generalist force. Especially when Germany has domestic industries that reduce the net cost to the country as a whole.

      Economics is a form of warfare as well. My maths says supporting HDW with national procurement is essentially self funding, when viewed holistically.

  5. I read your piece on hardening of airbases and other infrastructure against surprise strikes. I immediately thought of the submarine pens at St Nazaire.

    A modern rendition of St Nazaire could well withstand all but direct nuclear attack, if its performance during the second World War was any indication. Bombs would penetrate through to an air gap above the primary structure and predetonate. If so desired, a modern military base built to the same standard could well be effectively indestructible.

    Concrete and steel is cheap, and modern tunnelling methods are so well developed now that what might have been infeasible before is quite easily achievable today. Area 51 in the US puts an entire air base underneath the desert. I have no doubt that they would have at least studied the civil engineering aspects of St Nazaire, and a similar air base in Europe would be just as survivable, at least until the entrance is nuked.

    An alternative is to follow the Swedish example and adopt the Base 90 system:

    Not sure how capable the Eurofighter is in terms of STOL and rough field operations but with so many potential air bases, a small fleet like that of Germany's, dispersed across potentially thousands of stretches of Autobahn would be extremely elusive. There is no way a potential enemy could crater every single one, and even if they did, it would be many thousands of tons of ordnance expended on easily repairable roads, instead of own forces.

    The other issue, AEW, could be addressed with tighter inter-operation between the ground and the air elements, and relatively more survivable ground based radars like the Saab Giraffe. An AEW aircraft cannot hide while emitting, and cannot run if caught. The solution is decentralisation and miniaturisation into a ground based network, like the Soviets did with Uragan-1.

    The incoming enemy air force would find themselves devoting strike packages to deliver anti-radiation missiles into the teeth of ground based missiles to degrade the awareness of friendly air forces. Even if struck, an individual node in a ground based network is still many times cheaper than a single AEW aircraft. The campaign to destroy the Yugoslavian air defense network was largely unsuccessful all the way up to the declaration of ceasefires.

    With ground based radar systems being able to displace and re-emplace within 10 minutes instead of an hour I think it is much smarter than to rely on a single AEW asset. Plus, modern ground based AESA radars have a lot of other uses too, like artillery and rocket tracking. So even if there were no aircraft, an army would still find it useful. A new AEW aircraft based on a civilian SST, I think, would largely result in billions spent with little to show for it. The aerospace industry in Europe has largely abandoned SSTs and the learning from the likes of the Concorde program is likely all but lost. EADS would be starting from scratch, with all the cost overruns that entails.
    Meanwhile, Giraffe is available today.

  6. Hugf bunkers are easy targets. 10 m reinforced concete xan be pierced by a subsonic cruisf missile, and German bunker buster fuses can be programmed to detonate after a certain quantity if floors only.

    1. What do you think of Bas 90? Workable with a Eurofighter fleet, or impossible without ruggedised designs like the Gripen? I read that one of the reasons that the Eurojet EJ 200 removed VIGVs from the design was in order to improve FOD resistance, along with the all-blisk design of the compressor blades, such an engine would be quite resistant to ingestion.

      Could Eurofighters operate from the Autobahn network?

  7. About Typhoon emergency airfields; the tires are not dimensioned for soft ground. Motorways can be used, but not just any stretch. Cold War Autobahn had special sections with middle strip paved instead of green, and removable above ground installations.

    One could use ski ramps on land to shorten take off, but short landing run requires a tailhook. Stopping nets are not practical for routine landings.

    1. The Eurofighter has provisions for a drogue chute to shorten landing roll. The Canards can also pitch down or even stall to provide drag and down force on braking.

      The manufacturer, at least, states that 700m of runway is sufficient for operations with the EF2000.
      https://www.eurofighter.com/files/pdf/EF_TecGuide_2013.pdf . No fuel or ordnance load is given for this runway requirement. Conservatively, it is a point defense load out with 50% internal fuel only and some AAMs.
      Optimistically, it is a high-hot takeoff and landing length with MTOW.

    2. www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a237265.pdf

  8. Not only do anti hard target targets have smart fuzes that count layers penetrated, or BROACH warheads, it is also an easy matter to have two weapons hit the same target for cumulative penetration. This was done by the RAF with laser guided 1000lb GP bombs vs Iraqi HAS in 1991.

  9. To write something concrete about the german army: First: what do we have (at least at the paper)? According to the Heer 2011 we have 3 Divisonal Staffs, 6 Brigade Staffs, several communicator units, 1 Special Forces Regiment (KSK), 2 Airborne-Regiments, 3 Army Aviation Regiments, 4 artillery-bataillons plus 1 artillery-Bataillon of the french/german brigade, 2 non-active heavy (bridge) engineer-bataillons, 2 non active support bataillons, 6 Recce (RSTA) Bataillons, 6 support batailons 6 engineer bataillons, 4 active Tank Bataillons, 2 nonactiv Tank Bataillons, around 9 active Mech-Inf-Bataillons, 2 or 3 nonactive Mech-Inf-Bataillons, 3 Mountain-Infantry-Bataillons, 3 active Light Infantry Bataillons plus 1 Light Infantr-Bataillon of the French/German Brigade

    For sure i forgot some units but the main point is, that all of this units form 6 completly useless oversized brigades in 2 divisons (one more tank heavy, the other very infantry heavy with an mountain infantry brigade) and the special forces, the airborne and the army aviation form an own divison.

    This is not balanced, the oversized but weak brigades are not symetric, have no combined arms etc

    But with only regrouping all of this said units we could have 3 fully capable divisions with a organic, symetric structure.

    Second: what could be done?

    First we dissolve the airborne regiments. Parts of them go to the special forces (which are understrength), parts of them go to the light infantry. The special forces are then no longer under command of an division but directly under the command of the corps and/or the overall command of the army.

    Then melt the Mountain Infantry into one regiment of ultralight infantry and also this unit is then not under command of a divison but higher echelon corps unit. Special parts of the mountain infantry like high altitude infantry platoons, lrrps, muli company and so on would become part of the special forces. The same with the light infantry baillons which would form three such regiments without vehicles (ultralight infantry). The same with the army aviation. With this one divisonal staff becomes free to form the third mech-infantry division.

    The divisional troops:

    Put together the engineer bataillons and form 3 engineer regiments. Put together the support bataillons and form 3 support regiments. Put together all the artillery and air-defence units now under command of the air-force and form 3 air-defence/artillery Regiments.

    Every Division would then have the Staff and the said 3 regiments as divisonal units and two symetric brigades.

    This leads to 6 brigades like now, but with a highly different structure: Every brigade would include 1 RSTA Bataillon, 1 Tank Bataillon and 2 Mech-Infantry-Bataillons.

    No new units would be necessary for this structure and only very moderate numbers of new wepaon systems. Because this whole structure would be only a regrouping of what is available now, to arrange the units in a new composition.

    The army would then have the following structure:

    Command of the army

    1 Special Forces Regiment (KSK)
    4 (Ultra) Light Infantry Regiments
    3 Army-Aviation Regiments

    3 Mechanised Divisions each

    Command of the division
    1 Support Regiment
    1 Engineer Regiment
    1 Air-Defence/Artillery Regiment
    2 Mech-Brigades each
    Command of the brigade
    1 RSTA-Bataillon
    1 Tank-Bataiilon
    2 Mech-Infantry-Bataillon

    If more infantry is needed for a task, the light infantry regiments of the corps troops could be used to give such a division the necesseray number of infantry.

    No new units. Only regrouping and with the now existend units the whole german army could become fit for action.