Portal:Military of Germany

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A stylized black cross; the insignia of the Bundeswehr.
Insignia of the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr (German for "Federal Defence Force"; About this sound listen ) consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The States of Germany are not allowed to maintain armed forces of their own, since the German Constitution states that matters of defense fall into the sole responsibility of the federal government.

The Bundeswehr is divided into a military part (armed forces or Streitkräfte) and a civil part with the armed forces administration (Wehrverwaltung), Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr; BAAINBw). The military part of the federal defense force consists of Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), Air Force (Luftwaffe), Joint Support Service (Streitkräftebasis), and Central Medical Services (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst) branches.

By international agreement, the Bundeswehr may not exceed an active strength of 370,000. The Bundeswehr currently has 247,100 active troops. Of these, 188,112 are professional soldiers, 25,566 18–25-year-old conscripts, who used to serve for at least six months, until conscription was ended in January 2011, and 33,417 volunteer conscripts serving a longer military service. In addition the Bundeswehr has approximately 350,000 reserve personnel.

Women have served in the medical service since 1975. From 1993 to 2000, they were also allowed to serve as enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers in the medical service and the army bands. In 2000, in a lawsuit brought up by Tanja Kreil, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling allowing women to serve in more roles than previously allowed. Since 2001 they can serve in all functions of service without restriction, but they were not subject to conscription. There are presently around 14,500 women on active duty and a number of female reservists who take part in all duties including peacekeeping missions and other operations. In 1994, Verena von Weymarn became Generalarzt der Luftwaffe ("Surgeon General of the Air Force"), the first woman ever to reach the rank of general in the armed forces of Germany. Template:/box-footer

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KSK Kommando Spezialkräfte (Special Forces Command, KSK) is an elite special forces military unit composed of special operations soldiers handpicked from the ranks of Germany's Bundeswehr and organized under the Rapid Forces Division. KSK has received many decorations and awards from NATO, the USA and its affiliates and KSK operatives are frequently requested for joint anti-terror operations, notably in the Balkans and Middle East.

From 1973, until the KSK’s formation in 1996, the West German (and later German) government assigned all counter-terrorist and special operations activities to the GSG 9, a highly trained police force created shortly after the hostage-taking that transpired during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Prior to 1973, the army’s Fernspäher (Long-Distance Reconnaissance), the navy’s Kampfschwimmer (Combat Swimmers/"Frogmen"), and (until 1989) the Special Weapons Escort Companies—Sonderwaffenbegleitkompanien were the only military units comparable to anything that other nations may have seen as dedicated special forces units. Following the KSK’s activation on April 1, 1997, all but one of the Fernspähkompanie have been either disbanded or merged into the newly constituted unit.

Like those of all German military units, KSK deployments require authorization from the German Bundestag (Federal Assembly). The unit has engaged in numerous anti-terror campaigns both in Europe and abroad; known engagements include operations inside Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and most recently in Afghanistan. As is to be expected with such units, specific operational details such as success and casualty rates are considered to be top secret and withheld even from the highest-ranking members of the Bundestag. This practice has elicited some serious concerns, resulting in agreement to increase both transparency and accountability, by disclosing mission details to selected members of the Bundestag, in relation to the future deployments of KSK forces. (Read more)

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Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (16 February 1922 – 15 July 1950) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter pilot and is the highest scoring night fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during combat. All of his 121 victories were claimed during World War II at night, mostly against British four-engine bombers, for which he was awarded the coveted Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) on 16 October 1944, Germany's highest military decoration at the time. He was nicknamed "The Spook of St. Trond", from the location of his unit's base in occupied Belgium.

Born in Calw, Schnaufer grew up in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich as the first of four children of Alfred Schnaufer and his wife Martha. The family owned and operated a winery business. Schnaufer, a good student and already a glider pilot at school, began military service in the Wehrmacht by joining the Luftwaffe in 1939. After training at various pilot and fighter-pilot schools, he was posted to Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing), operating on the Western Front, in November 1941. He flew his first combat sorties in support of Operation Cerberus, the breakout of the German ships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen from Brest. Schnaufer participated in the Defence of the Reich campaign from 1942 onwards, in which he would achieve most of his success. He claimed his first aerial victory on the night of 1/2 June 1942. As the war progressed, he accumulated further victories and he later became a squadron leader and group commander. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 December 1943 for reaching 42 aerial victories.

Schnaufer achieved his 100th aerial victory on 9 October 1944 and was awarded the Diamonds to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 16 October. He was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG 4) on 4 November 1944. By the end of hostilities, Schnaufer's night fighter crew held the unique distinction that every member—radio operator and air gunner—was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Schnaufer was taken prisoner of war by British forces in May 1945. After his release a year later, he returned to his home town and took over the family wine business. He sustained injuries in a road accident on 13 July 1950 during a wine-purchasing visit to France, and died in a Bordeaux hospital two days later. (Read more)

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