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The German Army ( , Heer pronounced ) is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germanymarker. Traditionally the German military forces have been composed of Army, the Navy, and an Air Force after World War I. It was reinstalled in 1955 as the West Germanmarker Army and as a part of the newly formed Bundeswehr. In the aftermath of the German reunification of 1990, the National People's Army of the former German Democratic Republicmarker was integrated into the West German Army.



Since Germany first became a modern unified state in 1871, previous names of German unified ground forces have included:
  • 1871–1935 Reichsheer or Imperial Army, part of Imperial Forces
  • 1935–1945 Heer or Army, part of the Wehrmacht
  • 1956–1990 Landstreitkräfte, Ground forces of East German Nationale Volksarmee
  • 1955–present Deutsches Heer, German Army


After the reform movement of the Prussian Army following a series of disastrous defeats at the hands of her enemies in the 18th Century, internal analysis of the lessons learned had informed Prussian civilian and military leadership that, while individual soldiers were first rate, command structures, staff organization and generalship was a hit-and-miss affair, more dependent on the martial skills of the King and the individual members of the German nobility who dominated the military profession. Too often, military talent was brought together only after the Nation faced a crisis. There was little effective organizational work in between wars. The rise of the German General Staff, an institution that sought to institutionalize military excellence, brought the German Army back from years of atrophy and the humiliation of Napoleon's capture of Berlin. With a membership in the officer corps extended to all qualified German speaking men via national examinations, the improved education of the military schools, the intensive selection process of the top 1% graduated from the Kriegsacademie, with its new rising class of top notch and world class leaders, the German Army was set on a course of eventual near total dominance in Europe.

Following the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloomarker the Prussian Kingdom had years of military successes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Every able bodied man between the ages of 17 and 45 was liable for military service. There were 4 classes of service - Active (Aktiv), Reserve, Landwehr and Landsturm. The Landwehr and Landsturm were only called up at times of war. The basic unit of the army at this time was the Regiment. Regiments were typically raised and supported by a specific city or region. Each regiment was then stationed near its home city. The Reserve regiment was often made up of past members of the local regiment. The Landwehr and Landsturm units were also organized the same way. An individual could spend all 22 years of military service surrounded by their friends and family. While this system created close ties within regiments, it also meant that the entire population of young men from a city or region could be wiped out in one battle.

World War I 1914–1918

The German army that fought in World War I was not in fact a single, unitary army. All the monarchies (Great Dukedom of Hesse, Great Dukedom of Baden - as example) as a part of the German empire had its own armies. Since the unification of Germany in January 1871 most of them were under Prussian command, though each continued to wear its own style of uniforms and insignias. The four German kingdoms that existed since the Napoleonic era - Bavariamarker, Prussia, Saxonymarker and Württembergmarker - of course had its own armies until the end of WW I. The commander in chief in peacetime of each of these armies was the King. Prussia had the largest army of the four. After the unification and the formation of the German Empiremarker, the Prussian army became the nucleus of the Armies of the German Empire (Deutsches Reichsheer). After the declaration of war, the emperor became the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. By 1914 the German army fielded 50 active divisions and 48 Reserve-Divisions - by 1918 251 divisions had been created.

Reichswehr 1918–1935

Following the end of World War I and the collapse of the German Empiremarker, most of the German Army (Heer) was demobilised or simply dissolved. Many former soldiers drifted into small paramilitary groups known as Free Corps (Freikorps). The Free Corps were generally groups of 100 men or fewer that protected a neighborhood or town.

On 6 March 1919 an army known as the Provisional German Defence Force (Vorläufige Reichswehr) was formed with about 400,000 men, many drawn from the Free Corps. Then, on 30 September 1919 the Transitional Army (Übergangsheer) was created from the Defence Force and the Free Corps.

Finally, on 1 January 1921 the 100,000 man Army of the Weimar Republicmarker (Reichswehr) was formed with seven Infantry Divisions and three Cavalry Divisions. In November 1923, it was troops from the Army of the Weimar Republic who crushed Adolf Hitler's Beer Hall Putschmarker in Munichmarker.

Wehrmacht 1935–1945

Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr was only allowed 100,000 men split between the Army and the Navy. Following the 1932 German elections the Nazi party came to power and began to abrogate the treaty. The Army was made part of the Wehrmacht in May 1935 with the passing of the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defence Forces". The Wehrmacht included not just the Army and Navy but also a third branch known as the Luftwaffe. Initially, the Army was expanded to 21 divisional-sized units and smaller formations. Between 1935 and 1945 this force grew to consist of hundreds of divisions and thousands of smaller supporting units. Between 1939 and 1945 close to 16 million served in the Army. Over 3 million were killed and over 4.1 million were wounded. Of the 7,361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honour of World War II, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, 4,777 were from the Army, making up 65% of the total awarded. The Allies dissolved the German Army on 20 August 1946.

Cold War and the 1990s

The Heer was founded in 1955 as the army of West Germany. After 1990, it absorbed the army of socialist East Germanymarker, a part of the Nationale Volksarmee. The former East German forces were initially commanded by the Bunderwehr Command East under command of Lieutenant General Jörg Schönbohm, which was disbanded on 30 June 1991. In the aftermath of the merge, the German Army consisted of four Corps with a manpower of 360,000 men. It was continuously downsized from this point. In 1996, an airborne brigade was converted into a new command leading the Army's special forces, known as the Kommando Spezialkräfte.

The 2001 onwards restructuring of the German Army saw it move to a seven division structure – 5 mechanised (each with two mechanised brigades), 1 special forces, and one airmobile.

In 2003, three Corps still existed, each including various combat formations and a maintenance brigade. I.marker German/Dutch Corpsmarker, a joint German-Netherlands organisation, used to control in peacetime the 1st Panzer and 7th Panzer Divisions as well as Dutch formations. The 1st Panzer would have reported to the corps in wartime while the 7th would be posted to the Allied Rapid Reaction Corpsmarker. II Corps was German in peacetime but would have exchanged a division with the V U.S. Corps in time of war (the 5th Panzer). 5 Pz Division disbanded as of 30 June 2001. In peacetime it also commanded the 10th Panzer Division, which was allocated to Eurocorps and which parents the German half of the Franco-German Brigademarker. The 1st Mountain Division at Munich was also under this headquarters.

The IV Corps was headquartered at Potsdammarker in eastern Germany and controlled two Panzer-Grenadier Divisions, the 13th and 14th. The 14th Panzer-Grenadier Division also took control of units in Western Germany re-subordinated from the 6th Division when it lost its command function. It would have made up the German contribution to the Multinational Corps Northeastmarker in time of war. IV Corps also used to have under its command the Military District Command I, the 1st Air Mechanised Brigade, and the Berlin Command ('Standortkommando').

Current Army

All corps have now been disbanded or transferred to a multinational level such as Multinational Corps North Eastmarker. IV. Corps was reorganized and became a overseas deployment command like the British Permanent Joint Headquartersmarker.


A total of 102,000 soldiers are currently on active service in the German Army. Of these, approximately 17,000 are draftees. Additionally, a further 35,000 personnel of reservists of the German Army reserve force are available.

Current structure of the German Army

Structure of the German Army (click to enlarge)
The German Army is commanded by the Chief of Staff, Army (Inspekteur des Heeres) based at the Federal Ministry of Defence in Berlin and Bonnmarker. The major commands are the German Army Office in Cologne and the German Army Forces Command in Koblenzmarker. In 2002 a number of army units and their personnel were transferred to the newly-formed Joint Support Service (Streitkräftebasis) and Joint Medical Service branches.

Chief of Staff, German Army

German Army Office

German soldiers during exercise in 1960
German dog handler quickly pulls his working dog off of a simulated criminal
The German Army Office in Cologne (Heeresamt) is the superior authority for all supporting elements of the Army, such as schools and education centres. It is commanded by a Major General, currently MajGen Joachim Clauß.

  • NBC Defence and Self-Protection School in Sonthofenmarker
  • Military Police and Headquarters Services School in Sonthofen
  • Artillery School in Idar-Obersteinmarker
  • Three Officer Candidate Battalions in Idar-Obersteinmarker, Munstermarker and Hammelburgmarker
  • Special Operations Training Centre (formerly International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School) in Pfullendorfmarker
  • Army Warfighting Simulation Centre in Wildfleckenmarker
  • Army Combat Training Centre in Letzlingenmarker
  • Army Aviation School in Bückeburgmarker
  • Training Centre Munstermarker for
    • Army Air Defence
    • Armour
    • Reconnaissance
  • Mountain and Winter Combat School in Mittenwaldmarker
  • Infantry School in Hammelburgmarker
  • Airborne Operations and Air Transport School in Altenstadt
  • Army Officers' Academy in Dresdenmarker with Army Tactics Centre
  • Army NCO Academies (three at different locations)
  • Engineer School and Army School of Structural Engineering in Ingolstadtmarker (formerly in Munichmarker)
  • Army Maintenance School and Army School of Engineering in Aachenmarker

German Army Forces Command

German soldiers, having rebuilt the bridge in the town of Visoko, Bosnia, during the opening ceremony in 1996
German Army soldiers onboard an armoured personnel carrier in Somalia in 1993
German soldiers in Bosnia

The German Army Forces Command in Koblenzmarker (Heeresführungskommando) exercises command and control over all combat units. It is commanded by a Lieutenant General.These units include two armour divisions, two mechanized infantry divisions, the Division for Specialized Operations and the Airmobile Division.Depending on their size and role, brigades can be commanded either by a Brigadier General alike or a Colonel. Unlike other European armies such of neighbouring Netherlands and France, regiments are no common form of organization and thus rare in the German army. Battalions are most likely directly subordinate to brigades or to divisions as divisional troops.

  • Eurocorps (Straßburgmarker)
    • Command Support Brigade
    • German elements in two permanent battalions and one staff company

  • 1 Corpsmarker (Münstermarker)
    • German elements in two permanent battalions and one staff company

  • Central Mobilisation Base in Brückmarker


Helicopter of the German Army Aviation Corps in Northern Iraq in 1991
The German Army has eleven different branches of troops, designated as Truppengattungen. Each Truppengattung is responsible for training and readiness of its units and disposes of its own schools and centres of excellence for doing so.Optically this distinction can be made by the branch colour, called Waffenfarbe which is displayed by a cord attached to the rank insignia, and the colour of their beret with a specific badge attached to it.

Beret Colour (Army only)
  • Black: Armoured Corps, Reconnaissance Corps
  • Green: Mechanized Infantry and Rifles Corps
  • Dark Red: Aviation Corps, Airborne Corps, Special Forces, formations assigned to airborne division
  • Light Red: Combat Support Corps and Military Police
  • Dark Blue: Medical Corps
  • Navy Blue: Multinational Units, Officer Cadet Battalions, Navy and Air Force Security Units
  • Bright Blue: Troops with United Nations Missions

Waffenfarbe (Army and army support branch only)Image:Kregenspiegel2.GIF|Military Police/ Signal/ Army Air Defence/ Army Air CorpsImage:Kragenspiegel1.GIF|NBC/ Artillery/ Army ReconnaissanceImage:Kragenspiegel3.GIF|Infantry as Airborne, Mountain Infantry, Light Infantry (Rifles), Mechanized Infantry/ Armoured Troops/ EngineersImage:Kragenspiegel4.GIF|Army Bands/ Supplies, Maintenance an Transportation Troops/ Medical Corps

  • Bright Red:General ranks (only "Kragenspiegel", not "Litze"),
  • Crimson: General Staff

Rank structure

The rank structure of the German army is adjusted to the rank structure of the NATO. Unlike its predecessors, the modern German Army does not use the rank of Colonel General.The highest rank for an army officer is Lieutenant General, as the rank of Full General is reserved for the Armed Forces chief of staff or officers serving as NATO officers.Officer cadets do not pass through all enlisted ranks, but are directly promoted to Lieutenant after 36 months of service.

Equivalent US Army ranks are shown below according to "STANAG 2116 NSA MC LO (EDITION 6) – NATO CODES FOR GRADES OF MILITARY PERSONNEL":

Officers of the German Army


Lieutenant General (Generalleutnant)


Major General (Generalmajor)

Brigadier General (Brigadegeneral)




Lieutenant Colonel


OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4

Officers of the German Army



Staff Captain




1st Lieutenant



2nd Lieutenant



OF-3 OF-2 OF-2 OF-1 OF-1
Non-Commissioned Officers of the German Army
Sergeant Major (Oberstabsfeldwebel)

First Sergeant



Master Sergeant (officer cadet) (Oberfähnrich)

Master Sergeant


Sergeant 1st Class (Oberfeldwebel)

OR-9 OR-8 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6
Non-Commissioned Officers of the German Army
Sergeant (officer cadet)




Staff Corporal



Corporal (officer cadet)




OR-6 OR-6 OR-5 OR-5 OR-5
Enlisted Ranks of the German Army
Lance Corporal (Oberstabsgefreiter)

Lance Corporal



Lance Corporal


Private 1st Class (NCO cadet)
(Obergefreiter UA)

Private 1st Class


OR-4 OR-4 OR-3 OR-3 OR-3
Enlisted Ranks of the German Army
Private 1st Class (officer cadet)

(Gefreiter OA)

Private 1st Class (Sergeant cadet) (Gefreiter FA)

Private 1st Class (NCO cadet)

(Gefreiter UA)

Private 1st Class




OR-2 OR-2 OR-2 OR-2 OR-1


Standard light weapons

Image:GewehrAG36.jpg|Gewehr G36 with AG36 grenade launcherImage:Km2000.jpg|KM2000 & P8 pistol

Image:MG4.jpg|MG4Image:Panzerfaust3.jpg|Panzerfaust 3Image:G82 German Army Barrett M107 variant.jpg|G82image:G22 ohne Schalldaempfer.jpg|G22File:HK GMW.jpg|HK GMGImage:BundeswehrMP7.JPG|MP7A1Image:BundeswehrMG3.jpg|MG3

Reconnaissance systems

  • Fennek (wheeled armoured reconnaissance vehicle), replacing the Spähpanzer Luchs
  • Luna X 2000 (reconnaissance drone system)
  • KZO (reconnaissance drone system)
  • Aladin (reconnaissance drone system)
  • Camcopter S-100 (VTOL reconnaissance drone system, procurement planned)
  • MIKADO (mini reconnaissance drone system)
  • Fancopter (mini reconnaissance drone system)
  • RASIT (radar system), being phased out
  • BÜR (ground surveillance radar system, based on Dingo 2)

Image:LUNA UAV.jpg|Luna X 2000 UAVImage:AladinDrohne.jpg|EMT Aladin UAVImage:BundeswehrFennek.jpg|FennekFile:Fancopter.JPG|MIKADOFile:FanCopter 1024x768.jpg|FancopterFile:Twuav 11 05.JPG|KZOFILE:ATF Dingo 2 mit BÜR.jpg|BÜR

Combat vehicles


  • Leopard 2 (Main Battle Tank)
    • A4, being phased out
    • A5
    • A6
  • Marder 1 A3/A5 (infantry fighting vehicle)
  • Spz Puma (infantry fighting vehicle), replaces the Marder in the Mechanized Infantry, being delivered
  • Wiesel 1/2 (armoured weapons carrier),
    • as a reconnaissance vehicle for the airborne troops
    • with autocannon 20 mm
    • with TOW anti-tank guided missile
    • with mortar 120 mm
    • as a radar vehicle for the light air defence system (LeFlaSys)
    • as a command vehicle for the LeFlaSys
    • as an engineer reconnaissance vehicle
    • with Stinger equipped for the LeFlaSys
    • as a medical vehicle for the airborne troops
  • IAI Harop (unmanned combat aerial vehicle), loitering munition in combination with Rheinmetall KZO, ordered
  • M113 A2 (multirole armoured vehicle) being phased out
  • GTK Boxer (multirole armoured vehicle) to replace M113 and TPz Fuchs (planned)
  • Dingo 1/2 (armoured wheeled vehicle)
  • Eagle IV (armoured wheeled vehicle)
  • LAPV Enok (light armoured patrol vehicle)
  • Grizzly (armoured wheeled vehicle)
  • AGF Serval (reconnaissance and combat vehicle)
  • DURO III (armoured wheeled vehicle)
  • YAK (armoured wheeled vehicle), based on DURO III
  • Mungo ESK (armoured transport vehicle)
  • TPz Fuchs (multirole armoured vehicle)
  • BV 206 S (tracked armoured transport vehicle)

File:Hägglunds Bv206S ambulance.jpg|BV 206 SImage:PzH2000.Ger.jpg|PzH 2000Image:MungoESK.jpg|Mungo ESKImage:Dingo_2.jpg|ATF DINGO 2Image:Serval 2.jpg|AGF ServalImage:Marder1A3.2.jpg|Marder File:Tpzfuchsaufklbtl8.JPG|TPz FuchsImage:Wiesel120mm.jpg|Wiesel AWCFile:Light Armoured Patrol Vehicle ENOK.jpg|LAPV EnokFile:Bundeswehr mowag eagle IV front.JPG|Eagle IV


  • M270 MLRS (227 mm multiple rocket launcher)
  • PzH 2000 (155 mm self-propelled howitzer)
  • ABRA (artillery radar system), being phased out
  • Mortar TAMPELLA (120 mm)
  • Mortar "R" (120 mm)
  • COBRA (counter artillery radar system)
  • ATMAS (artillery weather measure system)
  • SMA (artillery sound measure system)

Air Defence Systems

  • Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard 1 A2 (self-propelled anti air gun)
  • LeFlaSys (light anti-aircraft missile system), based on Wiesel 2
  • MANTIS (stationary counter rocket, artillery, and mortar system for base protection), to be delivered in 2011
  • SysFla (system air defence - mobile and stationary platforms using the LFK NG and MANTIS), under development
  • LÜR (radar system), being phased out

Mine layer Skorpion
Mine breaker Keiler

Engineer equipment

  • Dachs (tracked engineer tank)
  • Büffel (tracked salvage tank)
  • Biber (bridge layer)
  • Panzerschnellbrücke 2 (bridge layer), replacing the Biber
  • Skorpion (mine layer)
  • Keiler (mine breaker)
  • M3 Amphibious Rig (amphibious vehicle)
  • Motorboot 3 (motorboat)
  • Medium Girder Bridge (bridge system)
  • Faltfestbrücke (solid bridge system)
  • Faltschwimmbrücke (swimming bridge system)
  • Pontoon bridge
  • Faltstraßensystem (mobile roadway system)

Aircraft inventory

Heavy tractor trailer Elefant whilst loading a Leopard 2A4
The German Army operates more than 320 helicopters. Nearly all were built in Germany while nearly 40% are indigenous designs. 80 Eurocopter Tiger and 80 NH90 helicopters have been ordered.

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In serviceAviation Week & Space Technology 2009, . (2009): n. pag. Web. 13 Sep 2009. />. Notes
Attack Helicopter
Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter 5 80 (planned), entered service
Transport/Utility Helicopter
UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopter UH-1D 82 being withdrawn; built by Dornier
Bölkow Bo 105 utility/attack helicopter 105P 104
Eurocopter EC 135 utility helicopter EC135 15
NHI NH90 transport helicopter NH90 TTH 3 80 (planned)
Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter CH-53G/CH-53GS 101 110 built by VFW

Logistic equipment

Non-combat vehicles

Further reading

See also


External links

Historical links

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