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Bundeswehr is the name of the armed forces of Germany. It is a federal defence force with Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), Air Force (Luftwaffe), Central Medical Services (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst) and Joint Service Support Command (Streitkräftebasis) branches. It employs some 250,000 personnel, 50,000 of whom are 18-30-year-old men on national duty for currently at least 9 months. In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence, currently Peter Struck (since 2002). If Germany is in a state of defence, the chancellor becomes commander in chief of the Bundeswehr.

Military manpower
Military age18 years of age
Availabilitymales age 15-49: 20,863,020 (2000 est.)
Fit for military servicemales age 15-49: 17,800,862 (2000 est.)
Reaching military age annuallymales: 485,422 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure$30.08 billion (FY04)
(EUR 24.06 billion)
Percent of GDP1.5% (FY98)


The Bundeswehr was established in 1955 after heavy discussions about re-militarizing Germany (the Wiederbewaffnung) after World War II. After an amendment of the constitution ("Grundgesetz", Basic Law) West Germany became a member of NATO in 1955.

It is the successor of the Wehrmacht and the earlier Reichswehr. As its symbol the Bundeswehr uses a form of the Iron Cross. The Iron Cross has a long history, having been awarded as a military war time decoration for all ranks since 1813, and earlier associations with the Teutonic knights.

In 1956, a conscription for all men between 18 and 45 in years was introduced, later on augmented by the introduction of a civil alternative with longer duration.

During the Cold War the Bundeswehr was the backbone of NATO's conventional defence in Central Europe. It had a strength of 495,000 military and 170,000 civilian personnel. The Army consisted of three corps with 12 divisions, most of them heavily armed with tanks and APCs. The Air Force owned major numbers of tactical combat aircraft and took part in NATOs integrated air defence (NATINAD). The Navy was tasked and equipped to defend the Baltic Approaches and to contain the Soviet Baltic Fleet.

After reunification in 1990, the Bundeswehr absorbed parts of the Nationale Volksarmee of the GDR, by the fact that the latter was dissolved.

In 1999, the NATO war on Yugoslavia in Kosovo was the first non-defensive war the German military actively took part in since the Second World War.

In 2000 the European Court of Justice opened up the previously all-male (besides medical divisions and the music corps) Bundeswehr to women.


The Bundeswehr currently consists of about 250,000 military and about 100,000 civilian personnel. The Army is organized in 5 combat divisions and also owns partly multinational command structures at the corps level. The Luftwaffe is divided in 3 divisions, and the Navy in 2 flotillas. The Central Medical Services and the Joint Service Support Command each are organized in four regional commands. All of these branches also have some general commands for training, procurement, and other general issues.


The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the German Basic Law (Art. 87a) as defensive only. Today defence is seen as including not only defence at the borders of Germany, but also as crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or broadly as saving the security of Germany anywhere in the world. According to a definition by Defence Minister Struck, it may be necessary to defend Germany also at the Hindukush. This allows the Bundeswehr to take part in missions outside of the borders of Germany, as part of the NATO or mandated by the UN or the European Union.

Since the early 1990s the Bundeswehr has become more and more engaged in international missions in and around the former Yugoslavia but also in other parts of the world like Cambodia or Somalia. After the September 11, 2001 attacks German forces were employed in most related theatres except Iraq. Currently there are Bundeswehr forces in:

In support of Allied stabilisation efforts for Iraq the Bundeswehr is also training the new Iraqi forces in locations outside Iraq such as the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

See also

External links


fr:Bundeswehr nl:Bundeswehr pt:Bundeswehr ru:Бундесвер sl:Nemške oborožene sile sv:Bundeswehr


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