Written by Colonel A. Bobrov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2019 #2, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The German Airborne Troops are represented by the 1st Airborne Brigade (Saarluis), which is a part of the German-Dutch Land Forces Rapid Response Division (Stadtalledorf). The unit is designed to conduct independent combat operations (including against irregular armed groups), operations in the enemy’s rear, support of Special Forces (SF), as well as to participate in rescue activities.
Organisationally, one company includes: the headquarters and the staff company, two parachute and airborne regiments (26 and 31 units), the 310th Reconnaissance and 270th Engineer-Sapper Companies.
There are about 5 thousand people in the brigade.
Parachute regiments have a unified set of weapons and military equipment and an identical structure. They consist of a headquarters and ten companies: staff and support, three paratroopers, two reinforced paratroopers, one parachute company of heavy armament, logistics, medical and recruitment.
The parachute regiment is armed with: ATF2 “Dingo” and “Visel” MK-20 APCs, 120-mm self-propelled mortars, “Tou” and “Milan” anti-tank guided missile systems, as well as other auxiliary and special equipment. The staff number of personnel is about 2 thousand people.
The paratrooper company (approx. 160 people) includes four paratrooper platoons and three divisions: sniper, AGS and anti-tank.
The reinforced paratrooper company is completed with personnel who have been trained under the SF training programme. It is designed to ensure close interaction with the special operations forces of the Armed Forces of Germany and NATO member states during combat operations.
The parachute company of heavy armament, which provides fire support for the regimental companies, has six platoons: three paratroopers (APC “Visel” with a 20-mm automatic gun); anti-tank (ATGM “Tou” based on the APC “Visel”); mortar; coordination of joint fire support.
Before filling regular positions in these divisions, military personnel undergo appropriate training on the basis of a recruiting company.
The functions of reconnaissance support for the actions of the airborne brigade are assigned to the 310th Reconnaissance Company, whose main tasks are:
- collection, evaluation and transfer of intelligence data to the brigade headquarters;
- actions as part of advance groups;
- conducting radar reconnaissance (reconnaissance of ground moving targets with portable radars);
The reconnaissance company consists of a management department and seven platoons (two reconnaissance, two deep reconnaissance, two reconnaissance UAVs and one radar reconnaissance).
The airborne brigade reconnaissance company is armed with: “Fennek” ARSVs, six “Dingo” ATF2 APCs, tactical reconnaissance UAVs and portable radars.
The deep reconnaissance platoon is designed to perform special tasks in isolation from the main forces behind enemy lines, acting in the interests of the Special Forces command, among other things.
The platoon consists of two groups of six people (commander, operator of optoelectronic systems, scout-combat medic, air observer, scout-sniper, radio operator). Group autonomy behind the lines is 7 days.
Despite the same organisational and staff structure, the 26th (Zweibrücken) and 31st (Seedorf) parachute regiments have different operational purposes. The first specialises in operations for the evacuation of German citizens from crisis areas on the territory of foreign countries, as well as preparing for intelligence and sabotage activities. The second is planned to be used in operations against irregular military formations, as well as for conducting sabotage and subversive actions in the enemy’s rear.
In accordance with the guidelines adopted in the Bundeswehr, when planning an airborne (airmobile) operations, special attention is paid to a detailed study of the intended area from maps and aerial photographs, as well as to the assessment of weather conditions. Delivery of the advanced group of paratroopers, whose task is to prepare a bridgehead to receive the main forces in the enemy’s rear, in order to ensure secrecy is carried out mainly at night. As a rule, it is held 3 days before the main landing forces are ejected. In the immediate vicinity of the designated area, the group will set up observation posts and establish communication channels.
After the landing of the first division of the main forces, depending on the plan of operation, the forward group of paratroopers can be used to receive the second and subsequent waves of landing, act as a deep reconnaissance unit or advanced aircraft carriers, as well as be withdrawn from the combat area.
Military transport planes and helicopters of the German Armed Forces are used for airlifting the airborne brigade and assets (Boeing 707, C-140, C-160, CH-53, NH-90).
Taking into account the specifics of the tasks assigned to the airborne formations, the personnel are provided with various sets of equipment: anti-terrorist, underwater as well as for landing from the air from extremely low and high altitudes. In special cases, gliding parachutes (such as a flying wing) are used, allowing the paratrooper to land with 100 kg of cargo at a distance of up to 40 km from the drop point. For cargo delivery, a low-altitude automatic parachute system of three parachutes is widely used, which allows dropping them from a height of 80 m.
The training of airborne brigade personnel, especially when completing reinforced parachute companies, is subject to increased requirements. The selection of candidates for service in the unit, made twice a year, ends with a week-long physical training test at the school of airborne troops and military transport aviation in Altenstadt.
The general training course includes training in hand-to-hand combat techniques, shooting techniques from various types of weapons, tactics in field (mountain) conditions and localities, and methods of survival behind enemy lines.
In the future, if the exams are successful, the military personnel are training in specialised courses of combat training, which can also be organised according to an individual plan.
Depending on the specialisation, the personnel receive sniper, military medical, and technical training (working with radar stations, radio stations, etc.).
Great importance is attached to improving the survival skills and action in various climatic zones.
Priority in the training of military intelligence and paratrooper companies is given to training long jumps.
After completing the basic training on training parachutes with automatic opening of the dome, the personnel learn to perform prolonged parachute jumps of the flying wing type from high altitudes.
At the end of this course, each trainee must be prepared for landing from a height of 10 thousand meters in special uniforms (with an oxygen tank and mask). When making a long jump as part of a unit, the synchronicity of landing in a given area of all the parachutists of the group is practiced. The technique of tandem parachute jumps is used for the purpose of working out options for delivering specialists who do not have the qualifications of parachutists (doctors, translators, technical staff) to the reconnaissance zone.
The strengths of the system of training airborne units adopted in the German Armed Forces include:
- high mobility of the brigade, the ability to start performing a combat task in a limited time frame;
- high level of training of personnel for solving special tasks in small units (groups);
- a well-developed system of all types of security;
- the ability to effectively and smoothly solve combat tasks in cooperation with the special operations forces of the German Armed Forces and the NATO Air Force.
Weaknesses in training are:
- the focus of training is mainly on solving tasks within the framework of conducting multinational operations for crisis prevention and conflict resolution, which makes it ineffective to use the airborne brigade in large-scale combat operations;
- low supply of brigade units with heavy weapons, samples of which are also relatively outdated. This circumstance indicates that the airborne troops of Germany in the near future cannot be effectively involved in offensive operations against large enemy groups.
The promising image of the German airborne troops will be formed taking into account the views of the Bundeswehr command on the forms and methods of involving airmobile units in the projected conflicts both in Europe and in remote theater areas.
In accordance with the new concept of the Bundeswehr, when organising operational and combat training activities, the main efforts will focus on practicing traditional warfare (offensive, defensive, deterrent), minimising training tasks in preparation for participation in peacekeeping operations. Considerable attention is planned to be paid to building up the combat potential of the airborne brigade, improving its ability to operate independently and as part of coalition groups.
A universal combat transport platform is being developed in Germany in order to equip the brigade’s formations with advanced models of military vehicles. Deliveries of the new ARVs to the troops are expected starting in 2024.
At the same time, the airborne brigade units will be equipped with new models of amphibious landing vehicles capable of safely landing personnel and weapons and military equipment.
The use of 120-mm mortars manufactures by Reinmetall has been extended until 2030.
Such weapons are capable of hitting enemy targets at a range of more than 8 km. As of 2020 in the capacity of light means of mounted fire, mortar platoons will receive a 60-mm mortar with a range of up to 1.5 km. In addition, the automobile “Wolf” is currently being tested, which should become a new version of the transport mortar platform.
In the near future, the airborne infantry company will adopt the Wirkmittel-90 grenade launcher developed by Dynamite Nobel Defence.
The system provides the ability to fire shoulder-fired unguided ballistic ammunition with a fragmentation, illumination and anti-structural warhead with high accuracy at a range of up to 1.2 km.
The MG-3 machine gun of the Heckler & Koch company, which has been in service with the airborne brigade units since 1959, is being replaced by the improved MG-5 model developed in 2009. In addition, it is planned to purchase a new 7.62-mm G22 sniper rifle by 2022.
Thus, the German airborne forces include the most combat-ready and equipped units of the German Armed Forces, designed for use in medium-intensity armed conflicts, including in remote theaters of war, as well as to counter asymmetric challenges and threats to national and coalition security.
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