Written by Colonel A. Simakov, Candidate of Military Sciences; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #12, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The Special Forces Division was reorganised into a rapid reaction division in 2014 as part of the reform of the Bundeswehr, in accordance with the document “Main Directions of the German Defence Policy” (“Bundeswehr, Army-2011”) adopted in 2011. To increase the mobility of reconnaissance and paratrooper units Army aviation units were also introduced into its composition, as well as to support their actions.
Currently, the Rapid Response Division organisationally includes: headquarters; headquarters and communications companies, Special Operations Command; 1st Airborne Brigade; 10th and 30th Light Transport Helicopter Regiments; 36th Tiger Fire Support Helicopter Regiment; 11th Airmobile Brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army. The strength of the division is about 12 thousand people.
One of the main formations of the division is the Special Operations Command (SOC). According to the Bundeswehr’s views on special operations, it is designed to carry out the following tasks:
- conducting direct actions (destruction of objects of strategic and/or operations importance);
- conducting special intelligence (obtaining important information for strategic and operational command);
- provision of military assistance to foreign states (cooperation in the field of training of security forces for partner states);
- ensuring the safety of military units and citizens of Germany in special conditions;
- rescue and release of hostages and captured military personnel;
- implementation of counter-terrorism measures (active preventive measures to prevent the terrorist threat, the fight against subversive forces);
- maintenance of non-traditional military operations;
- the implementation of covert operations that fall within the competence of the armed forces.
Organisationally, the SOC consists of a headquarters (communications group, combat training organisation, conceptual development, logistics and medical support), operational units, support units, a training and testing centre and a development group.
There are about one thousand people in the command.
The special units of the command include four companies – special purpose, combat support and technical intelligence.
Each SOC company consists of a command department and five platoons.
Each platoons of these companies is designed to go behind enemy lines in different ways and is specialised to operate in specific regions and in different environments. With that, all of them can be brought to the area of action by parachute.
Organisationally, each platoon consists of four groups of four specialists: light weapons, engineering, communications, and medicine. Thus, a total of 16 personnel.
The first group of each platoon is commanded by an officer, and the rest are sergeants. Depending on the task received, the group can be reinforced by a heavy weapons specialist and an interpreter.
In total, there are 90 people in the special purpose company. The company’s units are armed with: 9 mm P-8 pistols, 5.56 mm G36 automatic rifles of various modifications with laser pointers and night vision devices, 7.62 mm MG4 machine guns, 4.7 mm MP7 submachine guns, 9 mm MP5K submachine guns, 7.62 and 12.7 mm G22 and G82 sniper rifles; laser rangefinders; modern VHG, HF and satellite radio stations; camouflage equipment, special means for conducting reconnaissance in the forest navigation equipment, parachutes, equipment for making jumps from a great height.
The Combat Support Company is designed to support the special purpose units and organisationally is comprised of a control section and five platoons: air traffic control; joint fire support; explosive ordnance disposal and improvised explosive devise disposal; special mine action; service dogs.
The Technical Intelligence Company supports the actions of special purpose units and organisationally consists of a command section and three platoons: unmanned aircraft systems; special technical intelligence; radiation, chemical and biological intelligence.
Support units include: headquarters and supply company; support company, communications company; medical centre.
The Headquarters and Supply Company provides the activities of the headquarters of the SOC command and organisationally consists of a headquarters platoon, a material support platoon and a transport platoon.
The Support Company performs tasks on replenishment of stocks of material resources, repair of equipment and preparation of parachutes of operational units in combat conditions. Its organisational structure includes a supply platoon, a repair platoon and a parachute training platoon.
The Communications Company is designed to deploy the command post of the command and provide communication with the intelligence agencies in the performance of their tasks. The company organisationally consists of a command department and three communication platoons
The Medical Centre for its purpose corresponds to a military hospital, which includes intensive care and trauma departments, as well as special medical platoon.
The Training and Testing Centre determines the suitability of candidates for service in special forces command units and conducts their two-year basic training. In addition, the specialists of the centre organise training and advanced training of officers of the command staff, company and platoon commanders.
The Development Group determines the needs, purchases and equips the SOC units command with military equipment. It also defines the requirements for weapons, explosives, optical and opto-electronic devices, parachute systems, communications equipment, clothing, and monitors the implementation of these requirements when they are received, as well as develops conceptual frameworks and guidance documents defining the use of special forces units.
The group consists of qualified engineers, technical specialists and experienced veterans who served in the SOC companies.
In total, up to 80 groups of four people each can be allocated from operational units for operations behind enemy lines.
The 1st Airborne Brigade is designed to perform the following tasks:
- prevention of crisis situations that threaten the security of the country;
- planning, preparing the conducting special operations for the release and evacuation of citizens and captured military personnel;
- participation in the operations of multinational forces;
- conducting stabilising operations;
- allocation of units for joint action with the SOC formations;
- conducting airborne operations;
- participation in joint operations of the NATO response forces.
In this regard, the team can solve the assigned tasks in two geographical directions that are independent of each other.
The brigade consists of the 26th and 31st Parachute regiments, as well as the 260th and 310th Reconnaissance Parachute and 260th and 270th Engineer Parachute companies. In addition, the regiment includes a provisions and support company, as well as the heavy support, parachute, medical, training and extraction companies.
The organisational basis of each parachute regiment consists of five parachute companies. They are designed without extensive basic training to perform defence tasks, offensive and liberation and evacuation of people. Units of these companies can also patrol certain areas of the area or operate at checkpoints.
Each of the parachute regiments organisationally consist of a control department, three parachute platoons and a heavy parachute regiment.
The company commander and his deputy are armed with P8 and 5.56 mm NK G36C automatic rifles, and the rest of the personnel are armed with NK G36C rifles.
In total, there are 10 people in the control section armed with seven 5.56 mm NK G36A2 automatic rifles, two 5.56 mm MG4 machine guns, a 60 mm Pzf 3 anti-tank grenade launchers, and a Mungo car.
The parachute platoon consists of 40 people, armed with 25 5.56 mm NK G36A2 automatic rifles, eight 5.56 mm NK MG4 machine guns, seven 60 mm Pfz 3 anti-tank grenade launchers, as well as four Mungo cars.
Heavy parachute regiments organisationally consist of command (platoon commander), sniper, anti-tank and grenade launcher departments. It has 31 men armed with six 5.56 mm NK G36C automatic rifles, 19 5.56 mm NK G36A2 automatic rifles, three 8.6 mm G29 sniper rifles, and three 12.7 mm G82 sniper rifles. There are also three Milan ER ATGMs and 40 mm NK GMG automatic machine grenade launchers, three Mungo cars are used as transport.
In total, the parachute company has 160 personnel, armed with 9 mm P8 pistols, 5.56 mm NK G36C and 5.56 mm NK G36A2 automatic rifles, 60 mm anti-tank grenade launchers, G29 sniper rifles and large-caliber 12.7 mm G82, Milan EF ATGM, 40 mm NK GMG automatic machine grenade launchers, as well as Mungo vehicles.
The heavy parachute regiment is designed to provide fire support for the airborne companies. Organisationally, the company consists of: a command department; three fire support platoons; and anti-tank platoon; a mortar platoon; and a fire support coordination platoon.
Each fire support platoon consists of six ACV crews of two people each, a total of 12 people and six Wiesel-1 A4MK ACVs with a 20 mm gun.
The platoon of self-propelled ATGM launchers consists of six crews of self-propelled ATGM of three people each, a total of 18 people and six mobile TOW ATGMs based on the ACV Wiesel-1.
The mortar platoon is designed to support the paratrooper units of the regiment with fire. Organisationally, it consists of a platoon command (commander, his deputy and two radio-telephonists), a fire control department (commander, radio-telephonist, two computer operators) and two sections of four squads each with five men (commander, gunner, loader, ammo bearer, driver). They are armed with 120 mm and 60 mm mortars.
In total, the heavy parachute regiment has 136 personnel, 18 Wiesel-1 A4MK ACVs, six self-propelled Wiesel-1 TOW ATGMs, eight 120 mm and eight 60 mm mortars, as well as eight fire control vehicles.
The heavy support company is intended for the material and technical support of the regiment’s units. Organisationally, it consists of an operational logistics centre, a transportation and trans-shipment platoon, a cargo landing platoon and a repair platoon.
The medical and sanitary company is designed to provide medical care and evacuate the wounded. Organisationally, the company consists of two emergency medical teams, two evacuation teams and a first aid team.
The training company is designed to train the personnel of the regiment in all specialities.
The selection company is intended for the recruitment, selection and initial training of personnel for the units of the regiment on a three-month course.
Separate reconnaissance parachute companies (260th and 310th) from the 1st Airborne Brigade are designed to perform independent tasks and support the actions of special forces command formations.
Each of the companies is organised into five departments: command, communications, medical, supply and repair, as well as seven platoons – two reconnaissance, field intelligence, technical intelligence, UAV and two deep reconnaissance.
In addition to conducting reconnaissance of stationary and mobile objects, platoons are involved in joint tactical fire support and interaction with special forces units.
Separate engineering paratrooper companies (260th and 270th) are designed for direct engineering support of paratrooper unis and SOC formations in special operations.
Each company consists of five organisational division: command, communications, transport, supply and repair, as well as four platoons – engineering paratroopers with advanced basic training for special operations, engineering paratroopers, mine clearance and engineering vehicles.
The company’s units are equipped with excavators, light transport vehicles, vehicles for various purposes, a set of engineering equipment and tools.
The regiments of transport helicopters (the 10th and 30th) are intended for the transfer of units, material resources to short and medium distances, as well as for the evacuation of the wounded and injured.
They have the same organisational structure. Each regiment consists of six squadrons: headquarters and supply; two transport aviation; relay; helicopter maintenance; helicopter repair.
Each squadron of transport helicopters consists of four units of four vehicles.
In addition, they have two NH-90 helicopters, which are used for the search and rescue service of the Bundeswehr. In total, one regiment is armed with 36 NH-90 helicopters.
The 36th regiment of attack helicopters is designed to defeat the enemy and suppress its firepower independently or in cooperation with other forces and means.
The regiment is organised into five squadrons: headquarters and supply, two attack helicopters, maintenance of vehicles and maintenance of the Tiger helicopter systems.
Each attack helicopter squadron consists of four units of four helicopters. In total, the regiment has 62 aircraft.
The 11th Airmobile Brigade of the Netherlands, numbering about 2,500 people, has been part of the Rapid Reaction Division since June 2014.
According to the military leadership of the partner countries, this ensures the optimal use of the qualities of the personnel and weapons of the parties, creates favourable conditions for training and is economically feasible.
The brigade can be deployed for 7-20 days in the required operational area to protect the interests of the Netherlands and its allies, maintain international law and order, and provide humanitarian assistance in natural disasters.
The brigade is organised into: headquarters and headquarters company, the 11th, 12th and 13th Airmobile Infantry Battalions, the 11th Airmobile Reconnaissance Squadron, the 11th Engineer Company, the 11th Maintenance Company, the 11th Supply Company, the 11th Airmobile Medical Company and the 20th Reserve Battalion.
The units of the brigade usually move by car, but are transferred by helicopter and are armed mainly with light air transportable equipment:
- Mercedes tactical vehicles (different versions);
- 4 t DAF YA-4442 trucks;
- 10 t DAF YAZ-2300 cargo vehicles;
- Enduro KTM motocycles;
- special LSV airmobile vehicles (placement of anti-tank weapons, communication equipment, evacuation of the wounded);
Each airmobile infantry battalion consists of a headquarters, three infantry companies, and a patrol company.
Each infantry company consists of command, three infantry platoons, sections – mortar, sniper and fire support. There are 118 people in the company.
The patrol company consists of the command, two patrol platoons in vehicles armed with a 12.7 mm machine gun, two 5.56 mm Minimi machine guns and a Spike ATGM, as well as a reconnaissance platoon and a medical section.
The reconnaissance squadron is designed to obtain intelligence information about the enemy and the terrain, as well as to search, prepare and mark landing sites and airfields for aviation and landing sites.
The squadron is organised into control platoons, three reconnaissance platoons, air traffic control platoons, and logistics platoons.
The engineering company ensures the mobility of the brigade units by detecting and disarming IEDs, cutting through minefields and laying bridges, as well as preventing the advance of enemy units by erecting barriers. Company units may be assigned to infantry battalions.
Organisationally, the company consists of four platoons – engineering, reconnaissance, engineering and fortification.
The supply company resupplies ammunition, food, water and spare parts, as well as ensures the withdrawal of brigade units to the area of operations.
The medical company is designed to evacuate the wounded, as well as provide them with medical care and care for the sick.
Thus, the rapid reaction division of the German GF includes special forces, airborne troops and army aviation, thanks to the integration of which the division is able to conduct both special operations and conduct classic, high-intensity combat operations, including outside the national territory.
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