[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. — Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]
CHAPTER X. GERMAN AIR FORCE
Section III. AIR FORCE ARMS AND SERVICES
1. Antiaircraft Defenses
a. GENERAL. The bulk of the German antiaircraft artillery, inclusive of antiaircraft searchlight units, is an organic part of the German Air Force. The German Army has antiaircraft artillery units of its own, but these units are only for the organic use and protection of the Army units against air attack.
For organizational charts of Luftwaffe and Army antiaircraft units see Sections V and VI, Chapter II. For a discussion of antiaircraft weapons and equipment see Chapter VII, Section IV.
b. ANTIAIRCRAFT DEFENSE OF GERMANY AND REAR AREAS. The Chief of the German Air Force is responsible for the air defense of territorial Germany as well as important installations in occupied countries. The Aircraft Warning Service as a part of the Air Force is tied in with the coordinated use of aviation, antiaircraft artillery, and barrage balloons. All air raid precaution measures also are the responsibility of the Chief of the German Air Force.
Antiaircraft defense of rear areas is carried out through the Luftgaue mentioned above. Luftgaue coordinate their defenses with each other in accordance with regulations published by the Chief of the Air Force. The commander of each Luftgau has a specialist under him who exercises command over the antiaircraft artillery units, including searchlights, assigned to the district. Other specialists include the commanders of barrage balloon units and of units responsible for carrying out special defense measures. In actual operations, in most cases the commands above the actual operating units act mainly in a coordinating capacity, feeding information to the operating units which act in turn on their own initiative in accordance with prescribed standing operating procedure.
Within certain of the air districts there are special air defense commands. Each of these covers special areas or cities of vital importance, defense of which, under one command, is laid out with a concentration of coordinated defense facilities inclusive of antiaircraft guns and searchlights, fighter aviation, barrage balloons, warning facilities, and the use of special devices such as smoke generators.
Operation of the antiaircraft defense system calls for close cooperation between fighter planes and air warning systems, and the antiaircraft guns with supporting searchlights are considered the backbone of the static defense. For operational control, the antiaircraft command in a Luftgau is usually divided into groups known as Flakgruppen, and these groups in turn are divided into sub-groups known as Flakuntergruppen. The headquarters of the group is normally the control center of the Flak defenses, and acts downward through the sub-groups.
In deployment of heavy antiaircraft guns in important static areas, there is a tendency
toward the use of concentrated sites known as Grossbatterien. These usually consist
of three 4-, 6-, or even
Antiaircraft searchlights are used in cooperation with night fighters, as well as in their normal role of illuminating targets for the gun units.
c. USE OF ANTIAIRCRAFT WITH FIELD FORCES. For operation in the field, Luftwaffe antiaircraft units are allotted to field task forces for protection of Army and Air Force installations. Even in moving situations, a certain amount of antiaircraft is present for the defense of important semi-permanent installations such as depots, parks, railroads, bridges, and airdromes. No hard and fast rule is laid down for this use of antiaircraft artillery. The size of the antiaircraft force defending such areas will depend to a large extent on importance of the areas to be defended, plus availability of Luftwaffe antiaircraft units for such assignment. Luftwaffe antiaircraft organizations and units operating with the Army are subordinated operationally and for command purposes to the Army unit concerned, and administratively (for replacements, etc.) to their parent Air Force Organization.
Employment and composition of the higher Flak units will vary in accordance with local conditions. For a fuller discussion of the organization and employment of higher antiaircraft units in the field, see Section V, Chapter II.
d. DEFENSE OF RAILWAY TRAINS. The mounting of antiaircraft materiel on railway
mounts for the protection of railway trains and as a means of furnishing a highly
mobile defense of lines of communication has been highly perfected by the
Germans. Antiaircraft guns on railway mounts can be used either in rear areas
for protection of trains operating there, or for the protection of trains carrying
troops or supplies to forward combat areas. Although the
2. German Air Force Signal Service (Luftnachrichtenwesen)
a. GENERAL. The importance of a comprehensive and efficient air signal service in aerial warfare is obvious. Neither offensive nor defensive air operations could be conducted without a complete network of signal communications, or without radio and radar equipment for the direction and control of aircraft, particularly in fighter defense. So vital is the role of the German Air Force Signal Service that it has had a greater proportionate wartime expansion than any other arm of the German Air Force, and now has an estimated personnel strength of between 175,000 and 200,000.
b. FLEXIBILITY. The efficiency of the German Air Force has been enhanced by the flexibility of its signal organization. This was particularly true when the Germans were advancing into new territory, usually well prepared, on a temporary basis, for the reception of flying units. As soon as the captured territory was firmly occupied, signal units then established a more permanent landline communications system. Under present circumstances, with the Germans on the defensive, the flexibility and mobility of the German Air Force are no longer dependent to the same extent on its signal organization. However, a workable German Air Force Signal Service is still of paramount importance in the defense of Germany against air attacks.
c. FUNCTIONS. These include the transmission of all orders and communications necessary for the operation and functioning of the German Air Force, if possible both by landline and by wireless; the establishment and supervision of all navigational aids to aircraft; the manning of Observer Corps and radar in connection with air defense; control of air traffic, air safety and rescue services; and the interception of enemy signals.
d. ORGANIZATION. (1) General. One of the departments of the German Air Ministry is the Director General of Signal Communications (Generalnachrichtenführer der Luftwaffe). To handle its multiple duties, a flexible organization has been developed, consisting of many self-contained specialist companies. The bulk of these companies are allocated to the major operational and administrative commands, and the others are grouped into battalions or remain as individual companies attached to minor commands.
(2) Section platoon and company. The basic operational unit is the section
(3) Battalion and regiment. Three to four companies usually make up a battalion (Abteilung), although some have many more. The strength of a battalion, aside from its staff, depends on the number of companies. Three to five battalions normally form a regiment (Regimenter), with a strength between 1,500 and 9,000 and varying functions.
(4) Allotment and numbering of units. Signal regiments and smaller units are allotted to the several different types of operational and administrative commands requiring a permanent allocation of signal personnel. Allocation is on the basis of the size and requirements of the command. The relationship of the signal units to their assigned commands often is indicated by the terminal number of the unit designation; e.g. Luftflotte 2 had Signal Regiments 2, 12, and 22. However, with the creation of many new commands and the renumbering of others, the numbering system for signal units is not as readily workable as formerly.
(5) Special units. In addition to the standard units, there is a special Research Regiment charged with the development of new types of signal equipment and its employment. Aircraft specially equipped for signal activities have also in many instances been allotted to various commands and have proved extremely useful in conducting air operations in mobile situations.
(6) Command. The supreme signal command of the above units is exercised by the Director General of Signals of the Air Ministry. Signal command of a Luftflotte is under a Chief Signal Officer (Höhere Nachrichtenführer or Höhere Nafü) who controls the senior Signal Officer (Nafü) of the Fliegerkorps, Luftgaue, Flak-Korps and Flak Division, and Airfield Regional Command. Subordinate to these are the Signal Officers (Nachrichten Offizier or N. O.) who exercise command in the lower subdivisions such as Operational Airfield Command signal platoons, and Geschwader signal companies.
e. SIGNAL EQUIPMENT. (1) General. German signal equipment, generally speaking, has been characterized by standardization of design, relatively few major types, and a high quality of components and workmanship. During the first years of the war, the Germans did not fully appreciate the tactical possibilities of radar [The basic principle of radar is the transmission of a wireless pulse of very short duration, the reflection of the pulse by the object to be detected, and the reception of both the original and reflected pulses by a receiver adjacent to the transmitter. Electrical measurement of the time interval between the two pulses gives a direct indication of the distance of the reflecting object. Means are also provided whereby direction of the object from the transmitter, and in some cases its height, can be obtained.] and for a time Allied radar development was well ahead of the German. However, the Germans have made tremendous efforts to match Allied technical progress and to overcome the various tactical problems resulting from Allied superiority.
(2) Ground radar. German ground radar falls into three general categories: Early warning set (Freya, Mammut or Wassermann) for long range detection; Giant Würzburg primarily for aircraft interception control; and Small Würzburg designed for flak control, but also used for height finding in the Aircraft Reporting Service. These various types of ground radar equipment play a large part in the German system of air raid warning and control of fighter interception. Many devices have been developed by the Allies to nullify the effectiveness of the German equipment, but at the same time the Germans have developed numerous countermeasures. These measures and countermeasures have led to extremely rapid development of new techniques and equipment both by the Germans and by the Allies.
(3) Airborne radio and radar. German airborne radio and radar equipment may be classified in four general categories: Funkgerat (FuG), or radio and radar equipment involving transmitters and receivers; Peilgerat (PeG), or navigational equipment; Notsender (NS), or emergency transmitter; and other types of miscellaneous equipment. Airborne equipment is an absolute necessity for the successful conduct of air operations. Throughout the war, the Germans have developed navigational, bombing, and fighter control equipment. The latter is particularly important at the present time for the Germans who must depend on adequate warning of Allied air attacks and efficient control of fighters and flak for effective opposition.
f. FIGHTER DEFENSE. (1) General. During 1941 and early 1942, the German Air Force fighter organization was concerned mainly with defense of targets in Northern France and the Lowlands. The bulk of aerial combats then were taking place in the relatively small area over those countries and over the English Channel; and a warning system, consisting of a coastal radar belt and visual observers, was adequate. But the greater depth of penetration by Allied bombers in 1943 required that the German Air Force protect targets in Germany as well as in occupied territory, and the defensive problem thus became infinitely more complex. Additional radar belts and observer posts were required. German fighters had to be placed in tactically favorable positions, and they were forced to enlarge the scope of their activity to cover all areas subject to attack. Such developments naturally led to considerable changes in the German Air Force fighter organization and the methods of fighter control. The liberation of France and part of the Lowlands in 1944 further complicated the German defensive problem by depriving the German Air Force of a large and efficient part of its early warning system, as well as many excellent airfields at a time when the weight of the Allied air assault was increasing.
(2) Reporting and warning system. The Aircraft Reporting Service is a part of the German Air Force. Long-range radar sets determine the range and bearing of the approaching aircraft, and short-range sets measure height. Other types of equipment distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft. An Observer Corps network with strategically located posts also supplies aircraft warning information, while in some in-stances patrolling aircraft shadow the attacking aircraft. On the basis of the information from these various sources, hostile aircraft are plotted in a central headquarters, and the Germans in the past have been able to construct a fairly accurate and current picture of Allied air operations. Proper warning then is given to all interested agencies, and defensive fighters are put in the air to intercept the attackers. Information on the course and expected target of the bombers is passed by radio to the airborne fighters until contact is made. The specific aerial tactics used by the German fighters have varied considerably throughout the war, but in general the precise method becomes the responsibility of the fighter pilots after contact is made. In spite of the excellent equipment and control methods the Germans have developed, their defensive warnings and operations are considerably handicapped by the loss of territory in Western Europe.
3. Airborne Forces
See Chapter X, section VII.
4. Air Force Fighting Units
See Chapter II, sections V, VI.
5. Air Transport
a. GENERAL. German transport aircraft and gliders are controlled by a General Staff
Department at the Air Ministry. This department, headed by a Kommodor und
Lufttransportführer, allocates and administers all transport units in
the Air Force. The majority of the transport planes consist of the
b. FOR OPERATIONAL UNITS. The Air Force maintains several minor air transport units which are more or less permanently allocated to various commands. These units are not intended to perform any particularly heavy or large-scale transport work such as airborne operations or long-term supply. They are used rather for the numerous odd jobs of communications, liaison, and passenger-carrying within the Luftflotte area, or between the Luftflotte and Air Force headquarters in Germany. These units are distributed among the commands as follows:
(1) The staff of each Luftflotte and Fliegerkorps is allotted a transport Staffel, with 12 or 13 aircraft to be used for transport within Germany proper as well as in forward areas.
(2) Each Fliegerkorps is allotted a transport Staffel of 10 to
(3) Each operational Gruppe is allotted several lighter types of communication
aircraft. Formerly, each Gruppe also had at least one
(4) Each Aufklärungsgruppe (reconnaissance group) has a Kurier-Staffel within the Fliegerkorps organization which is primarily intended for liaison with Army commanders. These aircraft are at the disposal of Army personnel as well as the Air Force reconnaissance officers.
(5) Allotted to each Flivo is a Verbindungs-Staffel (liaison) of communication aircraft which is used for contact work between Army headquarters and those Air Force units which are providing close or direct support for the Army.
(6) The main air signal regiments of each Luftflotte and Fliegerkorps have their own Staffeln or transport aircraft. Some of these planes are equipped as flying signal stations, but many are used simply for transporting equipment and personnel.
(7) The higher commands, including the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the Oberkommando des Heeres, the Oberkommando der Marine, and the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, each have their own Kurier-Staffel to carry mail and personnel. These aircraft operate on a fixed schedule over all of Germany and remaining occupied territory. Individual aircraft may also be detailed on special urgent tasks.
c. FOR CIVIL AIRLINES. A small number of transports, primarily
d. FOR K. G. z. b. V. UNITS. The Kampfgeschwader zur besonderer Verwendung (for special duty), known more simply as K. G. z. b. V. units, include over two-thirds of the German transport aircraft and are actually the mainstay of the Air Force transport organization. For limited operations these aircraft still may be subordinated to and receive their directives from the Luftflotten and Geschwader. In the past they occasionally were allotted by the Air Ministry to the Luftflotten on a fairly permanent basis (for example, to a Luftflotte headquarters). Now, however, they usually are so allotted for a specific operation only (for example, an airborne operation or supply mission). If only one or two units are allotted to a Luftflotte, the chief quartermaster department of the Luftflotte will handle administration, personnel, and aircraft serviceability. If several units are operating under the Luftflotte, however, the Air Ministry usually will detail an air transport officer to the Luftflotte. This officer, who normally holds the rank of Oberst, generally is assisted by a staff, which may include a technical officer, a personnel officer or adjutant, and an operations officer, in addition to a transport officer who apportions the loads.
The organization of the K. G. z. b. V. units is extremely fluid, and although the original intention apparently was to set up the units in Geschwader, the actual strength of most z. b. V. units rarely exceeds that of a Gruppe. These Gruppen normally number 53 aircraft organized into four Staffeln of 12 aircraft each plus a Gruppenstab of five planes.
For purposes of transporting parachute troops and air-landing infantry in airborne
operations, transport aircraft are organized into z. b. V. Geschwader. Each such
Geschwader consists of about 200 aircraft organized into four Gruppen of
four Staffelneach. Each Staffel has 12 aircraft organized into four
Ketten of three aircraft each. The organization of the Kampfgeschwader thus
closely parallels that of the parachute troops which they transport. A
e. SPECIALLY EQUIPPED TRANSPORTS. A number of
f. GLIDERS. The Germans also are using towed gliders for air transport. Since they combine
a high load capacity with comparatively small, fuel consumption for the towing aircraft (or
of the glider itself in the powered version), they first were used in the Lowlands in
6. Sea Rescue Service
The Air Force Sea Rescue Service (Seenotdienst) was first established to take care of airmen shot down over the North Sea area and the English Channel. Its services were extended to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Baltic. Rescues are performed normally by the service's own aircraft, but where the hazards of water landing are too great, the actual rescue is made by surface craft. These craft may be attached to the service or may be simply lent to it for a particular rescue.
Seenotdienst units were subordinated to the Luftflotte within whose area they serve. These units were organized into three sea rescue commands (Seenotflugkommandos), each of which is headed by a Seenotdienstführer with the rank of colonel. Subordinate to these commands are regional commands, known as Bereichkommandos, which control the various Staffeln and detachments. Single rescue planes were often attached to combat units which operated over water.
7. Meteorological Services
a. GENERAL. The Air Force Meteorological Service (Flugwetterdienst) is controlled by the Air Ministry. The chief responsibility of the Flugwetterdienst is to provide all flying units with dependable weather forecasts as well as all long-term forecasts for strategical planning. The two main sources of Air Force meteorological information are weather stations and weather aircraft.
b. WEATHER STATIONS. At each airfield there is a relatively small Wetterstelle (weather station) which reports on conditions in its immediate vicinity. These reports are collected at regular intervals (usually hourly) by a Wetterberatungszentral (weather reporting center) which then coordinates the reports of all the Wetterstellen within its area and prepares maps for the flying units. A center usually serves an area covered by a Fliegerkorps and frequently is motorized. Some centers carry a Luftgau unit designation, such as W. Z. B./XIII. The chain of command from the airfield to Air Ministry is completed through meteorological officers stationed at Luftgau, Fliegerkorps, and Luftflotte headquarters.
c. WEATHER AIRCRAFT. Attached to each Luftflotte is a Wetterkündigungstaffel (weather reconnaissance squadron), commonly known as a Westa unit. These units normally have nine to 12 aircraft equipped with automatic recording instruments. The crews include a meteorological officer and a specially trained wireless operator.
Combat aircraft often are detailed to report on weather conditions encountered during their operations. The outstanding example of this type of reporting is that of the long-range bomber units operating from Norway. Weather reconnaissance performed by these units has become almost as important as their anti-shipping reconnaissance.
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