Original post WW2 made German Bundeswehr / Luftwaffe beret cap badge / Ground Defence - Low Level Air Defence Troops, (Barettabzeichen Objektschutz der Luftwaffe), IN PERFECT CONDITION WITH 4 PRONGS ON THE REVERSE, MAKER MARKED: "A" (Assmann), RARE BERET BADGE, SIZE: cca 53 x 46 mm
HISTORY OF THE LUFTWAFFE:
The German Air Force (German: Luftwaffe, lit. 'air weapon', German pronunciation: [ˈlʊftvafə] (About this soundlisten)) is the aerial warfare branch of the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of Germany. With a strength of 27,620 personnel (April 2020), it is the third largest air force within the European Union, after the Italian Air Force and French Air Force. The German Air Force (as part of the Bundeswehr) was founded in 1956 during the era of the Cold War as the aerial warfare branch of the armed forces of then West Germany. After the reunification of West and East Germany in 1990, it integrated parts of the air force of the former German Democratic Republic, which itself had been founded in 1956 as part of the National People's Army. There is no organizational continuity between the current German Air Force and the former Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht founded in 1935, which was completely disbanded in 1945/46 after World War II. The term Luftwaffe that is used for both the historic and the current German air force is the German-language generic designation of any air force. The commander of the German Air Force is Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz. As of 2015, the German Air Force uses eleven air bases, two of which host no flying units. Furthermore, the Air Force has a presence at three civil airports. In 2012, the German Air Force had an authorized strength of 28,475 active soldiers and 4,914 reservists. After World War II, German aviation was severely curtailed, and military aviation was completely forbidden after the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich had been disbanded in August 1946 by the Allied Control Commission. This changed in 1955 when West Germany joined NATO, as the Western Allies believed that Germany was needed to counter the increasing military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Therefore, on 9 January 1956, a new German Air Force called Luftwaffe was founded as a branch of the new Bundeswehr. Many well-known fighter pilots of the Wehrmacht's Luftwaffe joined the new post-war air force and underwent refresher training in the US before returning to West Germany to upgrade on the latest U.S.-supplied hardware. These included Erich Hartmann, Gerhard Barkhorn, Günther Rall and Johannes Steinhoff. Steinhoff became commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, with Rall as his immediate successor. Another pilot of World War II, Josef Kammhuber, also made a significant career in the post-war Luftwaffe, retiring in 1962 as Inspekteur der Luftwaffe (Chief Inspector of the Air Force). Despite the partial reliance of the new air force on airmen who had served in the Wehrmacht's air arm, there was no organizational continuity between the old and the new Luftwaffe. This is in line with the policy of the Bundeswehr on the whole, which does not consider itself a successor of the Wehrmacht and does not follow the traditions of any other previous German military organization. The first volunteers of the Luftwaffe arrived at the Nörvenich Air Base in January 1956. In the same year, the Luftwaffe was provided with its first aircraft, the US-made Republic F-84 Thunderstreak. At first, the Luftwaffe was divided into two operational commands, one in Northern Germany, aligned with the British-led Second Allied Tactical Air Force, and the other in Southern Germany, aligned with the American-led Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force. In 1957, the Luftwaffe took command of the Army Air Defence Troops located in Rendsburg and began the expansion of its own air defence missile capabilities. The first squadron to be declared operational was the Air Transport Wing 61 at Erding Air Base, followed by the 31st Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Büchel Air Base. In 1958, the Luftwaffe received its first conscripts. In 1959, the Luftwaffe declared the 11th Missile Group in Kaufbeuren armed with MGM-1 Matador surface-to-surface tactical nuclear cruise missiles operational. The same year Jagdgeschwader 71 (Fighter Wing 71) equipped with Canadair CL-13 fighters became operational at Ahlhorner Heide Air Base. All aircraft sported—and continue to sport—the Iron Cross on the fuselage, harking back to the pre-March 1918 days of World War I, while the national flag of West Germany is displayed on the tail. In 1963, the Luftwaffe saw its first major reorganization. The two operational Air Force Group Commands – Command North and Command South were both split into two mixed Air Force divisions containing flying and air defence units and one Support division. Additionally, a 7th Air Force division was raised in Schleswig-Holstein containing flying units, missile units, support units and the German Navy's naval aviation and placed under command of Allied Forces Baltic Approaches. In 1960, the Luftwaffe received its first Lockheed F-104 Starfighter jets. The Starfighter remained in service for the entire duration of the Cold War, with the last being taken out of service in 1991. The Luftwaffe received 916 Starfighters, 292 of which crashed, resulting in the deaths of 116 pilots. The disastrous service record of the Starfighter led to the Starfighter crisis in 1966 as a reaction to 27 Starfighter crashes with 17 casualties in 1965 alone. The West German public referred to the Starfighter as the Witwenmacher (widow-maker), fliegender Sarg (flying coffin), Fallfighter (falling fighter) and Erdnagel (tent peg, literally "ground nail"). On 25 August 1966, the German Defence Minister Kai-Uwe von Hassel relieved the Inspekteur der Luftwaffe Generalleutnant Werner Panitzki, and transferred Colonel Erich Hartmann, commanding officer of the 71st Fighter Squadron, as both had publicly criticized the acquisition of the Starfighter as a "purely political decision". On 2 September 1966, Johannes Steinhoff, with Günther Rall as deputy, became the new Inspekteur der Luftwaffe. Steinhoff and his deputy Günther Rall noted that the non-German F-104s proved much safer. The Americans blamed the high loss rate of the Luftwaffe F-104s on the extreme low-level and aggressive flying of German pilots rather than any faults in the aircraft. Steinhoff and Rall went to America to learn to fly the Starfighter under Lockheed instruction and noted some specifics in the training (a lack of mountain and foggy-weather training), combined with handling capabilities (rapidly initiated, high G turns) of the aircraft that could cause accidents. Steinhoff and Rall therefore changed the training regimen for the F-104 pilots, and the accident rates fell to those comparable or better than other air forces. They also brought about the high level of training and professionalism seen today throughout the Luftwaffe, and the start of a strategic direction for Luftwaffe pilots to engage in tactical and combat training outside of Germany. However, the F-104 never lived down its reputation as a "widow-maker", and was replaced by the Luftwaffe with the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter and the Panavia Tornado fighter-bomber in many units much earlier than in other national air forces. On Steinhoff's initiative, the Luftwaffe opened the German Air Force Command USA/Canada (Deutsches Luftwaffenkommando USA/Kanada) in Fort Bliss, where the Luftwaffe trained its missile and air defence troops, and pilots received their basic training. At the same time, the Luftwaffe opened a Tactical Training Command in Beja, Portugal, where pilots were trained in Close Air Support missions. Between 1967 and 1970, the Luftwaffe undertook a major reorganization of its forces. The two operational commands were disbanded and the four mixed Air Force divisions were divided into two flying divisions and two air defence divisions. The remainder of the units were divided into functional commands: Air Force Operation Command (Luftwaffenführungsdienstkommando), with the signal regiments, the radar, and the signals intelligence units, Air Force Training Command (Luftwaffenausbildungskommando), with the schools and training regiments, Air Force Support Command (Luftwaffenunterstützungskommando), with all logistical, maintenance and repair units, and the Material Office of the Air Force, Air Force Transport Command (Lufttransportkommando), with the air transport squadrons. Over the next decade, the Luftwaffe received large amounts of new equipment, including in 1968 the first C-160 Transall transport planes, in 1974 the F-4 Phantom II fighter-bombers, in 1978 the first Alpha Jet Version A light attack jets and in 1979 the first of 212 Panavia Tornado fighters. In 1986, the air defense forces began to replace their Nike Hercules missile systems with state of the art surface-to-air missile systems: first to arrive was the MIM-104 Patriot system, followed one year later by Roland short range missile system.