Saturday, June 9, 2012

Luftstreitkräfte / Luftverteidigung

Luftstreitkräfte MiG-23 Flogger fighter bombers over East Germany shortly before reunification

The Luftstreitkräfte / Luftverteidigung (LSK/LV) were the Air Force/ Air Defense Forces of East Germany. It was tasked with preventing hostile penetration of East German air space. As with the Landstreitkräfte, the Volksmarine, and the Grenztruppen, it was a military branch of the combined National People's Army.

The name Luftstreitkräfte applied originally to the air corps of the German Empire between 1910 and the end of World War I in 1918. It was selected as the name of the new East German Air Force when it's West German counterpart adopted the name Luftwaffe as used by the Third Reich air arm from 1935 to the end of World War II as the official title of it's air arm .

At the end of November 1953, a reorganisation of air units saw air units transferred from the Ministry of the Interior directly to the Deputy Minister and Chief of the People's Police. The air regiments were reorganized into the Aero Club 1 (Cottbus), 2 (Drewitz) and 3 (Bautzen), which in turn were divided into two sections. Starting in 1954, additional Z-126 and M-1D from Czechoslovakian production were made available.

On 1 March 1956 the Air Force was officially established as part of the National People's Army, following the GDR's entry into the Warsaw Pact alliance. Initially the Air Force (LSK), with its headquarters at Cottbus, was separate from the Luftverteidigung (Air Defence, headquartered at Strausberg (Eggersdorf). It was intended to establish three fighter divisions, an attack aircraft division and an anti-aircraft division. However, eventually only the 1st and 3rd Aviation Divisions and the 1st Flak-Division were created. On 1 June 1957 there was a merger of the two administrations in Strausberg (Eggersdorf), and the new headquarters was renamed the Kommando LSK/LV.

Aircraft were marked with a diamond-shaped symbol divided into vertical black, red and gold stripes corresponding to the horizontal fesses or bars on the GDR state flag. At the centre of the diamond was the GDR coat of arms: a hammer and compass surrounded by a wreath of yellow grain. The symbol differentiated the Luftstreitkräfte from the West German Luftwaffe, which displays a stylised Iron Cross similar to the emblem on German aircraft during World War I.

The uniforms of the two German air forces were also different: following an older German tradition, LSK/LV uniforms were the same stone gray worn by army personnel, modified by distinctive blue insignia (similar in style, but not color, to World War II Luftwaffe ranks) and piping. West German uniforms, on the other hand, were blue with yellow insignia and more closely modelled on those worn by Luftwaffe personnel during World War II.

The East German air force was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in that it was often equipped with the most advanced Soviet fighters, instead of downgraded export models. As an extension of the Soviet 16th Air Army deployed in East Germany, the Luftstreitkräfte was expected to play a front-line role in any war with NATO. As a result, it was under closer Soviet control than the air forces of other Warsaw Pact states.

It maintained a personnel strength of about 39,000 troops of which 38% were draftees (higher ratio of officers and NCOs to enlisted than any other military branch). It also maintained 171 combat aircraft including helicopters.

 Ranks of the Army & Air Force


Soldat - Private
Gefreiter - Private First Class
Stabsgefreiter - Lance Corporal

Non Commissioned Officers

Unteroffizier - Corporal
Unterfeldwebel - Junior Sergeant
Feldwebel - Senior Sergeant/ Sergeant First Class
Oberfeldwebel - Master Sergeant
Stabsfeldwebel - Sergeant Major/Senior Staff Sergeant

Officer Candidates

Fähnrich - Warrant Officer
Oberfähnrich - Senior Warrant Officer
Stabsfähnrich - Chief Warrant Officer
Oberstabsfähnrich - Master Warrant Officer

Commissioned Officers

Unterleutnant - Second Lieutenant
Leutnant - Lieutenant
Oberleutnant - First Lieutenant
Hauptmann - Captain
Oberstleutnant - Lieutenant Colonel
Oberst - Colonel
Generalmajor - Major General
Generalleutnant - Lieutenant General
Generaloberst - Colonel General
Armeegeneral - General of the Army
Marschall der DDR - Marshal of the DDR

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