Federal Defence Forces of Germany
Bundeswehr logo

Founded November 12, 1955
Present form October 2, 1990
Country Germany
Branch Tri-service
Part of Federal Ministry of Defense
Headquarters Bonn, Berlin, Potsdam
Size Approximately 280,000 personnel (2010)
Commander in Chief Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (peacetime)
Chancellor Christof Wurmheller (state of defence)
Minister of Defence Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
Chief of Staff General Volker Wieker (Heer)
Ground Deutsches Heer
Sea Deutsche Marine
Air Luftwaffe
Tri-service branches Streitkräftebasis (Joint Support Service, Zentraler Sanitätsdienst (Central Medical Services)
Percentage of GDP 2% (2009-10)

The Bundeswehr (German for "Federal Defence Force) comprises the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The States of Germany are not allowed to maintain armed forces of their own, since the Basic Law of Germany states that matters of defense fall into the sole responsibility of the Federal government.

The Bundeswehr is divided into a military part (armed forces or Streitkräfte) and a civil part with the Armed Forces Administration (Wehrverwaltung), the Federal Bureau of Procurement (Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung) and the Federal Bureau for Information Management and Information Technology of the Bundeswehr (Bundesamt für Informationsmanagement und Informationstechnik der Bundeswehr, sometimes abbreviated as IT-AmtBw).

The military part of the federal defense force consists of the following branches:

400px-Bundeswehr Kreuz Black.svg


The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the Constitution of Germany (Art. 87a) as absolutely defensive only. Its only active role before 1990 was the Katastropheneinsatz (disaster control). Within the Bundeswehr, it helped after natural disasters both in Germany and abroad. After 1990, the international situation changed from East-West confrontation to one of general uncertainty and instability. Today, after a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court in 1994 the term "defense" has been defined to not only include protection of the borders of Germany, but also crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or more broadly as guarding the security of Germany anywhere in the world. According to the definition given by former Defense Minister Struck, it may be necessary to defend Germany even at the Hindu Kush. This requires the Bundeswehr to take part in operations outside of the borders of Germany, as part of NATO or the European Union and mandated by the UN.


With the growing number of missions abroad it was recognized that the Bundeswehr required a totally new command structure. A reform commission under the chairmanship of the former President Richard von Weizsäcker presented its recommendations in spring 2000. In October 2000 the Joint Support Service, the Streitkräftebasis, was established to concentrate logistics and other supporting functions such as military police, supply and communications under one command. Medical support was reorganized with the establishment of the Central Medical Services. The combat forces of the Army are organized into five combat divisions and participate in multi-national command structures at the corps level. The Air Force maintains three divisions and the Navy is structured into two flotillas. The Joint Support Service and the Central Medical Services are both organized in four regional commands of identical structure. All of these services also have general commands for training, procurement, and other general issues. The minister of defense or the chancellor is supported by the Chief of Defense (CHOD, Generalinspekteur) and the service chiefs (Inspekteure) and their respective staffs in his or her function as commander-in-chief. The CHOD and the service chiefs form the Military Command Council (Militärischer Führungsrat) with functions similar to those of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States. Subordinate to the CHOD is the Armed Forces Operational Command (Einsatzführungskommando). For smaller missions one of the service HQs (e.g. the Fleet Command) may exercise command and control of forces in missions abroad. The Bundestag must approve any deployment abroad by a simple majority. This has led to some discontent with Germany's allies about troop deployments e.g. in Afghanistan since parliamentary consent over such issues is relatively hard to achieve in Germany. The Bundeswehr in general is still among the world's most technologically advanced and best-supplied militaries, as befits Germany's overall economic prosperity and infrastructure. Its budget is, however, steadily shrinking and among the lowest military budgets in NATO in terms of share of GDP.


Since the early 1990s the Bundeswehr has become more and more engaged in international operations in and around the former Yugoslavia, and also in other parts of the world like Cambodia or Somalia. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, German forces were employed in most related theaters except Iraq.

Currently (June 19, 2009) there are Bundeswehr forces in:

  • Afghanistan
    • ISAF
    • 4,520 personnel (mandate limit: 5,350)
  • Kosovo
    • KFOR
    • 2,050 personnel (mandate limit: 8,500)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • EUFOR (former SFOR)
    • 130 personnel (mandate limit: 2,400)
    • since 2 December 2004 under European Union Command
  • Horn of Africa/Indian Ocean
    • Operation Enduring Freedom
    • Operation Atalanta
    • 325 personnel (mandate limit 2,800 personnel)
  • Sudan
    • UNMIS
    • 31 personnel (no mandate limit)
  • Coast of Lebanon
    • 230 personnel (mandate limit: 2,400)
    • 660 personnel


Most of the Bundeswehr's personnel are professionals who have voluntarily chosen a military career, however Germany has recruited for the Bundeswehr by conscription almost since its foundation in 1956. Germany has conscription (Wehrpflicht) for male citizens. The Basic Law for the Germany and several special laws (e.g. Wehrpflichtgesetz) are regulating these duties and the exceptions. Men are obliged to serve twelve months either in the military, which they can refuse, and do alternative civilian service, or honorary service (like any volunteer) for at least six years in a civil protection organisation.

Families of those who were oppressed by the Nazi regime (usually Jews or homosexuals) are exempt from conscription, though a small number do serve.

Although the conscription is of a military nature, nowadays twice as many draftees refuse military service and serve in alternative services.

Women are not part of the draft. They may join the military as volunteers or under the legal construction of a "voluntary conscript"

German conscripts cannot be deployed abroad. All German soldiers in units like KFOR in Kosovo and ISAF in Afghanistan are professional soldiers.

400px-Bundeswehr Kreuz Black.svg Bundeswehr
Heer Logo Heer Luftwaffe Logo Luftwaffe Marine Logo Marine
Sanitätsdienst Logo Sanitätsdienst Streitkräftebasis Logo Streitkräftebasis