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The Bundeswehr, is the armed forces of Germany. The Bundeswehr is a federal defense force with Army (Heer), Navy (Marine) and Air Force (Luftwaffe) branches. It employs some 290,000 soldiers, 75,300 of whom are 18-30-year-old men doing their duty in the military services for currently at least 9 months. In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is led by the minister of defense, currently Peter Struck (2003). If Germany is attacked, the chancellor becomes chief commander of the Bundeswehr.

Military manpower
Military age18 years of age
Availabilitymales age 15-49: 20,863,020 (2000 est.)
Fit for military servicemales age 15-49: 17,800,862 (2000 est.)
Reaching military age annuallymales: 485,422 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure$21.01 billion (FY01)
Percent of GDP1.5% (FY98)


The Bundeswehr was founded in 1954 - after some discussion about re-militarizing Germany (the Wiederbewaffnung) after the cruelties of World War II (see Wehrmacht, Reichswehr, SS, SA) - by changing the German Grundgesetz (basic law). In 1955 Germany became a NATO member. In 1956 a military duty for all men between 18 and 45 in years was introduced, later on softened by the introduction of a civil alternative with longer duration.

After reunification in 1990, the Bundeswehr was merged with the Nationale Volksarmee of the GDR.

In 1999, the NATO war on Yugoslavia was the first non-defensive war the Bundeswehr actively took part in.

In 2000 the European Court of Justice opened the until then - besides sanitary divisions - all-male Bundeswehr for women.


The Bundeswher currently consists of about 230,000 soldiers, about half of whom are conscripts. There are three corps; below them are 24 combat brigades. The I Corps is headquartered at Münster, II Corps is headquartered at Ulm, and IV Corps is headquartered at Potsdam. I Corps is German-Dutch, while II Corps is German-American. Additionally, Eurocorps is under the administrative command of II Corps.

The 5th Panzer Division is currently under the command of the US V Corps. Many German units fall under the military command of NATO, as well.


The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the Grundgesetz (Art. 87a) as defensive only. Today defense is seen as including not only defense at the borders of Germany, but also as crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or broadly as saving the security of Germany. This allows the Bundeswehr to take part in missions outside of the borders of Germany, as part of the NATO or mandated by the UN.

Currently there are Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan (2,240; ISAF), Kosovo (3,320; KFOR), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1,290; SFOR), Republic of Macedonia, Georgia and as part of the EU-Congo mission "Artemis". As part of the "Enduring Freedom" mission, c. 750 soldiers patrol the Indian Ocean vis--vis Somalia. Currently a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Iraq is debated.

See also: German Federal Coast Guard

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