Public relations concerning the armed forces of a country are now more important than ever. Following the German governments suspension of conscription, the German Bundeswehr has paid particular attention as to how it presents itself to the outside world. In the past, the primary concern of the Bundeswehr was demonstrating its equipment and capabilities, nowadays however, its main concern is attracting new recruits voluntarily into its ranks. To support this initiative, the German armed forces conducted this years official Bundeswehr Day. Held on a single weekend at 16 specially selected sites across the German Federal Republic, the main goal of “Bundeswehr Day” is to demonstrate the German armed forces as a total package exhibiting all branches of the armed forces to the public as well as presenting itself as an attractive employer. The significance of Bundeswehr Day is highlighted by the fact that the current Minister of Defense, Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, delivered a speech via live stream from Frankenberg Barracks in Hannover addressing over 250,000 visitors whom attended all 16 organizing sites.
The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was represented by two of their Wings, Taktischen Luftwaffengeschwader 74 from Neuburg and Lufttransportgeschwader 63 from Rendsburg/Hohn in Schleswig-Holstein. Regarding the latter, a very special formation flight was announced that vindicated the decision of the many enthusiasts and spotters in attendance to travel the long distance to the far north of the Republic (their decision to come to Northern Germany instead of Neuburg in the South was further validated as the weather conditions in Hohn were perfect when compared to Neuburg). The aforementioned highlight involved a "three generations” formation consisting of the sole remaining airworthy Nord 2501 NORATLAS, a Transall C-160D and a brand new Airbus A-400M airlifter. This special arrangement enticed not only die-hard Luftwaffe fans and spotters but many former members of the German armed forces also took the opportunity to see a special display that was not to be missed. This was a sight that (especially for the older ones) bought a small tear to their eyes! As Hohn air base is being threatened with closure and the C-160 really belonging on the scrap heap, this formation flight was an experience which will probably be never seen again.
Lufttransportgeschwader LTG (Air Transport Wing) 63 commenced service in September 1961 at Celle-Wietzenbruch air base. Just six years later the wing moved to its current base near the Kiel Canal close to the city of Rendsburg in the most Northern Federal state of Schleswig Holstein. The first aircraft type operated by LTG 63 was the Nord 2501 NORATLAS, being replaced three years later by the more modern German/French developed TRANSALL C-160 (C=Cargo, 160= total wing area in mř). The C-160 made its maiden flight on 25th February 1963. The Luftwaffe originally planned to procure a total of 110 aircraft, however 20 of these aircraft were sold to Turkey at the beginning of the 1970’s. For Bundeswehr Day, and to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Air Transport Wing, LTG 63 applied a stunningly colourful paint scheme to one of their TRALL`s (Trall is the German nickname for the C-160). Unfortunately this colourful aircraft will not spend its retirement at Rendsburg or in any German Aviation Museum (much to the chagrin of many) but will be flown at the end of this year, shortly after its decommissioning, to the European Air Transport Commands (EATC) at Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands to become a gate guard.
Currently, LTG 63 is one of three air transport wings of the German Luftwaffe (the others being LTG 61 at Penzing/Bavaria and LTG 62 at Wunsdorf/Lower Saxony). Plans currently call for the closure of the Hohn air base and its Wing by the end of 2021. The LTG 63 should cease operation by 2018, however due to the introduction of the A-400M being significantly delayed (only three aircraft have been delivered to the Luftwaffe to date), LTG 63 received an additional grace period. There are some rumours that the Bundeswehr is currently considering the additional purchase of Lockheed Martin C-130 HERCULES transport aircraft in addition to procurement of the A-400M. Whether this is just speculation or will develop into something more concrete yet reminds to be seen with any certainty. In any case, such a purchase would not only be good for Rendsburg/Hohn and LTG 63, but after operating a smaller tactical transport aircraft would also benefit the Luftwaffe. The A-400M provides a strategic airlift capability that has not been available to the Luftwaffe until recently. This includes the movement of large quantities of personnel, equipment and materials without assistance from friendly nations. At a time where missions abroad are now a major task of German armed forces, the availability of an adequate airlift capability is now essential. While this is all very well and good, what does the Luftwaffe possess to deliver only a few (4 – 6 weighting a total of 2.5 - 4t) pallets into a rugged uninhabited area, as use of an aircraft the size of the A-400M for such a relatively minor task may not be economically viable? For this reason many air forces have at least two different transport aircraft in their inventories. A strategic cargo lifter in the Boeing C-17 GLOBEMASTER III or A-400M class together and a smaller tactical transport aircraft such as the Lockheed Alenia C-27J SPARTAN or the Lockheed Martin C-130J HERCULES. Should procurement of C-130J for the Luftwaffe ever materialize, then we may see a repeat of the “three generations” formation with perhaps four different aircraft attending?
Not only transport aircraft were to be admired on Bundeswehr Day. Another display during the event featured a joint rescue operation of hostages carried out by German special forces called the KSK (KSK = Kommando Spezialkraefte). Supporting the operation was a C-160 from Rendsburg/Hohn, a TORNADO IDS of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 51 "Immelmann" based at neighbouring Jagel air base and a Eurofighter EF-2000 of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73 "Steinhoff" based at Laage AB.
However, the performances of the participating aircraft were neither a demonstration of the capability of the units nor of the skills of the participating crews. A straight flyby by a TORNADO may comply with the general requirements set by the authorities – this however had nothing to do with any demonstration of performance!
Verdict: Bundeswehr Day was a great success! Of course, the good weather conditions (at least at Rendsburg/Hohn) played a part in this, but so did the efforts made by all those involved, especially the men and women (both civil & military) of LTG 63 during the months of preparation. On the other hand however this event was definitely no airshow as the Bundeswehr generally do not like to attract a lot of attention and as such the demonstrations were generally quite restrained, but they still demonstrated that they are a modern, highly motivated professional force that will always be ready when needed!
Robert Kysela / CHK 6
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