Luftwaffe, the German air force during the Third Reich. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany was forbidden to have military and civil aviation (in 1922, the ban on civil aviation was lifted with some restrictions). With the assistance of Reichswehr General Hans von Seect, German civil aviation was largely controlled by the military.
Glider and aviation clubs were widely used,where many pilots were trained on commercial airlines. By the mid-20s, Germany had established a highly efficient aviation industry (Fokkewulf in Bremen, Dornier in Friedrichshafen, Heinkel in Warnemunde, Junkers in Dessau, Messerschmitt in Augsburg). While the victorious allies still flew outdated wooden biplanes, German designers developed modern metal monoplanes with a free-bearing wing, retractable landing gear and blade propellers.
The reorganized Lufthansa airline, having received permission for commercial flights in Western Europe, has become technically the most modern airline in the world. In violation of the Treaty of Versailles, combat crews were trained in four Lufthansa flight schools, gaining experience in night and all-weather conditions.
When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he already had a serious base for creating a new air force. Large investments were found for the construction of the Luftwaffe. Reichskommissar of the air force with unlimited powers was appointed Deputy Fuhrer Hermann Goering, who was a high-class pilot during the First world war. It was to him that Hitler entrusted the creation of the world's most powerful air fleet. Unable to deal exclusively with aviation matters, Goering invited Erhard Milch, the former Lufthansa Director, to join his Ministry, who turned out to be the right person to handle this task. However, certain difficulties arose when it became known that Milch's ancestors were Jews, which, in Hitler's opinion, was a grave sin. With the help of a clever trick, Goering, who was not so scrupulous about issues of racial purity, managed to circumvent the obstacle and "ariesize" Milch.
Goering and milch provided the organization of the Luftwaffe. The main tactical unit of the new air force was the air group (Geschwader), which consisted of about 120 aircraft. It was divided into three air wings (Gruppen) – about 40 aircraft each (some bomber units consisted of 6 or more air wings). Each wing, in turn, consisted of three squadrons (Staffeln) - from 12 to 16 aircraft. During world war II, the Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses, so the actual number of aircraft in each unit constantly changed. The air force included: fighter aircraft (Jagdgeschwader; JG), bomber aircraft (Kampfgeschwader; KG), night fighter aircraft (Nachtjagdgeschwader; NJG), high-speed bomber aircraft (Schnellkampfgeschwader; SKG), dive bomber aircraft (Stukageschwader; StG), transport aircraft (Transportgeschwader; TG) and special purpose aircraft (Zur besonderen Verwendung; ZBV).
Milch's subordinate was General Walter Wefer, chief of staff of the air force, a former infantryman, an ardent supporter of national socialism. Under the leadership of Goering, Milch, and Wefer, working in the strictest secrecy and with the full support of Hitler, the construction of new aircraft factories, airfields, and training bases began throughout Germany. In March 1935, the Fuhrer felt that the new German air force had already gained enough power to demonstrate it to the world. By this time, the Luftwaffe had 1,888 aircraft of various types and about 20 thousand. a member of the staff. The former glider and flight clubs were absorbed one by one by the new air force. Reports of the power of Hitler's air force caused panic outside the Third Reich.
In may 1936, General Wefer was killed in a plane crash. He was replaced by General albert Kesselring.
In August 1936, the German air force began combat operations for the first time, supporting the troops of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish civil war. Initially, about 20 transport aircraft Yu-52 transferred from Morocco to Spain loyal Franco 10 thousandth corps. By November 1936, the Luftwaffe contingent in Spain had grown to 200 aircraft and was renamed the Condor Legion. The fighting in Spain was a dress rehearsal for the Luftwaffe on the eve of world war II.
Instead of the outdated tactics of dense battle formations "screw to screw", a new" four-by-four " formation was used, combining concentrated firepower and freedom of combat. The news of the destruction of the Spanish town of Guernica by the German air force spread all over the world.
During the Anschluss and the Czechoslovak crisis, the Luftwaffe was on alert, but did not take any action.
By the beginning of world war II, the German air fleet had grown from 36 aircraft in 1932 to 5,000 in 1936 and more than 9,000 in 1939.
On September 1, 1939, about 1,600 combat aircraft of the I and IV air fleets invaded Polish airspace, starting world war II.
Polish airports have been subjected to massive bombing. Only a few Polish pilots managed to get into the air, where they became easy prey for powerful high-speed "Messerschmitt". German planes constantly attacked Polish troops from the air, helping their ground forces, crushing strong points and artillery batteries. Then, for the entire period of the" sitzkrieg "(see" Sit-down war"), the Luftwaffe combat units went to rest and repair. The air force did not return to action until 9 April 1940, when it attacked Denmark and Norway, and then invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Unable to prevent the evacuation of Dunkirk (see the Dunkirk operation of 1940), the Luftwaffe turned its attention to supporting tank formations advancing on Paris. Here the German air force encountered fierce enemy resistance, and tired, overstretched pilots began to suffer their first defeats.
After the surrender of France, Hitler turned his attention to great Britain. The Luftwaffe was tasked with destroying the British Royal air force (RAF), which prevented landings on the British Isles. To fulfill this urgent task, about 2,600 aircraft were concentrated in the II and III air fleets stationed on the English channel. In mid-July 1940, the Luftwaffe began test sorties, while simultaneously laying minefields from the air. On August 13, 1940, the battle of Britain began. On this day, the German air force made 1,000 sorties and carried out 485 bombardments of enemy ground targets, while losing 45 aircraft. In 2 days-1266 sorties and 520 bombings, losing 75 aircraft. Almost immediately, it became clear that the Luftwaffe was facing a serious enemy. When Hitler created the air force, he expected rapid results to match the blitzkrieg tactics, so the focus was on high-speed fighters at the expense of heavy bombers.
Light German bombers, not equipped for such tasks as the conquest of great Britain, unexpectedly encountered fierce resistance from British aircraft.
In late August and early September 1940, the Luftwaffe continued fighting, suffering increasing losses. Only on September 15, 1940, during the largest daylight RAID on London, the German air force lost more than 60 aircraft. From this point on, Luftwaffe activity began to decline.
The inability of Hitler's air force to effectively fight the enemy and even protect its own territory from nighttime massive bombing by allied aircraft became more and more obvious. There were several local successes, such as the RAID on Crete on 20 may 1941, but in General the Luftwaffe, especially after the Soviet Union entered the war, was significantly inferior to the allied air force. By the summer of 1944, the superiority of Soviet and British aircraft was absolute.
The last effort of the Luftwaffe was to support the Ardennes operation of 1944-1945.