There’s a new wave of articles coming in 2019, which are all related to the cold war. As the study we made of the Chinese PLAN is ongoing, and the American and Soviet fleets are been gradually completed, we have a look on the major European fleets, the Royal Navy, Marine Nationale, Marina Militare and Bundesmarine, with only the Armada missing. All these are a work in progress except for the Bundesmarine which is the most advanced and that we present here.
Here me well: It’s not the Bundesmarine a it is today, 28 years after the fall of the USSR and the end of the “cold war”, but this study is covering the 1955-1990 gap. Indeed, contrary to other European powers, unoccupied, undivided and not a strategic zone, Germany ended in two parts, and the study here is dedicated to the Western part, under NATO umbrella and western influence. Not only the territory was larger, but the population also, and some of the heavy industries making in fine, this part more dynamic and rich. We have a tendency to consider therefore the West German navy of the time, as the “German Navy” as a whole, but USSR never lost hope to use this western outpost -east Germany- at her advantage in the Baltic. Since the country did not have the funds to create a large fleet, it was instrumentalized within the Warswaw pact to be a specialist of mine warfare. Therefore the east german popular republic navy counted only a couple of frigates, corvettes but was mostly made of minelayers and minesweepers. These were absorbed by the Bundesmarine in 1990 and scrapped after the while.
Marinenflieger F-104G Starfighters
The Bundesmarine was created in 1955, not before, since the question of rearming Germany after ww2 was still sensible with some countries (like France). Only the pragmatism of the US staff and general Marshall, giving more weight to the prediction of Patton already in 1945, pushed for the creation of a new Army placed under strict rules (as defined by the new constitution for defensive purposes only) and also for the creation of a navy that already existed under British supervision and another name. The latter was mostly a provisional force equipped with surviving ww2 minesweepers and crews ordered to clean up the baltic of mines. A difficult, dangerous and grinding task which was done over the years in order to free trade as soon as possible. Only an healthy economy would prevent the country to fall under the Soviet influence as it was thought then, the very driving force behind the Marshall Plan.
And so the Bundesmarine was created, still hampered by some limits of tonnage for major ships and submarines, which were lifted in the 1970s and 1980s. The size of the Bundesmarine was of course far less than the WW2 Kriegsmarine, since a battleship was in tonnage the equivalent of several cruisers, therefore several destroyers of the 1960s. But it was well-balanced, with US-built or US-provided destroyers, British Frigates at first, until local industries were able in the 1960s to deliver the first large units, such as the training frigate Deutschland, the best ambassador of the Bundesmarine in the cold war. Another interesting aspect of the Bundesmarine is that its industries produced far more for export than for the domestic market. Two examples of these ate the modular MEKO frigates and German submarines, as far more were exported than used by the Bundesmarine. Deprived by treaty to any access to the nuclear energy contrary to France and UK, West Germany also developed an expertise in super-silent or even stealthy conventional submarines, trigerring a response by the USSR in the late 1980s and nowadays Russia.
A quick look at the poster also shows the prevalence of defensive light ships, in fact an expertise in Fast Attack Crafts, at first torpedo-armed and later missile-armed. Mine warfare was also important, since mines has been a very effective asset during both wars. Germany deployed several classes of minesweepers, while the older ones were recycled into mine hunters using the “troika” system of unguided minesweepers connected to their mothership. In the 1980 and the “new cold” in particular, it was time for the Bundesmarine to improve her participation in the defense of Norway area, barring the way to the Northern fleet in coordination with other navies in order to prevent a flanking attack by USSR. Today the specter of a war with the east is not remote, as both Russia and China are arming fast and under autocratic and authoritarian regimes.