Peace Time: The Luftwaffe And The American Connection


June 24, 2011: The German Luftwaffe is spending $300 million for the use of the U.S. Air Force Holloman Air Force Base in the next year. For a long time, the Luftwaffe has been sending its fighter pilots to air force bases in the western United States (Holloman is in New Mexico). The Germans pay to use base services (maintenance and other flight support, housing fuel). This year, the Luftwaffe has also ordered 720 500 pound and 135 2000 pound bombs and five high speed target drones. All this is for training Luftwaffe combat pilots.

German troops, mainly pilots and anti-aircraft missile crews, still train in the United States, as they have for over half a century. The reason is lots of space, and less bad weather (which prevents some kinds of training.) Until recently, the bulk of the German training was in Canada, which accounted for about two thirds of the German troops involved in these North American training trips. The training in Canada ended not long after the Cold War did.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 resulted in over a million foreign troops being withdrawn from Germany. But in another little-known change, German troops were withdrawn from Canada. Over a 30 year period, some 215,000 German troops trained in Canada. The Germans were there because, during the Cold War, many of the traditional German tank and air force training areas were in communist East Germany. These training areas were off-limits to West German troops, and West Germany was too densely populated to provide replacements. Canada, however, had lots of wide open spaces, and a climate similar to Germany's. So the West German army and air force stationed tanks and jet fighters in Canada, and rotated thousands of troops to Canada each year, for the kind of training they could not get at home.

Once the Cold War ended, the new German army shrank considerably, and the training areas in the east were now available. Moreover, computer simulation made it possible to cut back on certain types of training (like flying jets low and fast). The Canadian training areas were closed by 2006, and an era ended. But there is still a shortage of space in Germany for missile firing and jet fighter training. So the American connection remains.





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