Friday, 31 July 2015

Understanding Luftwaffe Unit Designations

To the untrained eye, the composition of the Luftwaffe can seem complex and hard to grasp. With designations such as StabII/StG2 and 3/JG27, it's easy to get befuddled, but once you get into the logic behind these names, it's really not that confusing.

At the time of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe was split into 7 Luftflotten (Air Fleets). Luftflotten were created according to a geographical area, and as new territories were invaded, new Luftflotten were created.

Although Luftflotten could be moved to a new area, whilst in one place that Luftflotte had absolute control over all aspects of aviation in the region, including ground operations.

Each Luftflotte was also allocated 25 Geschwader (Wings). Luftflotte 1 would have Wings 1-25, Luftflotte 2 would have 26-50 etc.

Each Lutflotte was then divided into one of more Fliegerkorps (Air Corps), depending on the size and manner of the operations being undertaken. At the time of the Battle of Britain, 13 Fliegerkorps were in operation.

Similar to Luftflotten, the Fliegerkorps had their own areas of operations, and were responsible for all operational matters such as maintenance, ordnance and deployment. However, they depended on the parent Luftflotte for administration and supply purposes.

Each Fliegerkorps consists of several Geschwader (Wings) along with Reconnaissance Gruppen (Groups).

Geschwader are specialised to a certain operational duty, be it a fighter wing or a bomber wing. The others include dive-bombers, night fighters, gliders, transport and ground attack wings.

The designations of the different Geschwader are as follows:

Fighter Wing --- Jagdgeschwader (JG)
Night Fighter Wing --- Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG)
Heavy Fighter Wing --- Zerstörergeschwader (ZG)
Bomber Wing --- Kampfgeschwader (KG)
Dive-Bomber Wing --- Sturzkampfgeschwader (StG)
Fast Bomber Wing --- Schnellkampfgeschwader (SKG)
Transport Wing --- Transportgeschwader (TG)
Ground Attack Wing --- Schlactgeschwader (SchlG)
Glider Wing --- Luftlandgeschwader (LLG)
Advanced Training Wing --- Lehrgeschwader (LG)

As there were more than one of each type of Wing, an Arabic numeral would be placed after the abbreviation to distinguish between them. For example,  the 27th Jagdgeschwader would be written as JG27

Each different Geschwader is then divided into 3 Gruppen (Groups), although sometimes a 4th or even a 5th were added to bolster the strength of the Geschwader.

The Gruppen within each Geschwader were ordered consecutiveley with Roman numerals. Therefore, the 4th group of the 27th Jagdgeschwader would be written as IV/JG27.

Each Gruppen then contained 3 or 4 Staffeln (Squadrons). The Staffeln were numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals within their Geschwader, regardless of the Gruppe they belonged to. For example,  the Staffeln of Gruppe I would be numbered 1, 2 and 3, but the Staffeln of Gruppe II would be numbered 4, 5 and 6.

The designations of Staffeln were similar to that of the Gruppen, but with Arabic numerals instead of Roman ones. The 3rd Staffel of Gruppe II of Jagdgeschwader 27 would be written as 6/JG27. Note that it's a 6 instead of a 3, as it's a part of the 2nd Gruppe.

Sometimes, designations will be written like StabJG27, or StabIV/JG27. The 'Stab' means 'Staff', and shows that that flight consists of aircrew and aircraft from the HQ staff, normally involving the Group/Wing Leader.

Each Group and Wing contains a single Staff flight (StabSchwarm) consisting of 4 aircraft (including the Group/Wing Leader).

A single Staffel contains on average 12 planes, although this can vary from 5 or 6 up to 16, depending on losses and reinforcements.

In a Fighter Wing, each Staffel is divided into 3 Schwarms (Flights) of 4 aircraft each. A Fighter Schwarm was then divided into 2 Rotten (Singular - Rotte, literally meaning 'Gang') of 2 aircraft each. A Rotte was the basic fighting unit, consisting of a Leader and a Wingman.

In a Bomber Wing, however, the Staffel is divided into 2 Schwarms of 6 aircraft each. Each Schwarm was then split into 2 Ketten (Singular - Kette, meaning 'Chain') of 3 aircraft each. The Kette was the standard bomber formation, and consisted of the 3 planes forming a V-shaped formation.


9/KG76 --- 9th Squadron of the 76th Bomber Wing

3/StG77 --- 3rd Squadron of the 77th Dive-Bomber Wing

III/JG53 --- 3rd Group of the 53rd Fighter Wing

StabIII/KG2 --- Staff Flight of the 3rd Group of the 2nd Bomber Wing

So, just to recap, on average there are 12 aircraft in a Staffel, 3-5 Staffeln in a Gruppe, 3-5 Gruppen in a Geschwader, 25 Geschwader in a Luftflotte (spread out between several Fliegerkorps), and 7 Luftflotten in the entire Luftwaffe.

I hope this helps

by Kit Dunster

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, but Geschwader cant be compared to Wing, because even Big Wing is consist of only 5 Squadrons, what means about 60 planes in the air. Geschwader is like 90 planes plus in the air! Normal Wing (3-4 Sqn.) could be compared to Gruppe, which consist of 35+ planes in the air.