The Flugbereitschaft des Bundes-ministeriums der Verteidigung (FBS BMVg), the Strategic Airlift Unit of the German Ministry of Defense, is completely reorganized from April 1st 2012. The main reasons were the introduction of a new fleet of aircraft and future commissioning of the new international airport Berlin-Brandenburg.


Commander of the Flugbereitschaft is Colonel Helmut Frietzsche. On his behalf Warrant Officer (Oberstabfeldwebel) Volker Mais acted as spokesman to Global Air Power Media. When asked how the Flugbereitschaft is organized within the German Air Force (GAF), mr. Mais replied: "The GAF is divided into the Luftwaffeführungskommand (Air Force Command) and the Luftwaffeamt (Air Force Office). All operational units of the GAF, including air defense and air transport are organized within the Air Force Command (AFC). The Air Force Office (AFO) includes all other parts of the GAF, such as administrative and support departments and medical and training units.

He continues: "The AFC and AFO are both located in the military barracks of Köln-Wahn. The AFC is divided into three divisions. The Flugbereitschaft belongs to the 1. Luftwaffedivision (1st Air Force Division). Its head office is located in Fuerstenfeldbruck. The second division is located in Birkenfeld, the fourth in Aurich." The numbering suggests that previously there was a third division. "That's right, and a fifth. The latter was established in relation to the merger of West and East Germany in the mid-90s. Both the 3rd and the 5th division have been reorganized and downsized due to budget cuts in recent years."

The Flugbereitschaft was founded in 1957, on February 1st and is therefore now 56 years in service. Initially, this unit was founded for transportation of small groups of passengers and to carry out several special tasks. From 1959 until 1963, the unit was part of the LuftTransportGeschwader 63 (63rd Air Transport Squadron) to be organized independently, again within the limits of the GAF. Mais: "Since the 30th of June 2010, the Air Transport Command was taken out of service, the Flugbereitschaft resorts directly under the command of the 1. Luftwaffedivision (1st Air Force Division, 1st AFD). The 1st AFD is a real force provider. She ensures that the units under its command are always ready to be deployed immediately when needed. Therefore, the squadrons within this division all have specific tasks in defending Germany against threats from and in the air. Besides the Flugbereitschaft, also the Flugabwehrrakettengeschwader 5 (5th Air Defense Rocket Squadron), the Jagdbombergeschwader 32 (32th Fighter-bomber Squadron) flying the Tornado IDS, the Jagdgeschwader 74 ( 74th Fighter Squadron) flying the EF2000 and the Lufttransportgeschwader 61/62 (61st and 62nd Air Transport Squadron) flying with the C-160D and UH-1D are part of the 1st AFD."


The today's modern Flugbereitschafts task is to have and to keep its air fleet on alert and ready for action 24/7, serving the entire GAF. This matches the responsibilities of the 1st AFD. These include strategic transport of cargo and passengers over long distances, such as to and in Afghanistan. As a special task, the unit provides humanitarian flights and medical transport (Medevac). Two of the units aircraft can perform air to air refueling (AAR). The unit also provides transport of high-level governmental and parliamentary officials, including Chancellor Merkel and in times of elections the candidate Chancellor.

"It's not easy to always meet the high readiness requirements. Because of the long flights that our aircraft and their crews make, rarely more than one aircraft is home at the military part of Cologne-Bonn Airport. Therefore our aircraft relatively quickly need their maintenance", Mais says. The tasks and the high readiness requirements necessitate that the Flugbereitschaft is largely self-sufficient. It not only operates and maintains its own fleet, but also its buildings and infrastructure at their home base. The unit has two hangars, a multipurpose hall, a passenger terminal and of course ample platforms available. Therefore, besides the three flying squadrons it also has two technical units.

Air fleet

To perform its tasks, the Flugbereitschaft traditionally has had an comprehensive fleet. Since 1957, as many as 20 different types of aircraft and helicopters belonged to its inventory, not even counting the current fleet. The first plane of the unit was the De Havilland 114 Heron. Then followed by the Dornier Do-27, the Douglas DC-6, the HFB-320 Hansajet, the Boeing 707-307 and the Challenger 601. After the unification of West and East Germany also some Russian aircraft were in service with the unit, such as the Tu-134, Tu-154 and Il-62. Those were again withdrawn from service however within a few years. Two of the four Boeing 707 served as a Trainer Cargo Aircraft with the E-3A component of NATO air base in Geilenkirchen after their phase-out from the GAF in 1999. They remained in service there until the end of 2010. The Flugbereitschaft also operated four types of helicopters, including the UH-1D and the Mi-8.

About the current inventory, which consists of a grey fleet with the Airbus A310-304 and a white government fleet with various types, Volker Mais gives the following explanation: "We have five grey A310's. We bought four of these from our national airline Lufthansa. Two of them have been converted into multirole transport, transportation of both cargo and passengers. The other two aircraft are further developed into the multi-role tanker transport versions (MRTT). These four A310's are each named after a German aviation pioneer. The fifth aircraft we bought from Interflug, the former national airline of East-Germany. This aircraft is only used for transportation of passengers. The grey A310 are not only deployed in GAF-context. Since the formation of the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in 2006, the A310's also operate in that regard." Within the government fleet the Flugbereitschaft operates two A340's since the summer of 2011. Both were acquired in 2009 from Lufthansa and were converted within two years. They are now able to fly 13,500 kilometres non-stop, offer space to 143 passengers and, if necessary, can convert into an on-board hospital. Mais: "We received the first aircraft in April 2011. This A340 was designated as the new first government aircraft, named Konrad Adenauer. It took over that name from the A310-304 currently in service with serial 10+21, which until then was the first government plane. Konrad Adenauer incidentally was Germany's first chancellor. " He continues: "The second A340 entered service in October 2011. That aircraft was named Theodor Heuss, Germany's first Federal President. The A310 with serial 10+22 used to carry this name. This aircraft was withdrawn from use at the same time. The A310 with serial 10+21 is now exclusively in use for VIP-transport. This aircraft will remain in service at least until 2013 because the A310 is able to land and take off from shorter runways than the A340. The 10+22 will be sold."

For transportation of VIP and passengers within Europe, the Flugbereitschaft operated seven Challenger 601 from 1986 to 2010. To replace those, the GAF bought the A319 and the Bombardier Global 5000 BD700. The A319 became operational in 2010, the Global 5000 in 2011.
Finally, the Flugbereitschaft operates three AS.532U2 helicopters. They belong to the 3rd Air Transport Squadron, stationed at Berlin-Tegel airport. These Cougars, the same type as the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) operates, are mainly used for domestic flights and are therefore only occasionally seen outside Germany.


Despite the economic crisis in Europe the Flugbereitschaft has formed a new and modern government fleet. When asked how the acquisition of several new aircraft compares to today's crisis, Volker Mais explains as follows: "Already in 2007 the German government decided to modernize its government fleet. Far before the current economic crisis. Replacement was necessary because the Challengers no longer have the necessary modern equipment and means of communication. Moreover, the airframes were outdated, which led to too many cancelled flights due to technical problems." As a result of the purchase of new aircraft and the structural use of aircraft in EATC context, the Flugbereitschaft has been reorganized since April 1st, 2012. Mais: "Since the reorganization our A310's are part of the 1st Air Transport Squadron. This squadron will remain stationed at the military part of the airport Cologne-Bonn. The white government fleet is flown by in the 2nd Air Transport Squadron. This fleet will be stationed at the new national airport Berlin-Brandenburg, once its construction has been completed." Initially, the new airport was planned to be finished in 2012. Current expectations however are adjusted to mid-2014. The three Cougar-helicopters will also be stationed at the new international airport.



Serial and name

2 A340-313X

16+01 'Konrad Adenauer'

16+02 'Theodor Heuss'

2 A310-304


10+23 'Kurt Schumacher'

2 A310-304MRT

10+24 'Otto Lilienthal'

10+26 'Hans Grade'

2 A310-304MRTT

10+25 'Hermann Köhl'

10+27 'August Heuler'

2 A319-133X 15+01 and 15+02
4 BD700 G5000 14+01 - 14+04
3 AS.532U2 82+01 - 82+03

This article was also published in the magazine 'Onze Luchtmacht' of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Association, issue nr. 2, April/May 2013. Click here to see the article.

Global Air Power Media would like to thank Warrant Officer Volker Mais of the FBS BMVg for his help composing this article and supplying some of the used photos.