Air Forces of the National People's Army

This article is about the Cold War air force of East Germany. For the World War II air force of Germany, see Luftwaffe. For the World War I air force of Germany, see Luftstreitkräfte. For the post WWII West German and the current air force of Germany, see German Air Force.
Air Forces of the National People's Army
Luftstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee
Logo of the East German Air Force
Active 1 March 1956 - 2 October 1990
Country  East Germany
Role Air force
Size 45,000 personnel, 800 combat aircraft (1989)

The Air Forces of the National People's Army (German: Luftstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee LSK) was the Air Force of East Germany. As with the Landstreitkräfte, the Volksmarine, and the Border troops, it was a military branch of the National People's Army (NPA).

The name Luftstreitkräfte applied originally to the air corps of the German Empire between 1910 and the end of World War I in 1918. However, the West German air force adopted the name "Luftwaffe" as used by the Third Reich air force from 1935 to the end of World War II.

At the end of November 1953, a reorganisation of air units saw air units transferred from the Ministry of the Interior directly to the Deputy Minister and Chief of the People's Police. The air regiments were reorganized into the Aero Club 1 (Cottbus), 2 (Drewitz) and 3 (Bautzen), which in turn were divided into two sections. Starting in 1954, additional Z-126 and M-1D from Czechoslovakian production were made available.[1]

On 1 March 1956 the air force was officially established as part of the National People's Army, following the GDR's entry into the Warsaw Pact alliance. Initially the air force (LSK), with its headquarters at Cottbus, was separate from the Luftverteidigung (Air Defence, headquartered at Strausberg (Eggersdorf). It was intended to establish three fighter divisions, an attack aircraft division and an anti-aircraft division. However, eventually only the 1st and 3rd Aviation Divisions and the 1st Flak-Division were created.[2] On 1 June 1957 there was a merger of the two administrations in Strausberg (Eggersdorf), and the new headquarters was renamed the Kommando LSK/LV.


Kommando Luftstreitkraefte/Luftverteidigung (Kdo LSK/LV)

A decisive number of military units and formations have been under direct control of the Kommando LSK/LV, the Air Force Staff and the Air Force Command of the NPA, with its HQ in Strausberg.

1st Luftverteidigungsdivision (1st LVD)

Soldiers of the Fritz Schmenkel Fighter Wing, 1985.

The 1st LVD (en: 1st Air Defence Division), with its HQ in Cottbus, was in charge to provide air defence throughout the southern territory of the GDR. The following units were subordinated to that particular division:

3rd Luftverteidigungsdivision (3rd LVD)

The 3rd LVD (en: 3rd Air Defence Division), with its HQ in Trollenhagen, was in charge to provide air defence throughout the northern territory of the GDR. The following units were subordinated to that particular division:


All fighter-bomber aircraft, transport aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft and transport helicopters were under the control of the FO FMTFK (roughly translates into: "Lead unit of the Frontal and Military air units", Führungsorgan der Front- und Militärtransportfliegerkräfte). The following units were part of the FO FMTFK:

Su-22 of the FO FMTFK


A diamond-shaped symbol identified LSK aircraft  divided into vertical black, red and gold stripes corresponding to the horizontal fesses or bars on the GDR state flag. The centre of the diamond portrayed the GDR coat of arms: a hammer and compass surrounded by a wreath of yellow grain. The symbol differentiated the Luftstreitkräfte from the West German Luftwaffe, which displays a stylised Iron Cross similar to the emblem on German aircraft during World War I.


The uniforms of the two German air forces were also different: following an older German tradition, LSK/LV uniforms were the same stone gray worn by army personnel, modified by distinctive blue insignia (similar in style, but not colour, to World War II Luftwaffe ranks) and piping. West German uniforms, on the other hand, were blue with yellow insignia and more closely modelled on those worn by Luftwaffe personnel during World War II.


Starting in 1953, East Germany received An-2, La-9, Yak-11, and Yak-18 aircraft and the MiG-15 in 1956 which were provided by the Soviet Union. The first MiG-21s were delivered in 1962. The 1970s saw the introduction of the MiG-23, while Su-22 fighter-bombers were delivered in the 1980s. The latest addition was the MiG-29 in 1988. The inventory also included Soviet-built helicopters along with trainers and other light aircraft manufactured in Czechoslovakia.

The East German Air Force was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in that it was often equipped with the most advanced Soviet fighters, instead of downgraded export models. As an extension of the Soviet 16th Air Army deployed in East Germany, the Luftstreitkräfte was expected to play a front-line role in any war with NATO. As a result, it was under closer Soviet control than the air forces of other Warsaw Pact states.

After German reunification in 1990, the Luftwaffe assumed control over Luftstreitkräfte equipment and enlisted some of its personnel. Many of the GDR's military aircraft were obsolete or incompatible with NATO technical standards, and were sold to other countries. However, the Luftwaffe did retain the MiG-29 in both air defense and aggressor roles because of its excellent capabilities.

LSK/LV equipment in 1989

DDR Air Force Antonov An-26T at Dresden in August 1990, one week before the Air Force was grounded.
An-2 Colt with NVA markings
MiG-21PFM with NVA markings
MiG-21U, Montélimar Ancône Museum, France.

Equipment of the LSK/LV in 1989:

category equipment country of origin number use by the
fighter aircraft/trainers MiG-21  Soviet Union 251    
MiG-29  Soviet Union 24 until 2004 22 passed on to Poland[4]
MiG-23  Soviet Union 47    
MiG-23BN  Soviet Union 18    
Su-22  Soviet Union 54    
L-39  Czechoslovakia 52    
transport aircraft An-2  Soviet Union
An-26  Soviet Union 12 until 1994  
Il-62  Soviet Union 3 until 1993  
Tu-134  Soviet Union 3 until 1992  
Tu-154  Soviet Union 2 until 1997  
L-410  Czechoslovakia 12 until 2000  
Z-43  Czechoslovakia 12    
helicopters Mi-2  Poland 25    
Mi-8  Soviet Union 98 until 1997
Mi-24  Soviet Union 51 until 1993
Mi-14  Soviet Union 14  
surface-to-air missiles S-75 Dvina  Soviet Union 48   SA-2 Guideline
S-75 Wolchow  Soviet Union 174   SA-2 Guideline
S-125 Newa  Soviet Union 40   SA-3 Goa
S-200 Wega  Soviet Union 24   SA-5 Gammon
S-300  Soviet Union 12   SA-10 Grumble; were returned to the Soviet Union before the Reunification of Germany


  1. "Administration of the Aero Club (Federal Archive)
  2. Heinrich Engelhardt:NVA Luftstreitkräfte/Luftverteidigung In: Klaus Naumann:NVA: expectations and reality,according to selected documents mediator, Berlin / Bonn /... Herford, 1993, ISBN 3-8132-0430-8.
  3. The airfield Preschen is a former NVA military airfield. It is located in the town of Neisse Malxetal in southern Brandenburg , between the hamlets Jocksdorf , Preschen and the large community Schackendorf. The airfield was built in 1953/54 and gradually expanded until 1990. Auf dem Flugplatz waren verschiedene fliegenden Kampfverbände der 1. On the airfield were stationed several combat units of the 1. LVD, mainly JG-3, and since 1974 the Taktische Aufklärungsfliegerstaffel 47 (TAFS-47)(Tactical reconnaissance squadron 47).From 1999 to 2003 there was a techno club, Club K, located in an aircraft hangar on the base. Today the place is run by the company POINT 36, which offers various meeting facilities there. The airport has a 2500 Dash-meter and 80 meter wide airstrip (SLB).
  4. Sold for one symbolic Euro: Bernd Lemke, Dieter Krüger, Heinz Rebhan, Wolfgang Schmidt: Die Luftwaffe 1950 bis 1970. Konzeption, Aufbau, Integration. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-486-57973-8, p. 833.)

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