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The Bundeswehr (German: [ˈbʊndəsˌveːɐ̯] (listen), meaning literally: Federal Defence) is the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Bundeswehr is divided into a military part (armed forces or Streitkräfte) and a civil part, the military part consisting of the German Army, the German Navy, the German Air Force, the Joint Support Service, the Joint Medical Service, and the Cyber and Information Domain Service.
As of 28 February 2022, the Bundeswehr had a strength of 183,638 active-duty military personnel and 81,318 civilians, placing it among the 30 largest military forces in the world, and making it the second largest in the European Union behind France. In addition, the Bundeswehr has approximately 30,050 reserve personnel (2020). With German military expenditures at $56.0 billion, the Bundeswehr is the seventh highest-funded military in the world, though military expenditures remain relatively average at 1.3% of national GDP, well below the non-binding NATO target of 2%. Germany is aiming to expand the Bundeswehr to around 203,000 soldiers by 2025 to better cope with increasing responsibilities.
On 27 February 2022, following concerns from the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany announced a major shift in policy, pledging a €100 billion special fund for the Bundeswehr – to remedy years of underinvestment – along with raising the budget to above 2% GDP.
The name Bundeswehr was first proposed by former Wehrmacht general and Liberal politician Hasso von Manteuffel. The Iron Cross (Eisernes Kreuz) is its official emblem. It is a symbol that has a long association with the military of Germany. The Schwarzes Kreuz is derived from the black cross insignia of the medieval Teutonic knights; since 1813 the symbol has been used to denote a military decoration for all ranks.
When the Bundeswehr was established in 1955, its founding principles were based on developing a completely new military force for the defence of West Germany. In this respect the Bundeswehr did not consider itself to be a successor to either the Reichswehr (1921–1935) of the Weimar Republic or Hitler’s Wehrmacht (1935–1946). Neither does it adhere to the traditions of any former German military organization.[dubious – discuss] Its official ethos is based on three major themes:
One of the most visible traditions of the modern Bundeswehr is the Großer Zapfenstreich. This is a form of military tattoo that has its origins in the landsknecht era. The FRG reinstated this formal military ceremony in 1952, three years before the foundation of the Bundeswehr. Today it is performed by a military band with 4 fanfare trumpeters and timpani, a corps of drums, up to two escort companies of the Bundeswehr’s Wachbataillon (or another deputized unit) and Torchbearers. The Zapfenstreich is only performed during national celebrations or solemn public commemorations. It can honour distinguished persons present such as the German federal president or provide the conclusion to large military exercises.
Another important tradition in the modern German armed forces is the Gelöbnis; the solemn oath made by recruits (and formerly conscripts) during basic training and serving professional soldiers. There are two kinds of oath: for recruits, it is a pledge, but it’s a solemn vow for full-time personnel.