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Kriegsmarine Naval Aviation

An Ar196A-3 on the Prinz Eugen while in the Baltic Sea in 1943-1944All German airborne maritime units, be they coastal or shipborne, were Luftwaffe manned & Luftwaffe controlled. However, with these maritime air units controlled by the Luftwaffe were observers from the Kriegsmarine seconded to the Luftwaffe for a four year period. Thus, the German Kriegsmarine did not actually control its own maritime air units during WWII.

Until 1939, all airborne maritime units came under the control of the OKL-Führer der SeeLuftstreitekrafte, which worked in close co-operation with the Kriegsmarine but was controlled directly by the Luftwaffe High Command. In 1939, the OKL-Führer der SeeLuftstreitekrafte was disbanded and replaced by the General der Luftwaffe beim Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine (Ob.d.M). This office was abolished in 1944 and responsibility for the remaining coastal and maritime units was placed under the control of the General der Aufklärungsflieger. Earlier in the war with the expansion of German occupied territory, coastal and maritime units were subordinated to the respective Fliegerkorps or Fliegerführer for operational purposes.

Of all the Luftwaffe controlled coastal and maritime units, the unit most closely integrated with the Kriegsmarine was Bordfliegergruppe 196 (BFGr 196). Bordfliegergruppe 196 was formed in 1937, and went on to control a total of 6 staffeln. These 6 staffeln provided the aircraft used on various Kriegsmarine naval ships, such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and on the various German Cruisers, as well as many others. These aircraft took part in various reconnaissance, courier, patrol, and air support missions, although their task was mainly to serve in the recon role for the ship they served on. There are many documented cases of these reconnaissance oriented aircraft actually engaging in air-to-air combat and combat air sweeps, so they did indeed see action in many different roles. The pilots of these on-board aircraft were controlled, trained, and provided by the Luftwaffe, while the Kriegsmarine provided liaison support for the pilots, their training, and the ships they were stationed on.

On-board aircraft were of mainly the floatplane type. They were stored above deck, usually within the center region of the ship on a small catapult used to launch the aircraft into the air. Upon completion of an on-board planes mission, it would land in the water near the side of the ship, after which an on-board crane would lift the aircraft out of the water and store it back in its launching place above deck.

The Luftwaffe also controlled the aircraft planned for use on the German Kriegsmarine aircraft carriers under construction during WWII, all of which never reached completion and never saw active service.

Further outside the realm of the Kriegsmarine, but close enough to maritime operations to warrant discussion here, were the various Luftwaffe controlled units that took part in anti-shipping attacks, coastal and sea reconnaisance, air-sea rescue, coastal patrol, and sea-minesweeping operations. The following is a listing of many of the Luftwaffe units that took part in all types of Sea related operations.

  • Bordfliegergruppe 196
  • Kampfgruppe zur besonderen Verwendung 108
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 106
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 406
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 506
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 706
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 906
  • Küstenflieger-Ergänzungsstaffel 138
  • Minensuch-Gruppe 1 der Luftwaffe
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 125
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 129
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 130
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 131
  • III./KG100
  • 1. and 3./KG200

The Luftwaffe had many types of maritime aircraft within its arsenal. The following aircraft could be found operating from Kriegsmarine ships or in coastal and maritime related operations.

Ship based aircraft:

Heinkel He60C
Arado Ar196A-3
Heinkel He114A-2
Arado Ar197
Fiesler Fi167
Junkers Ju87B
Messerschmidt Bf109T
Arado Ar195

Other maritime aircraft:

Heinkel He115
Fokke-wolf Fw200 Condor
Blomm und Voss Bv222
Blomm und Voss Bv138
Junkers Ju88
Heinkel He111
Junkers Ju290
Donier Do18
Donier Do24