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 unitscontrolled by the Luftwaffe were observers from the Kriegsmarine seconded to theLuftwaffe for a four year period. Thus, the German Kriegsmarine did not actuallycontrol its own maritime air units during WWII.

Until 1939, all airborne maritime units came under the control of theOKL-Führer der SeeLuftstreitekrafte, which worked in close co-operationwith the Kriegsmarine but was controlled directly by the Luftwaffe High Command. In1939, the OKL-Führer der SeeLuftstreitekrafte was disbanded and replaced by theGeneral der Luftwaffe beim Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine (Ob.d.M). This office wasabolished in 1944 and responsibility for the remaining coastal and maritime units wasplaced under the control of the General der Aufklärungsflieger. Earlier in thewar with the expansion of German-occupied territory, coastal and maritime units weresubordinated to the respective Fliegerkorps or Fliegerführer for operationalpurposes.

Of all the Luftwaffe controlled coastal and maritime units, the unit mostclosely integrated with the Kriegsmarine was Bordfliegergruppe 196 (BFGr 196).Bordfliegergruppe 196 was formed in 1937 and went on to control a total of6 staffeln. These 6 staffeln provided the aircraft used on various Kriegsmarine naval ships, such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and on thevarious German Cruisers, as well as many others. These aircraft took part invarious reconnaissance, courier, patrol, and air support missions, althoughtheir task was mainly to serve in the recon role for the ship theyserved on. There are many documented cases of these reconnaissance oriented aircraftactually engaging in air-to-air combat and combat air sweeps, so they did indeed seeaction in many different roles. The pilots of this on-boardaircraft were controlled, trained, and provided by the Luftwaffe, while theKriegsmarine provided liaison support for the pilots, their training, and the shipsthey were stationed on.

Onboard 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 launchthe aircraft into the air. Upon completion of an onboard planes mission, itwould land in the water near the side of the ship, after which an onboard cranewould lift the aircraft out of the water and store it back in its launchingplace above deck.

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

Further outside the realm of the Kriegsmarine, but close enough to maritimeoperations to warrant discussion here were the various Luftwaffe controlledunits that took part in anti-shipping attacks, coastal and sea reconnaissance,air-sea rescue, coastal patrol, and sea-minesweeping operations. The followingis a listing of many of the Luftwaffe units that took part in all types of Searelated operations.

Küstenfliegergruppen

  • Küstenfliegergruppe 106
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 406
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 506
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 706
  • Küstenfliegergruppe 906
  • Küstenflieger-Ergänzungsstaffel 138
  • Minensuch-Gruppe 1 der Luftwaffe

Seeaufklärungsgruppen

  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 125
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 129
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 130
  • Seeaufklärungsgruppe 131

Kampfgeschwader Units

The Luftwaffe had many types of maritime aircraft within its arsenal. Thefollowing aircraft could be found operating from Kriegsmarine ships or incoastal 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

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