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BTR-80 of the Land Forces of the Russian Armed Forces

The army of a state usually comprises all land forces as a partial force . The main task of the army is to carry out land operations for the purpose of reconnaissance and combat against enemy armed forces. The army is divided into combat troops , combat support troops , logistics troops and command troops .


Ancient and Middle Ages

Already in the ancient armies there was a subdivision into types of troops, especially into light and heavy infantry and cavalry. In the Greek and Roman armies, the task of men in the army who were fit for military service was dependent on their ownership, since the soldiers first had to pay for their equipment themselves. The heavily armored Greek hoplites who fought in a dense phalanx were recruited from the upper class. At the time of the Roman Republic , the state began to pay for the equipment of the great Roman army. As a result, a huge war industry emerged. Since the late period of the republic, the standing Roman army consisted of volunteers. The reform of the Roman army by Marius (partly due to the incursions of the Cimbri and Teutons ) laid the cornerstone for the powerful Roman army of the imperial era, through which the gigantic expansion of the Roman Empire could only be achieved. The troop strength at the time of the greatest expansion of the Roman Empire is estimated at around 400,000 ( probably a little more in late antiquity ). One last major reform of the army was initiated during the imperial era. For a long time each legion of the Roman Army consisted of the 3 troops (maniples) Triarii, Principes and Hastati. In late antiquity, the army was divided into a movement ( Comitatenses ) and a border army ( Limitanei ); the legions were also reduced in size, but their number increased.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, which was brought about by the migration of peoples , there were no standing armies in Europe for over a thousand years, except in the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire .

The army contingent of the Middle Ages consisted of free peasants , of knights and other nobles and their followers, and of urban contingents of men with civil rights. In the European Middle Ages, armies were only called up when a campaign was planned or an enemy invasion had to be repelled. The obligation to serve in the army was justified by feudal dependencies.

Modern times

In the late Middle Ages , mercenaries made up the largest part of the army, as this way the princes and kings wanted to break away from their dependence on their vassals . They were organized by Condottieri , the first war entrepreneurs. On German territory, the mercenaries in the form developed by Italian models mercenaries . The mercenary armies were a consequence of the increasingly important money economy , which replaced the feudal justification for participating in a campaign with financial motives. Since the mercenaries were often undisciplined and did not feel tied to a particular state, they quickly became a nuisance in large parts of Europe. Failure to pay wages could lead to serious looting and riots , and many mercenaries could be lured away if they were promised higher wages.

The transition to disciplined, standing armies was initiated at the beginning of the early modern period . The infantry fought in close formations since the 15th century , which required a high level of discipline. In order to be independent of the mercenaries, most of the European rulers began to set up standing armies in the late 17th century after the Thirty Years' War , in which the terms scorching, robbing and murdering armies were coined . The disciplinary measures associated with it made it possible for the armies to advance in a closed battle line despite ever increasing firepower. It was only in the 19th century that, due to the rapid development of firearms, people started to loosen up the armies in combat.

19th century

After the introduction of general conscription in the course of the French Revolution , the strongest armies in history to date were set up during the Napoleonic Wars . During this phase, the French example had a modernizing effect on other European states such as Prussia . After 1815, army strengths and armaments stagnated again in a longer period of peace or were mostly in decline. It was not until the last third of the 19th century, which was all about industrialization and innovation , that many states, including almost all major powers , set up armies with a conscription system. The Prussian-German army, which had made an international impression in the war of 1870/71 - even for distant Japan - served as a model . Since that time, a proportion of around 1% of the total population has been common as a benchmark for the strength of an army. Permanent general staffs to lead the armies were also established at that time . A growing bureaucracy , modern means of communication such as telegraphy , then the telephone , but above all the railroad made their contribution to the development. In the second half of the 19th century, there were leaps and bounds in the design and effectiveness of firearms . For this are z. B. the needle and Chassepot rifle , the introduction of low-smoke powder , explosive shells and the first machine guns . The emergence of uniforms in muted or camouflaged colors is directly related to this ; the centuries usual colorful military costumes were soon only at military parades or other traditional purposes such as Watchkeeping for Guard troops in monarchies used. In the course of the 19th century, technological and military progress in the West sustainably outclassed traditional power factors such as the Ottoman Empire , China or Spain and Portugal . At the end of the century, Europe and the USA were under the sign of imperialism and colonialism at the height of their power development; Any resistance in the dependent areas could mostly be put down in a short time by colonial troops using vastly superior means and brutal force. Individual powers also recruited associations from residents of their colonial possessions to reinforce the army in the motherland.

20th century

Up until the first half of the 20th century , the great powers raised armies of millions in the event of war. The German army z. B. comprised up to seven million soldiers in the First World War, and in 1914/18 a total of over 13 million men served in the German armed forces. The already very important industry of the main powers was able to produce enormous quantities of armaments and ammunition. General characteristics of the First World War were largely static warfare and the paramount importance of artillery . New weapons emerged, such as chemical weapons . For the first time, land forces were also threatened from the air. After many centuries of military history, the old cavalry class of troops had become practically obsolete as a result of the innovations in weapons technology, with the exception of secondary war theaters. On the other hand, the first beginnings of a new type of service emerged in several countries - the armored force . A development towards total war could be observed. In a short time, millions of dead, wounded and maimed were lost in the war - almost 100% of the army soldiers were affected. Around a hundred years after the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War was again an event that had a deforming effect on the demographics of some countries, and even more so. The worst marked was France , which had lost more than 3% of its population with around 1.3 million dead.

In World War II , this trend still intensified. The Red Army became the largest military organization in history and in 1945 had over 11 million members. A now fully developed mass production of war supplies of all kinds had been able to supply the armies of millions with a hitherto unimaginable amount of the most varied of materials. In this area, the USA , the largest economic power in the world for decades, should conquer an unequaled leading position. Not only did they equip their own army in a short period of time, but they also supported other powers that were hard pressed by Nazi Germany and its allies , above all Great Britain and the Soviet Union . The use of motor vehicles and tanks in the armies reached its first peak. Combat support forces and logistics soon comprised the bulk of the workforce in the most technologically advanced and advanced armies. Since the 1930s, the new type of airborne troops and paratroopers had developed from beginnings in the Soviet Union and Germany . From this time onwards, the marine infantry , also functionally part of the land forces, moved more into focus . The air force had now fully developed into an absolutely indispensable and decisive weapon of war - the second most important branch of the armed forces . Above all, these technical innovations were due to the fact that, in contrast to the First World War, the Second World War was largely fought as a war of movement .

For the past history there was usually a very pronounced separation of the traditional armed forces on land and at sea - the army and navy sometimes waged “their own wars” - the Second World War initiated the transition to a system of “total armed forces”. Particularly decisive for this were innovative management and organizational methods that were developed in the Anglo-American area. Amphibious warfare was revolutionized through to the transition to triphibian warfare through extremely complex operations in close cooperation between land, air and naval forces, exemplified by the entire Pacific War of the USA and the 1944 invasion of Normandy.

After 1945

Tank soldiers of the land forces of the NVA
Hunter of the land forces of the Austrian Armed Forces

After a brief phase of disarmament and demobilization, during the Cold War both adversaries - NATO and the Eastern Bloc (from 1955 Warsaw Pact ) - established land forces of millions since around 1950. The Korean War in particular acted as a catalyst for the new, largest wave of armaments to date and the greatest arms race of all time . Noticeable innovations in the period after 1945 were initially the full motorization of most armies, then an enormous expansion of the armored parts in all branches of the army - also to optimize protection against weapons of mass destruction - and the steadily increasing importance of missile weapons . Some countries, including both German states, reintroduced compulsory military service due to an international situation perceived as threatening. The era of the mass deployment of infantry, artillery, tanks, etc., based on the pattern of the First and Second World Wars, had inevitably come to an end since the introduction of nuclear weapons at the latest , a realization that has been asserting itself since the early 1950s. Characteristic of the international development was no longer the now dysfunctional army-intensive build-up. Due to the enormous destructive power of modern weapon systems, it lost its purpose, and many countries had already been demographically damaged by the two previous world wars. Even a theoretically conceivable war waged “only conventionally” and “cleanly” under international law could be expected to have irreparable consequences. An unprecedented capital expenditure in the material-technical area, caused and driven by a tremendous innovation in all areas after 1945 - in the Soviet Union the term "revolution in the military system" was coined for this - let the importance of the conventional army armament against the other branches of the armed forces, especially the air force , partly also the navy , but especially the nuclear forces - even perceptibly sinking. Nevertheless, the traditional armed forces continued to claim the lion's share of the armaments expenditures. The guiding principle was the prevention of major wars through credible deterrence . If it came to war, so the ideal idea in both blocs, it would be victorious as soon as possible or at least be ended with some advantage: a nuclear war , it soon turned out, would be better to avoid in any case, because it seemed to be the prevailing opinion at most because of its unimaginable accompanying circumstances in theory “feasible” or “winable”.

Apart from this, an eight-digit number of people have been killed since 1945, especially in a series of conventionally waged wars within the framework of decolonization or in proxy wars , mostly non-combatants , as was the case in colonial wars up to the 20th century and in some places in World War II Case. These "secondary theaters of war" also served the leading industrial powers as a test field for the continuously improved, new weapon systems of the land and air forces. The rapid air mobility of troops played an increasingly important role . From the 1950s onwards, the massive introduction of helicopters contributed to this. Examples of this are the Algerian War in France and the Vietnam War in the USA. In reality, the confrontation between traditional mass armies and conscription armies almost disappeared from view; on the other hand, the importance of what was later called asymmetrical warfare , based on the deployment of special troops , increased more and more. French “masterminds” in particular developed ideas about a new type of warfare (e.g. against liberation movements or separatists ) in the border area between the military, secret service and political propaganda. All of this under the sign of an increasingly huge gap between the most highly armed great powers and superpowers and a large number of comparatively poorly armed military "have-nots", especially in the so-called Third World .

When tactical nuclear weapons were introduced on a large scale in the late 1950s, the importance of land forces was valued, e.g. B. in the context of Western flexible response ideas, again higher. In general, the expansion of the land forces personnel peaked in the late 1960s to the mid 1970s. After a relaxation phase from around 1972 to 1979, the Cold War came to a head again by the mid-1980s. The reason was the nuclear armament and the end of the 1980s, finally unsuccessful war of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. The tendency towards the declining importance of personnel-intensive armaments and the increasing focus on technical means of war was no longer broken, especially since the Third Industrial Revolution gradually began to have its full effect during this period. At most in the Soviet Army and the Warsaw Pact , until the end of the Cold War, an image of war that was most reminiscent of the Second World War persisted: on a relatively broad personnel and material basis - whether the strong "conventional superiority" of the East, which is constantly propagated in the West the decades after 1955 actually still existed, is at least controversial - should advances by massive tank units with strong artillery enable wide-ranging offensives and thus ensure the rapid defeat of the enemy, for example based on the model of the Manchurian operation of August 1945 (in a certain sense the climax and end point of the "Soviet art of war"). A certain “World War II traditionalism” was also expressed in the aging of the Soviet army command from the 1970s. In addition to its essentially undisputed technological superiority (e.g. in the field of tanks and anti-tank defense , electronics , etc.) , the West also countered this with offensive concepts, for which the term forward defense stands for example . In the 1980s, the US plan for the AirLand Battle was specifically applicable .

As a real, year-long positional war between conscription armies, the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988 again corresponded to a pattern known from history. Fueled not least by very extensive supplies of war materials from various major powers in the West and East, up to 1 million people died in this dispute. Other wars of this kind within the “Third World”, for example in East Africa after the end of the Cold War, received little attention.

After the end of the Cold War, which, according to the (controversial) opinion, was possibly caused by the fact that the Eastern Bloc was no longer able to keep up with the arms race and collapsed, there was a strong international disarmament of the armies in terms of both personnel and material in the 1990s. However, due to the ongoing technical perfection of the weapon systems and other reasons, this did not make itself felt from a fiscal point of view. Arms expenditure and exports increased sharply worldwide even after the end of the system conflict. Whether there is possibly a so-called military-industrial complex which, perhaps for a long time detached from any functional rationality - apart from perhaps profit interests of individual groups - functions as a perpetual motion machine , is disputed.

M1A1 of the US Army

At the time of their bloodless "victory" over the Eastern Bloc, an international military coalition consisting essentially of NATO countries delivered an impressive demonstration of power in the war against Iraq in 1990/91 against an opponent that was strong in terms of personnel and material, but nonetheless inferior. Precision-guided ammunition was just as characteristic as an enormous propaganda offensive, concerted in close cooperation between the military and the media . In the course of a more advanced networking of all branches of the armed forces, the army operations played almost a secondary role. Historically new, given the size of the forces involved, the losses in particular were. The victorious coalition had to mourn several hundred deaths (often not caused by the action of the enemy, but by friction in their own operations). The loser, on the other hand, suffered losses in an unknown multiple amount, at least tens of thousands of deaths. The Kosovo War in 1999 and the Third Gulf War in 2003 followed almost the same pattern .

With the change in warfare strategies (e.g. in Germany with the Defense Policy Guidelines in the 2003 version) there is a tendency to create smaller, highly present and quickly relocatable army structures so that global deployments and graduated military reactions are easier. Since the end of the Cold War , many European countries have abolished or suspended conscription (the United States did so after the end of the Vietnam War ), resulting in smaller armies.

List of Army Forces

Standing armies

Currently standing armies are z. B .:

Historic land forces

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Richard Toellner : Georg Bartisch (1535-1606). Citizen, oculist, incision and surgeon in Dresden and his work "Ophthalmodouleia that is eye service". Supplement to Georg Bartisch von Königsbrück: Eye service. Edition "libri rari" Th. Schäfer, Hanover 1983, ISBN 3-88746-071-5 , p. 1.

Web links

Wiktionary: Heer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations