Naval aviators

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Various carrier-based aircraft types and helicopters on the flight deck of the Kitty Hawk , 1980

A naval aviator is the name given to the aviation forces belonging to the naval forces of a country. They can be equipped with carrier-based aircraft and helicopters , which are used by ships or airfields on land for naval tasks. Also airships once belonged to the arsenal of naval aviators. The most famous naval aviators are those who operate from aircraft carriers .


The Foudre was the predecessor of the first aircraft carrier (1911)
US Navy ZPG-2 airship (1958)

The importance of aircraft in naval warfare was first recognized in France. The French navy had already set up a naval airship park and an airship school in Lagoubran (near Toulon) in 1888, and in 1890 the first extensive maneuver with manned naval airships guided by torpedo boats took place, which were used to observe ship movements, locate minefields and control fire. Sweden also put an airship towed by a warship into operation in 1903, Russia in 1905, Italy in 1908. There were similar developments in 1903 and 1908 in the USA and Great Britain. Although the French naval aviation department was initially disbanded after a fatal airship accident in another maneuver in 1902, it was reorganized in a different form with the commissioning of the world's first aircraft mother ship Foudre in 1910/11.

Austria-Hungary established the first sea air station in Pola in 1911 . The first four Austrian seaplanes were of the French design and were still unarmed; When the First World War broke out , the meanwhile 10 Austrian seaplanes were armed. The first attacks were flown immediately, in November 1914 the first documented nocturnal attack was carried out. Soon the aviators, 65 towards the end of 1915, were able to drop bombs and in 1916 40 fighter planes were also purchased. Areas of application were aerial reconnaissance , the defense against enemy bombers and airships ( aerial warfare ), the pursuit of enemy naval units and air strikes on enemy ports, combat units and infrastructure. In 1915 a (French) submarine could be destroyed by a naval aircraft for the first time.

The first naval aviation forces were set up in Germany in 1913. Airplanes and naval airships played an important role in the First World War . Great Britain bought a semi-finished passenger ship and built it into its first aircraft carrier ( Argus ). On September 16, 1918, the ship was put into service. In 1922, the United States put its first carrier, the USS Langley , a converted coal freighter, into service. Other ships were also equipped with planes that were launched from a catapult . They could land on the water and were taken back on board with a crane. Naval airships were used for military reconnaissance and also attacked land-based targets with bombs.

The heyday of the aircraft carrier came in World War II . The USA in particular took advantage of the new opportunities after losing several battleships at Pearl Harbor . The Battle of Midway was the first major naval battle in which only carrier aircraft contributed to the success of the fight. Since then, carrier combat groups have been considered the backbone of America's power projection ability around the world.

With the introduction of helicopters, it became possible to accommodate aircraft on smaller warships . One of the first warships to board helicopters was the German Mine Tender dragon , the one from November 1942 helicopter type Flettner Fl 282 was bringing.

Types of Naval Aviation Forces

Sea Harrier FA.2 (FRS.2) aboard the Royal Navy's Illustrious

Carrier aircraft

The U.S. Navy's major aircraft carriers carry a variety of different carrier-based aircraft , including:

With this equipment, the squadron of a large aircraft carrier can fight all types of air warfare over sea and land. Other nations have smaller aircraft carriers with a reduced range of operations.

Board helicopter

Landing of a SeaLynx helicopter of the Danish Navy

On-board helicopters can also be taken on ships that are much smaller than an aircraft carrier. They mainly serve the following tasks:

  • Combat submarines
  • Maritime surveillance
  • Fight against sea targets
  • transport

They are carried by ships such as cruisers , destroyers and frigates . Larger supply ships are usually also equipped with transport helicopters. In addition, countries such as the USA, Great Britain and France - but also others - have special helicopter carriers or amphibious dock landing ships on which helicopters can be stationed. In addition to a flight deck, a hangar for accommodation and maintenance is required to carry out flight operations . Smaller ships can have a flight deck without a hangar. Since this means that a helicopter that has landed has to remain on the landing field, these ships are only approached by other ships or from land.

Maritime patrol aircraft

Maritime patrol aircraft Breguet Atlantic of the German Navy

Large aircraft with long flight endurance are used to monitor large areas of the sea. An important task of maritime patrol aircraft (Engl. Maritime Patrol Aircraft , MPA) is the locating and combat submarines. With extensive electronic sensors they can also detect enemy ships. Maritime patrols can be equipped with torpedoes and depth charges against submarines and with missiles against surface ships.

Other naval aircraft

In addition to the types mentioned, navies have used different types of aircraft and helicopters for different purposes. Helicopters are also used for mine defense . You can locate mines optically and detonate them with towed magnet coils and sound simulators.

Grumman Albatross flying boat, which was also flown in the German Navy

In the early stages of sea flying in particular, seaplanes were used in large numbers. They were used either from land stations or from ships. When deployed on a ship, launch is either from the water or from a catapult . The plane lands on the water and is recovered with a crane. Seaplanes were mainly used as board aircraft for reconnaissance and mine detection. Many large combat ships of the two world wars carried such aircraft. There were also aircraft mother ships whose task was to operate a seaplane base. During the First World War, eight German barrier breakers carried seaplanes alone . Land-based seaplanes were often used for sea rescue. Seaplanes are currently of little military importance.

Naval aviators in Germany

Sign of the German naval aviation


With the Cabinet Order (AKO) of May 3, 1913, the first naval aviation forces of the Imperial Navy were set up. It was an airship department in Berlin-Johannisthal and a group of aircraft in Putzig .

Shortly before the outbreak of war in 1914, the Imperial Navy only owned around 20 serviceable seaplanes. On the day of mobilization, another 15 civil aircraft could be confiscated at a sea flight competition. There were thirty trained naval pilots. The Central Station flight was already at war broke Seefliegerhorst Holtenau . Naval airships bombed England during World War I and provided important aerial reconnaissance results for the Navy. In the Baltic Sea , steamers converted into aircraft mother ships were used to attack the Baltic coast with airplanes.

During the Weimar Republic , the Reichsmarine officially had no naval aviators because the Versailles Treaty prohibited Germany from owning military aircraft. At the same time, there were secret projects and cover organizations such as the Sea Flight Research Institute (SEVERA) operated jointly with Lufthansa , in which naval aviation was continued and developed. With the rearmament , which began secretly in 1933 and then openly from 1935, naval forces were again deployed. Against the resistance of the navy, under pressure from Hermann Göring (“Everything that flies, belongs to me!”), They became part of the air force that was newly established from 1935 on January 27, 1939 . This also affected the flight squadron for the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin , which was under construction, but which was not completed. The Air Force even operated its own catapult and slinging ships , which were used to launch its maritime patrols, and air traffic control vessels that were supposed to rescue aircraft crews in distress and, as far as possible, salvage their aircraft.


F-104 Starfighter of MFG 1 in close formation

armed forces

Because the subordination of naval aviators to the Luftwaffe did not prove successful in World War II and the navy often had to operate without air support, the Federal Navy received its own air force again from 1956. The Naval Aviation Command, later the Naval Aviation Division and Flotilla of Naval Aviation, was at times the largest type of command in the fleet . At its wedding, it consisted of five naval aviation squadrons with up to 200 aircraft and helicopters. The large number of up to 121 fighter-bombers of the types Hawker Sea Hawk Mk 100/101 , Lockheed F-104 G Starfighter and Panavia PA200 Tornado was unusual . They were intended for the combat against landing units of the Warsaw Pact and divided between two naval aviation squadrons in Schleswig-Holstein.

In addition, in the order of commissioning (in brackets the period of use or, in the case of models currently in use, the number of active aircraft):

Saunders Roe Skeeter (1958-1960), Bristol Sycamore 52 (1960-1965), Sikorsky H-34G (1963-1975), Westland Sea King Mk.41 (21 pieces), Westland Sea Lynx Mk.88A (22 pieces),
Sea rescue aircraft
Grumman HU-16D Albatross (1959–1971) and HU-16A Albatross (1968–1971),
Maritime patrol aircraft
Fairey Gannet AS Mk 4 (1957-1966), Dassault-Breguet BR 1150 Atlantic (1966-2010)
Transport and liaison aircraft
Dornier DO 27 (1958-1972), Hunting Percival Pembroke C. 54 (1958-1972), Dornier DO 28D-2 Skyservant (1972-1995) and Dornier DO 228 LM (2 pieces).

National Peoples Army

The People's Navy of the GDR had naval aviation associations. Its official founding day is May 1st, 1963, when the first helicopter chain, which was set up in 1959, was placed under the command of the People's Navy. It formed the basis for the later established Marine Helicopter Squadron (MHG) 18 with the Parow site near Stralsund. Fixed-wing aircraft did not initially belong to the aviation forces of the People's Navy. Only in 1988 was the Naval Air Wing (MFG) 28 with the location Laage situated near Rostock. The squadron initially remained in the Air Force / Air Defense Association and was only to be subordinated to the Navy for operational purposes. It was not until the spring of 1990 that the MFG was handed over to the Volksmarine. At this point in time, the uniforms changed from the air force to the navy.

Since 1990

Since the reunification , the naval aviation forces have been greatly reduced.

Naval Aviation (DE-SH)
Eggebek (1964-2005)
Jagel (1958-1993)
Kiel-Holtenau (1958–2012)
Red pog.svgCurrent location of the German naval aviation
Yellow ffff00 pog.svgFormer airfields of the German navy

The MFG-28 , which was taken over by the Volksmarine , was dissolved on December 31, 1990, and the MHG-18 was reorganized into the Parow Navy Helicopter Group on April 1, 1991 , and then dissolved at the end of 1994. By 2005, all remaining fighter-bombers were handed over to the Air Force , and the associated squadrons were disbanded in 1993 ( MFG 1 ) and 2005 ( MFG 2 ). The flotilla of naval aviation was decommissioned on June 30, 2006 and the remaining two squadrons were directly subordinate to the fleet command.

As part of the realignment of the Bundeswehr , all naval aviation forces were brought together at the Nordholz site and the naval aviation command was reorganized on October 8, 2012. The naval aviation command represents the brigade level of the navy in addition to the operational flotilla 1 and 2 and leads the remaining two squadrons. These are the naval aviation squadron 3 "Graf Zeppelin" , which is responsible for the area machines and the operation of the air base , which is equipped with eight P-3C Orion sea ​​reconnaissance aircraft and two Do 228 for clarifying sea pollution, as well as the one equipped with 21 Sea King and 22 Sea Lynx helicopters Marinefliegergeschwader 5 , which ensures on-board flight operations and airborne sea rescue over the North and Baltic Seas ( Search and Rescue ).

P-3C Orion over the Elbe estuary

The naval aviators of the German Navy have the following tasks:

Westland Sea King Mk.41
Search and rescue service
Combating surface targets with machine guns
Transport of personnel and material
Westland Sea Lynx Mk.88A
Maritime surveillance and location with radar and sonar
Combat surface targets with missiles and machine guns
Combat submarines with torpedoes
Transport of personnel and material
Lockheed P-3C
Maritime surveillance and location with radar, electronic reconnaissance devices and sonar buoys
Combat submarines with torpedoes
Dornier Do 228-212 LM / Do 228NG LM
Oil monitoring in the North and Baltic Seas


There are plans to introduce a new NH90 NTH Sea Lion marine helicopter to replace the aging Sea King helicopters in the coming years .

See also


  • Jörg Duppler (Red.): Naval aviators. From the Naval Airship Division to the Naval Aviation Division . Edited by the German Maritime Institute , Mittler, Herford u. a. 1988, ISBN 3-8132-0295-X .
  • Heinrich Walle, German Maritime Institute (ed.): 100 years of naval aviation . Mittler, Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn 2013, ISBN 978-3-8132-0947-1 .
  • Hans-Jörg Detlefsen: One year naval aviation command. Roll forward instead of roll backward . Marineforum 4-2014, pp. 4-8.

Web links

Commons : Naval Aviation  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Lothar Persius : Köhler's Illustrated German Fleet Calendar for 1913 , pages 126–129. Minden 1913
  2. ^ Siegfried Breyer, Gerhard Koop: The ships and vehicles of the German Federal Navy 1956-1976 . Munich 1978; ISBN 3-7637-5155-6
  3. Press and Information Center Marine: Starting signal for the Naval Aviation Command in Nordholz. Bundeswehr, October 8, 2012, accessed on August 2, 2015 .
  4. Press and Information Center Navy: The Navy needs the "Sea Lion". Bundeswehr, November 26, 2014, accessed on August 2, 2015 .