Tank reconnaissance force (Bundeswehr)

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Former troop category badge of the tank reconnaissance troops

The tank reconnaissance force was a branch of the army in the German Armed Forces . The main task of the tank scouts was reconnaissance and exploration of unknown terrain. These ordered the armored reconnaissance troops on reconnaissance and battle tanks . The tank reconnaissance force was one of the tank troops and was thus part of the combat troops .

The tank reconnaissance force was disbanded in 2008. Most of the personnel and equipment were used to set up the Army Reconnaissance Force.

Tasks and tactics

The main task of the tank reconnaissance troops was the reconnaissance in the operational area of the superior brigade or division . The management should be given a report on the situation that is as up-to-date, precise as possible and condensed to facilitate decision-making . The armored reconnaissance troops were part of the “information network reconnaissance”, in which, for example, artillery reconnaissance forces , televised scouts and the EloKa telecommunication troops were active (see also → this section in the article on the army reconnaissance troops ). The scouting troops occupied reconnaissance points of permanent interest and operated on their own as inconspicuously as possible according to the troop's motto “videre sine videri” ( German translation from Latin : “Seeing without being seen”). The penetration depth could be from 30 to 70 kilometers behind enemy lines . Light scouting parties with lynxes were particularly suitable for this . Tank reconnaissance therefore saw themselves as a particularly autonomous, independent force, because their own decision determined success or failure far more than with other branches of the army . Armored reconnaissance troops were often deployed to confirm and supplement the results of reconnaissance equipment from other branches of the intelligence network and to monitor the further behavior of the enemy . With their armored vehicles , especially battle tanks , the tank reconnaissance force was also able to carry out reconnaissance through combat . Furthermore, the troops were able to monitor large areas and flanks , limited to ABC reconnaissance as well as the establishment and maintenance of long-range telecommunication connections to and between other troop units. In addition to the established optical systems, electronic reconnaissance systems such as radar and sensors became increasingly important in modern tank reconnaissance troops .

The troupe worked in combined arms combat with combat and combat support troops together, but was not a priority in the types of combat or safety of rooms and objects used, because a rubbing of the troops was to avoid to get the reconnaissance capability. The tank reconnaissance troops with their armored vehicles were recently often deployed on missions abroad in the extended range of tasks such as protecting convoy , monitoring marching streets or establishing and maintaining telecommunication connections over long distances.

The focus of the investigation consisted of the following components:

  1. Corps level: electronic reconnaissance by Telecommunications Battalion ELOKA
  2. Division level: technical reconnaissance by observation battalions (usually artillery)
  3. Brigade level: reconnaissance by brigade reconnaissance train (BrigSpähZg)

Battlefield radar

The responsibility of the battlefield radar systems was the responsibility of the brigades or combat troop battalions, depending on their range. Often this procedure should be practiced as a standing patrol close to the enemy. These consisted of smaller and light scouting parties with extensive telecommunications equipment and light on-board machine weapons, such as on-board machine guns.

Panzer Reconnaissance Company TPz

The Pz AufklKp equipped with TPz Fuchs formed the infantry component of a Pz AufklBtl .:

  • dismounted scouting troops, strokes of hands against explosive devices, monitoring of gaps etc.
  • Maintaining confusing terrain for the defense of a combat troop battalion
  • changing security tasks of all kinds
  • In the type of combat delay or attack, the Pz AufklBtl lacks a reconnaissance tank company. This could be solved with the subordination of an armored infantry company.


In the history of the armored troops, the task of the upstream armored reconnaissance troops has been discussed several times in a double role as reconnaissance or combat or reconnaissance through combat. In combat, the tank reconnaissance force is mainly responsible for the reconnaissance of attacking tank and mot rifle units. For this purpose, the tank scouts, especially when used as a delay unit, were subordinate to tank grenadiers , tank destroyers , tank engineers and tank mortars . In addition to keeping in touch, the monitoring of enemy tank movements was also included. Depending on the task and focus, this was taken into account in the structure and armament of a tank reconnaissance battalion.

This problem has already been addressed by Guderian:

Reconnaissance is the main task of the tank reconnaissance force. - In order to prevail against the enemy reconnaissance and to be able to break through an enemy security veil, the tank reconnaissance battalion needs a certain combat strength. I expressly say a certain fighting power, because if you dose it too much, it will immediately be misused. [...] You have to decide whether the tank reconnaissance units should primarily investigate or fight. There are reasons for both solutions. But you don't ask an association to do both. This inevitably leads to schizophrenia. "

- Retired Major General Heinz Guderian

Army Structure 1 (1956–1958)

For the first time in German military history, Army Structure 1 envisaged the armored reconnaissance aircraft as an independent class of service. The six armored divisions were to have one armored reconnaissance battalion each (3, 5, 7, 10, 11, and 12), the armored infantry divisions, the mountain and airborne divisions each had one armored reconnaissance company. Structurally, one orientated itself strongly on the armored reconnaissance department type 1944 (Panzerdivision).

The battalions were equipped with the open tracked Bren Carrier vehicles and the M 41 light battle tank . During the Cold War , NATO's military planners assumed a clash of large armored combat units from the two power blocs. Therefore one enabled the tank reconnaissance for reconnaissance by fighting with the help of battle tanks.

A tank reconnaissance battalion of a grenadier division of Army Structure 1 had:

  • Headquarters company
  • 1 tank reconnaissance company with 5 heavy reconnaissance troops each (with 2 M 41 battle tanks each)
  • 1 tank reconnaissance company with 11 light reconnaissance teams each (with 2 tracked vehicles each Bren Carrier)
  • Supply company

A tank reconnaissance battalion of a tank division of Army Structure 1 had:

  • Headquarters company
  • 2 tank reconnaissance companies each with 5 heavy reconnaissance troops (each with 2 M 41 battle tanks)
  • 2 tank reconnaissance companies each with 11 light reconnaissance parties (each with 2 tracked vehicles Bren Carrier)
  • Supply company

The mortar and pioneer platoons in all battalions were correspondingly larger or smaller.

Army Structure 2 (1959–1970)

Short armored personnel carrier (SPz 10) Hotchkiss of the reconnaissance platoon of the headquarters company (later armored reconnaissance platoon 350) of the Panzergrenadierbrigade 35 , 1967

In an effort to create smaller, more mobile units, brigades were set up below the divisions as independently operating large units from 1959 . With the implementation of the new Army Structure 2 , the divisions' reconnaissance forces were reduced in favor of tank reconnaissance companies in the brigades.

Only two years later, the battalions were reinforced again, realizing that they had too little combat power to enforce reconnaissance results. Armored reconnaissance trains remained with the brigades.

From 1960 the Bren Carrier was replaced by the Hotchkiss armored personnel carrier for short (SPz 10) , which was equipped with a 20-mm on-board cannon. Beginning in 1965, the M 41 were replaced by the Leopard 1 battle tank or the M 48 battle tank .

Structure of the tank reconnaissance battalions in Army Structure 2 (as of November 1961):

  • Headquarters and supply company , including a radar train
  • 2 tank reconnaissance companies with 4 heavy reconnaissance troops (each with 2 M41 and 1 IFV 10) and 2 light reconnaissance platoons (with 4 light reconnaissance troops each consisting of 2 IFV 10 each)
  • Heavy company consisting of 2 armored personnel carriers (9 SPz 10 each), 2 armored trains (6 M 41 each), 1 anti-tank mortar train (6 medium tank mortars 81 mm) and 1 engineer train (with MTW 113 )

Army Structure 3 (1970–1979)

The switch to Army Structure 3 , with which the NATO strategy of flexible response was structurally implemented, resulted in no changes for the tank reconnaissance battalions.

From 1975 the armored personnel carrier was briefly replaced by the floating 8-wheel reconnaissance tank Luchs , which was armed with a 20 mm on-board cannon. In the armored reconnaissance training battalion 11 in Munster and in the armored reconnaissance battalion 3 in Lüneburg, the heavy companies were equipped with the Marder armored personnel carrier. These battalions had the following structure in Army Structure 3:

  • Headquarters and supply company, including a radar train
  • 2 tank reconnaissance companies with 2 light reconnaissance platoons (each with 4 light reconnaissance troops, each with 2 SpPz Luchs) and 1 heavy reconnaissance platoon (with 3 heavy reconnaissance troops each with 3 MBT Leopard 1)
  • heavy company consisting of 2 armored personnel carriers (5 Marder vehicles each), 2 armored trains (5 Leopard 1 each), 1 anti-tank mortar train (6 120 mm anti-tank mortars) and 1 pioneer train with 2 MTW M113 pioneer groups and MLC 60 dinghy bridge device

The remaining battalions were equipped with AFVs short instead of Marder and Luchs AFVs, and the M48 battle tank instead of the Leopard 1 battle tank.

Army Structure 4 (1980–1990)

A tank reconnaissance battalion of Army Structure 4 consisted of 31 to 34 battle tanks and 31 reconnaissance tanks with a structure that was principally tailored to scouting troops. The concentration on the main battle tank component inevitably led to an orientation towards combat missions. In the command regulations of the armored troops, the heavy and light reconnaissance platoons were assigned a range of combat missions such as reconnaissance, security and delay.

On almost all army exercises, the tank reconnaissance battalions were deployed as mixed tank battalions in the front in the delay battle. These mixed tank reconnaissance battalions acted as the 4th maneuvering element with reservation of command for combat tasks. This would also include clearing up crisis situations by quickly reinforcing a focus area, closing gaps in the event of tank breakthroughs or short local counter-attacks.

It was to be assumed that the reconnaissance on the width of the divisional combat strip would not have taken place in ten split heavy reconnaissance troops (reconnaissance veils under divisional responsibility), but in the closed deployment of all 34 main battle tanks. A different range of tasks would therefore be assigned to the command post of a Pz AufklBtl in quick succession.

The disadvantages would be:

  • reduced responsibility of the brigade commanders in their combat strip
  • Delay in the transmission of reconnaissance results to the combat troops
  • high losses in the combat reconnaissance troops due to their own fire in the critical admission phase at the VRV

The Army Structure 4 changed the armored reconnaissance battalions strong because the 4th Company , which, so far to independent with their armored infantry tanks, mortar and pioneer forces, the battalion combined arms combat capable, was disbanded 1980th Instead, the battalion received another tank reconnaissance company of the 2nd and 3rd Company type. In 1982 the 2nd and 3rd companies were reclassified into heavy companies and the 4th company into a mixed company. In addition, a 5th company with fighters and armored personnel carriers Fuchs was formed for the infantry generation of reconnaissance results. Finally, the tank reconnaissance battalion was reinforced by a radar platoon with the Rasit reconnaissance radar , which was subordinate to the 4th Company.

The following structure of the tank reconnaissance battalion resulted (status 1982):

  • Headquarters and supply company
  • 2 heavy tank reconnaissance companies with 4 heavy reconnaissance troops (each with 3 Leopard 1 MBTs)
  • 1 mixed tank reconnaissance company with 2 heavy reconnaissance troops (each with 3 MBT Leopard 1) and 1 light reconnaissance platoon (with 4 light reconnaissance troops each with 2 SpPz Luchs)
  • 1 TPz tank reconnaissance company with 10 Fuchs armored vehicles and 3 Milan anti-tank missile systems
  • 1 training company
  • 3 brigade patrols (subordinate to the battalion in times of peace) with 4 light scouting troops each with 2 SpPz Luchs
  • 1 radar train with 9 PARA radar troops

Army structure 5 and 5 (N) (1990–1994)

Due to the regulations in the two-plus-four contract , the strength of the Bundeswehr could be reduced to 370,000 men. Initially, however, the Bundeswehr grew through the associations taken over by the NVA . In April 1991 the tank reconnaissance battalions 70 in Gotha and 80 in Beelitz were set up from former NVA units , which were later given the order numbers 13 and 14. There were thus a total of 13 tank reconnaissance battalions, with which this type of service had reached its maximum strength in the history of the Bundeswehr.

From the end of 1992, the tank reconnaissance battalions 1, 3 and 5 were reclassified into light battalions, which were assigned to the corps and were subordinate to a division in peacetime. The remaining battalions 2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13 and 14 were reclassified into heavy division battalions. In 1993, battalions 4 and 10 were disbanded, followed in 1994 by tank reconnaissance battalion 1.

The Leopard 1 main battle tanks were replaced by the Leopard 2 main battle tank . The radar trains were disbanded and merged into the newly formed brigade scouting companies and the light battalions.

Structure of a light tank reconnaissance battalion corps:

  • Headquarters and supply company
  • 1 airborne reconnaissance platoon (under the control of an airborne brigade)
  • 3 tank reconnaissance companies with 6 light reconnaissance troops (2 SpPZ Luchs each) and 3 radar troops PARA
  • 1 tank reconnaissance company squad

Structure of a heavy tank reconnaissance battalion division

  • Headquarters and supply company
  • 3 mixed tank reconnaissance companies with 3 heavy reconnaissance troops (each with 3 MB Leopard 2) and 5 light reconnaissance troops (each with 2 SpPz Luchs)
  • 1 Brigade Reconnaissance Company (subordinate to the battalion in times of peace) with 6 light reconnaissance troops, each with 2 SpPz Luchs and 3 radar troops PARA
  • 1 tank reconnaissance company (cadre)

In 1995 it was decided to put tank reconnaissance battalions 2 (dissolution 1996), 11 and 14 (dissolution 1997) out of service because of the further army reduction. The teaching assignment, which had been with the 11th Panzer Reconnaissance Training Battalion since 1958, was transferred to the 3rd Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion.

The tank reconnaissance force in the New Army for new tasks (from 1995)

Tank reconnaissance aircraft with the Fuchs transport tank in Bosnia, SFOR , 2004

The essential change in this new army structure was the division of the army into crisis reaction forces and main defense forces . As of 1995, each active division had a tank reconnaissance battalion and each mechanized brigade had a tank reconnaissance company.

Structure of the armored reconnaissance battalion division in the "New Army for New Tasks"

  • Headquarters and supply company
  • 3 tank reconnaissance companies with 6 light reconnaissance troops (each 2 SpPz Luchs) and 3 radar troops PARA

(one of the tank reconnaissance companies in the main defense forces)

The size of the armored reconnaissance troops of the Bundeswehr last comprised (as of 2005) a total of five battalions. At the brigade level, eleven active and three inactive tank reconnaissance companies were planned.

The Leopard 2 heavy battle tanks were separated from the service category by 2001. This eliminated the option of “ reconnaissance through combat ” without additional reinforcement by subordinate or aside combat troops . Instead, the tank scouts concentrated on their real core task: reconnaissance. Beginning in 2003, the Luchs weapon system was replaced by the completely newly developed Fennek scout vehicle . An armored reconnaissance group consisted of two Luchs reconnaissance vehicles, each with a crew of four (commander, gunner, driver and driver and reversing operator at the same time) or two Fennek reconnaissance vehicles with a crew of three. The first Fennek was handed over to the troops on December 10, 2003 at the armored troop school in Munster. The last vehicles for the time being were delivered in 2007. A Fuchs radar carrier with RASIT tank reconnaissance radar could optionally be added to the reinforced scouting team .

As part of the transformation of the Bundeswehr , the traditional arm of the army was absorbed into the newly created Army Reconnaissance Force and thus ceased to exist. Original tank reconnaissance units have since been referred to as reconnaissance units. As of 2007, the Army Reconnaissance Force comprised the forces of the tank reconnaissance units including the airborne reconnaissance units , the long-range reconnaissance forces, the field intelligence forces and the forces of the airborne unmanned imaging reconnaissance ( drones ), which are assigned to the reconnaissance units and units. The army reconnaissance force works through ground-based and airborne situation reconnaissance and is an essential vehicle for intelligence gathering and reconnaissance in the army. The protection of the armored reconnaissance troops in the army reconnaissance units is no longer to be guaranteed by heavy armor, but by obtaining information at an early stage.


The training and further development of the tank reconnaissance force took place mainly at the tank force school in Munster . The commander of the armored troop school was also the general of the armored troops (until 2006 referred to as the general of the armored combat troops). The General of the Armored Troops was responsible for the training and further development of the armored combat troops (from 2006 armored troops ). An independent troop school for the tank reconnaissance troops only existed in Bremen until 1957, when the troop school for tank reconnaissance troops was incorporated into the armored troop school.



In the Bundeswehr, the armored reconnaissance force belonged to the armored troops like the tank and armored infantry troops . Until 2006, these branches of service were grouped together in the Armored Combat Troops Association. The armored troops and armored combat troops were among the combat troops of the Bundeswehr.

The airborne units of the armored reconnaissance troops were (and are still today) called airborne reconnaissance aircraft. An independent but related type of service was formed by the remote surveillance troops and the field intelligence troops . Independent intelligence capabilities notable scope possessed beyond the army , the army air defense troops , the artillery troops and the Signal Corps (also Signal Corps electronic warfare ), which own signals intelligence operation.


Before the start of its dissolution in 2005, the Bundeswehr's tank reconnaissance force comprised a total of five battalions . At the brigade level , eleven active and three inactive tank reconnaissance companies were planned. Some of the last existing units were reclassified to the formation of the army reconnaissance troops . They exist to this day under a slightly different name.


Main weapon system

Most recently, the main weapon system was the Luchs reconnaissance vehicle and the Fennek reconnaissance vehicle , which had already been introduced into the troops in anticipation of being converted into an army reconnaissance force, and which replaced most of the Fuchs transport tanks in the reconnaissance force. Also in anticipation of the reclassification to a lighter reconnaissance force, which was to largely forego reconnaissance through combat in conjunction with the armored force , the Leopard 2 battle tank was dropped in 2001 .


Example for the cavalry symbolism of the tank scouts: here (tank) reconnaissance battalion 3 "Lüneburg"

The armored scouts of the Bundeswehr followed the tradition of the cavalry . The troops took over the weapon color gold yellow of the Wehrmacht cavalry and many internal association badges wore stylized horses .

The beret color of the tank scouts was black, as the tank scouts belonged to the armored troops that had been wearing black berets since 1971 . The beret / troop type badge of the armored reconnaissance troops showed a stylized wheeled reconnaissance tank in a wreath of oak leaves on two crossed cavalry lances . The lances were preserved in the beret badge of the army reconnaissance troops.

Tactical sign

In the NATO scheme for tactical signs , the tactical sign of the tank reconnaissance force consisted of a lying oval and a line drawn from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. The oval stylizes the caterpillar of a tracked vehicle . The tactical symbols of the other branches of the armored combat troops depicted this symbol, which generally stood for armored and mechanized troops. The line was therefore a symbol for scouts. Possibly the symbol goes back to the crossing rider lances of the Uhlans , which were also shown in the troop badge. The Army Reconnaissance Force continues the tactical mark of the armored reconnaissance troops in a different form: in response to the elimination of the battle and reconnaissance tanks , the stylized caterpillar was dropped.

Rank designations

Rank designation of the lowest rank of soldier in units of the tank reconnaissance force was a tank gunner . He corresponded to the rank designations Schützen, Funker, Panzergrenadier etc. of other military branches, branches of the armed forces and military organizational areas. The other ranks corresponded to the general ranks of the Bundeswehr .

Bundeswehr Cross Black.svg Team rank
Lower rank   Higher rank
- Tank guns Private

Rank group : Teams-NCOs-NCO-NCOs-Lieutenant-Captains-Staff officers-Generals


  • Cord Schwier (Ed.): "... and the reconnaissance team are always there ..." - On the history of the German armored reconnaissance troops . Munster 2001.
  • 50 years of the Bundeswehr's tank reconnaissance force . In: Freundeskreis Panzeraufklärer (ed.): Der Panzerspähtrupp. News bulletin of the Freundeskreis Panzer Reconnaissance Group . No. 40 , July 2006.
  • The new Army Reconnaissance Force . In: Freundeskreis Panzeraufklärer (ed.): Der Panzerspähtrupp. News bulletin of the Freundeskreis Army Reconnaissance Group . No. 44 , October 2008.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m tank reconnaissance force. Enlightenment or combat as the main task? Colonel i. G. Gero Koch in Troop Practice 4/1984. P. 251ff. Darmstadt, Wehr und Wissen publishing company
  2. see Kampftruppen issue 1/77, Herford, Maximilian Verlag, p. 7
  3. a b The equivalent, higher and lower ranks are given in accordance with ZDv 14/5 B 185, cf. The Federal Minister of Defense (ed.): ZDv 14/5. Soldiers Act . DSK AV110100174, change status July 17, 2008. Bonn August 21, 1978, rank designations in the Bundeswehr, p. B 185 (Not to be confused with the Law on the Legal Status of Soldiers (Soldiers Act) . The order of the ranks shown in the info box does not necessarily correspond to one of the regular rank sequences provided for in the Soldiers' Career Ordinance , nor does it necessarily correspond to the rank hierarchy described in the Superiors Ordinance a managerial relationship ).