Austrian Armed Forces // Österreichisches Bundesheer
The Austrian Armed Forces (German: Österreichisches Bundesheer, lit.: Austrian Federal Army) are the military of the Republic of Austria. It is divided into branches: the Joint Forces (Streitkräfteführungskommando; SKFüKdo), which consist of Land Forces (Landstreitkräfte), Air Forces (Luftstreitkräfte), International Missions (Internationale Einsätze) and Special Forces (Spezialeinsatzkräfte), next to Mission Support (Kommando Einsatzunterstützung; KdoEU) and Joint Command Support Centre (Führungsunterstützungszentrum; FüUZ).
Austria, a landlocked country, today has no navy; from 1958 to 2006 however the Austrian army operated a naval squadron of patrol boats on the River Danube. That duty has been assumed by the Bundespolizei (Federal Police).
The main constitutional tasks of today's Austrian military are:
- to protect the constitutionally established institutions and the population's democratic freedoms.
- to maintain order and security inside the country.
- to render assistance in the case of natural catastrophes and disasters of exceptional magnitude.
Main article: Structure of the Austrian Armed Forces
Structure of the Austrian Army
Austrian Guard Company during the Bastille Day parade
Allentsteig (157 km²) is the largest training area in Austria
Zeltweg Air Base
Soldiers of the 17th Infantry Battalion during a manoeuvre
Austrian Gebirgsjäger in the Alps
Paratroopers of the 25th Infantry Battalion exit a C-130 Hercules
Austrian soldiers train with the StG 77
Under the constitution, the president is the nominal commander in chief of the armed forces. In reality, the chancellor has operational authority, exercised through the minister for national defence. The chancellor also chairs the National Defence Council, which has as its members a vice-chairman, the minister for national defence, an appointee of this minister, the general troop inspector of the armed forces, and a parliamentary representative. The minister for national defence, acting in co-operation with the minister for interior, coordinates the work of the four major committees under the National Defence Council: the Military Defence Committee; the Civil Defence Committee; the Economic Defence Committee; and the Psychological Defence Committee. The general troop inspector acts as the senior military adviser to the minister for national defence, assists the minister in the exercise of his authority, and, as head of the general staff, is responsible for planning. However, the army commander exercises direct operational control of the Bundesheer in both peacetime and wartime.
Article 79 of the constitution, as amended in 1985, states that the army is entrusted with the military defence of the country. Insofar as the legally constituted civil authority requests its co-operation, the army is further charged with protecting constitutional institutions and their capacity to act, as well as the democratic freedoms of the inhabitants; maintaining order and security in the interior; and rendering aid in disasters and mishaps of extraordinary scope. In administering the armed forces, the Ministry for National Defence is organized into four principal sections and the inspectorate general: Section I deals with legal and legislative matters; Section II handles personnel and recruitment matters, including discipline and grievances; Section III is concerned with troop command, schools, and other facilities, and it also comprises departments G-1 through G-5 as well as a separate department for air operations; and Section IV deals with procurement and supply, quartermaster matters, armaments, and ordnance (see fig. 12).
The general troop inspectorate is a separate section of the ministry with responsibility for co-ordination and fulfilment of the missions of the armed forces. It encompasses a general staff department, an attaché department, and planning and inspection groups.
The armed forces consist solely of the army, of which the air force is considered a constituent part. In 1993, the total active complement of the armed forces was 52,000, of whom 20,000 to 30,000 were conscripts undergoing training of six to eight months. The army had 46,000 personnel on active duty (including an estimated 19,500 conscripts), and the air force had 6,000 personnel (2,400 conscripts).
Cold War structure
Under the area defence strategy, which had determined the army's organizational structure until 1993, the army was divided into three principal elements: the standing alert force (Bereitschaftstruppe) of active units, including the air division; the mobile militia (Mobile Landwehr), organized as eight mechanized reserve brigades to be deployed to key danger spots in the event of mobilization; and the stationary militia (Raumgebundene Landwehr) of twenty-six reserve infantry regiments organized for territorial defence. Both the mobile militia and the stationary militia were brought up to strength only in times of mobilization or during periods allotted for refresher training, usually three weeks in June. Training of conscripts was conducted by twenty-eight training and equipment-holding regiments (Landwehrstammregimenter). On mobilization, these regiments would disband, with their cadre reassigned to lead reserve units or form replacement regiments and battalions.
At the army level were a headquarters, guard, and special forces battalions and an artillery battalion at cadre strength. Two corps headquarters, one in the east at Graz and one in the west at Salzburg, would, on mobilization, command the provincially organized units in their respective zones. Each corps included artillery, antitank, antiaircraft, and engineering battalions and a logistics regiment, all on a cadre basis.
Each of the nine provincial military commands supervised the training and maintenance activities of their training and equipment-holding regiments. On mobilization, these nine commands would convert to a divisional headquarters commanding mobile militia, stationary militia, and other independent units.
The only active units immediately available in an emergency were those of the standing alert force of some 15,000 career soldiers supplemented by eight-month conscripts. The force was organized as a mechanized division consisting of three armoured infantry brigades. Each brigade was composed of one tank battalion, one mechanized infantry battalion, and one selfpropelled artillery battalion. Two of the brigades had antitank battalions equipped with self-propelled weapons. The divisional headquarters was at Baden near Vienna; the three brigades were based in separate locations, also in the northeast of the country.
Post-Cold War structure
The New Army Structure—the reorganization plan announced in late 1991 and scheduled to be in place sometime in 1995—replaces the previous two-corps structure with one of three corps. The new corps is headquartered at Baden, with responsibility for the two northeastern provinces of Lower Austria and Upper Austria. Army headquarters will be eliminated, as will the divisional structure for the three standing brigades. The three corps—in effect, regional commands—will be directly subordinate to the general troop inspector. The three mechanized brigades will be placed directly under the new Third Corps at Baden, although in the future one brigade may be assigned to each of the three corps. The mobile militia will be reduced from eight to six mechanized brigades. Each of the nine provincial commands will have at least one militia regiment of two to six battalions as well as local defence companies.
Total personnel strength—both standing forces and reserves—is to be materially contracted under the new plan. The fully mobilized army will decline in strength from 200,000 to 120,000. The standing alert force will be reduced from 15,000 to 10,000. Reaction time is to be radically shortened so that part of the standing alert force can be deployed within hours to a crisis zone (for example, one adjacent to the border with Slovenia). A task force ready for immediate deployment will be maintained by one of the mechanized brigades on a rotational basis. Separate militia training companies to which all conscripts are assigned will be dismantled; in the future, conscripts will undergo basic training within their mobilization companies. Conscripts in the final stages of their training could supplement the standing forces by being poised for operational deployment at short notice.
Promotion is not based solely on merit but on position attained, level of education, and seniority. Officers with advanced degrees (for which study at the National Defence Academy qualifies) can expect to attain grade VIII before reaching the retirement age of sixty to sixty-five. Those with a baccalaureate degree can expect to reach grade VII (colonel), and those without university training will retire as captains or majors. Career NCOs form part of the same comprehensive personnel structure. It is common for NCOs to transfer at some stage in their careers to civilian status at the equivalent grade, either in the Ministry for National Defence or in the police or prison services after further training.
Main article: Austrian Air Force
Austria's air force ("Luftstreitkräfte") has as its missions the defence of Austrian airspace, tactical support of Austrian ground forces, reconnaissance and military transport, and search-and-rescue support when requested by civil authorities.
Until 1985, when the first of twenty-four Saab 35 Draken were delivered, the country had remained essentially without the capacity to contest violations of its airspace. The Drakens, reconditioned after having served the Swedish Air Force since the early 1960s, were armed, in accordance with the restrictions on missiles in the State Treaty of 1955, only with a cannon. However, following Austria's revised interpretation of its obligations under the treaty, a decision was made in 1993 to procure AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The first of these missiles were purchased from Swedish air force inventory, while later a higher performance model was acquired directly from the United States, with deliveries commencing in 1995. French Mistral surface-to-air missiles systems were purchased to add ground-based protection against air attack. The first of the systems arrived in Austria in 1993; final deliveries concluded in 1996.
The Drakens were retired in 2005 and 12 F-5E Tiger II were leased from Switzerland to avoid a gap in the Austrian air defence capabilities until the first Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon units became operational in 2007. Besides one squadron of 15 Eurofighter Typhoons, the air force has a squadron with 28 Saab 105 trainers, which double as reconnaissance and close air support planes.
The helicopter fleet includes 23 AB 212 helicopters used as light transport. 24 French Alouette III are in service as search-and-rescue helicopters. Furthermore, the air force fields 11 OH-58B Kiowa as light scout helicopters. After Austria had to request assistance from the United States Army, Swiss Air Force, French Air Force, and German Bundeswehr to evacuate survivors after the 1999 Galtür Avalanche a decision was taken to equip the Austrian Air Force with medium-sized transport helicopters. Thus in 2002 Austria acquired 9 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. In 2003 the air force received 3 C-130K Hercules transport aircraft to support the armed forces in their UN peacekeeping and humanitarian activities.
Austrian Special Operations Forces
Main article: Jagdkommando
The Jagdkommando (lit. Hunting Command) is the Austrian Armed Forces' Special Operations group. The duties of this elite unit match those of its foreign counterparts, such as the United States Army Special Forces, being amongst others Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. Jagdkommando soldiers are highly trained professionals whose thorough and rigorous training enables them to take over when tasks or situations outgrow the capabilities and specialization of conventional units.
Unit disposition map
Austrian Armed Forces is located in Austria ARMY COMMANDARMY COMMAND GuardGuard Air Surveillance CommandRadar Btn.Air Surveillance Command
Radar Btn. Air Surveillance Sqn.Air Surveillance Sqn. 2 Air-def. Btn.2 Air-def. Btn. Air Support CommandAir Support Command Air Support SqnAir Support Sqn 3 Infantry Brigade3 Infantry Brigade 33 Infantry33 Infantry 35 Mech. Inf.35 Mech. Inf. 19 Infantry19 Infantry 3 Recon3 Recon 3 Engineer3 Engineer 4 Mech. Brigade4 Mech. Brigade 14 Armored14 Armored 13 Mech. Inf.13 Mech. Inf. 12 Infantry12 Infantry 4 Artillery & Recon4 Artillery & Recon 6 Infantry Brigade6 Infantry Brigade 23 Infantry23 Infantry 24 Infantry24 Infantry 26 Infantry26 Infantry 2 Engineer2 Engineer 7 Infantry Brigade7 Infantry Brigade 17 Infantry17 Infantry 18 Infantry18 Infantry 25 Infantry25 Infantry 7 Artillery & Recon7 Artillery & Recon 1 Engineer1 Engineer Special OperationsSpecial Operations
Austrian Armed Forces - major units
Personnel, Conscription, Training, and Reserves
Ulan of the 35th Mechanized Infantry Battalion
Bundesheer soldiers with MG74 and StG 77 during a manoeuvre
Engineers from the 2nd Engineer Battalion building a bridge during an exhibition in the city of Salzburg
Crowd and riot control training
Leopard 2 and M88 Recovery Vehicle of the 14th Tank Battalion
Soldiers on parade on Austrian National Day 2006.
Paratroopers of the 25th Infantry Battalion
Until 1971 Austrian males were obligated to serve nine months in the armed forces, followed by four days of active service every two years for training and inspection. In 1971 the period of initial service was reduced to six months, followed by a total of sixty days of refresher training in the reserves. In the early 1990s, about 45,000 conscripts completed their initial military training every year, and 80,000 reservists participated in some form of exercises each year.
Reducing the mobilization strength of the army to 120,000 under the New Army Structure plan is to be accomplished in part by limiting initial training of recruits to six months, followed by reducing the period allotted for refresher training from twenty years to ten years. Each reservist is to receive training over a twelve-day period every second year during his first ten years of reserve duty, generally not extending beyond the time he reaches his mid-thirties. The reduced need for conscripts corresponds to a lower pool of young men because of a declining birth rate. The availability of about 40,000 fit trainees annually in 1993 was expected to fall to barely 30,000 by 2000 and to 26,000 by 2015.
In 2006 conscription was reduced to six months total. Mandatory reserve training was abolished. Since then the army reserve battalions (Miliz) are suffering from a lack of new reservists and are therefore overaging.
Under a 1974 law, conscientious objectors can be assigned work as farm labourers, medical orderlies, or other occupations in lieu of military service. Exemptions from service are liberally granted—in 1992 about 12,000 persons were exempted, a great increase over the 1991 total of 4,500. The increase occurred after a new law, valid only for 1992 and 1993, no longer required young men to present their objections to the military in a credible way. Previously, that had not been the case. In 1990, for example, two young men rejected by the alternate service commission on the grounds that they did not present their beliefs in a credible manner were sentenced to prison terms of three months and one month, respectively.
Conscripts may attain the rank of private first class by the completion of initial training. Those with leadership potential may serve a longer period to obtain noncommissioned officer (NCO) status in the militia. Those volunteering for the career service can, after three to four years, apply to attend the NCO academy and later a senior NCO course to qualify as warrant officers. Both regular and militia officer candidates undergo a one-year program of basic training. After a further three years, regular officer candidates attending the military academy at Wiener Neustadt and militia officer candidates undergoing periodic intensified refresher training qualify as second lieutenants. The reserve obligation of conscripts generally ends by the time they reach their mid-thirties; NCOs and officers usually end their reserve status at a later age depending on their rank and specialization. By the early 1990s, some 1.3 million men had completed their initial service and refresher training obligations and had no further active-duty commitment.
The military personnel system is an integral part of a comprehensive civil service system. The nine officer ranks from officer candidate through general correspond to grades I through IX of the civil service system. The highest grade, IX, may be occupied by a section chief (undersecretary), a career ambassador, or a three-star general. A grade VIII position may be held by a departmental counselor, a career minister, or a brigadier general. Salary levels are the same for both civil and military personnel in the equivalent grades, although various allowances may be added, such as flight pay or hazardous-duty pay.