German Special Operations

Kampfschwimmer

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Germany’s postwar commando frogman force are called the Kampfschwimmer (“Combat Swimmers”) or Official Usage Group 3402. They are the only special-purpose force of the German Navy.

History

The Kampfschwimmer were set up particularly because Germany joined NATO and there was felt to be risk of war with the Soviet Union. A unit was needed which could help to secure the Baltic Sea exits through the Danish Straits. On 1 August 1958, Group 3402, as these commando frogmen were called by the navy, was set up. It consisted of men without a Nazi past, who had served in WWII in the small combat forces and the naval employment commands.

As the achievements of these units in WWII was not in terms of tons of sunk shipping, they were not thought of much by the public. Today hardly anything is well known by the public about Germany’s commando frogmen, because of this and because of official secrecy.

The first Kampfschwimmer were trained first with the Nageurs de combat in France. France had developed the role of the commando frogmen further in the Indochina war, to the modern single fighter.

The Kampfschwimmer should carry out their tasks both in the water and ashore, like German commando frogmen did in WWII. But now a new dimension was added: Air. This three-role concept of the Frenchmen became the basis of the commando frogmen of the German navy.

On 1 April 1964 the Kampfschwimmer appeared for the first time as an independent body. In the following years they extended their tasks, but lacked money. Thus e.g. they had to buy their own dry suit under suits.

Roles

Unlike other nations’ commando frogmen units, the Kampfschwimmer are not known so far for any spectacular operations.

In the Gulf War in 1991 the whole company was used for security missions on the German ships involved in the Persian Gulf.

As a boarding party they were involved in embargo control against the remainder of Yugoslavia in the Adriatic Sea.

According to rumors they were involved in Operation Enduring Freedom in the horn of Africa as a boarding party.

Organization

Since 1974 the Kampfschwimmer have been stationed in the naval base at Eckernförde near Kiel. In October 1994 they were subordinated to the Flotilla of Mine Warfare. In Eckernförde a combat frogman group was set up, it consists of a mine clearance diver company and a commando frogmen company. Allegedly the weapon diver group has 250 men. The commando frogmen company had, according to strength and equipment records, 3 groups, each with 16 men. Of it, approximately 30 men are actively operational.

In 2001 the Waffentauchergruppe (“Armed Diver Group”) became the Bataillon Spezialisierter Kräfte (“Specialized Forces Battalion”).

By a transformation in 2003 the de:Spezialisierten Einsatzkräfte Marine (“Specialized Task Forces of the Navy” (SEK M) was formed. The SEK M was divided further into the Combat Swimmer Company, a mine clearance diver company, and two naval companies for special employments (e.g. to board ships), a training inspection group, and further support elements.

Conditions for Entry

These minimum requirements must be fulfilled by all candidates, to become certified for training:

  • Applicants must be Germans in the sense of the article 116 Grundgesetz (constitution).
  • They must be at least 17 years old and less than 25 years old.
  • They possess a Realschulabschluss school qualification, or equivalent, or
  • They were successfully educated at a high school or equivalent, with favorable exam passes.
  • 1000m swimming under 23 minutes
  • Run 5000m in under 24 minutes
  • 30m distance swim underwater without equipment
  • Stay underwater without breathing for at least 60 seconds
  • Sport test with at least 20 points; at least 3 points for each exercise
  • Must be an active soldier who has served at least 6 months. After training, one must commit oneself for 4 years.
  • Diving fitness is examined by the Schiffahrtsmedizinischen Institut (naval medical institute) of the navy.
  • Parachute jump fitness is examined by the same institute.

Training

During the training, it is less about the physical load than the psychological load, which causes many applicants to give up. The physical achievement can be trained, but overcoming the fear is the most important goal of the training. The training includes among other things swimming, diving, navigation, close combat, weapons handling, and parachuting. In the special conclusion exercise their ability and hardness are equally demanded, before they join the circle of the commando frogmen. In further training sections they are trained as team leaders or specialists.

Introductory Training

First there are four weeks of introductory training. In this time the applicants are pushed hard physically and psychologically by fixed exercises. All exercises have the goal to take away the fear of water and to make the applicant feel safe in the water. One of the exercises is called gefesselte Schwimmen (= the bound swimming). The applicant is put on the starting block in the full combat suit, with his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied together, and then put in the swimming pool. He must stay for 30 seconds alone clearly; afterwards a safety diver pulls him back up.

In the so-called “hate week” the trainees are kept short of sleep. Between the night exercises, there are night runs. Meanwhile the normal routine of the day continues: swimming, diving, and push-ups.

East Germany

The People’s Navy of the GDR (East Germany) had a commando frogman force, which was stationed in Kühlungsborn. They trained at Prora on Rügen.

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