In 1956 the new German (West German) Air Force was formed once more into a fighting force. Still named the Luftwaffe, which is a German designation for any airforce. The new Luftwaffe, like all of the Bundeswehr, follows no traditions from the Wehrmacht’s days.
After it was formed many well-known ace pilots of the Second World War’s Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht joined up, including Erich Hartmann, Günther Rall, Gerhard Barkhorn and Johannes Steinhoff. Any old pilots underwent new training in the United States before returning to Germany. Steinhoff actually became the commander of the Lufwaffe, with Rall his second.
The Luftwaffe were equipped with American made equipment and aircraft, such as the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, which proved a struggle, with 17 fatalities in just one year, however after learning to fly one himself, Steinhoff noted that it was the German training that was causing the crashes, not the aircraft. They then changed the training plans and brought about the high level of professionalism seen throughout the Luftwaffe today, from uniform to combat. The standards are high. They also pay off.
After the reunification of Germany in October of 1990 the East German airforce had all these Russian planes, MiG’s, SU’s which also quite iconically became the first Eastern Bloc equipment to serve within NATO. However later they were sold to other nations and new NATO members as NATO and Luftwaffe doctrine didn’t fit around the craft, and vice versa. In 2004 the last of the MiG’s were sent to Poland where they continue to serve in the Polish airforce. They were all sold, bar one, for one euro each, also an iconic move by Germany.
The Luftwaffe as we know it now, has stood ready to fight the Soviet Union, as they’d have been the first to engage along with the army, and have served on missions in 1995 over Kosovo and the later the policing of the Balkan airspace around 1999. They’ve served missions in Afghanistan supporting their own soldiers on the ground and other ISAF members troops as well as hitting specific targets. Now they’re equipped with Eurofighter Typoons as their fighter, which are still painted with the Iron cross.