100 years of German Naval Aviation – Nordholz – August 17, 2013      

On August 17, 2013, the German Navy “Marineflieger” organized a spottersday on Nordholz Airday. The reason for the spottersday was the 100th anniversary of the German Naval Aviation Service. Naviation decided to visit the event and witness the Marineflieger in its current state. The report below gives some insight in the history of the Marineflieger from the 1913 till today.

First World War

The German Navy founded the Marineflieger in 1913 just before the outbreak of the First World War. In the early years, the naval aviation service was part of the Kaiserliche Marine and known as the Seeflieger. During the First World War, the Seeflieger played an important role. Therefore, the amount of aircraft increased from 30 in 1914, to more than 2000 in 1918. After the end of the First World War in 1918, this number decreased rapidly. When Germany signed the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919, one of the conditions was the disbandment of the air force. Germany was not allowed to have an air force anymore. Therefore, the Seeflieger was disbanded and its aircraft were destroyed. 


The fact that the German military did not have any aircraft anymore did not prevent them to fly. In 1927, the Navy founded a private air club to keep flying. This club started sneaky flying operation from early 1928 controlled by a German Navy officer by name of Lahs. He had the assignment to build an undercover naval aviation service by use of civil aircraft and civil airfields. This organization formed the foundation for the future Marineflieger. Lahs organization became so professional that they start flying regular search and rescue missions at sea.

Second World War

From approximately 1935 after the election of Adolf Hitler the German military started to build an air force again. Hitler assigned Hermann Göring to lead this air force. Göring wanted to control all the aircraft in the German military. Therefore, he ordered the civil planes under naval control into his own organization. In 1939, the Marineflieger became under air force command. Göring just went a step further in 1941 and incorporated the Navy aircraft completely in the Luftwaffe. From that time, the Marineflieger officially ceased to exist. During the rest of the war, the aircraft flew many missions to support operations at sea. This ended after the German capitulation in 1945.


The first steps to rebuild a new Marineflieger organization started already in 1950, just a few years after the end of the Second World War. At that time, the Cold War had already begun. When Germany became part of NATO in 1955, things started to change. The creation of the new Marineflieger took place in 1956. It took some time to train pilots and acquire aircraft. The first aircraft arrived in 1958. The backbone of the ‘Marineflieger’ by that time consisted of 68 Hawker Seahawks, 16 Fairey Gannets, and 25 Percival Pembrokes. In the years, following the ‘Marineflieger’ grew enormous. In 1962, there were five ‘Marinefliegergeschwaders’ on five different airbases.

Many aircraft like this Seaking Mk 41 got a special color scheme to mark the 100 year of Naval Aviation.

Helicopter and fast jet

The reconstruction of the ‘Marineflieger’ continued with the introduction of the helicopter. The first helicopter, called the Seeker, came in 1958. This helicopter was pretty underpowered and unsuitable for its task. Therefore, the Bristol Sycamore replaced it. The Sycamore was the first helicopter in operational use. 1963 was the year in which the ‘Marineflieger’ did introduced two new types. The first one was the introduction of the Sikorsky H-34 helicopters as an addition to the Sycamore. The second one was the first fast jet, the F-104 Starfighter. The Starfighter replaced the Seahawk as a maritime attack aircraft. Another important improvement came in 1965 by the introduction of the Brequet Atlantic. This was the first long range maritime patrol aircraft of the ‘Marineflieger’.

Further modernization

In the years following the ‘Marineflieger’ kept modernizing. The introduction of the Seaking helicopter took place in 1974, as a replacement of the Sikorsky H-34. In 1981, the ‘Marineflieger’ introduced the Lynx helicopter for use on board. The Panavia Tornado replaced the Starfighter in 1982. As an addition to the Atlantics, the navy bought two Dornier 228 patrol aircraft in 1990. These are still in use today for pollution control at sea.

21th century and future

In the early 21th century the ‘Marinefleiger’ saw a lot of changes. It became smaller in size but modernized its fleet. Due to budget cuts, the navy decided in 2005 to take the Tornado out of service. In 2006 the navy got eight former Dutch Navy P-3C Orions, to replace the Atlantic. The Atlantic made its final flight in 2010 en left service after a very long life. In the future, other long servicing types will leave the service. The navy recently decided to replace the Lynx and Seaking helicopters by the NH-90. After this replacement, the ‘Marineflieger’ is ready for its task and can live on to its next jubilee.

We would like to thank the German Navy for organizing this event.