Jump directly to the page contents

Aircraft were used for military purposes from the very earliest days of aviation. The development of military aviation became an important factor in warfare and defence policy.

First World War

Large numbers of aircraft were used for military purposes during the First World War, initially for reconnaissance missions – for example, the Otto biplane. From 1915, specialised aircraft were produced – including fighter planes (such as the Fokker D VII) armed with machine guns to combat enemy aircraft as well as bomber aircraft for dropping bombs.

Aircraft from the First World War in the Exhibition

Second World War

The increasing role of air power in military planning was well expressed in the military doctrine of the Italian general Douhet in 1921. According to this doctrine, it was air power that would decide victory and defeat in future wars. It didn't take long for this doctrine to become reality with the relentless bombardment of civilian population centres in the Second World War. The ferocity of aerial warfare first became apparent with the bombing campaign of the German Condor Legion in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. This was followed by the Battle of Britain in 1940, which saw the destruction of Coventry by German bombers, followed in turn by the Allied area bombing of major German cities.

Military Aircraft of the Second World War – Selection

Cold War

By the end of the Second World War, the increasing tensions between the Soviet Union and the victorious Western powers, in particular the USA, as well as the separation of the “superpowers” into military blocs had become apparent. The Cold War that followed accelerated the further development of military aviation and air-power technology to an extent never thought possible. From the 1950s, the political conflicts would also lead to new military confrontations in Korea and Vietnam as well as other proxy wars among the great powers. This triggered a new phase of the arms race only a few years after the Second World War – and this would only be superseded by the easing of hostilities and a phase of partial disarmament in the 1990s. The armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany are involved in international missions abroad within the organisational leadership of the UN.

Military Aircraft of the Cold War – Selection