Air traffic control ship - Flugsicherungsschiff

The former German air traffic control ship Greif as the French Marcel Le Bihan , with the research submarine Archimede

Air traffic control ships were special ships of the German Navy and later the Air Force to rescue by sea downed water and land aircraft and their crews in the coastal area. These ships also performed various other tasks in the field of sea aviation and, during the Second World War, not least in the military field, such as supporting sea air reconnaissance and transports of all kinds.


In Germany, the first two rescue and air traffic control ships were built in 1932 and 1934, initially within the Reichsmarine, which was renamed the Kriegsmarine in 1935. But when, under political pressure from the Reich Aviation Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Hermann Göring , the naval aviators were integrated into the Air Force in January 1939, the existing air traffic control ships also came to the Air Force, which then had a number of other ships built. The Luftwaffe air traffic control ships built from the late 1930s onwards were designed so that they could also be used as aircraft mother ships for the three-engine flying boats Blohm & Voss BV 138 that were used as long-range reconnaissance aircraft from 1940 onwards.

With the rapid development of the Luftwaffe from 1935 onwards, it became necessary to set up an efficient Luftwaffe sea emergency service with appropriately equipped boats and ships. In the course of time, a total of around 80 lifeboats, well over 200 flight operations boats and flight operations speedboats, two rescue ships, ten air traffic control ships and at least eleven auxiliary air traffic control ships were built or converted. They were originally used in five distress districts, two in the North Sea and three in the Baltic Sea . In the war years, each air fleet had its own distress area (later Sea Emergency Service Leader [SNDF]) that covered the associated sea areas.


The air traffic control ships were ships with speeds of 15 to 20 knots in order to be able to reach aircraft in distress as quickly as possible. They had an aircraft crane to pick up the wrecked machines, and the smooth upper deck of the aft was used to transport aircraft. There were also technical facilities for supplying aircraft with fuel and for light repair work on board, as well as accommodation and medical supply facilities for aircraft crews and rescued persons.

Air traffic control ships of the German Air Force before and during World War II

12 air traffic control and salvage ships
  • Phoenix - Bergungsschiff BS I
  • Krischan (ex Krischan I ) - air traffic control ship KI
  • Gunther Plüschow (ex Krischan II ) - air traffic control ship K II
  • Bernhard von Tschirschky (ex Krischan III ) - air traffic control ship K III
  • Hans Rolshoven - air traffic control ship K IV; the ship wasvery similar tothose of the so-called Krischan class
  • Greif salvage ship BS II
  • Karl Meyer class - air traffic control ship KV; the four ships were very similar to the Hans Rolshoven .
  • Hans-Albrecht-Wedel -class air traffic control ship K VI; the ships of this class were slightly larger than those of the previous KV class
12 auxiliary air traffic control vessels

See also