WTS – The German Defence Technology Study Collection – NATO Tech

If you ever find yourself in the German city of Koblenz I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS – this literally translates to Defence Technology Study Collection). This is an armaments collection of the Bundeswehr (Federal Defence, the armed forces of Germany) with a focus on technical aspects to be used as an aid in the training of members of the Bundeswehr, especially future armaments engineers.

Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS) - Koblenz, Germany
Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS) – Koblenz, Germany

Whilst the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS) is technically not a museum, the public are allowed to visit but as it is on a military base you need to bring your passport to be allowed to enter the buildings (over the years there has apparently been discussion for relocation of the collection but during my visit in December 2015 it didn’t look like it was going anywhere soon!). The WTS is a great place to explore for a few hours. Please be aware that generally all the information presented on the signs and information boards around the exhibits are in German (it is first and foremost a functional place for the German military). A basic knowledge of the language helps a lot but regardless you can still enjoy all that the WTS has to offer.

Now although the museum is packed to the gills, this is not just rows of weapons and technical information stored behind glass cases. The WTS has a great collection of aircraft, tanks, armoured vehicles, motorbikes, engines, missiles, guns, cannons, uniforms and so on from World War One to today within two large buildings. You will see tanks cut in half to show the inner workings, equipment from the former East German military that was used for testing purposes following the 1990 reunification of Germany, experimental aircraft and so much more. To be honest it is amazing what they have packed in there!

Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS) - Koblenz, Germany
WTS – a Leopard tank cut in half and so much more!
The emblem of the Bundeswehr Technical and Airworthiness Center for Aircraft (WTD 61) - WTS December 2015
The emblem of the Bundeswehr Technical and Airworthiness Center for Aircraft (WTD 61) – on the fuselage of a Fiat G.91 R/3 ground-attack aircraft WTS, Koblenz (December 2015)

The aircraft on display include experimental aircraft and prototypes, along with numerous helicopters and combat aircraft that were used for flight and weapons testing in the former West Germany and later reunified Germany (from October 1990). Aircraft on display include French, German, Italian, Soviet and US designs with some of them sporting various modifications for flight, avionics and equipment testing by the Bundeswehr Technical and Airworthiness Center for Aircraft (WTD 61) at Manching Air Base. Lets first take a look at the NATO collection at WTS.

VFW VAK 191B

One of the rare treats that I really was looking forward to seeing was the Cold War era VFW VAK 191B experimental Vertical/Short Take-off and Landing (V/STOL) nuclear strike fighter developed in the 1960’s by German aviation company Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW – formed by the 1964 merger of Focke-Wulf and Weser Flugzeugbau GmbH). VAK was the abbreviation for Vertikalstartendes Aufklärungs und Kampfflugzeug or V/STOL Reconnaissance and Strike Aircraft.

VFW VAK 191B with the main Rolls-Royce/MAN Turbo RB.193-12 lift/cruise turbofan V/STOL engine and one of two Rolls-Royce RB162-81 F 08 lift turbojet engines at the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS - Military technical collection) at Koblenz, Germany (photos taken during my 2015 visit to the museum)
VFW VAK 191B with the main Rolls-Royce/MAN Turbo RB.193-12 lift/cruise turbofan V/STOL engine and one of two Rolls-Royce RB162-81 F 08 lift turbojet engines at the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS – Military technical collection) at Koblenz, Germany (photos taken during my 2015 visit to the museum)

The VAK 191B was intended to replace the Fiat G.91 light strike fighter in use by Italy and West Germany and compete with the Hawker Siddeley Harrier V/STOL “Jump Jet”. It was fitted with a Rolls-Royce/MAN Turbo RB.193-12 vectored thrust turbofan engine for lift and horizontal flight along with 2 Rolls-Royce RB.162-81 F 08 lift turbofans for VTOL – the engine system is also on display below the aircraft at WTS. This was a time of true cutting edge aviation technology in West Germany and something had not really been seen since the German technological advances in jet aircraft during World War Two.

VAK 191B at the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS - Military technical collection) at Koblenz, Germany
VAK 191B and Rolls-Royce/MAN Turbo RB.193-12 lift/cruise turbofan V/STOL engine at the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (WTS – Military technical collection) at Koblenz, Germany (photos taken during my 2015 visit to the museum)
Vectored thrust nozzles of the lift engines in the VAK 191B at WTS KKoblenz Germany
Vectored thrust nozzles of the lift engines in the VAK 191B at WTS

Three prototypes were constructed and 91 VAK  191B test flights were conducted between 1970 to 1975 (the first hovering flight was successfully completed on September 20th, 1971 in Bremen). Although it was similar in ways to the Harrier, a key difference was that the VAK 191B was designed to be faster in its ability to perform a supersonic dash (highly important in a nuclear strike role!). The reality though was the VAK 191B had a much poorer thrust to weight ratio (plus the weight of 2 extra engines that were only used for vertical lift) and smaller wings which were not as effective for rolling short take-off, nor capable of carrying much of a weapons payload. In testing the VAK 191B only reached a speed of Mach 0.92 but the planned version was intended to be capable of speeds up to Mach 1.4.

VFW VAK 191B
VFW VAK 191B during a test flight

The Harrier was generally superior in all round capability and with development of the Panavia Tornado strike aircraft by Italy, West Germany and the UK, the VAK 191B project was cancelled as a combat aircraft (Tornado planning began in 1968 and Italy left the VAK 191B program that same year) and the prototypes were instead used as a technology demonstrator and to test avionics for the Panavia Tornado. All 3 VAK 191B prototypes are in German museums today, so it is great to see this interesting footnote in Cold War aviation history so well-preserved.

VAK 191B tail VFW-Fokker GmbH was a joint venture between VFW and Fokker from 1969 to 1980
VFW-Fokker GmbH was a joint venture between VFW and Fokker from 1969 to 1980

Fiat G.91 & Dornier Alpha Jet

The aircraft the VFW VAK 191B was intended to replace, the Fiat G.91 ended up being operated by the Luftwaffe for over 20 years, from 1961 to 1982 when they were replaced by the Dornier Alpha Jet A. By 1970 310 G.91 R/3 seat ground-attack/reconnaissance variants and 40 G.91T two-seat trainers were in service with the Luftwaffe. A Fiat G.91 R/3 and Dornier Alpha Jet A are on display at WTS.

Luftwaffe Fiat G.91 R/3 single seat ground-attack/reconnaissance variant at WTS in Koblenz
Luftwaffe Fiat G.91 R/3 single seat ground-attack/reconnaissance variant at WTS in Koblenz
Luftwaffe Dornier Alpha Jet A WTS Koblenz Germany
Luftwaffe Dornier Alpha Jet A light strike aircraft – the Alpha Jet A replaced the Fiat G.91 in German service. 175 were delivered between 1979 and 1983. They began to be phased out of service in 1992 with the last retired in 1998. Most were sold off to foreign military buyers (a former East German MiG-21bis sits behind it).

Lockheed F-104G Starfighter

West German Luftwaffe Lockheed F-104G Startfighters of Jagdgeschwader 74 (JG 74) in 1965
West German Luftwaffe Lockheed F-104G Startfighters of Jagdgeschwader 74 (JG 74) in 1965 (Photo Source: Bundesarchiv – German Federal Archives)

The West German Luftwaffe operated a massive amount of Lockheed F-104 Starfighter multi-role fighters from 1960 to 1987 in operational squadrons and a number flew on in a flight testing capacity until May 1991 (all up Germany received 916 F-104’s – made up of 749 F/RF-104G’s, 137 TF-104G two-seaters and 30 F-104F’s that were operated by the Luftwaffe and Marineflieger naval air fleet). At its operational peak in the mid 1970’s the Luftwaffe operated the F-104 across five fighter-bomber wings, two interceptor wings and two tactical reconnaissance wings; and the Marineflieger operate two F-104 maritime strike and reconnaissance wings. Despite its long operational career the F-104 was at times a problematic aircraft for the Luftwaffe with the loss of 292 aircraft in various accidents and the sad loss of 115 pilots.

As you can quickly see the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the WTS has been heavily modified for flight testing of various aviation technology innovations and avionics. It is fitted out for experimental computer-aided flight control including an unusual small wing type addition above the fuselage that resembles the tailplane.

The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the WTS has been heavily modified for flight testing of experimental computer-aided flight control systems
The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the WTS has been heavily modified for flight testing of experimental computer-aided flight control systems
The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the WTS has been heavily modified for flight testing of experimental computer-aided flight control systems
The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter at the WTS has been heavily modified for flight testing of experimental computer-aided flight control systems
The unique upper mini-wing on the WTS Lockheed F-104G Starfighter was part of experimental computer-aided flight control systems flight testing
The unique upper mini-wing on the WTS Lockheed F-104G Starfighter was part of experimental computer-aided flight control systems flight testing

Other West German & NATO Aircraft

French Air Force (Armée de l'air ) Dassault Mirage IIIC interceptor and its SNECMA Atar 09 turbojet engine at WTS Koblenz Germany
French Air Force (Armée de l’air ) Dassault Mirage IIIC interceptor and its SNECMA Atar 09 turbojet engine at WTS – The Mirage III was the 1960’s French equivalent to the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
West German Army (Heer) Aérospatiale SE 3130 Alouette II light helicopter and an experimental V-122 Venom Mk.2 Autogyro (2 were tested for potential use in 1986) at WTS Koblenz Germany
West German Army (Heer) Aérospatiale SE 3130 Alouette II light helicopter and an experimental V-122 Venom Mk.2 Autogyro (2 were tested for potential use in 1986 – they were based on the Wallis WA-122/R-R design) at WTS (December 2015)
West German Luftwaffe Nord 2501D Noratlas transport aircraft at WTS Koblenz Germany
West German Luftwaffe Nord 2501D Noratlas transport aircraft at WTS
West German Luftwaffe Nord 2501D Noratlas transport aircraft at WTS Koblenz Germany
West Germany operated 173 Nord 2501D Noratlas transports between 1956 and 1964 when they started to sell most of them to other nations

In my next post I will show the former East German (GDR) aircraft at WTS along with an overview of the various vehicles, weapons and equipment that fill the halls of the collection. This place really is a treasure trove of military technology operated in Germany!

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4 thoughts on “WTS – The German Defence Technology Study Collection – NATO Tech

  1. Very nice collection indeed! If you are still in Germany, I do recommend to visit Munich air museum. There’s a whole bunch of VSTOL prototypes including a massive Dornier Do 31 and VJ-101C.

    Liked by 1 person

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