The German Army has been steady in retiring armored units since the Cold War thawed in 1991, shrinking from some 4,000 Leopards holding the Fulda gap to just two active Panzerbrigades and a paltry 225 Leopard 2A4 and 2A6 tanks backed up by a similar number of Marder, Puma and Boxer armored vehicles by 2016. Since then, they have moved to increase those numbers to a planned 320 tanks and (slowly) update their big cats to the 2A7V standard.
With that, the Bundeswehr announced on 27 November that Panzerbataillon 363 will be stood up, equipped with 44 Leopards, and based at Hardheim, Baden-Württemberg. PzBtl 363 was a former West German Heer unit that was established at Böblingen in 1963 and disbanded 30 October 2006. Now, after 13 years with their colors furled, they will be reborn.
Notably, the WWII Wehrmacht fielded heavy tank battalions that all used a numbering sequence in the 500s (PzAbt 501 to 511), meaning the FGR’s PzBtl 363 had no Nazi-era lineage. However, there was a short-lived Panzerjäger-Abteilung 363 as part of the 363rd Volksgrenadier Division which was destroyed in the Ruhr Pocket in April 1945, but of course, a panzerjäger battalion is not a panzer battalion proper.
Some 20 years ago this month, the largest deployment of the German Bundeswehr since it was established in 1955 got underway. With United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 adopted on 10 June 1999, what became known as KFOR, some 50,000-strong, was soon stood up. Of these, 8,500 came from Germany and the force included both heavy and light armor as well as mountain (Gebirgsjäger) and parachute (Fallschirmjäger) units, the first time such detachments saw use in the Balkans since 1945.
Soldier of the Panzer Grenadier battalion 112 on a Marten AFV. On June 12., 1999
A convoy of German KFOR troops during the move into Prizren, Kosovo.
German Fallschirmjäger 1999 KFOR, note the newly-adopted HK G36
Prizren sniper overwatch KFOR June 1999, German Scharfschütze mit dem G22, an Accuracy International AWM with matched Zeiss 3–12×56mm glass
A convoy of several Leopard 2 A4 MBTs drives out of the camp at the airfield. KFOR
Strassenszene in Prizren – Waffenträger Wiesel der Fallschirmjäger. You have to love a Wiesel.
A TPZ Fox secures the bridge to the Prizren, Kosovo, old town area near the iconic Sinan Pasha Mosque, the latter built in 1615 by the Ottomans. (November 1999).
Ein Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 A5 in destroyed village near Nasec.
In the past 20 years, 135,000 Germans have taken part in KFOR operations, and 70 are still deployed today.