Dieter Flohr reports on the demise following unification of former East Germany’s main naval helicopter base at Parow.
LONG-ESTABLISHED LINKS with the world of aviation look set to come to a close at Parow, a village just north-west of Stralsund on the Baltic coast. In 1938 Reichsluftmarschall Hermann Goering built an airfield on the shallow beaches of Strelasund to accommodate the flying boats. When the flying boats became obsolete, the barracks were retained for training purposes. But, in accordance with the Potsdam Treaty at the end of World War Two, all parts of the airbase that could be used by aircraft were destroyed by the Soviet administration.
However, by 1950 uniforms could again be seen in the barracks — this time they belonged to sailors of the GDR Navy (Seepolizo). As this developed into a full-grown GDR Navy, naval aviation was introduced and Parow was chosen as a helicopter station. Its location was particularly suitable as it was close to the naval academy, Walter Steffens.
In I960, two Mi-4 Hound helicopters and crew, were lent to the navy by the GDR Airforce — two years later they were fully committed to the navy. In 1963 two additional Mi-4 helicopters arrived at Parow.
Although the Mi-4 could be used for transporting materials and personnel (up to ten soldiers or divers), its main role was anti-submarine warfare. The difficult conditions in the Baltic hindered successful submarine detection. However, the Volksmarine’s U-Jogd-Hubschrmberstaffel (anti-submarine line-7 Squadron) took the improved Mi-8T Hip C, capable of launching rockets and missiles, from August 1974. Soon after, Mi-8TB Hip £ helicopters arrived forming the anti-submarine helicopter Wing.
In 1985 an additional six MH4BT Haze 8 were used for anti-mine operations. These helicopters pulled hollow tubes through the water at low levels against remote-controlled and magnetic mines. This was a fairly complicated procedure which was dependent upon the weather. As a result, complete success was seldom achieved.
Despite this, the navy helicopters were very well thought of, mainly because the rescue and support sorties, carried out by six additional Mi-14PL Haze As, saved many lives in some of the worst weather conditions.
As the GDR declined, so did the navy helicopter Wing, particularly as anti-submarine warfare was no longer necessary. Officers of the wing and doctors from the nearby Rostock University tried to establish a search and rescue service — a potential first for the GDR.
But after German reunification, this option was set aside because it was considered that the helicopters were unsuitable for the job (no winches, day only operation).
Only the transport operation remains, as carried out by the Mi-8T (13 aircraft) and their crews (three per helicopter). Even though a new naval technical academy will be built next to the station, it is unlikely that the aviation tradition will continue at Parow.