Operation Mittelmeer

Mediterranean

This was the German movement of Luftwaffe forces to the Mediterranean theatre as a reinforcement for the Italian Regia Aeronautica in its operations against Malta and British shipping in the Mediterranean, and as the tactical support element for Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps being deployed in ‘Sonnenblume’ for the assistance of Italian ground forces in the Western Desert (10 December 1940/January 1941).

The principal bolster for the Regia Aeronautica was General Hans Geisler’s X Fliegerkorps, latterly of Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff’s Luftflotte V in Norway and Finland and now controlled by the Kommandierender General der Deutschen Luftwaffe in Italien, namely General Maximilian Ritter von Pohl. The X Fliegerkorps started to arrive in Sicily during January 1941 with about 260 bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and fighters, and General Stefan Fröhlich’s (from 12 April General Otto Hoffmann von Waldau’s) Fliegerführer ‘Afrika’ command began to assemble in North Africa during the following month.

On 12 January 1941, the X Fliegerkorps had 80 Junkers Ju 88A-4 bombers of the Lehrgeschwader 1 and 12 Ju 88D-5 reconnaissance aircraft at Catania, 80 Junkers Ju 87R-1 dive-bombers of the Stukageschwader 1 and StG 2 at Trapani, 27 Heinkel He 111H-6 torpedo bombers of the Kampfgeschwader 26 at Comiso and 34 Messerschmitt Bf 110C-4 heavy fighters of the Zerstörergeschwader 26 at Palermo. From this time onward the corps was a major element in the Axis effort to suppress British naval interference with the supply routes from Italy to North Africa by reducing Malta’s effectiveness as a forward base, and Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7 fighters of the Jagdgeschwader 26 and JG 27 joined the offensive on Malta during February and March 1941.The corps was moved out of Sicily in April 1941, however, to support the 'Unternehmen 25' and 'Marita' invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece.

From 15 November 1941 to the middle of July 1943, the main weight of the Axis air effort in the central Mediterranean theatre was then born by General Bruno Loerzer’s II Fliegerkorps of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring’s Luftflotte II.