Luftwaffe means Air Force
The German word Luftwaffe (lit: Air Weapon) means nothing more than Air Force. To attribute the word to mean only the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich is an insult to the fine soldiers who served and still serve in it since then. That out of the way, the real writeup can begin.
After the second world war, in concordance with the NATO forward strategy, Germany was rearmed, and the new Luftwaffe was formed. The first pilots were trained in the USA, Canada, and Britain. Even today, vital parts of a pilot's training are completed in the USA, at Holloman AFB and Fort Bliss, Texas.
With the German re-unification, the Luftwaffe merged with the German Democratic Republic Luftstreitkräfte der NVA. In the light of the changed political situation, its numbers were greatly reduced, and refocused to play a bigger part in joint NATO-operations. The concept of "A military that can fight, so it will not have to fight", i.e. a deterrent force of the cold war was changing, and the Luftwaffe was allowed by the German Bundestag (parliament) to take part in several NATO peace-keeping operations.
Conscription was also used from the beginning to fill the ranks, and has remained a vital part of the German defense strategy to this day. It also helped to integrate the German military with the civilian community, as most adult males (in theory) were supposed to have served in the military for some time. The German military is not a state within the state, as the American military is (with its own courts, etc), but an integrated part of the German state.
Current Weapons Systems:
- Jets: Eurofighter, F-4F Phantom II, Tornado
- Training Craft: Cessna T-37 B, Northrop T-38 A TALON
- Helicopters: Bell UH-1D, Cougar - AS 532, NH-90
- Transport Planes: Airbus A310 (also in MRT - Multi Role Transporter, MRT - MedEvac, VIP configurations), Canadair CL-601 ("Challenger"), C-160 (Transall MedEvac and D Transall) and Airbus A400M
- Air defense systems: HAWK, Patriot, Roland and Stinger batteries.
Oh, and there are no Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. Due to strict parliamental control, the airforce can not act or plan without parliamental approval. It can not fund its own research programmes as the military budget is part of the civilian budget with no "black" funds to be used at its own choosing. The minister of defense has total control over how the budget is spent.
More on: http://www.luftwaffe.de/