Raytheon's Pike

Raytheon unveiled its mini-missile "Pike", which s even smaller than the "Spike" that garnered much attention a couple years ago.

Raytheon's Pike (c) Raytheon

Spike had 2.4 kg and 53 mm calibre, Pike has 0.8 kg and 40 mm calibre. This is less weight than even a M72 LAW or an even lighter SARPAC round. Pike's warhead appears to be about as powerful as a 40x46 mm HE round.
Pike's range of 2 km is roughly half of Spike's. Pike needs no dedicated launcher; it can use 40 mm grenade launchers if they accept its length.

At first glance it's a "game changer", and you can find such comments on the internet already.

There's still the comment I made in regard to Spike years ago, though:

It looks like a (weak) silver bullet, but the most pressing problem against competent and well-equipped opposition isn't so much the killing - it's the detection and identification. It's been possible to take out identified opposition at long ranges before - the key problem is that the battlefield seems to be empty as everyone who's really competent is either camouflaged, behind concealment, behind cover or impossible to identify in an ocean of contacts (civilians or decoys).
An opponent learns from experience - and an opponent who faced a great quantity of Pike missiles will quickly learn to avoid their effect by denying this enemy the spotting and identification required for launching a scarce and expensive round.
This is similar to long-range sniping; it mostly suppressed the enemy's visibility - the attrition effect is not that great even on terrains with long lines of sight.

What's the utility of the suppression of the enemy's visibility at longer ranges than possible with rifles? You end up knowing less about the enemy, after all.



Exotic Ancient Weapons VII: Patta

A sword is often said to be an extension of the fighter's arm . It isn't. It's more like a huge thumb enlargement, but we got used to not think about it this way. That's because in Europe blade weapons tend to have grip and blade on the same axis. A modern exception from this pattern is the (blunt) tonfa, a stick popular with German police, for example. Rifles and pistols tend to have grip and barrel non-aligned as well, though especially the early pistols of the 17th century had a barely angled grip.
Many European rapiers - weapons meant almost entirely for a piercing thrust attack - had two finger rings behind the handguard which allowed the fencer to come close to gripping the weapon oblique to the blade.

The patta or pata was an Indian sword type which did not align the grip with the blade. It's got a straight blade, unlike most other "Eastern" blade weapon types:

18th century patta (c) Alicia Cicon Mumford
The weapon is interesting both mechanically and regarding training:

Mechanically it does not allow to use wrist movements, which should reduce its speed and thus power of impact in slashing movements. On the other hand, it allows for a much stronger parry, and it transfers the (not very great) kinetic energy of the moving forearm during a slashing attack.

The negligible role of the wrist in the use of this weapon allows someone with an untrained (weak) or simply wounded or stiff wrist to use this weapon much easier and likely more effectively than a more typical blade weapon. A quickly trainer soldier would typically have been equipped with a shorter and cheaper weapon such as a falchion or cutlass, though.

The Katar is a type of dagger that's similar in principle, albeit without really locking the blade axis to the forearm axis that well.



Syrian Civil War explained

This is going to be a rant, and I'll delete it in a few weeks lest it impedes my career.

I'm getting increasingly annoyed by the amount of stupid comments about the Syrian Civil War and the primitiveness of even Western military reactions. Once again, I'm hugely disappointed by the stupidity of mankind.
Thus even though I don't think the Syrian Civil War is in any way related to the defence of my country or its allies*, I will write down an explanation. 
Seriously, all of this could have been understood within the framework of 18th century art of war already. That's how simple all of this (and the reactions) is.

First, Da'esh (also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL whatever - I don't think they're a "state", though). Their success is EASILY explained with a single, simple fact: They possess strategic and operational mobility.
This is not a matter of motor vehicles. They would still possess superior mobility if they used camels only. This is NOT about hardware. Their mobility stems from their personnel structure. They have a mercenary army. Their mercs aren't in it for money, but they are - typical mercenary - not from the region, and this is all-important. A jihadist from Europe doesn't care whether he's being sent into a fight in Western Syria or in Eastern Syria - Da'esh can even send him into Iraq. These gullible, infantile fools follow such orders.

Meanwhile, the other civil war factions have always been or have devolved** into local militias or networks thereof. Their fighters typically expect to eat their mother's or wife's meals every day at home, and don't intend to fight in some part of Syria unknown to them or even inhabited by some other ethnic or religious group.
These militias cannot easily muster the troops concentration for an offensive, and the few times they did they failed, not the least due to lack of unity of command. Essentially, they can only fight at home or in other regions of their own group, whereas Da'esh can set up a Schwerpunkt and attack with local superiority at any front.

The Assad regime would have lost long ago had it not received support from some mercs as well - Hezbollah. Yet Hezbollah isn't really in this civil war to win all of Syria back for Assad - they're rather motivated to protect the Shi'ites from what would happen if the Sunni forces conquer Shi'ite territory or even all of Syria. So Hezbollah is not much of a mobile reserve for Assad, particularly not any more after they experienced severe casualties.

Now about the outright primitive bombing campaign of Western powers and Arab autocrats:
They're just as primitive and stupid as they used to be. Maybe every single air force general in NATO needs to be tested for stupidity, with at least 90% of them to be fired afterwards. This bunch appears to be incredibly stupid. They learned nothing since their spray & pray over Yugoslavia and their primitive clueless CAS over Afghanistan since 2002.
What they're doing are strikes at intelligence-delivered targets and at targets of opportunity. They kill, maim and destroy - mere attrition. It's pointless, because all this does is it suppresses Da'esh temporarily and partially. Essentially, they're campaigning with the intellect of a 12 year old boy grabbed from a schoolyard, and I wish the general's pay would reflect this level of ineptitude.
They cannot win through this campaign of attrition unless Da'esh makes a huge mistake itself. Da'esh can simply avoid defeat by keeping its exposure small enough to not lose more personnel and material to the bombing campaign and ground combat than they can replace. This isn't difficult because their opponents on the ground lack a good punch, as I explained above.
These "generals" employ air power not to "win", but to delay defeat - AGAIN. They did the same crappy routine over Afghanistan already.
Just fire them. Forget the testing, just get rid of them already!

Now the Russians. It appears they don't want to be as stupid and instead bomb with a regional focus, almost exclusively supporting offensive action. It seems they did also motivate Assad to scrape together some kind of smallish mobile reserves, which can then be supported in action by air power. Assad doesn't appear to have been capable of mobilizing enough reserves, but Russian ground forces or increased economic strength through Russian subsidies may change this. The Russians may be incapable of super-technicised, sophisticated synchronised strike packages including SEAD, aerial refuelling, standoff jamming and whatnot, but at least they appear to have a modicum of art of war understanding. They may soon disappoint in this regard, of course - and I wouldn't mind it with Eastern European security in mind.

Meanwhile, the usual warmonger suspects who write in English have no more sophisticated proposals than to throw more resources at the problem, preferably many ground troops. Apparently they can't wank off properly in the evening if they cannot think of having caused some "real" war including ground troops of their own country.

I'm so badly pissed off by this primitiveness and stupidity and grandstanding. Meanwhile, the Syrians suffer and their country goes down the drain because even most basic art of war rules are being ignored by themselves and by (most) others who meddle in their war.
Not only those who start a war are responsible for its horrors, but also those who fail to end it quickly. In this war, the former group was fighting for freedom and thus has an ethical excuse. The latter -  those in command of forces in this war - are scum in my opinion.


*: The Turkish government is embarrassing and insulting its own military when it claims they need help from allies, but they don't care because the secular military is not the AKP's darling
**: The Assad regime, which began to rely ever more on Shia and Alawite militias the more the regular army broke apart.


The EU should do something about Baltic security

The European Union should invest in the road infrastructure between Poland and Lithuania in my opinion. There are but three road connections along the approx. 66 km wide border, one primary road and two lesser ones of which one is an easily blocked route through woodland close to the border of Belarus.

Poland-Lithuania border region

Only offroad-capable vehicles such as modestly-laden (not maximum nominal payload) 8x8 lorries could traverse some other routes along paths otherwise used by agricultural vehicles - and those paths would neither sustain much traffic before being ruined nor be reliable options in thawing weather.

And defence of the Baltic countries - a quick "counter-concentration" to deter aggression as is still NATO doctrine as far as I know or a wartime influx of forces and supplies - would depend on these roads. Their capacity simply isn't satisfactory, particularly if you consider the possible effects of hostile actions.

The European Union could change this with a modest budget, maybe € 100 million. Additional roads could be added and existing roads could be widened or paved. Drainage ditches, ramparts or walls of any kind that would impede driving around craters or wrecks on the road could be avoided at little to no extra costs. It only takes that the road engineers keep in mind the military logistics relevance and requirements.

An improvement of this infrastructure would help the region economically. It could easily be included in the general spending on infrastructure projects within the EU budget and wouldn't even be noticed as a burden throughout the EU. It would still solve about half of the Baltic defence problems and challenges in my opinion.

One could disagree, and point out how two Russian divisions made it into South Ossetia through a single tunnel a few years ago. Isn't even a single road enough?
Well, as I wrote years ago: "A few B-2 bomber sorties could have demolished an entire Russian division on a valley road during the South Ossetia War, for example. And the road as well." Imagine a mere 100 GLONASS- or backup INS-guided bombs or heavy artillery rockets with impact points spaced by 100 m. With point detonation fuses this could ruin an entire division on its administrative march. With delay fuses this could create dozens of craters that would overwhelm the capabilities of organic engineers to sustain mobility. A day or more would be lost until the craters are filled up, circumvented over mat-reinforced ground or bridged - and this could be crucial both in planning and reality. Finally, this kind of damage could be done to a single road again and again every few hours or so - by a single Smerch battery with suitable ammunition.

Meanwhile, Poland could stock up on Leguan bridge segments (or equivalents), mat laying vehicles and mats (example German FSG, but there are several such systems), low light vision-compatible route markers, ready-to-use durable fascines and possibly quick-dry cement and its specific tools.

None of this would be sexy, none of this would excite many vocal fanbois, none of this would be attractive to military top brass, none of this would improve a "defence" politician's career, none of this would appear in a great power's "defence review", none of this would make it into national political debate other than in Lithuania, none of this would excite EU bureaucrats who tend to focus on other regions - but all of this would greatly enhance Russian respect for Western seriousness and preparedness regarding Baltic security ... at the price of maybe a single sexy "Typhoon" fighter-bomber.


P.S.: The road-laying systems are as far as I know mostly of relevance for improvised roads to pontoon bridge and other mil engineering bridges not connected to the civilian road network. I've never seen a system of this kind optimised for circumventing a damaged road section. They appear to be optimised for straight improvised roads only. Maybe military engineers trust their ability to fill up or bridge craters more than I do or here's a possible capability optimisation niche (market niche).

A Smerch rocket and equivalent KAB-250-SE bomb are capable of producing a crater with 5-10 m diameter if the descent angle is fine. Bigger bombs usually produce bigger craters, but dedicated anti-runway bombs could create craters very efficiently.


Russians showing off in Syria

So the Russians are now attacking Syrian civil war parties which oppose the Assad regime - and may spare D'aesh, since they get bombed by Americans and a few others already. An alleged incursion of Russian military aircraft into Turkish airspace gets a lot of critical press coverage in the West, whereas an alleged Israeli military aircraft incursion into Syrian space (supposedly intercepted by Russian fighters) doesn't get nearly as many exasperated reports in the news.

It's the usual biased 'us vs. them' narrative in the media, which supports hypocrisy in Western foreign policy. According to international law, Russian aircraft bombing rebels in Syria with consent of the Syrian government is at least as legitimate and legal as others doing the same to D'aesh in the same country with as far as I know mere toleration by the Syrian government.
Western politicians and military institution leaders cannot possibly believe that their criticism will influence Russian behaviour, and they know for certain no amount of PR will defeat the veto-reinforced Russia in the United Nations Security Council.

So what is this allergic reaction to Russians playing great power games in the same playground sandbox as does the West about? Is it a primitive reflex reaction? Or more?

One possible explanation could be that the smarter ones fear the worst case; the Assad regime prevailing in the Syrian civil war because of Russian support and inconsequential Western meddling.

This would to other tyrants signal that Russia is a valuable ally - and they might even choose the Hama option if they ever get into trouble like Assad junior did. Russia could shield them against the West's reaction, after all.
It would be a spectacular setback for Western great power gameplay.

I do certainly not suggest that success of Western great power gaming is in any substantial way beneficial for the well-being of people in the West, of course. Such great power games are in my opinion mere entertainment for the power elite and a handful people who associate with them.



Kobane today


The city of Kobane after months of fighting.
That's what "winning" against ISIS looks like. 

(I wonder how the warring parties acquired enough HE to devastate the city this much!)



Team roles and military personnel affairs

The typical Western military fosters roughly five personalities with its training (across branches):

enlisted personnel
non-commissioned officers
senior non-commissioned officers
leadership officers
staff officers.

Only two of these - the two officer types are very important for operational and strategic ideas and plans. The stereotypical staff officer archetype is well-adapted to working in a staff under close supervision of a superior with great specialisation and working diligently, even long hours.
The leadership officer archetype was rather trained to influence subordinates, bear responsibility, act independently and push his subordinates for performance. He was very depending on senior non-commissioned officers in his first command jobs.

These are by design two archetypes, although real officer corps are more heterogeneous, of course. I'm pointing at the fact that the military fosters primarily two types, a greater variety of the outcomes is not the merit of the training.

Now let's look at the as far as I know dominant model for character archetypes in teams: The Belbin roles.

I've looked up a nice summary for you.

All of these archetypes are enriching the team, and an industry which finds its project teams to be dominated by only two or three of these is rightfully concerned about this suboptimal composition. meanwhile, a military with an almost cult-like idolization of co-ordinators (leadership officers) and implementers / monitors (staff officers) end up with such a poor composition by design. More senior non-commissioned officers in a staff doesn't help much either, for especially the "plant" role remains underrepresented.
This is obvious, and why shouldn't it be underrepresented? A military is an organization with dozens fi not hundreds of "how to" books (field manuals) which nobody can memorize, so anybody with a novel thought can be shot down with a (false or actual) reference to one of those quasi-holy books.Even worse; failed experiments that went against such a holy book's advice often cripple a career.

The Belbin model of roles in teamwork originates in business economics, is well-known and no doubt known to many Western military institutions: The Bundeswehr even teaches business economics to many of its officer candidates during their stay at a Bundeswehr university. There hasn't been any exogenous shock that would have forced the Western military bureaucracies to do something about this or other rather hidden 'room for improvement'. Short of defeat in warfare, who could deliver this exogenous influence? A minister of defence who has a medical degree? Rather not.

The Belbin model applies particularly well to project teams - teams working on a challenge or problem that's unusual and not a repetitive activity (which would be covered by process management instead of project management).
Maybe you questioned whether the concerns mentioned above were well-founded, but this is food for thought in light of what we've seen the last 30 years: Any weaknesses that stem from poor team compositions according to the Belbin model would not be visible in repetitive, routine activities (such as most peacetime activities), but particularly much during strategy planning or procurement program management.



Echo chambers

Echo chambers are the dread of good defence policy and military theory progress. People in an echo chamber don't respect and probably don't even get to hear or read conflicting views or evidence, instead all of their intake is from people with similar opinions.

Echo chamber groups avoid the mean cognitive dissonance, but the price is intellectual stagnation and the inability to overcome incorrect or outdated paradigms. Such echo chamber groups rapidly agree on a favoured narrative, and then proceed to laud each other's reciting of kool aid as "thoughtful" or "strategic thinking".

This may sound like the complaint of someone not allowed to join a particular echo chamber group, but I'm really, really glad that (as far as I know) I never joined any such group. Some people appear to be more well-suited for such memberships than others.

The problem with this groups in regard to mil theory advances is obvious; almost all of their output is mere noise of no value, similar to most obligatory master's theses.

The problems caused in regard to defence policy (or "security", military policy) are probably not as obvious: Such echo chambers tend to be stiff and incapable of adapting to changing circumstances sensibly. Changing circumstances are rather exploited as an excuse to bring forward the same old wish lists - or even longer ones. This is somewhat similar to how inflation hysterics keep demanding higher central bank interest rates because hyperinflation is just around the corner ... for decades.
Many politicians in the office of minister of defence (or equivalent) are no experts on defence. They're rather experts in politics, in fostering networks and a political base, and may have had prior experience in heading some bureaucracy (executive office). They may then come under influence of a whole array of echo chambers, some of which were propped up by the arms industry because their reliably monotone message suits their interests. Most echo chambers will readily provide a message the minister of defence wants to hear: "Defence" deserves more prestige and a bigger budget and the MoD should engage in high level foreign policy.

It would be very, very valuable if the politicians recognize the echo chambers as what they are, not as pools of defence thinking excellence. Right now I couldn't name a single minister of defence who ever beyond doubt did so.

Another dream is about a world in which echo chambers were cracked open, and discourse is effective at finding fine answers to important questions. This dream appears to be very outlandish, though.


P.S.: There are echo chambers contra big spending as well: POGO, the "Military reform" gang,  "fighter mafia" and most if not all of the usually completely ineffective pacifist groups qualify (or qualified) as echo chambers as well.


Something for the foreign readers

No, there's no Muslim invasion of Europe or Germany, and we don't turn Muslim anytime soon either. I mean this century (and I very much doubt religion will have much of a niche left in the 22nd century).

What's happening in Germany right now is not a defence issue, nor a disaster or whatever. It's a domestic cultural conflict; a domestic political battle with xenophobia. Xenophobes and other fringe people have made 'progress' first out of sight by organising and preparing BS propaganda and BS theories, and since last year also by daring to enter the sunlight. Suddenly (by joining conspiracy theorists and protest groups with more or less valid points) xenophobia was fit enough for respectable political rally sizes and quantities (in a handful of cities). They even infiltrated and overwhelmed a small fresh party of disillusioned conservatives who disliked the mainstream CDU/CSU parties.

Federal-level politicians sat this out and didn't do much about it, but the brazenness increased and xenophobes produced quite a string of arson incidents on uninhabited buildings meant to house immigrants in the future.
This was when national media, national-level politicians up to the Chancellor etc. decided to lead a political counteroffensive, choosing the immigrant / "refugee" issue to take a stand. 

I think they choose the site of their battle poorly, and there may be a horrible backlash to their policy (because these "refugees" actually ceased being legitimate civil war refugees when they decided to leave safe havens in Turkey and Jordan and began passing through several safe haven countries to seek out the more wealthy destination Germany). A Pyrrhic victory is likely.

Even with several billion Euro spending per year for this mess (half of it flows back as taxes anyway), the bigger issue is the ongoing battle between the mainstream and the xenophobic fringe.
Even a million immigrants wouldn't make much of a dent in German demographics, and in the long term their fertility will approach the typical German fertility rate anyway. The vast majority of our past "Muslim" immigrants are now secular and disinterested in religion, whereas but a few thousand of them (and converts) ever turned into Salafists and the like - the "Muslim" contribution to the fringe in this country.