Eurosatory 2018

Generally speaking, the Eurosatory 2018 was a disappointment to me because I hoped for much more novelties than were shown. I recognised most portable equipment and even many of the vehicles from Eurosatory 2008.

This is kinda representing the spirit of innovation there
Here's a photo album of 300+ photos from Monday and Tuesday:

Sorry about the many early blurred photos. Lots of indoor photos are blurred but almost all outdoor photos are clear despite the wind. I suspect the brochures bag that often dangled from my left arm caused the blurring.

Many photos of hardware have some related context photo (designation, often specs) very nearby. Often times there was simply no such thing to make a photo of.
I used a cheap, old type smartphone with a 5 MP camera. Many photos were repeated because I didn't trust the 1st try. Photobucket failed to upload some photo files and I don't know why.

Someone got creative in the quest for attention.
The #1 hardware novelty was almost certainly Nammo's design for a ramjet 155 mm shell that's supposed to fly 100 km far with a decent payload (there's a lengthy presentation in the photo album about it). They clearly hope to exceed what Leonardo offers with its 155 Volcano design. A question remains; why put so much effort into teaching 155 mm to fly far with good or great precision if it's much easier to pull off with a fin-stabilised guided rocket launched from a multiple rocket launcher or even a plain box?

The #1 software novelty was likely Rafael's Fire Weave (though there's also some dedicated hardware involved). I talked a lot to a Rafael representative, and will likely write more about it later.

Nexter showed off some Leopard 2 hull / Leclerq turret hybrid (which I utterly ignored as I only paid attention to the turret), and its stupidity. They seriously showed off vehicles and guns to the public at a trade fair, but also spent on having almost one guard per project who angrily pointed at tiny 'no photographs' signs.

Even more hilariously stupid, some other exhibitors posted 'no photographs of vehicle underside' signs at indoor vehicles. I can't tell if they were serious (stupid) or actually trying to redirect attention to the belly.

The displayed drones were unimaginative, and thus I didn't pay much attention to them.

There was a weird, near-total absence of infrared-only ILLUM and multispectral smoke products on the trade fair.

I call this "the Matrix camouflage pattern".
Noptel and Junghans: I asked them about their old optical fuse design. Noptel (original inventors, now a subsidiary of FNH) hinted that it was too expensive, Junghans flat-out claimed that it never worked (mistook clouds for the ground), but admitted that it might be about time to look at the jamming-proof concept again since technology advanced. Well, at least the representative admitted this after I pointed out that one could simply couple the proximity fuse with an electronic timer that is programmed to activate the fuse only for the last 50 or 100 metres and the Shortstop fuse jammers had evolved into many rather widespread IED jammers, proliferating the concept. The Junghans rep did express extreme confidence in their RF fuses' ECCM at first, though.

I asked a representative of a well-known small arms red dot sights and night vision sights producer about the NATO (accessory) rail and especially what's going on regarding a powered NATO rail, since the products were marketed as Picatinny rail-compatible (NATO rail is backwards compatible to this, but Picatinny rail is inferior). He know nothing about either, and after some explanations he finally got the idea why a powered rail with a central battery in the grip and potentially even data transfer between accessories may be a fascinating idea. Seriously; he was supposed to be the expert.

A representative of a big armoured glass producer knew nothing about some old basic research into non-shattering armoured glass. I showed him some infos, he's going to look it up. Flabbergasting.

Lots of other reps answered my questions by telling me exactly what I had already guessed based on incomplete info. 

I noticed something for the very first time about the Ultimax 100; the (drum) magazine is too close to the trigger for resting my index finger straightly. That's uncomfortable and bad for trigger discipline. I compared this to some other displayer LMGs and the problem didn't exist anywhere else, so this isn't my index finger's fault.

The M4 Carl Gustav feels incredibly light on the shoulder, likely because the centre of gravity (unloaded) is only about 15-20 cm in front of the shoulder. The SAAB rep couldn't tell whether the USMC would buy many more M4 to get enough for its new infantry squad TO&E, as customers apparently often buy old CG versions even when a newer, better one is available. BTW, SAAB guarantees a life of 1,000 shots with SAAB munition for the M4. The rep signalled no interest in a slip ring version of the HEAT munitions, even though it could eliminate spin almost entirely and thus increase armour penetration.

A reusable Instalaza C90 - I didn't have this on my radar before. It blows the M4 CG out of the water with its weapon weight (3.5 kg, about half that of the M4 CG), but munition weights and calibre are extremely close. It's a choice for land forces that do not insist on the smaller dispersion of the CG's HE shells at longer distances, I suppose. (The C90's barrel is smoothbore, while the M4 CG's is rifled.)

That Dragon C thermal sight that I had in the list for ultralight infantry is actually available in a 640x480 pixel version with the same weight already.

Spike SR is confirmed to lack top attack mode due its lack of a movable IIR sensor (it cannot look at a sufficient off-boresight angle for a top attack flight profile; it would lose the lock-on). It can supposedly fly to 2,000 m (Rafael first claimed 800 m effective range, then 1,500, then 1,800, now again 1,500. Supposedly, they do now market is as having 1,500 m range to not chip away at the case for Spike MR). 1,500 m is apparently its tank ID distance ("ID" as the user can tell a tank from a car at that distance - identification is likely the main argument in favour of the heavy command launch unit used with Spike MR).

Those Cockerill 105 mm turrets with 42° maximum elevation have the potential for indirect fire, but aren't really prepared for it in any way other than their huge maximum elevation. Indirect cannon (cannon ~ fixed cartridge case) fire is a capability that customers could demand and get with little additional development work. There's no fire control for indirect fires, no dedicated munition types, no preparations for manipulating the propellant power (the easiest method would be semi-fixed cartridge cases that allow to add or remove propellant charge modules).

I discussed ballistic helmets with a rep, but got no answer for my question why nobody tries to bring a soft, foldable helmet (that could conveniently be stored close to the hip) into the market. I suppose it might work with soft body armour textile layers and foam trauma pads, at least up to a frag protection rating equivalent to what the 1...1.1 mm thin steel helmets offered (enough to protect against falling bullets and fragments from distant explosions in the air). I suppose that such a soft helmet / ballistic hat might be carried along by troops who would otherwise just use a hat for convenience.

Some brochure photos:

just a Brahmos anti-ship missile brochure

backpack radio jammer (mobile phones and tactical radios),
RF fuse jammers look similar (see the classic 90's Shortstop)

Some (apparent start-up) passive exoskeleton, not yet optimised for low own weight

Slovakian LORANA FOG missile equivalent.
The drawing is extremely similar to a drawing in an ALAS brochure.

ultralight thermal sight (clip-on or stand-alone with digital zoom)
all-round through-armour vision system

Apparently, there are three ways how to provide an AFV crew with all-round under armour vision.
#1 is to do what was done in the AH-64  ages ago; single sensor that turns to look the same direction as the (one) user. Nobody seems to pursue this approach any more.
#2 is to have a box on top with multiple staring cameras that provide 360° vision, even to a helmet-mounted display of multiple crewmembers.
#3 is to have distributed sensors, but they provide no seamless vision to helmet-mounted displays. They can rather feed screens only, and are thus similar to panoramic mirrors.

I suppose #2 will be the preferred retrofit solution, while #3 makes more sense for new AFV designs where you can integrate the sensors into the outside, rather than occupy the roof with yet another pole and box that provokes sniping.

still the same Sentinel product

some data on Sentinel
lighter than M4 Carl Gustav, but lacks the rifling

The representative gave me this without me wanting it. Well, have a look at the maximum target velocity: Mach 2
Fast-moving warheads don't expel their fragments exactly to the sides; the combination of outward fragment velocity and forward velocity leads to a cone-shapes fragmentation pattern (or continuous rod pattern). This is important, as you need to get the timing right against targets that approach very fast from the front. You might miss those if the fuse acts too late. The FREMEN fuse appears to do just that against faster than Mach 2 missiles. I don't quite understand why they push this info with a marketing brochure.

SPACIDO, a very promising fuse for 155 mm HE shells.
Some South Korean very light personal role radio (intrasquad radio)

Intrasquad radios are likely the biggest improvement of infantry in the past 30 years. The in-service models are anything but small or lightweight, though. I don't think that the South Koreans are technology leaders, but these brochure photos can give you an idea about how capable, small and lightweight such radios can be.

a bit heavier, thus a bit more capable

This would be rather for fire team or section leaders.

Laser module for burning small drones.
Have a look at the operating temperature range if you like that idea.

Flexible ballistic neck protection. Better than to use your hands for it when prone.

One of the most important army items.

Some digital press kits:



Bundeswehr structure - what I would do (revisited 2018)


Regarding conscription: 

Conscription was deactivated. That was probably the only good major action of that horrible minister of defence. It can be reactivated easily, as I proposed.

Regarding the air force:

I do still largely agree with myself from 2010, though now I would mention that the Luftwaffe should largely get out of the air/ground business save for stand-off missile launches (Taurus) and air/sea strike (requires integration and purchase of 100...200 modern anti-ship and anti-radar missiles, only one Typhoon wing would have to train for it). I would also mention that I'm fine with a reduction in Typhoon numbers by a third in favour of better training and that I insist on better proofing against surprise strikes.
Ground attack efforts are likely not efficient early in a conflict, and I see Germany as a "first two weeks" defender of NATO and the EU in NE Europe. Other air forces that would first need to build up strength in the theatre of war are better suited for wearing down air defences and doing air/ground strikes with little or no stand-off.

Regarding the navy:
I didn't yet speak out freely by calling the German navy useless back in 2010. I did so in the meantime. The German navy could and should be disbanded because it's a useless diversion of resources. Coastal minehunting can be done without manned ships or boats and could also become a civilian or paramilitary task again, as in the early 50's (maybe that would be a fitting job for the civilian THW). 

Regarding the army:

Eight years later and I still didn't fully write about what I called "unorthodox ideas" back then. [sigh] Well, I would now certainly mention an emphasis on rapid deployment by road, more pontoon bridging for the Oder river, better air defences, better AT missiles, better combined arms TO&Es for the brigades and a vastly improved missile artillery.
I would also leave no doubt that all "special forces" but the Fernspäher (long range scouts, of which we should have many more) units should be disbanded in favour of an improved personnel situation in the infantry (or be re-roled into Fernspäher units).
edit: Last Fernspäher company was disbanded in 2015. My bad.
I did write about "an army corps for Germany" in much greater detail in the meantime.

Regarding the Streitkräftebasis:

It's still quite a blind spot of mine because I have no personal contacts there and hear or read very little about the Streitkräftebasis.

Regarding the centralised medical service:
I didn't pay attention to it in 2010. Now I would crash the inflated medical service, and brutally so. 11% of German military personnel is medical personnel - that's ridiculous! Military medical care can be limited to open wound, burn wound, blunt trauma, eye trauma and counter-biological/chemical agents care till the patient can be transported to a civilian hospital. The troops should simply be insured by the cheapest civilian health insurance (the rates depend on the region) for ordinary health care. I suppose the non-mobilised central medical service could and should be reduced to 2-5% of the personnel strength.

Overall, I don't think we need a permanent increase of military spending. A period of reform investments might require an increase for about four years, but then the spending could be slightly below current level and we could still greatly contribute to deterrence and if need be defence of NATO (and the EU)  in Europe. It's more a question of readiness, seriousness, stocks, doctrine, rapid reaction deployment capability and robustness than of a large budget. 
Four excellent mechanised army brigades with good corps-level support, 40 air superiority Typhoons and 20 air/sea Typhoons would be a plentiful contribution to collective deterrence and defence if they were quickly in action even after a powerful strategic surprise attack on NATO.


edit: To clarify; I'm not really in favour of the gold-plated long range scout concept that the Heer had till 2015.  A force of more than 200 personnel yielded only eight LRS teams. This kind of inefficiency makes LRS near-pointless. LRS need to be resources-efficient first and foremost. Efficient LRS can make large area surveillance affordable, and that would have extremely beneficial effects on battalion battlegroup- to corps-level tactics. An alternative to the employment of a LRS mesh is to rely on elusive militia small units that are from the area.


From current occasion: That moron('s) ambassador

The supposed ambassador of the U.S. managed to cross several lines that are unacceptable and justify an eviction (persona non grata status), and a stern lesson to U.S. senators to not send such a moron to Germany ever again, for no such overt moron would be accredited as ambassador (persona grata) ever again.

Here's what that moron did in the span of less than four weeks of supposedly being ambassador of the United States in Germany:

The ordinary offences that almost nobody cares about:
  1. lied about Germany in context of NATO and military spending
 The offences with at least minimal deniability due to the choice of words:
  1. threatened German corporations regarding business with Iran (right on his first days in Germany)
  2. lied about German democracy by supposing our top politicians decide who gets to win elections (reality: We don't have primaries, but our elections are proper.) 

The offences that are knockout criteria:
  1. lied about a nonexistent "silent majority" (he meant the so-called "alt right"*), thus disputing the legitimacy of the Merkel administration (the ruling CDU/SPD/CSU coalition).
  2. says that he wants to empower one specific political group in Germany.
Germany used to be one of the countries that were important enough to the U.S. government to not send political hacks and donors as ambassadors, but most experienced and knowledgeable career diplomats. People who knew and understood Europe for real (not some propaganda fantasy of it), knew and understood Germany, were able to fluently talk German on difficult topics. Now the moron and his enablers in the U.S. Senate sent an incompetent and lying (or delusional) political hack to Germany as "ambassador", and he's not welcome.

The knockout criteria leave IMO no reasonable choice other than to unofficially tell the "ambassador" to go home and to tell Trump that either there's going to arrive a non-moronic ambassador of the U.S. that's not a lying POS (as opposed to a fine representative of Trump) or we shall treat the "ambassador" as an ambassador from a hostile country**, give him a last chance but persona non grata him after his next public mouth fart.

I doubt that Merkel has the balls for any drastic action, though. She can only administrate the status quo and do about one political u-turn per about two years, not real active policy. A likely outcome is that the moron gets a gag order from the fatter moron and gets silently dispatched in 2021.

for reading on the issues:


P.S.: I went to the original English language articles to check if the German reports about the choice of words was accurate and it was. I will not link to that fascist publication, of course.

*: fascists and neonazis and people who are too close to them to distinguish them from them. Their election potential is below 20%, far from a "silent majority".
**: As were the hostile ambassadors of Warsaw Pact states in NATO countries during the Cold War.


[Blog] Blog message and link drop June 2018

I change the way I publish Defence and Freedom posts. 
  • The first Saturday of the month will have a link drop & humour & commentary blog post.
  • The other Saturdays will have ordinary single topic blog posts.
  • Additional days will have blog posts only as commentary on recent events.
This will amount to about 60 blog posts per year. I suppose it's better to go to a steady, low intensity blog output than to shut down entirely as did so many blogs that I followed in the past ten years.

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Blogger (the hosting service) no longer supports OpenID. Past comments made with an OpenID account may have disappeared without my involvement.

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I'll be at Eurosatory this year (early in the week) and intend to write a summary on the 16th.

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The United states Marketing Corps stays true to its name.

The "300%" figure is utter bollocks a.k.a. an obvious lie, but the video still mentions some interesting details.
One interesting detail is that the USMC sticks to its traditional attempt of doing platoon-level jobs with unusually large sections. The MAAWS (likely not just M3, but also M4 Carl Gustav) at section level is ill-advised, for the section cannot carry much munition for it. Every single shot with it weighs more than 3 kg. One such weapon should be at the platoon level as portable 'infantry gun', but it's mostly dead weight at the section level.
Another interesting thing is that the USMC appears to follow the proposed emphasis on accuracy (near misses) for suppressive fires, rather than sticking with the common approach of doing suppressive fires to machinegun bursts mostly. I suppose which works best depends on how good you know where the opponents are. It's feasible to suppress opponents at building windows with single shots, but you rather need long bursts to suppress opponents at a long line of bushes.
And then there's the interesting addition of an assistant to the section leader who deals with many new electronics. I wrote about that in 2009.

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You better be able to shoot that far if you use THAT big rockets!
Previous record shots were around 400 km, including the American SM-6 missile.

This kind of long range missiles are not really an issue for fighters or strike fighters, but they push back AEW&C aircraft, tanker aircraft, air/ground radar aircraft, electronic intelligence aircraft and transport aircraft. They might need to avoid an area of about 500 km around some suspected S-500 element site, which largely devalues them. AEW&C in particular would rather not be able to look at the sky above most of our mechanised forces. Fighters would need to cooperate with (possibly jammed) datalinks to create a situational picture by adding their radars' fields of view and ranges. Such a network can easily break down, not just due to jamming, but also due to few fighters on station AND moving 'forward'. Flanks could be left unguarded, and 'lines' of such cooperating fighters in the sky could be defeated from the blind flanks.
Air war against a S-500 user (or user of other unusually long range anti-AEW missiles) would look VERY much unlike the air wars against Iraq.

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I. Cannot. Resist.

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Have a look at this:

It shows the demonstration rigging that camouflage advertisers are using (matching the background to the product), but it also shows the difference between micropattern and macropattern. 
Multisorb has - in the context of a VBL armoured car - micropatterns only while the comparison VBL has a three colour paint scheme that's nothing but a break-up macropattern.
The paint scheme is meant to break up the silhouette on a less homogenous background at long distances (much more than 500 m), while Multisorb's micropatterns look suitable for much shorter distances.
At very long distances the paint will be a better camouflage on light backgrounds and the darker Multisorb a better camouflage on dark backgrounds (brightness difference to background, not colours, matter at long distances).
Such textile covers are pretty good as IR camouflage and can also reduce the distance at which battlefield surveillance and airborne GMTI radars can detect the vehicle, while their optical camouflage effect is debatable. 

The annoying thing about that presentation of Multisorb is that they could easily have designed the product to have both micropatterns and macropattern.

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For those who understand German:





Ultralightweight infantry - a theoretical experiment

Longtime readers of this blog may remember that I argue in favour of agile infantry that break contact 2-4 minutes after being detected in order to avoid getting caught by aimed indirect fires (mortar, howitzers). (There's a link to related previous articles at the bottom.)

The background to this is that 60-95% of military personnel killed in 'high end' ("peer") warfare between well-equipped ground forces gets killed by indirect fires (artillery and mortars). Air attack, small arms, mines, AFV fires, hand grenades, anti-tank munitions and other causes of death are usually killing much less than artillery and mortars. This is very different in the quasi wars of occupation since 2002 where the opposing forces had few mortars and almost no artillery capabilities. Combat troops suffer a bit more from direct fire weapons than do non-combat troops, but indirect fires are their #1 killer in such wars as well.

Artillery even messes up main battle tanks if they get caught in the fires, so to up-armour infantry is simply no sufficient approach for their survivability against indirect fires. Some fragmentation-proofing can help a lot, but rather against weak and few fragments.

The way to survive artillery and mortar fires is to no be where they unfold their effect. Some opposing forces cannot call for such fires, some call fruitlessly, some get fire support after 10...15 minutes and the best armies can at least at times process a call for support so quickly that effects sometimes take place 2...4 minutes after the call for fires began.

Infantry should move in small groups to exploit what cover and concealment micro-terrain offers, they should stay in contact through (intra-squad) radios, and the teams should know about and support each other. Any one group of hostile infantry should be caught in a crossfire, and new teams should appear to continue the firefight while the previously engaged ones break contact and relocate to avoid getting shelled. (Another method to avoid getting shelled is to 'hug' the opposing force, getting so close that they could be caught by their own supporting fires. This is a troublesome approach because it's more difficult to break contact up close, the own teams risk entering a crossfire themselves and the hostile forces could relocate themselves in time to avoid their own support fires.)

So in the end my view of infantry in firefights outside of urban areas is that they need to break contact (if need be deploy smoke) and move a lot, often, rapidly and even while crouched.
This cannot be done with infantry that's fighting against the force of gravity of 30-40 kg of equipment per man. Their understandable tendency would be to seek cover in a firefight, deliver suppressive fires and wait for support fires to win the fight - as often done in Afghanistan.

this photo is famous for good reasons
So I decided to look if my idea of agile infantry is feasible at all with modern technology and a reasonable set of expectations regarding stealth, firepower and endurance. I ventured to see if a basic fighting load could be realised at a mass that allowed for the necessary battlefield performance with somewhat above average physically fit men. I created three profiles (rifleman/grenadier, fire team leader, light machinegunner), of which the light machinegunner kept being the most-laden one throughout the progress of the excel file. This mirrored other non-theoretical loadout lists of about the infantry's burdens (examples 1, 2).

This is the rifleman loadout:

As you can see, it ended up at 22.3 kg with a reasonable potential for further improvement to 21.6 kg. I suppose there would be changes if one army really troops-tested such a loadout. The justified changes might add 2...3 kg. A well-respected rule of thumb is that the marching load should not exceed 30% of body weight, so 25.5 kg for a man of 85 kg.

My basic war weather fighting load list almost arrived at the maximum acceptable marching load despite ultralight ambitions and sacrifices, but a fighting load should be considerably less than the maximum acceptable marching load! Moreover, the additional mission-specific (or colder weather) equipment (demolition equipment, anti-MBT firepower, Minimore, assault ghillie etc.) would easily add another 4...8 kg.

My conclusion is thus that even the merely theoretical test of my thesis debunked the notion of agile infantry, at least the form of agile infantry that I was thinking about. Infantry won't and can't run often and quickly with an individual 21.6...33.3 kg burden.

© Commonwealth of Australia,
Department of Defence,
photo: CAPT Brendan Gilbert
There's one saving grace; the use of a non-powered load-bearing exoskeleton (example) from shoe sole to load-bearing belt could effectively reduce the burden at the hip by up to 80%, which is about 8 kg of about 10 kg (including munitions and water). This would reduce the effective burden (basic warm weather fighting load) to 13.8...17.5 kg for some activities (NOT climbing hills or stairs, or accelerating/slowing down in a run**).

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There's a new challenge if and once one accepts an (unpowered) exoskeleton; where's the golden mean? What's the optimum basic load considering that an extension of the exoskeleton to the shoulders would take off burden from the shoulders as well? What about powered exoskeletons (once they are silent enough)? Will adding plate armour everywhere on the body become sensible again?

I don't consider infantry to be a decisive fighting force; it's more of a presence and cautioning force and the eyes (and ears) on the ground than a primary or secondary killing force. This would be different if I considered urban warfare as nearly as important as is still fashionable, but a look at Eastern Europe shows that there's no megacity and the only relevant million-plus city is Warsaw. So we don't need to pay terribly much attention to urban warfare for deterrence purposes or for any not utterly unlikely defence scenarios. Maybe the Poles should, but not the Germans, French, British, Italians or Spanish. We can indeed focus on agricultural areas, villages, wet areas and woodland.

My relatively low prioritization of infantry lethality and high prioritization of its survivability and persistence leads to the conclusion that the optimum for a basic fighting load is very close to the list and an unpowered exoskeleton from sole to hip.



P.S.: It should be illegal to advertise products as "lightweight" or "ultralight" without actually mentioning the weight (NOT the mere area weight of the fabric used) accurately!

*: I'm aware that the rifle will probably not be good for more than 60 shots before the lightweight barrel with its small thermal capacity becomes hotter than it should in a normal firefight, but 60 shots in 2-4 minutes should be plenty since the rifleman should primarily add aimed single shots to the fire team effort, thus also the scope.
**: In fact, the added weight of the exoskeleton would require even more effort for the addition of  potential energy (climbing) and overcoming inertia (acceleration/deceleration), as the exoskeleton merely helps with resisting gravity.


The role of robustness in deterrence

Nuclear deterrence was the subject of much academic attention especially in the 80's, but I believe the focus on the nuclear side of deterrence led to a neglect of certain aspects of the deterrence topic.

Imagine these scenarios:

There's a certain multiplier (0...1) between nominal military usefulness under ideal conditions and actual military usefulness under the most adverse conditions. The military power that matters for deterrence is the military usefulness under the most adverse conditions. Only this military usefulness/capability remains for sure in face of a surprise aggression. The aforementioned multiplier depends on the potential aggressor(s), of course.

This idea is in my opinion more alien to contemporary thought about military affairs than most readers will believe me. The West in particular has been on the offence for decades, picking the fight most of the time. This tended to give the West the aggressor's advantage of choosing the time and often even the place of the action. Naturally, Western armed forces chose a setting for the strike that allowed them to come close to their full (quality) potential. The West didn't suffer much from strategic surprise attacks, either.

I have looked at European armed forces for years and found many examples of much military spending on capabilities that would not be available under adverse conditions.
This ranges from drones that wouldn't survive in peer warfare to Polish armed forces barracks in artillery range to Russia and a horrible potential vulnerability of extremely expensive combat and combat support aircraft to surprise attacks on airbases.

We could save a lot on the military without suffering a loss of deterrence or defence capability if we got rid of the non-robust elements of our military power that we cannot depend on anyway. Alternatively, we could save a lot by making those non-dependable, non-robust forces more robust so we can afford to reduce expenses on some other end instead.

Either way, potential savings become apparent once one pays more attention to what would be useful under adverse conditions and what wouldn't be.



Summary: Modern air defences for Europe

I do sometimes still encounter some nostalgia regarding the long-gone 70's technology Gepard and Roland air defences of the German Heer and Stormer HVM vehicles of the British Army. The U.S.Army even brings some Avenger vehicles back into active service. Those are expressions of confidence in the SPAAG or the ManPADS approach to battlefield air defences.

I want to tell you that these are obsolete approaches. None of them address the service ceiling issue satisfactorily, which is disqualifying in light of the PGM threat: Strike fighters are now very effective above the effective ceiling of such air defences (unless there's a cloud cover).

Such approaches don't come close to exploit the state of the art and aren't adapted to changed threat munitions (fire and forget missiles of attack helicopters and cheap glide bombs).

A rebuilt, modern battlefield air defence should be an area air defence network that protects spearhead forces from 'behind'* rather than with very short ranged air defences organic to the spearhead forces. Such battlefield air defences shouldn't even differ much from rear area air defences.

Before you read on I'd like to point out that battlefield air defences do not necessarily have the job to reduce hostile air power by attrition. Their primary job is to lessen the effect of hostile air power on friendly land forces and operations. This includes not only damage, killing and destruction, but also reconnaissance, observation and jamming. Air defences may also support land operations by informing ground forces about clear skies, and some battlefield air defences happen to have a secondary ground combat (usually self-defence) capability. Launchers  for air defence missiles may very well be capable of launching drones or artillery rockets instead, air defence guns may very well be suitable as artillery or direct fire ground combat and radars have become amazingly multi-functional. Some radars with agile radio 'beams' can search for and track air targets, search for and track hostile artillery and mortar munitions, track friendly artillery munitions (giving info for correction of aim) and track meteorological balloons all at the same time within their field of view.
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Here's a summary of my opinions on battlefield air defence for Europeans. It's finally all together after having written about details of the subject many times. I'll point out the hardware, as most of air defence is very dominated by the technology in use.

Saab Giraffe 4A as brigade radar; capable of detecting aircraft, missiles, careless helicopters, drones well above treetop height and firing positions of 60+ mm mortars, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers all within reasonable ranges. This would be the universal "brigade" radar, located in support groups rather than battalion battlegroups of (forces of manoeuvre).
The west is lacking a battlefield radar in L band or other long wavelength radar bands for low observable aircraft detection.

HAMMR as battlegroup radar; capable of the same jobs as Giraffe 4A, but at shorter ranges. Advantages: True 360° and on-the-move capability. Giraffe 1X could be a substitute if and only if it can function on the move as a matter of routine. It should also get a rotation symmetric antenna cover to be less striking visually.
This would be the organic radar of battalion battlegroups (forces of manoeuvre), so it has to be more mobile, capable of on-the-move operation, provide 360° service and be less conspicuous than the brigade radar.

AMRAAM-ER as anti-platform area defence missile (could also be ESSM Blk II later on. CAMM-ER could substitute, but it almost certainly lacks the kinematics to help with the air superiority fight at 50,000-65,000 ft, and battlefield air defences should do so occasionally).
This is what one would classically think of as air defence missile; a missile so expensive and capable that it's really meant to shoot down strike fighters and occasionally attack helicopters.

IRIS-T SLM or VL MICA IR as redundancy backup (IR guidance just in case radar guidance fails due to countermeasures).
This is a necessary redundancy (risk management measure) in light of the already extreme dependency on the tiny active radars of AMRAAM, MICA and Meteor (systemic technological risk). IR guidance has issues with the window heating up at high speed flight through dense atmospheres, so IRIS-T SLM has  an ejectable protective nose cone to protect the window from friction until the missile needs to lock on.

Tamir (Iron Dome's interceptor missile, costs less than 100,000 USD) to deal with guided munitions (cruise missiles, glide bombs, loitering anti-radar missiles) and medium to large drones.
The other missiles cost way too much even for the intercept of cruise missiles (which could be cheaper decoys, after all). Tamir may have troublesome requirements for quality of fire control information, but I suppose Giraffe 4A could pull it off.

ALAS-A for non-line of sight engagement against terrain-hugging attack helicopters (if need be based on Helispot triangulation) with additional capacity as artillery counterfire munition. (The other anti-platform missiles could engage helicopters as well if only look down radar targeting info is available).
Fibre-optic guidance has issues especially over long distances, but it provides a man-in-the-loop capability even in most adverse electronic warfare environments. ALAS-A could be used to search for an attack helicopter whose approximate location was triangulated by infrasound only. It could even find and engage a helicopter that's static on the ground.

Any command post vehicle for battlefield air defence would need to be able to integrate such launchers, datalinks and preferably its emitting radio antennas hundreds of metres away. It would be great if a software-defined approach enabled to use some common land forces' battalion-level command post cabins for battlefield air defence after changing the software and adding the keys. Any attempt to realise such a versatile software-defined command post would bog down into a 20-year development program ruined by bureaucrats and lawyers, though.

Calibre .338 to 20 mm RCWS on many military motor vehicles with a 360°x90° passive near-24/7 search sensor, thermal sensor good enough for confirmation/identification and laser for rangefinding and IFF interrogation (response by IR strobe) - semi-automatic engagement mode for protection against small drones ranging from crawling/driving on the ground to about 1,500 m altitude.
20 mm is preferable because 20 mm HE shells can be self-destructing and thus there wouldn't thousands of lethal bullets rain down on the landscape after a couple RCWS opened fire on some low cost drone. The Nexter M621 is a reasonable gun for the purpose.

There are 20 mm RCWS, but none so far are true anti-drone RCWS as far as I know.
Early warning for everyone. Every single soldier can be aware of his or her position with satisfactory accuracy. This doesn't even require permanent GPS or Galileo services; an occasional calibration of a digital inertial navigation system would suffice. Radio technology has become so lightweight, compact and cheap that everyone could carry a personal radio with such an INS (infantry and scouts should have the most useful intra-squad personal radios anyway). Such a position-aware software-defined radio could issue an alert when artillery strikes are incoming and alerts about NBC threats or air attack (or observation) threats.
This awareness about relevant threats that are known to friendly forces could greatly enhance the survivability of the ground forces. They could hide temporarily, take cover, cease emissions, use NBC equipment, and even prepare for hard kill defence (against low level drones).
This benefit depends a lot on effective radio comm, which would be available most of the time, and especially so for 'rear area' support troops.

This should be the mix for battlefield air defences as of today.

Yes, it would be damn expensive. Some of those missiles cost almost € 2 million per piece. But even the most expensive fighter fleets could not fully substitute for such battlefield air defences.
A reminder: Even back in the 70's a single SPAAG did cost roughly three times as much as a MBT. Quality air defences were never cheap. You need to structure the land forces to your needs; perfect battlefield air defences would be too expensive, but too few could lead to horrific avoidable losses and setbacks of the land (and air!) forces.

Further characteristics for an ideal battlefield air defence:
  • Common missile launcher with rocket artillery (the latter is in Europe mostly reduced to launching PGMs anyway) mostly as a quick change pallet on a standard 15 ton 8x8 flat bed or MULTI/EPLS lorry.
  • Common radar with artillery (artillery needs no separate radar except maybe for ground and impact observation purposes**).
  • Integration in air war LINK-16 datalink.
  • No battery organisation, but a corps-wide air defence network (radio and fibreglass landline datalinks).
  • Encryption by one-time pads if possible, alternatively 256 bit keys.
I do not consider SRBMs (short range ballistic missiles) with cluster munitions to be a threat that requires extra countermeasures on the battlefield. The low end of ballistic threats could be countered by the Tamir munition (if not even SPGs in C-RAM mode) if they enter the defence footprint and the high end SRBMs are rather too expensive for mere cluster munitions delivery unless our forces stupidly and unnecessarily expose themselves as high density area targets.***

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Rear area (not "battlefield") air defences should have some BMD component (dedicated upward-looking radar with suitable wavelengths, Patriot PAC-3 or other dedicated interceptor missile against Iskander-ish threat missiles) instead of the anti-attack helicopter component.****

Rear area air defences would protect corps HQ, road bridges, airbases, logistical hubs (kinda railheads, but I expect roads to be the dominating supply route infrastructure instead of rails) and capitals in the theatre of war (Warsaw, for example) in wartime. There's little reason to count on them as defence against strategic surprise attacks, though.

Quite the contrary: The battlefield and rear area air defences themselves would offer many high value targets (radars, missiles, command posts) that would be promising targets for a strategic surprise attack with ballistic and cruise missiles. Their exact peacetime location must thus be a well-kept secret (which means near-daily change of garages used by the vehicles) or they must be in really, really well-fortified bunkers that de facto cannot have all their exits blocked.

There are two battlefield air defence exceptions:
(1) Very "far forward" forces such as company-sized raiding elements or armoured recce platoons would have to leave such an air defence support umbrella and they couldn't have much air defence themselves. They could thus limit themselves to having organic passive early warning capacity (passive IR air search sensor such as Rheinmetall FIRST, infrasound-based helicopter detector Helispot) to survive hostile air power by hiding in time. The backup plan would be very short ranged air defences (high elevation guns up to 76 mm calibre, ManPADS). Their defence against drones would be the same RCWS tech as mentioned before. The larger raiding forces might also add a few missiles (such as IRIS-T SLM) so they can harass hostile air power (combat aviation close to airbases, transport and utility helicopters) but this would be a luxury.
(2) "Low budget" land forces and very small size land forces couldn't afford the whole battlefield air defence umbrella. They could still afford a minimum of robust ManPADS (such as RBS 70 NG with Bolide missile) for below-clouds defences, but this would not be a necessity as such "low budget" brigades and battlegroups should operate under the area air defence 'umbrella' of an allied and  more lavishly funded armed service.
Anti-drone RCWS are still a necessity. At least some very survivable passive sensors (Rheinmetall FIRST, Helispot) and datalink connectivity are a necessity if the allied air defences cannot rely on target data from allied air power (AEW, fighters). A partial radar equipment (battlegroup radar) could make sense, but would be quite expensive (thus rather not HAMMR or Giraffe 4A).

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Now let's talk about vulnerabilities: The need to reach high with hard kill air defences requires large missiles that then happen to have long ranges at least at lower altitudes. For manoeuvre forces to dispense with the burden of organic air defences requires the use of area air defences (again, large missiles) to still keep the manoeuvre elements covered. All this leads to what's fashionably called "network centric" air defence. It's no more about one AFV carrying a search radar, a fire control radar and armament to independently sense and destroy an air threat (the concept of the Gepard SPAAG). The dispersion of the air defence network's parts to many different vehicles leads to a demand for decentralised electrical power supply (no more central generators as in SPAAGs or old school SAM batteries) and a dependence on communication (data) links. These data links would overwhelmingly be radio links, and they could be disrupted at least temporarily and locally. Some jamming-proof means of data transmission can be used (such as fibre optic cables, and potentially laser communication), and redundancy (HF AND SatCom  instead of but one) could help alleviate the rest of the problem. Radio datalink reliability is a general problem of high tech armed forces.
Another vulnerability is in the stationary operation of the Giraffe 4A radar, albeit this is utterly commonplace. Airborne radar support may furthermore be pushed back by hostile fighter threats, which reduces such air force support just as air force fighter cover to a likely intermittent support.

There's one more thing to mention, but it's more about theatre operations and air superiority than about battlefield air defence or rear area object defences: SM-6 missiles could be used to intervene in the  air superiority fight or push hostile tanker and AEW aircraft far back, also deny access to hostile transport aircraft in hundreds of km radius. Such SM-6 launchers would not really need to be integrated with the battlefield air defences; they would rather be a rare asset that's posing a latent threat and headache to the opposing air forces' leadership ('fleet-in-being' effect). 100 such missiles on 25 datalink-equipped semi-trailers under central air war command & control could suffice to achieve this effect in Eastern Europe.


So now you can nail me down on this if any of these items or underlying methods prove to be a failure or dead end in the future.


*: This isn't literally "behind". I'm thinking of support elements with self-defence capability (support groups) providing support to manoeuvre elements (battalion battlegroups). The greater the radius of the 'umbrella of support', the more lean, agile and freely manoeuvring the manoeuvre combat forces may be. So this is far from a linear front line doctrine's idea of "behind".
**: And I think those should be operating on the move, using the Hovermast approach. 
***: Such as the classic traffic jams ahead of a crossroad or bottleneck, or a too compact bivouac. 
****: A defence against longer-ranged ballistic missiles isn't necessary; those would likely be nuclear-tipped anyway, and to undermine such strategic nuclear deterrence is expensive, but not wise. Our protection agaisnt such missiles are our (British and French) equivalent missiles.


Link drop 5/2018


Some men get bones broken in their feet when their exhausted muscles cannot sufficiently support the bones any more.

I show this because I mentioned the principle a couple times, without backing that up. The BROACH warhead combines a shaped charge with an explosive warhead that follows through the hole or at least penetrated the badly weakened cover. This can be done with anything from big bombs to man-portable munitions (Bunkerfaust, for example). The consequence of this technology is huge, for it devalues hardened aircraft shelters. Those really only protect against blast, fragmentation and the tiniest of munitions (autocannon shells, 70 mm rockets). A Small Diameter Bomb (250 lbs class) can penetrate the weak roof of a hardened aircraft shelter even without a shaped charge. A single cruise missile that dispenses submunitions could penetrate three hardened aircraft shelters if those submunitions use shaped charges to assist the penetrator.

I don't think it's very important for land attack because they would need their Su-34 high end strike fighters and MiG-31 interceptors for different tasks.

It would be interesting to see what's the practical visible range (important for rear area troops who lack night vision and make use of illumination munitions) and how well it works with night vision goggles (likely fine, especially when the luminescent coating is thin).
The cone angle in which this is visible is interesting as well, for tracers also have a communication function. A team or squad leader may use a different tracer colour to point at where to shoot at, controlling the fires of his small unit by visuals.

I would love to have a current Bundeswehr infantryman's gear list in that format, to compare with what ultralight gear is on the market and see what's the difference.
I made a rather comprehensive excel table to see how low you can go in regard to weight with an extremist ultralight approach, but I arrived at about 24.4 kg for a rifleman and 26 kg for a light machinegunner in non-urban summertime missions. That's what the marching load (not fighting load) of a fit 90 kg man should weigh. One might reduce this to about 24 kg for both with even more extreme measures, but I don't see how one could reasonably go lower without polymer cartridge cases (up to 2.1 kg savings for light machinegunner and 0.9 kg for rifleman at 600 and 250 rds respectively).