On Third World militaries (II)

Back in 2011 I wrote how a Third World country could set up armed forces / national policing forces without wasteful spending, with a low probability of a coup and with systemic bias against corruption of the lower ranks.

This time I will present a possible configuration for a Republican Third World country that has more (but not much more) need for actual military forces capable of conventional warfare and wants to emphasize coup-proofing. Dictatorships and republics alike often produce very poor military forces in the Third World and even in Europe if they insist on proofing against a coup d'état. This is usually done by choosing senior officers based on loyalty first, with competence a distant second at best. This produces very sluggish and generally poorly trained military forces incapable of much mobile warfare and very brittle even in static deliberate defence (as seen once again when the Iraqi army was attacked by daesh, for example).

My central idea is to insist on competence (or potential for future competence of the officer) first, but to proof the government against a coup d'état with three critical measures:

(1) keep the army small
(2) keep the army garrisons far from the capital
(3) protect the capital with a coup-proofed militia

(1) limits how badly the country may be threatened; hence the "(but not much more) need for actual military forces" mentioned above.
(2) is both a function of actual distance and of deployability. You wouldn't want to set up a very road-mobile brigade with all-wheeled AFVs, but rather choose a mechanised brigade with tracked AFVs, with very few tank hauling trucks at the brigade's garrison
(3) is why this is for a republic only, and the coup-proofing of the militia could be achieved by keeping it demobilised most of the time and avoiding high level commands; a bunch of battalions under direct control of the politicians would be suitable.

An example would be Libya during the 1970's. The historical path included a small loyal yet hardly competent army, and an oversized air force (largely directed against Israel). There were no real threats of invasion by Tunisia, Algeria or Egypt though, so in addition to about 10,000 paramilitary forces for border/airport/harbour/maritime security and customs there could have been a mechanised brigade or division (with little infantry strength) garrisoned at Derna in the Northwest and a 30,000+ militia at the capital of Tripolis in the Northwest of the country. This would have been largely coup-proofed.
There would have been the seeds for a real navy (paramilitary coast guard), air force (border guard's border patrol aircraft) and large army (the mechanised brigade or division) for a 5-10 years expansion into a military powerhouse, but the annual expenses and the risk of a military coup d'état would have been small. Well, assuming there was a republic, which wasn't. So this is more of a geographic example. By the time the mechanised infantry-weak mechanised coup forces had arrived at Tripolis, the militia would have been mobilised and made combat-ready. This would have been a huge deterrent against a coup attempt.
This example also shows that this concept really only protects the top of the government at the capital - it would not protect against a secessionist movement supported by the army. That case could be warded against by introducing a small loyalty (minority or regional background) criterion for senior officer selection and promotion, though. You'd only need to mix the (whole) officer corps properly to prevent a desertion of the army to a secessionist cause.



Something positive, for a change

Hardly any wars in Europe since the end of WW2 in Europe; Greece, Croatia, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Ukraine and Russia (1, 2) experienced war in Europe only* - over a period of 70 years. This is unparalleled since the invention of European-style states. Even the pre-WWI period wasn't as peaceful for as long.

War is more widely considered immoral and wrong than ever before 1918, and more aspects of it have been banned (with widespread -though not perfect- respect for the bans) than ever before.

The countries of the European Union enjoy security and peace (at home) with military expenses of merely about 1.65% GDP and with a population of roughly 510 million less than two million serve in the military at any time. The drain on the civilian society by the military has been for years smaller than ever during the previous 300 years at minimum.

Warfare and terrorism have a negligible influence on mortality in all of Europe today. Even the Ukraine has suffered only about 5,000 dead in a year of war, at a population of about 44 million (about 1.14 in 10,000 - less than the rate of deaths by genitourinary diseases in Germany, or example).

Refugees or war -such as the roughly 2.3 million displaced people from Donbas- generally receive sufficient support or have sufficient income wherever they have fled to.

Trade and travel in Europe are largely unimpeded by warfare.

Save for Belarus no country in Europe that remained largely unaffected by recent wars is being considered to be unfree.** We can be dissatisfied with certain government overreach, but overall we're still quite fine.
example; global freedom rating (c) Freedom House

Today wars and oppression are so extremely rare in Europe that they're the outliers, the deviations from the norm. We thus neglect paying attention to the boring yet enjoyable normal state of affairs; peace and freedom. Our newspapers and TV news don't have headlines like "Peace in Europe", but "War in the Ukraine", and it can lead us to pay excessive attention to the outliers.


*: Not counting Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia because normally the Caucasus mountains are considered the frontier of Europe. I also excepted WW2 remnant skirmishes and insurgencies (anti-Stalinist resistance during the 40's and early 50's) and terrorism such as in Northern Ireland. A small insurgency in Macedonia and elsewhere and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia weren't counted as wars either. For a list with many smaller conflicts, see here.
**: Albeit Hungary and Belarus aren't on a good trajectory with their domestic policies.


Syria - the political and strategic level

The war in Syria reminds me a lot of the Spanish Civil War, with its huge role of foreign adventurers, the clash of international ideologies, the largely static nature, the role of local militias and finally the intervention of foreign powers with air power and limited ground forces.

The biggest difference is that this time there's no two orderly factions, but depending on how you count up to six factions. I gave up writing a summary of this, so let's skip to what constrains the policies.

The Western powers would like to see Iraq back to status quo ante, the Assad regime removed and the salafist extremists (particularly daesh) eliminated.
This set of extremist war goals is almost certainly too ambitious in context of an extremely weak hand. The Western-aligned FSA forces are the weakest or 2nd weakest faction on the ground, despite what Western support arrived so far. Western war goals are thus not pushing to a quick end of the Syrian ordeal.

Russian and the old regime prefer a return in Syria to status quo ante, with Assad emphasizing his own power and Putin emphasizing Syria's role as a Russian base if not proxy in the region. This set of war goals is quite ambitious as well, but I perceived a willingness to accept some power-sharing deal with other factions (Kurds, FSA), so it's not as extremist as the Western one.

The Shi'ites - partially overlapping with both previously mentioned factions - want to protect the Shi'ite minority in Syria from Sunni domination and want to maintain the Shi'ite domination of Sunnis in Iraq. The latter appears to be feasibly militarily under the condition of continued Western air support, and the Shi'ite minority regions in Syria appear to be quite safe in light of the Sunni-dominated factions' inability to advance any more. I suppose the Shi'ite goals don't quite let Iraq calm down for good, but at least in Syria they are likely destined to achieve their goal (at least for the regions with large Shi'ite populations or even local majorities).

The Kurds still want to establish autonomy first, with Kurdish independence later. They have largely achieved the necessary successes in warfare and are likely going to achieve some more, but the 2nd, long term, goal is blocked by Turkey. They cannot deal with Turkey with violence, and the current Turkish government appears to be both utterly uncooperative with Kurds and fortifying its power with a move towards autocratic governance. The preliminary goal of autonomy isn't a real obstacle to peace, though.

Daesh's war goals are bonkers and they showed almost as much talent in acquiring additional enemies during wartime than the nazis, so let's ignore these losers' policies and outlook.

Finally, there's Turkey, which is the most influential foreign power in Syria due to its geography but doesn't use this much yet. It was apparently an enabler doe daesh's rise, is now (after having good relations before the Arab Spring) an opponent of the Assad regime, a NATO member (thus supposed to be pro-Western by default) and in an almost hysterical opposition to Kurds (because recognising them as a nation would attack the foundations of the idea of a Turkish nation and cost the state of Turkey much territory).

I suppose daesh will be pushed back from Iraqi territory without any further changes of course by any faction; the Kurds, Iraqi government and Iraqi Shi'ite militias appear to be powerful enough to accomplish this with Western air support. This will reduce the war to Syria within the next two years, turning Iraq into a pro-Assad foreign power in the conflict. The Kurds will likely be able to realise an autonomy in Northeast Syria, tolerated by the Assad regime just as the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq is tolerated by the majority Shi'ite Iraqi government. A Turkish intervention against this enlargement of autonomous Kurdistan is unlikely.

Daesh will be cut off from reinforcements by Kurdish advances along the Turkish border, and will be doomed save for an unlikely Turkish intervention against the Kurds.

My guess is thus that this will reduce the conflict sooner or later to a clash between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions. Daesh may be eliminated before or after these two factions come to an agreement and it's likely not substantial which faction gets to gulp more of daesh territory if an agreement comes second.
The key question will remain the survival of the Assad regime. Russia is trusting only this regime to maintain Russia's privileged role in the country, and is thus unlikely to ever give it up (though Assad himself may be replaced by some other regime politician to save the West's face). The West is still stuck in its extremist views on war and war goals, and unlikely to give up its disproportionate demands any time soon. Maybe their Syrian proxy (the FSA) will under pressure of continued defeats in battle, though. The probably impending fall of Aleppo may produce a moment of willingness to accept a compromise.
The Western readiness to compromise on the Assad regime's survival may change after Obama is out of office, of course: The Western public is more focused on daesh than on the regime, so eliminating daesh as a territory-controlling faction may end up being enough and face-saving enough. 

Assuming a power-sharing agreement under Assad as president, Western politicians could deflect all criticism concerning the survival of Assad by pointing at damage done to daesh. I suppose the vast majority of voters would be fine with this.


P.S.: It's interesting that the Western powers do not really protect the FSA, or harm regime forces directly: Any attempt to do so would be either opposed by or compensated for by Russian intervention. Meanwhile, the Russians do bomb the Western-aligned FSA at will. Putin obviously is more brazen and aggressive than the West, even in indirect confrontation with the West. The Turkish interference (the Su-24 shootdown affair etc.) may have served as a warning shot to draw a line, limiting Russian aggressiveness.
Furthermore, Russia has the advantage of intervening in support of the internationally recognised government (thus no aggression), whereas Western intervention against the same would be an aggression.


Some comment exchange and the bigger picture


Someone commented on a naval-themed blog

Kim Jong-un is really a "chip off the old block (Kim Jong-il's)" who, no doubt, warned him to maintain the longstanding course that appears and occasionally behaves "insanely". Otherwise, DPRK's leader would lose the respect of his equally belligerant and behaviorally unbalanced allies. Then, North Korea's reputation as one of the world's most problematic states would deny its only claim to fame, and its populace might eventually revolt.
Regardless, Insanity should grant no leader, whether or not a signatory a pass from violating the world's strategic arms limitations,. He will have to be confronted if he actually commits an "insane" act of war. Why postpone the confrontation until he actually has thermonuclear weapons?

My answer was

Some serious analysis with a non-bullshit mind actually reveals that North Korea's behaviour since 1990 makes almost perfect sense from a regime survival point of view.
Backing by the USSR and PRC have become unreliable if not irrelevant as protection against South Korea and the USA. The conventional forces would not survive a conventional campaign either (even NK light infantry was badly devalued by night sight advances).
Thus North Korea emphasised
- ballistic missiles, understood as scary to Westerners since the Scud show of 1991
- a few nukes, the ultimate deterrent and scare device
- conventional artillery in range of Seoul. Incapable of surviving for long, but still scary to Seoul and South Korea
- creating and polishing an erratic madman image, inherited by successive dynastic leaders
There are of course people who are superficial enough to fall for this show and actually believe all the stuff. And other people who may or may not be true believers whip up fear with fearmongering about North Korea in order to funnel more money to the military that's not important regarding NK because South Korea itself has much more military power than necessary to defeat and occupy North Korea, and doing it alone is their only chance of keeping the PRC out if there's a Korean War II sometime. A U.S. participation would be about the dumbest thing imaginable in the region, for it would draw the PRC into that conflict. AGAIN.

Remember the "axis of evil" nonsense? Such primitive fearmongering devices are being used to enable (and promote) aggressive policies and resource re-allocation in support of these confrontational foreign policies. There are industries, bureaucracies and other groups (often even foreign countries) who benefit from such but the nation as a whole hardly ever does. Top the nation, expenses in support of confrontational foreign policy are government consumption that yields no public goods, essentially no benefits. Repairing bridges, cleaning up poisoned areas, investing in research and paying down public debt would be much better alternatives.
There are essentially no benefits from confrontational foreign policy. it's entertaining for stupid people in some ways, but entertainment can be had much cheaper, without thousands getting killed, disabled or disfigured.

What was the benefit to the West from the Iraq War, for example? Point at it, I dare you. Iraq was no threat at all, and anybody not too stupid to look at a globe or map knew that. Particularly with all that" WMD" stuff being easily visible lies (seriously, most of it was debunked before the war already, showing that the liars were liars!) and Iraq's conventional military having received hardly any repairs, spares or upgrades after 1990 and having suffered the loss of the huge majority of its heavy weapons and combat aircraft during 1991. Well, that and the successful disarmament regarding ballistic missiles and stuff through the inspections till 1996.
So there was absolutely nothing to be gained for Western nations by attacking Iraq, but a few warmongers, a few industries and in a strange way the subsequently funds-flooded armed bureaucracies did benefit at the expense of all others.

The fearmongering and confrontational attitude are hurting the infected nations. It's wasteful activity, self-harming and even more harmful to others, with no net benefit for any country.

Foreign leaders are perceived as caricatures, foreign countries are being perceived as comic story-like empires of evil instead of as countries, and the aversions and idiocy spills over into domestic affairs, with discrimination against people from the vilified regions or countries or even only their majority religions.

Defence policy should be about deterrence and defence for the own nation and if applicable, alliance.
Security policy may be about a bit more, but whatever "more" is being added on top of actual defence policy should be subjected to a cost/benefit test, with the burden of proof being on those who want to spend more on it. Those benefits should be identified rationally, not by hysterical idiots, irrational military fanbois or paid political shills. 

For example, German troops were in a mission to Congo for peacekeeping during elections there. Most Germans didn't even notice, and I'm sure that almost no German whatsoever had any benefit (save for those who received extra pay) from this operation. This isn't even an example about confrontational foreign policy, but it suffers from the same defect: No justification. Congo is the business of the African Union, not ours.



Self-serving insider 'analysis'

I'm probably sounding like an old man for writing this, but I've seen some patterns emerge in my lifetime, and I don't like some of them. 

One of those - found in places as diverse as regional development, environmental protection, political parties and navies - is this one:

Someone with huge emotional investment in a specific area (and usually with a great pay check dependence on it now or prior to retirement) writes an analysis or study on a subject. The result is - quel surprise! - in favour of some modest changes, but never in favour or large spending cuts or reduction of powers and most rarely in favour of radical change.
In a navy example, such an analysis may typically call for some additional strategic review, some modest organisational shuffling, or maybe for building more ships of this kind and less of the other without any budget cut.

Such writings often contain a seemingly logical chain of conclusions such as some uncontroversial statement 'a', because of 'a' the conclusion is 'b' and because of 'b' the conclusion is 'c'.
These are almost invariably incorrect. The author is usually ignoring an unlimited quantities of alternative conclusions, but pretending that no idea that's harmful to the 'club' interests (such as less hulls for a navy less money for regional development or less strict regulations in environmental protection) would ever be a reasonable conclusion from 'a' or 'b'. Quite often such pieces keep going on for several pages after making such a gross logic error, which makes almost the entire content unfounded in reasoning while the author actually tries to make it look like extremely well-founded.

Typical of such closed systems is that their utter disrespect for the outside world's definitions.  "Evaluation", "efficiency", "affordable", "effective", "sustainable", "innovation" and "excellence" are typical examples for words that tend to have weird and surprising meanings inside such 'clubs'.

Another constant of this pattern is that with perfect predictability like-minded people will cheer the author and his peace for great thinking, great clarity, great daring for speaking the truth and the like.

Finally, everyone who dares to call out that the emperor wears no clothes will be shunned as some lowlife and incompetent, usually complete with ad hominem, strawman attack and appeal to (self-defined) authority. In internet discussions this is as harmless as stupid replies or downvoting, but I saw entire professional groups been excluded from the 'club'. I saw economists eliminated from entire political advisory, bureaucracy, publishing and punditocracy communities for the terrible sin of pointing out that some activities are terribly wasteful and their governmental evaluations (illegally) rigged from the start.

Such 'clubs' create their own version of reality, their own universe of mythology in which they live and their preferred rules apply only.
I wouldn't mind this as entertainment for the club members, of course. Why would anybody criticize trekkies or Lord of the Rings fans for enjoying their fantasy worlds, after all?
It is a huge problem if these clubs maintain their fantasy world not with their own money but with taxpayer money though. And that's why I mentioned navies as one of the examples.




Naval air defence of the 2020's

Currently navies use ship-to-air (surface-to-air) missiles of greatly varying sizes, ranging from shoulder-launched man portable ones originally developed for ground forces to missiles weighing more than a ton. Extreme ranges of a hundred nautical miles or more had been achieved in the 1950's already, but only so against targets in line of sight (flying high).
NATO used Sea Sparrow, SM-1, SM-2MR and SM-2ER missiles and a few competing equivalents by the end of the Cold War, but nowadays the big commercial successes appear to be RAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow and Aster. All area air defence missiles are nowadays expected to be available in a vertical launch version that does away with unreliable mechanical launchers and allows for a quicker sequence of firing.
The trend goes towards much better guidance or specialised missiles against guided ballistic missiles, and as a consequence individual missiles can have appalling costs.

ESSM Block 1 launch
There is one outstanding program that may become a true standard: RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) Block 2. The original ESSM already excelled with its compactness, allowing four missiles to be packed into a single versatile vertical launch silo cell, unlike the French competition (Aster) that uses a too wide booster stage and is usually coupled with a vertical launch silo type used for the two Aster versions only.

missiles in vertical launch silos

Block 2 adds additional range (seemingly up from about 40-50 to about 80 km, but such published figures are unreliable and tell little anyway), more manoeuvrability and more importantly, a vastly improved seeker (active radar mode, semi-active radar mode and as I understand it also a home-on-jam mode, but the hardware would also be capable of an automatic command control mode).

The active radar will no doubt cost a lot (the missile may easily cost € 2 million in today's money), but it adds the ability to engage targets that are not in line of sight, but were reported through datalink by other platforms (ships, AEW aircraft). It also allows smaller ships to use this missile, for no dedicated target illumination radar or powerful-enough multi-function radar has to be carried for the target illumination as with ESSM Block 1's semi-active radar terminal homing.
The increased range finally may bring ESSM Block 2 into the range class of an Aster 30, which is recognised as an area air defence missile. In the 2020's an area air defence missile may be quad-packed into standard vertical launch silos. This may change a lot.

For example, ships specialised on the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission could still be part in the task force's area air defence plan with a substantial footprint (against very low-flying targets comparable to what 1990's dedicated air defence destroyers achieved). Their most substantial shortcoming compared to dedicated anti-air warfare destroyers would be a weaker radar suite, but this might matter little in a networked task force with AEW support.

ESSM Block 2 could thus do no less than end the era of separation between ASW and AAW frigates and destroyers in Europe without requiring the expense of very large (8,000+ t) combined ASW+AAW destroyers (as preferred by the USN since the 80's at the latest). A frigate of 5,000 t with all the typical anti-submarine warfare specialisations might still double as a powerful area air defence asset. The two paths would be joined through the characteristics of a (by comparison to a ship) tiny missile.
GP (general purpose) frigates may become dominant European designs in the 2020's instead of jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none export warships as they have been so far.

A missile which requires no target illumination radar could also be fired from inside a container carried by a mere cargo ship, of course. This may particularly be used as a second missile defence layer. GP frigates surrounding a convoy could form the first layer, and the escorted cargo ships would be platforms for the second layer. The old layered defences with some extended range missiles such as SM-2ER as an outer layer in addition to medium range missiles never offered much depth against seaskimmer missiles. The "extended range" applied to high-flying targets only because their terminal semi-active radar homing required a line of sight between ship and target.

Important for the area air defence capability will be the actual engagement envelope. This is a very tricky story, even if we ignore the very tricky radar physics and poor reliability of published range figures. I take two graphs from here to illustrate this:

(note the waist: The smallest width of the dark brown area is the part of an air defence perimeter's circumference that the air defence system may cover well. This important metric is very different from the "range" figure and never published. It also depends a lot on the target, particularly its altitude, speed, changes of course and evasive manoeuvres capability.)

(this gap exists mostly for short range SAMs)

A missile with a published range of "80 km" may effectively protect other ships against missiles passing at a distance of 20 km at low altitude, but maybe the correct figure is "30 km", or "40 km". It won't be "80 km", though. At least the active radar seeker offers the possibility of engaging very low targets beyond the horizon (if the rocket engine offers enough energy for it).

The dual-mode seeker will likely retain the capability of Sea Sparrow and Block 1 ESSM to engage ships and boats. The damage done to a warship by the small warhead can be substantial and vastly degrade its ability to defend itself, as evidenced by two accidental hits of a cruiser by two Shrike missiles (which were closely related to Sea Sparrow) in 1968 and an accident with Sea Sparrow hitting a Turkish warship in 1992. ESSM has demonstrated its ability to hit small fast-moving boats and is no doubt difficult to defend against when employed to disable a warship in a surface engagement. Meanwhile, the Block 2 missile could with its passive radar homing capability be used to suppress a hostile ship's radars for a crucial few seconds in a synchronised attack with anti-ship cruise missiles (substituting for an anti-radar missile) - if and only if the ship radar's frequency range is covered by the ESSM Blk 2 seeker.

This goes way beyond what utility the Aster appears to promise (assuming the Block 2 missile will be completed and be effective at all, of course).

One of ESSM's known strengths is its spectacularly small minimum engagement range. This is apparently a few hundred metres (possibly only in easy scenarios), while Aster 30 with its booster had such issues with short range that the Aster 15 version with shorter range and shorter minimum range had to be developed.

A very short minimum range may make dedicated short range missiles unnecessary, which affects the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. This missile has racked up an impressive reliability and hit record in test firings, but it has a possibly fatal flaw: It (almost certainly) cannot reliably defend against an infrared guided anti-ship missiles such as NSM. Its passive radar seeker capability is useless against it, and its own infrared seeker almost certainly cannot sense a missile incoming from the direction of a dawning sun.

The ESSM Block 2 may thus become an all-in-one answer to naval needs for defence against aircraft and air-breathing missiles for the 2020's.

Meanwhile, dedicated, very large and very expensive missiles such as SM-3 may be used to provide a defence against guided ballistic missiles and an engagement capability against low orbit satellites. Even a  10,000 ton warship struggles with the mass, volume, topweight and electrical power hunger of a long-range ballistic missile defence radar, though. Dedicated BMD warships resembling more a LPD-type ship than the more slim frigates or destroyers.
A convoy escort group could have one such BMD ship that also serves as replenishment ship and helicopter carrier (AEW helicopter) as its core among the escorted ships, and general purpose frigates surrounding the convoy with gapless overlapping low frequency active sonar search and area air defence zones. That's but a possibility, of course.

There will likely still be an interest in some short-range weapon, and I suspect the classic 76 mm naval guns with their extreme rate of fire (for a short time) would still fit this bill without the expense of developing and deploying some gold-plated short-range missile or a range of specialised short range missiles. Nowadays these guns can even employ guided projectiles.

SM-3 / ESSM Blk 2 / STRALES - a possible AAW trio for a well-funded navy of the 2020's. It could greatly change some warship categories as they were known since the 70's (and thus the face of European navies).

I didn't cover fighters / interceptors yet, though they will also be relevant to naval air defence. A task force of frigates protecting a convoy may have a flight of potentially helpful fighters nearby, but even four fighters would carry anything ranging from two dozen to three dozen relevant missiles, while a frigate flotilla may have two hundred or more relevant missiles. The fighters' utility could be larger than these figures suggest because they could by virtue of their speed engage the missile launch platforms (combat aircraft) instead of the munitions (anti-ship missiles), of course.

2009-04 SAMs with active radar homing
2013-01 Naval and air warfare; the problem with technology assessment (see the final part of this!)


P.S.: In case you wondered: No, I still don't think surface warships are relevant for alliance defence in the Baltic Sea and I don't think they're very important in the Mediterranean Sea either. Russian air power could wipe the Eastern Baltic Sea surface clean no matter what air defences the ships have.


Air Force strike packages and peer wars

Bombers on a bombing mission tend to be intercepted by fighters, and cannot really defend themselves all that well. Thus they get escort fighters. Fighter escort schemes got quite intricate back in 1944 already, and it was known as early as 1940 that the escort fighters scored best when flying offensive combat air patrols at some distance to the bombers (instead of in formation with them).

Bombers also face air defences, and as early as 1943 night bombers received support by radar (and radio) jamming aircraft (also using bomber airframes).

Tanker aircraft began supporting strike missions sometime in the 1960's, helping particularly fighters for a greater mission radius and for more fuel to expend during air combat (afterburners are extremely thirsty!). They also helped fighter-bombers greatly; for more range or for more bombs or for a bit of both.

Also during the 1960's "wild weasel" aircraft appeared; aircraft with not only radar warning receivers, but sophisticated passive radars to find air defence radars, and anti-radiation missiles to silence them (usually followed up by a more conventional attack with bombs).

Aircraft with large air search and track radars support the strike especially since the 1980's, sensing hostile aircraft at 300+ km distance, relaying the data by datalink to the other aircraft and trying to reduce the chaos (and thus "friendly fire") by maintaining an overall situation picture of identified friendlies and threats.

Finally, reconnaissance aircraft followed the strike to bring back aerial photography of the target, for bomb damage assessment.

Since the 1990's it's also possible to add radar aircraft that can map targets on the ground, which is potentially useful for supporting the wild weasels.

Since the 2000's independently flying decoys (example ADM-160 MALD) have become vastly more easily employable than their predecessors from the 1970's; they can be stored as munitions under the pylons of fighter-bombers.

The combination of multiple such elements in a synchronised strike operation constitutes a "strike package", and it's been the zenith of Western (U.S.) air power art since the late 1960's. The success of strike packages in accomplishing their missions in face of (usually old) air defences was the foundation for Western belief in its offensive air power superiority.

taken from here, a website explaining strike packages to warsim gamers

I mentioned a while ago that the outright cheap alternative is to simply use precision guided quasi-ballistic missiles such as Iskander, but there's an even bigger problem with strike packages:

Strike packages maybe do not work against peer air forces at all.

First, long-range air-to-air missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles are a huge threat to aircraft such as the typical large radar aircraft (example E-3 Sentry and E-8 J-STARS) which are no faster, no more nimble than airliners since their airframe are essentially airliner airframes. It's even worse with naval AEW aircraft such as the turboprop-driven E-2 Hawkeye and the budget solution Saab 340 AEW&C. The Russians strived to possess effective long range anti-aircraft missiles, and appear to have succeeded (S-400's 40N6 / SA-12, R-33 / AA-9, R-37 / AA-13 and possibly KS-172 /K-100). It's thus reasonable to draw scenarios in which AEW and C4ISR aircraft as well as tankers would be pushed back by much, possibly 400 km from opposing forces-dominated terrain. This fits poorly with their up to 300 km radar range, and greatly reduces the advantage gained from aerial refuelling.
An inability to support a strike package over hostile territory with an AEW system badly reduces the combat air patrol's efficiency and survivability. Fighters still tend to "see" little outside of a frontal approx. 110° cone. This used to be slightly better with 1980's and 1990's radars, but fixed, non-rotating AESA antennas have merely about 100-110° field of view. The fighters would thus need to support each other to avoid surprise contacts, which forces them into suboptimal formations.

The long range of air-to-air missiles (now the kind that's capable of taking down fighters; 100+ km range) also requires to sanitise almost an entire theatre of war from hostile interceptors, or else they might effectively still engage the bomb-carrying aircraft. So essentially offensive combat air patrols would be in very, very difficult tactical situations.

It's similarly bad with wild weasels: Even the public learned that Western anti-radar missiles can be countered well enough even by obsolete air defences (Yugoslavia 1999) to ensure that wild weasels can only do SEAD (suppression of enemy air defences) well, not DEAD (destruction ...). The wild weasel's work is only done once the defenders have expended all their surface-to-air missiles or when the air war ends (more likely the latter). Against a peer air force you cannot really destroy the hostile air defences and then commence with the turkey shoot as against the incompetent Iraqi military in 1991.
Well, as mentioned, the fighters need to cover a huge area; theoretically the wild weasels would need to do so as well, which is usually impractical. The fighters would thus be forced to survive on their own or stay close to the bomb-carrying aircraft.

And then there are the jamming aircraft. They were based on bomber airframes well into the 1960's, but the modern approach appears to base them on two-seat fighter airframes (example EA-18G Growler), joined with the Wild Weasel role. The problem with jamming is that it's very treacherous. The opposing air defences could even launch a missile with a passive radar seeker and only when this missile is close to the triangulated jammer it would receive the command to activate a more common sensor for engaging an aircraft, such as active radar or imaging infrared. The survivability of jamming aircraft is thus very questionable. Curiously, all those people who love "stealth" so much rarely seem to hate the flying beacons called RF jammer aircraft as much.

Let's compare; a sophisticated strike package consists of
+ bomb-carrying aircraft
+ fighters on offensive combat air patrol
+ AEW&C aircraft
+ SEAD (&ECM) aircraft
+ tanker aircraft
+ possibly C4ISR aircraft
+ possibly photo reconnaissance aircraft

A peer air force such as the Russian one could potentially defeat through technical and tactical means
- AEW&C aircraft
- SEAD(&ECM) aircraft
- tanker aircraft
- C4ISR aircraft
which would greatly endanger the
- bomb-carrying aircraft
- fighters on offensive combat air patrol
- photo reconnaissance aircraft
because of persistent area air defence and interceptor threats.

The United States Air Force and the even more affected United States Navy appear to have understood this, hence their interest in stealth aircraft which - if not defeated by technical or tactical means - may offer a practical alternative to a sophisticated strike package even against a peer air force. The big problem here is in radio physics; long wavelength radars can detect all but impractically large stealth aircraft, and normal fire control radars can pick them up once they know where to search. Finally, there was never much hope to hide aircraft from infrared sensors (though said sensors can be countered by several means as well), and their effective range has been multiplied since the end of the Cold War.

Air power is very technology-dependent and at the same time still driven by tactics. Both usually only come to light once there's a war or secrecy becomes impractical for other reasons. 
Yet there are god reasons to expect that the technological advances of in particular Russia have defeated the classic strike package, and Russia may as well have defeated "stealth" (which by no is already really old). The opponent always has a say in warfare due to warfare's adversial nature, and it's not only "us" who have secret surprises in storage.

In the end, I personally are very much reserved in regard to deep air strikes against peer opponents. More likely than not only the most valuable targets would justify the expenses of such strikes, unlike the experiences from the 1960's till today against Third World countries and Yugoslavia's (small, largely obsolete and poorly maintained) air force.

A practical deep strike first month target list for a conflict in Eastern Europe would likely include less than a hundred targets; interdiction against marching ground force or supply vehicles at substantial depths (100+ km in front of friendly-dominated terrain) would likely not be worth the attrition. Bridges could be destroyed with guided quasiballistic missiles, but replacing bridges for road traffic would be easy at all but the widest rivers (not quite as easy for rail lines).

There's good reason to be sceptical about offensive air power; Western air power experienced too many easy and thus deceiving "victories" against  Third World countries.

2008-11 Next decade: Supersonic business jets
2009-06 Air war support & Europe 



Climate change and effects on GDP in regions

There's a published study - "Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production" - that predicts enormous loss of economic output in most of the Third World due to climate change. 

The effects look almost as if they were tailored to benefit the First and Second* Worlds and cement their dominance.

This was but one study  and may be falsified soon, but I suppose it makes sense to keep an eye on climate change / global warming as a shaping force that will change the world unevenly. It's almost as if some world-dominating sentient being was playing grand strategy games in favour of the already rich countries (and in particular against India).
It's fashionable to have "visions" of Western decline due to demographics et cetera ; the opposite would be appropriate if the study mentioned above is correct. The study does on the other hand lend support to those who predict gigantic migration movements from poor to rich countries.

Quick remark; I think they didn't claim that GDP growth would be due to climate change anywhere; such growth just happens (at about 1.5% p.a. in the Western world). They did ascribe GDP losses to increased temperatures, though. Reduced outdoor productivity, increased energy costs for cooling buildings, reduced if not eliminated agriculture, increased health care expenses, damage to infrastructure etc.


*: Second World was never a popular term, but it described the developed and so-called "communist" countries during the Cold War. I suppose today one could include the PRC.


Modern naval guns larger than 130 mm

It is apparently very, very hard to develop a naval gun of greater than 130 mm calibre and get it deployed on warships - and has been so for sixty years. The desire for a big gun is widespread, but one project after another fails.

The typical naval guns with ship-to-ship fires in mind are of 57 to 130 mm calibre, but nothin below 100 mm calibre is taken seriously as a munition for doing structural damage or opening the targeted hull for the sea.
In fact, historical experiences from late 19th century up to the Second World War proved that guns weaker than 138 mm calibre* were disappointing in surface actions. The first calibre proven to be satisfactory for surface actions was 149 mm, and it's likely safe to say that with improvements in shell quality nowadays the historical 138 and 140 mm calibres would prove successful as well. This is a quite most point though; the adoption of the ground forces calibres of 155 mm (NATO) and 152 mm (Russia, PRC) is the only sensible choice for a conventional large calibre naval gun.

Historical attempts to build large calibre naval guns included the 8" L/55 Mk.71 of the USN, followed by the 155 mm L/62 AGS and an even more ambitious, expensive and difficult rail gun project. Germany tested an improvised solution of 155 mm calibre.

There are several problems; gun stabilization (not harder than with other naval guns), saltwater exposure (this was troublesome for the German MONARC project apparently), volume and mass of ammunition in the magazine, mass of the gun system (metacentric height of the ship!) and ammunition feed from magazine to gun.

I don't think any navy absolutely needs big guns, but it's a striking example for how well-funded navies strive for 90-100% solutions and fail, usually getting nothing in return for decades - not even a 70% solution.

Here I'll show how simple and cheap this could have been had in my opinion:

Navies used to employ simple single 6" gun mounts on protected or light cruisers,
and this would still be effective in surface actions with automated gunlaying

(1) take a gun laying and stabilization system from an existing 100-127 mm naval gun turret
(2) build this gun again (or a similar one), maybe with chamber dimensions changed to the specs of army 155 mm howitzers
(3) mount it for a maximum elevation of about 18° to 43° - a turret or shield is optional
(4) install it on a ship, control it with an existing fire control computer fed with correct ballistic data, with different charge settings for choice.
(5) use 155 mm shells type-classified by the nation's ground forces already.
(6) store the ammunitions below the waterline in a lightly armoured compartment with appropriate (standard) cooling and fire extinguishing/rapid cooling installations.
(7) ammunition supply with a simplistic lift that moves pallets of each four shells + propellants, manual handling at the magazine and between lift and gun. Submarines succeeded in manually supplying shells to an exposed gun barely above waterline during both World Wars.**

Estimated time till prototype works well: One year.
Estimated time till certified: Another year.
Estimated program budget: € 30 million for eight ships equipped with one gun each,
including 15% profit for contractors.

The barrel length and muzzle velocities of this gun were almost identical to current 155 mm L/52 howitzers.

There is absolutely no need for automatic loading and thus no need for a high capacity ammunition feed, elaborate turret etc. because 155 mm is still in the weight range which allows for rapid manual loading - particularly if you give the crews modern strength and endurance training. The rate of fire could drop below 5 rpm for gun high elevations unless the power operation of the gun quickly depresses the gun for the loading drill and quickly elevates it again for the shot. I suppose 4-6 rpm, the rate of fire of late Cold War 155 mm howitzers, would be realistic.

Destroyers equipped with one such relatively simple mount (open, shielded or in a turret) would be capable of noticeable naval gunfire support, and could engage ships out to the horizon with it as well. Small and fast craft could be engaged at several naval miles range electronic using time fused HE shells.

Naval gunfire support and naval gunnery aren't really important topics, particularly not for Europe's defence. Still, the example exposes (in my opinion) systemic failures by Western naval bureaucracies. It would take a competent, "energetic" and stern political leadership to push these bureaucracies into failing less and getting things done better with less.


*: 138 mm was used on board of French large destroyers and 140 mm onboard of old Japanese light cruisers and some old Royal navy ships. Neither calibre saw much action, thus not proving itself. Common light cruiser calibres of WW2 were 150 and 155 mm (6").
*: Any naval officer who thinks this is not possible any more on a destroyer should be fired immediately for being too stupid to serve.


First link drop of 2016

I'm not exactly having a creative phase these days and existing text drafts are still 'unconvincing'.

Thus instead a link drop as a life sign:

some military tech to think about:

and in German:

historical Bundeswehr "training" videos: