My bad

Introspection makes sense, so I'll try to compile a list of my errors (or rather of errors which I recognised):

* did not expect the French to become involved in Mali this much, particularly not in the north
* badly underestimated world trade's sustainment of monotonous trade imbalances
* didn't think Stuxnet was a U.S./Israeli government product
* overrated Karzai's behaviour
* underestimated the political longevity of the anti-piracy patrols
* probably underrated 5.56NATO calibre
* didn't believe Putin would think the Eastern Ukraine was a worthwhile grab after the Crimea
* expected more advance of small aerial drone technology 2008-2014
* mixed stance on battlefield radio comm (enticed by potential of datalinks, aware of need to be able to make do without)
* mixed stance on NATO
* mixed stance on navies
* I once retracted a naval-themed blog post because my source had apparently some wrong specifications about a ship
* the piece on divisions was probably not all that great
* overestimated India's soft power
* pretended that politicians guide the military to at least some substantial extent
* underestimated the principal-agent problem in domestic reform topics
* I may also overrate improvisation, since I tend to improvise a lot and know others don't feel that comfortable with improvisations

Things I didn't conclusively wrote about so far:

* never fully sorted out the conflict between rejection of interventions and the problem of (rare, actual and stoppable) genocides
* never really comprehensively covered the suitability of the Schwerpunkt concept (when, where, how - or not) in modern land warfare (in conflict with the dispersion concept)



Another (small) link dump

It feels as if I lost the feeling that 'I need to write something on the blog' when I didn't publish anything for a couple days, so blogging slows down. In fact, it didn't slow down, but I don't write the very time-consuming big pieces so often any more. All posts this and previous month were written quickly.

Here is yet a again a low-effort post, another link dump:

Meyer is too much into conspiracy theories, but I think his observation on the Ebola response deserves attention. I cannot link to the Oct 5 entry directly. Related: Africom. It was predictable that the Africom bureaucracy would want to expand and grow in power ("responsibilities") once it had been set up. That's bureaucratic instinct.

War in practice (1903)
Very nice look at the state of the art in military theory on land warfare as of 1903 (and largely till 1911 if not 1914). I mentioned this old book years ago already.

He stopped blogging, but it's interesting nevertheless.

German/deutsche links:

Das Dumme ist, dass wir wegen all der Großen Koalitionen in den nächsten Jahrzehnten wohl immer eine Partei in der Regierungskoalition haben werden, die die bisherigen BND-Praktiken mitgetragen und die bisherigen NSA-Praktiken mittoleriert hat. Kursänderungen sind daher kaum zu erwarten.
Ich persönlich flüchte mich hierbei in die Hoffnung auf bundesweite Volksabstimmungen mti Gesetzgeberqualität als Nahezu-Allheilmitel.

Die deutschen Massenmedien wachen langsam auf und erkennen, dass sie mit ihrer Gruppendynamik sich von ihren Kunden entfernt haben. Das Internet ist doch nicht der einzige Grund für die Zeitungskrise.



I told you so

Back in 2007 I wrote
The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force (...) they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel before appeasement was given up.

I'm a little embittered about how 'very serious people' of 2007 were talking and writing all about COIN and interventions as the future of warfare, and seamlessly switched to pretending to give important counsel about Russia and China when it became apparent that their old counsel was bollocks.

I've never invested self-discipline into writing in a polished, "very serious people" pundit style unless I got paid for it. My emphasis was on content, not style. My content is often critical enough to not win any fans among the establishment anyway. This concerns not the lest military spending, which you need to consider to be too little in order to be a true military affairs pundit. Hardly anybody can live off telling people not to give more money to stakeholders. The stakeholders won't pay you for such a message.

It's astonishing that COIN was ever able to get the attention of the military-industrial establishment in Germany at all, given the constitutional mandate for the German armed forces:

Article 87a

(1) The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defence. Their numerical strength and general organisational structure must be shown in the budget.

(2) Apart from defence, the Armed Forces may be employed only to the extent expressly permitted by this Basic Law.

Sadly, the constitutional court once bent this (and Art. 24(2)) beyond recognition in 1994, which opened the gates for the stupid interventionista crowd in the first place.



German North Sea coastal defence

The history of Germany's North Sea coastal defence is a military history oddity. The geography was a natural ally of the German navy as the Russian winter was to Russian armies.

This satellite imagery shows most of the German North Sea coast; the missing part on top is similar. We can easily see the chain of islands which leaves only the Eiderstädt peninsula on top truly exposed. Everywhere else "brown water" is an understatement. Muddy bottoms and very shallow waters are everywhere and restrict capital ship movements (see also this training nautical map). Ports and cities are thus well-protected from hostile surface actions.

typical look of the shore
The North Sea withdraws far during Ebb tides,
leaving a muddy landscape

It was relatively easy to secure the few navigable channels with coastal artillery, but 20th century wartime defences rested heavily on mines and motor torpedo boats. Minimally armed fishing boats (Kriegsfischkutter) served as picket boats (Vorpostenboot). Hostiles also had to fear false buoys, as they could lead ships into too shallow waters. The smaller navigable channels change over time, and years-old nautical maps are unreliable.

There's but one extant coastal fort; it guarded the entrance to the Elbe river estuary and thus to the primary German harbour city, Hamburg. Fort Kugelbake (satellite image). It was equipped with ten 283 mm guns before the First World War, half of these were moved to Flandres in 1914 already, and the fort only served as heavy anti-air battery with very little coastal defence value during the Second World War.

English North Sea coast cities endured some shelling during the First Word War; the German ones never did. The Royal navy had a plan for an amphibious invasion of Germany prior to the First World War already, (Baltic project), but it involved the risky navigation through the Danish waters and a landing on the German Baltic Sea shore - the North Sea shore was too troublesome.

The Sweden, Finland and Estonia - have a similar oddity in that the Baltic Sea is has little salt and thus often freezes over for months during wintertime. Norway has its unique fjord coastline, Sweden its archipelago in front of its capital. Croatia has a similar coastline as Germany, sans the influence of the tides. Much of the Dutch coastline resembles the German one.
Of all these countries, only Norway suffered from a (quite daring) amphibious invasion (Estonia experienced an invasion of its islands only).

I always thought this geographic influence on naval military history was quite interesting, and now I finally shared it.


P.S: Coastal artillery had historically a rather low lethality because its high lethality was usually avoided (save for few exceptions). Duels between cruisers and coastal forts were typically indecisive in both World Wars. Most coastal artillery lacked the battery size for effective long-range fires. (As a rule of thumb it takes a six salvo for a good observation of the centre of impact fountains and thus for accurate observed and corrected fire at long ranges. This is why the move from four to six or more primary artillery guns with the All-big-gun battleship in the Dreadnought revolution was such a big deal.) Most large calibre coastal guns were often very slow-loading compared to shipboard guns because the means for ammunition transport were more primitive. Coastal mortars were almost useless with their low rate of fire.


[Fun] They made FedEx proud

For example, while inspectors obsessed over whether every checklist and review of individual medical records was completed, they ignored huge problems, including aging blast doors over 60-year-old [ICBM] silos that would not seal shut and, in one case, the discovery that the crews that maintain the nation’s 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles had only a single wrench that could attach the nuclear warheads.

“They started FedExing the one tool” to three bases spread across the country, one official familiar with the contents of the reports said Thursday. No one had checked in years “to see if new tools were being made,” the official said. This was one of many maintenance problems that had “been around so long that no one reported them anymore.”
New York Times, Nov 2014

Has anybody doubts left about a military being a bureaucracy?



NATO Summits and spending pledges


"At the 2006 NATO summit, all members pledged to devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense."

Strange. I see no such thing in the official Riga Summit Declaration.

"Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will pledge at a summit here to lift their military spending to 2% of each country's gross domestic product over the next 10 years, according to three officials familiar with the negotiations over the summit communiqué."

He also mentioned it would be non-binding. Maybe I have a translation issue here; what exactly is a non-binding pledge??? Isn't it simply "nothing"?

Yet this time they actually wrote a (non-binding) commitment, a.k.a. nothing of relevance:

We agree to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities. Our overall security and defence depend both on how much we spend and how we spend it. Increased investments should be directed towards meeting our capability priorities, and Allies also need to display the political will to provide required capabilities and deploy forces when they are needed. A strong defence industry across the Alliance, including a stronger defence industry in Europe and greater defence industrial cooperation within Europe and across the Atlantic, remains essential for delivering the required capabilities. NATO and EU efforts to strengthen defence capabilities are complementary. Taking current commitments into account, we are guided by the following considerations:
o Allies currently meeting the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence will aim to continue to do so. Likewise, Allies spending more than 20% of their defence budgets on major equipment, including related Research & Development, will continue to do so.
o Allies whose current proportion of GDP spent on defence is below this level will:
halt any decline in defence expenditure;
    aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows;
    aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade    with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO's capability shortfalls.
o Allies who currently spend less than 20% of their annual defence spending on major new equipment, including related Research & Development, will aim, within a decade, to increase their annual investments to 20% or more of total defence expenditures.
o All Allies will:
    ensure that their land, air and maritime forces meet NATO agreed guidelines for deployability and sustainability and other agreed output metrics;
    ensure that their armed forces can operate together effectively, including through the implementation of agreed NATO standards and doctrines.

Repeated from Defence and Freedom, September 2014:

A common complaint is that somehow NATO requirements are not being met, or commitments to NATO cannot be met.
The correct answer to this is "So what? Who cares?"

A man needs to obey a minister's decree. More important is a more specific minister's decree. Both draw their power exclusively from the law (enacted by the legislative branch) which empowers the minister to issue the decrees in the first place. So laws are ranked higher than decrees. More specific laws rank even higher. Constitutional articles (created or modified by an even more demanding legislative effort) are more powerful. More specific constitutional articles overrule some others, though.

Now where's a minister's "commitment" in this ranking?
Nowhere. An elevator boy could have said it, and it would be as forceful.

Now remember that in all democracies the legislative branch holds the budget power. So even a "commitment" in shape of a law would be overridden by the next budget law, which includes the next Einzelplan 14.
The 'more military spending!' clique only pretends that such commitments hold power, since these play into their cards. And of course do ministers like to make promises, but then they cannot keep them because it's the legislative branch that holds the budget power. The ministers like to point out those fake commitments to the legislative branch, but again and again said legislative branch doesn't give a shit about fake commitments and dictates a modest military budget.

So even though we can read one of those semi-legendary pledges, we also know they're nothing of relevance; the executive branch pretends to have powers which actually a different branch of government holds, the legislative branch. That's as if a CEO would give a pledge concerning what his shareholders will do in the next years; irrelevant and ridiculous.


Newest plans for more GTK/MRAV/Boxer purchases

Die Bundeswehr plane die Beschaffung von 131 Radpanzern des Typs Boxer, von dem die Bundeswehr bereits mehr als 200 Stück besitzt, berichtet die "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ/Dienstag) unter Berufung auf Industriekreise. Der Auftrag für die achträdrigen gepanzerten Transportfahrzeuge belaufe sich auf 620 Millionen Euro. Allerdings sei die Bestellung noch nicht beschlossen.
"Deutsche Panzerbauer haben Auftrag der Bundeswehr in Aussicht"
FAZ, 4.11.

GTK Boxer prototype
620 million for 131 armoured lorries with gold plating.
4.73 million per armoured lorries with gold plating.
That's € 0.59 million per seat for a dismounting infantryman or an equivalent share of a module.

Do you know what else costs this much per seat?
9 passengers
774 kph speed
3,300 km range
€ 5.1 million (€ 0.57 million per seat)

Those € 5.1 million are the starting point for negotiations. You could surely buy 131 of those for much less than € 5 million each. Well, the Bundeswehr would certainly not; it would gold-plate it till it can barely fly any more and then pay at least € 15 million each.

There are plenty people who look at the vehicle and are impressed. Impressed by all the 'capability' which had been loaded on it (even DPICM protection!). Some are concerned as well - concerned about the cross-country mobility and restrictions concerning bridges.

A look at the hardware alone is nonsense. This is much too expensive; the gains in protection over simple armoured trucks are nowhere near justifying the extra fiscal, logistical and manpower effort. This vehicle is supposed to deliver light infantry (Jäger), and mostly so on administrative marches. It's not even a combat vehicle. It's an omnibus without windows with paranoid protection standards.

There's no reason whatsoever why the Jägertruppe should have a single such vehicle.Why them, only for marches - not for combat? Great many other troops would need to do administrative marches in war zones as well, and this sure is no general standard of protection. Most others move in soft or modestly up-armoured trucks.

Germany doesn't want the insane expense of up-armouring all army vehicles to such a high level, for sure. What's the rationale for giving such vehicles to the Jägertruppe? The one branch that is supposed to be the  one with nature, one with environment, foot-mobile even in difficult terrain.
Not long ago our generals were convinced the Jägertruppe needs to be more oriented towards woodland and combat in settlements, now it's getting equipped with gold-plated lorries that make the then-unusually expensive Fuchs look like a budget solution. Business Jet-level expenses for a rifleman's mobility.
And they're not even the branch that's ticketed to be the fast-moving one.

This insanity and waste of taxpayer money should be stopped. The German army has lost its way; it's lost in the labyrinth of gold plating tunnel vision. The ministry's agency for procurement of military matériel needs to be disbanded in light of this and other failures - and all its executives need be banned form ever having any influence on public spending again.

Instead, this particular planned purchase appears to being pushed by claims that we need this bollocks to counter the nowadays more aggressive Soviets Russians. Bollocks enabled by hysteria. As if these transport vehicles were able to justify their price in Eastern Europe. The means-ends connection doesn't seem to be interesting to people any more, nor is fiscal prudence.


Die neuesten Pläne für mehr Boxer Anschaffungen

(An article version in English is available here.)
Die Bundeswehr plane die Beschaffung von 131 Radpanzern des Typs Boxer, von dem die Bundeswehr bereits mehr als 200 Stück besitzt, berichtet die "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ/Dienstag) unter Berufung auf Industriekreise. Der Auftrag für die achträdrigen gepanzerten Transportfahrzeuge belaufe sich auf 620 Millionen Euro. Allerdings sei die Bestellung noch nicht beschlossen.
"Deutsche Panzerbauer haben Auftrag der Bundeswehr in Aussicht"
FAZ, 4.11.

GTK Boxer prototype

620 Millionen € für 131 gepanzerte Wagen mit Goldrand.
4,73 Millionen € je gepanzertem Wagen mit Goldrand.
Das sind 0,59 Millionen € je Sitzplatz eines Infanteristen oder äquivalenten Anteil an einem anderen Modul.

Wisst Ihr was sonst noch so viel je Sitzplatz kostet?
Ein Cessna Citation Jet CJ2+!
Cessna CitationJet, (c) Alan Radecki
9 Passagiere
774 km/h schnell
3,300 km Reichweite
5,1 Millionen € (0,57 Millionen € je Passagier)

Diese 5,1 Millionen € sind eine Verhandlungsbasis. Man könnte sicherlich 131 dieser Flugzeuge für weit weniger als 5 Millionen € je Stück bekommen. Nun ja, außer der Bundeswehr - die würde auf einen Goldrand bestehen und dann bestimmt mindestens 15 Millionen je Stück bezahlen.

Es gibt genug Leute, die den Boxer Panzerwagen anschauen und beeindruckt sind. Beeindruckt von all den 'Befähigungen' mit denen das Design überladen wurde (sogar Schutz gegen Hohlladungsbombletts!). Einige sind auch beunruhight - beunruhigt über die Geländegängigkeit eioes derart schweren Radfahrzeuges und über die Fähigkeit kleiner ländlicher Brücken abseits der von großen LKW frequentierten Straßen.

Ein Blick auf das Gerät alleine ist jedoch Unsinn. Es ist viel zu teuer; der Zugewinn an Schutz gegenüber einem simplen überpanzerten LKW kommt einer Rechtfertigung des zusätzlichen fiskalischen, logistischen und personellen Aufwandes nicht einmal nahe. Dieses Fahrzeug soll in seiner Grundversion leichte Infanterie (Jäger) transportieren - und zwar nicht freiwillig ins Gefecht, sondern v.a. auf Straßenmärschen. Es ist kein Kampffahrzeug! Es ist ein fensterloser Bus mit paranoidem Schutzstandard.

Es gibt keinen guten Grund, warum die Jägertruppe auch nur ein Einziges dieser Fahrzeuge haben sollte. Warum sie, warum nur für Märsche - nicht als echtes Kampffahrzeug? Viele andere Soldaten müssten ebenfalls Straßenmärsche in Kriegszonen durchführen und bekommen ganz sicher nicht dieses paranoide Schutzniveau geboten. Die Meisten würden in ungepanzerten oder gering geschützten Fahrzeugen unterwegs sein.

Deutschland möchte ganz sicher nicht die wahnsinnigen Kosten stemmen, die anfallen würden wenn die ganze Truppe mit solch einem paranoiden Schutzniveau herumfahren sollte. Warum also ausgerechnet die Jägertruppe? Diese Waffengattung soll Eins sein mit der Natur, der Umgebung, sich (relativ) wohl fühlen im Orts- und Häuserkampf - und zu Fuß beweglich sein in jedem Gelände.

Vor nicht allzu langer Zeit hatten wir noch Generäle die überzeugt waren, dass die Jägertruppe sich mehr in Richtung Adaption an Waldgelände und OHK entwickeln müsse, und nun wird sie mit Goldrand-Panzerbussen ausgestattet, die die einst unangenehm ungewohnt teuren Fuchs Mannschaftstransportwagen*  geradezu spottbillig aussehen lassen. Geschäftsreisejet-ähnliche Kosten je Passagier, damit ein Infanterist über Straßen gefahren wird.
Und die Jäger sind nicht einmal eine Waffengattung, die als 'schnelle' Waffengattung besonders viel Wert auf Geschwindigkeit legt.

Dieser Wahnsinn und die Verschwendung von Steuergeldern sollten gestoppt werden. Das Heer ist auf dem Holzweg; Goldrandlösungen für wenige Hundert Soldaten sind verschwenderisch und nahezu irrelevant für den grundgesetzlichen Auftrag und Existenzgrund unserer Streitkräfte.

Das Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB), das sich alle paar Monate in der Zeitschrift "Strategie und Technik" selbst beweihräuchern darf, sollte aufgelöst werden angesichts dieser and vieler anderer vom BWB verursachten, mitverursachten oder mitgetragenen Katastrophen. Und jeder dort, der auch nur annähernd etwas zu sagen hatte, sollte auf Lebenszeit auf eine schwarze Liste, damit er nie wieder im Öffentlichen Dienst zu Verschwendung beitragen kann.

Stattdessen wird diese spezielle Beschaffung vermutlich durchgewunken, abgesichert mit blödsinnigen Behauptungen, wie dass die Ukraine-Krise solche Beschaffungen ratsam mache. Schwachsinn getragen von Hysterie. Als ob diese Goldrand-Panzerbusse ihren Aufwand jemals in einem Osteuropa-Szenario rechtfertigen könnten. Wenn es soweit wäre, würden wir eher darüber fluchen, dass wir uns nur ganz wenge leisten wollten, konnten und rasch nachbauen können.
Verhältnismäßigkeit zwischen Aufwand und Nutzen interessiert bei solchem Gerät kaum Einen, ebensowenig wie Sparsamkeit mit Steuergeldern.


P.S.: Dieser Text ist nicht besonders gut geschrieben und der Frustanteil an der Schreibmotivation war auch zu hoch. Die erste Version war übrigens die Englisch, dies hier ist die Übersetzung.
Ich denke jedoch, dass die Leser hier Denkanstöße bekommen, denen sie selbst nachgehen können.

*: Mehr als 200.000 DM waren in den 1970er Jahren noch eine große Menge Geld, und inflationsbereinigt fast auf einer Höhe mit dem Stückpreis des zuvor schon beschafften M113 MTW (Kettenpanzerwagen).


Azerbaijan allegedly downed an Armenian military helicopter

Azerbaijan's defence ministry says its forces have shot down an Armenian military helicopter violating its airspace.
Three crew members were killed in the incident, according to local reports.
The helicopter was flying in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, an enclave in western Azerbaijan controlled by ethnic Armenians.

BBC News*, 2014-11-12

related: 2011-08: Territorial disputes


*: I'm not sure why they claim the war began in 1988.
The USSR was still in place at that time.

How Europe armed for War 1871-1914


by J.T.Walton Newbold
written in 1916

I'm always amazed by how these people researched such a huge wealth of information within few, often only two, years. Without the internet, even without transatlantic or international phone calls!