2008/05/14

Let's talk logistics

I'm skeptical about a lot of things that weren't thoroughly tested recently, logistics are no exception.

Logistics were a very, very strong advantage of Western forces in the past decades - our logistical prowess was unmatched since we learned how to use railroads for military transport.

But during the Cold war many of the Western forces could reasonably expect that war would not happen far away from their bases - they expected most combat in Central Europe, and they had their depots sited accordingly. Conventional combat in Central Europe would have been rather short-ranged, with 200 km thrusts being a very long distance offensive. The force structure matched these expectations.
We would need to mobilize many civilian trucks if we wanted to deploy our troops to our present Eastern or Southern NATO frontiers (even though much of the hardware would be moved on railroads).
We have remarkably few exercises about how to quickly deploy and sustain division-sized and greater forces on our alliance's frontiers - simulations are no good training for the CSS (combat service support) and work with old variable values instead of testing to finding new variable values.
This sounds a bit as if logistics wouldn't be smooth in the first couple of weeks or months.

Another sorrow is the increased protection and overall heaviness of the equipment.
We'd need to haul a lot of fuel to sustain mobile warfare - that's not much of a problem, unless you factor in some complex issues and friction. It would be nice if fuel efficiency and especially large road range would have a high priority in future designs.

Finally, do we have enough ammunitions? Both World Wars were begun without enough ammunition (especially the first one), it wouldn't be surprising if we would be short on supplies till production is ramped up next time as well. Saving on ammunition is easy - you won't nearly get as much trouble for cutting ammunition as you'd by cutting major system quantities. Many learn about MBT or fighter strength cuts, but few learn about the ammunition quantity. I bet that even many senior officers have false informations about this issue due to deliberate deception for deterrence effect.
The Japanese Self-Defence Forces reputation took a serious hit when ridiculously small ammunition supplies (few days worth of major warfare) were reported to the public years ago - no matter whether these reports were true or not.
Smart bombs were reported to be on short supply after two months of bombing the smallish Yugoslavian forces in 1999.

But there's also an upside; the advance to Baghdad in 2003 (not really rapid, but quite decent average speed) provided some large-scale experiences on CSS during such offensives. It adds to the partial modern war experiences and helps our forces to see at leas some parts of the great puzzle of modern conventional warfare (we don't really want to see the whole picture!).

I wish we would have some really large exercises over really long distances - let's say deploying to Turkey, Spain and Estland, with few days early warning, of course. Some days of corps-sized and primarily ammunition-consuming slow ops, some weeks of very mobile ops burning lots of diesel fuel and then again one some days slow ops.
It would certainly provide valuable lessons on the capability of our logistics system and would be worth every cent. Strong logistics are one of our assumed advantages, and we don't want to miss that in the next major conventional war.

Sven Ortmann

1 comment:

  1. Why do you keep using words like "we" and "our"? Your Bundeswehr couldn't invade Luxembourg without filling out environmental impact statements months in advance, and paying farmers beaucoup Euros after a few Leopards mess up their crops. If Die Grünen even allowed it in the first place.

    While an American expeditionary force can force an airbridge into place in a few days anywhere in the world, and be up and running with hot food and running water in a week or less.
    There is a wide disparity in competency, most of the forces in Afghanistan mooched off the Americans until they could get up to speed weeks or months later.
    And using commercial transport (Russian) as "your" European airlift fleet leaves a lot to be desired.
    So talk about "your" logistic problems, Americans usually show up with too much stuff, rather than not enough.

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