2008/06/22

Eurosatory 2008

I'm back from the Eurosatory 2008 exhibition in Paris.
I arrived by Thalys train (supposed to be fast, but the average speed is a poor joke), somehow managed to find my way through the terrible public transport system, passed the peace demonstrators (not many) and finally realized how large the Parc d'Exposition Villepinte really is. The Eurosatory only occupied a small part, but it took me two days to see everything.

Almost everything related to ground forces was shown (95% final products, very few components).

I was deeply impressed by some sensor technology (scary stuff, especially the radars).

Mortar technology was almost absent. Most displayed vehicles were protected ones (very few MBTs).

I saw few novelties from the ammunition department. Killer drones are called "loitering munitions" today, but were rather rare as well.

The small arms novelties excited some people, but I didn't see any real advances. FNH is calling its P90 a submachine gun now, not PDW. Several FNH weapons had no comfortable resting position for the index finger on the trigger guard - poor ergonomics in my opinion.

Some small arms had terrible safety positioning. I wonder how soldiers shall use the safety in winter.

It was funny to experience how a sales representative excused a malfunction of his equipment (a switch was stuck) with "intense use" during five days in an exhibition in a warm, dry, friendly booth with a carpet.

Many anti-tank weapons (especially the unguided ones) were on display. Electronic aiming aids were proudly presented in several booths.
Ten years ago I assumed that fuel-air explosives / thermobaric weapons and flechettes would become the next target of anti-weapon activists and journalists. Well, it seems as if those rather agreed to focus on bomblets/DPICM instead (as they're finished with AP mines). That might be due to the low level of available information, few companies talk about such warheads. "Thermobaric" and "fuel-air explosives", that's "Russian", as I was told. We in the west produce "enhanced blast" warheads. Ahh...

The Metalstorm under-barrel grenade launcher doesn't look as crazy as many people believe. The cartridges were loadable in a normal way, just up to three in a row as if it was a tubular magazine. They expect to demonstrate the weapon with live firing this or next year, that will be interesting.

Milkor's famed OEG sight for 40mm grenade launchers is supposed to trick the brain somehow, but failed entirely to do so on me. I cannot aim at all with that sight.
That's not the first time that something optics-related fails to work for me, though. My brain seems to almost completely ignore my left eye even though it's as good as the right one.

Some companies promoted electronics-centric NCW concepts, one of these was Elbit. This was just another hint that the Israelis really, really took the NCW / RMA concepts seriously. Their defense industry seems to be more eager on it than the IDF itself, but there's more than just a rumour around that the 2006 Lebanon war disappointments were related to too much faith in technology.

A BAe representative confirmed one assumption that I have had and expressed since a long time.
It takes two to three minutes to turn around a M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer beyond its small traverse. This prevents a good responsiveness all-round. Assertions of airborne guys about their ability to secure an airfield for air-deployable reinforcements are not credible for this reason. The M777 is a 39 calibre barrel length gun (already out-ranged by 52 cal guns) and it needs eight guns minimum for a 360° coverage at response times of less than two minutes.
Sure, such equipment proves itself against Taleban and its users seem to like it. But did these users encounter any counter-artillery-capable opponents in the past 63 years? No.

The wealth of international defense-related publications that I saw at the exhibition came a bit as a surprise to me.
Several of those publications were of rather limited quality (mistakes, critical omissions, direct linking of articles and advertisements), though.

The exhibition was closed to the public. That had the nice effect of very few bullshit marketing messages.
Most representatives were reasonably well-informed (but some companies had their experts leave before the final day of the exhibition). Some became pretty curious due to intense questioning with background knowledge (one would assume that in an experts-only exhibition all visitors have a good background knowledge).

Btw, the French serve melted butter instead of tomato sauce to steak and frites...but the steak was great.

Sven Ortmann

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sven,

    A few interesting observations you have, besides the melted butter instead of tomato sauce on les frites (prefer Mayonnaise myself - hope I didn't horrify any non-French readers here). First off, yes, when a safety or other component of a small arm is a little less than reliable (and at an exhibition no less), it tends to create a sense of unease, even disquiet, amongst current or former triggerpullers. A showman explaining away such a malfunction as merely being the result of heavy usage over the course of a few days does not assuage the triggerpuller's growing doubts.

    Secondly, it was similarly a little unsettling to learn of the M-777's traverse and laying limitations, not to mention the necesity of having a full Battery of not less than 8 guns to achieve full 6400-mil coverage. Granted, I am not a Gunner, and the M-777 is a fairly new piece; hitherto my personal doubts about equipping Light Forces with 155 mm artillery had centered around the difficulties of supplying sufficient munitions for such large pieces; perhaps not a problem for the most part in Low-Intensity operations, but a rather different case as one goes up the ladder of intensity of conflict.

    Needless to say, it had seemed to me that the trend towards replacing 105 mm with 155 mm guns in Light Forces was perhaps misconceived; now, little doubt remains. Of course, that depends upon whether it is proper that Light Forces should be employed only operations of short duration or in sustained operations in anything other than very restricted environments, or that Light Forces are genuinely capable of sustained operations in many or even most environments. Given the difference in capabilities between say, a U.S. Light Infantry Division on the one hand, and a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade on the other, I would rather argue that a "Medium" Formation, even of a nominally lower echelon, would probably be much better suited for such sustained operations than a "Light" Formation, even of a nominally higher echelon. Leave the 155's to the Marines and Heavy - Armoured/Mechanized - Forces; let the Light/Airborne Forces keep their 105's and avoid sustained operations in anything other than the most restrictive environments (Mountains, Swamps, Deep Forest, the Arctic, etc.)

    Some good observations Sven.

    Best,

    Norfolk

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