2009/02/28

Ammunition reserves

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One of the greatest doubts about our readiness for war are probably still the stocks of ammunition.

Rumours tell that the artillery of some NATO countries has only enough shells in storage for a few hours of sustained artillery fire, that modern air-to-air missiles are in relatively short supply (about twice the normal fighter's load, which isn't very much if we consider that these missiles don't hit very often in combat).
Missiles are also in short supply in navies. Guided weapons (especially anti-radar) missile) stocks became almost exhausted during the relatively small 1991 and 1999 wars. Japan experienced a major scandal in the early 80's when its low ammunition stocks were published - it was only prepared for a few days of fighting.

Ammunition shortages in times of war are no new problems; Germany entered both World Wars with insufficient ammunition stocks. The artillery failed to support the infantry properly in France 1914 due to quickly rationed ammunition and Germany used the pause of fighting from October 1939 to March 1940 to increase its ammunition levels to war-ready levels.

Small arms ammunition supply became a problem during the last Iraq war when the USA realized that its production capability wasn't able to keep up with the expenditures.

Wartime production might not happen at all in much of Europe if we ever had a major war of necessity here - cruise missiles could easily take out our few ammunition production facilities. It might take up to a year to equip additional production lines.

Add to this the vulnerability of ammunition bunkers; the pinpoint accuracy of cruise missiles with bunker-busting warheads turned hardened ammunition stores (well, their entry/exit points) into highly vulnerable targets since the 1980's.


Ammunition stocks are an important, but quite invisible criterion or war readiness. Unfriendly powers can learn about our ammunition stocks with their intelligence, so we should place the due emphasis on having respectable stocks - as an element of our military deterrence strategy.
Lots of ammunition also tends to improve training quality - limited storage life of ammunition means that we expend them anyway.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/27

A moment of uncertainty about RMA

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One concept for future warfare was especially fashionable in about 1991-2004:
The idea of precision standoff firepower application, supported by fantastic sensors.
This firepower was seen as an almost universal problem-solver by some, and as a sharpened tool in the inventory of tools by others.
"Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA) became the title for this school of thought.

There's much that could be told and even still be discussed about RMA, I want to focus on one aspect because it keeps irritating me: The "standoff" element.

Maybe - just maybe - this wasn't so much exaggerated as it looked in the meantime.

Military history has some trends, and one of these trends with a thread that spans centuries is the move away from close combat to ranged - standoff - combat.

It began with the Neanderthalers, which were according to modern scientists not able to throw a spear, while Homo Sapiens Sapiens was able to do so (still is) - this is the core of one of the possible explanations why we're still here and they apparently not.

Another example is naval warfare of the 16th century; both the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the Spanish Armada's English channel battle 1588 were more coined by standoff gunfire (as opposed to boarding actions) than ever before.
The dominance of gun firepower over ramming and boarding tactics continued to grow (despite a 19th century revival of ramming) till the Battle of Tsushima 1905 where long-range gunfire was finally dominant and used very much like in its final late WW2 form.

Fighter aircraft moved from close-in combat to primarily medium-range combat from the late 50's to the early 90's.

Ground forces experienced a similar trend.

The horse cavalry experienced a slow decline of its shock value. This began roughly in the Battle of Crécy 1346. It lasted with ups and downs till the first successful breech loading rifle eliminated the viability of horse cavalry as shock arm in the mid-19th century. It did so among modern armies almost entirely (only troops with poor cohesion, morale and training kept failing when confronted with a decent horse cavalry charge).

The move of infantry tactics away from bayonet charges to pure firepower took decades - mid-19th century till early First World War was the most important period for this.

Artillery gave up direct fire in the First World War and delegated the little direct fire to anti-tank specialists, infantry-manned light guns and tanks. Indirect fire - previously only important in sieges - was developed in the early 20th century and adopted as standard tactic in late 1914. The artillery ranges grew to many multiples of eyesight range.


These trends point all into one direction; more standoff, less close combat.

It seems logical that increased capabilities (more range) adds to the relevance of standoff combat, but will standoff combat be preferable to close-range combat all the time in the future? Maybe even in cases where we still use/prefer rather close-in combat today?

This makes me wonder; could it be that I'm (too) conservative? (For once and just on this topic!)
I prefer warships with at least one 76mm gun (better 100-127mm) over warships with less or no gun armament.
I distrust medium range air combat and assume that short range air combat is possibly much less, but probably much more relevant (depends on circumstances).
I consider tanks on a battlefield still as vehicles with an emphasis on mobility (equal to firepower and protection), and expect that tank assaults can still accomplish difficult offensive missions in a combined arms tactic.

Maybe - just maybe - those who distrust the new sensors (some are really terrifying, especially some radars!) and precision firepower munitions are wrong? Maybe they're -we're- too conservative?

Maybe we're not and RMA toys are really just a slightly sharpened version of old and already well-understood tools?

Maybe such trends are reversible (some technological indications for this suspicion exist)?


We didn't have a really high-end war since generations; no first rate power vs. first rate power conflict across all three dimensions - air, sea, land.
How can we know for sure? Peacetime experiments - as useful as they are - rarely proved to be accurate prediction tools in the past.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/26

Afghanistan nightmare scenario nonsense

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It began recently and now appears almost everywhere; talk about what would happen if we leave Afghanistan or reduce our presence there to a much smaller size.

This is also being discussed on blogs and groups with an aura of competence.
Their assumption/assertion usually sounds like this:

The Afghan army and police would be slaughtered in one to three weeks.

Well, I lose all respect for those who spew out such nonsense.

Even a cursory look at Afghanistan shows that massacres of such a scale aren't actually the way how it would work there.
Maybe the Afghan army and police would be lost, but that would look much different, and those commentators should know it:
The Afghan forces would either disintegrate entirely and become civilians again or they would defect to warlords or they would defect to Taliban.
The Taliban would most likely not (need to) 'slaughter', 'massacre' the Afghan state's forces.

The other problem is related to the asserted duration.
It looks as if such assertions were more designed for political effect than for an accurate picture of reality.
The predictions about how quickly regimes would collapse are rarely accurate, and it took years instead of weeks in comparable cases (post-Soviet Afghanistan, South Vietnam).


I personally assume that the civil war would simply go on if we left.
Taliban vs. warlords vs. warlords vs. mayor of Kabul vs. Taliban.
That might last anything between months and decades, but certainly more than just a few months if we withdrew in late autumn.

This "genocide would happen and our enemies would triumph" line is plain propaganda in my opinion, and it prevents a rational assessment of our policy.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/25

The extent of the economical problem - because some don't get it

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This is no text for reading pleasure, it's rather meant to break mislead attitudes and beliefs. It won't be comfortable, especially not for U.S. American (or British) readers.
It's certainly a poor tactical decision of mine considering how many new readers I've gained recently. Well, this blog sometimes addresses the harsh sides of life.

I will inevitably make some readers think "anti-American", "he hates America" and other nonsense.
Seriously, free your mind first and let the numbers have their due effect. Feel free to check the sources, too.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sometimes it feels like (military-interested) U.S.Americans don't understand the (inter)national scope of the economic problems.
Old recipes (more consumption, cheap money) are still getting promoted, and the economic illness is often considered to be merely a problem of incompetent management or companies.

Bad news: The whole U.S.American economy was crap for many years - not just Wall Street.

Let's take the 2008 figures:

CIA World Factbook:
GDP:
$14.58 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.2%
industry: 19.6%
services: 79.2% (2008 est.)

$14.58 trillion times (19.6%+1.2%) means an
industrial & agricultural production of $3.03264 trillion

U.S.Bureau of Economic Analysis
(= U.S. Department of Commerce):

U.S. trade balance 2008 = $ -0.677099 trillion
(goods about -0.821, services about +0.144)

Total services export in 2008 was $ 0.551 trillion - you cannot double that quickly. There's no demand for such an expansion in the world. It's obvious that the U.S. can't balance this trade deficit with an expansion of services exports.

Exchange rate changes won't help at the necessary scale as well - one becomes always more expensive when exchange rates change; either export or imports. The crisis is global anyway - the countries can't simply pull each other out of the mess.

It's about goods; industrial products mostly (the U.S. won't be able to export an additional several hundred billion $ worth of raw materials or agricultural goods).

The industrial output is the key here.

Now let's look at the figures again; the deficit of 2008 was about 22.33 % as large as the U.S. industrial & agricultural production of 2008.

Well, it doesn't look like the U.S. industry will soon begin to expand much (albeit it will recover from the ongoing crash somehow, sometime).

Now let's look at the dimension of the problem:

The population of the USA PRODUCED ABOUT 18.25 % LESS GOODS THAN IT CONSUMED AND INVESTED in 2008.
(consumption + investment = production of 3.3264 trillion plus net import of 0.677099 trillion (and I used trade balance instead of goods trade balance - minimally less accurate, but more meaningful). 0.677099 trillion / 3.709739 trillion = .182519. I also kept the marginal carry over effects out; this is no dissertation.)

I didn't cherry-pick the sources; both are official U.S. sources (selected for convenient access for the readers). Go and check the links if you don't believe me.
It's not anti-American spin - it's official U.S. statistics (and pre-2008 statistics didn't look much different).

There's simply not enough national income to afford private consumption, public consumption and investment at the old (or even desired) levels. A compromise is necessary.

You cannot reduce the consumption of raw materials and half-finished products much without a further reduction of industrial output.
You cannot easily reduce public consumption of industrial goods for infrastructure purposes (most of them weren't imported anyway).
You cannot reduce recapitalization in the economy (that would strangle the industrial output in the medium and long term).
You CAN reduce private consumption and some public consumption, though.

In the end, we're likely talking about a reduction of about ONE FIFTH in consumption - unless an industrial miracle happens (massive expansion of U.S. industrial output) and/or a world trade miracle happens (which would be necessary to sustain the trade deficit for more than at most a few more years).

"Stimulus packages" won't help much (if at all). They can AT BEST reduce the loss of industrial output. There's not even talk about raising it beyond 2007 levels with stimulus policy.

***U.S.American readers only***
Imagine this: You can expect to buy one seventh to a quarter less in stores in 2015 than in 2007.
Something feels wrong? You're right, the U.S. economy of the past was wrong, very wrong. To borrow isn't the same as to earn - it never was.
***done***

Meanwhile, I still see discussions about how many expensive warships to buy, how many expensive fighters to buy and similar military expenses.

I have bad news for the U.S.Americans: You cannot afford it. You weren't able to afford your military/lifestyle for many, many years.

Do you want to reduce private consumption by even more than a fifth in favor of stable or rising government consumption (military spending is consumption in macro-economical terms, no matter what right-wing nuts might tell you about its economical effects)?
No? Then don't spend insanely on the military!

The Afghan cavemen and North Korean starving children won't invade you, I guarantee for that! You're allied with many of the major military spenders and military powers of the world - seriously, there's no need for going broke (even more) by spending more on the military than all other countries together!

The "can do" attitude won't help much, at least not until the problem is understood and the worthlessness of many old recipes recognized.


Maybe I should rather cry about this than to be fascinated and amused by pointless discussions - my country is in huge troubles as well due to stupid economic policies (the other extreme; too much export, not enough domestic consumption) and our public didn't get it yet, too.
Well, at least we're creditors, not debtors. That feels a bit better. For now.



I believed that I had covered the issue of economic sustainability of military power well enough in 2007, twice.
The pattern of denial made me wonder - and write again about it. Seriously, such economical matters are relevant for military affairs, much more than most discussions about the military are!

Maybe this text helps some readers to avoid wasting attention and time on future military spending fantasies. We've got real, really important challenges to address.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/24

Jericho sirens

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We had an interesting tool of psychological warfare in the early WW2: Jericho-Trompeten/Jericho sirens.

These were small propellers mounted on Ju 87 dive bomber undercarriages - meant to create a terrible noise when activated in a dive.
The fear effect was tremendous, the sound became a kind of cultural heritage as it's still often being used as sound when aircraft are about to crash (are in a dive) in films.

The fear effect on those being targeted made up a huge part of the Ju 87's effectiveness, just like the accuracy of its dive bomb attacks. It dived to a lower altitude and at a steeper angle (up to 90° - perfectly vertical) than the naval "dive" bombers of the Allies which usually dived at no more than 60° and often missed ships by quite embarrassing distances.
Anyway, I thought about modern-time potential of such acoustic tools for infusing fear into our enemies.
The requirements seem to be like this
- relatively close to the target (less than 2 km)
- a platform that already exposes itself to enemy reconnaissance
- relatively short duration (an attack - no Waco siege)
- unexpected action

Close air support aircraft like Su-25 and A-10 might therefore benefit of such a tool.

Another - likely more relevant - possibility would be to reinforce the psychological impact of a tank battalion's assault with such an acoustic tool (or a company's, this depends on the willingness to concentrate forces).


The effect would be greatest on groups with small or no cohesion and poor or no leadership. Psychological weapons that instill fear have proven especially effective against ill-organized African troops, unmotivated or poorly-led forces in the past.

Such actions and tools don't help much against well-organized, disciplined, well-led troops that were hardened against the effects of combat in training.
It's possible to vaccinate troops against tank panic by issuing anti-tank weapons and by having the troops in trenches being overrun by tanks in training, for example.


Maybe we won't see such tools anytime soon. They're too cheap, no company could make big bucks with this.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/23

High speed rotorcraft / Derschmidt rotor system

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Helicopters have a problem; they're slow.
We wouldn't accept that problem if there wasn't one strength; the ability to take-off and land vertically (VTOL) and to hover.

The practical limit for dominant layout helicopters is 300 km/h, and decades of experiments didn't really change that.

The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor is slightly faster, but its cruise speed is still below 500 km/h and it's extremely complex and expensive. It's pretty much a niche design that cannot beat comparably complex and expensive heavy-lift helicopters in practical transport capability.


The helicopter's problem is an extension of the problem that almost doomed propeller aircraft. The propellers of WW2 aircraft had a small radius, but many revolutions per minute - the tips approached Mach 1 and that caused such great aerodynamic troubles that propellers were and are impractical for aircraft faster than 800km/h.
The V-22's rotors have less revolutions per minute but bigger radius, thus limiting its speed as well - even below 700-800 km/h because of the requirement for good lift at take-off and landing. Today's propeller aircraft aren't much faster than 600 km/h anyway.

The helicopter with its horizontal rotor that tilts only slightly to produce forward thrust has an additional problem; its indicated air speed needs to be added to the relative rotor tip speed because the rotor tip moves forward half of the time.

Some of the proposed solutions for the problem had the rotor turned into vertical (tilt-wing, tilt-rotor, tail-sitter) while others reduced the rotor to a take-off and landing component; the most extreme proposals had pusher propellers and stub wings and had the rotor folded in flight to reduce drag.

All these proposals weren't exactly a good solution to the problem, but VTOL is still considered to be extremely desirable and thus we keep researching for solutions.

There's one quite obvious solution left that gets usually little attention in English-language writings about the subject; a third most obvious approach:

Do the same as with the wings; swept wing geometry solved the Mach problem for wings, and it can theoretically do the same for rotors.

I don't know exactly why we don't simply use sickle-shaped rotors, but there's another approach that lends from another solution used by fighters; variable geometry. Variable geometry wings were very fashionable in the 60's and solved some requirement conflicts for aircraft like the Panavia MRCA Tornado.

The corresponding helicopter rotor design was the Derschmidt rotor.
The Derschmidt rotor system was tested in 1964-1966 in the experimental helicopter Bölkow Bo 46 and this system uses rotor angles of up to +/- 40°.
Estimated speed potential of the Bo 46 was 500 km/h, it was tested with up to 615 km/h in a wind tunnel and total potential with additional thrust and wings was estimated at 700 km/h.
A helicopter with such a rotor system might today have the same speed range as a V-22 due to the forward thrust of the gas turbines and retractable landing gear.

The lesson was pretty much that the technology of the 60's couldn't handle the challenge. Both control and materials challenges were too great.

It's a recurring topic in German aviation literature that today's or future technology might be up to the challenge and create a high-speed helicopter.

The present helicopter research is more oriented towards ongoing military helicopter programs and near-term solutions for Eurocopter's success, though.
The political interest in renewed research seems to be small.

Nevertheless, it deserves some attention next to the usual suspects that are being preferred by the Americans like Piasecki's compound helicopters, tilt-rotors, ABC rotors and alike.


Hat tip to aerokurier 2/2009 and The DEW line blog, who both made me finally write about this topic.


Sven Ortmann

2009/02/22

The motivation bottleneck

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India had the famous Mumbai terror attack a while ago, and one thing annoyed me a big time; journalists and pundits mentioning the 'complex logistics' of such an attack. Many seemed to believe that only a well-organized terror group could stage such an attack.
Such simple things as multiple attacks at once on different targets were hyped up to something really, really challenging.
I'd like to say to them: Come back to earth. Video gamers at the age of ten plan several synchronized attacks on multiple targets with different objectives in a matter of minutes.

I could plan a so-called 'complex' attack in less than an hour, prepare it in a week and train a group for it in another week. Acquiring the armament as city guerrillas would almost be the most difficult and most risky part of such preparations.
The most difficult part would be to recruit and motivate personnel - that's the one thing that cannot be done in a matter of weeks.

It's not that terribly difficult to plan, supply and finance such an attack.
The bottleneck doesn't seem to be planning or resources to me, but motivation.
That's probably difficult to believe for those who view terror groups as full of fanatics who are ready to do anything at a moment's notice. That ain't so. They need months of MENTAL preparation. Suicide bombers aren't being sent on the mission the day after they were recruited - that's a matter of months or even years of preparation. This preparation isn't so much about training, equipment and planning, though - it's about the mental dimension.

Warfare is about will - and will was the decisive scarcity in many historical conflicts. That's why leadership is more important than technology; leadership is about the mental dimension of warfare. Leadership is motivating troops for combat and makes them resilient to the mental pressure of combat.

I bet the intensity of resistance in Iraq wasn't critically limited by a lack of militiamen, weapons, ammunition or opportunities - it was limited by motivation.

We need to pay more attention to the enemy's motivation and must not see him as fanatic radical madman. We can reduce the intensity of warfare by discouraging him and increase it by provoking/encouraging him.

I've discussed such and other attempts to predict or influence enemy behavior (options!) and attempts to influence his willpower and decisions more directly than through violence. Some of the replies were disingenuous; some were discouraged by anecdotes of failure.
So what? Not every artillery shell hits the mark, that doesn't stop the artillery from firing.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/21

"kinetic"

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I commented about the stupid use of buzzwords before.

Buzzwords are usually words that describe something really well - and then get raped by special interest groups or sub-cultures for a new meaning.
The accuracy of the language is the victim, and buzzwords take away depth and detail from discussions, imposing an element of mainstream lens and interpretation.

Buzzwords are plain embarrassing if used in presence of those who know their original meaning.

Two examples; I had once contact to a sub-culture in and around a certain German federal ministry (on of those with a 'lesser' reputation for scientific methods).
Somehow they insisted to use the word "innovation" instead of "dispersion". 95% of the uses of the word "innovation" were ridiculously wrong, but this subculture insisted on this laughable use. "innovation" had become a fashionable buzzword, everything had to be innovative - even if it wasn't innovative at all.
The same crowd insisted on using "efficiency" instead of the correct word "effectiveness". "efficiency" was in fashion, and they used it although almost nothing they did was "efficient", but barely "effective" (at times; it was quite a taxes wasting club).

In 2008 I began getting annoyed by a buzzword of the anglo-American COIN club.
They want the military occupation forces to emphasize non-combat, non-violent means of influencing the population and the insurgents.
They had the choice; they could use combat/non-combat (almost accurate), violent/non-violent (perfectly accurate) or a nonsense buzzword.
They chose the buzzword alternative: "kinetic"/non-kinetic".

"kinetic" makes no sense in this, it's simply the wrong word. "kinetic energy" is one of the energies employed in violence/combat, but not the only one.

Well, the COIN crowd thinks that they're much more intellectual than most of them really are anyway.


I advise against the use of buzzwords. Buzzwords lose their relevance after a phase of being fashionable, they create an initial vocabulary barrier and can alienate people who know the original meaning or despise buzzwords. The clarity and accuracy of a language is very valuable.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/20

Speculation: The KSK and OEF-A

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Germany has had 100 KSK commando troops authorized for the OEF-A (Afghanistan, hunt for AQ and Taliban) mission for several years.

The mission was apparently quite a farce because - as it seems - the KSK only got few raids and combat missions assigned by OEF superiors in the past few years after participating in some early actions in the very first years of OEF-A.

I've experienced more than enough primitive provocations and nation bashing attempts along the lines of "Germans drink only beer in Afghanistan, even their special forces don't fight" in 2008.
Such primitive and ill-informed (as almost everyone is almost non-informed about the quite secretive KSK) comments are always useful as an indicator for the intelligence of their author.


Well, it took me some time to think about the mosaic pieces of the KSK mission in Afghanistan - tiny bits of information that leaked out over the past years - to synthesize a more reasonable speculation on what might have happened.
It's still a mere speculation and wouldn't be good enough for this blog if it hadn't lots of interesting background attached. Maybe you prefer to wait till historians tell us in 2020 what happened you might still be interested in the background (if you're not very familiar with the Bundeswehr's inner workings).



The background begins in the 1930's. Sometime in the 1930's Hitler gained the loyalty of the Reichswehr/Wehrmacht and its quite conservative officers, which culminated in a personal oath on Hitler instead of an oath for the German nation/people/ or on what was left of the constitution.
This loyalty had always some fractures (the most famous one being the June 20, 1944 coup d`état attempt), but the military was a tool for Hitler.

The Western German state got re-armed in the 50's to take over the greatest share of ground combat power responsibility in the Central European guard against Stalin/the Warsaw Pact.
We didn't want an army that would be as fallible as the Reichswehr, though. The tool to prevent such a failure to resist an evil dictator was "Innere Führung" - "inner leadership".

It's a system that emphasizes the soldier as a "Staatsbürger in Uniform", "citizen in uniform".
It's a complex system of rules and teachings, and aimed at an army full of soldiers worthy of a democratic society, ultimately under the primacy of democratic politicians. One example: It's explicitly forbidden to execute an order that's illegal. There's no excuse for committing crimes as a soldier, even if a General had ordered you to do it (the Nazi time soldiers had excused themselves as merely following orders).

That was mosaic piece one: Innere Führung


The next background stems from the 90's.

We had small specialized units inside our paratrooper force during the Cold War; Ranger- and Spetznaz-like airborne commando units with a focus on small raids.
They received some additional training for hostage situations during the early 90's.

We wanted to have some German citizens evacuated during the Rwandan crisis in 1994, but had supposedly no suitable troops at hand, and the Germans were evacuated by Belgian commandos. A greater readiness for improvisation, risk-taking and a greater confidence into our infantry would have enabled us to do the job, but our leadership recognized a deficiency nevertheless.

It was decided to raise the KSK special forces as a regiment-sized force in 1995. Its beginning was quite significantly coined by the evacuation & hostage rescue missions, with several platoons specializing on this.

That was mosaic piece two; the KSK was meant and understood itself as a 'do-gooder' savior force, to rescue German civilians.


I saw a strange political journal report about the KSK sometime like 2005 or 2006; it was about a kind of revolt and dissatisfaction in the KSK. I remember two points especially well:
First, KSK soldiers supposedly commented to the author about despicable attitudes of allied (if I remember correctly: American) special forces. One example used was what they were supposed to do if almost compromised in a hideout by a nearby civilian. A classic situation out of the "Bravo Two Zero" story about the SAS in Iraq 1991 on Scud hunt. They SAS failed to remain hidden because a shepherd boy reported them to Iraqi troops - they had tried to talk to him.
The American solution to this was -according to the article - to silently kill the civilian.
Such an action would be a murder for a German and was completely unacceptable (keep in mind what I wrote about Innere Führung). The KSK has a rather dubious reputation in Germany due to its secrecy and is suspected of not sticking to Innere Führung well enough, but maybe it is much better than its reputation in this regard.

The other memorable part of the story was that the KSK was increasingly oriented towards assassination missions in its training - soldiers who experienced this and were to be deployed to Afghanistan expressed their concern about this through the author of the article.

That was mosaic piece three: The expectations for the KSK in OEF-A might have been illegal and contrary to Bundeswehr tradition/rules.



I mentioned before that the 'beer+cowards' interpretation is pretty obviously too primitive and only a speculation anyway.

No I've got another speculation, one that's as unproven but at least more interesting and fitting well to the leaks:
The OEF-A mission requirements were too "dirty", too "illegal" for the Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr was built up as the shield of a democratic state that insisted on legal constraints and good ethics of its heavily-armed soldiers.
It was and is as such more advanced, more founded on legality and ethics than allied fores, and incorporating lessons that other forces didn't incorporate.
The KSK was probably both competent and willing to fight against AQ and Taliban as done early on in OEF-A, but not willing to deviate from the Bundeswehr's ethics and legal mandate.

Maybe my speculation is correct; I would be pleasantly surprised. The war in Afghanistan is not very important to our security (probably even detrimental to it) and irrelevant to our sovereignty. It's not worth to give up our values for it, and as Jon Stewart said:
"If you don't stick to your values when they're being tested, they're not values; they're hobbies."
He's a comedian, I know. I like his show.

Again; this is just a speculation.
It's a more believable one than the primitive nation bashers' speculation, though.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/19

Universal dillettantes

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Back in the late 90's I attended a meeting with the chief editor of a respected German regional newspaper, the #1 newspaper in that state (not the nation as a whole, probably being in the top 10 or at least top 20 at that time).

There was some useful info about newspaper work, and a discussion later on. The meeting came slowly to its scheduled end, and I decided to risk to crash the party.

I confronted the chief editor with the record of his newspaper during the 1991 Gulf War. I claimed the following:
One third of their info on the war was correct and interesting.
One third of their info on the war was correct, but uninteresting because the ignorant journalist had completely missed the point.
The final third of their info was blatantly false, nonsense.

I also claimed that the record had been like that in all aviation-related issues (my primary interest at that time) for years.

His response was stunning to me; he didn't bother to deny anything.

He said "Such things happen. You need to know that journalists are universal dilettantes."

I recovered from his honesty and suggested to use non-profit external advisers to fact-check articles. There was an aviation museum with a club full of well-informed aviation enthusiasts in town, and an international airport, several aviation-related companies...he was not interested.

My respect for general media had suffered a lot and I have only rated it as topic-giver since then, not trusting them on any details any more.
Sadly, more specialized journals are usually not impartial and independent enough, but dependent on advertisement customers and permissions/invites for interviews, visits and even photo rights.


I recalled the chief editor's remarks when I saw this yesterday:



They even had a Globalhawk picture on the screen for a while...
(Make sure to click on the "this" link above if you don't find the problem!)

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/18

Update: UGV history

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I mentioned the use of remote-controlled tanks in 1940 in my blog entry Unmanned ground vehicles - history and smoke.

Meanwhile, I found some earlier examples - from Japan.
Use in combat: Unknown to me.
They're likely still not the first examples, though.

1937: Type 98 Mini Engineer Vehicle "Ya-I Go"

1930: Major Nagayama's R/C tank.

Additional photos of Nagayama's R/C tank thanks to Taki:



79 years.
A remote-controlled tank ("UGV", unmanned ground vehicle"), probably even armed, in action - 79 years ago.

It's amazing how nuts many bloggers and journalists went about the UGV stories in the past few years - that's the power of U.S. military public relations.
Apparently, nothing happens before they send a press release that they did it.


Munich: New security architecture ?

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We had the annual Munich Security Conference a week ago, and some articles in German newspapers made me wonder: They reported that Mr. Steinmeier (minister for foreign affairs, deputy head of government and next candidate for head of government, Germany) had called for a new security architecture, an area for common security from Vancouver to Vladiwostok (supposedly meant the eastward direction).

The articles mentioned that he followed the lead of Medvedvev (head of state, Russia) and Sarkozy (head of state, France) who had made such calls earlier in 2008.

The actual transcripts of the speeches helped just a little bit to understand:
Steinmeier mentioned
- reduction of nuclear arsenals, if possible to zero
- non-proliferation efforts
- revival of KSE (conventional arms limitations, paused by Russia in response to U.S. policies)
- common security architecture to reduce the danger of regional conflicts
- continue with NATO
He did not emphasize the role of the United Nations.

Sarkozy mentioned
- "relative powers" world instead of "unipolar" world, and therefore need for cooperation
- some distancing from GWB policies
- the enlargement of EU an NATO and how there's no right to join these clubs
- the past Eastern European crisises (gas, Georgia)
- that Russia is too occupied with domestic challenges to become a primary threat
- possible conflict over the Arctic
- Si vis pacem para bellum if you want peace prepare for war (he chose different words, arguing also against isolationism)
- France's defense efforts and that it'll remain a nuclear power
- European defence development effort together with Germany
I don't know who writes speeches for Mr. Sarkozy, but he sounds rather like someone on a blog than like a statesman; frankly.

Ivanov (Deputy head of government, Russia) mentioned
- Russian emphasis on the role of the UN
- Russia wants to ensure the effectiveness of the international legal basis for disarmament and non-proliferation
- follow-up on START I needed
- strategic BMD = tensions and directed against Russia
- "main priority" NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty)
- the need for a global non-proliferation regime regarding ballistic missiles similar to INF
- arms races are not affordable
I wonder why Russia sent only the deputy head of government.

The three transcripts (not necessarily identical to the spoken word) don't show a great, co-ordinated initiative for a new security architecture.
Sarkozy's earlier remarks a(and pretty much all he says) needs to be seen in context of his lack of 'diplomatic' tone and his erratic character anyway.

The good news; it looks as if enough common ground is available for international security cooperation.
It's also noteworthy that Ivanov didn't argue about the enlargement of NATO - which is probably frozen anyway.

Iran was a secondary, tertiary or not noteworthy case for these three Europeans, but a search for "iran" had six hits in Biden's speech (Steinmeier 3, Ivanov 1, Sarkozy 0).

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/17

The "APA" F-35/F-22 debate and the Rumour Control blog

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You may know Dr. Knopp and the Air Power Australia think tank.
They're quite controversial (= not mainstream cheerleaders) in both methods and conclusions. I consider some of their info as interesting and other info as misleading at best. Many others have a much more passionate stance toward APA.

The value of APA lies in the simple fact that they're NOT mainstream, they don't play cheerleader for everything "Western" and don't trash OPFOR equipment all the time (like some webpages that I dislike so much I would never link to them).
Well, they don't cheer all the time at least.

Gregor Ferguson of the quite new Rumour Control blog has written an interesting statement text about APA and their positions, I recommend it for reading.

Unsurprisingly, I don't agree with him on all his points either, so I'd like to give some comments on that statement as well. You can assume my preliminary agreement with everything in that text that I don't mention here.
Keep in mind; I'm no total expert on the area, just somewhat informed and interested.

In any case, improved seeker heads on air-air missiles can offset platform advantage, and so can a well-integrated weapon system. The crucial ability to engage or disengage at will has become increasingly a function of missile seeker and kinetic performance.

This is very noteworthy and interesting. It fits well to some fighter design literature on my shelf (I recommend "Fundamentals of Fighter Design" by Ray Whitford as an introduction for laymen). The paradigm change away from the fighter's fuselage to its SRAAM armament and WVR (within visual range) fire control began in the 70's (I mentioned the AIM-95 Agile before) and happened in the 80's with the MiG-29/S-27 and their IRST/Helmet visor/R-73 missile combination. Israel catched up quickly with Python4, NATO later with AIM-9X and IRIS-T.
This paradigm change means that - given parity in these relatively affordable and easy to integrate components - the difference in WVR air combat performance is probably small no matter which fighter is being used. It's a bit more complicated, though - more about that later.

[...] that Within Visual Range (WVR) air combat was to be avoided, if at all possible, because the speed, agility and seeker head capabilities of modern WVR missiles meant there was no escape from them: a dog fight between two fighters equipped with modern WVR missiles would become the proverbial knife fight in a telephone booth – mutual death was virtually guaranteed.

A strong threat provokes an effective countermeasure. Short-range air target missiles tend to use passive infrared guidance - and are therefore susceptible to IR countermeasures. The old flares and IRCM (Infra-red counter measure) dazzling systems are likely already countered by modern seekers, but DIRCM (directed IRCM; dazzling laser) promises to be more effective. It might even be added in pod form like ECM radar jamming pods and might thus be easily integrated into older fighters.
DIRCM is a soft-kill defence, but hard kill defences might also be feasible.
In short; it's likely much easier to launch missiles at each other than it ever was, but I don't believe that this needs to mean a very high lethality of such an action.
An attack on an opponent without proper countermeasures would be a simple thing, though - as always.

Did I mention that the internal fuel capacity of an F-35A is roughly the same as the combined internal and external fuel capacity of a Flanker? And that a Flanker carrying nine tonnes of fuel is extremely g-limited?

This is the weakest part of his text. The Flanker pilots rarely use any external fuel tanks, if at all. I've yet to see any indication of external Flanker fuel tanks.
About the g limit; let's lazily quote Wikipedia:
"In an overload configuration for maximum range, it can carry 9,400 kg (20,700 lb) of internal fuel, although its maneuverability with that load is limited, and normal load is 5,270 kg (11,620 lb)."


About the F-35 Lightning II:
I doubt that the STOVL version is worth the cost and trouble, and I'd prefer a program that tells the public clearly about the performance. The F-35 is a quite secretive project - the real performance indicators are hidden in the avionics, while the public gets little more than basic flight performance and visual information.
Well, it's at least not my tax money that's at stake.

About APA:
One of the interesting texts of APA was the one about counter-ISR technologies (mostly Russian). Their F-22 and F-35-related texts are rather questionable.
I disagree on their championing of the expensive F-22 - mostly for the reasons mentioned by Mr. Ferguson. Australia is not Japan, there's no big bad boy nearby - and the F-22 is simply not cheap enough for large quantity purchases.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/16

Possible future Arctic conflicts

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The Arctic becomes more accessible and therefore more valuable as the ice melts.
The famous North-West passage could become a regular sea lane for trade.
Claims for arctic possessions and the right to exploit natural riches of the arctic might cause future conflicts, requiring some attention by government agencies like Coast Guards and diplomats.

I don't expect all-out wars in the arctic (it's still a stupid place to fight), but some violence might happen.

An example for violence below the threshold of war, even between allied nations, have been the Cod Wars.

Iceland and the UK were in dispute about fishing rights, and some violence happened between offshore patrol vessels, frigates and fishing boats - without a single shot being fired. Ramming and destroying fishing nets were the tactics of choice.

Interestingly, the UK with its powerful Royal Navy did not really 'win' any of the three Cod Wars. They were some of those conflicts 'on small flame' where being the more powerful participant doesn't really help. Political factors were more important than naval power, this should be kept in mind by those allies (at least Norway, Canada, Denmark) who want to prepare for possible future disputes in the arctic.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/15

Hidden ship

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I've written a bit about warship stealth recently.
That's a good opportunity for some eye candy about warship stealth; the impressive camouflage job of a Danish Willemoes class fast attack craft/guided missile boat - camouflaged at a cliff in Norway.

Good job, vikings!

It's been done more than once, of course. Here is another example.

FACs, commerce raiders and submarines are the classic examples of ships with exceptional emphasis on hiding skills.

Sven Ortmann

An old "Navy of the future" fantasy of mine

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I had an idea for future naval fleets in the 90's, back when I was still a fan of high-tech.

It looked a lot like the stealth ship and network-centric-warfare stuff that I criticize sometimes. Maybe it's still interesting to you, as some elements of it aren't so distant from current naval technology trends.

The main offensive element of the fleet idea were small aircraft carriers, with small radar & acoustic signature and each about 20-40 aircraft. It would probably look much like an enlarged Sea Shadow, just with a flight deck (and ramp).
The aircraft would either be a combat aircraft type (like F-35) or a support aircraft type (like CSA, but stealthy) - no mix to minimize the ground crew and tool requirements. This CVL would be very stealthy (in radar and acoustics), having even a partial roof over the flight deck. Both aircraft need to be low-observable in the radar spectrum in order to not compromise the CVLs during take-off and landing.

The combat aircraft were meant as the mainstay of offensive anti-ship, offensive anti-air and land attack capability in the fleet.
The support aircraft were meant as support for the combat aircraft and as primary sensor platform for surface and air objects.

The other main element were conventional submarines, which would be much of the time at snorkel depth to participate in the radio data-link network. They would form an all-round screen around the surface ships.
The designation might be SSGK (submarine hunter-killer, guided missile). These submarines were meant to be the mainstay of anti-submarine, defensive anti-ship and defensive anti-air combat.
The latter mission would require many vertical launch silos for a launch of anti-air missiles (at snorkel depth).
This would be possible using the target information of the support aircraft AEW version and the new generation of missiles with imaging infrared or active radar seeker (like Aster). Such a combination would usually not need the large surface ship search&track radars and illumination radars as we know them. The snorkels would not compromise the submarine because of many thousands of tiny decoys on the water surface and because of usually safe distances to enemy airborne radars.
The desired effect of these SSGK was the addition of a lot of depth for air defense in addition to normal SSK missions.

The third combat ship type would be surface ships - multi-role frigates (FFG) as we know them. These frigates would merely be back-ups to aircraft and submarines, and focus on defensive anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine missions. These ships would also add some helicopters into the mix, with a monopoly on search & rescue (SAR) and liaison missions. Furthermore, they could deploy underwater drones, mostly against mines. They would hide most of the time (no radar/active sonar emissions, minimum radio comm), using radar and acoustic stealth.

The final element would be many small boats (launched and recovered by CVL and FFG). My inspiration for these were the remotely-operated boats of German minesweepers of the TROIKA Plus system.
These small boats would act as magnetic/acoustic/radar/infrared decoys, jam missiles, launch decoys and use close-in weapon systems to add depth to the anti-missile defense with CIWS.

I also wanted to cramp some object identification drones somewhere, but I don't remember whether I thought of the FFG (for surface drones) or of the CVL (for aerial drones) as motherships. Such a stand-off defense concept requires some forward-deployed imaging sensors for object identification. We don't want to mistake an airliner for a combat aircraft or friendly aircraft for OPFOR aircraft!

Dedicated land-attack ships (akin to Arsenal Ship or Striker), stealthy supply/other support ships and finally amphibious warfare ships (LSD- or LST-category for a battalion, with a little helicopter capability) would be added if necessary. LSDs (landing ship dock) are also great motherships for mine counter warfare purposes.


I distrust such technophile concepts today, and even more so do I distrust concepts that require many swarming drones or boats with radio comm dependency. It would be possible to use a moving barrage of expendable, rocket-launched jammers to defeat such swarms and to close in for the destruction of the motherships.

I consider sea-based air power as almost entirely irrelevant for Europe's defence anyway. Europe needs not much more than coastal defence capabilities for its naval defence. Some sea control capability to secure the sea lanes with an intercepting line of defence in addition to merchantmen-turned-escorts-with-containers and an offensive campaign against opposing harbors (and their vicinity) would be enough.

Well, maybe such a high-tech future fleet like I imagined it in the 90's would be useful in the interception role.

The most interesting part (I'm still a fan of this particular component and the CSA) is in my opinion the decoy boat. A swarm of such boats would add great depth to close-in defenses, deception and jamming for fleet protection - and could be carried by relatively normal warships if small enough. Larger versions would still be easily deployable by LSDs/LSTs.

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/14

Fact check: Military hardware novelty

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I refer sometimes to military history, and how old some seemingly modern technologies (or their roots) are in fact. That helps to vaccinate against the belief in wonder weapons.

Let's look back for almost 35 years.
Something that old can't be new - obviously.

Jane's Weapon Systems 1976, Seventh year of issue, edited by Ronald T Pretty.
A big, big reference book in the typical Jane's Information Group style. Similar books of other series (Weapon Systems was split up into several series in the 80's) cost almost a thousand dollars - for bi-annual books.

Let's begin with some military equipment mentioned in the 1976 book:



AIM-95 "Agile" Air-to-Air missile

"thrust-vector controlled", "with a greater seeker tracking angle than current weapons" - the hallmarks of modern Western short range air-to-air missiles since the West became aware that the Russian R-73 missile (used by Eastern German MiG-29) had these extremely valuable traits.
The program was canceled because it was parallel to another program - in hope to complete a joint program. This didn't happen, it took more than two decades till the USAF and USN finally had the AIM-9X with these two revolutionary technologies.
AIM-9X new? Yes. Its concept is old, very old, though.



Shorts Skyspy surveillance drone

Doesn't it look modern? Colorize the photo and you could use it in a modern 'wonder UAV' brochure.
Jane's even mentioned "faint radar echo", "very low noise levels", "weak IR signature" and "very small visual silhouette" - here we have it: It's a "stealth" drone!




"Composite picture of Ryan drones for target, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, Elint and Sigint, and other missions"

Drones were feasible since early 20th century, and in intense use since the early Cold War. Their breakthrough occurred in Israel, which has usually fair weather - and the later breakthrough to prominence came due to zero-loss-tolerance and ancient air defences faced after the 1991 war. Satellite communications and improved/miniaturized avionics are only the icing of the cake.
UAVs - old news. The picture shows Ryan drones of the 70's.



Ryan model 234 (BGM-34A/B) Ground Attack Drones

Predators using Hellfire missiles were sold to the public as revolutionary in the past few years. Well, pretty much the same stuff was feasible and done in the early 70's - and even published. Maverick, Shrike, HOBO, laser guided bombs - many munitions were tested, and with success.
Drones with guided missiles - new? Not really. It's just not a good enough idea to make a breakthrough until recently.



120mm rifled mortar MO-120-RT-61

This is one of the heaviest, more complex and most effective mortars of the Western world. A French product, recently bought by the USMC - decades after its appearance, and scoring well with its accuracy with spin-stabilized shells.
Other modern mortars still don't exceed the performance of this one, the development focuses on better munitions and mountings. The U.S. public relations people sold it as great new technology to the public, of course. They don't buy weapons whose core is 30+ years old, of course. ;-)




ZB 298 Short-range ground surveillance radar

Again, colorize this photo and you could use it in a brochure for a modern battlefield surveillance radar. It was a X-band pulsed doppler radar with 10 km range. It was able to tell the difference between moving vehicles, persons and trees. The first prototype was completed in 1966. Info output was acoustic instead of (as today) visual, though.



HWR-2 Radar Warning Receiver

OK, I mentioned battlefield radars - now the counterpart. Imagine one of those typical "soldier of the future" graphics, with a guy (or puppet) laden with lots of gadgets. Would you consider a radar warning receiver (RWR, standard component of military aircraft and ships) as to be out of place?
I wouldn't. But yet, the technology (originally used in the early 1940's) had reached feasibility (and service) in the infantry in the early 70's (at the latest). It's one of the less visible army tools, you won't learn as easily about it as about assault rifles, for example. These antennas (modern examples are not very different) are not sexy enough.



APS-94D Sideways Looking Radar

This was a sideways-looking airborne radar (SLAR), with both mapping (like modern synthetic aperture radar - SAR - modes) and ground-moving target indication (GMTI).
This has been a hot, state-of-the-art technology since the late 1980's when the French Orchidée and the U.S. American J-STARS system (which got more press than the French one, of course) pushed it more into public aviation awareness.



PAP-104 Mine Disposal Weapon

A re-usable remote-controlled underwater vehicle (drone), with TV camera and a bomb to drop nearby a previously detected mine. Such drones are still being used for mine-hunting, all you would need to do to use this photo in a modern brochure is again to colorize it. I've seen a German journal boasting about German top modern mine-hunting equipment like this a few months ago - but again, modern equipment is merely a refined version of 30+ years old hardware.



Ferranti Laser Target Marker and Ranger

Portable, quite compact, 10 km range, target designation and range-finding in one package - I wonder what they've done with this technology all the time if they were already at such a performance in the mid-70's, a few years after invention of laser guidance. They surely didn't improve it by much.

It's useful to look at military history - including military technology history.
Imagine the journalists would look at (or even remember) such old stuff, and check whether 'new' hardware is really all that new as advertised. The military-industrial-political complex might have a hard time convincing us to spend so much fortune for their wonder weapons!


Sven Ortmann

2009-02-19 edit:
Check this out; a Popular Mechanics article of April 1960!
Video spy drones, expendable radio jammers, SLAR, battlefield surveillance radar...
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2009/02/13

Predator/Reaper and the Gunships

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The huge emphasis on long duration but extremely slow drones like Predator/Reaper over Iraq and Afghanistan came as a surprise to me (and obviously to many others).

These drones fly in the speed range of First World War biplanes and lack the versatility of more classic counter-insurgency aircraft like Pucara and Bronco.

The advantage of a Predator/Reaper is that no crew is in danger and the ability to patrol over an area for a whole day. The support personnel (including "pilots") sits back in CONUS, that reduces the logistical footprint in the theater, too.

This endurance is a good thing if you're willing to throw around resources to solve a problem. Permanent surveillance and on-station patrols are much more resource-intensive than an aerial escort for convoys and raids, for example.

I don't have as good info about this as I'd like to, but it seems to me as if the usual duration of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan is also too short for quick reaction aircraft of the old kind - a super-slow drone in position is better than a powerful gunship that needs ten or more minutes to arrive if the action was unpredictable and lasts only for few minutes.

Gunships like the AC-130 were the other kind of typical COIN aircraft, focused much more on fire support than on observation and forward air controlling as a Bronco.

Maybe gunships are too slow? Maybe they aren't enduring enough - or require too many resources if used for 24/7 coverage like Predators/Reapers?

Gunships like AC-130 are certainly not economical for Predator-like patrols, but smaller gunship concepts are feasible.
All you need is an aircraft with the desired loiter capability, a lightweight sensor as used in the drones, an autocannon that can fire effectively from a safe (against ManPADS) altitude and some self-defence equipment like missile warning system and flare dispenser (or even a DIRCM).

It would be feasible to build a much smaller, more affordable gunship (as demonstrated in the Helio Stallion) to solve the cost and logistics problem.

It would also be feasible to use turbofan-powered gunships instead of turboprop-powered gunships. That would increase the speed from about 600 km/h to about 800 km/h. Many civilian aircraft (including even small & fast business jets) are available for cheap and could be converted.

Finally, there's the opportunity to use the Bronco as gunship instead of as auxiliary strafing ground attack aircraft. The Bronco production line might be re-opened soon (very late in my opinion - that should have happened in 2002 for Afghanistan). The old Bronco was already used for an experiment with a 20mm Gatling turret under the belly - too much drag at that time.
A lower drag design with a single barrel 30-40mm autocannon that keeps the breech inside the fuselage might turn the very versatile Bronco into a one-size-fits-all solution for COIN air support.

The approach taken by the so far was to buy AC-27J, an aircraft similar to AC-130U, but much cheaper to operate (being practically a half AC-130).

Sven Ortmann

2009/02/12

Warship stealth

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Galrahn at the USNI blog and Burleson at the New Wars blog have questioned the 'stealth' approach to naval surface combatants that has shaped the look of new warships since the early 90's. The polygonal look with much less railings and antennas as well as weapons mostly hidden is a very different look in comparison to 60's, 70's and most 80's designs.

Stealth for naval surface combatants is mostly an affair in the realms of electromagnetic waves (radar), acoustics (against passive sonar) and as I understand it usually also magnetism (to counter magnetic mine and possibly even torpedo fuzes).

Infrared camouflage efforts are almost pointless - published thermal photos of warships at sea show such a stark contrast between the ship and the surroundings that only the use of the (decontamination) shower system seems to be promising (afaik). Such a water spray system has even been used on a CV90-based demonstrator tank as active infra-red camouflage system for a tank, but it's certainly only a temporary camouflage (requiring a timely alert, something that was often missing in past missile vs. ship actions).

The East African pirates are more 'stealthy' than all those easily identified 'stealth' warships which are low-observable at best. They use disguise for stealth instead of low reflexivity. You see them, but you cannot identify them as what they are unless you search their ship. The same principle as used by intelligence services, ninjas, criminals, and most insurgents.

Stealth warships aren't invisible to radar, and could never be invisible to good airborne radars if the latter were looking down at a good angle.
Let's assume that the ship reflects no more electromagnetic energy than the water surface (and even so to all directions), a generous assumption in my opinion.
The ship couldn't move much faster than 5 knots unless it's one of the prototypes for minimum wave effects. Radars can 'see' bow waves easily at long distances - and a bow wave without a ship would be a dead give-away even if the warship is trying to hide among hundreds of civilian ships. 5 knots is often unacceptable (but at least usually very silent).
The next problem is the ability of radars (with high frequencies) to create 3D images of objects. An uninteresting ship like a freighter could easily be pictured like that, but a stealth warship would either prevent it (very suspicious) or be easily recognized as warship on the screen.

I am convinced (for the time being ) that stealth is impossible for naval surface combatants against good aerial radars at good angles. Low observable characteristics are credible, though. A mix of reduced signature, decoys and jamming is useful against the tiny radars in anti-ship missiles, and low observable characteristics make the initial detection tougher at long ranges. LO adds to the challenges for the opposing force, but it's farther away from an invisibility cloak than an infantryman's camouflage clothing.

By the way; 'radar stealth' isn't really that new for navies. Radar absorbing materials (RAM) have been used since the 70's or maybe 60's on masts to reduce problems with the radars mounted on the masts.
Some German submarine snorkels of WW2 were already fitted with radar-absorbing mats and experiments for RAM date back to 1942 at least.


Galrahn pointed out that the shape is too distinctive, supposedly 'stealthy' (surface) warships cannot really avoid identification once they've been detected.
He sees a significant difference between blue water (high seas) and brown water (coastal waters) requirements for stealth. In the littorals you need to look like other ships, the supposed ability to fool radars is only useful against enemy munitions, not so against enemy reconnaissance.


Let's look at modern naval military history for inspiration:

We had stealth warships before.

Pirates, Q ships (anti-submarine traps) and merchant raiders (Germans both WW) disguised themselves as unarmed or marginally armed civilian ships just to drop the disguise when they demanded immediate surrender of their victim or began to sink it right away (if the victim is a capable opponent, as in the case of Q ships and Kormoran vs. HMAS Sydney).

The merchant raiders (Hilfskreuzer, auxiliary cruisers) offered huge internal volume and the ability to morph their outer appearance to many different ships. Some changes to the superstructure, hidden weapons, new paint job and changed name were enough to confuse and make identification very difficult.
The German merchant raider Kormoran was able to fool the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney by pretending it's the Dutch merchantman Straat Malakka till a distance of 1500 m - close enough to make the firefight deadly for both.
A stealth warship would have been identified at 10,000+ m without binoculars.

The shapes of merchantmen could easily be copied by modern warships - it's just a matter of intent or not.
Another possibility would be to have a close look at the container and MEKO technology - and possibly turn merchantmen into warships. Such ships wouldn't be milspec and would fare poorly once hit. Nevertheless, such auxiliary cruisers might still have their niches.

Sven Ortmann

edit :
I'd like to add that we could also take 19th century monitor designs and WW2 German submarine attacks for inspiration and delete most of the freeboard. Such a semi-submersible ship could disguise its turret/superstructure as a very small ship and keep its real size invisible.

2009/02/07

Armoured reconnaissance

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First, I'd like to admit that I'm not really an expert on modern armoured reconnaissance . My expertise is rather on reconnaissance technology, theory and history.

A modern trend in the Bundeswehr (and in some other places) irritates me nevertheless; armoured reconnaissance seems to shift from versatile reconnaissance to observation.
We had some reconnaissance concepts in the past that looked quite a lot like advance guards (WW2 Wehrmacht armoured reconnaissance battalion, U.S. armoured cavalry regiment) - today, it seems to be less about fighting for information than ever before.

The own actions aren't the only ones that count. You need not only to establish a good reconnaissance on your own, but also to counteract the enemy's reconnaissance. This counter-reconnaissance requirement leads to combat-capable recon forces, most notably well-armed recon vehicles. You can't just observe enemy recon vehicles for a few seconds and delegate them to attack helicopters or other forces - you need to ambush them or hunt them down. Experiences from mock battles at the U.S. National Training Center emphasize the need for counter-reconnaissance very much.
You don't simply need reconnaissance information; you need better such info than the opposing force.

Technological trends might be the reasons; especially sensor technology advances and proliferation. Main battle tanks have thermal sights that turn them into good reconnaissance tools - and the fight for information is easily possible for armour.
Long-range aerial radars and other sensor range improvements entice force planners to emphasis observation more than ever before - rightly so.

Observation from a hideout promises also less casualties than daring armoured reconnaissance far ahead of combat units (and even recon battalions fighting small battles to get results).
On the other hand , we're expecting less force density in future conflicts than expected during the Cold War in the Central European area. The sensor capabilities of opposing forces have improved, but the opportunities for infiltration have improved even more due to the reduced force density. We face a greater need to not only observe gaps, but also to keep the gaps clean of enemy reconnaissance assets.

We might have swung the pendulum too much towards observation.

The German 'doctrine' for armoured reconnaissance units doesn't include the fight for information and the counter-reconnaissance fight as core responsibilities at all - such activities are only meant to be the job if reinforcements (like a tank platoon) are attached.
The radar reconnaissance is an important mission (2nd behind Spähaufklärung = recce with stealth emphasis) for such battalions and companies - apparently the single most relevant addition to armoured recon theory in Germany since the 50's.
The 'doctrine' for the armoured company advocates a quite defensive, careful style of short-range recce, without emphasis on the counter-reconnaissance fight.

40's and 50's armoured reconnaissance 'doctrine' was quite the same as today, just without radar sub-units and thermal sights, but with a greater intent and ability to fight for information, to act as a kind of advance guard at times. Weak opposition - like a reduced infantry company defending a valuable hilltop or traffic bottleneck - was to be defeated by concentration of combat power and the use of the armored reconnaissance battalion's own infantry.


Let's have a look at the new German armoured observation (not really scouting) vehicle, the Fennek - and its predecessor Luchs (still in service).
I criticized the weak armament of the Fennek - not satisfying for combat even against outdated reconnaissance AFVs - earlier.

The Fennek concept is optimal for
- hiding
- using the sensor mast while hidden
- using remote sensors (and mini drones) for the observation
- self-defence at close distance
and for scouting along roads it's equipped with a backward-driving camera to escape in dangerous situations.

The Luchs is optimal for
- scouting mostly along roads (and evade backwards at max speed with 2nd driver if in trouble)
- combat with a 20 mm autocannon that defeated all Warsaw Pact light AFV armor
and it offers a good visibility for its crew of four because it's quite high.

The Fennek could be turned into a vehicle that can take on enemy light AFVs at useful distances; that would require a new weapon like the 12.7mm machine gun of the Dutch version.

Modern IFVs are quite capable in the reconnaissance+combat role - the U.S.Army even uses a variant of its IFV for the job. The disadvantages are the treacherous traces and noises of the tracks, but that's a rather modest price for the benefits - less development costs, better equipment standardization and off-road agility.
Yet, to divert IFVs (and/or MBTs) to the recce role weakens the combat battalions - the IFV dismount strength of a modern armour division isn't good anyway, reductions like diversions of IFVs to reconnaissance would hurt the division's ability to take closed terrain very much.


I would propose three-piece ground reconnaissance
1) area and object observation; radar, ElInt (!) and camera surveillance with vehicles like Fennek, but with an armament that's better suited for self-defence against light AFVs (12.7-14.5mm minimum, 20-30mm optimum).
2) combat reconnaissance that inspect/take objects and engage enemy ground recce; on IFVs platoons or mixed MBT/APC platoons. This should not be improvised, but the main mission, with appropriate training and organization.
3) classic road (and limited off-road) reconnaissance along the lines of Luchs (a smaller vehicle, though) and Panhard EBR.

The omission of the reconnaissance fight looks like a capability gap to me. It should be an organic capability and a high priority in the armoured reconnaissance battalions. Neither drones nor new sensor technologies or attack helicopters have replaced the need for ground forces counter-reconnaissance.

S O

2009/02/05

The Luftwaffe's major equipment procurement

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Let's have a look at the German Luftwaffe (air force).

The procurement of major systems by the Luftwaffe is a long story of mediocre decisions in my opinion. "Mediocre" was unusually polite. Let's say "often crappy".

It began with a couple of outdated air defence and aircraft systems in the 50's, as first jump-start equipment. The Luftwaffe was no effective fighting fore in the 50's due to the rapid expansion and lack of experience - the quality of the equipment was less important than the cost, and that was very low.

Let's look at the later decisions:

G.91Y - light fighter bomber, 1960's
This was a useful light fighter-bomber, but clearly inferior to the Skyhawk.
Poor decision, the Luftwaffe missed the opportunity to get one of the greatest fighter-bombers of all time.


F-104G Starfighter - interceptor and fighter-bomber - 1960's
This caused a long-lasting scandal in Germany because hundreds of the Starfighters crashed.
It would have been an excessively poor choice even without a single crash, though. Range, useful payload, short runway capability and agility (except roll rate) were (almost) non-existing. It was a Mach 2 sports plane for test pilots, but crap as military front-line aircraft.
Several superior alternatives were known at the time, among them the Mirage III.
The Mirage III was a good fighter and a capable fighter-bomber well beyond its prime as a fighter.
(It should be noted that our SecDef Strauß considered the Starfighter also as a low level supersonic dash speed nuclear bomber - a role in which over shortest distances it had indeed no equal.)


Noratlas - tactical air transport - 1950's

This (in German service rather short-lived) transport aircraft was no major mishap, but it was no great choice either. The very successful (but larger) C-130 was already available at that time.


Transall C-160 - tactical air transport - 1960's

This was the successor of the Noratlas, again we chose not to buy the (still larger) C-130 Hercules. Again probably not the best choice, but likely OK because domestic aircraft production means a flow of about 40-60% of the funds back to the government's budget by taxes.


HAWK and I-HAWK - surface-to-air missiles - 1960's and 1970's

This is a quite successful and adequate SAM, not perfect but adequate. It was certainly the right choice.


VTOL projects - fighter, fighter-bomber and tactical transport aircraft - 1960's and 1970's

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EWR_VJ_101
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VFW_VAK_191B
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dornier_Do_31
These were very expensive concepts, but probably wrong only in hindsight. We didn't buy any for the Luftwaffe. The fear that our airfields and probably even improvised/reserve airfields on roads might be neutralized by bomb attacks motivated VTOL research. VTOL can add to the aircraft's agility and the designs keep some of their fascination even today - but it was obvious that their internal fuel capacity would be very small. More investment into STOL technologies like RATO, arresting hooks and grass airfield undercarriages & air inlets was probably a better choice even without hindsight.
Maybe the VTOL projects were overengineered.


F-4 Phantom II - fighter, reconnaissance aircraft, heavy fighter-bomber - 1970's

The Luftwaffe sucks at fighter procurement. These were again in part bought to please the U.S. government.
The F-4 Phantom failed pretty much over Vietnam even against outdated subsonic fighters. Both the Sidewinder and even more so the Sparrow missile of the 60's were quite disappointing (the Soviet counterparts were even worse). The dominant form of air combat at that time was the dogfight, which required much better agility - and favored numerical superiority. The F-4 wasn't agile enough to be a good fighter for Central Europe and it required twice the price, fuel, maintenance hours and crew in comparison to single-engine, single-seat fighters.
It was a good fleet defense interceptor and night fighter, acceptable heavy fighter-bomber and debatable reconnaissance aircraft.
The worst: We didn't even buy the Sparrow missile for the Phantom II and initially tried to get a one-seater version, trying to (and in part succeeding in) deleting the two only (mediocre) strengths of the design.
Two alternatives come to my mind; first, the Mirage F.1 was available years before we bought the Phantom II and was a significant dogfight and take-off improvement over the Mirage III.
The other alternative - only for the fighter role and a bit later available - was the heavy high-end fighter Eagle, which was clearly superior.


Alpha Jet - jet trainer and very light fighter-bomber - 1970's

The Hawk is widely acknowledged to be a superior alternative.
The difference wasn't great, though.


Tornado IDS - low altitude interdiction fighter-bomber - 1970's and 1980's

Luckily, we didn't buy the Tornado ADV (fighter), but only the IDS and later the ECR. The ADV wasn't the right choice even for the British (F-14 and F-15 would have been superior), and it would have been a poor fighter over Central Europe.
The IDS version was an OK fighter-bomber with good low level flight characteristics.
It should have been a bit more elaborate, though. An anti-radar missile like Shrike/Alarm/HARM should have been available from day one. The AGM-65 Maverick should have been available as well. A guided bomb like Hobos might have helped as well. The fixation on very low level terrain-following flight seems to have blinded the Luftwaffe in regard to such guided ground attack munitions during the 80's.
We could have bought A-7 Corsair II and A-10 Thunderbolt II instead of Tornado IDS - but that would have been a different concept with a similar cost/benefit ratio.


MIM-104 Patriot - surface-to-air missiles - 1980's

A major improvement over I-Hawk, but with a dangerous weak spot; inferior azimuth coverage. The old Cold War doctrine called for a line of SAM batteries to back up our fighters along Western Germany from south to north, and Patriot was adequate for this job. An expensive domestic development project and the adaption of naval systems (Sea Dart, SM-2MR) were the only alternatives.


Tornado ECR - SEAD and reconnaissance aircraft - 1990's

The Tornado ECR was a decent program as well, although it was a small scandal that crucial equipment was missing during the first years. Again, its guided weapons arsenal is a bit limited; Alarm, Maverick and MALD should play a big role for Tornado ECR.
It would have been a good idea to get the wild weasel capability much earlier (up to two decades earlier!), too.


NH90 - transport helicopter - modern

The NH90 development is mostly unnecessary. Just like we could have bought Apaches in the mid-80's instead of the army's Tiger helicopter program. The alternatives to the NH90 were Super Puma and Black Hawk. I consider the NH90 program more as industrial policy than as a military necessity.
It's a great helicopter and now the best of its kind, but the development costs were not necessary.


Jäger90 / EFA / Eurofighter / Typhoon - fighter and later multi-role aircraft - modern

This project simply lasted for too long. A quarter century is too much time for a project. The 90's peace dividend delayed the project in addition to the normal delays in a multi-national program (like the French leaving it in favor of the Rafale).
The EFA was a great 80's design, would have been the world's best fighter in the 90's - and entered service directly as an aircraft that was not inferior to unfriendly nation's inventories, but way behind the state of the art.
It was turned into a normal multi-role combat aircraft, a fighter-bomber, real quick.
We should begin the next fighter development now. Maybe the Japanese would allow us to participate in their ATD-X program?

I see several possible alternatives; the Eagle (this time the C/D versions), the Hornet, the Fighting Falcon XL (this suffers from its small radar, though) and possibly also the Mirage 4000.
Every of these alternatives could have entered service in the 1980's, the only "cheap" alternative would have been the Fighting Falcon XL - at the same time the weakest beyond visual range (BVR) fighter in the list.


A400M - transport aircraft - modern

We should have joined the An-70T project instead of this mess. See also here.
Furthermore, we should have bought a junior partner instead of following the old one-size-fits-it-all approach: The CN-235 comes to my mind.


My opinion is that the Luftwaffe had a fighter technology weakness since its rebirth in the 1950's. The few Typhoons of today are OK, but only because the challengers are even more dated.
The attack aircraft, transport aircraft and air defence equipment otherwise was mostly adequate.
It's no wonder that some U.S.Americans have the perception that the U.S. and not the Europeans bear the responsibility for air superiority in NATO. The French had always good fighters, but few - and most other European NATO air forces had rather mediocre fighter equipment. The fighter equipment of the USAF wasn't good between the Sabre's prime time in the 50's and the arrival of the F-15 in quantity, though.
Luckily, the MiG-21 was a terrible fighter (and a mediocre interceptor), later reinforced by mediocre MiG23s.

We won't have the luxury to choose the best among several in-production fighter designs in the future - and usually missed such opportunities in the past anyway.

I criticized some U.S. projects like the F-22 (or more accurately: their fans' positions) several times so far. The German air force procurement is in my opinion no better. It just doesn't offer as interesting lessons. Political influence and a failure to appreciate available and superior designs were our problems - not such shiny errors like belief in wonder weapons.

S O

edit 2014: I wouldn't call the NH90 "great" any more, as it has design faults.
I'd also emphasize the ignored option of creating a powerful 70's Luftwaffe with 1,000+ F-5E/F. Their cost effectiveness was astonishing. Their dogfight strength, frugality, efficiency, mission radius and versatility was perfect.