2009/03/31

"UAVs can sustain higher G loads than pilots". Really?

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One of the arguments for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles - and no, I won't convert to UAS!) is that they aren't limited by the human body' ability to withstand high accelerations (being pressed into one direction when turning rapidly).
Untrained humans can sustain an acceleration of up to about 6g till black-out (1g = the strength of gravity).
Trained pilots with normal G suits can sustain 9g and fighters have been designed to exploit this since the early 70's.

One trick to ease high g load turns is to have the body horizontal instead of vertical - the prone position helps a lot. The practical consequence of this discovery is still visible in the sloped seats of the F-16, for example.

Unmanned airframes could be built to fly 12g turns. Even higher accelerations would likely also be possible, but the demands rise extremely, especially with long wingspans. Missiles with minimal wingspans cane fly more than 40g turns.

A fighter UAV that substitutes for a real fighter would probably be limited to 12-15g.

That's where I'd like to throw the Swiss-German development "Libelle" (dragonfly) into the arena: A revolutionary G suit that enables 11-12 g turns instead of 9g turns for manned fighters.
It works with water, unlike normal, pneumatic G suits.


The human body can sustain much higher g loads if surrounded by water (which cannot be compressed much and is the same as most of our body). A cockpit full of water was always impractical, and a full water suit as well - the Libelle suit limits the water to the minimum to achieve a great effect. The limit of pilots with a custom-made Libelle suit is more like 11-12g than 9g. Normal breathing is possible till 10g. Actions that usually become impossible long before the limit of 9g are possible at much higher accelerations (like up to 10g instead of up to 7g) in that suit. That's certainly the main advantage of the suit in today's fighters.

A normal fighter turned into a drone cannot turn at 9g due to structural limits, manned and unmanned aircraft of new design can be flown at up to 11-12g - the drones only rule beyond 12g, not beyond 9g as many people assert.

The utility of maneuvers beyond 12g is questionable, though. High acceleration turns were historically and still are primarily defensive maneuvers (unlike the Top Gun movie nonsense tells us). 12g might be more than enough to dodge modern missiles - which need to withstand even more extreme accelerations than their target does to hit.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/30

Nuclear deterrence: It depends!

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I repeated my doubts about the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence yesterday (and wrote about that previously here, here and here).

Nuclear deterrence worked obviously during the Cold War.
It could have gone very, very wrong - but it ended well.

My hypothesis is that the effect of nuclear weapons in terms of deterrence depends heavily on the circumstances. Let me show you four interesting cases. The underlying assumption is that "we" are rational.

Case a)
Foreign nuclear power:
..Rational
Likely interaction:
..Peaceful co-existence
Example:
..Relations between France and Israel.

Case b)
Foreign nuclear power:
..It's rational, but a "bad guy" (has very much conflicting interests and
..intents).
Likely interaction:
..Opposing each other politically, maybe in conventional war.
Example:
..NATO and Russia
Explanation:
..Nuclear war can be considered as unlikely because too little is at
..stake.

Case c)
Foreign nuclear power:
..Ideological bad guy
Likely interaction:
..Political opposition and proxy wars.
Example:
..NATO and Warsaw Pact
Explanation:
..(Direct) warfare is too risky due to the possibility of nuclear
..holocaust.

Case d)
Foreign nuclear power:
.."Mad" bad guy
Likely interaction:
..Immediate war.
Example:
..Taliban/AQ take-over of Pakistan
Explanation:
..A co-existence (waiting for their first strike) is too risky.
..They must not survive till their first strike, as the deterrence
..effect of nukes on them is highly questionable. The possession
..of nuclear weapons by that foreign power does not deter,
..but provokes war.

- - - - -

The own side is also relevant, of course. The four cases had the underlying assumption that we're rational. Some of "us" are probably rather "rational bad guys".
It seems to me as if the "worse" power dictates the nature of the interaction.


It's also possible to define different deterrence effects based on the variables of second strike ability and first strike side-effects. The Cold War time's concerns about the survivability of national C4 system and nuclear weapons carriers (SSBNs) for a second strike are an evidence for this.

The horror of nuclear weapons isn't that much different from the horror that poison gas caused during the interwar years. It was a usual assumption in the 30's that the next major war in Europe would include the mass gassing of city populations.
That didn't happen at all, poison gas was not used in European combat during WW2. Pandora's box was not opened because everyone feared it too much - as we do today with nuclear weapons. That fear did NOT prevent WW2, though!

The mere existence of nuclear weapons is unlikely to be a reliable deterrent to war. Most people seem to be stuck in the perception of nuclear deterrence that coined the Cold War. The context changed, and so did nuclear deterrence.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: This is again a topic that deserves a full book or dissertation and cannot be covered well in a short blog text.
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2009/03/29

The problem with last minute defence preparations

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We're not fully prepared for inter-state war, NATO's forces are lacking preparation in terms of training, experimentation, equipment and ammunition to fully meet the expectations. I'm usually remorseless in my criticism of such gaps and neglects, but I need to admit that such flaws save money.


The normal attitude towards such flaws is that they'll be fixed when times become less peaceful or when we send our troops on missions. That's believable in some cases, not so much in other cases.
One example; we don't have real preparations for the defence of NATO's Eastern frontier. The easternmost members (like the three Baltic states and Poland) lack the forces to do more than a delaying action (Poland) or lack forces to be considered serious armed nations at all (Baltic states).
The advantage is that few forward-deployed could be overrun, the disadvantage is that even the Russian ministry of the interior has enough (para-)military power to occupy the Baltic NATO member states in a matter of days.
(I'm not really convinced of the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence today as most people are.)

Last minute preparations are usually used as explanation - but are late preparations wise?

I'd like to suggest that last minute preparations - even if militarily and economically feasible are probably political no-go areas.
I see an analogy to the mobilization chain reaction days before the First World War; a huge, last minute increase in war readiness - and it led to war because it heated up the crisis.
Today's politicians would probably prefer peaceful means so much over war that they'd tell the defence establishment to avoid provocative actions.

We might end up sticking to our partial readiness even in times of crisis in order to avoid to fuel the crisis.
Only last minute defence preparations with a clear emphasis on defence (and very low profile preparations) might be politically feasible in a crisis.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: It's a tough challenge to illustrate "readiness". I chose a photo of British fighter pilots waiting for an air attack during the Battle of Britain.
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2009/03/28

Ballistic helmets

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I recently found this graphic about plans for a future (2011) helmet for the Dutch forces.

My first impression: It looks cool.

It's also the most interesting modern helmet design in my opinion (well, combined motorcycle/ballistic helmets are also interesting).

The ear protection:
This is debatable. The protection reduces certainly the hearing quality of the soldier - but hearing is an important sensory capability. Earplugs add to the issue.
It might be interesting to combine active ear protection systems (already in use) that an amplify hearing in relative silence and reduce peak noise (firing, explosions) to protect the hearing. Both together would be great.
To add ballistic protection without consideration for hearing issues is probably neglect.

The face protection:
Veterans have often terrible facial scars - an effective fragmentation protection for the face looks like a good idea and I promoted this idea many years ago. Nevertheless, it's a compromise. Such a module adds a lot of weight (in the front, the night sights add weight as well - a balance problem). It's likely to degrade the sense of smell - sometimes an important sense for an infantryman.
It needs to be detachable as in this Dutch project anyway because of its limiting effect on direct communication (especially communication with civilians).
Facial armour has been in use for thousands of years. The Romans had a semi-flexible solution - one of the most smart solutions in history, but only partial. (They also later had full face masks.)
The neck protection:
This, too, is an old story. The Romans and East Asians used a lot of neck protection in their helmet designs.
I learned during my time in the military a drill for incoming artillery/mortar fire: Down to the ground and protect the neck with my hands. It's counter-intuitive because most are more aware of the consequences of hand injuries than of neck injuries. I, too, liked my hands and was convinced that there should be a better, different protection for my neck than my hands.
Neck protection is partially a job of ballistic vest collars. These collars are also a problem ; they cannot be much larger or else they'd cut into the neck when you look upwards. On the other hand it's difficult to have a helmet-mounted protection for the gap because said part collides with the collar.
The American solution/approach was to cut away a part of the helmet at the back and to add a semi-flexible plate instead. I haven't tested it myself, so I can only assume that it works.
The suspension:
The suspension inside is the most important part of a helmet, and I can tell absolutely nothing about the Dutch helmet's suspension.
I can merely assume that they don't flunk on it.

It took about 90 years from their re-invention in the First World War till today, but now we're back at the degree of helmet protection complexity and maturity that the late Roman Republic had achieved more than 2,000 years ago.
We were slow, but better late than never.

Sven Ortmann

edit 2009-06-08: http://soldiersystems.net/2009/06/08/galea-photos/
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2009/03/27

German government policy statement on security policy

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Chancellor Merkel gave a government policy statement on security policy on 26th, ahead of the NATO summit (60th NATO anniversary) hosted by Germany and France.

I'd like to present some noteworthy contents:

* The Atlantic security partnership (NATO) and European security policy are inextricably linked.

* NATO needs a new strategy (the old one is dated 1999).

* The centre of the alliance (NATO) is solidarity (article 5). She asserted that this requires out-of-area operations nowadays (Afghanistan).

* NATO needs to redefine its relationship with other security-related organizations. NATO isn't on top of them but part of a system of networked security. She used the UN, OSCE, EU and African Union as well as civilian forces of development policy and NGOs as examples.

* The strategic concept of NATO needs to define its limits as well. NATO will not become global (in terms of memberships), albeit its members can act globally. Again, NATO needs to stay focused on collective security.

* Our future security and life in peace will depend on two things: The closeness of cooperation between Europeans and North Americans and whether we can succeed together in the great future topics of global economy, security and environment.

* The war goal for the mission in Afghanistan is that no security threat to member countries of the NATO shall originate from Afghanistan any more. Afghan security forces shall be enabled to care for that on their own.

* Croatia and Albania shall be accepted as NATO members on the summit. She hopes that Macedonia will be able to join soon and that the name issue (with Greece, Greece has a province called "Macedonia") won't be an obstacle forever.

* We shall not allow that "others" (Russia) with their obsolete thinking in terms of influence zones veto that (it remained unclear whether the context includes Ukraine and Georgia).

* She sticks to the long-term goal of the destruction of all WMDs. The path should include steps with inspection mechanisms for all.

The war goal for Afghanistan might be a bit too much on the perfectionism side. It's good to have an official war goal and a desired end-state for the end of the own participation in that war, though. She did not set Afghan democracy or destruction of the drug economy as goals, but stuck to the collective security thought.

Merkel didn't lay out a grand strategy, but called for a NATO grand strategy. Her statement laid out the German security policy for maybe the next 5-10 years.
Her competitor for the job as Chancellor in the summer parliament elections is Mr. Steinmeier, our minister for foreign affairs - it's a quite safe bet that he shares her views on these topics.

The declaration also included some things that I disliked and had a lot of symbolic German-French friendship rhetoric early on. This government (which will likely split in a few months due to elections, but Merkel will probably continue to be Chancellor) would never stop the inefficient symbolic multinational military units (French-German brigade and others).

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/26

Shipborne IR decoys

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I had a giant pizza a few minutes ago and am really, really lazy and tired now.

That's probably why I'll show only some eye candy (shipborne decoy launchers in action) instead of any deep, mind-twisting thoughts.


Other naval infrared photos:



OK, IR decoy systems like MUSS are apparently the reason why most anti-ship missiles use radar instead of IR sensors (Hsiung Feng 2 uses both - photo).
Well, chaff and jammers aren't much more nice to radar-guided missiles either.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/25

Leopard 2 upgrades

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The Leopard 2 MBT was developed in the 1970's and greeted as a formidable combination of firepower (120mm L/44 gun), mobility (27 hp/metric ton) and protection (frontal immunity to contemporary anti-tank weapons).
It had hidden qualities as well, like good all-round vision for the tank commander, a very maintenance-friendly design and durable components.

The Leopard2 became an export success, defeating other MBTs in all competitions when it participated (some potential export customers were ruled out by German arms export restrictions). The large inventory of German Leopard 2 was dispersed in Europe after the Cold War.

The Leopard 2 still needed upgrades to keep pace with the international MBT development, most notably a passive thermal sight in the 1980's and ever improved APFSDS (armour piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot) ammunition.

The post-Cold War upgrades of the 1990's were still focused on the MBT vs. MBT battle; additional turret front spaced armour and a longer, more powerful (120mm L/55) main gun plus smaller changes. Few tanks received an anti-mine package.
Leopard 2A5 - additional front turret armour
Leopard 2A6 - A5 with more powerful gun
Leopard 2A6M - A6 with additional protection against AT mines

As late as 1999 the leading German armour expert Rolf Hilmes wrote a book ("Kampfpanzer: Technologie heute und morgen") with a strong emphasis on main gun kinetic energy and frontal protection (for MBT duels), plus a quiet criticism of the ground pressure of Western MBTs in general.

The times have changed, and we have long since seen export versions (especially Sweden, Greece) of the Leopard2 with much better roof protection and even additional electronics in comparison to the German Leopard 2.
A demonstrator "Leopard 2 PSO" (2006) with a urban warfare kit remained just a demonstrator, just like the "Leopard 2A4 Evolution" (2008) demonstrator that used IBD Deisenroth add-on armour packages.

The most intense combat experience was gained by the Canadians who first used their upgraded Leopard 1C2 and later turned to Leopard 2A6M, modified to Leopard 2A6M CAN.
They actually had to use the tank in combat, and this led to a very typical behaviour: They opened their eyes to see shortcomings and did their best to fix them.

It's common in all armies of all times that many deficiencies remain unscathed in peacetime, but many of them are addressed in a hurry during wartime.

The Canadians decided to include slat armour (a 1960's technology that pre-dates the Leopard2 development!) to protect the sides and rear.
MBTs are typically ill-protected on these surfaces because of a compromise; maximum protection to the frontal surface in a hope to expose only these to enemy tanks.
The time of MBT vs. MBT combat is not now, and thus we're having a questionable protection compromise.

Other technologies like reactive armour could be used as well, but the German Leopard 2 are absent of either.

So what could explain that the Bundeswehr seems to accept the present protection level of the Leopard2A6(M)?

(a) It might be a Bundeswehr failure to react, peacetime inertia.

(b) We might have some kits stored somewhere but fail to "train as you fight" in order to reduce the wear & tear in peacetime training.

(c) We are waiting for an active protection system to improve all-round protection.


It looks as if (c) in the correct answer.

The sad thing about this is that APS were first developed a quarter century ago, and the Leopard 2 (still one of the best if not the best MBT of the world) was inadequately protected and far behind state-of-the-art all the time.
Air, land and sea forces of the NATO need to do a better job at eliminating deficiencies during peacetime instead of betting on their ability to fix shortcomings when a crisis or war emerges.

Sven Ortmann
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P.S.: The main gun ammunition against soft and semi-hardened targets isn't exactly the best possible either. The Israeli APAM multi-purpose round (in 120mm) is extremely promising.

2009/03/24

Acoustic sniper detection systems and their weak spot

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The detection of snipers is a terribly difficult affair and became an art of camouflage, patience, deception, caution and optics during the First World War.

Snipers haven't evolved much since that time - their camouflage got only a little bit better, their optics became much better and the weapons became a bit better. The difference between a good Great War sniper and a modern sniper is negligible at up to 400 m distance, though.
True snipers are rare outside of regular armies. More often it's just some guy who has a scoped rifle and enough self-preservation instinct to use camouflage and withdrawal. Even normal rifles without scopes can be used for sniping - the Finns demonstrated their deadliness in this during 1939/40.

Detecting snipers / sharpshooters / marksmen is an important capability. We ignored that (and sniping in general) in our WW3 planning, but the small wars and expeditions since 1991 re-emphasized the importance of sniping.

Technological aids have been introduced to detect snipers after they had shot for the first time (earlier detection is simply a matter of tactics, intelligence, observation and normal sensors).

The most successful technical principle in use is apparently based on triangulating the sonic boom of rifle bullets. The technology is relatively similar to the artillery sound ranging since about 1916, radio direction finding, radar receiver, sonar receiver and passive radar warning/direction finding.

Several microphones (antennas) sense the acoustic shockwave at different times - a computer can analyze this data to compute the direction, distance, speed and time of the shot.
It's pretty much enough to get a flight profile of the bullet.
This flight profile includes the information about the origin, of course.
The inadequacy of reality limits the accuracy, of course.


Such a system is cheaper and consumes less energy than optical, thermal, ladar or radar sensors. It does not emit like a radar.
It's not focused on the muzzle fire and can thus not be countered by the use of concealment or a suppressor. An acoustic system that relies on the muzzle noise would produce too many false alarms.

There is one remaining weak spot, though: It's very principle.
It depends on the sonic boom of the bullet.
Subsonic bullets don't have that.

The good news for the acoustic sniper detection system user is that subsonic bullets usually suck.

A subsonic 5.56mm bullet would be disappointing even for a pocket pistol.
A subsonic 7.62mm bullet would be adequate for a pocket pistol.
A subsonic special (dense and long) 7.62mm bullet would be adequate for a normal pistol.

Nevertheless, the dependency on the sonic boom may become a problem in the future.

The Russians have developed a family of 9mm weapons using the 9x39 mm calibre with especially heavy bullets. The family included 'assault rifles' and short-range (urban) sniper rifle VSSThese weapons have a surprising capability to penetrate objects and armor (6mm steel at 100 m).

A larger calibre and heavier bullet is the most obvious possibility how to increase performance of a subsonic bullet. Only subsonic bullets are relatively quiet - a suppressor reduces the muzzle noise and eliminates muzzle fire, the bullet itself causes no sonic boom.

The Russians didn't stop at 9x39mm, though. A later step was the 12.7mm "Vychlop" ("Exhaust") rifle. The larger calibre (apparently a special cartridge) allowed for a much heavier and more powerful bullet. 12.7mm is an old Russian calibre for very heavy machine guns.
The astonishing thing about this rifle is its acceptable weight: 7 kg including scope and silencer.
The practical range is likely no more than 300m, though. The bullet is slow and the bullet drop becomes very significant at long ranges. A moving target or a wrong range estimate would cause a miss.

I'm not sure about the exact penetration capability of the 12.7mm subsonic bullet, but level IV vests are likely challenged by such a large bullet - even a subsonic one. The test program for body armour does as far as I know not include tests against very heavy subsonic AP bullets, though.

Sonic boom-based sniper detection systems could be neutralized by the use of subsonic weapons - and dedicated subsonic rifle designs can be quite powerful.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/23

Streetfighter, LCS and the small warship problem

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"Streetfighter

As of mid-2001 the Office of Naval Research was considering construction of a Littoral Combat Ship with a displacement of 500 to 600 tons. The LCS would have a draft of about three meters, an operational range of 4,000 nautical miles, and a maximum speed of 50-60 knots. The cost per ship might be at least $90 million.

The Streetfighter would be a smaller, very fast ship (part of the more general Streetfighter concept), that could compete successfully with the enemy for control of coasts and littoral waters. These ships are envisioned as costing less than 10% as much as current Battle Force ships, while comprising more than 25% of the total number of surface combatants [that is at least 25 but no more than 50 units].

The President of the Naval War College, Admiral Art Cebrowski, and others such as Capt. Wayne P. Hughes, have advocated the deployment of larger numbers of smaller ships to operate in “harm’s way” in littoral waters. Cebrowski and Hughes talk of “tactical instability,” where a navy is unwilling to risk its ships because the fleet is constituted principally of small numbers of expensive ships. They propose “re-balancing the fleet” by supplementing the currently planned large surface combatants with the procurement of smaller ships."
(source Globalsecurity.org)

Well, this intent turned into two prototypes for a LCS that are rather fast frigates and cost hundreds of millions of $.
The Swedes meanwhile built their Visby corvette (photo) - much slower than the Streetfighter concept, but otherwise quite similar. I have a problem with the Streetfighter/LCS speed requirements anyway. Hughes attempted to make the argument for high speed in his book, but didn't convince me.

The question of many smaller and really affordable ships to balance the big ship fleet of the US Navy as well as for naval actions close to shore ("littoral combat", "brown water") is a popular discussion topic.

Most who discuss this don't seem to start at a FAC (fast attack craft) as basis. They're usually unwilling to shed much firepower in comparison to frigates.
The proposals of individuals (usually free of any real calculation of volumes and weights) often end up as mini AEGIS cruisers with the capability of an Álvaro de Bazán class frigate (5,250 ts full) in a corvette-sized hull (usually imagined as 1,500 to 3,000 tons ).

It would be possible to start at proven FAC designs, adding merely some ASW (anti submarine warfare) equipment as used in helicopters - but this approach doesn't seem to be enticing enough.


The basic tactical idea of Cebrowski and his staff was likely to build ships that are not valuable (and thus not capable!) enough to be targeted by a SSK (modern conventional submarine) or an elaborate air attack.
Such ships would get lost in major naval warfare (as is actually absolutely normal, too many people seem to have forgotten about this) without much loss of life - the crew would be small.

The desire to have a powerful ship (even though as small as possible) looks like an almost primitive instinct to me.
Power is actually NOT desirable for such a design.
Power costs money, thus reduces quantity - and turns the ship into a juicy target, probably even ruining instead of bolstering its survivability.

Attackers have to think twice whether they will spend their surprise effect and resources at sinking ships even if they cannot reduce the enemy's offensive potential by doing so.

It's always possible to add some offensive power, to mount better sensors or to add longer-ranged air defense, maybe a helicopter pad ... but the inability to settle with a low power unit inevitably leads to big ships - ships that cannot meet the demand for "many + cheap" units.


I already mentioned the approaches that use a FAC or frigate/destroyer as starting point for morphing a design into a "smaller" combatant to beef big ship-heavy fleets.

I've got a different approach
(the subject really kept me occupied for a while):

I kept my old decoy/CIWS small boat idea and mated it with the screening small ship idea as Cebrowski and Hughes (who btw wrote an interesting book).

My starting point was the German mine-weeping drone of the "Seehund" (seal) class. It's a proven drone that provokes and survives mine hits using acoustic and magnetic simulation equipment. That design weighs in at 100 tons and has no crew (can be manned, though).

This is what I would add:

- a radar jammer
(some missiles can home on the jamming and I would prefer them to home on this boat than on a frigate or larger ship)
about 200 kg

- several decoy launchers like SRBOC
(infra-red and radar decoys, possibly also acoustic decoys against torpedoes)
about 1,000 kg for 18 loaded SRBOC tubes

- a close-in weapon system against missiles, close aircraft and guided glide bombs
(to increase survivability and to exploit CIWS firepower far ahead of the real warship, also self-defence against very small surface targets like speed boats)
about 7,000 kg (if Vulcan Phalanx and a few RAM tubes were combined)

- basic ESM system
(to detect enemy radars and radio communications)
about 500 kg

- towed radar decoys
(really just a rubber dinghy with simple 90° radar reflectors)
about 100 kg

- a dipping sonar as used by helicopters
(to complicate enemy sub operations)
about 500 kg

- a lightweight multi-function radar, possibly one of the Sea Giraffe family
(to complicate enemy air operations and to support aerial surveillance radars)
less than 1,000 kg including mast and console

- an infra-red scanner for air search, this weighs almost nothing but is short-ranged
(to detect radar stealth objects in the air and for air search during radar silence)
about 50 kg

- two 324mm lightweight torpedoes /w tubes
about 800 kg

- 18 kts cruise speed
(in order to cruise with the fleet)
? tons for much stronger propulsion and electrical system

- a two-way datalink, involving satellite communications
(to make good use of all this with remote control)
about 200 kg

- volume & weight for a crew of about 6-12 (incl. emergency equipment)
? tons

The CIWS, cruise speed requirement and crew seem to cause the greatest addition of weight, but it looks as if such a boat could be restricted to 250 tons.

It's a pain in the ass of the enemy because of its scouting and deception capabilities. It's difficult to hit even though it has no strong SAM armament. It's not be part of the fleet's main strike capability.
It's useful, but the enemy would waste time and resources on its destruction. The purpose of defensive power of a fleet - buying time for the offensive power to do its job - seems to be served if the enemy attacks such small warships.
The enemy might choose to evade it - in that case it would aid the friendly defense by adding depth / early warning.
A nice dilemma.

A little bit larger and more capability (especially more offensive capability) would lead to a design similar to the Swedish Stockholm coastal corvettes (380 tons), the predecessors of Visby.


I began at a mine sweeping drone and moved up to FAC-sized craft, almost up to a coastal corvette. The end result fills a tactical niche instead of packing a big ship into a small hull. The actual tactical value and seaworthiness of such a small craft would need to be tested in experiments and maneuvers - it's impossible to determine for a single thinker.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: Some sources tell about 1,200 tons as planned "Streetfighter" displacement.
I wasn't even able to find a line drawing or artist's impression for the Streetfighter concept, it seems as if it was primarily a discussion topic by the office for force transformation.
Admiral Cebrowski: R.I.P.
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2009/03/22

Reviewing this blog

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This blog exists since late May 2007 - it started slowly and in secret, I told others about it only months later and wasn't blogging very much till August 2008 when I wrote more than ten texts in a month for the first time due to the South Ossetia War.

I still like pretty much all my texts, but I feel that some are especially noteworthy. About 90% of my texts are rather timeless - they could have been published years earlier or years later. It's thus a pity that new readers will likely not read most of the earlier texts.


This is a list of my favourites, texts that I believe should be read
(even more so than the others):

2009/03/12
European naval power requirements (for defence)
What kind of naval power is really required to DEFEND Europe?

2009/02/25
The extent of the economical problem - because some don't get it
The mass media tells you only about symptoms, not about the structural sickness.

2009/02/14
Fact check: Military hardware novelty
It's been around for decades, and you could sell it as new if you colorize the photos.

2009/02/04
Active Protection Suites (for AFV): state of the art
An overview that fixes the incomplete information about APS in English publications.

2008/12/17
The American Way of War (tm)
To throw resources at a problem is no art.

2008/10/31
The credibility of nuclear umbrellas
Cold War expectations might be outdated.

2008/10/23
Excursion: The economic crisis in the USA
It's not just the banks, it's about trade as well!

2008/08/21
The success story of hard kill defences
It's a trend that extends to armies now.

2008/08/07
Geostrategy: Most interesting country in the world
Others would go nuts if they lived in such a pivot.

2008/07/18
Industrial power
Times have changed.

2008/05/22
Technology creeps according to patterns
Patterns - an aid to look into the future.

2008/04/21
Are we clueless about modern conventional warfare?
Yes, we are.

2008/04/09
Reasoning about the Afghanistan war (commitment)
Why exactly are we fighting there?

2008/03/17
Shocking shipbuilding industry
It's not where most expect it to be.

2007/09/19
Addendum: Feasibility of an intercept vs. captured passenger plane in Germany
Our politicians had a bogus debate.

2007/07/27
Sustainability of military power
Not really sustainable and the present level.

2007/07/17
War or not war? Victory or defeat?
When should war be waged?


Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/21

"Irregular" elements in regular warfare

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There's a lot of buzz recently about "hybrid war" (a new buzzword) and about regular armies employing "irregular" tactics and such.
David Betz's text at KoW is such an example.


Honestly, it freaks me out that people with a serious interest in military affairs, often with decades of military service background and even people in military academia can discuss this as new, as a development or as a discovery.

I begin to doubt their qualification.
It needs almost a deliberate ignorance towards much of military history to see anything newsworthy in "irregular" tactics used by "regular" forces (or the other way around). It's quite appalling that this isn't recognized as a normal circumstance of war. Maybe the Fulda Gap tunnel vision is still powerful, limiting the understanding of conventional war.


Let's look at examples from history:

Austria-Hungary's border protection against the Ottomans rested on tax-exempt farmers who defended themselves and their region as border militia, clearly an irregular force in service of a state at their time.

The Soviet Union's Red Army often infiltrated German lines with infantry platoons to harass and raid or observe behind enemy lines (WW2). Overrun army units often joined partisan units and partisan units were supplied by air in the same war.

North Vietnam's army fought the Vietnam War mostly as an infantry force employing late guerrilla war stage tactics.

Look at a map of the "fronts" of the Sino-Japanese War in the late thirties and WW2 - there were no fronts. The Japanese held pockets and lines of communication, with "irregular" combat everywhere. The Japanese Army had very little artillery and tank support, by the way - a few infantry guns were usually all relevant indirect fire support, it was a war of small infantry units vs. small infantry units.

"Letter of marque" - even the greatest naval powers used quasi-pirates to hunt down enemy shipping in 16th to 19th centuries.

The North Koreans and Chinese used infiltration tactics and often had units and sub-units behind enemy lines to disrupt enemy support and cohesion (Korean War, especially during the mobile phases).

Ottoman and Russian light cavalry in 16th to 19th centuries were not much different from the marauding mounted militias that raid villages in Darfur (another obvious employment of irregular forces by a state).

The French Army got busted in 1870 at Sedan, but the French raised many armed citizens later, many of which fought rather irregularly.

Uprisings in ancient and medieval China as well as in the Roman empire and other empires formed armies of irregulars that were less organized, but "regular" armies according to the standards of their time.

The Lebanon War 2006 (irregulars who were treated as terrorists using a conventional, almost fixed ground defense network almost reminiscent of the Soviet positions at Kursk) wasn't so much different to the First Chechen War a decade earlier when a militia faced and ruined armoured regiments.

Most commando actions in WW2, taking prisoners for interrogation, use of covert human intelligence, raiding, deception by using false markings/call signs/uniforms, use of captured equipment - many activities of "regular" forces in conventional war can be perceived as typical "irregular" activities.

Even unrestricted submarine warfare in the First World War was perceived as irregular at its time!

Hostages were a common method to ensure loyalty of moderately motivated allies for thousands of years and all over the world.

Austria's defense strategy of about 1968-1990 included the use of many infantry units scattered over the country, staying in place to deny control and efficient use of roads. This was pretty much a guerrilla strategy for World War 3!

Do I need to cite the use of mercenaries?


In other words:
Congratulations to those who finally woke up from their long sleep and now see that conventional war is complex and multi-faceted, not simple force on force as it was trained in the NATO and the Warsaw Pact for decades.
Those who want to learn about warfare should look at the military history of all nations and all times, not just learn what their own military teaches them and take that as the holy truth.

The face of war didn't change much and we can learn almost nothing by reading analyzes and theories about some regular/irregular mix.
Instead, we can learn a lot about those who discuss this stuff; most of them seem to have almost no clue about how warfare looked in the past and simply lack the military history background knowledge to discuss warfare properly.

The quality of military theory in our time is really saddening, and promises a terrible start into the next few major wars, we are probably even less prepared for major war than we were during the summer of 1914.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: No offense to KoW intended, I took the KoW blog merely as an example.

edit 2009-05-27:
"Hybrid" has already morphed quite a bit. The last examples that I saw looked a lot as if "Hybrid" is the replacement buzzword for "full spectrum", meaning that the Army should trained and equipped to fight both conventional and occupation wars.
I already saw such examples back when I wrote this blog post, but the emphasis at that time was much more often on "Hybrid enemies", outward-looking. Well, this turned into a budgeting buzzword.
Let's say it more blunt: They want the conventional war toys AND the "COIN" toys.
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2009/03/20

ARM in anti-ship combat

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The German navy operated a wing of Tornado IDS multi-role combat aircraft until 2005. The wing had a dedicated maritime mission; maritime reconnaissance, anti-ship combat and attacks on harbours if I remember correctly.


The transfer of this mission to the Luftwaffe (air force) was not unanimously greeted, one concern was that the training for the maritime missions would suffer and the competence for this mission decline.

This resulted in an interview of the last wing commander in a civilian journal. Such interviews are usually a lot of blablabla with next to no really interesting information. This interview was different. In order to make his point (the need for dedicated maritime raining of aircraft crews) he described the anti-ship attack tactic, and that was interesting for a change. It's thus now OK to write about this publicly.

The tactic included three munitions;
1) the Kormoran2 anti-ship missile (quite comparable to Exocet, Sea Eagle, Harpoon and most other Western anti-ship missiles).
2) The AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile
3) bombs

He claimed that it takes all three to sink a ship and that a very challenging synchronized attack with the subsonic anti-ship missile and the smaller supersonic anti-radiation was necessary to overwhelm the defence for a firepower kill. The bombs were just meant to deliver the killing blow.

This is indeed a rather difficult profile (especially the timing), and apparently well-suited for the limited quantity of available munitions (the attack would not have a whole squadron vs. a destroyer, of course).


This begs the question why there's (officially) no anti-radiation missile component in anti-ship attack capabilities of surface combatants and submarines (which can also launch special versions of Harpoon and Exocet)?

The typical armament is like four Exocets or eight Harpoons per surface combatant, and a submarine will not be able to launch more than six Harpoon or Exocet in a short time either.

Anti-ship missiles of the dominant design (radar + subsonic + sea skimming) have been in service since the 1970's - all modern navies had plenty time to introduce proper countermeasures and major changes occurred only in the electronics (addition of home-in jam, better manoeuvring, smarter target ID and choice).
The NSM missile from Norway (infra-red sensor instead of radar, like the old Penguin missile family) and the Hsiung Feng2 missile from Taiwan (IR sensor additional to radar) are rare exception to the rule.

There's no equivalent combination of ARM and AShM (anti-radiation missile and anti-ship missile)

Anti-ship missiles like Harpoon are much slower and longer-ranged than anti-radiation missiles. It could be impossible for surface combatants to launch both against the same target.

This begs another question: Why not combine both?

The ARM could become a submunition of the larger AShM; to be dropped a few nautical miles ahead of the target area to suppress the target's radar. A variable thrust ARM would be quite good for this - just like in other SEAD (suppression of enemy air defences) situations.

The anti-ship missile armament of surface combatants looks quite neglected to me, not really well-designed to do the job. Neither quantity nor quality of the missiles are fully convincing to me. It's almost as with anti-submarine warfare; the effort seems to concentrate on air-delivered munitions, with rather mediocre offensive capability built into the ship itself.

S O

P.S.:
Hsiung Feng 2's approach of dual sensors makes a lot of sense, too - but that's just about proper targeting, not so much about survivability (although an anti-ship missile that locks on one decoy after another while being shot at by a nearby ship's close-in weapons is likely unable to survive long enough to do its job!).
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2009/03/19

Active defence systems for tanks

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I wrote almost enthusiastically about active defences in the past (here and here).
I didn't do so because I trust them as a solution for defensive problems, but because I consider them as part of an important technological trend and as an important step forward for the defence in the offence-defence spiral.

Effective protection enables a tank (crew) to use the mobility even in the sights of the enemy - in order to wage a very mobile war on the tactical and operational level.
Offensive warfare is the decisive warfare - and requires good mobility for success.

On the other hand there are some problems with the active defences approach, even in the tank example. Look at this:

The dust is terrible for the sensors of active defences and camouflaging like this becomes quite difficult when many sensors and munitions of the active defence suite need to be unobstructed.

This photo concerns me - it points out that active defences could restrict advantageous behaviour.

Tank crews might choose to move slowly (to minimize the dust problems) to make full use of their ADS, thereby sacrificing offensive momentum and psychological effect.

They could also decide to avoid some terrains that would cause such problems with dust - in addition to the terrains that they avoid in order to avoid getting stuck.

They might also be enticed to do a sloppier job at camouflaging or would probably need a synthetic camouflage material that's tailored to the vehicle.

Maybe the mounting of the sensors on a mast as in the Arena system - as much as it seems to be a sniper target - wasn't so dumb after all.

Maybe we just need additional track skirts - expendable flexible skirts that almost scratch the ground - anyway.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/18

A new government in Madagascar

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Madagascar's military did a (kind of) coup d`état - a very interesting event in light of South Korea's strategic interest in Madagascar.

The new government might cancel the (apparently not yet signed) trade with South Korea that is (was?) likely very relevant for South Korea's long-term resource security strategy.

This might teach South Korea, the PRC and possibly other powers as well a lesson or two about such deals.

Possible conclusions range from the need to diversify the raw materials resources to the need to have greater power to intervene in order to safeguard the access to resources.

We shouldn't think of resource wars as wars only or as inevitable - I have a feeling in my stomach that we should be able to identify the wrong roads at the crossroads we're at - and choose wisely.
This is no topic for the evening news, but diplomats' and strategists' everyday job that possibly shapes the 21st century.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: This is a good opportunity to clarify that the deal was apparently still in the early stages of negotiation when the outrage began and when I wrote the blog post about it. In hindsight, I think my earlier post was too ambiguous about that because I was more interested in the strategic aspects than the trade itself.

edit: 2008-03-20:
Financial Times article: The plan was already canceled by the new government.

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Mashup: Afghanistan, convoys and the Taliban

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I wrote a paper about convoy security back in 2003/04, just out of curiosity. I did the research anyway and sorted my thoughts by writing the article.
It was a general paper - not focused on the Afghan or Iraqi roads and circumstances and I showed it only to very few people. My expectation was that Afghanistan and Iraq would yield very specific experiences - a poor time for a general paper.

The paper was influenced the most of the Russian convoy experience in Afghanistan, Vietnam convoy experience, the South African and Rhodesian road mine experience and the low degree of harassment to be expected in former Yugoslavian countries.

I didn't focus on what became as "IED" (improvised explosive devices) or on EFPs (explosively formed projectiles), but on AT mines without command detonation and on real ambushes.

The Iraq occupation experience seems to have been mostly about harassment by insurgents, not so much about real ambushes. The losses were relatively low and quite simple changes of equipment and procedures reduced the impact of the harassment while intelligence-based raids took out the sources of the harassment.

Afghanistan looks quite similar in its less "hot" areas, but some reports about more intense combat including real ambushes is available now.
One such report is this: http://www.michaelyon-online.com/images/pdf/the_eagle_went_over_the_mountain.ppt

Very early reports from Afghanistan reported a quite low degree of warrior quality - like an unwillingness to crouch in dirt and that they're easily bribed to turn sides.
Meanwhile reports of combat in the past two years included reports about Vietnamese sapper-like attacks on compounds through tiny ditches at night, proper ambushes, deception and dispersed movement to joint assaults. The Taliban are ambushing and defending against regular infantry on patrol and raids.

I wonder how long it will take the Taliban to grasp how to be very lethal against enemies who use hard body armour.

Our $%#**= participation in the long Afghan War already lasts for about seven years and the enemy is apparently improving and still not well-understood.
How long will it take to arrange some kind of situation there that allows a withdrawal that the right wing can paint as a "victory" to feel fine about war?

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: I can send a PDF copy of the paper by e-mail if anyone is interested. A proper publication isn't planned any more.
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2009/03/17

The Roman Empire's warning

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The ancient Roman army's power had many reasons - strong economy and large population as well as god logistics, good equipment and most often good discipline are the common explanations for their success.


The ancient Romans weren't very innovative - most of the ground-breaking inventions and innovations of the ancient world came from other places than Italy.
Their two most genius (and almost only) inventions were the pilum (best javelin ever) and their concept of heavy infantry.

Let's look at the heavy infantry; Hastati (poor body armour) and better-equipped Principes were the most important early republican types of heavy infantry. The heavier Triarii rarely fought in battle.

The Principes were also quite similar to the late republican and early imperial standard infantryman/legionary.

They had their javelins for the beginning of battle and additionally the combination of a long and heavy shield (Scutum) and a (not very long) thrusting sword.
The Scutum wasn't only a defensive shield, but also a tool for pushing. The heavy weight gave it a powerful blow (preferably with the raised lower edge) that could break an enemy's balance and make him stumble backwards, vulnerable for sword attack.
The body armor and helmet were also quite heavy and well, Italy isn't and wasn't exactly a cold place. The endurance of such a heavy infantryman was therefore rather poor,.

This is where the genius of the Roman military came to play: The relatively loose checkerboard formation with its many gaps enabled them to keep up a rotation.
The Velites (light infantry, skirmishers) opened battle, next the Hastati heavy infantry, replaced by Principes heavy infantry and then either again Hastati or (if things went badly) the spear-armed Triarii reserve.

They used the TTP of rotation (possible only due to good discipline) to exploit the advantages of heavy infantry, but they negated a major drawback of heavy infantry (poor endurance in combat) by rotation.

This was a huge success story for centuries and established Roman dominance in the Mediterranean and Western Europe regions.

Then came the decline of the legions and their heavy infantry (they used auxiliary troops for most other roles like missile troops and cavalry).

They encountered less often opponents who were willing to face them in an infantry-dominated battle.

They came into regions where their style of fighting was simply not suited to the terrain (like the forests in the north that made skirmishing too easy and the steppes of the east where missile and shock cavalry ruled).

Heavy infantry was able to overcome its lack of endurance by rotation in a battle, but even rotation and discipline were worthless for the pursuit of skirmishing light infantry that was simply faster on its legs without much body armour.


It's interesting how parallel the story of the Roman legionary was to the problem of our modern armies. We have superior organization and discipline, but our armoured infantry (armoured on legs, not just on wheels and tracks!) cannot pursuit light infantry and is ill-suited for physically challenging terrain.

The Romans adapted to the terrain they were fighting in after their centuries of expansion - they became more similar to their foes, lacking a comparably ingenious idea for the other fighting styles. They were matched by their enemies and eventually overcome when their increasingly complex economy failed to sustain their military. There was even some climate change and in many places an exhaustion of natural resources (degraded soil, reduced forests) in effect that disadvantaged Rome in comparison to its enemies.


The Western armies of today seem to search for ingenious ideas for the unfamiliar terrains and enemies they're facing.
Maybe they will eventually find some, but a late Roman thinker would probably advise us not to neglect our economy.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/03/16

Combined arms theory application in infantry combat

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Combined Arms warfare is a tricky subject - it's not just about "you need all the tools because you can get it".
The military is also not simply like an orchestra that sounds best when complete.
The different arms have different strengths and weakness, but that's still not the essence of combined arms in my opinion.

The essence is the creation of a dilemma; no matter what the enemy does, we can keep up the pressure and keep him in a disadvantageous situation.
A failure to do so offers him a gap which can be exploited ruthlessly, as is usually done with tactical or technical innovations - till the gap is being closed.
The introduction of the first tanks in the First World War was such an event - weapons capable to penetrate thin armor plating were too scarce. This was exploited with the moving and bulletproof cover of tanks.

The strengths and weaknesses aspect is also important, but in my opinion much less interesting and challenging.


Back to the dilemma topic:

Imagine a fight infantry vs. infantry on an open field with some cover like walls and depressions.

The firepower of all kinds of infantry weapons is quite unbearable and forces both to exploit cover.

Slow or stationary and very small, difficult to spot targets get shot by a rifleman with a magnifying scope. He's in the dilemma whether to expose himself or to accept the loss of the beneficiary effects of his firepower (by staying behind cover).

Moving targets who dash from one cover to another are at most risk from a machine gun (bursts of fire).

Targets behind walls are hit quite easily by weapons that can penetrate (most) walls - sniper rifles, medium machine guns, 40mm grenade weapons, anti-tank weapons. These targets realize their vulnerability and attempt to run to a better cover - exposing themselves to the machine guns (a dilemma).

The only enemies that we cannot hit easily are those in depressions. 40mm grenade weapons are difficult to aim at such cover and hand grenades have a very short range.

The plug for the gap?

A concept to complete the infantry's arsenal in order to close this gap was the OICW, also known as XM29. It was a 20mm grenade weapon with electronic time fuze for a 20mm frag shell.
The U.S.Army spend the development funds and hyped the gun (it also had a 5.56mm carbine and a thermal sight integrated) up for several years.
Finally, it seemed as if the 20mm shell was considered inadequate, not "lethal" enough. They moved to a 25mm weapon without integral carbine, the XM25.
Years passed and there's still no such weapon in service (neither is the OCSW, a similar 25mm longer-range support weapon).

The lethality requirement was actually quite pointless in my opinion. Killing seems to be superior to wounding in military efficiency analysis, but a weapon isn't being used in isolation from other weapons. Even an infantry squad can employ combined arms effects by using several different weapons.
Insufficient lethality is actually quite irrelevant if the threat is sufficient to drive the enemy from his cover, thus exposing himself to other weapons/munitions.

Meanwhile, the South Koreans seem to have perfected their XM29 equivalent XK11, a simpler weapon (bolt action instead of automatic for the 20mm gun and apparently no thermal sight). Its introduction into the South Korean army was announced last year.



Sven Ortmann
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P.S.: The importance of grenade weapons even at the infantry squad level is one of the reasons why I'm interested in the idea of a light flexible body armor instead of a partial hard body armor.

Furthermore, this text is just a snapshot - maneuver plays a major role down to platoon-level combat, its omission was a matter of focus on another point.

2009/03/15

Turkey and the EU

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I am personally against the Turkish intent to join the EU, for many different reasons. The most important of these reasons aren't even about Turkey, but about internal challenges of the EU today.

Yet, that's not meant to be the topic here. I want to explain to foreigners why Germans (not actually our politicians) resist a EU membership of Turkey in my opinion.

Foreigners from overseas tend to look at the geography (Turkey being mostly Asian, not European) or the religion (Turkey being a Muslim nation, albeit many Turks are moderate Muslims - Alevites).


There are dozens of other motivations to reject them (economical, political, historical, demographical) - I'd like to explain one specific one.

The relevance for "defence" in this is that a membership of Turkey in the EU would fix them in the European bloc as long as the EU doesn't break apart (that would be another topic).
A Turkish nation that was rejected by the EU could instead become the focus of strategic interest (as ally) in the European, Russian and Arabian blocs as well as the USA and Persia if NATO would break apart sometime in the future (alliances are not nature's laws; they usually end sometime) or if Turkey leaves the NATO.

Back to the one specific reason for the rejection of Turkey:

It's not so much about Europe and Asia - the relevant cultural blocs are not "Europe" and "Asia", but "Occident" and "Orient". These words ("Abendland/Orient" and "Morgenland/Okzident" in German) aren't in regular use in Germany - except when the topics are Turkey+EU or immigration/integration of Muslims (especially when mosques are planned, a childish problem in my opinion).
Please note that "Orient" or "Morgenland" in Germany is defined differently to "Orient" in English; we usually consider Turkey and the Arab world as "oriental".

The key is that Turkey is an oriental country in the eyes of most Germans.

There's a long history of Orient vs. Occident warfare:
First the Crusades in 11th to 13th centuries,
Spanish warfare till 15th century (Islamic conquest, then Reconquista),
Southeast European warfare; Orient/Turks/Ottomans being on the offence in 14th to 16th century and on the defence later - till the end of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of Turkey after defeat in the First World War.

Most people in Germany don't know enough about history to know that, and have never learned about the Turks scare of the 16th century when Turks/Ottomans besieged Vienna.
The cultural difference is obvious to many Europeans, though.

The religious difference is much less important in my opinion. I expect the Muslim Bosnians and Muslim Albanians to be welcome as members later - they were already officially recognized as potential candidates.

The non-occidental-ity of Turkey might give us grand strategic headaches in later decades, but I save that for a future topic.
It's certainly a country of great geo-strategic interest.

Sven O


P.S.: Wikipedia is a mess in regard to the definition of the Orient/Morgenland, differing between English and German versions as well as contradicting itself in the entries for Morgenland and Orient in the German version. The meaning changed in the past centuries anyway, some definitions include only the Arab people while others include all of Asia and Arab Africa. I linked to the definition that's relevant for common Germans.

Turkey is (afaik) by no definition part of the Occident/Okzident/Abendland.
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2009/03/14

Intelligence services

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Tinfoil hat people sometimes mention the quantity of intelligence services of a country as an indicator for, well, that they get spied on and manipulated by them.
The total budget would be a more interesting variable, but the quantity is sometimes impressive (15 in the USA, for example).


15 intelligence services isn't as impressive as the quantity of German intelligence agencies, though. We have a population of 82.3 million and a total of three federal intelligence agencies:
MAD - Counter-espionage
BND - espionage
BfV - domestic espionage (on extremists, supposedly)

Two other agencies have partially intelligence service tasks:
BSI - cyber security
IKTZ - and a detachment of the federal police

Well, that's not impressive yet, but we have 16 states, this adds 16 !!! state-level intelligence agencies (small equivalents of the BfV).

That's a total of 19-21 intelligence agencies - but only two of them might spy on me at any one time (unlikely), and only one when I am in a foreign country (even more unlikely).

German intelligence services have to obey the Trennungsgrundsatz - separation principle - they are not allowed to arrest people, for example. They cannot ask or order the police to do it as well.

The recent BKA Gesetz (federal criminal agency law) was accused to soften up this rule and this might be part of a slow erosion of once iron rules that were established to limit the state's ability to be evil.

Sven Ortmann

2009/03/12

European naval power requirements (for defence)

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Future fleet structure debates often attract a lot of attention.


Some naval power fans simply like to see big or bigger fleets
(U.S. "313 ship navy", discussions about the future Royal Navy size).

Others argue about the high cost of individual ships (of the LCS or DD(X), for example).

Another group discusses the suitability of Western fleets in littoral (coastal) waters - how to combat small boats, for example.

Finally there's the group that raises alarm about the ASW (anti-submarine warfare) weakness of modern surface combatants, especially in regard to modern SSKs.

These groups are mixed, of course - some people got club membership cards for more than one such group.


The public discussion in English language has been saturated with U.S.Navy- and Royal Navy-related discussions, but I'm more interested in the actual needs of Europe - what and how much naval power does Europe as a whole (well, the NATO part) really need?
Most discussion participants look at single national services, rarely at an alliance or continent of co-operating nations as a whole.

Let's look at the likely missions first:

(A) Prevention of invasion
This is a most basic requirement, albeit only if there's actually a water obstacle between friend and foe. This requirement is relevant for Spain, Italy and Greece (and to a much smaller degree for Portugal, France and the UK).
The peacetime equivalent (picking up illegal immigrants) is a police/coast guard job.

(B) Protection of coastal shipping/fishery
This can be accomplished with police forces/coast guards in peacetime as well.
It's very challenging to protect coastal shipping and fishery against air attack, mine warfare and submarine attack (not relevant against fishery). Their greatest protection against such attacks is the small relevance (of small fishing boats, for example).
The relevant areas are the Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Sea. The Black Sea is of relatively small interest.

(C) Protection of overseas trade at sea
This is extremely challenging, as was demonstrated in the World Wars.

(d) Offensive naval action against land targets
In other words; land attack gun/missile fire, naval air attack and amphibious (+ airborne) invasion/raiding. This includes the transport of troops and supplies.
These activities require a all-round defended convoy/battlegroup - a local affair.
Such activities are not really about "defence", though.

(e) Hunt for enemy nuclear weapons ships at sea
This would be the classic Cold War hunt for SSBNs. The Russians don't have many of these anymore and it's much less important for us than it was for the U.S. in the Cold War anyway. We're close to Russia and Russian SSBNs don't increase the chance for a surprise first strike against us. The decline of the Russian Navy's SSN fleet adds to the reliability of the French and British SSBN-based deterrence anyway.
We might consider Israeli SSKs (with potential for nuclear armament) as new possible targets in the future (it was an all-round stupid idea to give them Dolphin SSKs as military aid).

(f) Second strike nuclear deterrence capability
The UK and France maintain this traditionally with a few SSBN (nuclear ballistic missile submarines) and escorting SSNs (nuclear hunter submarines).


I need to note that much of this can be achieved with air power - especially by air attacks on harbours and airfields, but also by air attacks on surface combatants and with combat air patrols. That's not much more than what the general air power requirements necessitate anyway.

Another big chunk of requirements might be met with offensive sea mines (to be protected by air power). These could be laid by submarine or aircraft or we could use self-deploying mines launched from a surface ship from beyond the horizon. None of the delivery methods would be without major drawbacks - defensive mining is much less elaborate.

Some mine-sweeping and mine-hunting capability will be necessary as well.

The final defensive requirement would be ASW in European waters.
That's tricky because both surface warships and aircraft aren't fully convincing in this role - saturating the Mediterranean with SSKs (non-nuclear hunter subs) would be very expensive even if we used quite affordable non-AIP (air independent propulsion) SSKs.

Last but not least: The battlegroup requirement. UK, France, Spain and Italy are somewhat interested in having CVGBs (aircraft carrier battle groups) and naval land-attack long-range cruise missiles. This capability is much less relevant in the periphery of Europe because cheaper land-based assets could do quite the same job - it's thus no requirement for wars of necessity, but for wars of choice (in distant places). I consider this therefore as a luxury, not as a real requirement for defence.

So let's sum up; we seem to need:

air power
(some of it trained and equipped for anti-surface ship attacks)

naval surveillance capability
(surface and underwater)

ASW capability in European peripheral waters
(protected against aerial threats)

high seas ASW capability
(with anti-air defence)

some naval de-mining capability
(sweeping and hunting)


The two ASW needs are most mysterious to me.

How can we pull off ASW coverage of the Mediterranean without spending too much? Should we build this capability even though the Arab countries have almost no credible submarines yet (about one flotilla worth of modern SSKs so far)?

How can we protect the huge quantity of overseas trade in the Atlantic against the potential of ultra-silent SSKs? Convoying or not? Should we provide the valuable, large civilian ships with torpedo warning and decoy kits? Are MPAs (maritime patrol aircraft) worth the cost? Are surface warships effective and efficient ASW assets in the future?


My preliminary opinion is that offensive strategies are for us likely much more efficient than defensive strategies - even for the purpose of overall defence.
We could tolerate the damage done by a few aircraft and submarines that survive our attacks on airfields/harbours and slip through our offensive patrols (=blockades).
Typical OPFOR submarines (Kilo class) have only about 18 torpedoes/missiles. Aircraft carry usually only one to three anti-ship missiles.
To spend many additional billion € per (peace-time) year to reduce possible eventual wartime losses by a couple billion € wouldn't make sense.


A strong offensive capability (multirole fighters, offensive SSK patrols including offensive mining) plus some defensive damage control (mine countermeasures, some MPAs to saturate an area where a submarine compromised itself by attacking a target) seems to be best-suited for European naval warfare requirements.
Put a few SSBNs on top of that for the specific British and French nuclear deterrence strategies.


It looks to me as if the Europeans should relax their interest in destroyers, frigates and corvettes (which form the backbone of all European navies).
SSKs, multirole fighters and support aircraft are probably more important tools for European naval strategy than great-looking surface combatants.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: This topic deserves a long article, better even a full book.
I attempted to cover it with my perspective in a short text, which is thus full of unavoidable holes. Bear with me, please.
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