2009/04/30

UAE royal scandal

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This is the kind of stuff I waited for.

Undeniable, graphic misbehaviour of an Arab (de facto) government.



I don't really care about the case itself, but it can deflect ill will from us to those who are much more responsible for the sad state of affairs in the Arab world.

I'm no "clash of civilizations" fan, but there's obviously some ill-advised finger-pointing poisoning the Western-Arab relationships (in addition to really stupid policies, of course).

The exposure of corruption and bad government could reach a point where the situation can tip into revolutionary change.

A more inward- and progress-oriented Arab public would likely be good news for us, especially as we should focus on our home-grown problems as well instead of at external conflicts.

Sven Ortmann
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The variable affordability of manpower

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Several weeks ago I saw a TV report about Nairobi, Kenya. It focused for a while on their taxis and how it's a fashion in the highly competitive (and dirt cheap) Nairobi taxi business to install flat screen TV sets for the passengers.

Indeed, these poor Africans have apparently flat screen TV sets in their taxis!
How could that be? Kenyans are extremely poor in comparison to Germans and they pay maybe a tenth as much per kilometer in a taxi.


The reason (besides their fierce competition) lies apparently in poor country economics: They basically only pay for a TV set because the installation is done with a work force that's extremely cheap.

Let's say such a set with screen and receiver costs as hardware 200 €.
The whole taxi upgrade would then probably cost 210-220 € in Nairobi.

I would certainly not be able to get such an custom upgrade for my car for mere 220 €. The work hours+taxes+profit would cost me certainly more than the hardware itself - especially as I would want to see it done nicely, well-fitting into the seat's back.

In other words; their problem is the price of hardware, my problem is the price of work hours. That's also why DIY is so popular in Western countries.

An Euro has different values in different countries. It's everywhere the same as 100 cents, but it's not even remotely the same in purchasing power.
That's why direct, exchange rate-based comparisons of national economies are pointless. We need to look at purchasing power parity-based values.

Let's use the CIA World Factbook to illustrate that for the exchange rate and PP or the USD;

The entry for Kenya tells us:

GDP (official exchange rate): $31.42 billion (2008 est.)
and
GDP (purchasing power parity): $61.83 billion (2008 est.)

The difference is obvious. We need to use PPP when we compare countries - including comparisons of (anyway questionable) military budget data.


Such a vastly different relative scarcity (poor countries can easily afford manpower, especially unskilled and quickly trained manpower but they cannot easily afford import goods) has a strong influence on how things are done.

- - - - -

Back to military affairs; poor countries have a vastly different military, a much more manpower-intensive (para-)military. This different is strength and weakness. Their superiority is obvious in tasks that require very much manpower, while their ability to withstand a rich country's air or armor attacks is marginal in most terrains.


We should understand that their very different ways are not always inferior even though they don't come close to us in most of OUR performance criteria. 20th century military history - especially post-1945 - should make this insight self-evident.
They have different scarcities and therefore a different optimal approach to build up military power. It's no coincidence that the PR China began to turn its armed services from quantity-oriented to quality-oriented at a time when wages rose strongly in China.


I am quite concerned about this manpower problem. It's really expensive, maybe in some future conflict too expensive. We've seen the terrible effect of insufficient military training of men sent to battle in both World Wars. Manpower becomes suddenly cheap in total war mobilization, but the relatively high costs and thus relatively short or missing military training prior to the war was hurting all armies.

Conscription is a quite primitive way out of the problem. It fakes a solution by using coercion. Nevertheless, the approach of short training to build and keep a strong, militarily trained manpower reserve was successful, effective - and affordable.

My preferred approach is different and would (if it works) get rid of the disadvantages of coercion.


Our shrinking military manpower and our seemingly ever-diminishing share of manpower-intensive infantry is in my opinion a serious problem in our military forces' development.

It's based on our 'rich' economies that use automation to achieve greater wealth than manual work alone could ever achieve. The same industry raises the wage/salary level so high that military manpower becomes ever less affordable, especially as it equals a loss of productive manpower in the economy.

Our focus and craze about "force multipliers" is a reaction to our specific economic situation and not necessarily a universal and ultimate military wisdom.

We need smart personnel economic strategies to keep our forces well-balanced instead of overly automated and specialized.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/29

F-22 - a great SEAD aircraft?

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I encounter quite commonly the claim that the F-22 fighter would be able to penetrate well-developed anti-aircraft defence networks - and to attack them - like no other aircraft.

That seems quite strange to me, as it is a fighter, designed as fighter, equipped as fighter - and so very much unlike traditional SEAD/DEAD (suppression/destruction of enemy air defences).

I see two possible explanations:

1) It's a misleading or wrong claim, made to bolster the now historical lobbying for more F-22's.
We won't see this claim often repeated by producer and USAF if this was the case.

2) There's an altogether new approach to SEAD/DEAD.
That would be quite in conflict with the E/A-18G Growler, a technically younger aircraft from the same country with strong emphasis on traditional SEAD/DEAD.



Let's look at the F-22:

F-22 PRO effective SEAD/DEAD:

- The effective radar ranges of enemy air defences are reduced by its stealth.

- It has a payload of eight small diameter guided bombs (SDB), possibly to be exchanged for anti-radiation missiles (ARM).

- The F-22's radar and radar warning receiver avionics might be able to pick up ground based radar's emissions for direction-finding.

- The F-22's supercruise at high altitude reduces the effective range of surface-to-air missiles considerably.

- The F-22 has enough fuel to arrive as first and leave as last of many strike packages, enabling it as potential SEAD escort.


F-22 CONTRA effective SEAD/DEAD:

- The ARMs could not lock on radios as long as the weapons bay is closed.

- The ARMs could not assist in detection of radars (as when used on F-16) when the weapons bay is closed.

- Forget about stealth if the weapons bay is open for several seconds.

- The effect of supercruise at high altitude against SAM ranges should not be decisive against long-range missiles like S-300 or S-400 (SA-12, SA-21) that seem to bother U.S. Air Force officials the most.


- The F-22 was designed as fighter. Its stealth was likely optimized against the frequencies used by fighters. Its stealth might be much reduced against the powerful ground-based radars with their specific frequencies.
Occasional claims about good stealth properties for all relevant frequencies appear to be unjustified to me.

- The F-22 lacks a comprehensive SEAD/DEAD avionics package that differs the EA-18G "Growler" from the F/A-18F "Super Hornet".

- The F-22 lacks the electro-optical and infrared sensors needed for target identification in face of decoys around the radar and other air-defence related targets.

- The F-22 cannot carry bunker-busting munitions*. Its potential in this regard (use of pylons) is limited to a non-stealthy appearance (external storage). There's little reason to assume that the small diameter bombs could play a significant role in attacks on air defence C4 nodes (headquarters) due to the SDB's properties and the F-22's limited sensor capability to locate mobile HQs.

- Ground-based air defence radars can usually be switched off and be protected by many other means (link) in order to survive an ARM attack. Follow-on attacks with more versatile weapons (than ARMs) are unlikely unless the suppression lasts quite a while (won't happen with the fast-moving U.S. ARMs without apparent loiter capability) or the ARM is believed to have hit its target.


- The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has an AESA radar and radar warning receivers just like the F-22. Its avionics package was designed for multi-role, not for air superiority only. The F/A-18E/F's avionics are mostly newer than the F-22's and closer to the SEAD mission, yet the USN still saw the need for a more dedicated SEAD/EW (electronic warfare) aircraft, the EA-18G "Growler". This implies to me that the F-22's avionic suite is likely falling very much short of the SEAD mission's requirements.

- - - - -

I consider this asserted supreme capability against high-quality air defence networks as unjustified and unrealistic sales hype. The EA-18G Growler is the real SEAD aircraft, and even that one is falling short of expectations because the Growler didn't get the new jamming pod yet that officials had hoped for.

It's quite disturbing that all those pundits, journalists, bloggers and forum users who wrote about the F-22's ability against air defence networks accepted the questionable claim at face value.

I guess that's how a hype works. You need many opinion multipliers who don't ask critical questions. I heard that works great for lobbyism as well.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: SDB can penetrate hardened aircraft shelters and similar weak hard targets, but no command bunkers.
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2009/04/28

Moldova, a potential hot spot

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The Baltic states and Ukraine are usually my favourite potential crisis zones between NATO and Russia. The Caucasus states like Georgia are simply too far away to bother me. A hot conflict between Russia and the NATO/EU over a Caucasus topic is even more unrealistic than Baltic or Ukraine -related crisis scenarios.

Belarus is another possible crisis zone, as it's too close to Russia to be accepted as a non-CIS country. The autocrat government seems to be stable, though - s there's little motivation to think much about Belarus on my part.

What's missing? Right, the title gave it away - Moldova.

The recent uprising/demonstrations there made it into the news (in part because their 'face' was quite pretty, I guess). This recent unrest, I admit, were the main reason why I thought a bit harder about that place.


Moldova is just another multi-ethnic state in Europe, with just another breakaway region (Transnistria). Transnistria is just another breakaway region with Russian "peacekeepers" (which should have left officially long ago).
Most inhabitants of Moldova are Romanians, with minorities (including Russians and Ukrainians) along the Eastern border.
Moldova - and therefore also Transnistria - is land-locked and surrounded by countries that are not very friendly to Russia. Russia's ability to intervene directly in Moldova with more than diplomats and intelligence agents is therefore marginal.

- - - - -

The really interesting thing about this country is its neighbour; Romania is both a member of NATO and of the EU and has the same nationality as Moldova.

Now imagine a new Moldovan government in a few years - a government that decides to offer Romania to join as an additional province. Moldova was already part of Romania before WW2.

Now unless I missed anything in the NATO or EU treaties that says otherwise, Romania would not need the agreement of all NATO or EU members for such a re-unification.
And again if I didn't miss anything critical in those treaties, the Romanian and Moldovan governments could enlarge the EU and NATO by doing so - ON THEIR OWN.
It looks to me as if other NATO/EU powers have absolutely zero relevance in this context.
Russia would certainly be pissed off by having to drop Transnistria (which would be EU & NATO territory by then) and the Romanian military could escort the cut-off Russians to a port or airport for evacuation.


That would be a major Western tit-for-tat response for South Ossetia, a huge loss of face for Russia and it could also be a move that could motivate the Russian government to return the favour to Ukraine. The stereotypical use of energy export cuts could hurt Ukraine, especially if the Moldovan and Romanian governments bought the backing by Ukraine by agreeing to some border adjustments to make some Ukrainian-populated communities in Transnistria Ukrainian.
Such a re-unification should therefore not take place before the Ukrainian state has been strengthened, and the Russians should get enough time in advance to withdraw their 'peacekeepers' from their hopeless position without any loss of face.
Ideally, Russia would play a role in the negotiations and Russian foreign politicians could bring home certain guarantees and privileges for Russian citizens in the region.
The Western reaction to such events should be to confirm the EU and NATO status, but to be otherwise reluctant in order to play down the East-West friction.

Now that's an interesting scenario, and a reason why we should look at Moldova at least as often as at Georgia.

- - - - -

It's also an example about how treaties and alliances can bind signatory powers - even great powers. It's a "the tail wags the dog" scenario. Even nuclear powers would be extremely impotent in this scenario, limited to their diplomatic and intelligence service capabilities.


Every power in an alliance can be drawn into conflicts it never imagined when signing the treaty (like Germany getting involved in a conflict with Muslim terrorists because of the NATO treaty).

The addition of allies is not only advantageous, but can be risky and lead to unintended consequences. Germany had its experiences with Austria-Hungary (WWI), Italy (WW2) and the USA (GWOT) in this regard.


Maybe the Moldova-Romania affair would someday lead to a re-unification.
That should be done skillfully and with foresight by relevant foreign politicians in order to minimize the troubles that such a process could cause. We might be lucky enough to have only smart politicians respond to such developments as "collision course" Rice and "We all are Georgians" McCain would have no relevant office.

S O
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2009/04/27

Offensive minelaying for European defence

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Mine laying is just like mine countermeasures (MCM) a not very 'sexy' field of naval warfare. It's not about fancy missiles, guns, fast ships - the only 'sexy' images related to naval mine warfare are about mine explosions, when a huge amount of water and gasses blows up from a calm sea. The naval mine itself isn't 'sexy' at all.


Defensive mine laying is a quite simple affair; you navigate your ship or boat to a position and drop your mines. Boring. Most importantly: This has no great requirements about the ship or boat. It can be done with modified civilian vessels.

Offensive mine laying is different, because it happens close to the enemy and thus in a high risk are. Modified civilian ships are at great risk, so purely military means of deployment are preferred.

I identified offensive mine laying as advisable part of European naval power requirements in March. It's not 100% necessary, but appeared to be a suitable approach for some challenges, especially for countering the employment of hostile submarines in European peripheral waters (Mediterranean and Baltic Sea).
Both the destructive effect as the blockade effect of offensive mine laying seem to be useful for European defence.

- - - - -

Let's have a look at some historical examples for offensive mine laying:

Germany vs. British Empire (UK in particular), early WW2
Germany had developed naval mines with effective magnetic fuze (not really a novelty) by 1939 and employed it against the British. The quantity was mediocre, but the effects were disastrous. Many British ships were sunk or damaged.
The offensive mine-laying happened by destroyers, torpedo boats and aircraft - very rarely by cruisers or commerce raiders.
Some aircraft-laid naval mines were laid in poor positions and recovered by careful British experts. The investigation of the fuze confirmed the reliance of the magnetic fuze principle and the British developed several active and passive countermeasures. The magnetic-fuzed naval mines' effectiveness dropped drastically once the British had equipped enough ships, boats and even aircraft for mine-clearing.


Several mistakes can be identified in this case:

1) The fuzing principle wasn't kept secret. Some mines were laid in places (by aircraft) where the tide revealed them later - recovery was thus very much possible. The mine had furthermore no disarming traps to prevent investigation.
2) The relevant mine type relied on a single fuze principle and had initially no ship counter - a single sweep cleared a lane because the mine would explode on first contact, not after a set quantity of contacts.
3) The quantity of mines laid was insufficient - the technological surprise could have been better exploited with a sudden appearance of many more naval mines.
4) The Germans did not interfere much with the mine sweeping efforts. Air and small boats attacks against minesweepers could have hindered the British countermeasures. Armies know: Only a guarded obstacle is an obstacle.
5) Neither air power nor submarine fleet were prepared to contribute to a fatal blow against British shipping at that time. A decisive political effect couldn't be expected under such conditions.

USA vs. Japan, very late WW2
This campaign rested heavily on air-dropped naval mines and had disastrous effects on Japanese shipping because of the inability of Japan to provide the necessary mine countermeasures at that time.
They used multiple fuze principles - none of them were entirely new, but some were difficult to clear with the technology of 1945.
This campaign was executed with lavish resources and came quite sudden to the already terribly weakened Japanese forces.

- - - - -


Offensive mine laying can be done very differently, for example:
- by air drop
- by air drop with a glide phase for standoff to enhance the aircraft's survivability
- surface mine laying; preferably by fast, survivable surface combatants
- covert surface mine laying; a rare technique, used by commerce raiders
- submerged mine laying by torpedo tubes; the submarine has a reduced torpedo load
- submerged mine laying by special submarine module
- submerged mine laying with self-deployment

The mines can be quite the same in these examples, albeit those laid through torpedo tubes are typically cylinders that cannot easily be camouflaged.

I emphasize a relatively low cost for the mine deployment capability and high platform survivability.

My preferences for offensive mine laying are:

1) by air drop
The U.S. Quickstrike mines - basically normal bombs with a very special fuze - are great examples for mines that can be laid by combat aircraft.


The mine laying activity could be disguised as normal approach on a ground attack mission. Only the inventory of fuzes means additional costs in this case. Preparations for offensive mine warfare done in peacetime could be relatively cheap and low-profile with such an approach. The effectiveness of the mines is probably mediocre with such a compromise design.

2) by submarine, self deploying
Old 533mm submarine torpedoes can be re-worked to self-deploying mines. They can be launched from a normal submarine many nautical miles away from the minefield position. The obsolete Mk67 SLMM is an example.
Again, this method requires no special platform (but burdens just like the air drop existing platforms) and costs relatively little in peacetime. The mine could work as torpedo mine upon contact and have a good radius of influence (most mines only hit ships directly above themselves).
The greatest disadvantage is the fact that relatively few torpedoes are in inventories today. Purpose-built self-deploying mines would likely be quite expensive per piece. The available quantities might be unsatisfactory when a war begins.



3) by air drop, with a glide phase
Combat aircraft payload and submarine ammunition storage would be scarce in wartime. To burden combat aviation and submarines with the mine laying mission might not be the best idea.
An air-droppable naval glide mine (using folding wings or a gliding chute - the technologies exist) can be deployed from dozens of miles away from the minefield location. The accuracy would be good enough.
A temporary suppression of long-range air defences (if nearby at all) and combat air patrols to keep enemy fighters away would be the only burden for combat aviation if military cargo aircraft are being used for this. Again, the mine-laying operation could be synchronized into a major air attack.

4) by submarine, with a special module
Air drop won't work if even only temporary and local air supremacy is too much of a requirement. Self-deploying submarine torpedoes are too few. What else?
An old solution is to build special mine-laying submarines that are normal submarines of appropriate range, but with a stretched hull. The additional hull space is used for dedicated mine-laying facilities. The quantity of mines can equal or exceed the quantity of torpedoes carried by the submarine.
The extra length and displacement doesn't cost much and reduces the effectiveness of the submarine in other activities only to a small degree.
This could be used for stealthy and affordable offensive mine laying unless the enemy protects his coastal waters with very effective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets.
It's noteworthy that modern submarine design - especially in the USA - incorporates modules that could be built for offensive mine laying. Nuclear submarines like those of the USN aren't first choice for mine laying in shallow waters, though.

- - - - -

The often-heard complaint about the neglect of naval mine warfare in many NATO navies is in my opinion justified although there's some potential for secret stocks and capabilities.
Defensive naval mines can be employed with ease, offensive mine laying is relatively difficult. We could adopt existing military platforms (combat aircraft, cargo aircraft and submarines) or employ more specialized new platforms.
The costs for good preparations would be relatively modest for most offensive mine laying capabilities. Past conflicts have shown a pattern of peace-tie neglect and insufficient inventories of these relatively cheap munitions and mine warfare platforms.
We should benefit of military history and prepare adequately for the next time.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: A nice link about the U.S. naval mine inventory, showing many (not all) different categories of mines in use today.
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2009/04/26

The UNSC and the recent North Korean rocket launch

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Here's a list of U.N. Security Council resolutions of 2009.

One resolution is missing - naturally so, because it doesn't exist; a condemnation of North Korea's recent rocket test.

How could this be, how was it possible that the supposedly "world leading" United States were not able to get such a condemnation passed?

The superficial answer is simple, and nicely covers up the political disaster:
"The PR China is protecting North Korea with its veto right."

That's true, but misleading about the overall situation. China wasn't the only great power that blocked the American foreign policy in this affair.

Two other reasons were also at work, and tell us a lot about our modern world.

1) Hypocrisy

Not everyone is going mad about a Third World country launching a malfunctioning rocket into space. Other nations have different media, different pundit and different political establishments. The national barriers between the nations slow down or prevent infection with craziness about marginal threat.

It's extremely hypocritical to ask for a condemnation of North Korea for its rocket launch into space while having thousands of ballistic missiles, thousands of hydrogen bombs, a history of being the only nuclear weapons user and a history of wars of aggression that makes North Korea's behaviour look nice.
It's utterly ridiculous to begin with.



Obama and Clinton really wanted North Korea condemned for something that's pretty much their right and done on a routine basis by many other U.N. members?
That's either extremely hypocritical or outright nuts.

2) Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me

You cannot walk through human history, cheat on others and expect to do dirty tricks again, again and again. Instead, you should even expect to face resistance when you don't have a hidden agenda when your track record is poor.

There's no lotus effect for sins, no matter how much you believe in your exceptionality or in the supreme privilege of size and power.

The USA wanted a condemnation with strong words about Iraq's supposed WMDs and resistance to inspections. It lied to the world, outrageously. It got the condemnation and was brazen enough to mis-interpret it stubbornly for a carte blanche to attack Iraq.
Foreign diplomats publicly stated that this won't happen again.

Just like with the Iraq embargo of 1990 that was never meant (by non Anglo-American UNSC members) to be everlasting until the Americans finally agree to lift it (although it was indeed legally open-ended and the USA had the veto right to prevent its termination). Diplomats told us publicly in the 90's that there would never again be such an exploitable embargo/resolution.


Well, is it a surprise that other great powers were not willing to give the U.S. diplomats the condemnation of North Korea that they sought so much?
I see absolutely no surprise here.


The U.S. has escaped many usual consequences of its sins, but that doesn't work all the time. Especially not so in the United Nations. Maybe that's why the U.N. is so much respected in the world - except in the U.S.. It doesn't submit itself to the U.S. as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Well, not entirely.
That's likely related to the fact that all other nations have a voice in its general council and many other nations have a voice in the security council - even veto rights.

Some journalists, pundits and bloggers (not surprisingly usually American or British) interpreted the UNSC's behaviour in this case as a sign for the United Nation's weakness.
Their world is surely a strange place, I'm glad I'm not in it.


Sven Ortmann

P.S.: Related article of this blog: 2007-10 "Leader of the free world"

edit: Oops, added the UNSC resolutions link.
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2009/04/25

Freedom in Germany: Part II - Mobile phone-based surveillance

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Mobile phone services can easily find the position of an active (stand-by or transmitting) mobile phone by triangulation.
The accuracy can be as good as few meters, depending on the density of the mobile phone network in the area. It's enough to track a person's movement as long as the person has a mobile phone in stand-by mode.

It's not very easy to get such tracking info as it still requires a message of consent by the tracked person's mobile phone.
I have seen a system with supposedly anonymous tracking - one proposal was for tracking all mobile phones to detect traffic jams. Other tracking purposes like child surveillance, location of stolen mobile phones, checking the partner's faithfulness and more.

This is a technical and cheap possibility for surveillance of citizens that didn't exist about 20 years ago. We lived well then - were even just in the process of getting rid of a dictatorship in East Germany. I don't think we missed the possibility of tracking others by electronic means, and I'm quite sure that - unaccustomed to the mobile phone technology - we would have agreed that such a possibility would be quite unacceptable and nightmarish.
Germans were burning the Stasi's surveillance archives in order to get rid of a surveillance-crazy state in 1989.


Malware can even be used to turn a mobile phone into a bugging device, Today's mobile phones are usually software-defined. Automatic software updates and download of applications could be used to infiltrate the phone and change its software for covert listening.


We have already the hardware and software for the surveillance of millions of citizens.
We would need to deactivate (probably remove the battery) or discard our mobile phones in order to be 100% sure that nobody is tracking us.
That doesn't kill us or turn the country into a nightmare. It's just a mosaic piece of a grand picture, and I hope we'll never have the picture completed.


Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/24

Assassination in warfare

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The early morning of March 19, 2003, U.S. forces abandoned the plan for initial, non-nuclear decapitation strikes against fifty-five top Iraqi officials, in light of reports that Saddam Hussein was visiting his daughters and sons, Uday and Qusay at Dora Farms, within the al-Dora farming community on the outskirts of Baghdad. At approximately 05:30 UTC two F-117 Nighthawks from the 8th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron[136] dropped four enhanced, satellite-guided 2,000-pound Bunker Busters GBU-27 on the compound. Complementing the aerial bombardment were 4 Tomahawk cruise missiles [...]
(Wikipedia)

You most likely remember this short episode from the beginning of the stupid 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Battle of Mogadishu (1993) was also indirectly about an attempt to eliminate enemy leadership instead of taking on the whole enemy force.
Both were ultimately unsuccessful, but it shows a point just like the permanent aerial assassinations of Muslim extremists in foreign countries: Killing enemy leaders is "in".

- - - - -

That was certainly not the case for many centuries. Shooting at officers or attacking major nobles as mere peasant was definitively "out" during the middle ages up until the middle of the 19th century. Wellington once got the proposal to kill Napoleon with a gun battery when Napoleon was in range - and denied the request!


The age of chivalry is certainly over.

Our modern ethics value lives quite simply; "we" are valuable, "the enemy" shall die - and all others are not terribly important in relation to us unless some camera is nearby.

It's ethical to kill enemy leaders today - even more ethical than to kill their simple combatants.

- - - - -

The direct attack at the enemy leadership isn't new. Headquarters and army commanders have often been at serious risk.


Alexander the Great rested his reputation as an army commander very much (besides other very important factors) on his two direct attacks at Darius, the Persian king.
This notorious coward fled every time when Alexander threatened him with cavalry, and thus lost both great battles for the Persian empire. It was a kind of custom at that time to accept defeat and flee if the leader fled.
Alexander had a steadfast and robust infantry for the line and a heavy shock cavalry to penetrate the enemy's line and threaten Darius; that was the main ingredient in his recipe for success in battle.

Assassinations are often being attributed to ninjas and other historical semi-secret intelligence professionals. Killing leaders isn't new, although it wasn't a common approach for several generations.

- - - - -

The USA seems to have a lasting interest in this "decapitation" even though the effects are relatively disappointing. A project called "HyStrike" was even meant to provide a super-quick (hypervelocity; several times the speed of sound) weapon for "time critical" targets - I read that as assassination missile.
It wouldn't have helped in 2003, but maybe it would make the difference in other scenarios in comparison to subsonic cruise missiles.

The Israelis, Russians and U.S.Army could use other relatively quick missiles if the target is close - LORA, Iskander or ATACMS.


The difficulty to 'decapitate' AQ and Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the general difficulty of getting rid of Saddam Hussein are rooted in their awareness of the threat and their protective measures.
Leaders of ground forces changed their uniforms, insignia, means of mobility and behaviour to normal ones to become less conspicuous to enemy snipers.
Intelligence support and surprise are thus almost all-important for assassinations. Both are much more relevant than speed of execution.

Maybe that's why the new-found love for leader assassinations hasn't been much emphasized as art of war yet.

Assassination in warfare is a tactic for occasional use as it gets blunted by frequent use.

- - - - -

Let's consider the military tactic of leadership assassination; it's not a tool that only we can use.

Postal packages sent to battalion leaders have "killed" many officers in NATO exercises. The successful German air attack on the Yugoslavian ministry of defence in 1941 prohibited an orderly Yugoslavian mobilization and defence and contributed greatly to the success in that eleven-day campaign.
The Russians boobytrapped castles and hotels (that were very popular for army, corps or division headquarters) with large bombs that were set to go off days after their withdrawal (in 1941/42). One or two German major headquarters were killed like that.
Air attacks on headquarters were also popular since WW2 - the difficulty was merely to identify headquarters. A part of the NATO craze about bunker-busting that was rampant from the early 90's till about 2003 can be explained with the desire to take out command/control bunkers.



Signals intelligence (in this case direction finding of radio signals and development of a map of radios and radio relationships) and aerial reconnaissance (visual, infrared, radar) can be used to locate suspected headquarters. Their destruction is relatively simple with air superiority, but also possible with many missiles (even in face of enemy air supremacy).

Camouflage, concealment and deception (including detached radio stations) should help to protect, but aren't 100% reliable.
We have become used to tent and container cities as headquarters because we fought enemies that weren't really able to hit these - we should drop that habit before the next conventional war.

Maybe we can learn a lot from the survival efforts of our enemies in this regard - many of them were able to stay alive for years in face of enemy air supremacy and impressive ISR efforts with very small resources.
The need to communicate a lot may compromise our leadership in war, but our headquarters should not need to stay alive for years anyway.

- - - - -

There's also a political relevance in all this:
Maybe future political leaders will be aware of their exposure to assassination plans. This real threat to THEIR health and survival might influence their preference for peaceful policies.


Assassination in warfare is still not exactly gentleman-like. We should consider it as a part of the art of war, though. An armour raid deep into the enemy's rear area to force a collapse of the enemy's lines is no more art of war than a military decapitation.
Assassination won't solve many problems in warfare - it needs the element of surprise to succeed cad can thus only succeed occasionally, especially when the enemy is unaware of the threat.
It might become a tactic of choice early on in conflicts, albeit that could cause political problems.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/23

Spike missile - the lighter one

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I saw many April, 20th news about a missile called "Spike" being tested - and obviously also being shown off.

That's pretty much the first news I heard/read about this missile in years. It's been quite a while ago (2003?) that this missile was first made public.

The intent was to develop a missile of four pounds weight, 4,000 $ cost, more than a mile range and to arm it with an EFP warhead.
The key for its low price was the use of a civilian daylight video camera and electronics for lock-on-before-launch mode.

I saw two or three news about it till it vanished from public. For years, the only remarkable thing about the project was the confusion it caused - the Israelis had introduced an anti-tank missile with the same name.

Now it's back. The weight is apparently 5.3 pounds, price is 5,000 $, range 1.5 or 2 miles and the warhead seems to be a delayed impact fuzed HE warhead.
The dimensions are 25 inches length and 2.25 inches body diameter (57 mm).
The seeker has been made more versatile - it's supposed to work as semi-active laser homing seeker at night now (maybe with lock-on-after-launch in that mode).
I assume that a single reference to fiber-optic guidance with man-in-the-loop was a misunderstanding with the Israeli Spike.
The rocket's flame is not quite as difficult to see as hoped for year ago.


It's a fascinating project and a fascinating tiny missile in today's world of super-expensive and heavy arms. It was developed by a Marine or Navy lab as I understand, maybe the lack of commercial need to inflate the project for good profit has kept the price tag low.


The news about this missile this month were all about the potential use as armament for small drones. I've yet to see a suggestion that the missile might be more versatile.
Think about it; that's a missile with a weight and size close to the old M72 rocket launcher and it has 1.5 miles range with a warhead that's stronger than a hand grenade!

Aerial drones may be fashionable, but they're not fashionable enough to keep my mind fixated on them when I read "Spike". I don't think "drone", but "sniper".

It's maybe time to apologize to Carlton Meyer who was in favour of infantry with long-range guided missiles as early as 2002. His example was the laser-guided Hydra missile, which seemed to me to be way too heavy for infantry and looked to me like a whacky idea.
It turned out to be a feasible concept with a new missile and smaller warhead.


The new missile may add capabilities where size and weight restrictions are especially severe and it might be a doom spell for heavy sniper rifles over the long term.
It might also be adapted (with different fuze and warhead) for the interception of small battlefield drones at low altitude - or to saturate active defence suites of tanks. The low price, low weight and small size open up several niches.

It looks like a (weak) silver bullet, but the most pressing problem against competent and well-equipped opposition isn't so much the killing - it's the detection and identification. It's been possible to take out identified opposition at long ranges before - the key problem is that the battlefield seems to be empty as everyone who's really competent is either camouflaged, behind concealment, behind cover or impossible to identify in an ocean of contacts (civilians or decoys).


Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/22

Are modern cruisers and destroyers modern-day battleships?

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Certain bloggers insist that modern-day DDGs (guided missile destroyers) and CGs (guided missile cruisers) are modern-day equivalents to the battleships of the first half of the 20th century.

This is not just a question of nomenclature; the analogy implies that modern navies (especially the U.S. Navy) are too top-heavy. More specific critique is aimed at the USN that has few FFG (guided missile frigates) but many DDG/CG.
The claim that DDG/CG equal battleships helps to conjure an image of an almost all-battleship navy that lacks the many smaller combatants that were so common in earlier navies; cruisers and destroyers (or frigates and corvettes in the age of sail).

I have never bought into this assertion (but I'm no fan of big DDGs either).

Let's compare the ship categories and take some classic examples:

Let's take the HMS Dreadnought, the first modern battleship of the 20th century.


It was revolutionary for its use of steam turbines for increased propulsion power/speed and the all big gun concept; doubled primary armament of 12" guns instead of a secondary armament (that was usually about 9-10" guns previously).

The other example would be USS Ticonderoga, the first AEGIS guided missile cruiser. This ship isn't in service any more, but later modified ships of the same class are.

The Dreadnought was meant for hitting and being hit by heavy calibre shells in a naval battle. Torpedo boats, torpedo boat destroyers and as reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance cruisers would participate in such battles as well, but the punching and staying power of battleships was meant to decide the naval battle.
Its slightly better speed than usual was meant to ease the change of formation and the pursuit/interception of an enemy who wants to evade the Royal Navy's power.

The Dreadnought experienced technological and tactical revolutions after being commissioned. Radio communication became practical, aircraft heavier than air were used for reconnaissance (and in fact first aerial attacks on ships), submarines became more practical and dangerous even at high seas (HMS Dreadnought was the only battleship ever to sink one - by ramming), oil firing augmented coal firing, primary gun calibres rose to 15" (and accordingly armour became thicker as well) and central firing as well as other fire control improvements increased effective ranges greatly - thus increasing the relevance of deck armour vice belt armour.

In the end, it was still the heavily armoured and gun-armed anti-ship platform that it was meant to be from the beginning. The destruction of targets other than battleships or armoured cruisers was rather accidental in comparison to this primary job.

Battleships of WW2 had a different job profile; the European theatre lacked the great battleship fleets of the First World War (except during the Normany invasion) and the dominance of air power reduced battleships often to coastal bombardment ship and in the Pacific they were often extra-heavy anti-air escorts for aircraft carriers.


Now let's look at (CG-47) USS Ticonderoga:


This ship was meant from its conception to provide a large aircraft carrier with strong air defence in face of saturation attacks by Soviet missile-armed submarines and heavy bombers. The defining AEGIS system (radars and control center) and the modified guidance of its long-range ship-to-air missile SM-2 were its raison d'être.
Its anti-submarine capabilities were good as well, but not improved much over the Spruance class of dedicated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) destroyers. The Ticonderoga class was based on the Spruance class' hull design. (Funnily, USS Spruance remained in service after USS Ticonderoga was decommissioned.)
The USS Ticonderoga was thus a heavy escort meant for anti-air defence and relatively good at anti-submarine defence. It was relatively weak for its size in surface actions and aerial reconnaissance.


Maybe the DDG/CG = battleship idea came from the use of both for air defence for carriers.
That mission wasn't a monopoly of battleships in WW2, though. Destroyers, light cruisers, heavy cruisers, battlecruisers and dedicated anti-air cruisers were also employed in this role.

One Japanese destroyer class (Akizuki) lost surface action capability in favour of anti-air firepower (100mm guns). Other classes of destroyers (especially American ones with their 5" L/38 dual turrets) had reduced surface action capability in favour of increased heavy anti-air firepower as well.

My favourites for CG-47 USS Ticonderoga analogy are other ships, though: the anti-air cruisers.
The British had the Dido class and the Americans had the Atlanta class:


The Atlanta class used anti-air-capable destroyer gun turrets (5" calibre, high rate of fire, quick training and elevation) instead of normal cruiser gun turrets (6" calibre). They were inefficient in surface actions, but good anti-air escorts. Their size even closely matches modern CGs and DDGs.


My impression isn't that the USN has dozens of modern-day battleships; it has none. Instead, it has a battle fleet of about a dozen super-sized aircraft carriers escorted by several dozen dual-purpose AAW/ASW heavy escorts that are being called destroyers and cruisers.

The classic battleship's role of destruction of powerful enemy surface combatants has been taken over by combat aviation and submarines.

The USN may be too top-heavy and may be in need of good frigates, but the 'battleship navy' argument is a dud in my opinion.

S O
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2009/04/21

Freedom in Germany: Part I - Introduction

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Germany has its own, less technological, experiences with population surveillance by totalitarian regimes. The primary tool for population surveillance during the Nazi time was the Blockwart (officially Blockleiter); one spy/contact person for about 40-60 households (about 170 individuals in average).
The system was very effective and terrifying.

The East German state (Cold War) used a HumInt approach as well - about one per cent of the population was officially employed by or informant of its intelligence service (Staatssicherheit, "Stasi" = state security).

Such large HumInt requirements are a significant economic strain for a state and require a lot of loyal servants. Most military leadership, intelligence service personnel, party leaders and policemen need to be loyal or politically indifferent to keep a totalitarian state functioning.

I fear that we introduce too much personnel-saving technology into our societies for legitimate purposes like crime-fighting and taxation. We might end up with great preparations for a totalitarian state that needs much less than a per cent loyal followers to keep going.
Another fear is that the same technology makes population surveillance and control even more effective than ever seen before.
It might become impossible to shake off a totalitarian state until almost nobody remains loyal - or if we factor in robot sci-fi - entirely impossible without total military defeat.

Surveillance technologies aren't only harmful in dictatorships and oligarchies, though.
Many are discomforted by being watched in public spaces by public surveillance cameras.
The mere idea that every violation of speed limits might be documented and prosecuted is a horror for me and probably for most drivers.
Employers and friends should not know your medical history unless you tell them voluntarily.
Few want to be filmed on the toilet or in a shower.
Pretty much nobody wants private investigators to film their private life.
You don't want others to listen to all your phone calls.
A friend wanted me to be witness to a marriage - but it was impossible. The Protestant pastor knew that I had seceded from the Catholic Church to save church taxes. WTF?


My fears (I don't go crazy about them, but it's still a fear) aren't only about surveillance.
The introduction of new laws and technology applications happens under the veil of legitimate purposes and increases our tolerance to tools of dictatorial population control as well as it provides expertise in their use.
We even get companies that concentrate on the business of advancing this stuff - and lobby for it.


I'll write about examples of domestic spying, increased powers for authorities and other disconcerting developments in 30+ parts during the next months.
Let's hope the news don't give me more topics than the 30 that I prepared as keywords.

We've gone too far into the surveillance/police powers direction in my opinion.
Those tools and rules have a negative net effect on our societies, many of them even without totalitarian state fiction. We should reverse the development.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/20

Si vis pacem, para bellum

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"If you wish for peace, prepare for war"

The embodiment of deterrence - almost everyone in the Western world has heard this at least once.

It's a one-sided advice; it doesn't consider foreign reactions and it doesn't provide guidance about the extent of advisable preparations.

The whole deterrence thinking and the use of this saying have thus become too extreme.
Some U.S.Americans don't feel safe unless their single nation spends more on the military than all other nations (allied, friendly, neutral and hostile) together.
Well, even then some can feel "threatened" and call for more, more, more.

This is - obviously - not my behaviour. I don't call for magic numbers (like 4 % of GDP) as preparation for war; the challenge is too complex to be mastered with rules of thumb only.
We can break our economy and thus our wealth and long-term security by overspending on "defense".

"si vis pacem, para bellum" has gone wrong many times in history by spending too much, too little or for the wrong capabilities.

An example of spending too much (leading to collapse) is the permanent war economy of the Soviet Union, a remarkable feat of their despised planning economy. They prepared for war to survive (by keeping peace; yes, they weren't as bad as depicted during the Cold War and we weren't as good), but neither managed to invest enough into their economy nor did they allocate enough resources for civilian consumption to keep the people content and corruption covered up.

Another example of spending too much was probably the arms race among European armies in 1912-1914 that led to war instead of keeping peace - the result was not triumphant victory, but broken societies.

An example of spending too little was certainly the failure of UK and France to react timely to the German military buildup of 1933-1939. They only became serious in 1937, and gave up their hopes for peace as late as early 1939.

Finally an example for wrong allocation of resources; the German Hochseeflotte (high seas fleet), a battleship-centric navy meant to deter the UK from entering war with Germany ("Risikoflotte"; risk fleet).

The British were able to focus on shipbuilding, while the Germans with their larger economy were not able to do so - they faced the second- and third-strongest armies of Europe (French and Russian) as hostile neighbours.
Admiral Tirpitz' calculation that the British would not dare to enter a war if Germany's fleet was 2/3 as strong as the Royal Navy was a too static thought. The British were uncomfortable with any ratio that was even close to that and a naval arms race yielded huge fleets at very high cost, but the large and expensive German fleet didn't prevent the British from joining the First World War at all.
Most resources for the navy were wasted, Germany presented itself as hostile to the British, manpower/expertise/budget were tied to the navy instead of the army (which had quite lacking funding and wasn't able to fully cope with the French army's buildup until 1912). In the end, most navy resources were mis-allocated; the German army could have been much more powerful and decisive in 1914 - at lower overall defence expenditures pre-1914.

The last example also shows how complex deterrence really is and how important it is to include possible and anticipated reactions into your strategic decision making.


"Si vis pacem, para bellum" has a huge conceptual problem; it doesn't work for all at once apparently. The principle could work for all nations at once if an inferior, but strong enough military had enough deterrence effect. Historical evidence contradicts such an assumption. The risk fleet strategy failed in 1914 and the British/French armies and air forces were equally large as Germany's in 1939/40, still failing to prevent both WW2 and the French campaign of 1940.

Game theory can be used to show this conceptual weakness; "Si vis pacem, para bellum" leads to arms races, not relaxation of tensions in situations of crisis. Every power seeks superiority in order to prepare well enough - but its moves are being countered by the hostile power's preparations.
A strategy of superior readiness (or even "dominance" or "primacy") can hardly succeed for both blocs.

Those powers who fail to be strong enough to deter war can only hope for the niceness of the superior power - or rest on third parties for their security.

Other measures promise better results than an arms race;
arms control treaties, an emphasis on defensive military capabilities, diplomatic solution of conflicts and the creation of geo-strategic buffers, for example.

A proper reaction to a military power buildup somewhere in the world is not to enter an arms race no matter what. Instead, we have to consider many factors; including the suspected intent, the relevance for our security (at our homes), the quality of our relations to that foreign power and our ability to improve the relations to avert war and the military might of our allies.


Finally a note about the peace movement; pacifism is not outright idiotic, but a rather nice idea. Its major weakness is the lack of an alternative to deterrence.
Deterrence in its many forms is still the primary means of securing peace even in face of dangerous people in power. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails - it's being considered as indispensable by major powers.
Maybe they'll sometime invent such an alternative, or we'll sometime succeed in turning deterrence global (U.N. responding to aggressions instead of mere national/alliance self-defence) to get rid of war.


"Si vis pacem, para bellum" has been exaggerated and mis-used by warmongers in my opinion. It's a simple saying that covers only a small aspect of reality. Its wrong application could hurt us badly.
The protection of peace is a delicate affair that requires a lot of thought and doesn't suit itself well to simple answers.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.:
Another reading about deterrence, otherwise unrelated:
"Military Parades Demonstrate Chinese Concept of Deterrence"
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2009/04/19

Ability to adapt TOEs quickly

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We had military organizations more or less tailored for specific tasks in the past - like the divisions that faced the Warsaw Pact divisions.

We've seen some reorganizations to modernize the organizations, but these reorganizations take years.

Now we've got different tasks and the response is to tailor task forces of units, sub-units and incomplete units to the job. Some units do very different jobs than they were conceived for (like artillery batteries on checkpoint duty).

This picture is missing something in my opinion. It's been widely acknowledged that the present missions require much more (military) police and low-level military intelligence capacity than the traditional missions, and that we need more infantry.
The mess in Afghanistan is going on since about six years, with involvement of many NATO nations since about five years - but I've yet to learn about any major reorganization to meet the new profile. I've read more spin about how the previous new organization form (IBCT, for example) coped supposedly well with the difficulties.

Temporary TO&E reforms should be an easy thing for our forces, not a horror.

This shortcoming of the past few years is in my opinion part of a wider problem.
It's common to re-organize companies in the economy - and no shame. Managers do it almost all the time. A change of business strategy every five years with accompanying change of structure is being considered as healthy reaction to challenges, not as organizational chaos (well, by shareholders - employees are often less friendly because some changes don't convince them).

States are different. Most of their institutions are made to provide the same service for decades, and changes are seen in a different light. This applies also to armies. We seem to lack the ability to simply reorganize on the spot - not only as improvisation, but as real change. It takes more than a year to reorganize a brigade.

The German Luftwaffe (air force) showed a comparable dismal performance in its organization:
It was clear since many years that the "fighter" wings with their F-4F (modernized in the 90's with AMRAAM and APG-65, the F/A-18A/B radar) were not worth their operating costs. The aircraft were pretty much crap by modern standards, a serious contender barely in the BVR fight, not in dogfights.


The Luftwaffe somehow had to bridge the time till the arrival of the Eurofighter/Typhoon. It bridged the gap with the update and by keeping the fighter wings - despite their poor capability - active. Few fighters wings had to be disbanded after many years of wasting taxpayer money.
We did not borrow more efficient fighters (like F-16's, even A's would have been a good preparation for the Typhoon) to bridge the gap. No, we kept the wings - instead of getting rid of the almost useless fighter wings and simply re-establishing them later. The necessary competencies would have been kept in the fighter-bomber and recce wings.
We didn't get 100+ Typhoons in a single year anyway. We had plenty time to rebuild wings for new aircraft.
Some politics might influence high profile decisions like fighter inventories, but such an excuse doesn't hold water for army structures.
We could and should have raised temporary units that match the new missions instead of adapting old structures.

Our armed services fear reforms - they are too slow (and not self-confident enough) when they need to re-organize.
Many nations were able to raise entire divisions in a matter of months in World War 2, but nowadays it's difficult to re-organize a brigade from one structure to another. Our organizations evolve in slow motion. It's about time for some serious kicks in the butt to break that slow-motion and kick off a series of organizational experiments. We can afford experiments - no-one threatens to invade us - and it would help to improve the adaptability of our armed services.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/04/18

FCS - goodbye

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Enough Bundeswehr bashing for a while, the U.S.Americans are active as usual and provide more stories.
Danger Room covered the story of the FCS and its (alleged) end:

The Army made a decision with FCS to package all of its modernization projects into a single, massive program. Not just the new vehicles -- but new networks, new robots, too. Gates said today that was a mistake. Sure, "FCS was a revolutionary concept," he said. But "my experience in government is, when you want to change something all at once and create a whole new thing, you usually end up with an expensive disaster on your hands."
[...]
"They wanted to make it too big to fail, and in the process, made it a failure."

I see two major mistakes.
One mistake was about technology. I have the benefit of hindsight and concluded that it would be much better to begin with the foundation of a re-equipping program. The foundation for FCS was C4 - Command, Control, Communications and Computers. Everything had to connect to C4 and depended on C4 to fulfill the promises of FCS. Command and Control is mostly about technique, training, organization and software. Communications and Computers is about hardware. They should have developed communication standards/protocols and the communications hardware (software-defined radios that could also connect to computers (USB?) and establish communication by copper and fiber-optic cables).
The result of this step would have been known bandwidths and standards to plug in all the other hardware that would be developed in a later step.


The other mistake was the obvious one; the vehicle weight.
It began with a weight expectation that allowed airlift by C-130J - less than 20 tons. That creeped up to about 30 tons. The choice was apparently for an all-track family of vehicles. There was no integral attempt to design new trucks (which make up a huge portion of the lift requirements), just a few robot vehicles.
The tracked 25-30 ton AFVs were suitable for support and reconnaissance, but offered little advantages over traditional tanks - at obviously greater vulnerability.
The rules of thumbs given by tank design experts suggest a necessity for 40-50 ton weight to design a very survivable modern MBT. 30 ton tanks could be survivable against modern weapons, but would not be survivable against future systems that were designed to defeat them.


20+ tons is on the other hand probably heavier than necessary for many AFV functions. Armoured ambulances, ammunition carriers, mortar carriers and APCs weigh traditionally about 10-15 tons - 25 ton vehicles don't only cost more; they also consume much more fuel ceteris paribus. The additional protection was probably not worth the additional cost, weight and size.

A set of several families of vehicles might have been a better idea:
1) 40-50 tons and tracked.
2) 15-25 tons and tracked
3) 10-15 tons 6wd
4) 3-5 tons 4wd


FCS was simply too expensive and apparently too optimistic about possible R&D progress. The military-industrial complex was simply not fit enough to execute the program well enough and the concept for the family of vehicles was flawed.

On top of that doubts persist about the viability of network-centric warfare, the doctrinal base for FCS.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: FCS is dead! Long live [insert next program names here]!
The show must go on.
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2009/04/17

Combat shotguns and the Bundeswehr

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This is a simple topic: There are none.
Well, at least not in normal units.


Shotguns have a very different reputation in Germany than in the USA.
A shotgun is a hunter's or a gangster weapon for Germans. This is similar to the (past) American disdain for submachineguns in police service (that was based on association of Chicago gangster with Thompson SMGs).

Shotguns are some of the oldest firearms in military (or mercenary) use, but the modern combat shotgun concept dates back to the trench warfare of the First World War; the U.S.Marines used the shotgun for good effect at that time (submachineguns and assault rifles were pretty much absent).

The devastating firepower at short range (up to 50m) against unprotected infantrymen was accompanied by an almost non-existing performance at long ranges.
Shotguns were therefore always successful when combat was mostly at short ranges (urban, forest, night & trench combat) and complemented by longer-ranging rifles/carbines.

The lethality was nevertheless just one aspect, and didn't improve much over time. The competing rifles/carbines/submachineguns improved and became accepted standard equipment.


The shotgun had and has other strengths than mere lethality, though - this is the reason why my disinterest in combat shotguns turned into an interest.

Door can be quickly breached with two dedicated shotgun cartridges.

The large calibre and lack of rifling of shotguns offers an opportunity to exploit the development of very small diameter shaped charges - a 20mm shotgun shaped charge shell could penetrate vehicles and shields that were designed to stop all 7.62mm AP bullets.

A special variable gas pressure shotgun can shoot rubber bullets at different muzzle velocities, thus keeping the kinetic energy at impact almost the same for different distances to the target (riot control).

A special electric shock shotgun projectile attaches to its targets and emits electric shocks for up to 30 seconds, thus incapacitating the target person just like much shorter-range Taser weapons can do.


Shotguns (especially automatic ones) also seem most promising to me as a counter-weapon to the micro air vehicles that are under development; bird-sized flying reconnaissance/surveillance drones. You don't want to shoot an erratically-moving 10 cm diameter target at 50m distance with an assault rifle - it would take several magazines on average to hit once. A shotgun would kill such a target just as if it's being used for bird hunting.



Shotguns aren't out of fashion in armies that have a shotgun tradition; the British army buys Benelli M4s ("L128A1")
and the U.S.Army buys ten thousands of XM26 LSS.


Combat shotguns have experienced many innovations in the past three decades. The oldest automatic shotgun appeared very late in the 19th century and the often more reliable, simple pump action shotguns have dominated the market for combat shotguns during the 20th century, but the list of innovations is still impressive:
- drum magazines
- normal magazines
- reverse pump mechanism with dual tube magazine and selective ammo feed (Neostead)
- grenade launching adapter
- electroshock shell
- almost accurate slugs
- red dot sights
- underbarrel mounting
- variable pressure/kinetic energy shotgun with laser rangefinder
- modular construction (upper/lower receiver, buttstock)
- folding buttstock
- telescopic buttstock
- camouflage finish
- muzzle attachments to tighten the dispersion
- special high power shotguns for extended range
- variable cartridge lengths
- extremely lightweight models (XM26, RMB-93)
- automatic shotguns that function reliably with very different cartridges
I haven't seen telescopic sabot AP cartridges or captive piston cartridges for shotguns yet, but the feasibility seems obvious to me.

This rich choice of improvements justifies a new look at the combat shotgun.

Another concept merits this new look as well; the German infantry adopts a 'mothership' concept.
The squad leaves much of its equipment behind in its APC (armoured personnel carrier). It takes the appropriate weapons/equipment for the mission and leaves the wrong stuff in the vehicle. This concept raises the tolerance for heavy niche weapons; even .50BMG sniper rifles suddenly became acceptable as standard issue for normal infantry squads. That should work fine with shotguns (only to be carried if short range combat is expected).

Conclusion: Let's look at a potential combat shotgun for the Bundeswehr
(infantry; Jäger, Fallschirmjäger, Gebirgsjäger , military police; Feldjäger and possibly mechanized infantry; Panzergrenadiere).

Not all innovations deserve to be combined, of course.

The electroshock bullet and the (longer-ranged) variable kinetic energy rubber bullet seem to be substitutes. The latter requires more weight, adds more price and most likely requires a long barrel and is thus not my preferred choice.

The underbarrel mounting option is promising (especially for door breaching), albeit too front-heavy for permanent use. A combination of underbarrel and stand-alone capabilities seems promising to me.

The stand-alone configuration could make good use of an assault's rifle red dot sight - that doubles as a spare part for the assault rifles. Backup iron sights are thus necessary. The detachable buttstock enforces a modular design with at least two components.

A camouflage finish is an interesting idea, albeit probably not durable enough for a rifle's full life cycle. As a rule of thumb, I'd suggest to use the same finish as for assault rifles.


A telescopic or folding buttstock seems like a good idea. A shotgun that fits below a barrel will most likely have no mechanic protruding behind the trigger guard - a perfect opportunity for a folding skeleton buttstock that saves a lot of length.

Tubular magazines cannot be reloaded or changed quickly. This is a problem when the ammunition in use needs to be changed quickly. A normal box magazine seems to be more appropriate. The shotgun should be sealed well against dirt even if no magazine is attached.

The choice between automatic and manual repeating is a difficult one. Manual repeating is slower, but a bit more reliable and most importantly; it's lighter. The underbarrel (front heaviness) application and the combat shotgun's acceptance as niche tool/weapon require a lightweight design - manual repeating seems to be the only acceptable choice in my opinion.

Captive piston cartridges; well, it's possible to use captive piston designs to shoot with almost no acoustic, visible or infrared signature. That's great, and especially useful at night or for launching grappling hooks in urban or mountain warfare. I'll write about captive piston cartridges and their design later.


My choice is probably obvious at this point; I prefer the XM26 LSS shotgun.

Its light weight (1.9 kg as stand-alone gun) is fascinating plus it combines underbarrel and standalone modes.
It's a compromise (manual repeating, shot barrel, no variable kinetic energy rubber bullet), but a very promising one. We should submit it to a troop test (with experienced combat shotgun trainers).

List of promising cartridges:
- 00 buckshot
- door breaching shot
- electroshock
- captive piston grappling hook propelling cartridge
- rubber bullet cartridge for 25+ m distance
- signal/illumination flare cartridge
- shaped charge shot 40mm RHAeq CE penetration (doubles as high explosive shot)


A combat shotgun would still be a niche weapon/tool, of course.

Sven Ortmann
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