2009/05/31

Foreign comments on the German attitude towards war

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I found a typical comment on that topic here (hat tip to Weblog Sicherheitspolitik).

Germans are in the process of redefining themselves as “victims of war.” Claiming that all war is always horrible for everyone involved, they remove all questions of who and why. Pacifist Germans have conveniently drawn the wrong conclusion from WW2 - that freedom and democracy must not be defended militarily.

You hear this all the time in Germany: that Germans know the price of war and have learned their lesson - unlike those naive, stupid Americans. In this self-serving myth, having started a war that killed 50 million ended up cleansing and purifying them, enabling them to reach a higher moral plane. Thus the perpetrators gain the moral high ground over the victors. Or so they think. (The irony is that most Germans have no memory of any war, while millions of Americans were affected by the effort to win the cold war and subsequent conflicts)

It's interesting because it mixes facts with misunderstandings, myths and a kind of strawman argument. Honestly, that's exactly the mix I was expecting from a right wing American on such a topic.


Let's look at it, piece for piece.

"victims of war"
The two older generations were indeed victims of war, and one more generation of Eastern Germans as well. The war had extremely adverse effects on health, wealth and freedom. The hardship of rebuilding a country that was bombed to rubble was obvious. It took almost two decades to recover materially, so the war meant a loss of three decades to these people.

The opposite of victims are perpetrators, and it could be argued that Germans are not only victims but also perpetrators of WW2 and holocaust.
The largest base for this allegation is that Hitler came to power through democratic elections.
However, the result was only 33.1% for the NSDAP in that election. Only 71.1% of the eligible voters voted in that election in November 1932. That reduced the share to 23.5%.

The requirement for voting rights was 20 years of age. So only those born in 1912 or earlier - and only a third of them - can be blamed on base of this argument.
The German statistics agency's data (dated 2006) shows that in 2006 there were about 153,000 Germans living who were born in 1913 or earlier. Time went by, and an extrapolation for today yields about 107,000 likely survivors born in 1913 or earlier.

So today we've got probably only about 25,000 survivors who have voted for the Nazis in November of 1932. They're all 95 years or older.

The generations who experienced the horrors of war and had to rebuild Germany, pay reparations and suffer from dictatorships is much, much stronger today - it's the grandparents generation and the Eastern German parents generation.

So what is coining a nation more; millions of victims or ten thousands of perpetrators?

The truth is: Few living people are still to blame for what happened several generations ago.

"Claiming that all war is always horrible for everyone involved..."
I support that claim by about 95%. Sociopaths tend to like war, and most of them reveal their true nature only in war. Some wars are necessary and serve to improve a nation's fate, but even then the war itself is horrible to most. It's the least favourable tool to reach a goal.

"...that freedom and democracy must not be defended militarily."
This is where a kind of strawman argument/myth mix kicks in.
There's a wide-spread and absolutely ridiculous assertion in American right-wing circles that Germans/Europeans wouldn't want to fight, not even for their own freedom. I think that nonsense is in the background of this quote.
Another assumption in the background of this quote is apparently that Americans defend freedom and democracy militarily.

The reality is a bit more complex.

1) Germans are ready to defend sovereignty with military means and we spend billions on the military even though there's no-one really threatening us today.

On the other hand there's simply no consensus that the sovereignty of non-allied states needs to be defended by us.

Well, that's the point of an alliance: It establishes a difference between the normal relations among UN members and the relations inside of the club (alliance).
Why should we promise to defend everyone if not everyone promises to defend us?
Unlike some other nations, we at least stick to our commitments in the Charter of the United Nations in regard to non-allied countries.

There are some pacifists in Germany, numbering probably some hundred thousands of citizens. Yet even most of these would agree that the Bundeswehr should attempt to repel an invasion of Germany to defend "freedom and democracy".

2) Americans don't defend freedom and democracy. That's the propaganda, but in fact it's neither about defence, nor about freedom or democracy. At least not all at once.

It's not about defence because they have never entered a war on their own to defend any democracy. They were either declared war on by their enemies or they defended non-democratic states. The entry into WW1 was not about freedom either, but a plain meddling in another continent's war among similar powers. It could be argued whether the Republic of Korea was a real democracy in 1950, but that's an exception.

It's not about freedom or democracy because U.S. wars are about "national interest" or "national defence". The "freedom" and "democracy" part is just the propaganda to build up and maintain support for the wars at home.


"You hear this all the time in Germany: that Germans know the price of war and have learned their lesson - unlike those naive, stupid Americans."
That's kind of accurate, and I would like to add that the lessons learning process was indeed very intense and thorough over decades. The effects seem to begin to fade, though.

In this self-serving myth, having started a war that killed 50 million ended up cleansing and purifying them, enabling them to reach a higher moral plane.
That's a gross misunderstanding. The war did not cleanse and purify "us".

Let me explain. The wars before 1945 were fought by "them", not by "us". Only a tiny minority of "them" survived and they are so old that their role in our society and politics is now very small. The most well-known example is probably former chancellor (social democrats) and 1st lieutenant in WW2, Helmut Schmidt. He's a kind of a wisdom reservoir on two legs, but very, very old and an exception to the rule.

Someone asked me a while ago how Germans could like the Indiana Jones movies (you know, Nazis being the baddies). Well, it's simple: We like to see Nazis being thrashed. They're not "us", just like they're not "us" for British, French, Russians or Americans (with up to a per cent exceptions everywhere in the Western world).

So since the Germans of WW2 are not "us", "we" weren't "purified" and "cleansed".
Instead, we had a decades-long exposure to lessons learned debriefings. THAT is what created an above-normal awareness to certain dangers.
I argued in 2008 that this was actually an exaggerated effort, as we should learn more from others' history and others should learn more from our history.

"The irony is that most Germans have no memory of any war, while millions of Americans were affected by the effort to win the cold war and subsequent conflicts"
Well, it's true that we didn't fight hot wars in 1946-1998, but there was a quite depressing thing going on during the Cold War that was very influential nevertheless:

Americans, Brits and Frenchmen had to expect to die to Soviet nukes if WW3 happened.
Germans had to expect to die to Soviet, American, French and British nukes if WW3 happened.

It's quite depressing to know that your "allies" would not defend, but kill you in the event of war.
It's certainly something that clarifies the insanity of war.

Oh, by the way - it's also a strong counter to American claims that we should be grateful for the defence that the USA provided to us during the Cold War. The "Nuclear umbrella" was in reality just a "Sword of Damocles".

- - - - -

It's obvious that opinions shared by local or national majorities have a common base. Common experiences, common lessons, common problems, maybe culture - there's always a reason for it. That alone should be enough not to ridicule majority opinions of foreign groups, but to take them seriously and to analyze the reasons (more than just superficially).

A feeling of superiority with the own position isn't fully justified until the analysis of the roots of both the own and the other opinion is complete and supporting for the own position.

Mr. Greenwald did not analyze the roots of the German majority opinion properly, nor did he understand that opinion fully. And - as it's obvious by my comments - I suppose that he didn't even understand his country's behaviour fully, as he seemed to believe in covering myths instead.


On the other hand - maybe I'm just not done with my analysis of his opinion and its roots. It's difficult to know when you're done with it (and you probably never are as both are changing over time) on your own.

I hope that this - even if not complete and maybe not 100% correct - provided additional insights and pushed readers towards the complete picture on the issue.

It's as always - only in religious mythology you have prophets who give a complete and perfect statement. In reality you should join mosaic parts gained from many sources to complete the image. I am always just trying to provide additional mosaic parts and to correct wrong colour pieces on some positions.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: Isn't it funny? Just two decades ago the same WW2 stories would have been used to make sure Germans DON'T think about waging war again.
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2009/05/30

Nationalism and conflicts

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Nationalism is a strange thing. It's quite the opposite of imperialism, even though both coincide quite often.

Imperialists want to rule over others.
Nationalists tend to not be willing to live with "others".

It's no wonder that a schizophrenic combination of these desires caused much violence in modern history.

Europe pretty much got rid of the "imperialism" desire in the 40's to 70's when the final grand attempts to build empires failed and later existing overseas empires were falling apart. The only exception seem to be the Russians, who still stick to an apparently instinctive desire to have a huge buffer between Moscow and major foreign powers - including dominance over foreign people.

Nationalism didn't go away as well. The Yugoslavian Civil War showed quite well what can happen if nationalism means that minorities are not being tolerated.
The relatively weak far right wing movements and parties in most of Europe thrive on the same basis and remind us that the seeds didn't go away.

That's a quite unsettling view because demographic maps look extremely confusing all over the world.

Afghanistan and Iraq aren't exceptions - they're normal. It's a sad normality that several ethnic groups of people identify themselves as distinct from others and compete for power - even with violence.

Linguistic map of Europe - see here for details

More linguistic maps:
Africa, Asia, SE Asia, Latin America and another map of Europe

Peace and stability policy should not be satisfied with non-aggression treaties, a ban of wars of aggression, U.N imposing cease fires and sending "peacekeepers". We've got the interstate conflict problem quite under control so far (until U.S./UK forget their own experiences again and launch the next stupid war).

We don't have the inter-group violence under control, though (and the suppression of inter-state violence requires permanent maintenance).


I've been looking at many historical conflicts that circled around contested borders and minorities, and year after year I believed to see a possible solution.

First we need to exploit the fact that no nation or other defined group of people is really united. There are always different opinions, particular interests and such. There are always moderates and extremists.
Solutions need to be stable - a win/win solution is very desirable, but usually not possible with extremists. That's why the inner division of groups is so important; solutions need to be win/win for majorities of all major involved groups. Such a solution could therefore be prepared by empowering the moderates and to pull the rug from under the extremists.

A phase of cooling down violence and provocations is very important - there lies the wisdom of the New Testament's quote:

Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. [Matthew 5:39]
This quote has often been ridiculed by simple minds who don't understand it. It's certainly no sustainable stance, but it's great for de-escalation in many situations.

OK, so what if the conflict calmed down, what next?

A cooled down conflict pretty much equals strengthened centres and weakened extremists.

This is the opportunity to develop an agreement that is a win/win for all major parties involved.
This agreement needs to be good enough to be an insurmountable barrier for a revival of the conflict. Too many people need to lose what they hold dear if the agreement is broken.
That's how the critical mass of support for the agreement can be secured even after decades. Insight, apathy and friendship would probably be insufficient support.

Imagine two states with minorities along the common border. These minorities are probably even local majorities.
A settlement could include border corrections that add and take away territory for both. The remaining minorities could get significant minority rights (equal on both sides of the border), including the passport of and the ability to vote in their group's state (without living in it).
These minorities, supposedly the ones on whose behalf the conflict could be revived, could get such good conditions that they would fear a revival of the conflict rather than appreciate it.

Their rights could even extend to the application of their group's jurisdiction for affairs among themselves.

The details of the agreement aren't important, though.

The milestones are

* enlarge the center/moderate share of the conflict groups

* create a win/win agreement in respect to the centrists/moderates

* keep many dependent on the advantages of the agreement to keep a pro-agreement lobby

This looks rather like preventive diplomacy and a need for neutral and selfless middleman powers than like the established conflict prevention mechanics.

The traditional approach of the U.N. (as it was designed by its founding nations) respects the existing borders too much. The U..N. isn't a proper middleman anyway as it hasn't the assets to motivate the conflict groups to execute the conflict cool down phase with its enormous discipline requirement.

This all sounds very similar to the failed 80's and 90's attempts of establishing peace in and around Israel, right?
Well, maybe the failure doesn't disprove the concept. Those negotiations were rather negotiations to establish a peace for Israel than to establish a peace in the region. There was no selfless and anywhere near-neutral middleman after the Camp David Accords.
The extremists were also smart enough to understand that the procedure as laid out above would be their political defeat - and did their best to heat the conflict up. The cool down phase was aborted again and again by extremists on both sides; the fight against a peaceful settlement of the conflict coined the past fifteen years more than the conflict itself.
Too many people turn to the moderates? Shoot a few rockets, drop bombs or do a few raids.

The world is full of impulsive, shortsighted people who will follow their instincts and agree to play the pointless violence game.

- - - - -

There are many conflicts in the world without such a setup, though. Hundreds of conflicts are lingering at very low heat, and get very little attention. It would be a great service to mankind if these less intense conflicts were settled before they turn hot.
Think of Ruanda/Burundi BEFORE they exploded.

A political defeat for extremists is almost always a victory for the vast majority. If only someone could convince European foreign politicians to pay attention to the remaining nationalism-driven conflicts in Europe instead of muddling in a land-locked, remote medieval society at the end of the world...

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: It's sometimes a good idea to simply split a state into several ones. The new borders and post-split minorities should then get the treatment as laid out in the text.
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2009/05/29

U.S.-Iranian relations

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quote:
According to a variety of reports, the Iranians offered a grand bargain deal in 2003 via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. The comprehensive deal listed both U.S. and Iranian aims. Through a two-page unclassified fax from Swiss interlocutors (that according to Flynt Leverett, a career CIA analyst and counter-terrorism expert at the State Department at the time, had support from all of the important figures in the Iranian government), Iran sent a bulleted list of trade-offs to spark negotiations between the two countries.

Iran offered to provide full transparency for its nuclear program under the policies of the International Atomic Energy Agency; provide full disclosure to the United States for tracking down al-Qaeda elements; support efforts to create a stable, democratic, nonreligious Iraqi government; halt material support to Palestinian opposition groups; and accept a two-state solution for the Israeli/Palestinian issue based on 1967 borders.

In return, the United States was to forgo all economic sanctions on Iran, cease rhetoric linking Iran to terrorism, establish a fully democratic state in Iraq (ensuring a Shi’ite majority power structure), allow Iran full access to peaceful nuclear technology, and turnover Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (an anti-Iranian terrorist organization) cadres in Iraq to Iran. Apparently, it was this last point that was the most contentious within the U.S. administration, even though it was an aim of the administration to disarm the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is on the terrorist organizations list.

The offer was rebuffed by the Bush administration. Whether this offer hit a dead end because of a lack of interest on the part of Washington or because of questions regarding the validity and credibility of the proposal, this episode proved yet another failed attempt to fundamentally re-order the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Either way, the United States is now in a weaker position to strike such deals with Iran than it was in 2003 and currently faces an Iranian government dominated by factions less interested in negotiation and engagement with the West.


"Dangerous But Not Omnipotent - Exploring the Reach and Limitations
of Iranian Power in the Middle East"
RAND, 2009

hat tip: Geopowers

Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/28

Avoidable disappointments

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The USS Stark incident in 1987:
The ship was struck on May 17, 1987, by two Exocet antiship missiles fired from an Iraqi Mirage F1 fighter during the Iran–Iraq War.
(...)
The fighter fired the first Exocet missile from a range of 22.5 nautical miles, and the second from 15.5 nautical miles, at about the time the fighter was given a routine radio warning by the Stark. The frigate did not detect the missiles with radar and warning was given by the lookout only moments before the missiles struck. The first penetrated the port-side hull; it failed to detonate, but spewed flaming rocket fuel in its path. The second entered at almost the same point, and left a 3-by-4-meter gash—then exploded in crew quarters

A report about an incident in OIF in 2003:
An Iraqi Seersucker antiship cruise missile converted into a land attack role has just missed decapitating IMEF [I Marine Expeditionary Force HQ] by a mere one hundred yards. The missile, launched from the Faw peninsula, flew undetected and unengaged straight through the heart of an alert and robust U.S. theater air and missile defense system.
("Attacking the Cruise Missile Threat",
paper, Joint Forces Staff College)


The INS Hanit incident during the Lebanon War in 2006:
During the 2006 Lebanon War, the vessel was patrolling in Lebanese waters ten nautical miles off the coast of Beirut. It was damaged on July 14, 2006 on the waterline, under the aft superstructure by a missile (likely a Chinese-designed C-802 or the smaller C-701) fired by Hezbollah. Reportedly, setting the flight deck on fire and crippling the propulsion systems inside the hull.
(...)
According to the Israeli Navy, the ship's sophisticated automatic missile defense system was not deployed, even though the early warning system is usually deployed during peace-time wargames. Israel said the defense system was not deployed because of Israeli aircraft in the area.


U.S. Southern Command about smugglers:
Self-Propelled Semi-Submersibles (SPSS) represent the emerging sophistication and innovation of drug traffickers to adapt to U.S. and regional counter drug capabilities. The vessels are designed and built by narco-terrorists in Colombia to smuggle large volumes of cocaine over long distances in a manner that is difficult to detect. Since the vessels have a low profile – the hulls only rise about a foot above the waterline -- they are hard to see from a distance, leave little wake and produce a small radar signature. U.S. counterdrug officials estimate that SPSS are responsible for 32% of all cocaine movement in the transit zone.


Nothing like this should have been possible if earlier claims of Western armed forces were true.
We have holes in our defenses, holes in our sensor capabilities and often we've got incompetent or unlucky people in command.
In theory we should be able to detect and intercept easily in all such cases, yet mishaps seem to happen all the time.

It's been forgotten during the Cold War that a hot war means losses - including losses of aircraft (no matter how expensive they were) and ships (same).
There's quite often an attitude in public discussions that expects the achievement of invulnerability for aircraft, ships and tanks.
The reality looks different. Tactical defence shall enable units to destroy some enemies before they themselves are destroyed. Development efforts are much more about exchange ratios than about approximating invulnerability.

New anti-tank weapons provoke claims that tanks are outdated - this happens every few years and gets rebutted by experts and warfare every time. It's widely known that tanks aren't invulnerable, at least to those who have observer tank development for a few years.
The same cannot be said of surface warships and combat aircraft, though. There are still no-loss expectations alive in regard to these, especially in regard to large, expensive warships and "stealth" aircraft.

- - - - -

Sensors and protection aren't the only things that will fail us in a major conventional war.

Weapons and Munitions have a history of usually being much less lethal in actual war than expected. (This applies at least to the post-First World War time. It was entirely the other way around in the First World War for artillery and submarines.)


So whenever you see claims about "our" or "their" weapon systems being super-lethal, super-survivable and all-seeing; be assured that they aren't. They will likely not see and recognize their enemies early enough to dominate, they won't hit every time, many of their hits won't have spectacular effects and they'll get pounded themselves.

It's worthwhile to improve, but excessively optimistic to expect excellence from hardware.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/27

Lack of omnipotence - some still need to get over it

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So North Korea apparently scrapped a nuke by exploding it. Diplomacy - well, the versions of diplomacy that were used on North Korea - was apparently no full success.

That's not terribly surprising or uneasy for a modest man. No tool works every time. You're not always able to win.
Most importantly: Diplomacy is no tool that promises to impose one's own will on others EVERY TIME.

Yet, some people have a serious illusion of omnipotence.

They expect their country to succeed in influencing other countries every time.

The concept of sovereignty is a strange thing, isn't it? Well, it is - at least to them.
There's just one interpretation of events for such ignorant people: Diplomacy was a failure, now let's bomb or invade! (For obvious reasons, I won't link to such diarrhoea.)

- - - - -

This strain of extremism is in my opinion virulent in the USA and also alive in European nations like the UK, mostly in a minority. Many Hindu Indians, the Israeli right wing and many religious extremists seem to be infected as well. Supposedly extremist countries like Saudi-Arabia, Iran, North Korea are harmless by comparison, as their extremism is mostly limited to self-preservation.
It's no wonder that again and again supposedly civilized Western countries are in the top 10 of threats to world peace polls.

We need to learn that we cannot always have our own way. Humans are supposed to learn that at the age of about four, but too many of us apparently didn't learn it.
Several Western societies as a whole need to learn modesty and respect for ALL other nations. That's what we agreed to when we signed the Charter of the United Nations.

The way to go is to marginalize extremists - left and right, up and down. It's an effective cure for many illnesses that plague Western societies, and it's promising in this case as well.

That alone won't be enough if a lack of modesty and respect is a mainstream trait. Such countries need to grow up.


No matter how large, populous or rich your country is - you cannot always win.
You won't always win even if you're ready to compromise for win-win agreements.
There are limits to one's abilities, and grown-ups accept that.


A principle in personnel affairs, the Peter principle, says "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence." It can be observed in all organizations.

This principle seems to work in international affairs as well. States spend a lot of effort in pursuit of their interests (or the interests of their agents). They will eventually reach too far and fail.
It's entirely natural. No person and no state is omnipotent. Shit happens.
No matter how mighty you or your nation are - you can and will exceed the limit once in a while and fail.


Grown-up, modest people without delusions of grandeur can live with such a insufficiency. They are unlikely to draw wrong conclusions about the tool that failed and will instead use the experience to avoid a repetition of their error.

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2009/05/26

Concept for a future naval battle fleet

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This is no everyday blog post; it's the culmination of several loosely connected blog posts on naval warfare on this blog.

Something strange happened in 1906: The Royal Navy (British) got the battleship HMS Dreadnought, a revolutionary warship. It combined several innovations at once and made all previous battleships obsolete on the spot. The Royal Navy's own battleship fleet of a mid-1890's dominant design became almost worthless within few years because other powers built new "dreadnoughts" as well.


This didn't happen voluntarily; the pressure of the arms race with the German Hochseeflotte enforced such advances.

It's extremely important for Western navies to know whether such a revolution lies ahead or not. We've got a superiority in warship numbers right now - to build traditional warships just years before a new dreadnought revolution would be wasteful.

I am quite convinced that coastal missile batteries, fixed near-shore sonar installations and land-based aviation make a battle fleet unnecessary for the defence of Europe. A handful of mine countermeasures ships and submarines added to the mix would constitute no battle fleet.

The only utility of a battle fleet for Europe lies in my opinion in maritime transport protection. This protection would need to be a fourfold one; against underwater, surface, aerial and exoatmospheric (hypervelocity missiles) threats.


It's pointless to split up a fleet into a separate convoy escort and a blockading battleship effort as in earlier wars.
Air power and missiles can circumvent such a battle fleet's defences unless it's very close to the target (convoy). The same pretty much applies to submarines. Enemy surface combatants on the other hand can better be defeated by air power than by offering a risky fleet battle. The far blockade of an enemy should be done by tracking ships (by air/satellite) and by inspecting them far away from enemy bases with covert auxiliary cruisers (that pretend to be harmless cargo ships most of the time).


In short: The future battle fleet for Europe/European powers should be a convoy escort fleet in my opinion. That should fit well for those who see value in amphibious warfare fleets as well. The protection of a carrier fleet isn't much different than the protection for a cargo ship convoy either.
The historical analogy for such a convoy escort battle fleet is the employment of British battle fleets in the Mediterranean for the protection of supply convoys heading to Malta and similar convoy battles around Murmansk supply convoys - both in WW2.

There's no point in trying to hide the battle fleet as a whole because the protected (convoy) cargo ships would be very detectable by all sensors.


I don't think that a surface combatant fleet makes sense for offensive sea battle purposes in general. You could achieve much more by allocating the resources to other assets instead.

I really believe that surface warship/war boat fleets of the future would/should be defensive fleets. It makes much more sense in my opinion to spend the budget for offensive purposes on offensive land-based air power, land-based medium range hypervelocity missiles, covert warships and stealthy submarines.


My approach for a post-revolution battle fleet looks like this:

(The actual optimal shape of the outer layer of boats would be defined by variables like SSK speed, convoy speed and SSK attack range. It should look a bit different because I didn't do the operational analysis calculations for the optimal shape anyway.)


Air cover / defence / support
The air support (including fighters) and long-range anti-ship strike capability would be based on medium aircraft carriers. Small ones place too many restrictions on the aircraft types and have an inferior air wing/ship cost ratio (ceteris paribus; the reason is ~ economies of scale).
Large aircraft carriers are too expensive, though. Quantity of carriers is an advantage in itself - a battle fleet needs some redundancy. Two carriers per battle fleet is a minimum. Two carriers with 80-90 aircraft each would be far too expensive in comparison to two with 40-50, especially in comparison to more land-based air power. I feel (but cannot prove with operational analysis) that two carriers for about 40-50 aircraft and manned aircraft-sized drones is optimal for such a battle fleet. It depends a lot on the maintenance requirements, endurance and sortie rates, though.
Luckily, these considerations aren't really important. Carriers wouldn't be affected much by the naval warfare revolution that I suspect is coming. We would simply stick to the carriers we've already got.

The air defence would use the ship-to-air-missiles as backup, not as mainstay. Land-based air defences aren't more than that - I never understood why many seem trust more in "our" ship-based air defences than in land-based air defences.

Ship-based air defences can be defeated with good tactics and equipment. A successful fleet air defence needs a strong fighter element that has a longer reach, and is a very different challenge for the attacker. Ship-based air defence + fighters stands a chance even against strong attacks. Carriers are fashionable as land-attack bullying units, but their real justification is their ability to provide air cover/support/attack for fleets far away from land bases.

Some long-range early warning of air attacks could be done by land-based AEW aircraft and covert warships (using unusual frequencies for air search) in a picket line between the convoy and the enemy bases.

Anti-submarine defence
The anti-submarine warfare would look very different than we're used to. Two different layers of boats would establish a giant multi-static sonar network. The shape of the network would be defined by operational analysis. Submarines are louder when moving fast, so they would have trouble penetrating the escort layers from behind. They would have the least troubles when attacking from forward and would still need to move faster than they'd prefer to do when approaching from the flanks. The multi-static sonar network would thus extent far forward and probably have only a thin screen aft.

The outer layer would consist of towed LF sonar carrying commercial spec "boats" with otherwise only minimal (ESM, torpedo decoy, missile decoy and close in weapon system) self-defence capability and few torpedoes. They would be too numerous and too dispensable to be a worthwhile target for enemy high seas submarines (until they've been detected anyway).

The inner layer would consist of MilSpec "boats" (maybe 500 tons) with much better equipment and combat value. They would add considerably to the sensory capabilities of the fleet (radar, infrared, visual, acoustic) and these boats would also attempt to deceive incoming missiles with jammers and decoys - beyond the purpose of self-defence. These boats should attract missiles in home-on-jam mode and might therefore be built as semi-submersibles in order to avoid being hit. Such decoying is becoming difficult, though. Modern missiles analyze shapes to ID targets and are difficult to deceive.

These were the sensor units of ASW - the killing units would be different ones. I'm no fan of expensive nuclear submarines and conventional ones aren't really fast enough for the job, so the submarine killers would usually be helicopters with lightweight torpedoes. The helicopters could be based on many different ship types; frigates (FFG), destroyers (DDG), carriers (CV) and also on container ships.

Strong winds / high sea states and submarine-to-air missiles hinder the operation of helicopters and could open a window of opportunity for enemy submarines - unless there are some serious backup sub killers in the fleet.
I would equip the every "boat" with several heavyweight (long range) torpedoes exactly for this purpose. Torpedoes that didn't hit anything (false contacts, for example) could be recovered by both boats types (as done by torpedo recovery vessels during exercises) to preserve the ammunition reserves.

The role of "legacy" surface combatants
FFG and DDG are already available and could serve as helicopter base, missile silo and radar carrier. The missiles would serve their purpose as air defence munitions and as anti-hypervelocity missiles. The helicopter facilities aren't very efficient, but still useful. The powerful radars are a backup for aerial surveillance radars. FFG/DDG would be backups without procurement costs - we already have them.
It wouldn't be necessary to build new FFG or DDG even if we had a conventional WW3. Their missions could be fulfilled by container sets on container ships as well. The risk for these less damage tolerant ships and their crews wouldn't be unacceptable because it would be near-impossible to identify the auxiliaries in a convoy.
That's good news because the West has long since lost its dominance in shipbuilding.

Motherships
The battle fleet would need support ships for the many small boats. Landing platform dock ships (LPD) would be ideal. They could support the helicopter force, the boats (even with dry dock repairs inside), operate many small drones (including mine breaker boats) and could be equipped as air defence frigates at the same time.

LPD frigates are a hot candidate for a major surface combatant category. They fit perfectly into mothership concepts with all kinds of small moving things (boats, UAVs, USVs, UUVs and helicopters). They're huge Swiss knifes.


Warships hide in the convoy because shepherds are more valuable than sheep
The major warships - FFG, DDG, LPD, CV - would all take a cargo ship's position in the convoy. The acoustic and electromagnetic noise of the many ships of the convoy and of the inner layer "boats" would make the targeting of major warships as difficult as a running zebra herd confuses lions in their targeting of individual prey.

Anti-ship defence
Anti-ship combat; well, I don't expect possible enemy battle fleets to be much of a threat to this convoy battle fleet. The enemy should already be decimated by land-based aviation, mines and submarines when it comes into range of the convoy battle fleet. The defence against air (missile) and hypervelocity attack would likely be useful against an enemy battle fleet's attacks. The air power of the two battle fleets would likely be decisive.
Scouting, counter-scouting, air combat (also against missiles) and anti-ship strikes would rest heavily on the air power element due to the superior range of air power.


- - - - -
Is this a battle fleet?
I expect several important and potentially decisive campaign elements in a future naval war around Europe. Attack on enemy bases, interdiction of enemy naval assets near their bases and convoying. Each can be decisive on its own and can constitute the decisive "naval" battle.
I understand this heavy convoy escort as a "battle" fleet because it serves that purpose - to stand up to enemy major naval attack forces and to defeat them. The Battle of the Atlantic was a battle fought by smallish escorts - and the major naval warfare battle against Germany in both World Wars.


One clarification: I don't think that escorting cargo ships is strategic "defence" in its core meaning. "Defence" means to me that we keep foreigners from exercising control over us (or killing us) in our country - defence of sovereignty.
To keep the sea trade flowing is an addition to this, not core defence any more, but not offence yet. It's about sustaining military power (short term) and preserving wealth (medium term).


So what's the difference to today's dominant concepts for naval warfare?

* The use of "boats" to establish and maintain a huge multi-static sonar network as mainstay of SSK detection and tracking (without giving away the position of major surface combatants).

* Uncommon tactical survivability concepts
Boats would be kept relatively dispensable and thus poor targets for enemies (who should better not discard their stealth/surprise effect in order to engage them).
The use of commercial spec ships with military equipment. The ability to hide among similar civilian ships in the convoy is their primary protection.

* The use of container sets and quickly-built (in part commercial spec) small units for a rapid expansion of naval power without the need for a large shipbuilding industrial base. The need for for MilSpec-experienced shipyards would be extremely low during a quick force buildup.

* The addition of close-in defence depth to the fleet by a screen of "boats" which bait incoming missiles and torpedoes and which also use hard-kill weapons to destroy these munitions.

* A practical concept for torpedo recovery during operations, enabling a lavish use of ASW munitions on suspected contacts.

* Much less dependence on weather-sensitive and vulnerable helicopters for ASW.

- - - - -

My view on naval warfare was being coined by the geo-strategic situation of Europe and by published technological advances.
(More) aggressive policies (than I would agree with) require a different approach, especially a fleet that would survive even if in range of much more opposing offensive power.

It's also obvious by now that I don't see much value in new frigates, destroyers or even cruisers - and likewise no significant utility in large corvettes (= weak frigates). The smallest corvettes come close to my inner layer warboat idea, though. Covert auxiliary cruisers, conventional AIP submarines, LPD motherships and dispensable "boats" are my personal favourites.

The public understanding of naval technology is always lagging by about ten years, so my information background could be considered as close to an in-service analyst's info background of about the year 2000 at best.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/25

ASW vs. SSK - the struggle will go on

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A few days ago I wrote about modern active low frequency sonars, bi- and multi-static sensor networks.

The raison d'être of these new technologies is to detect enemy submarines (even AIP SSKs) at a long range. Actually, at such a long range that the anti-submarine surface combatant will fire the first shot (and can avoid going into effective range of the sub).

Several such sonars were introduced, so we can expect them to meet the expectations (good enough range against SSK) at least today (likely with restrictions as usual).

It will take a few years till this is a topic in public discussions on ASW*, but then I expect to see a typical conclusion; some will conclude that the time for the submarine is over.
That would be strange - why would so many navies place such an emphasis on new submarines then (including the Australian Defence white paper calling for 12 SSK and the German navy investing in new AIP SSK even though it's a LF bi-static variable depth sonar user)?

The spiral of measures and countermeasures will likely just go on - only old and not yet upgraded subs will be obsolete subs.

The countermeasures can be grouped into (at least) four groups:
* reducing the chance of detection
* reducing the chance of identification (after detection)
* strike first with long range weapons on its own
* reducing the vulnerability to attack (after identification or chance attack)

What could we expect as countermeasures?
- a new coating that absorbs even LF sonar energy well
- acoustic cancellation technology / active noise control (may be impossible against multiple receivers)
- the use of static decoys (passive reflectors, reactive emitters)
- the use of jammers (may be pointless due to modern signal processing capabilities)
- the use of mobile decoys (unmanned underwater vehicles; UUVs) to saturate an area with false targets
- tactical exploitation of the underwater terrain to become less exposed to sonars
- the use of longer-ranged munitions (probably more emphasis on cruise missiles than torpedoes against surface targets)
- combination of arms; like fighters killing ASW helicopters
- sub-to-air missiles (the long attack range capability of ASW ships rests on the ability of their helicopters to carry lightweight torpedoes to the sub's area)
- ...

The German navy uses both AIP SSKs (Typ 212A subs) and LF bi-static sonars (Typ 123 frigates) and seems to be at the forefront of SSK/ASW technology. It's not surprising that it sees the need for a sub-to-air missile, one of the possible and publicly known countermeasures against ASW forces with effective long-range silent sub detection.

I'd like to point out something about the use of decoys; it may be possible to deploy enough and good enough decoys to make identification impossible. The defender would need to engage all contacts at long range - and have some means of observing the effect of the attack.
This costs a huge quantity of lightweight ASW torpedoes, a classic problem of ASW warfare since the Cold War. The U.S.Navy did a study in the 70's about the likely expenditure of lightweight torpedoes in a typical North Atlantic convoy scenario. The quantity of false contacts due to natural causes was such that the escorts would have run out of torpedoes before crossing the Ocean. The British experiences during the Falklands War kind of confirmed the results. They expended dozens of torpedoes and (afaik) it's still not known whether a single of the contacts was really an Argentinian submarine.

The USN concluded that its ships needed more torpedoes, and I assume that the expected high ammunition wastage was a major problem for high-cost ASW torpedo projects (like Mk.50). The value of large inventories of more affordable torpedoes (Mk.54) was obvious.
If only the fleet could recover expended torpedoes that were fired at false contacts - just as it's being done during exercises. More about that later.

There's a new round in the fight sub hunters vs. submarines, and this time the (newest) sub hunters seem to score better. This round won't last forever, though.

Sven Ortmann

*: The "submarines and all else are targets" view on subs and sub hunters is still strong and based on experiences with obsolete ASW technologies.
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2009/05/23

John H. Poole and "Eastern" tactics

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Mr. Poole began publishing books in 1997 ("The Last Hundred Yards") and got strong positive reactions for his non-doctrinal approach to small unit tactics.
He's a kind of extension of the 4GW /maneuver warfare crowd.

He has a basic premise that's obvious in all books of him (that I read). It's the assumption that there's an Eastern style of tactics that's different from "Western" tactics. He identifies East Asian (Chinese, North Korean, Japanese WW2 and Vietnamese) armies, the Red Army of WW2 and the German army (at least in the world wars) as practitioners of this tactics set.

The attributes of this Eastern style are greater stealth, deception, use of tunnels, infiltration/exfiltration and relatively limited use of firepower (indirect fire mostly as noise to conceal the use of breaching explosives and hand grenades/RPGs).

He attempts to identify the roots for these tactics as well and identifies Sun Tzu and ninjutsu as suspects, the ninja thing even became quite obsessive in one or two books.

Some parts of his books are interesting and valuable literature, but I wouldn't recommend them as a whole.


I've got to raise an objection to his basic premise.
My studies of military history lead to very different conclusions. The described tactics are very likely not based on the knowledge of a few dozen families in medieval Japan or a 2,200 year-old book.

Instead, it seems that the conditions define the tactics in use.
These conditions include traditions and orthodox teachings (especially in long-established organizations) and can be somehow based on original thought by Sun Tzu or shinobi masters.


There are much more influential factors, though. Actually, there are too many influence factors to list them all.
The terrain, the nature of the enemy, the type of conflict and the availability of resources are important factors, for example.


Ground forces with a lack of artillery capability need to limit their use of artillery to the most efficient fire missions. They also need to develop tactics that can do without artillery.
Let's take two extreme opposites; the NVA in the Vietnam War and U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan today.
The Vietnamese could not use "fix and JDAM bomb" tactics as the Americans do in Afghanistan - they lacked the fire support. The Americans on the other hand could not use the Vietnamese tactics to engage the enemy in Afghanistan - they lack the personnel strength and KIA tolerance at home.

The German army rested its light infantry small unit tactics on the mindset of 19th century Jäger units, but this ancestry explains very little of its tactical repertoire in the world wars.
That repertoire can be much easier explained by a lack of resources - the German infantry usually lacked tank support (even in WW2 when Germany had many tanks - those tanks were concentrated in few divisions until assault gun detachments became more available). It also lacked artillery support relative to 1914/1915 Western Entente and its major WW2 opponents. The divisions had a good artillery arm, but were short on ammunition in many engagements.
The inability to solve tactical problems by throwing more resources at them forced them to adapt different tactics.


The same applies to the notoriously artillery- and armour-rich Red Army of WW2; most artillery and armour were usually concentrated on breakthrough and other major battles, leaving the infantry in the rain during most of its smaller battles.

The Japanese army of WW2 wasn't rich on resources either; the infantry had marginal support by artillery and the few tanks were concentrated in even fewer units. The Japanese army of WW2 was remarkably poorly equipped and received few supplies.

The British and French of both World Wars didn't experience such extreme hardware shortages in combat; they had access to world markets (especially to Latin American salpetre as a nitrogen source for explosives and propellants in the First World War).
They didn't experience the severe rubber, aluminum, crude oil and refiner shortages either.

The U.S.Army accepted the French army as its teacher and master during the First World War. The Americans adopted French Army tactics, much of its equipment (like the ubiquitous 75mm RF cannon) and even its manuals (the last U.S. Army manual that was a straight translation of a French one was adopted in the early 30's).


The French artillery-centric tactics were well-suited for the U.S. Army. It didn't experience major shortages of ammunition supply or other material since then. The approach requires only limited infantry proficiency, a good factor because time for training was one of the few significant shortages for the U.S.Army during the World Wars.


It's misleading to speak of "Eastern" tactics and near-futile to urge soldiers to add these to one's repertoire. There's a very simple way how to add these (and new tactics) into the repertoire of Western forces:
Create units that need to do their jobs with very little hardware at hand; limited firepower, strictly limited supply and limited transportation. Paratroopers are ideal, as long as nobody indoctrinates the assumption of lasting air superiority, plenty air transport capacity and available close-air support into their heads.
The artificial scarcity forces the troops to use tactics that are appropriate to the conditions. It doesn't hurt to additionally break down organizational and personnel obstacles to innovation and adaption, of course.


It's not an "Eastern" or "German" or "Russian" tactics thing. We're all humans, and the differences are often exaggerated. Eating rice instead of potatoes doesn't give you a talent for sneaking through barbed wire in itself.
The need to sneak through barbed wire and to plant explosives to achieve a desired effect comes from the inability to achieve the same with a simple call for artillery or air strikes.


This explains why supposedly "Eastern" tactics were sometimes employed by "Western" troops.

It's not some cultural heritage.


Uncommon tactics are an adaption to uncommon conditions. We should be aware of this: Future tactics will be uncommon to us because future conflicts will have new conditions.

John H. Poole did a good job at pointing out that there are very different, resource-saving tactics beyond one's nose - but he did a lousy job at explaining their origin.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/21

WW2: Missed technological opportunities

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I was interested in air war history and aviation technology during the 90's. One of the most staggering discoveries was the extreme failure of air forces in the exploitation of state of the art technology in WW2.

The air forces were successful in its exploitation in some areas (radar and radio navigation technology, for example) and failed almost entirely in others (aerial refueling, guided munitions).
Other technologies were not fully exploited (dive attack and small fin-stabilized rockets).

Let me show you what I mean:

* Dive attack:
Most dive attacks were done at no better than 60° angle (poor accuracy), the miss distances and hit percentages against large ships in the pacific theatre were ridiculous in many Pacific campaign attacks. The single decisive dive attack during the battle of Midway is an exception to the rule.


The German Luftwaffe, famous for its dive-bombers, actually used quite few of these very efficient attack aircraft. Most air attacks early in the war were done with two-engine light/medium bombers and most late in the war were done with fighter-bombers.
German Stuka were more probably more effective as PsyWar weapons than as killing weapons over France, for example.
The critical Meuse crossing after the push through the Ardennes in 1940 was supported by a huge bombardment (including Stuka). The bombardment knocked out almost no artillery or bunkers, but it caused a mass panic in the French division (in combination with a tank breakthrough rumour).

* Small fin-stabilized rockets:
These were used for air-air combat with limited success (credit goes to the Russians) and with air-ship and air-ground missions with greater success. The Luftwaffe tested 65mm rockets early on, but they were spin-stabilized and not convincing.
The Luftwaffe finally got the R4/M "Orkan" (hurricane) in 1945, when it was too late. This weapon was incredibly, unbelievable effective against the clumsy four-engined bombers at daylight. Combat records of that period aren't fully trustworthy, but the lethality was approximately like one kill per salvo.


This simple and cheap ammunition - it could have been deployed in 1930 as there was nothing special in it - effectively killed the idea of bombers with four piston engines. The lesson was so incomplete and late that the Americans and Russians didn't get the message and developed this doomed species up to Tu-85 and B-50 after WW2.

* Aerial refueling:
Basic aerial refueling experiments happened shortly after the First World War, but the technique was not employed to any relevant extent in WW2.


Granted, the front propellers of WW2 fighters were a safety hazard, but this problem could have been circumvented in many ways. The huge range challenges that limited fighter and other missions so badly in WW2 could all have been solved with the adoption of relatively simple aerial refueling tools and techniques.

* Guided ammunitions
The British Royal Air Force got beaten up in primitive, amateurish daylight bomber attacks by the Luftwaffe - again and again. They quickly limited their medium (and later heavy) bombers to nighttime attacks, preferring to terrorize the German population with very little utility for the war.

The Americans didn't trust the British advice and attempted to bomb at daylight nevertheless - and got beaten up as well. That didn't stop them, though - they used their dominant 20th century war strategy on it: Throw more resources at your problem.
Four million bomber and fighter sorties later the war was over. The German arms and ammunition production was actually increased till mid-1944 when finally the extreme effort showed effect. The Strategic Bombing Survey Europe is an interesting (albeit not fully correct) literature on the subject.
The Luftwaffe also failed to use proper technology and techniques in its few anti-ship and strategic air attacks. It nevertheless used guided munitions to a larger extent than other air forces - late in the war.

Strategic bombing wasn't the only bombing that suffered from low efficiency; air attacks on ships were also generally disappointing and bridges often proved to be very resistant to bombing as well.

That wasn't necessary at all. I already described events of guided munitions history in an earlier text. The first guided bomb prototypes ("X 0") were tested in 1938, merely one year after the proposal of Dr. Max Kramer that led tot he tests.


The accuracy was quite the same as with good dive attacks - and attacks were possible at an altitude of 4,000 - 9,000 meter altitude. The later "Fritz X" gave a CEP of 14 m in tests (1942), no functioning bomb fell farther from the target than 26 from the target. Wartime experience under adverse conditions showed a technical failure rate of about 1/4. The Allies claimed to have jammed the command guidance successfully, but the Germans didn't observe this. Technical and aeronautical problems were enough explanation for the relatively few failures and misses.

So let's think about it; guided bombs were so terribly efficient that the Americans (who had their slower AZON and Razon projects) could had achieved almost the same quantity of hits with about a tenth of the resources spent, a tenth of their losses and that all in 1943.
Ship killing in the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere could have been extremely more effective as well - my guess is a factor of four. Torpedo bombers could have doubled as guiding bombers, with battleship deck-penetrating 800 kg bombs instead of 800 kg torpedoes.


The production of aircraft types was also a form of trial and error - with errors on the scale of thousands of aircraft.

- - - - -

There were important theories about air war in the interwar years and many experiments as well as limited war experiences over Spain and China/Manchuria.
This wasn't enough, though. Air forces world-wide applied and developed many innovations, but still failed badly in such major areas like bomber interception, strategic bombing and air-ship attacks. The failure was enough to achieve very much because of the immense amount of resources spent, but it fell short by an estimated factor of four (bomber vs. ship) to more than ten (fighter vs. heavy bomber).

Can we expect to exploit technology better today than was done in 1938?

I'm pessimistic about this (and I've got some ideas what we might be missing).
Keep in mind that such hyped-up technologies like stealth and supercruise are actually early 70's ideas (well, radar stealth is a 40's idea - its application as a supposedly dominant tool for air combat is an early 70's idea).

The self-image of Western air forces today is that they're state-of-the-art or at least that they understand state-of-the-art. I'm not so sure about this, and WW2 air war history shows us how far air forces can be off the mark.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/20

8ak - Indian Defence News: "Coming soon - A Chinese Hitler"

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I despise the effect of language and cultural barriers - they keep us from utilizing much useful input. I like to see German and foreign newspapers and TV news to get a fuller picture and I look at foreign blogs and websites.

There's a kind of division in the world or websites and news, and it looks like this to me:
* Germany
* France (and Franco-Canadians)
* Anglo-American-ANZAC-Canadian
* South Asia
* SE Asia
* Arabic World
* Spain/Latin America
* Chinese
* Japan
* Russian
I can usually only read the first four or five.

Looking beyond one's own nose is tremendously enriching.
I found this text recently, for example:


The Indian website/blog 8ak - Indian Defence News had a thought-provoking text recently: "Coming soon - A Chinese Hitler".

It shows the seeds for a rather pessimistic scenario - luckily one that would likely not involve my country.

I never understood how exactly the Chinese communist party arranges the succession of its head of state and government. No matter how they do it - an extremist "Chinese Hitler" would likely not come from the inside of a ruling party, but be an upstart. Such characters are simply too destabilizing and thus too risky for such a ruling party.

I have no real firm opinion on that scenario - I hope it's unlikely, but it seems quite possible.

Again; the good news is that China isn't really relevant for Europe's security in the military domain.


Sven Ortmann
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2009/05/19

DM 121 purchase / modern artillery

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I read today in military journals about a purchase of artillery munitions for the German Heer.
Specifically: 30,000 DM 121 155mm shells (don't know whether with or without fuzes) at a total price of € 63 million. Ammo isn't cheap, and probably never was.
The DM121 is a special shell as its explosive is insensitive (it doesn't explode, but burns if ignited by enemy fire or in an accident).

Well, there's a special context for me - I read just yesterday in an interesting book about the Germany infantry in WW2. It has a chapter about the artillery regiments of the infantry divisions.
There's also a collection of battle summaries in it that show the severity of the battles.

LIV. Armeekorps, Ostfeldzug, Südabschnitt, Angriff gegen die sowjetische Festung Sewastopol, Mai 1942:
Der Artillerieverschuß des Korps mit seinen 5 Infanteriedivisionen betrug in fünf Tagen über 700 000 Granaten, dabei verschoß z.B. das Art.Rgt. 22 der 22. Infanteriedivision 100 000 Granaten.
(Battle for Sevastopol May 1942: A single corps of 5 infantry divisions fired 700,000 shells (mostly calibre 75-150 mm) in five days.)

Such a modern shell as DM121 is significantly more effective than a WW2 150mm shell and the accuracy/dispersion is improved over WW2 standards as well. The battle of Sevastopol saw an unusual artillery concentration with many additional artillery units attached to the corps.

On the other hand; it's a constant of war that the lethality of new or improved weapons and ammunition is very much overestimated in peacetime and many shells weren't used for killing at Sevastopol.

Artillery (let's focus on HE shells like DM 121) has more tasks (or had - and was capable of fulfilling them) than killing.
Artillery can cut field telephone wires, distract, suppress, block movements and sometimes it's being fired into staging areas, often based on guesses or incomplete intelligence.
Such bombardments of staging areas often did more harm and caused more losses to the Red Army than the defensive fires during its later assault.
It's an underestimated part of artillery's value in WW2 - and it's an area effect attack that doesn't benefit much of improved accuracy and dispersion.

It's not all gold that shines; our artillery saw many great improvements, but we also lost some once-important capabilities, especially those that require large quantities of personnel and material (in the own and sometimes even in the opposing force).


Edit: I forgot to mention statistics. The German production of 150 mm shells in 1943 was 7.546 million shells. 30,000 shells as in the nowadays newsworthy contract equaled one and a half day's production of 1943.
150 mm wasn't the standard calibre as 155 mm is today, though. 29.4 million 105 mm shells were produced for the Wehrmacht in the same year. We can add to this about three million shells for other calibres ranging from 105 mm (cannon) to 210 mm.
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2009/05/18

Modern sonar technology and possible consequences

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The history of sonar began as the searched for a technological solution for the submarine detection problem during the First World War.
The principle was simply; create a sound and listen technically to the echo caused by the submarine. That was a basic sonar and proved to be adequate till late in WW2.


The Germans (and to some degree the Japanese) had developed several countermeasures to active sonar, the most spectacular being a high underwater speed that rendered classic anti-submarine warfare (ASW) methods of escorts ineffective. Acoustic absorbing coating (made of synthetic rubber) was also developed and a spectacular success in tests, but wasn't durable enough and defects of the coating created problematic noises.

The immediate post-WW2 period saw the modernization of old submarines to emulate the German and Japanese high-speed submarines and the buildup of a huge Russian submarine fleet.

The response was the switch to passive sonars that detected and tracked submarines by mere listening; active sonar was primarily used for range finding.

This approach was also effective against the noisy nuclear-driven submarines. No matter what many Americans claim, even late Los Angeles SSN are apparently louder than contemporary good non-nuclear submarines (SSK).
The used of variable depth sonar arrays (towed sonars that can drop below problematic ocean layers) was also pioneered during the Cold War.
Really modern SSK were very dangerous and not really under control of ASW technology, but they were a side show next to the nuclear-driven doomsday machines (SSBN) and their escorts and hunters (SSN).

The elimination of noises on board of submarines made them so silent that passive detection became unlikely before the submarine opened fire with its torpedoes. That applies especially to SSK and the relatively noisy coastal waters that were quite much ignored by the high seas-focused SSN/SSBN community during the Cold War.
Modern SSK further reduce their vulnerability and enhance their ability to hide by becoming air-independent with Stirling engine or fuel cell-based air-independent propulsion (AIP).


Active sonar had to make a comeback, but not in its old form.

Acoustic absorbing materials now reliably reduce the echo on submarines similar to radar-absorbing materials reducing the radar echo of stealth planes. The shaping of submarines was also altered, to reduce the direct echo by reflecting the acoustic energy into another direction than its origin (this was limited to relatively minor shape changes, though).

The acoustic absorbing coating isn't very effective at frequencies lower than 2.5 kHz, though - and thus such low frequency active sonars were installed - on the German Typ 123 frigates (LFTAS), for example.

This principle still has drawbacks; it exploits only a tiny fraction of the reflected acoustic energy and it gives away the position of the active sonar.
An ASW ship with such a sonar likely doesn't need to be silent; it's giving away its bearing anyway.
Low frequencies also place large requirements on emitter and receiver size as far as I know. The tiny helicopter-based sensors (dipping sonar - see photo, and even smaller sonobuoys) may become less relevant in the future (and therefore the whole concept of helicopters as hunter-killers in ASW).


Another approach seems to be smarter: Bi-static / multi-static sonars.
This is a combination of one or more emitters and one or more receivers - there's not just a single emitter and receiver, though.
This requires a lot of processing power and good algorithms - no insurmountable problem any more.


Multi-static sonars are auspicious because the high-value ships don't need to emit acoustic energy and because there's even no 180° reflection necessary.

Let's think about this a bit. Multi-static sonars place an emphasis on quantity and benefit by radio communication (triangulation).
That sounds to me as if the age of the large ASW ships (FFG/DDG) is probably over. It's just another hint that a cooperating swarm of small units may be more advisable.

The full exploitation of this technology requires medium bandwidth communication, a feature that's not available for submarines because water blocks all radio frequencies that can be used with such bandwidths. Submarines are relatively lone fighters, they're disadvantaged by this technology - not only because it's directed at them, but because they cannot exploit it well against their enemies.

The establishment of a multi-static sonar network by boats, ships and aviation (sonobuoys mostly) is on the other hand threatened by enemy ECM and air power.

It looks to me as if this technology enshrines the old principle that dominant sea powers prefer surface fleets while underdogs are limited to submarines because they cannot use surface fleets and air power at acceptable losses.
Submarines are still valuable for the dominant (= air superiority) power as well, though - just not so much in the focus.


Multi-static sonars may be just another nail in the coffin of the importance of large surface combattants.

Meanwhile, the cards have been mixed anew between submarines and sub hunters, and Cold War wisdom about sub hunting is in great parts already outdated - like most Cold War legacy ASW sensors.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: I admit that I'm not fully informed about modern sonar tech. I may have missed essential info, but I wrote this text to show how far ASW sensors have moved away from the perception of most interested observers who tend to look at in-service systems, not so much at avant garde in-service systems and new projects.
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