2009/06/30

Europe-bashers and their next misunderstanding

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I've already blocked or deleted about a dozen comments that were insulting to Germany/Germans in general or to Europe/Europeans in general. Unsurprisingly, there was never anything substantial in those comments, just mere aggression and offensive behaviour.

One of the Europe-bashers' ideas seems to look like this:

The U.S. is great and powerful, therefore Europe isn't.
A weak Europe cannot defend itself.
Well, Europe wouldn't event try.
They're a bunch of people who surrender.
They already surrendered to the Muslims without a fight.
They're already doomed & lost.

The background is - obviously - that there's a significant Muslim minority in Europe.

This minority is noteworthy in Britain (South Asians, especially Pakistanis), France (from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) and Germany (from Turkey), for example.
The British and French example are rooted in their colonial past while the German example is rooted in a policy of inviting South Europeans and Turks to work temporarily in Germany*.


I've actually already encountered people who tried to tell me that Muslims would be a majority in a generation. I have a *low* opinion of that opinion (and their math skill).


There's a new study (and therefore articles) about Muslims in Germany, and I expect that it's going to feed the trolls.


There's a title over the title: "Challenging stereotypes".

The article and the study summary are worth reading.
Seriously; read it!

It's pointless the repeat it here, so I'd like to add my take on the topic of "Muslims in Europe".


They're not a bloc, and especially not an organized one. Most of them are simply a part of the European lower(-earning) classes, with sub-cultures just like indigenous lower class people.

* The median/average Education is low.

* The median/average income is low.

* Almost none are working in the state's institutions of power (police, courts, military).

* They lack political representation; Muslim members of parliament are rare exceptions.

* The degree of political organisation (political parties, national clubs) is close to non-existing.

* They're not ethnically homogenous. The "Turks" in Germany aren't all "Turks", for example. We have both Turks and Kurds here. They would never ever unite to topple the Germans.

* The 2nd and 3d generation Muslims are quite unlike the 1st generation and therefore don't really have the same culture as the 1st generation's homeland.

* Median/average Muslims in Germany aren't very religious. I have yet to see a Turk who interrupts work for one of the daily prayers or even prays in my field of view. Here are very few mosques in relation to the Muslim population.

* The median/average fertility is higher, but simple math keeps them from becoming a majority for many generations.

* We have quite few new Muslim immigration in Germany as far as I know. The last immigration wave came rather from Russia (better to avoid that topic...I don't really *like* our policy in this regard).

We had no census since 1987 (next is planned for 2011) in Germany, so there's little hard data on Muslims in Germany. Even the data from the new study is probably not very accurate.

Here's a graphic that helps to get the *take-over by baby boom* myth back to earth:


It's about the development of birth rates.
"Türkinnen in T." = Turkish females in Turkey
"Türkinnen in D." = Turkish females in Germany
"Deutsche" = Germans
"Deutsche Musliminnen" = German female Muslims

(Keep in mind that fertility is just one side of the coin; the other one is mortality, and I suspect that's higher as well.)

The data tells the obvious; they're humans just like us and kind of converge. There's no way how they could outnumber "Christian" or "Atheist" Germans with status quo fertility in this century.
And keep in mind; they're not a homogenous bloc; Turks and Kurds are more friendly to Germans than to each other.

Sadly, the intense and repeated B.S. propaganda about the issue of Muslims in Europe has mislead even many of those who otherwise have rather reasonable ideas. I know several such examples personally.


Oh, by the way; the unspectacular percentages of Muslims in Europe.
France: less than 10%
Germany: about 5%
UK: less than 3%
Spain: at most about 2%
Italy: less than 2%

The only European state that suffered from anything like a Muslim take-over was Yugoslavia. The Serbs "lost" Kosovo because the Muslim Albanians settled in Kosovo and achieved majority status long ago.
We actually helped the Kosovars to achieve a final success.
I suspect that this Kosovo story has inspired the outlandish myth that European countries like France will be taken over by Muslims soon.


I'd like to suggest that next time somebody approaches you with a wild opinion about Muslims taking over Europe you either tell him some facts or just smile at him. The myth is not worth spreading.

Muslims in Europe won't take-over European states anytime soon, they're simply no security hazard of that scale.

Sven Ortmann

*: That was a quite stupid and despicable policy in my opinion. The foreign workers were called in to solve a workforce shortage. I don't accept "workforce shortage" as a problem at all. Another name of it: Full employment.
To "solve" this "problem" was not in our interest. A proper approach would have been to invest excess capital in foreign countries or to reduce the national savings rate.

edit:
There's another debunking blog post about the "Muslim takeover" hysteria at the Tiny Frog blog. I didn't even know the video in question, I was merely annoyed by recurring distribution of the myth distribution through other channels.
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2009/06/28

Attention - a scarce resource

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The past days repeated an important lesson about human behaviour and possibilities:
It revealed the scarcity of attention.

Our attention was in great part focused on the Iranian unrest for days, and that would likely have been true for the next day; if Michael Jackson hadn't died.


His death was as untimely and unexpected as the deaths of Elvis Presley, Bob Marley and Bruce Lee. He was a culturally very important person and his death justified a lot of coverage in the media.

Did the Iranian unrest become less relevant because of his death?
No - it was just crowded out by the other news.

We cannot really influence the Iranian affair with our attention (albeit some are 'optimistic' enough to think so). It was just a great example because of the stark contrast.


In a perfect world we would have a variable amount of daily news coverage - depending on how much actually happened.
Yet, in this world we have a fixed amount of daily news (newspapers with near-constant pages, TV news with near-constant time slot) plus a variable add-on volume of 'news' on special occasions.

Attention is a scarce resource, and it's important that we learn and accept this.
We can consciously improve the situation if we're aware of this limit.

We can block irrelevant information to save attention for relevant information.
I've made that point in regard to pirates and economic crisis repeatedly; the latter deserves the attention that the former get.

Attention on problems creates pressure to solve problems. This is one of the reasons for the media's importance in democratic societies.

Our societies' ability to solve problems could be enhanced very much if we chose consciously to pay attention primarily to important things.
This would also help to improve the efficiency of resource allocation. It's simply not smart to spend billions on marginal problems.


Military institutions should also understand that wide-spread attention to shortcomings is a good thing - no matter how unpleasant it is for those (failing officers) in charge.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: RIP
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2009/06/27

Heavy armoured fighting vehicles for Europe

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Europe had played along in the Cold War arms race for decades and ended up with thousands of first grade (late 70's to 80's) and even more second grade (60's and 70's) tanks in the early 90's.

The end of the Cold War (offering an opportunity to save on government consumption (military spending)) and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe changed the picture.
(The treaty has since been called into question (2007) due to less-than-optimal politics of Russia, the U.S. and also European member nations.)

The old/outdated tanks were scrapped and the modern ranks (especially German Leopard 2) were dispersed in Europe, even into former Warsaw Pact countries.
Britain and France replaced their old tanks (not badly outdated in the British case) with new ones during the 90's.

Today's Leopard 2 users:
Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapur, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey


The tightened budgets, the focus on peacekeeping/occupation missions and the obvious modernity of the current inventory stalled new tank development projects like the German NGP. Instead, we got an influx of many non-standardized wheeled armoured vehicles - almost none meant to be used in line of sight of conventional opposition.


The war experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan changed the limited upgrading efforts from a tank-on-tank battle focus (frontal armour protection against KE threat, higher energy gun) to close-in fighting equipment (like all-round protection against mediocre CE threats).


Sometime around 2000 the focus had finally shifted away from conventional wars with armour brigades facing each other.
Just one example; a book of the German 'armour pope' Hilmes of 1999 still emphasized frontal armour and gun KE energy while the next edition of 2007 finally became more balanced.


The last NATO Cold War MBT generation (Leopard 2, Abrams, Challenger) entered service in 1979-1983. The 90's NATO MBTs (Challenger 2, Leclerc, Ariete) aren't very different and rather comparable to later versions of Leopard 2 and Abrams (with Ariete following a low sophistication approach).

We're now equipped with what's basically 1970's technology tanks plus new electronics.
That's comparable to the situation of navies and air forces - except that they're in the process of replacing their old platforms.

The development of a new MBT in peacetime would take up to a decade, so we should better launch a development program if we want modern MBTs (or direct combat battlefield tanks of a new concept) in the 2020's.

I made my mind up on this some time ago; I want to see a heavy tracked family of vehicles at about 40-50 tons (likely to grow to 55 tons later in the life cycle) and a new concept for what kinds of vehicles should be used in line-of-sight combat. This should be supported by a truck family of vehicles and a lightly armoured family of vehicles.

video: New Japanese Type 10 MBT (44 tons)


I think so because I am convinced that armoured vehicles are still the answer to the old problem of rapid movement in high threat environments. A LAV-mobile infantry force of forward observers might be great as a delaying force, but a total failure as an offensive force.
The tank's ability to negate most threats with its protection in order to exploit the internal combustion engine's power for mobility and finally its high concentration of firepower and electronics payload is still a great combination.

There's not really a successor concept; the discussion was and is rather about the optimal mass of passive protective materials to be incorporated in such a vehicle.

picture: FCS MCS, meanwhile found to be too light at close to 30 tons


We should add new tank tactics, but the basic principle is still a necessary component of any fast-paced operational plan that faces competent and well-equipped enemies.

I have serious doubts about whether 1970's designs are a good answer to 2020's battlefields, though. We could upgrade them again and again, but that would keep their old limitations and end up being almost as expensive as new vehicles.

- - - - -

I believe that it's about time for a European conference on a future tank design in preparation for a new German heavy tank family. Today's European Leopard 2 users should give conceptual and tactical input to help make it suitable for many European armies.

The design work should be done as a national German project to make it more efficient than multinational projects. nevertheless, the components should be sourced from the best European bidder, not only from German companies.

We must not develop any military equipment in cooperation with France anymore; they screw their partners almost always when they learn that the production would not be 100% French.
Their army equipment designs also tend to get a poor reception in export markets (their only really successful export design was the 1950's AMX-13 light tank).


The new tank family should be affordable through quantity production, a 90% approach to costly components and by a modular approach. The latter should allow for everything from monkey export models for export to non-allied countries and a basic version for ill-funded armies up to highly sophisticated state-of-the-art machines.
Allies with basic versions could follow the prepared-for-but-not-fitted approach that's a quite popular cost-saving compromise in air force and navy procurement.

This tank should be suited to urbanized, interrupted forest, open agricultural and hilly terrains. Europe ranges from freezing cold polar to incredibly hot sub-tropic climates, a tank design needs to cope with many different climates and terrains if it shall be useful for defence at all European frontiers.

"Bomber" and "Panzer" are the two stereotypes most loathed by the most peace-loving fraction of the German population. It was difficult to secure the funding for the Eurofighter Typhoon and it would be difficult to get the funding for MBTs. The idea of many people that conventional wars (and their specific tools) are a thing of the past doesn't help.
Nevertheless, the primary and most honourable mission of the Bundeswehr is actual defence - and it needs the tools for the job.


A new heavy tank family would certainly face political opposition due to its costs, but seriously; it was possible to overcome this opposition for frigates and strike fighters. It should be possible to overcome it for tanks as well. The "chobham armour" generation of main battle tanks was a child of the 1970's. It would be a dereliction of duty if we kept them as our only MBTs in the 2020's.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/06/25

The marathon is over

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I saw the final minutes of a marathon race recently. The winner was happy to win because some of the competitors ran out of endurance. The winner ran slowly for a short distance after the arrival to avoid medical problems.

The winner didn't keep running for 20 more kilometers - that would have been utterly stupid. It would have hurt health, exhausted even more and it might have caused collapse.
Most important; it was unnecessary and useless.

Thousands participate in a marathon race and nobody is stupid enough to keep running at high speed for a long distance after arrival. Hundreds of marathon races happen annually, and I have yet to hear about such a stupid runner.
It would apparently be exceptionally stupid to keep running.


I wonder why the U.S. DoD keeps running at high speed after having won its race two decades ago already?

The official figure is like 4.x% of GNP, but the tentacles of military spending reach beyond the DoD budget - the real figure can be as high as 7%, and is certainly higher than 5%.

U.S. Defense Spending, 1906–2006
Sources: Statistical Abstract of the United States and Office of Management and Budget.

It's noteworthy that the difference between German and U.S. military spending in terms of % GNP is about as large as the lack of domestic U.S. financing for U.S. economy reinvestment.
It's also noteworthy that U.S. military spending was close in size to the U.S. trade balance deficit a year ago.*
It's certainly not a healthy example.


Germany and other European NATO members have been accused of not spending enough on their military. The source of this accusation is usually west of the Atlantic.

My reply: Why should we turn stupid?

Sven Ortmann

*: It dropped to half from Oct 08 to Feb 09, but has since stopped its shrinking process, still being huge at about 2001 levels.
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2009/06/23

A decision model for justified war and a definition of victory

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The development of a decision model for whether war is right or wrong has kept many scholars busy over time. The destructive nature of war calls for special attention to the pro/contra decision in comparison to less destructive decisions.

Here's my take on the subject:


The purpose of war is to achieve a better situation for a defined group of people (nation, tribe, minority, slaves, political wing; in the following: "power") in comparison to all other options.
The eventual outcome isn't the key factor for this - instead, it's the expected outcome. This in turn is a combination of outcome scenarios and their likeliness. This cannot be quantified, but it can be understood - and that's what counts; the expectations regarding the options.

This purpose isn't always an adequate justification, of course.
A war of aggression, meant to ransack another power could fit that purpose, but would be considered illegitimate. The reason for this perception is that groups of people should react socially, compatible with a win-win outcome - and not antisocially like robbers (seeking win-lose outcomes).
This can easily be aligned with Kant's categorical imperative (which is incomplete, but quite good).
This is a limiting condition for justified warfare; the behaviour (of the power that enters a war) must not PROVOKE violent win-lose outcomes. This excludes wars of aggression.

Warfare meant to protect another power - seemingly selfless wars - is another case of interest. A power can wage a justified war on behalf of another power's interest, of course. This untypical selfless behaviour (such wars are usually rooted in own interests) is surely legitimate as long as it's expected to improve the aided power's situation (instead of the own one).

The expectations are the key, and of course prone to misuse. Such misuse by propaganda and other agitation is likely unavoidable but does not question the decision system itself. Lies don't influence the truth.


It's important to re-evaluate the decision for warfare all the time throughout the war.
A war can become an unjustified/illegitimate war when in the midst of it the decision model says so.
This should be the core of a decision model for whether to end a war (if necessary by surrender) or to keep fighting.

- - - - -

This decision model can be criticized heavily at (at least) one point: It serves the interest of the deciding country (and this includes the decision whether to defend itself or not) only.
I asked for the pursuit of win-win situations, but the decision model still allows warfare if only one power's situation is being improved (in comparison to the peace/surrender scenario) by the war (and war still harms mankind overall more than it serves it).

It would be possible to set an even higher bar (and pacifists would likely do so). Pacifists would likely demand that a defensive war can only be legitimate if it's overall (over all mankind) better than accepting an aggressors conditions (and they would then still call the aggression illegitimate, of course).
This approach would have its merits, but it would be complicated and rendered impractical in some cases. Probably nobody would agree that it's better to see a small nation exterminated (genocide) than to defend it (and thereby inflict slightly greater harm on the aggressor).
This mirrors problems that plague the related philosophy of utilitarianism in general.

- - - --

Finally: What's a successful, a "victorious" war?
A war was is in my opinion a success (victorious) if it served its legitimate purpose.
Keep in mind; the purpose requires that war is the least terrible of all options.
A war that achieves little, costs a lot and ends with the enemy's defeat wasn't won in my opinion; it is a failure. Even the ability to hold a parade in the opponent's capital and the fulfillment of official war goals would not change this.
It's important to note that official (and at times shifting) war goals are not the criterion; only the aforementioned legitimate purpose of war is a valid criterion.

The term "Pyrrhic victory" doesn't describe this adequately (albeit it's close).
A Pyrrhic victory is a costly clash that critically degraded the ability to keep up the own effort. It's a term from the operational and military strategic levels of war and too incomplete for the political level of war.
In fact, a Pyrrhic victory is usually no victory at all - and the term is the indication that this was already understood in ancient times.

- - - - -

The ultimate problem of this decision model is that we have no means, no methods for the evaluation of advantages and disadvantages. Even the weighing of material and human losses is extremely difficult (although we do it all the time with a high degree of inconsistency).

This impracticability is only partial, though. We can in many cases exclude the possibility of legitimacy of war; this is especially easy if one power forces war on another power in obvious pursuit of its interests at the expense of its target.
That's why the nations have been able to agree at one time that wars of aggression are illegitimate.

- - - - -

You'll probably find my take on this topic influenced by my economic science training, and it certainly is. Economic science is about optimal resource allocation and trading; it's about the welfare of nations and individuals.
War is similar enough to lend some (not too much, of course) elements from economic science; it's about the well-being of powers.

- - - - -

I am highly critical in regard to the justification of wars and a strong proponent for the limitation of military activities. It's become very difficult to convince me that war is a good idea (the last time I agreed was on the Kosovo air war - and was I duped).

The terms "war of choice" and "war of necessity" are handy, but never really seemed to fit perfectly to my thinking. I merely used them from time to time because they're at least somewhat established, understood and useful.

The decision whether to choose warfare as a method in pursuit of interests or not is the crowning part of the art of war. It's quite irrelevant whether you do fine on the tactical, operational, strategic levels or not if you wage a wrong war.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: I know no appropriate fancy graphics to decorate this important subject, so this blog post looks like my old ones, it bares graphics. Any deflection of attention from the text seemed to be inappropriate anyway (this time).
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2009/06/22

The German submarine force size of 1939

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The German navy (Kriegsmarine) entered WW2 with an insufficient quantity of submarines. The quantity of submarines and their production was too low and did not permit to 'defeat' the British in the Second Battle of the Atlantic. The production program eventually expanded to a huge volume, but the submarines were technically and tactically outdated at that point (1943).

I see sometimes comments that insist the Germans did it wrong and should have invested more in submarines during the late 30's.

Well, more submarines would have been 'better' (from a purely German military point of view) - ceteris paribus. More military power is always better ceteris paribus, so that alone doesn't mean much.
The problem is that such a change does not happen ceteris paribus - it comes at an economical and political price. That's where it becomes interesting.

- - - - -

Let's check history first.

Germany was limited to a 100,000 man army+ navy till 1933. Submarines and military aircraft were forbidden and surface ship replacements were limited.
German submarine designers kept their know-how, though. They developed submarines for foreign customers, for example Finland.

This changed in autumn 1932 - months before the Nazis began to rule - when a plan for a fleet enlargement till 1938 was developed. This included plans for a submarine fleet.
These plans were modified in early 1933 and became outdated quickly. The plans were visibly meant to build a fleet, not so much to be ready for war at a certain time.


Typ I
The navy later settled on a production plan for the Typ I (basic Atlantic sub) and Typ II (short-legged coastal submarine for Northern and Baltic Sea, possibly to French West coast) that favoured the smaller type in favour of a quick growth.
The development and productions preparations were secret.

Typ II
These early plans treated submarines as an integral part of a balanced navy, and the most likely threat navy was the French one.

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935 changed the restrictions and allowed an overt submarine program.
The British were economically weakened by the Great Depression just as most other nations and were intent on avoiding arms races.
The German navy calculated that the already planned first 36 submarines would weigh 12,500 t, leaving only 9,550 t for additional boats within the new restrictions.

This influenced the plans for additional submarines; the agreement limited the submarine force size for a while (and the sub fleet size limit could only be reached with a trade-off for other warship categories according to the agreement).

The plans for a longer range submarine were focused at a submarine war against French shipping in the Western Mediterranean Sea at that time - not against the British.

Typ VII
This requirement led to the longer-ranged Typ VII and Typ IX submarine classes that dominated the German navy during WW2.

Typ IX
A balanced German navy could have fought successfully against the French in a 1vs1 war. The Germans could have dominated the Northern Sea with small units, raided with cruisers and even larger surface combatants in the Atlantic and harassed French shipping in the Western Med.
A conflict with Russia would have emphasized the need for a surface fleet even more.
It was only the scenario of a war against the huge Royal Navy that required a focus on submarines.

There was a lot of uncertainty about the lethality of anti-submarine technologies such as Asdic (sonar) and depth charges. The loss of complete invisibility under water (even visually in the clear Mediterranean Sea) justified doubts about the submarine's effectiveness and value in comparison to surface combatants.



The shipyards had to expand their capacities to meet the navy's demands - including training skilled workers (welders, for example). Some import raw materials were seriously scarce.

A war against France couldn't have been decided at sea - both countries shared a land border and both the German Ruhr industrial center and the French Paris industrial center were in bomber range. A war at sea would draw resources, but could merely cost the enemy assets, not force one's will on the opponent. Both powers had enough other borders and were almost impossible to block from overseas trade in a 1vs1 war. The serious effects of the British blockade on Germany during the Great War (WWI) couldn't have been repeated.
It was therefore reasonable to not spend much on naval capability as long as France and/or Russia was the anticipated main enemy.

This changed in 1937/1938 when Hitler finally considered the UK as a possible future opponent (he had still sympathy and admiration for the English 'brother nation' and wasn't eager to get into conflict with the UK and its empire at all).

The Second London Naval Treaty of 1936 was meant to replace an earlier agreement, but Germany was not invited to the negotiations of 1935. A bilateral German-British agreement of summer of 1937 updated the '35 agreement instead. This added about 9,500 ts to the German submarine fleet limit.

The Z-Plan of early 1939 still called for a balanced fleet - to be built till 1944! Hitler had tasked the German military to be war ready till 1940, but only in a limited sense.
The full strength (and capability to take on Britain) was expected for 1944 or later.

Meanwhile, the German foreign policy was in a constant gamble - and its success depended on the perception of it being a reliable partner for agreements. A serious violation of agreements was unacceptable till March 1939 when Hitler violated the Munich agreement and thereby ended the British appeasement policy (because he had proved his unreliability).


The declaration of war by Britain and France in early September 1939 was an accidental and unexpected side-effect of the German invasion of Poland. The navy wasn't ready at all because it hadn't been tasked to be ready by late '39.

- - - - -

This shows why the submarine fleet was too small to cope with the demands placed on it in 1939-1942 and why this was perfectly normal and no failure.

The political costs of a larger pre-war submarine fleet would have been excessive.

The economic ability to produce much more submarines was not really available till about 1938-1939, and that was an awfully short period for a major peacetime fleet build-up.

The submarine fleet was of limited utility in potential conflicts with France or Russia and of no utility against smaller European powers.


There were even more reasons for why the sub fleet was rather small in 1939-1941:

* The personnel of additional submarine units would have caused additional costs and deprived the economy of some workforce.

* An even faster naval expansion would have placed even greater stress on the training system. The overall personnel (senior NCO and officer) quality would likely have suffered.

* A German-British war very unlikely; a war against both France and Britain could only be won if France fell quickly. The industrial and manpower difference was too large for a long war and the devastating effect of the long WWI was still well-known.
The navy could not contribute significantly to such a quick victory over France, but army and air force could - and deserved priority for this reason.
It would have been pointless to hurt Britain at sea if France won the land war.


It's easy to diagnose a weakness of the German submarine force in 1939-1941. It would have been near impossible to change that before the war, though.

The later course of events was not known in advance. Political and economical restrictions as well as the need to hedge against unhistorical scenarios led to the historical submarine force.

The greatest failure of the 1930's submarine programs was probably that eventual quantity production was no major design criterion. That is a problem that happened often in history and that we're facing today again with our peace-time designs.

S. Ortmann

P.S.: I recommend my German readers the book "Geschichte des deutschen U-Bootbaus" (Eberhard Rössler, Bernhard  und Graefe Verlag, 1996). It was also helpful for this blog post.
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2009/06/21

Iran, June 2009: Defence by solidarity

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It's still unknown what the Iranian unrest will achieve.


Except one achievement:
Iran won't be bombed by the U.S. for a while.

The protesters give a face to the PEOPLE of Iran. They have become humans even in the opinion of Neocons and other extremists in the West. In fact, even some of those who are usually rather fearmongering and warmongering portrait the Iranians as similar to Americans.

This sudden change turned the political climate to a state in which bombing is extremely unlikely.

This could change quickly, of course. The protests might fail and leave only the regime as representative of Iran.

The best (air) defence of Iran right now and in the next years is a visible political opposition (or a new government).

Sven Ortmann
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2009/06/20

A pacification strategy

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The German ISAF troops in the areas of Kabul and Kunduz were mostly passive until recently.
This has been much-criticized by people from countries who weren't ready to send their troops to these places to do it differently. Well, it looks as if the passivity has gone away to some degree (they are apparently using a new rules of engagement interpretation).

I'm generally not interested much in Afghanistan/ISAF/OEF because I consider that as a meddling in a distant civil war with a poor policy/strategy and for very little potential advantage. It's a war of choice that's simply not improving our situation in my opinion.

Yet, there are some interesting demonstrations of the political nature of war going on in Afghanistan - and I don't mean the difficulties of fighting together in a war with different intents and restrictions.

The passivity of German forces in the area Kunduz has kept open civil war away from that province. The civilian casualty count is extremely low. That's the good side of the coin.
The bad side is that the Taliban didn't need to do anything against the German troops for the pursuit of their political and logistical goals in the area. They were apparently able to gain political influence (again). The only really necessary Taliban violence in the area was the one directed at political opposition and traitors.
Rather passive security forces don't intervene with such activity (and active ones don't do it well, either). It's therefore useless to attack them. Attacks could at best cause a local withdrawal, which wouldn't increase the insurgent's freedom of action significantly.

In fact, it's a mystery to me why the Taliban bothered to attack German patrols at all. The attacks on the outpost in Kunduz made some sense; they had the hope that this would force us to withdraw from it. That would have been a strong political push for the local Taliban.
The chance of a withdrawal was coupled with a huge risk: They could face a different, more active replacement or turn the passive security forces into active ones instead of achieving a withdrawal.

The situation is apparently quite similar to the history of the mostly passive British garrison of Basra. The British didn't exercise control of Basra most of the time and non-state powers took over (even openly), but the civil war symptoms were limited. The open rule of the Shi'ite militias exposed them to a relatively swift and decisive offensive of Iraqi government forces later on.
In the end, the supposedly poor British performance had kept massive bloodbaths away and the area was later quickly claimed by government forces. Paradoxically, the results of the "poor" performance don't look terrible to me.

This reminds me of a source that claimed a greater efficiency of Italian occupation troops in the Balkans of WW2 than of German occupation troops. The Italians were apparently reluctant to fight at that time and didn't add fuel to the flames while the Germans did exactly that - and failed against Tito's insurgents army.


- - - - -

It's a great achievement to keep away open civil war fighting in a civil war country, even if it's done in a peripheral province.

I got thinking about this as a component of an overall pacification strategy.

We might someday feel forced to intervene against genocide (examples Biafra and Rwanda) and find ourselves again stuck in a distant, alien and difficult to understand civil war. It might be useful to have a better strategy than used in Afghanistan. I won't come closer to the COIN crowd than this, ever.


My strategic idea requires three components (in addition to host nation military and para-military forces):

A mostly passive security force.
This doesn't intervene with political and criminal activity of hostile non-state actors. Its only mission is to keep open warfare away or to end it. It should deter against open warfare as much as possible. The security force protects itself, its supply convoys and fights whoever dares to fight openly. This security force includes convoy protection units.
Again; inactivity is the goal. It's highly advantageous to keep the conflict cool and avoid general violence.
Third world infantry battalions look like the best value for this.

This was the "prevent bloodbaths" component.

A mobile striking and quick-reaction force.
This distinctively different force (uniforms, insignia, equipment, nationality, behaviour) is split up into regional commands and the reserve that adds enough punch to the passive security forces in combat.
Its other purpose is to clear areas that are under hostile control (not always, but if deemed necessary). Offensive operations require political authorization.

This force needs to be fearsome to its enemies and have overwhelming power at hand.
A central (not regional) mobile striking force reserve would have its material at a central position but most of its personnel in their home country. These reserves would be flown in in less than 48 hours if needed.

This was the "keep the enemy in the underground" component.

A political action force
This would include national and foreign diplomats and politicians, and small highly-trained bodyguard units. It would be assisted by an intelligence network. This political action force would pursuit political victory in the communities of its region of activity. The methods of this political action force would be chosen according to circumstances and could range up to covert assassination of problematic leaders (skillfully blamed on others, of course).
This political action forces would also maintain propaganda media (radio mostly) for every language in the nation because this is the safest, least violence-provoking way (the possession of leaflets could be punished) of addressing the general population (instead of only key individuals or groups).

This political action force needs to have a very different appearance than the other components. It should not be associated with the others. I even suggest to use different nationalities and look (skin colour, cloth fashion) . Violent behaviour of the mobile striking force should not taint the image of the political action teams and any perception of unreliability that will be associated with the security forces must not apply to the political action teams as well.
The political force teams would at times use helicopter mobility, but prefer to use often changed or modified civilian vehicles for covert travel. They would usually appear surprisingly and leave relatively soon unless they get protection by hospitality. Unpredictability would be their chief protection against ambushes.

The political action teams need to have resources at their disposal (carrot and stick).
Politically friendly communities would be rewarded with investments and political allies would be rewarded with jobs. Bounty hunters, informants and employed indigenous agents need to be paid.

This political action force would NOT be military. It would be a political force with carrot and stick (rather a scalpel than a stick). Two covert liaison officers (with forward observer training) in civilian clothes should be the maximum of military involvement and they should be subordinate to all political members of the teams even in combat situations.

The political action force would be the main effort. All other efforts need to be subordinated.


I chose three specialist forces because the use of military units (with versatile or conventional warfare training) for all three purposes gave a less than stellar performance in the past. No matter how the RoE and morale looked like - the military was mediocre in two levels and caused many uncontrolled adverse side-effects.

The denial and suppression on two levels would leave the political, local activity left for the insurgents. They're usually best at this and can make use of a huge repertoire that includes rather despicable acts like terror.
An effective competition by the political action forces requires that they have an even better repertoire. Being polite, diplomatic and generous won't be enough to succeed everywhere.
I already mentioned assassination as a possible action, and I'd like to extend the 'carrot and stick' principle to blackmailing. The blackmailing would inflict trouble (like spraying fields before harvest), enforce loyalty (providing monthly food supply) and reward support (arrange for infrastructure improvements, advanced education opportunities for sons of influential families and jobs). The principle is simple; communities get in trouble if they resist and get rewarded if they're supportive. The middle ground - neutrality - yields neither trouble nor rewards from the political action teams.


In addition to the three forces I'd like to suggest some preventive (and hopefully temporary) ethnic cleansing. It's quite pointless to provide guards to small minorities (like a few families in a village) if you're trying to quell genocide between ethnic or other groups. It's better to be politically incorrect than to provoke widespread violence and many casualties.
I would move them (at least temporarily) to a safer place and make sure that no others move into their property and use it (housing, agricultural areas).
An assisted settlement in a safer place with an unlikely prospect of return looks much more promising to me than a very resource-drawing and marginally promising attempt to protect them.This is an essential part of the strategy because violence needs to be kept at a minimum; this includes intra-civilian violence.


There are usually not enough peacekeepers/occupation troops to really control a country unless we include many cheap, lower performance troops. My concept didn't aim at "holding" ground or "controlling" areas or the population completely. I lower the expectation to a mere suppression of acts of war. These peacekeepers would offer the insurgents a compromise: The insurgents are safe from them if they don't commit acts of war. I believe that this is feasible with much less troops than a full (and often failing) attempt to "control" and "hold".


I'm still working on my concept for the only wars of choice I would support: Interventions against genocides. My working examples are the quite opposite cases of Biafra (slow, easily accessible, state vs. insurgents) and Rwanda (extremely short & intense, very remote, population group vs. population group). The intervention itself would look very differently depending on circumstances (easy in cases like Biafra, extremely demanding in cases like Rwanda). The post-bloodbath phase that need to cool down the conflict and prevent another eruption wasn't in my area of interest for years. I recently worked on a concept for that one - and this was a glance at a preliminary fragment.

Sven Ortmann
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2009/06/18

The speech of the German general inspector of the Bundeswehr

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Generalinspekteur General Wolfgang Schneiderhahn is the highest ranking soldier of the Bundeswehr. His speech on 15 June has created a huge media echo. Regrettably, it was disfigured on English websites. The typical interpretation of the Anglo-American audience was something along the lines of 'A German general accuses his troops of being lazy pussies.'


That comes at a really poor time. Those people should rather have expended their attention on the fact that the German ISAF troops in Afghanistan are interpreting their RoE now more liberally, and the Taliban casualty count is rising quickly.


Back to the speech; its full text is here (in German, of course).
The speech was part of an event of the Wehrbeauftragter, a kind of tribune for the interests of the soldiers. Soldiers can write a petition to him to complain about grievances, and the respect for his investigations is comparable to a bureaucrat's respect for general accounting office investigations.

The first 19 (of 29) paragraphs of the speech transcript are about history and the role of the Wehrbeauftragter.

The next paragraph is about different society, different soldiers (than 40-50 years ago), distant missions, women in the forces as legitimate reasons for a natural increase of complaints.

Paragraph 21 ("Meine Sorge ...") is about an excess supply of caring people (in addition to the Wehrbeauftragter) and that this serves as an escape route from the own responsibility.

Paragraph 22 begins with the assertion that we have a tendency in the society to re-delegate responsibility (I assume he means the use off social insurances and services that replace family services). His problem is that the leadership technique of the Bundeswehr, Auftragstaktik, depends on the willingness of subordinates to accept responsibility.

Paragraph 23 ("Ein falscher Schlafsack...") offers examples. A wrong (winter) sleeping bag for the Kongo mission (at the equator) was great fodder for the yellow press, but shouldn't get the attention of the parliament.
Complaints of a soldier about being sent on an overseas mission for the third time were illegitimate because his job turned to this profile.
Then comes the important part: He asserts that German soldiers serve Germany conditionally; the state solves all problems, make the soldier feel good, provides a sense of achievement and the soldier agrees to serve.
His other major point is related to the culture/structure of communication.
Grievances should be reported normally and this should lead to an countermeasures, but this doesn't seem to work satisfactorily. Reports about grievances to the public would be the result.


Next paragraph. The problem needs to be taken seriously and its roots need to be found. Organisation? Responsibilites? Excessive demands? Stress by changes? Choice of personnel?

Next paragraph. He supposes that this could be addressed together with the Wehrbeauftragter.

Finally, four more paragraphs of praising the function of the Wehrbeauftragter.

- - - - -

Now compare a headline in a well-known English language military blog on this speech:

BUNDESWEHR INSPECTOR GENERAL: GERMAN TROOPIES AN "EMBARASSMENT"
The blog posts rests on a Telegraph.co.uk article that simply scrapped the original speech. Its headline:

Moaning German soldiers an 'embarrassment' say chiefs

Timesonline.co.uk uses a wrong context to create an outrageous headline.

German soldiers 'drink and complain too much to fight Taleban'
The official transcript is a pre-speech text, and it may be that the actual speech differed from the transcript. Nevertheless, the English language responses to the speech seem to be crap to me.

- - - - -

Let's look at some German responses of people who actually understand the speech.

Spiegel reports quite short and objectively (although Spiegel isn't exactly a journal with a good track record on objectivity and accuracy when reporting about military matters. Foreigners don't know this and are often happy to use the Spiegel's English online version ).
The transcript's reference to choice of personnel was accurized in the Spiegel report with a quote that addresses specifically the company leadership (CO and the very important senior NCO, "Spieß").

Wiegold, a Focus (competitor to Spiegel) reporter and one of the few military-related bloggers in Germany answers as well. He usually likes Schneiderhahn, but disagrees very much in this instance.
He emphasizes that shortcomings should become public because of the primacy of the politics and the right of the public to know (because it's providing the funds).
Furthermore, he emphasizes his opinion that the communication culture/competency of the Bundeswehr is indeed not very good - and uses a technical example (internet social network exploitation).

An F.A.Z. (major more-than-regional newspaper) blog reports as well. It's a short summary without expression of an own opinion. The author felt that the excess supply of caring people was directed at the press.

The Bendler blog (another rare German milblog) focuses on the communication-related part and disagrees. He likens Schneiderhahn's attitude that shortcomings should not become public knowledge to the behaviour of large corporations (context: We had some scandals because large corporations used intelligence service-like methods to hunt whistleblowers). He thinks this attitude is anachronistic in our modern society.

Weblog Sicherheitspolitik disagrees as well. The author feels that the sleeping bag example was inappropriate because much more pressing, legitimate concerns were expressed on that occasion. He points out how much separated from the experience of actual out-of-area deployments the higher leadership of the Bundeswehr really is. He recalls how our (not exactly popular) SecDef once mocked a soldier who complained about deficient equipment.

- - - - -

There are deficiencies in the Bundeswehr as in every army. Both the leadership and the troops have valid points in this affair.
The quality of the English-language coverage on this subject was extremely poor (so far), though. The speech wasn't about lazy "troopies" who are supposedly an "embarassment" - at least not the transcript version. The emphasis was certainly a very different one. The extremely poor English-language coverage was regrettably little more than fresh ammunition for Euro bashers.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: Why did the general inspector complain about complaints being published and then chooses a public event to make his complaints?
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The original littoral stealth ship

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I began a wave of naval-related posts with the "hidden ship" post. That was a short post about fast attack crafts that were greatly camouflaged right next to a cliff/coastline.

Here's what appears to be the original littoral stealth ship:


That doesn't look stealthy to you?

Well, it's not THAT kind of stealth. These photos tell the story:

The ship was stationed in the Dutch East Indies when Japan invaded in 1941. After the Allied fleet was destroyed in the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942, Abraham Crijnssen was ordered to escape to Australia. The crew covered her thickly with tree branches, so that to observers she looked like one of the many small jungle islets of the area, and she was able to pass Japanese forces undetected.
Wikipedia

For comparison: Camouflaged FACs

A shallow draft and small size are obviously of great advantage for such camouflaging efforts.

I'd love to build a whole gallery of photos like these. It happened much more often on exercises.

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2009/06/17

Politically incorrect. Today: Fire

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The employment of fire (flames, not shots) in combat is so much politically incorrect that barely anyone ever dares to talk or write about it.

Flamethrowers (as of the classic definition) are totally out of fashion.

Rightly so, because we can crack pillboxes much easier, quicker and with less risk with bazooka/Panzerfaust-type weapons. There are even dedicated anti-bunker weapons of that kind and a few examples that use an incendiary instead of a blast or shaped charge warhead.


Nevertheless, I'm disappointed that the flamethrower has been so badly distorted in conventional and institutional memory.

The normal image of a flamethrower is what we can see in a few movies; a flame weapon, used by remorseless troops, awfully burning soldiers (at times even its user).

That picture isn't accurate, and this is a tiny piece in our overall neglect of important art of war insights: The flamethrower was less a killing or wounding weapon than a tool.


Flamethrowers were used for several purposes other than inflicting burns:

* smoke
Every burst of flame had a very imperfect combustion and therefore a lot of black smoke (thickened, longer ranged fuel produced less smoke). This was often used to conceal movement because smoke grenades were in quite short supply in both world wars.

* material destruction
Fire can easily ruin material. A flame thrower often replaced explosives for the demolition of broken-down vehicles and other equipment. It was also very practical for the removal of heavy vegetation for better field of view/fire.

* more smoke
It's possible to create a lot of smoke by setting a forest on fire. Again; smoke shells were often in short supply.

* most important: break the enemy's will
That's the purpose of most wars, and the most terrifying weapons are best at it (on the tactical level).
Often times it wasn't necessary to wound or kill anyone. A flame burst OVER a pillbox/bunker was often enough - the occupants surrendered. That's actually MORE humane than blowing them up.
Some are stubborn, of course. Well - the alternative ways of dying in war aren't exactly humane either, after all.


The Russians use the word 'flamethrower' (well, the Russian word for it) for bazooka-type and artillery rocket weapons with incendiary and/or thermobaric warheads. Those still have some psychological impact, but a very different one. They should be considered as something completely different than classic flamethrowers - for technical and tactical reasons.

- - - - -
The non-physical, morale element - breaking will - is usually neglected.
We should really look much more at these things (what terrifies best?) because terrifying people is better than killing or wounding them - and keeps them from killing or wounding our troops (suppressive fire - also often neglected in discussions about weapons).


Being terrifying to hostiles is GOOD. That's how deterrence works, that's how suppression works - that's how surrender works and that's how you win. Scare them.


Flamethrowers are outdated, but we shouldn't allow that our military loses its scariness. It's supposed to be scary (to hostiles).
Arms limitations are founded on a nice basic idea, but these actions should always take into account that our military needs to scare the shit out of potential and actual hostiles.

Sven Ortmann

edit: I forgot to mention that offensive combat in hilly terrain (like the Sicily campaign) can be made quite easy if you dislodge defenders by burning down the vegetation. Well, this works until the defenders burn the vegetation in advance.
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2009/06/16

About this blog: Visitors

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This is a (cut) graphic of Statcounter details about the last 500 visitors.

Statcounter provides only this kind of chart for free, no matter whether I had 500 visitors total or 500 million in the last hour. 500 is actually a bit more than a day's traffic here.
I've cut the graph at 1% of visitors (5) to shorten it - a long row of smaller figures makes little sense.

Germany and the U.S. are obviously the most important countries of origin (and the relation between the German and U.S. visitor numbers varies a lot). 16 German visits are actually mine because Statcounter's blocking cookie doesn't work anymore.

Ireland is usually not that much represented in this kind of statistic.
Estonia is strangely over-represented as always, and (cut out) Malawi (a small Southern African country) is always over-represented as well. Someone sitting there seems to visit the blog daily.
Btw: Hello to Malawi.

This is a graphic about the development of page loads this year, from week one to 22.

It was a good year so far.
The pushing effect of getting mentioned in posts on other blogs is clearly visible - just like a fading effect afterward. It's also visible how writing more often has pushed the page loads up.
That seem to be quite essential recipes for blogging.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: The petition against internet censorship ends today. It got 128,135 signatures so far. That's as far as I know a record, even more than a heavily media-sponsored petition for a lower gasoline tax (previous record afaik).
128,000 people signed to protect freedom despite the obvious risk of being accused to protect pedophiles. Even political correctness didn't prevent that.
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2009/06/15

Air war support & Europe

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I was recently focusing my research more on air war support, the electronic stuff that supports the bare bones force of fighters, bombers and combination thereof.

A full air war system includes much more than combat aircraft. Some of the support categories were developed during WW2, others during the Cold War.

Here's a short list (I don't claim completeness):

- (standoff) radar jamming aircraft
- (standoff) communications jamming aircraft
- (standoff) electronic intelligence aircraft
- maritime patrol aircraft
- transport aircraft
- gunships
- air/ground radar aircraft
- air/air radar aircraft (AEW&C)
- Tanker (midair refueling) aircraft

All this on top of training aircraft, fighters, ground attack aircraft, bombers and SEAD aircraft.


The USAF had this full system (partially still in prototype stage) by the 1991 Gulf War and fully developed by the late 90's.

- - - - -

I'm not fully comfortable with this monopoly among the NATO members.

I admit that it's not a great idea to duplicate high level capabilities in an alliance, but a bit of technological competition makes sense to me.
A full air war system in Europe would be an insurance just in case of a NATO split along the Atlantic.


NATO and UK duplicate some capabilities (especially AEW & C). The AEW & C technology used by both (and the U.S.) is a bit suspicious as it seems to be lagging significantly behind the state of the art (especially in regard to the antenna tech and refresh rate).

The attempt to establish a ground situation surveillance (SAR/GMTI radar) capability at NATO level similar to the AWACS force wasn't successful so far.

Efforts to pool some heavy air lift capacity at NATO level seem to be stuck at a small scale.
There was also an apparently successful effort to establish a multi-national air crew training facility.

I don't recall efforts to establish a pool of aerial refueling capacity, but it would probably make sense as well.

There's little need to have these support assets pooled at NATO level, though. The U.S. already has the stuff and doesn't need to be involved at government level.
The pools could instead be established at WEU or EU level.


This is how I would organize it:
(Unless someone hired me to think about this for months to come up with a better proposal.)

One wing for air situation surveillance
platform: medium airliner
long-range AESA search & track radar, passive location & classification of fighter radar and radio emissions

One wing for ground situation surveillance
platform: medium airliner
long range SAR/GMTI radar, passive location & classification of ground-based radar and radio emissions
(I'm aware that the frequencies overlap with the first type; it's as much about division of work as about technical differences)

One wing of standoff jammers
platform: medium airliner
radio communications and radar (ground and airborne) radar jamming
(to be complemented by extremely high altitude EW drones)

Two wings of quick change transport/tanker aircraft
platform: medium airliner

One wing of maritime warfare aircraft
platform: medium airliner
naval radar, visual and infrared surveillance, good value ASW equipment

One squadron of heavy airlift aircraft
platform: dedicated heavylift aircraft
ability to lift 50-ton vehicles over medium range

Additionally, centralize the multi-national pilot training in Canada.


National inventories:

* Strike fighters
(quantity of national wings matched to national budget, large air forces let their squadrons emphasize different air war aspects)

* EW aircraft on strike fighter base
(only in the air forces of Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain)

* light airlift aircraft
(for everyday airlift needs, ranging in size from a flight to few squadrons)


My personal preference would be
(Legacy aircraft would of course be used as interim types.)

medium airliner - A350-800
(enough volume/payload and range for the jobs, future-proof)

heavy airlift aircraft - Il-76MF
(best value heavylift aircraft, IAE V2500 engines, only with full spare parts license, some could be operated as civilian-registered charter aircraft in a joint venture)

strike fighter - Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen
(already available; Gripen for small budget air forces to afford meaningful numbers)

light quick change airlift aircraft - An-74TK
(good value, BR725 engines, only with full spare parts license)


The British had a rather disappointing experience with their attempt to integrate a powerful SAR/GMTI radar into a large business jet. This means that the use of subsonic or supersonic business jets as platforms is likely no good idea till the systems become more automated, miniaturized and energy-efficient.

- - - - -

The thought of a well-designed pool of European air power support assets is very enticing to me. It would avoid duplication of effort inside of Europe, make advanced support capabilities available to small air forces on a regular basis.

It seems pointless to have some support capabilities scattered with as few as two to twelve aircraft of certain types in operation in an air force. Meanwhile, no European air force has the full system of air war capabilities.

An integration by pooling of rare assets appears to be a useful step. It seems to me much more useful than dreams of fully integrated military forces or strange multi-national corps/divisions/brigades with a mix of single-nationality units.


A great (to me) side-effect of such pools would be that their use for war would likely require a majority agreement. This would pretty much take away advanced air power assets from plans for wars of aggression and most other wars of choice. It would usually take a consensus (caused by a defensive war of necessity) to free these assets for use.
That's the reason why UK and France wouldn't fully commit to such a pool, of course.

Sven Ortmann

edit: The "European Air Transport Fleet" agreement may be seen as an alternative approach. It's not such a clear-cut concept with economies of scale, though.

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