2010/07/23

Helicopters & mobilisation

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There's a most important difference between small and great wars, and it's trivial: The scope.

You can pour high-end equipment and well-trained personnel into a small war, but that's not sustainable in a great war.
Great wars have the nasty habit of requiring as much resources as are available, and this includes mediocre and inferior resources. The cream alone doesn't suffice in great wars.

A military institution in Europe should first and foremost prepare for great wars. It doesn't need to be really ready for one, but it should at the very least be prepared to get ready a.s.a.p. once that becomes necessary.

Now there's a Cold War left-over that's quite strange. The Cold War demanded permanent readiness in Europe, and the WW3 scenarios left little to no time mobilisation. We partially ditched the idea of harnessing reserves and civilian assets for warfare based on these scenarios - especially in the former alliance frontier state of Germany (both). We had mobilisation plans, but their scope was laughable in comparison to the mobilisations of 1914/15 and 1939/40.


Today we're in the strange situation that our great war preparations - having lost much of our attention to stupid overseas adventures - don't seem to harness the reserves and civilians better than during the Cold War although we're now in a relative geographical position that would allow for a mobilisation in the event of war. Said mobilisation would probably not be decisive because it would take months, but it has at least become a possibility.



Let's take the recently covered helicopter topic as an example. We have approx. these German military helicopter inventories projected for 2015 (excluding naval helicopters, including orders):

82 CH-53 medium/heavy lift helicopters
122 NH90 TTH transport helicopters (more planned)
80 Tiger attack helicopter
100 Bo 105P1M light helicopter (liaison)
14 EC 135 light helicopter (training)
(Many additional old Bo 105 would probably be left in a cannibalized shape.)

Meanwhile, we have a civilian inventory of
789 helicopters in Germany, among them

119 R44
111 EC 135
52 MBB Bk 117
51 AS 355
43 Bell 206
32 Bo 105
26 EC 120
24 Hughes 369
18 AS 332
18 EC 135
15 A 109
12 Bell 407
10 Bell 212
9 MD-900
7 AB 412 / Bell 412
7 AB 204 / Bell 205
7 SA 330
6 S-76
6 SA 365


This includes few helicopters suitable for troops & material transport. The overwhelming majority of them would be suitable for liaison, MedEvac and observation (such as march route overwatch) purposes. I left away most very light helicopters such as two-seaters, as these would only be suitable for basic pilot training.


I think it would be a good idea to not only think of the common MilSpec helicopters as possible military helicopters. We could and most likely would commandeer civilian helicopters and the related personnel into service in the event of a great war.
These helicopters would most likely provide much of the liaison, medical transport and even some troop & cargo transport capacity.

This leads to the possible conclusion that there's no great need for liaison helicopters in the peacetime military; we would easily have enough of them with civilian registration. The MedEvac and liaison capacities would rest greatly on civilian types and this should influence force structure and especially our expectations. It makes no sense to develop and procure a handful of gold-plated MedEvac helicopters if we would have a 90% civilian medevac fleet in war, for example. Well, unless you are a fan of stupid small wars.


Sven Ortmann


Data on civilian helicopters: Thanks to LBA (Luftfahrtbundesamt).
Photo copyrights "Igge" (NH90) and "Stahlkocher" (EC135); Wikipedia users.
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1 comment:

  1. Sadly, your numbers concerning the helicopter strength in Germany 2015 are a little outdated... (if only a couple of days..) the german armed forces are facing a very uncertain future, in which mobilisation doesnt play a very big part in... and army aviation (aviation in generell) keeps shrinking in numbers and capabilities by the days! I dont know if the civilian helis play any part in mobilisation planings, but it certainly is a good idea. As far as I know, it used to be like that with trucks...

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