The guessing about the new Russian air superiority fighter PAK-FA is (at least partially) over: We know now at least how it looks. It looks like a mix of YF-23 and Su-27.

The Russians seem to follow the "heavy, high-end" fighter path (as expected). I wonder how many of these planes they could afford if their economy's manufacturing sector develops well!?

Sven Ortmann

edit: Old video was removed from Youtube, I linked another one.


The Limes Germanicus

The Limes Germanicus (simply known as "Limes" in Germany) was an ancient great wall of the Roman empire along its border with Germanic tribes.

It's of special interest because it's a quite unusual defensive / border security system. This line of defence was in practice incapable (and later on likely also not meant) of defeating attacks. Even the possibility of successful counterattacks on raiders before they did harm was small.

The Romans hadn't enough troops to set up a solid enough defence capable of doing that. It wouldn't have helped if they were able because they also would have had to sustain the effort for generations and the border provinces were simply not worth the effort.

They had to settle with much lower ambitions, and they've set up a border security strategy that was much, much more complex and efficient than a simple "keep out!" defence.

The strategy included four major elements:
(1) mark the border to solidify the claim on land, control it
(2) trade and ally with nearby tribes as the "carrot" part of "carrot and stick"
(3) lower the expectation value for net raid profit with border security efforts
(4) use punitive expeditions as the "stick" in "carrot and stick"

This worked quite well until the resources spent on border security diminished (archeologists learned that the garrisons were only in partial use in the late imperial phase) and the Germanic pressure reached a new level (the barbarian migration pressure re-emerged about two decades after the establishment of the border).

The limes earthworks and "walls" weren't capable of stopping many raiding party infiltrations. Their greater value was in the difficulties such a wall and ditch posed for the exfiltration (return) of said raiding party.
The border guards were at alert by the time of exfiltration, the raiders were hunted by Roman cavalry and they were in a hurry (unable to choose the best time and place for overcoming the obstacle), laden with booty and possibly even occupied with captives (new slaves).
Only really strong raiding parties had a good chance to return with livestock. Infiltration and exfiltration on horse was also difficult.
This lowered the expectation value for net raid profits (3).

The Romans had early on an "all potential foes need to be destroyed" attitude. Such a limited ambition border defence as the Limes Germanicus turned out to be was therefore a great step back towards humility and practicality.
They had to secure their long Northern border with strictly limited resources and have apparently developed a smart and effective strategy for the challenge.

The Limes Germanicus was therefore an example of a linear defence (or security concept) with low ambitions.
That strategy deserves attention today because we're at a similar position today: The continuous, uninterrupted front lines of WWI and even WW2 (in most theatres and at most times) are out of reach in modern warfare. POur combat troops strength would not suffice; the whole NATO could not man the former Eastern Front as densely with combat troops as did the Wehrmacht even as late as 1943. Most conflicts would happen in a smaller theatre than that, but also with smaller troop contingents. Talk and writing about "empty battlefields" (on the operational level of ground war!) and huge "gaps" between formations has become acceptable if not normal years ago.
No matter whether we intend to be on the operational offensive in every future war - we still needs good ideas about how to set up an effective operational defence with minimum resources as well.

Modern military theorists need to adapt to such relatively empty war zones (as known from ground wars pre-1854), and the many historical precedents are msot likely of value for that effort.
The Limes Germanicus is an interesting historical example for a static linear defence at relatively low cost.

Sven Ortmann


The history of arms branches in Orient and Occident - redux

Humanoid warfare began with light infantry - quite undisciplined groups armed with melee weapons.

"Soon" thereafter (likely hundred thousands of years later, but we know almost nothing about that period) missile infantry joined the fight; slingers, javeliners, bowmen and possibly blowpipe warriors.

It seems that a form of cavalry appeared next; chariots. The earliest use of chariots was in the missile cavalry role, as an elusive platform for missileers. Later on riding was used in combat and light cavalry began to take over that role at lower cost, better robustness and cross-country characteristics.
At about that time heavy infantry - protected by armour and disciplined in the use of battle formations - was introduced and began to dominate warfare in Greece.
The late use of chariots was apparently focused on the heavy cavalry role; shock attacks, even armed with scythes on the axles. They did finally disappear - simple rider cavalry proved superior also in the heavy (shock) cavalry role.

At this point it's interesting to have a look at ancient Hellenic warfare.
It was early on quite formalized and restricted by rules until the civilization-fracturing Peloponnesian War (the ancient equivalent to the First World War - Greece was incapable of further civilization advances afterwards!). Heavy infantry in phalanx formation moved against each other in optimal terrain (ignoring the hills around them) and the winning side did not pursuit the enemy because a won battle usually meant a won war.

That changed over time; skirmishers were introduced. Javelineers (Peltasts from Trace), Bowmen (Cretans) and slingers (from Rhodes) became more important and harassed and exhausted the enemy lines before the clash as well as contributing to a pursuit. These lightly armed skirmishers (a mix of missile and light infantry) were elusive. They were more mobile than the heavy infantry (especially as the latter kept its formation) and not threatened much by cavalry (because horses were rare in greece - only Thessaloniki had much light cavalry).

The late Hellenic army of Alexander the Great's fame was built on a holding phalanx with extra-long lances and a heavy (shock) cavalry for the decisive breakthrough charge (typically aimed at the enemy army leader). This model withered down to a defensively strong but also offensively cumbersome phalanx with little cavalry support as the Macedonian successors of Alexander were unable to afford enough cavalry.

Rome went another path; it began with a graded infantry force with little cavalry and turned towards an army built with excellent heavy infantry supported by mercenaries. That model was fine, but was again given up late in the empire in favour of a less disciplined force with a greater share of heavy cavalry. The conditions had changed over time.

The Northern (Germanic) tribes had an emphasis on light infantry which got employed in a heavy infantry (shock infantry for battle) function, with predictably little success for centuries.
This model withered away in favour of less, but better armed and trained fighters after the Western Roman Empire's end. These new armies of the feudal societies moved towards small all-heavy (shock) cavalry forces (the knight armies).

The pendulum swung back to wards heavy infantry during the 13th to 15th century with another rise of lance-armed infantry (a Swiss reinvention). A revival of the bow happened late in that period with the zenith of bowmen in Europe; the English longbowmen. The quality of their bows was quite mediocre (the Turkish bows were much, much better), but their chosen and highly skilled users managed to exploit defects of the then-dominant heavy cavalry armies.
The combination of heavy infantry with lances and missileers with strong longbows sufficed to push cavalry back into a secondary role next to infantry.

Most European wars from the 16th to 20th century were dominated by heavy infantry of some sort, with notable exceptions on the Balkans (the wars against the Turks that required much light cavalry as well as light infantry) and the huge countries of Eastern Europe (much cavalry).

Firearms (both artillery and man-portable weapons) transformed European warfare to some degree, but their breakthrough came with the bayonet revolution of the mid-17th century. The bayonet gave the musket a dual role as a ranged weapon and as a lance. Pikes and lances had initially been necessary additions to muskets/arquebus because of their repulsion value against cavalry shock attacks. At about 1660 every infantryman was to be armed with a firearm plus melee and even anti-cavalry capability.

Heavy infantry and missile infantry had merged to a new type of heavy infantry (the line infantry) and later on light infantry and missile troops merged into a new type of light infantry (rifle infantry).
The dedicated missile infantry role was kind of taken over by artillery, which added a field artillery role to its siege role by producing sufficiently mobile gun designs.

That model lasted till after the Napoleonic Wars, although heavy infantry became able to fight with less discipline in addition to disciplined formations. Social and political changes of the French Revolution and the rise of nationalism had allowed for that change.

The next revolution came with the Minié ball (which finally made muzzle-loaded rifles practical for all infantry). The Minié ball reigned just a few years until the breech-loaded rifle was finally mature and ready for general use. Both together sealed the fate of horse cavalry as important battlefield factor - both the heavy and the light one.
Heavy infantry was still used with old tactics (despite having light infantry potential as well due to their rifles), and the slaughter was impressive.
The First World War finally helped to press some of the light infantry mindset into the heavy infantry, which was still the dominant branch for line-of-sight combat during WW2.

Early Word War Two demonstrated the return of the heavy (shock) cavalry principle of sorts - the internal combustion engine had replaced the muscles of horses. The wealth of nations after the recovery of the late 40's and the 50's allowed for national armies that focused on this new, most powerful heavy cavalry. The result seems to have been similar to the medieval result: Small forces of very powerful heavy cavalry with a considerable train - and a weak infantry.

The remainder of the heavy infantry (infused with just a few light infantry traits) has recently been pitched against the light infantry mustered by less developed countries and was found wanting; light infantry is still pretty elusive. The ringing alarm bell was heard and it's a question of problem pressure whether the recent experiences will lead to an increased emphasis on own light infantry or not.

- - - - -

Now what's the point of this redux of oriental and occidental military history?

Simple: I wanted to point out that there's more than just our present structure. Most importantly, we seem to neglect the light cavalry pattern today. The only modern equivalent are our weak and neglected armoured reconnaissance forces. The present small wars-driven interest in light infantry is unlikely to help us to regain the advantages that light cavalry has to offer.

Light cavalry showed its full potential in the ancient Parthian light cavalry that faced the infantry-centric Roman armies.
The Romans were superior in melee battles and sieges, but their problems were quite insurmountable every time they invaded Parthia. The enemy light cavalry (armed with composite bows) simply bypassed the Roman main force and attempted to cut off the supply lines. Supply convoys had to be guarded heavily. The Romans tried to use an economies of scale approach with few very large convoys, but even more than one entire legion plus mercenary troops was at times not enough to prevent the complete destruction of an essential convoy.

Now imagine that we would revolutionize our armoured reconnaissance further and turn it into light cavalry, with much greater importance and much greater capabilities than today's armoured recce. Such an approach could be a mightily powerful answer to the challenge of low force density (geography stayed the same, but forces shrunk). Opposing heavy forces would be unable to defeat the more elusive light cavalry, be cut off, threatened all the time from all directions - and would be in a terrible situation if engaged by heavy opposition with great momentum.

In fact, I've been researching into this direction for a while and the many advantages of the concept are overwhelming. The crucial question is of course whether the force density in the theater is indeed low enough to allow for infiltration and exfiltration - light cavalry needs non-linear warfare to excel in its core roles of reconnaissance, counterreconnaissance, skirmishing, raiding, escorting and coup de mains.



Discussions about hardware often circle around specifications, tainted by aesthetic preferences and patriotism. Several psychological aspects are often missed - it doesn't need to be like that.

One psychological effect isn't about mind tricks like fear or panic, but about restricting behaviour. It's about - who could not have guessed that after reading the title? - repulsion. There's a quite robust chance that even those who've read a hundred books on military theory don't have come across that term or that idea yet. I encountered it ("abstoßend") in some post-WW2 sources which were written under the impression of the intense world war fighting.
These sources diagnosed the phenomenon and didn't analyze ir at all.

The idea isn't even outlandish; some weapons have a great value because they keep the enemy at a distance - with a chance of discouraging attacks and scouting attempts completely within their effective range. That's the (highly valuabe) influence on enemy behaviour; the range of promising enemy options (opportunities) is being reduced.

War is much more about taking many of the enemy's options off the table than it is about killing and destruction.
One example: The Allies didn't start Operation Overlord or an equivalent in 1943 because German defences were repelling enough to sweep that option off the table.
A common remark about warfare is that it's 99% boring. Yes, the repelling power of enemy capabilities is among the reasons for this.

It's a good thing to consider repulsion because it has an independent effect on the utility of hardware.

An example scenario should show this; a unit has two possible approaches for enemy attacks in its defensive sector, 2 km apart.

In the first case it's equipped with a weapon of 1.5 km range and able to cover both approaches. A specifications-based analysis shows that the unit can be happy about the range. More range = better. The enemy sees the same and concludes that he's got the choice where to execute an ordered attack, because he'll get shot at anyway.

Now the second case; the unit gets a fixed weapon with only 500 m range. It cannot cover both approaches at once and needs to settle with the defence of one approach, leaving the other one undefended. The specs-based analysis explains why the unit's leaders are unhappy, the enemy sees the gap and exploits it.

There was no repulsing effect against a determined enemy in the first case, but in the second (superficially terrible) case there was a repulsing effect; the attacker was likely kept from attacking the defended approach.

A simple tactical analysis would certainly judge the first case to be much better one for the defender, and the second case a free win for the attacker.

Well, I beg to differ.
There was no way how the "case one" unit could serve its superior HQ in any other way than with some mere attrition (and delay) of the attacker.
The "case two" unit shaped the battlefield by making the attack's route predictable. In fact, the attacker's route could almost be dictated in the second case.
That's a very valuable service for the superior HQ and it could by far outweigh the company's full firepower.
Maybe it doesn't outweigh the loss of attrition by the line units; even in that case an analysis that doesn't take repulsion into account would fall short of depicting the situation accurately.

- - - - -

WW2 veterans made remarks about the repulsing power of modern infantry arms in general and also in regard to the then-new short-range anti-tank weapons. I have never ever seen similar remarks in regard to air power or artillery.

The point here is that although more range is often considered to be an advantage, it doesn't need to be one. A greater effective range can easily cause a loss of the tactically and operationally often more valuable repelling effect.

This should be taken into consideration because the effect may be very great on the levels of brigade to division command. A bunch of 2 km-ranged weapons may be able to discourage an attack (short of a major breakthrough offensive) at a particular place while a 80 km ranged weapon at 40 km distance may be unable to do the same. It would cover all relevant locations with almost the same firepower and would thus fail to repel offensive intents anywhere.
Its effect would appear on both sides of the attacker's options inequation and would thus cancel itself out.

Granted, repulsion is the tactical relative of deterrence. Yet, it's very different at the same time; deterrence is meant to prevent offensive action completely, while repulsion is a local effect that merely keeps the inevitable away from certain locations.

Repulsion is one of the most influential factors in ground, air and sea warfare, yet it doesn't seem to have gotten its proper place in military theory yet.



"Komplizen: Die Medien und der Terror"

Here is a column of Stephan Ruß-Möhl about the informal alliance between terrorists and their essential effect multipliers, the journalists.

The content is quite obvious, but I like his style in pointing out the obvious that the media itself usually doesn't dare to tell (for even more obvious reasons).

The text is in German, thus recommended only for those who can comprehend German.

Sven Ortmann .


The relative value of life in war & peace

Life has seemingly a different value in war and peace. It's highly valued in peacetime, yet in wartime lives are spent for seemingly little gain and instead of material expenses.

Here's a scenario: It's a commander's choice (the expected outcome being the same) whether to accept the loss of few infantry at a high ammunition expense or to accept the loss of much infantry at a small ammunition expense.

The normal peace-time answer would be to minimise casualties because life is being valued highly in comparison to lifeless (aqnd already paid for) ammunition.

So why is this peacetime (and cabinet war) answer not representative for great wars as well?

The economic science has an answer: Market prices depend on choices, not on some constant value. The market price is in this scenario the relative price (severity of loss) of life and material.

Ammunition is in short supply in great wars. The preferable choice is therefore to economize its use; to prevent the worst and achive the most with given material resources (high payoff uses).
The purposes with smaller payoff have an insufficient priority and don't get enough material for a material-heavy answer to their problem. Life is still more valuable than lifeless matter, but blood is the only available currency in those cases.
The scarcity of material explains why even in situations where life and material are (ner-)perfect substitutes, life needs to be expended. The material scarcity drives up the price of material (which is a lesser way of expressing the problem because at that point there's no real analogy to a market any more).

In other words: Opportunity costs are manipulating the price of material. The expense of material in one place for saving few lives would be paid for by not being able to expend the material to save many lives elsewhere. This opportunity cost is understood and drives the relative price of material up in comparison to life.
This view shows how life actually stays highly valuable, just as in peacetime; the problem is that you need to expend it because you lack the means to save it.

In the end, much more wartime bills are paid for with blood than peacetime reasoning would suggest.

Why is material typically in short supply during wars?

Material is expensive and great wars are rarely likely enough to prepare for them in excess of the societies' ability to sustain the effort in the long run.
The potential consumption of material is much greater than the potential production, especially for ammunitions. It's a bottomless hole.
Another reason is that the expectation value of lives saved in a possible wartime does simply not cut it against the "expectation value of lives saved" by other measures than piling up military hardware (such as health care, environmental protection, safety regulations...).
On top of that the individuals of the society want to enjoy the fruits of their work through consumption.

There's at least one economic science approach that could explain why the value of life relative to the value of lifeless objects seems to shift between war and peace.


Schwerpunkt and "center of gravity"


Years ago I've read von Clausewitz' "On War" in the German version (cut by the publisher; apparently some chapters about 19th century regulations and such matters of little interest were omitted).

Ever since I've been irritated by the use of the term "center of gravity" (Schwerpunkt) in (American) English military theory writings. It's being used with the meaning of "critical vulnerability" instead of as "great accumulation of power for the best chance to win an important battle".

It's OK to invent a new concept, but please name it accordingly - and don't misuse an old, famous and established term for it. Most importantly, don't link your concept to a respected theorist because that's an illegitimate move that exploits that author's credibility.

Again and again I discussed these points with little effect. The new meaning of the term was long since established in English-language literature and people stubbornly kept linking it to von Clausewitz.

Well, it turned out to be a double surprise because my position was long since official doctrine - in the U.S.! The USMC acknowledged this in its FMFM-1 "Warfighting" field manual (1989):

(...) Sometimes known as the center of gravity. However, there is a danger in using this term. Introducing the term into the theory of war Clausewitz wrote (p.485): "A center of gravity is always found where the mass is concentrated the most densely. It presents the most effective target for a blow; furthermore, the heaviest blow is that struck by the center of gravity." Clearly, Clausewitz was advocating a climatic test of strength against strength "by daring all to win all" (p. 596). This approach is consistent with Clausewitz' historical perspective. But we have since come to prefer pitting strength against weakness. Applying the term to modern warfare, we must make it clear that by the enemy's center of gravity we do not mean a source of strength, but rather a critical vulnerability.

in a footnote that was in reference to

Therefore, we should focus our efforts against a critical enemy vulnerability. Obviously, the more critical and vulnerable, the better.

Invent a new name for it, damnit! The mis-use of that term and the wrong attribution to CvC are bad for military theory.

- - - - -

The latter quote deserves a comment itself as well: It is misleading.

Military history has few examples to offer for enemies who were defeated by a hit on their critical vulnerability. Strengths can be reduced, but they rarely whither away just because some weak spot elsewhere was hit.
One example: You can deal with near-defenceless support troops first, but at some point you'll need to deal with enemy crack combat troops.

The manoeuverist approach of dealing preferably with enemy weaknesses is therefore incomplete even if we use a tunnel vision on the offensive.

It's on the other hand of course a great idea to aim at targets with a favourable value/defensibility ratio in order to turn the almost unavoidable later conflict with enemy strengths as (favourably) unfair as possible.

edit 2010-01-17:
There's a reason why the U.S. and the British army were able to warp the meaning of the term. Both use "unity of effort" as a stand-alone hallmark in military theory. The German military doesn't stress unity of effort - it uses the concept of Schwerpunkt which serves an almost identical purpose. The British and Americans don't really lack a concept by skipping Schwerpunkt; they have "mass" and "unity of effort" as substitutions for the original purpose of the Schwerpunkt concept.

The closest anglophone equivalent of Schwerpunkt is "main effort".



Terrorism-scared people are ridiculous ...

Yes, I'm too busy for real blog posts these days and some 90% complete texts still need polishing.


72 disappointed virgins


Those idiots are at least good for one thing: Great satire!

Sven Ortmann



Panic has been one of the more influential factors in many historical battles.

It happened often at the time of defeat when a line was broken or the army leader or king had died. More often it meant defeat for an otherwise still undefeated force.

Classic panic triggers were unexpected attacks; especially attacks from the rear and/or by cavalry against an unprepared infantry force. Paint and war cries were partially meant to improve the chance of inflicting a panic on the enemy.

It's still normal to expect panic if multiple rocket launchers or other very rapid & powerful indirect fire attacks hit badly trained troops that lack cohesion (such as African paramilitaries). Again, the combination of lacking preparation (training, equipment, cohesion), irresistible power and unexpectedness of the attack are the likely causes for panic.

Panic can also occur among especially among leaders if communications break down. That's less of a problem with a command system that emphasizes independent leadership of subordinate units whose leaders are used to do most without detailed guidance from superiors. It's often a knock-out to other units, including those with weak leaders.

A particularly interesting type of panic in both World Wars was the Panzerpanik (tank panic). Infantry was more often than not unable to resist tanks with a good chance of survival due to the tank's brute strength (mobility, firepower, protection). The exploitation of the tank's less obvious weaknesses such as the limited fields of vision required strong nerves.
The human instinct seems to be to run away - something that rarely worked against the super-slow tanks of WWI and almost never against the tanks of WW2.

A training countermeasure to Panzerpanik was used in many World War II armies; soldiers were sent into a well-constructed trench and had to endure that a (friendly) tank drove over them. I've never seen any reports about whether this training was worth the effort.
Other training countermeasures included often improvised means for defeat or stopping of tanks, of course.

Hardware countermeasures were much more important and a reasonable tool was found in the Panzerfaust, a short range anti-tank weapon that did at least keep tanks from rolling over infantry and thus broke their momentum. It was also numerous enough to be available to almost every soldier. The infantry got the chance to hide behind cover - and to defend himself if the tanks closed in nevertheless.

The actual capabilities of tanks and anti-tank hardware aren't the only factors of interest, though. A notable anecdote was the Panzerpanik that happened in the French 55th Infantry division that was meant to defend Sedan in May 1940. The Germans were crossing the Meuse river at Sedan with an armoured division, but they had not yet moved any tanks over the river. The most intensive air attacks ever up to that date were hammering the division, and suddenly a rumour about atacking tanks spread among the rear (artillery) units of the division without any real tanks on their side of the river. The rumour created a panic and shattered the division more than actual fighting. Even officers up to the division HQ panicked.

The origin of this panic in the rear units is remarkable because the French artillery of that time was still lavishly equipped with the Soixante-Quinze field gun. This gun was easily able to defeat all German tanks at good ranges, including by frontal hits (as was proved in the same campaign). The troops with the most powerful anti-tank weapons of the whole division were panicking due to phantom tanks!

This was not a problem of national traits, and these men were not ridiculously ill-trained underage African militia fighters. The problem was a lacking psychological preparation (and of disappointing leadership, but leaders are mere humans, too. They need to be prepared as well.)

This begs the questions whether
(a) the current psychological preparation of our (rear) troops is well enough.
(b) we may have missed triggers for panic and are probably inadequately hardened against them.
(c) the panic triggers in our own forces are fully aware of that potential as well as how & when to exploit it.

This is likely a great area for research that could yield a very high pay-off.

Related blog posts:

2009-10-18 Crisis in battle
2009-02-24: Jericho sirens

P.S.: Such research goes well beyond my personal capabilities.
(b) alone would already require at least a € 250,000 two-year research project in cooperation with psychologists, a literature research in lessons learned and other reports from combat, interviews of NCOs and officers from units that did either extremely well or very poorly (Georgia and Iraq come to my mind) and last but not least (but definitely last) a literature review of EBO (effects based operations) literature.
A strong, unmitigated panic goes well beyond both experience of most Western veterans of recent wars and beyond reasoning. You cannot research this on the cheap.


German top military geniuses of the 20th century


Ah, that's so much fun. A politically incorrect post. :-)

German military forces participated "prominently" in both World Wars during the first half of the 20th century and stood watch with a larger ground force contingent than any other NATO power in Central Europe during most of the Cold War.There were many personalities among its generals that deserve to be known even long after their death - just as von Clausewitz the premier military philosoph, the army reformer Scharnhorst and Moltke the Elder during the 19th century or Frederick the Great during the 18th.

Thousands of German generals served during the 20th century, and I think at least five geniuses deserve a special mention here.

This is my chronological top five list

Bruchmüller actually never got past the rank of Oberst (colonel). He earned his nickname Durchbruchmüller (breakthrough Müller) by orchestrating innovative and hugely effective artillery support for offensives in the latter part of the First World War. He used an unparalleled knowledge of weapons and munitions effects to optimize the use of artillery and spent less ammunition for greater effect than the Allies did.

He was the father of modern artillery. He created an artillery paradigm that stood till the rise of precision guided artillery munitions during last years of the 20th century.

He was an arch-conservative in his time and is therefore a politically incorrect choice, but he's more than notable for what he turned the inter-war army into: The most professional, most competent army of the world. The unbelievable growth potential and overqualification of that army enabled the impressive enlargement to the most powerful army of the world during only about seven years of the Hitler regime in the 30's.
The restrictions imposed on the Reichswehr during Seeckt's time in office dwarf any budget crunches that NATO armies ever suffered.
His approach of a ridiculously overqualified and professional army is still a worthy object for modern study. The Reichswehr was one of the few historical armies that didn't get fat, lazy and soft during peacetime.

The inventor of the most successful mechanization approach (Blitzkrieg) and a highly successful leader in wartime.

Liddel-Hart, Fuller, Tukachevski and de Gaulle were mechanization pioneers as well, but none of them developed an as revolutionary or as successful system as did Guderian (in concert with Manstein).
He deserved to be called the father of modern armoured warfare (with the exception of assault gun tactics).

(4) Erich von Manstein (born as Fritz Erich von Lewinski)

He was already known to be an operational prodigy during the late 30's and became the operational genius of the Second World War.
His operational concept defeated the supposedly most (or second-most) powerful army of the World (the French one) in six days* followed by less than six weeks of making it obvious for everyone.

He shattered the paradigm of secured flanks in conjunction with Guderian during 1940. This released the mechanised/motorised forces' mobility for full operational exploitation.

Likewise, he pioneered the operational concept of Schlagen aus der Nachhand ("mobile defense") later on the Eastern Front; he allowed Soviet forces to advance deeply, overextend themselves beyond the culminating point and cut them off with a flank attack. It was just as the 1940 operation against France a very daring move, one that required great patience and a victory over the fear that a successful enemy advance instills in soldiers.

(5) ?

I'm spoilt for choice. Any suggestions?

Oskar von Hutier, probably the father of modern infantry, was certainly a top ten candidate, but I'm not sure about top 5 status because the achievements that English-speaking scholars tend to attribute to him were apparently more an almost army-wide parallel invention.

(Forget about Rommel; he was more a talented self-promoter like MacArthur and Petraeus than a military genius. The German army had dozens of equal or better officers during WW2.)

It's politically incorrect in modern Germany to praise the talent and performance of German officers who were active between the end of the First World War and the end of the Second World War.
Nevertheless, these (three) stood out so much that they should inspire the present and coming generations of German officers to be as innovative and to help as talented comrades to succeed.

*: The French army commander Gamelin admitted on May 15th in presence of the American ambassador that they had already lost.



Multispectral smoke and the next step / AFV prices


Technical and tactical advances are in a seemingly never-ending spiral between offence and defence. Logistical advances are different; they're technology- or demand-driven, but they lack the competition element because there's no direct contact with the opponent.

One of many interesting technical advances in high-end armies is the deployment of multi-spectral smoke munitions that block infrared (thermal) sensors just as well as sensors in the visible wavelengths (at least for a short time). It's in use with tanks (example, DM55 with red phosphorous smoke can block infrared vision for about 30 seconds) and indirect fire weapons. Other countermeasures degrade thermal sensors as well (mostly with too bright IR emissions).

This has become a good idea because imaging infrared (IIR) sensors have proliferated since the 80's. It began mostly with main battle tank gunner sights and proceeded up to practical hand-held or helmet-mounted sights. Sensor fusion night sights with low light/thermal sensors are in the process of introduction into the infantry as well.

These infrared sensors de-valued traditional smoke (and some natural atmospheric conditions) as concealment on the high-end battlefield. The introduction of practical multi-spectral smoke agents is a promising yet also limited countermeasure.

- - - - -

It would be an exception to the rule if the spiral stopped at this point, of course. So what's next? The usual suspect for the next step can be characterized as
- on the offensive side
- first to be introduced in high-payoff applications
- likely a technical response

There might be tactical responses as well (such as provoking the waste of smoke agents to lower the probability of their use at the really critical moment. A technical response holds more promise and fits better to the Western mind set, though.

Main text

A technical response to multispectral smoke and other IR countermeasures could be the evasion into another wavelength band, one that the multispectral smoke doesn't defeat. This would be an analogy to thermals which avoided the effective concealment effect of classic smoke agents (in addition to many other advantages of infrared wavelengths) by working outside of the visible band.

This alternative wavelength band could be in the realm of radars.
The high payoff application for the introduction of the countermeasure could be a tank gunner's sight.

Battlefield radars have been in use for decades and usually use centimetre or millimetre wavelengths (such as Ka, J, G and X bands). Radar technology has already been introduced into service in smart munitions (such as SmArt155) during the 90's. This indicates that at least short range/short use radars can be produced at an affordable price IF the procurement agency accepts a limited functionality.

Imagine this:

A tank gunner or commander decides to lase a target to feed the range info into the ballistic computer immediately before the shot is being fired. This triggers a mini radar mounted near the muzzle of the tank's main gun. The radar determines sends relatively few pulses to generate an adequate range info itself and to "lock on" the target. The first shot may not have disabled the target and its crew pops its smoke dischargers in response, seeking the relative safety of concealment in the hope that friendly tanks will return fire effectively before the opponent can aim at them.

The mini radar would keep track, though. It would enable a follow-on shot with a high hit probability based on radar data only.

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This could be escalated up to a full battlefield surveillance radar with high cost, but that would likely be the wrong path for normal combat vehicles.
A small and probably worthwhile extension of functionality would be to use the radar instead of lasing at all - to avoid the reaction of laser warning receivers. Another extension of functionality could be the addition of a tiny monitor to help with target identification if the target silhouette has been disfigured by visual camouflage (vegetation) too much (it depends - maybe the wavelength is unsuitable for this).

The uneasy feeling in my stomach

This was a small excursion into a small imaginable step in future main battle tank evolution. It would add just another electronic component that might cost about as much as paying one soldier for a year. It could make the difference in tank vs. tank combat and may be well worth its price, but it adds to the complexity of tanks, which are already approaching Rube Goldberg machines with their radios, ballistic computers, lasers, thermal sights, laser warning receivers and at times electromagnetic mine countermeasures, radiation detectors and active protection systems.

The price of new high end armoured fighting vehicles in halfway reasonable production runs already approaches € 10 million per copy. It might well go close to € 15 million (year 2010 Euros) by the time when we replace the current inventory of main battle tanks (by about 2020-2030 or earlier if the shit hits the fan during the new decade).

Such a high complexity and price of armoured fighting vehicles keeps posing the question: Are we following the right path in AFV development or does the spiral lead us up a blind alley?

Sven Ortmann


The year 2009 for "Defence and Freedom", a review


This blog was founded in the summer of 2007, but began to attract a significant readership only in November 2008. Everything before autumn 08 was warming up & development in comparison to later.


The year 2009 began with a surprisingly strong post-Christmas slump, but the page monthly loads figure grew quite steadily, with significant spiked in spring due to links in stories on well-visited blogs. The blog even had15,000 visitors in December despite the usual post-Christmas slump.

The blog had a total of 127.6 k page views in 2009 (Statcounter data)*, and would have about 180,000 in 2009 if it keeps the present level. That's quite much because I don't select topics based on expected quantity of interested readers at all. I'm actually satisfied with the traffic.

My quite persistent troll keeps amusing friends of mine with his blocked moronic comments. He has still a track record of never having added anything factual and relevant and rarely if ever having understood my text. He's kind of pitiable.


I changed the title from "Defense and Freedom" to "Defence and Freedom" sometime in '09. The reason was that I prefer to 'be different' than the usually U.S.-centric and -dominated MilBlogosphere. The huge quantity and readership of American MilBlogs leaves relatively few representatives of non-U.S. mainstream opinion in the MilBlogosphere. Most exceptions are U.S. 'liberals', Brits or Indians.

To add a European focus and point of view appeared to be a good addition. An example: My text on navy force structure was focused not on the USN's quest for a 313 ship inventory as it would be typical on other MilBlogs. It was focused on (potential) European defence needs. The attempt to write in British English was a kind of symbolic expression of the intent to provide a European perspective.


I kept the crazy mixture of tactics to grand strategy, hardware and thought, history and future. There's no blog known to me that comes close to such a crazy mix.

There was a strong excursion to naval topics in February to June. I did nevertheless still not cover the highly unpleasant stories about the K130, F125 and EGV that have been on my to-do list since '07.

Some spin-offs of my theroetical stuff appeared in the blog this year as well; especially in regard to (warning, working title!) "modern high-end conventional warfare". The attempt to contribute to a better understanding of warfare in the next great war (in order to avoid disasters as they happened in 1914 and 1940) makes up the greater part of my motivation in regard to military topics. You can expect me to continue my warnings about inappropriate confidence in our modernity in 2010.

Afghanistan will hopefully not get as much attention here in 2010 as in 2009. I had moved from a "I don't care" to a "OK, maybe there are some lessons to be learned" attitude towards the present chapter of the Afghanistan conflict. The entanglement in Afghanistan is regrettably devoid of positive surprises since '02.


The addition of often merely symbolic pictures ino the text made the long texts more readable in spring 09 and the 'justify' text formatting introduced during the summer (and recently applied to earlier texts as well) has proven itself as well.

The layout got a major re-work, away from the basic "Scribe" template that's quite popular among MilBlogs run on Blogger software.

The backgroud colour is a bronze green that's the "green" part of the Bundeswehr vehicle colour pattern. The header's background is a Bundeswehr uniform pattern ("Flecktarn B"), the ancient Roman Scutum shield symbolizes defence and the "thinker" statue symbolizes thought.
I gave up the search for a fitting illustration of "freedom" because the only "freedom" graphics I found were either about the French Revolution or the Liberty Statue; neither is universal enough to me.

The yellow-ish vellum-like background is still original from the Scribe template.

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It's been an interesting and successful blogging year. The "defence" and "freedom" topics will likely provide enough material for many years to come, and my to-do keyord list stores almost a hundred ideas for 2010 topics.

*: Flagcounter seems to count more page visitors than Statcounter, but Statcounter is the only available full year 2009 statistic.