2010/09/30

SMX-25

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The French at DCNS seem to feel ready for experiments. The SMX-25 concept appeared in the internet a few days ago and is about a coastal waters submarine with an extreme surface speed.

photo: DCNS
109 meters submarine, 2850 tons conceived to operate in short depth (100m max.), would have a speed of only 10 kts in depth but 38 kts at surface. Fitted out with some torpedoes but mainly anti-ship missiles, and unnamed helicopters. Kind of a light stealth frigate / submarine mix.

I'm not sure what this surface speed may be good for (same mystery as with the LCS), and it reminds me a lot of the Engelmann Boot VS-5 (which were not actual submarines, though).

We might see more about it on the Euronaval 2010 exhibition.
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2010/09/29

MICO Machine Gunner Assault Pack

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It's enticing, but I'm not sure that it's a good idea:

Tyr Tactical MICO Machine Gunner Assault Pack.




Ironically, the video is being blocked by Youtube in Germany for copyright reasons. I'll probably find it on another website soon.
 
(hat tip: Soldier Systems)

edit 11/2011: It's an old idea.

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My book recommendations about military (land warfare) theory

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I'd like to recommend some really brilliant books. I don't know why I didn't do it before, it's such an obvious topic for a blog like this. All recommended books are mostly relevant to land warfare.


by James F. Dunnigan
Comment: A good beginner's book.




Edited by Franklin D. Margiotta
Comment: Should be #2 for beginners.




by Karl-Heinz Frieser
Comment: Extremely interesting and much-debunking German official military history work on the campaign in France 1940. Also available in German original, of course.


"Taktik im Russlandfeldzug"
by Eike Middeldorf
Comment: A 1950's book. It's 90% great and 10% poor (too specific or still under impression of wartime misunderstandings). An OHL (Army GHQ) officer who was responsible for lessons learned in late WW2 summarizes both sides' tactics of the Eastern Front in WW2. It was most likely translated into English (I saw a claim that it was published in three foreign languages in an advert for it in the next book), but it's out of print.

"Handbuch der Taktik"
by Eike Middeldorf
Comment: A 1950's book, full of diamonds. It describes the state of the art of German army know-how in the early 1950's, a mix of still fresh WW2 lessons, early nuclear war considerations and has some U.S. Army influences. The focus is on battalion to Kampfgruppe (~half brigade size) level. It was actually written with many co-authors. This book was probably translated into English once, but it's out of print.

Gudmundsson's "On ..." series
 Comment: Adequate description of the doctrinal evolution of the three branches in the 20th century.

"Roots of Strategy" series
Comment: Military classics, the quality of the volumes is declining. These military classics are available in their original languages as well, of course.

by Edward N. Luttwak
Comment: Necessary for understanding counter-intuitive dynamics in warfare.




by Stephen Biddle
Comment: The first few chapters are a very good read.

by Robert R. Leonhard
Comment: Very good review and debunking of some holy cows.




by Jim Storr
Comment: Storr attempts to lay a new foundation for military (land war) theory. I will write a full review of this book on this blog soon.



I suggest to read them in about this order. Most other famous books of the last two decades didn't impress me much. I learned nothing from reading "Breaking the Phalanx" or "The Utility of Force", for example.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/28

Chest rigs

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Back in WW2 some snipers (including the most successful one of all) preferred to shoot with iron sights - in part because they would need to rise their head higher for the use of typical powered scopes.

In basic training I learned to keep my heels low when lying down. Heels up increased the silhouette unnecessarily. The trainers stepped about a dozen times on my heels before I had learned it.

Well, I value both military history and the training I got, so maybe that explains why I'm so offended by the widespread use of chest rigs.
Maybe these chest rigs and their extreme effect on the silhouette of a soldier in prone position isn't much of a problem if open fields are avoided and combat is concentrated on built-up areas and forests, but I have my doubts.

It still strikes me as foolish to raise one's silhouette by 10-15 cm in prone position.
The current infantryman's equipment weight is unacceptable anyway, and the only practical path to substantially less weight requires us to shed some equipment. Lighter equipment has often been introduced, but such a step forward is usually negated by additional equipment - until we accept the necessity to apply more strict limits on what we carry with us.
I propose to shed the chest rig in such a process.

You cannot even use it in prone position without rolling by at least about 45° and thus enlarging your silhouette even more!

Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/27

The (anglophone?) disrespect for international law

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[...] Thats before we discuss that war crimes dont apply to winners, only losers, the UK could happily throw biological weapons at Bolivia and broadcast footage of its soldiers gang raping children and the world would send us a letter asking us to be nice but being clear that there would be no action beyond further letter writing.

This recent comment (on another blog) is a perfect example for the disrespect for international law (IL) which I only seem to encounter in English communication. I'm not sure that it's an anglophone issue, but it sure looks to me like one.

Maybe it's the veto power in the UNSC that corrupts the trust in international law to such a degree. If you can make a mockery of a rule, why should you take it seriously?

International law as we know it is largely an invention of the late 19th century when European nation states agreed on conventions. The naval arms race of 1898-1916 and the near-bankruptcy of several nations after the First World War led to some early arms control treaties. The near-civilisation-breaking experience of the First World War also led to the first general ban on wars of aggression and the League of Nations attempt at uniting the nations in peaceful co-existence.
All readers do most likely know the United Nations (and its charter) which were created in consequence of WW2 and some later elements of international law.

The purpose of international law, international treaties is almost exclusively to improve our ability to live in peace and some degree of fairness. This is quite noble and its ability to attract contempt is not obvious.

This cooperation-oriented approach failed to prevent WW2, but so did the large military establishments. It's not obvious why exactly the cooperation-oriented approach should be believed to be a failure.

I may be biased because of my German background. Germany places great emphasis on multinational cooperation and very little on overpowering strength nowadays. I can attest that this approach works better for us than my grandparents' and grand-grandparents' generation's approaches. Their approaches included attempts at the application of overpowering strength.

The cooperative approach also seems to work better for most small nations, which now often have the same weight of vote as larger ones and the ability to abstain from a project.

In the end, only some great powers might think that a rule of force approach is more favourable than a cooperative approach to foreign affairs. Yet, even they follow routinely the cooperative approach and invoke rule of force only in exceptions, shielded by their UNSC veto rights. In other words, their policies are hypocritical.

This leads to the next question. Is there really no effective sanction for (winner's) crimes against international law for great powers?
Well, there's obviously not going to be some sort of embargo or outlaw status for that kind of guilty country as it happened to Iraq in 1990.

Is this everything we should consider?

Certainly not. Maybe I'm insulting here, but I think that only primitive minds could fail to see beyond such superficialities. Nobody is going rape someone else, get away with it in court and not feel any repercussions.

What do you think why exactly the U.S. foreign policy and the Russian foreign policies are such a mess, with strings of failures to influence other nations during the last ten years?
Why exactly is the economy suffering, tourism dropping, why are travellers facing problems in many countries? I met many American businessmen and representatives on conferences and most if not all of them made sure that everyone knew they were not supporting their countries' foreign policy. They were clearly fearing repercussions, albeit certainly not from the UNSC.
Let's not forget the role of aggressions in Al Qaida propaganda and motivation. It's much easier to paint some power as evil if it does evil things. I know that the idea that the AQ mess is not self-inflicted is quite popular in the U.S., but I can affirm that this idea is quite widespread if not dominant elsewhere. The AQ mess is not a direct consequence of a breach of IL alone, but it's an example about how backlash may work even without losing in the UNSC.

Finally, there's such a thing as "reputation" in foreign policy. It's - to use a nice word - optimistic to expect others to fulfil treaty obligations that benefit you if you break treaties at will, guided by self-interest. The opportunity costs of IL violations are certainly impressive.


Yet, even IF there were no sanctions in IL because no enforcement mechanism is effective: Would this turn IL into something that should be despised and ignored?

I strongly suggest you think twice here if you thought "yes", because there's a huge catch!

International law is not just international law. Signed and ratified treaties usually become national law as well. Those people who despise international law because they see no enforcement would need to despise their national rule of law as well for the very same reason. hands up - who wants to live in a nation without the rule of law?

The Kellogg-Briand Pact - as old and as often violated as it is - is still in force as a federal law in the U.S., for example. The case is very complicated for the UK because of its strange constitution-free legal system, but the case is very clear in regard to the U.S.:
Article Six of the United States Constitution clearly declares treaties such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Charter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty to be "supreme Law of the Land".

Quote Article 6 of the U.S. constitution, with my emphasis:

[...] This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. [...]


In other words: Every bit of cruise missile diplomacy and every bit of war of aggression - even preparation or threat of the same - turns a U.S. President into a law-breaker. He's just not being convicted, the law is just not being enforced. Actually, the order to kill humans in an illegal war is incitement to mass murder because no illegal war can provide legality for such a demand.

Now I ask my belligerent American friends: Does this mean that the U.S. constitution is a piece of crap, to be despised, ineffectual, a wrong approach, to be ignored at will?

The Article 6 issue also counters another extremely popular assertion in regard to the asserted rule of force over the rule of (international) law: This is the assertion that the U.S. constitution is ranked higher than IL and thus the U.S. can do in international affairs whatever it wants. Seriously, that's an argument which I've faced more than a dozen times already from different people. It seems to be deeply embedded in a general, yet very U.S.-specific fear of "world government" which seems to border on paranoia in many cases.

It's of course irrelevant whether IL or the constitution are higher ranked if both agree with each other anyways!

Wars of aggression have been outlawed in international law and in most national law systems. Those who argue in favour of wars of aggression (veiled in misinterpretations of resolutions or not) are the outlaws - warmongers in pursuit of criminal aims. These people are to me pretty much on the same level as mass murderers.
I think I made my opinion clear enough, and you can clearly read here where this opinion stems from.


I cannot stand the opportunism, in-consequence, disdainfulness, hypocrisy, disrespect and  mass murder intentions of those who believe that International law is de facto not in effect and not to be observed and that wars can be waged at will as long as you "win" and are covered by a UNSC veto.

Their stance is not only fantasy, but outright stupid and short-sighted. Policies which follow such thoughts harm their own country, in addition to even greater harm to foreign people.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/26

Interesting allied operations from WW2 which never took place

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Operation "Plan R 4" and well as "Operation Pike" are very interesting early WW2 plans of the UK and France. Both showed how little the Allies valued the neutrality of nations at the time. This puts them into a quite unusual light.

That war was really messy and the standards of the time weren't even close to ours today (just remember the tyranny in colonies, the bombing of cities and the low casualty aversion). This is no excuse for anything, of course.

I think it's worthwhile to point at these plans because they could be of interest for some readers.

Sven
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2010/09/25

Win-win wars?

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I'm reading a very good book (will write a review about it later) these days. Its author (Jim Storr) made an interesting claim (and repeated it often):

"Armies do not get paid to come second [...]"

This is obviously wrong on a superficial level - defeated armies usually keep some budget and its soldiers get their pay.
The real point is of course another one; he insists that there's no win-win possible in war.

Well, I hate to disagree on this, but I disagree.

First let me refer to my previous text "A decision model for justified war and a definition of victory" as necessary background:

The purpose of war is to achieve a better situation for a defined group of people [...] in comparison to all other options. [...]
Finally: What's a successful, a "victorious" war?
A war was is in my opinion a success (victorious) if it served its legitimate purpose.
A war was successful (no army comes can "come second" by waging a successful war!) if  it's better than to cave in without a fight. <- my opinion

Well, how could both belligerents "succeed"?

An aggressor may invade and gain enough territory to be remembered as victor in history books. Meanwhile, the defender may have prevented total annexation by waging the war, thus being quite successful in its defence, too.

The Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939/40 was such an example.
Sure, both countries (especially so Finland) did most likely suffer more than they had if no war had taken place and status quo ante been preserved. That wasn't an available option for Finland once Stalin had ordered the invasion, though.

In the end, Finland waged a legitimate defensive war and thwarted total annexation and fifty years of foreign and socialist dictatorship rule - clearly a success.
The Soviet Union gained some territory and extremely important lessons and is often considered to have "won", albeit the human sacrifice and foreign political damage question this interpretation.

Now which army didn't get paid for coming second? I think both got paid, and both had earned that pay with much sacrifice.

My argument has a flaw. I applied the common idea of victory on the aggressor  (for an aggressor cannot meet the "legitimate purpose" condition, see my older post for this detail) and my idea of victory on the defender. This may be considered an illegitimate trick, of course.
This doesn't change the fundamental problem with the initial quote: Sometimes armies do their job - and do so well - despite losing (in the conventional sense).
 
There are different degrees even of "defeat". I consider some of these (conventional definition:) "defeats" to be successes (because the military effort was still net beneficial to the country) and some (conventional definition:) "victories" to be unsuccessful because warfare had hurt the country more than an available peaceful alternative would have.

Some defeats are "good" enough to warrant to "pay the army for coming second".
In fact, that's about the second best some armies can hope for (second only to preventing war altogether). Theorists from major powers are probably not inclined to think much about it, but the theory of war is (for small powers) often more about damage minimization than about gaining net advantages and glory. Small powers do rarely produce war(fare) theorists, though. The great and medium powers write most if not all military theory.

- - - - -

The idea of a bilateral war with only winners and no losers is terrible for someone who loathes war, but it's a possible explanation for the existence of thousands if not millions of wars in mankind's history.

No war is truly a "win-win" unless the preferences involved are really weird. On the other hand, it's quite plausible that we know of so many wars because defending yourself makes sense even if defeat is likely or even certain. No future war promises a win-win, but the instant of the war's beginning changes this. The continuation of peace falls out of the list of options, and suddenly warfare can become the least terrible - and thus right - decision. 
That's probably why there were so many wars.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/24

Still alive

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I'm fine and will publish additional blog posts soon, but I'm also unusually busy and distracted from blogging these days.

Upcoming topics may be related to "Cyber War", national grand strategies, armoured vehicles, the infantry's mission, a certain book I'm reading these days and/or some philosophical stuff on war & peace. The usual stuff, obviously.

There are two dozen text drafts in blogger alone, and other topics in preparation. Some of these drafts will never make it to the surface, others need to mature and others again need more research.

In short: I'll blog when I'm done with a new text - as usual.


Most readers discovered this blog apparently this year. I invite them to read some older texts here. Most texts were not "news", not related to recent events at all, but of rather lasting relevance (if you agree that they're relevant at all). The labels (scroll down, left column) should help to find topics of interest.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/18

The Grand Strategy of Germany (FRG)

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Konrad Adenauer in 1952
The Grand Strategy of the Federal Republic of Germany was coined by the conservative-dominated coalition governments of Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) and only slightly modified by later governments.

The two core components of the Grand Strategy were and are

(1) A "social market economy". This is a kind of tamed capitalism with regulations and social insurances that allows both for economic prosperity and social peace. It was an evolution with roots that reached back to the late 19th century and into social theology. This economic model was closely linked to the minister and later chancellor Ludwig Erhard.

(2) An integration in (and reconciliation with) the West. This was somewhat similar to the foreign policy of the Stresemann era (1923-1929), but more ambitious. The purposes were initially the regaining of as much sovereignty as possible and to prevent future wars, but the West's defence against the Moscow-led Eastern Europe and the pursuit of additional prosperity through the European cooperation became later main motivators.


The social-democratic-liberal governments (1969-1982) added improved relations with Eastern neighbours and with Moscow to the mix, albeit on a much smaller scale than the Western integration, which had at that time already proceeded towards the European Unification process.



The German Re-unification of 1990 and the general end of the Cold War around that time allowed for an extension of the cooperative strategy (2) to Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile the economic stress of subsidizing the economically weak Eastern Germany, late effects of immigration, effects of industrial structural change since the mid-70's (loss of skill industry jobs) and demographic change caused increasing problems in the social market economy since the 1990s.

The Schröder government 1998-2005 saw the need to reform Germany for better competitiveness and made the "social net" less comfortable, but this and the European Monetary Union were likely unnecessary and in combination caused extreme trade imbalances in Europe (=the European equivalent of the imbalance between East Asia and the U.S.).

Germany as a whole is economically "competitive" (as the trade balance surplus shows), perhaps even too much.

Germany's balance of trade in BIP (~GDP); see the spike since the introduction of the Euro in 2002 (source: BMF)

The (for Germany) undervalued Euro makes most imports too expensive and most exports too cheap.

The present domestic economic situation and structure isn't satisfactory. Years of marginal real wage growth have boosted the competitiveness of our industry so much that job losses were small even during the ongoing global economic crisis, but the resulting weakness of domestic consumption caused social and European problems (unemployment and erosion of the middle class, very large trade imbalances).

The post-Cold War period also saw the first and then an escalating use of the German military in so-called "out-of-area" missions.
The original purpose of the Bundeswehr was to serve as a component of the Western integration strategy. The Adenauer government promised 12 army divisions for the West's defence in Central Europe (of an allied total of 26) and regained much sovereignty for it.
The foreign and security politicians of the post-Cold War period were apparently bored without a clear defence objective and Germany became engaged in such "out-of-area" missions. This was at least after the first years part of a strategy to gain a permanent UNSC seat for the unified and thus enlarged Germany. This was apparently given up, while the "out-of-area" missions continue for no real strategic purpose. The missions are sometimes supposed to be linked to the Western integration strategy (especially to giving NATO a purpose after the Cold War, thus keeping this stabilizing institution intact), but it's questionable whether they're necessary for the officially defensive NATO and EU. To the contrary; the partially militarized foreign policy could be a risk factor for the old integration-oriented national security strategy.


As of today, the basic Grand Strategy of the 1950's is still in effect. 

We do still strive for close cooperation with European countries instead of thinking of (violent) confrontation as a promising foreign policy approach.

We are also still fans of the social market economy, although it's been obvious for about a generation that we didn't keep it in a good shape. Social, fiscal and trade imbalances seem to become increasingly serious and the advancing demographic change (continuous shift to a smaller working age population share) is adding ever more pressure on it.


It's about time for reforms, albeit not necessarily for a new grand strategy. 
The last social-democratic Chancellor was rather "misled", the later grand coalition was unable of major reforms and the current conservative-liberal government seems to mix a degree of incompetence with a typical conservative inability of reform which can apparently only be overcome when Germany is reduced to rubble.
An additional problem is that the present chancellor was good at making a political career and destroying political enemies, but is poor at leadership and management.


Germany has to wait for the next reform-capable government. Let's hope that the discussions will in the meantime open the eyes for the existing serious challenges and yield many good reform ideas.

Sven Ortmann

Adenauer  photo: Katherine Young, New York
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Japanese Weapons are ... different

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Off topic and NOT safe for work!





Hat Tip to Boing Boing.

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2010/09/17

(Almost) unique British defence requirements: Overseas territories

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The British have serious economic and fiscal troubles that finally seem to have an effect on the military expenditures. A budget cut by 20% (and moving some very expensive projects into the MoD account that were previously off their books) seems likely over the next few years.

The Think Defence blog is quite interesting in this regard, and offers a peek into a completely different mindset (which has in my opinion its only parallel in France).
The Royal Navy tradition is extremely influential and - in my opinion - clouding the minds. The defence of overseas territories (remains of the empire) is an unusual defence requirement that's being exploited to the fullest to justify naval expenses. France is apparently the only country with a similar situation.
Most overseas territories are not covered by either Lisbon treaty or North Atlantic Treaty, so there's indeed a potential national defence requirement (homeland defence is really alliance defence in my opinion) for a navy because of overseas territories.

I decided to have a closer look at this issue, and since I spend my time on it I can as easily do it for my own blog instead of for an oversized comment somewhere else.

Let's be lazy and ask Wikipedia: British overseas territories.
 

NameLocationArea in km2Population (approx)
Anguilla Caribbean and North Atlantic Territories 14613,500
Bermuda North Atlantic Ocean 5464,000
British Antarctic Territory Antarctica 1,709,40050-400
(Diego Garcia) Indian Ocean 463,000 UK and US military and staff
British Virgin Islands Caribbean 15327,000
Cayman Islands Caribbean 25953,000
Falkland Islands South Atlantic Ocean 12,1733,000
Gibraltar Iberian Peninsula 6,529,000
Montserrat Caribbean 1015,000
Pitcairn Islands Pacific Ocean 45&50
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha South Atlantic Ocean 1224,000
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Atlantic Ocean 4,066100
(bases on Cyprus) Mediterranean 25514,000 (half military and staff)
Turks and Caicos Islands Caribbean 43032,000

My question for this article: Do these overseas territories justify huge expenses on an expeditionary navy (aircraft carriers, high seas amphibious warfare ships...)?


Let's weed out the ones that should be irrelevant for the British force structure:
-Gibraltar
-Cyprus bases
Both are well within the protection of two alliances and rooted in allied countries. Their defence is possible without a high seas/expeditionary navy.

Let's weed out the extremely irrelevant because of ridiculously great distance and minimal population:
-Pitcairn

Let's group the Caribbean ones into a single one, as this makes sense for defence policy planning:
"Caribbean" = Anguilla, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and Cayman Islands

Let's group Falklands and South Georgia as one for the same purpose ("Falklands").

Let's call "Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha" simply "South Atlantic".

We have to consider:
Caribbean
Falklands
Bermudas
Diego Garcia
Antarctica
South Atlantic

I assert that the UK does not need to bother about the defence of the Bermuda islands. There's no foreign claim on this territory. A UK allied or friendly with the U.S. can bet that the U.S. would not tolerate a hostile control of the Bermudas. Hostilities between the UK and the U.S. would make the defence of the Bermuda islands impossible. Bermuda is therefore by default either indefensible or a concern for alliance defence, not solo national defence. It's covered by the Treaty of Lisbon (EU) alliance anyway. Scratch Bermudas from the list.

Caribbean
Falklands
Diego Garcia
Antarctica
South Atlantic

Caribbean. There's nothing more obvious than that the French have very similar interests in regard to their Caribbean territories. It would be possible to raise a respectable militia on these islands (incredibly much cheaper than a single warship) and ally with France specifically for the defence of these Caribbean territories. There's no need to consider Chavez' toy soldiers as a national defence challenge.
A political defence through a bilateral alliance looks advisable. Besides; no other country claims these territories anyway, and they haven't been threatened militarily since I think the Napoleonic Age. The economic relevance of these territories is centred on tourism, money laundering and tax evasion. Overall, these territories don't seem to provide a justification for a large expeditionary navy.
Scratch Caribbean from the list.

Falklands
Diego Garcia
Antarctica
South Atlantic

Antarctica. I don't think mankind is stupid enough yet to wage war on that continent, but maybe the British are more pessimistic here. So far I cannot tell of any nation seriously preparing for military action on the 7th continent, thus I dare to assert that here's no origin for a large expeditionary navy requirement for years to come.
Scratch Antarctica from the list.

Falklands
Diego Garcia
South Atlantic

Diego Garcia a.k.a. "British Indian Ocean Territory" or Chagos Archipelago.
This is actually disputed territory, administered by the British. Considering the grave threat by the claims of such great powers as Maldives and Mauritius, I dare to assert that an army battalion with funds for chartering two civilian ships and buying a few boats could handle this even if no military personnel was already crowding the archipelago.
Scratch Diego Garcia from the list.

Falklands
South Atlantic

South Atlantic possessions a.k.a. "Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha". There seems to be no dispute about these, despite the quite non-English sound of "Tristan da Cunha". These islands have interesting strategic locations - if you want to wage high seas war in the South Atlantic or deploy military aircraft to the Falklands or South Africa.
The best defence would probably be the readiness to deploy a tailored army battalion battlegroup each to Ascension and Saint Helena in times of crisis. I fail to see a justification for greater efforts in peacetime.
Scratch South Atlantic from the list.

Falklands

Ahh, the classic one - one of the two disputes. The strategic location is also interesting.
The Argentinians could snatch these islands any time (despite the small garrison) if they really wanted to, but it looks as if they don't want to. Their military doesn't seem to prepare for this eventuality and even without, it wouldn't repeat the old mistakes.

I doubt that two medium carriers, a dozen surface combatants, a few amphibious ships and a few SSNs are justified primarily by concerns about the Falklands.
A naval blockade (and with CVs an aerial blockade) would be feasible for a while with much smaller forces anyway.

The problem here is that the ability to defend or recapture these islands would require a really large expeditionary navy that's otherwise likely (some people would only agree to "probably") unnecessary. This requirement likely even exceeds the upper end of serious Royal Navy strength proposals once the Argentinians modernise their forces a bit.


It's about time to relax and to recall that it wasn't exactly concensus even back in 1982 that these islands were worth an expedition, much less a whole expeditionary navy.

Is the possible defence of 3,000 people's property rights worth GBP 20 billion? That would be almost GBP 7 million per capita. (Keep in mind that the loss of this territory would not be guaranteed even in case of British inability to defend or recapture the Falklands.)
Scratch Falklands from the list.

- - - - -

Sorry, I see no requirement for a powerful expeditionary Royal Navy in any of these overseas territories. Even all of them combined are too small and most of them not threatened at all. Much less expensive security policy alternatives exist for the overseas territories.

Nevertheless there's apparently a reflex of "overseas territory defence = necessitates aircraft carriers" in force in most discussions on this topic.

There are further reflexes that serve the Royal Navy well; the "island" mentality and the importance of maritime trade. These are different topics and I can tell you that I'm not impressed by these 'arguments' either.

Aggressive expeditions would be violations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Charter of the United Nations and especially the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO). It should be difficult to justify great naval expenditures as preparations for a war of aggression - an activity that was rightfully considered to be a capital crime in the Nurembourg trials and is strictly outlawed by the criminal laws of several nations.
There's not a single aggressive expedition of the RN post-'45 that could be called a good idea. Military history seems to confirm that potential aggressions with an expeditionary RN do not justify the its costs.
 
The real reason for the desire to have a powerful high seas navy seems to be tradition a.k.a. habituation. It's not the cool, rational analysis of actual needs, that drives the desire for a powerful navy. It's all about habituation and feelings (a.k.a. irrationality).

The British economy is on a terribly wrong track (and has been for decades). It has lost too much industrial capacity, has a bloated service sector (especially the largely useless financial services) and  as consequences a budget deficit, a substantial public debt and a substantial trade balance deficit all at once. The military expenditures (%GDP) are meanwhile high in comparison to most allies. This isn't sustainable.


To sustain a strong defence requires a healthy economy. The superior long-term strategy for the United Kingdom's defence is likely the reinvigoration of its national industry, not the consumption of billions of GBP by their navy in excess of European naval purposes.

Sven Ortmann
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2010/09/16

A bit more about the evolution of the tank

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I mentioned a bit of the tank evolution history recently, maybe a more comprehensive approach is worth a try as well.

First part; the important milestones in tank history:

Mark I
Leaving armoured cars and a few prototypes aside, the first real tank was the British Mk.I tank.
Two other notable WWI tanks were the French FT-17 (first light tank) and the British Medium Mark A "Whippet" (first tank with emphasis on speed).

FT-17

Medium Mark A Whippet

Independent
The next milestone was the British A1E1 Independent of 1926, a prototype for the multi-turret heavy tank strain that was popular till it failed in 1939. The multi-turret approach was a dead-end, although it could be said that the BMP-T (see end of blog post) revived the basic idea.
This tank prototype also had the speed (30 km/h) which became typical till the early 30's.

Char B-1bis (photo Igor Kurtukov)
The Char B-1bis (1937), a late version of the Char B-1, was the first shell-proof tank. Tanks had previously only been protected against bullets, fragments, small explosions and small calibre cannons.
The Char B-1bis featured sloped armour and an armour thickness that protected it well against the anti-tank guns of its time and light field artillery.


Pzkw III
The next milestone would be the German Pzkw III (1937), in part as representative for the German tank development of the 1930's that placed a great emphasis on command & control (Führbarkeit). The combination of voice transmit/receive radio, three-man turret and commander's cupola proved to be a revolutionary 'hidden value'. It had a top speed of 40 km/h which was representative for its period and a torsion bar suspension (this became the dominant form of suspension post-WW2).
The Pzkw III-based StuG III defined the tank category of assault guns.

early T-34/76 model
The T-34/76 was a famous milestone in 1940 because it had a great balance of firepower, mobility and protection in 1940-1942.  It can be considered as the first real main battle tank.
Its sloped armour was no innovation, but became famous and established as design feature until the rise of composite armours (which are internally sloped).The T-34 was a low-quality design in its details despite the superficial genius of the design.
The T-34/76 spawned a long lineage of Soviet tanks (T-34/76, T-34/85, T-44, T-54, T-55,  T-62) with great longevity.


Pzkw VI "Tiger"
Next I'd like to mention the Pzkw VI "Tiger" (1943) as the prototype of the new breed of heavy tanks; with a focus on firepower and protection. The KV-1 tank of 1939 would take his place if it had been equipped with a more powerful gun. I think the Tiger is a better prototype for the new heavy tanks because the KV-1 pre-dated the T-34 (same firepower) by few months.
The Tiger's overlapping and interleaving road wheels were a milestone for other German WW2 tanks and reduced the MMP so much that ground pressure was no extraordinary problem despite the tank's heavy weight.

Leopard
The next step was probably the Leopard 1 (1965). It was designed with highly mobile warfare and the lack of protection technology to meet the shaped charge threat in mind. The result was a good tank which did superficially excel only with its mobility. The 'hidden values' of very quick and easy maintenance and good durability are the reason for it being a milestone.


T-64
The Russians finally departed from their successful T-34 and KV-1/JS formulas with the T-64 tank at almost the same time (1966). It featured a revolutionary autoloader and a very large calibre (125 mm) gun combined with good protection (sandwich front armour) and mobility (comparable to Leopard  1). Its low silhouette and weight (38 tons) were achieved at the price of some 'hidden values' (such as good ergonomics). It was generally not easy to maintain or quickly repaired.
The T-64 became the defining design for the later Soviet/Russian tanks designs (T-72, T-80, T-95).

The 70's saw the development of so-called "Burlington armour" and later "Chobham armour", two  successive composite armour technologies from the UK which were good at defeating both shaped charge chemical energy penetration and subcalibre kinetic energy penetrators. The weight and bulk of such armour limited its application to the front, but it allowed nevertheless for the next milestone:

Leopard 2A4
The Leopard 2 (1979) tank found again a great balance of mobility, firepower and protection, albeit at the cost of having the weight of a heavy tank. It lead a wave of new Western (and far Eastern) MBTs, all of which slightly varied from the formula.

The British Vickers Mk.7/2 (1985) combined the Leopard 2's hull with the turret of the Vickers Valiant (1979, aluminium basic armour + Chobham). These two Vickers (proto)types of the 80's made use of modular armour (which became famous with the much later Merkava Mk IV) and the Mk. 7/2 also had some extras that led the way to the electronics-heavy tanks of the 90's.

The Soviet Union and Israel pioneered the use of  reactive armour in the earl 80's: ERA is made of plates with some explosive behind that interfere with long rod penetrators and shaped charge jets because of their secondary explosion outside of the main armour. This yielded no real new tank design, but many upgrades. ERA was entirely external and requires no wiring - perfect for upgrades. Germany, Britain, UK, France, Japan and South Korea have been reluctant to adopt this technology, supposedly because of the hazards.

Leclerc, photo by Daniel Steger
The French were late with their Chobham generation MBT by a decade and were therefore able to integrate many advanced electronics into their first Leclerc (1990) MBT models. I think it's notable not only for the great amount of electronics but also for its commander's independent thermal viewer which pre-dates the M1A2's CITV. Most Western (including South Korea, Japan) MBT types have seen upgrades with extensive electronics and sensor packages by now. The intentionally low-tech Ariete  MBT from Italy is an exception.

Future tank milestones?


The future path of tank design is unknown. We know that we've made substantial technology advances since the last milestone that should justify new designs if the Cold War hadn't ended long ago. Many of these have been incorporated into legacy tanks as upgrades, for many advances were 'hidden value' advances such as better electronics or more durable track links.

A new milestone for tank development could be found in a return to more moderate weights (such as the Japanese did with their Type-10 (2010, 44 tons) MBT or a drastic change in armament, probably towards a higher rate of fire with smaller shells as in the Russian BMP-T tank (2005) which was meant to supplement MBTs but still capable of doing essentially the same as a MBT only with different weapons.
Type 10
BMP-T

Externally mounted guns (as in many T-95 speculations and the modern Puma IFV) have been a supposed MBT development milestone in the waiting for decades. Their greatest theoretical advantage (small frontal turret silhouette)  doesn't seem to be a practical advantage because of all the sensors and other equipment that get attached to turrets.

The concept of an armoured 8x8 vehicle became very extremely fashionable in 1999 because of Gen. Shinseki and the Task Force Hawk debacle. The U.S. Army feared to be "irrelevant" in the age of cruise missile diplomacy and diagnosed its lack of quick deployability by air as the culprit. The "Stryker" and FCS programs were meant to provide the (interim and full) remedies. The easy shooting of poorly-employed Iraqi low-tech tanks in 1991 had convinced many people that even a 105mm gun on a truck would be able to do the same. This became the Stryker MGS.
8x8 vehicles were never capable of really replacing MBTs simply because their mobility became unacceptably poor at heavy weights, and high protection levels add much weight.
This 8x8 craze (many small countries followed this fashion) and the associated hype about electronics and information supposedly replacing armour were dead-ends.


The U.S. Army disintegrated/aborted its FCS program and has also re-started its newer GCV program. They have doctored on one new tank program after another since the early 90's, but all this activity with billions of dollars spent did not yield a single new operational MBT or IFV design.
 
The Russians doctored a lot on their T-95 MBT since the 90's. It seems to have been abandoned in favour of upgrades for proven types. There will apparently also be an altogether new MBT (or a heavy tank family?) design.

Most actually new MBT designs come from East Asia nowadays. There are also very large production runs and inventories. It's reasonable to expect the next milestone from the non-traditional tank producing countries of PR China, South Korea and Japan. Most of their new designs still seem to stick to the basic recipes of the T-64 and Leopard 2 milestones, though. The most notable exception is the aforementioned Type 10.
Maybe I missed some "hidden value" advances, though. It's not exactly easy to learn about details of their new tanks.


Sven Ortmann

P.S.
Sum: 4 German, 3 UK and French, 2 Russian milestones.
I really tried hard to find a U.S. milestone, but there's none. The "Skeleton tank" came too late. The Christie suspension was inferior to torsion bar suspension (once metallurgy became good enough) and it was never employed in a really successful or good tank. Gun stabilisation (first seen in 1940') didn't turn the M3 Stuart into a milestone by itself. The Sheridan and M60A2 were dead-ends without followers. The M1A2 appeared after the Leclerc.
US. tanks were typically mediocre (even though some hyping began when Clancy wrote about the Abrams, a design that actually looked inferior in the trials and was ordered as a kind of subsidy to its struggling maker Chrysler). Germany cooperated once with the U.S. on a tank design (MBT 70); it turned into a combination of dead-ends and pioneered merely unacceptable per-unit prices.

The Merkava was excluded because it's an exotic design which found no copycats (save for a handful of post-Cold War Eastern European prototypes).

The late Centurion was a good design, but no milestone for anything but the 105mm L7 gun.

The Panther (medium/heavy WW2 tank with high speed) was no real milestone in tank design either.
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2010/09/13

Military aircraft cost comparisons are confusing...

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... and this is a major reason for the problem:




Seven different definitions for "cost" are in use with the DoD. I observed flyaway cost, weapon system cost and life cycle cost very often in discussions and articles. Half-informed participants of  many such discussions didn't know about the differences and the result was a mess.

Sven Ortmann
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Glorified cannibals

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Much has been written about how certain U.S. special forces moved away from training foreign forces towards "direct action" during the last two decades. This trend was accelerated since 2003 in part because the training requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan could not be stemmed even by the badly inflated USSOCOM, but required training by conventional combat troops as well. The extreme casualty avoidance of the same period led to a preference for highly trained special forces for deliberate raids.

The old paradigm is best displayed by the old assertion that if you send a special forces squad into the hills, you'd have an indigenous militia army there in a few months.

The "direct action" paradigm is best illustrated by the Delta Force's involvement in Somalia in the early 90's.

The trends look a bit different in other nations, but many Western nations have some sort of much-enlarged "direct action" special forces establishment today. Germany kept its special forces very small with exaggerated entry requirements, so the following text is not really about the Bundeswehr.


The problem with these special forces organizations is one that has already been complained about many times (1), but the complaint doesn't seem to have much effect: The special forces leech quality personnel from the infantry, grow in numbers way beyond what's necessary for real "special" missions and in the end the SF replace the infantry in many challenging missions. The infantry branch deteriorates, loses the trust of superiors in its competence and its own confidence.

The leeching effect on infantry personnel is especially problematic because it concerns only the best personnel. This loss can indeed cripple the regular infantry because this best fifth of its personnel is vital for infantry effectiveness in battle.


If you left them alone then some ten percent of the soldiers were the ones who actually took the initiative, moved, fired their rifles, threw hand grenades, and so on. The other 90% would defend themselves if they had to, but would not do the other things unless an officer or a sergeant directly ordered them to do it, in which case they usually would do it. I learned that you couldn't depend on them doing things simply because there was a plan to do it, or because of some generalized order to do it, and this included the junior officers. You had to say, ""do this," "do that," "now fire here," and "now move there." You would always end up with a good sergeant or a good officer and three or four men doing all of the work. Unfortunately, the rest contributed to the casualties.... I came away absolutely impressed with the fact that the average man, like nine out of ten, or eight out of ten, does not have an instinct for the battlefield, doesn't relish it, and will not act independently except under direct orders....

It's absolutely essential to mix great personnel with average personnel in order to form powerful line-of-sight combat units. This applies to infantry as well as armour.

The general infantry performance of many nations wasn't stellar in Afghanistan, which is largely an infantry war. Many raids and other normal infantry actions were reserved for special forces while infantry was often easily pinned down and calling in fire support.

The glorification of special forces and their inflation should be reversed. Infantry should be capable of most jobs assigned to special forces today. Even quickly-trained World War infantry was capable of difficult infiltrations and exfiltrations, reconnaissance, night combat without night sights and GPS, river crossings under fire and many other difficult missions. Regular infantry - even quickly trained conscript forces led by well-trained superiors - can do most of today's "special forces" jobs; the "direct action" thing. They won't do it as quickly, as neatly - but they can do it a hundred times as often per month.

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The path to special forces is a path to the icing of the cake without the cake. It's a path to tiny quality forces with a disregarded, largely ineffective conventional force.

We should not focus on tiny SF missions, but on the ability to defeat conventional opposition, for that is the only kind of opposition that could really dare to invade us (wars of necessity) while we will face "insurgents" only if we invade other places (wars of choice). This requires forces which pay attention to quality AND quantity, not only quality. It's a long-known fact that peacetime armies focus on quality in peacetime, but rally towards the necessary quantity at the expense of some quality in wartime. A focus on quality alone is no preparation for (against) war, but a primitive and typical peacetime mistake.

It's about time to reform the infantry in many if not all Western armies. The Special Forces establishments can provide the necessary manpower for this reform.


Sven Ortmann

(1): One example is the Article "We Were Soldiers Once... - The Decline of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps?" in the Autumn 2008 issue of the Australian Army Journal.

edit: I just looked at this published blog post (it appeared on a set time) and the beginning looks a bit awkward. "Glorified cannibals" directly followed by "U.S. special forces" is not the intended link. I wrote "glorified" because of the SF-related hype of the last two decades (which was most likely pushed by B-movies and video games) and I wrote "cannibals" because I had all Western special forces in mind which draw selectively many of the best soldiers from normal combat units.
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2010/09/12

Do opponents misunderstand each other in Afghanistan?

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The Vietnam War (final chapter) was a great tragedy in part because the Washington and Hanoi misunderstood each other badly.
Washington didn't get that Hanoi was more nationalistic than communist and that they were indeed  believing to fight an anti-colonialist war.
Hanoi on the other hand didn't get much right either, especially not that Washington wouldn't have been particularly interested in that rice pond if there wasn't this Communism and Domino theory thing.


The Afghans certainly don't misunderstand each other to any problematic extent, but what about the West and the Taliban (+ all those other armed violence opposition groups)?

Even if intelligence services, military leaderships and governments got it right this time - what about the general populations in the involved Western nations?

I've got my doubts, not the least because there's still a noticeable minority believing even in the completely fictitious 9/11-Saddam link, and many people in the West don't seem to discern between Taliban and AQ at all (which, in a complicated way, isn't completely off, but in another way it's wrong).

It should raise more than an eyebrow if war is being waged without full confidence in the understanding of each other's intent.


The "know your enemy" quote of Sun Tzu would now allow for a stylish finish of this post if I hadn't already pointed out the low utility of Sun Tzu quotes. This kind of thing always comes back to hurt you...


Sven Ortmann
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