2010/10/31

Military innovation

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... a fighter [...] must be free to propose improvements [in tactics] or he will get himself killed.
Commander Randy "Duke" Cunningham, USN

The omission? It was "fighter pilot" in the original quote.

I quoted this because I've heard all-too often a specific opinion, to paraphrase it: 'We'll do it as we always did, as is taught on the Führungsakademie (war college)'.

Excuses like "we did it always like this" are infamous obstacles to innovation. Innovation has several systemic disadvantages against whatever is already established.

The systemic disadvantages include
* the innovator is usually not at the top of the hierarchy and his success embarrasses superiors
* technological lock-in
* change has obvious risks, whereas conservativeness has hidden risks.

The latter fits to what happened in France during May 1940: The Germans had risked much and were lucky enough to have had a good enough operational innovation, they succeeded. The risks were immense and there was much opposition to Guderian and Manstein before the success. Blitzkrieg was not established doctrine before May 1940. It was a risky experiment. Its proponents were driven by the need to prove that they were right.

France on the other hand had been conservative, not risked much if anything - except its very existence, of course. The risk of keeping an old doctrine was gigantic, but it wasn't as obvious as were the risks of adopting an unproven doctrine.

Innovations can obviously fail as well. They actually did so quite often.

Both conservativeness and innovation have risks, but the risk of failing with an innovation is more obvious than the risk of becoming obsolete with already proven recipes.

My point is that it's important to be neutral and to not underestimate the risk of conservative behaviour. Attitudes like the paraphrased one are dangerous.

It is fashionable to criticize the Soviet armed forces for [~inability to innovate], and certainly there is ample tactical evidence to support this contention. But before considering whether the Western superiority implicit in the criticism is justified, one should remember this true scenario:

* A Russian four-star admiral disparaged the value of the aircraft carrier;
* within twelve months, a Russian two-star admiral publicly challenged his commander in chief;
* and the four-star retracted, while the two-star was promoted, as was another junior  two-star who equally publicly questioned the judgment of his newly promoted superior.
    When did we last see a British or American four-star officer's military judgment being publicly questioned by his subordinates, let alone see these subordinates subsequently being promoted?


    It's acceptable to be against risky innovations if the present situation (imbalance of power) is favourable and no possible opponent is innovative.

    It's not acceptable to dismiss innovation if the present situation is disadvantageous or a possible opponent is innovative.

    Finally, it's a stupid choice to be conservative and dismiss innovation if alternatively the innovation would affect a non-critical part of your overall (alliance's) power. Such a situation is lucky enough for effectively neutralizing most of the risk of innovation, at least on an experimental level. 
    NATO, for example, could easily have one corps' strength of experimental forces and have the best of both worlds; innovation and no real risk.


    Sven Ortmann

    P.S.: I mean military innovation, not the attachment of ever more electronic gadgets to troops and vehicles.
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    2010/10/29

    Public / private economy

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    Land of the free (corporations).

    One more trap to avoid in favour of preserving freedom.


    This is tangent to the question:
    What shall a state do and what not?

    The answer to this question is in my opinion surprisingly simple - surprising because there happen to be serious, agitated discussions about this in some countries.
    The "small state" vs. "big state" discussion is rather rare in Germany and as far as I can tell in Europe in general, but appears to be central in the U.S..

    OK, what should be the division line between state and economy?

    This takes a small excursion.

    Our wealth and technological advance was only possible because of specialization. We would probably not have reached semiconductor technology in a million years all our families were farmer families who supply themselves (farming, fishing, hunting, gathering). It took agricultural surpluses to enable the specialized work of craftsmen and traders - trades who do not depend on their own farm for survival.

    The step towards civilization is usually defined as the rise of towns, but it's also characterized by the rise of specialized trades which were not able to offer easily sell-able services or goods. A judge for example should better not work on the basis of fees, for this degenerates quickly into corruption.

    There were interim solutions such as in Rome where many public offices had no salary and were thus honorary work for those who had inherited wealth. Other specializations were treated as hobbies, or to generate reputation for other trades (such as philosophers earning the reputation for a good job as teacher).

    In the end, it became obvious that a central collection of money (taxes) in order to pay salaries to certain service-providers was a systematically superior solution. This approach enabled the growth to modern states.


    So what should a state do and what should it not do? It should provide those cost-efficient services which do not allow an economic (service for payment) mode of self-sustainment without too much disadvantage (such as corruption).


    This leads to an anecdote which made many people shake their heads in disgust a few weeks a go; a fire-fighter department which operated on a subscription base refused to fight a fire in a house of a non-subscriber:




    Was that OK? Certainly not, it was a failure to render assistance that earned them very much a substantial social and political harassment.
    The proper way would probably be to combine a subscription service with an emergency fee. We Germans handle this issue differently, though; fire-fighting is largely a volunteer hobby in Germany, the state employs very few professional fire-fighters and pays almost only for hardware.

    - - - - -

    Now let's apply this to mercenaries in order to excuse this text in light of the blog theme: Mercenaries proved that they can substitute for state-paid standing troops, but both kinds are still paid with tax money. The question about use of mercenaries or not is not so much a state or not state question as it is a question about standing army only or not. And most importantly, it's a question about how tight the state's control of troops should be. A mercenary outfit led by regular officers and under military jurisdiction (such as the Légion étrangère) is a very, very different thing than the out-of-control PMC outfits who bullied civilians and at times even shot at friendly regular troops.


    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/28

    Self organization; online gamer clans and Germanic warbands

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    Again and again I've read in history books that the ancient Germans had no clear hierarchy as known from the medieval age, but very often rather informal warbands.
    The story goes usually like this; a famed warrior gains followers and they march to raid something.
    There's usually if not always the assertion that it was the leader's skill as an individual warrior (perhaps aided by superior equipment) that destined him to become a leader. Well, that or simply inherited reputation.


    My observation of modern-time self organization raised some doubt about this.

    The closest equivalent to ancient warbands are today gangs and gamer clans. The latter - online multiplayer gaming clans - are more easily accessible for observation. There are likely ten thousands of multiplayer gaming clans in the world, I've probably seen hundreds of them (at least superficially).
    Not one of them was built on a "a great individual player becomes warband leader because of his greatness" model.

    Instead, the typical creation of such a clan looks like this:

    One to four guys decide they want to found a clan instead of being in another one. They provide essential services such as voice communication server (such as Teamspeak or Ventrilo), a forum (for communication and creating cohesion), a website (mostly for representation and recruiting), they decide on a clan name and clan tag, probably invent some clan rules and a clan motto and finally they launch the recruiting. The decisive characteristic in this first phase was to be ready to organize a clan out of thin air, not individual skill or success in the game itself.

    Players join and the second phase begins; now it's sometimes necessary to improve on the services in order to keep members satisfied, but most importantly the founder team has now to prove leadership and management capabilities. Founders are almost never removed from leadership positions against their will. We live in democratic societies, but this doesn't seem to affect clan management much. Instead, members vote with their feet. They simply leave the clan and join another one if they're not satisfied. The voting is on clans (warbands), not on the leader(s).
    The decisive characteristic in this second phase was to be able and willing (time!!!) to lead satisfactorily.

    First logistics, then leadership. These two factors are typically (actually without an exception to my knowledge) decisive for (amateur) gamer clans - not the leader's skill as an individual gamer.

    There are very few clans for ~top5% players only which have top players as leaders, but they work along the same lines as far as I know.


    These leadership dynamics are today so dominant over possible alternatives (100% dominance afaik) that they appear to be strongly rooted in human (young male human?) psychology.

    The model with the best individual warrior being the leader is furthermore inherently inferior to a model which requires the leader to be a good leader. It's reasonable to assume that some evolutionary selection mechanism is at work in the realm of raiding warbands. This raises additional doubts about the standard description of ancient Germanic warbands.

    Maybe the thing about Germanic warbands should be re-thought.

    Modern-time warbands don't seem to be built by the best marksmen or fittest warriors either. Instead, they seem to be generated by those with experiences, radios, the ability to sustain the warband and probably some charisma.


    Sven Ortmann

    Disclosure: I do almost never play shooter games and didn't spend a significant amount of time in MMORPGs for years. My experiences are thus mostly a bit dated.
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    2010/10/25

    World War hate propaganda

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    A German high speed train was towed through the English Channel tunnel for certification purposes - and certain people write about Huns in response. There was also some writing about Huns in the context of Merkel's recent speech about Turks in Germany.

    This doesn't make sense? That's exactly my opinion.


    "Hun" was a derogatory word for Germans introduced in the Great War (now known as First World War) in order to add irrational hatred against Germans to the British and later U.S. American population's motivation to keep up the effort for that completely idiotic war.

    Meanwhile Germans used the harmless "Tommies" for British soldiers in both world wars as far as I know.

    92 years after the end of World War One, 65 years after the end of World War Two, after 55 years of formal alliance between Germany and the United Kingdom and after 37 years of close cooperation in the European Community/European Union there are still some idiots around who use this old hate-mongering "Hun" for "Germans".

    It was quite embarrassing to fall for such primitive propaganda a century ago,  what does it take to still cling to it!?



    Just in case one of those who are still confused about "Huns" might see this:
    (I have a higher opinion of almost all of my readers)


    This is a Hun:




    These are Germans:

    (random group photo)

    Got the difference now?

    S O
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    Find, Fix, Strike

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    "Find, Fix Strike" is a set of "core functions" of army forces, originating apparently in the UK. I've been ill for many days, but nevertheless I'll finally do what I had intended for months; have a closer look at these three Fs. Is "Find, Fix, Strike" a "useful shorthand or high-level guide"?

    I'll use the description from Jim Storr's "The Human Face of War":

    The enemy will conceal himself, to resist the effects of our weapons and conceal his plans, so he must be found. He will resist destruction, and attempt to damage or defeat us, so must be fixed. Finally he must be struck to inflict damage that both reduces his ability to damage us, and grants us freedom to achieve our aims.
    First of all, what should be called "core functions"? It must be something really, really important by the sound of it and by the fact that it's limited to only three. The expectations wouldn't be high if it was a list of fifty things, but you better hit the nail perfectly if you assert only three "core functions"!
    I feel it's fair to expose these three so-called "core functions" to a critical analysis. The "pro" faction is obviously represented by those who use these "core functions" in writing, so I think it's fine if I limit this to the "contra" element.


    My first doubts are about the "Find" part:

    You do not "Find" an enemy when you're attempting to ambush him. He finds you. This should obviously be included.
    "Find" may also be misleading in another regard; finding the enemy isn't all that difficult, nor is it sufficient. Identification friend/foe/neutral and even battle damage assessment are extremely important as well.
    Then again, Storr separates "core functions" from "functions in combat", the core functions are apparently meant to be applied at the operational level only. Maybe they should be called "operational core functions", for I've seen them applied to tactical problems.
    The previous criticism was on the tactical level. Is anything wrong with "Find" on the operational level? Well, not much, except that it's probably too self-evident to be helpful. We could as well call "breathe" a core function. By Storr's description of it, "Find" is probably more a "overcome the enemy's countermeasures" anyway.


    My less superficial doubts are about the "Fix" part:

    Fixing the enemy has at least two components, psychological and physical. The physical seems simple: if an enemy is under fire he will have difficulty in moving, as he would if he has to cross a river with no bridges. Fixing by firepower or terrain is fairly obvious and mechanical. Being fixed psychologically us less easy to describe. It can be seen as inducing the enemy to persist with something he is predisposed to do.

    "Fix" is curiously almost absent in air and naval warfare theory, save for blockading the enemy in its bases. Deployed forces usually don't get "fixed" in air or naval warfare. This is no good omen because  there are most often parallels between the art of war on land, on/in the sea and in the air.
    Both the psychological and the physical element look like "nice to have" to me. Neither is really necessary for defeating the enemy, but rather highly desirable because it reduces the costs of defeating the enemy. Should a "nice to have" feature be called "core function"?

    Sometimes it's even advantageous to allow the enemy a fast movement, or movement at all (see the Allied rush into Northern Belgium in May 1940). Should a "not always desirable" feature be called a "core function"?

    The psychological side of "Fix" is apparently not only "less easy to describe", but also poorly described. I understand it as exerting an influence on him which makes his actions more predictable and more advantageous to us (or leads to inaction on his part).
    I touched on something similar in my text Musings about a military theory framework - I called it a reduction of active repertoire and it was actually central to that angle of view on warfare.
    I do strongly doubt that the psychological aspect should be subsumed under "Fix". "To fix" is something physical - it's very difficult to imagine a psychological aspect. 


    Finally there's the "Strike" part:

    Finally he must be struck to inflict damage that both reduces his ability to damage us, and grants us freedom to achieve our aims.

    OK, there's nothing wrong with this except that it's again extremely obvious, probably too obvious to teach anything to anyone (or remind someone of something). Even if I would like this level of obviousness, I would probably rephrase the second part simply into "and to discourage him". Maybe that's a bit too Clausewitzian, though?


    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/23

    Digging the grave II

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    It's been more than three years since I wrote Digging the grave, about my concerns that the efforts to control foreign populations in small wars could prepare our Western states for the control of their domestic citizens.

    Many techniques, laws and tools of the so-called "Global war on terror" could be mis-used for the suppression of domestic opposition. There are even first signs that this is happening.

    * remote-controlled public cameras including face-recognition software which -once mature- allows a government to run such surveillance with very few loyal personnel
    * databases on behaviour of citizens
    * terror suspect databases full of innocents, yet incapable of stopping terrorists from boarding aircraft
    * surveillance of anti-war groups as if they were potential terrorists
    * empowerment of the police to stop and search people (and thus harass them)
    * counter-insurgency tactics
    * domestic espionage
    * laws which permit the long arrest of suspects without proper procedure
    * treatment of air passengers like criminals with scanners, cameras and even fingerprint sensors
    * attempts of politicians (like Schäuble) to empower the military domestically
    * establishment of a fourth category of people in addition to not guilty, guilty and suspect; "Gefährder" ('dangerous people'). This serves the purpose of disenfranchising them and to make their harassment more acceptable to the public.


    On this background I found several users in the Small Wars Council forum (mother lode of COIN thought) who saw no problem at all in considering domestic policy as COIN.

    They stepped over the Rubicon, imported COIN -a technique for suppressing violent popular resistance to a government- from small wars into domestic policy thinking in the West.
    I am 100% opposed to this because the thought alone is more dangerous to us than all terrorists of the world combined. It's the crossing of the Rubicon, the import of military might application against popular resistance from a distant war into our homeland. The mere thought is a greater offence against our freedom, liberty and democracy than all those idiots with bombs could ever be.

    Our state, our politicians, our population must not think of policy as the suppression or even only prevention of violent resistance. That's a by-product of good policy. Policy, the state are meant to serve the citizens and to protect them. The state itself has no interests - the people have. The state does not deserve to be protected against violent uprisings - the state must only protect freedom, liberty and democracy for the advantage of the society as a whole.

    Thinking of a state which controls its citizens, which suppresses their resistance is thinking about authoritarianism. It's thinking about an end to our democracy.


    We need to absorb and repeal the stupid domestic "anti-terror" legislation some time, and we need to guard against an import of COIN thought into our homeland.

    Our state must not keep the citizens in check - it must serve them.

    Every attempt to import COIN thinking into the domestic arena needs to face resolute and overwhelming opposition in order to keep it far, far away from what's deemed acceptable behaviour.


    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/19

    The brain-melting effect of rotation schedules for small wars

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    The recent small wars turned out to last long, very long. Just like several Balkan peacekeeping missions. These wars are no great wars, no wars which justify to send troops into theatre till accomplished their mission (for real). Instead, troops are rotated in, rotated out, formations rebuilt & retrained and rotated in again. Rotations are a proved countermeasure against burning out troops real fast. World War Two included frequent removal of troops from the front-line for vacation and service as trainers, for example. The ratio of front duty to garrison duty seems to be reversed in the more recent cases. The wisdom of short vs. long tours shall still not be the topic here, but the effect on thinking about brigades in general:

    The rotation schedules have a certain in theatre period- out of theatre period ratio, 1:4 is apparently typical. The apparent problem is that this rotation mode seems to have influenced the whole thinking about brigades in general.

    Brigades used to be handy combat formations, now they're apparently the administrative unit for deployment. The rumours about the development of the new German army structure included the idea of about half a dozen mixed brigades - not any specialized formations like mountain, armor, mechanized and airborne any more.
    The thought process wasn't about maximizing army strength with a given budget, but about the creation of exchangeable, rotatable units for deployment.


    2.A.6 In the land environment, Future Force 2020 will be able to provide: light, specialist forces for short-duration interventions; sufficient multi-role forces to provide flexibility for larger or more complex intervention operations or to undertake enduring stabilisation operations;  [..]
    2.A.7 Capabilities will include:
    • five multi-role brigades [...] each comprising reconnaissance forces, tanks, and armoured, mechanised and light infantry, plus supporting units, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation, and four in support to ensure the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation; [...]

    Brigade design according to rotation schedules. 1:4. Hundreds of dead generals and field marshals of fame roll over in their graves.

    Don't get me wrong; multi-role brigades can make sense as an alternative to more specialized brigades if you have the specialized components ready for attachment in order to make them suitable for different missions and environments. It just freaks me out that brigades could be believed to be rotation assets. This is not about baseball or tennis.


    What would it take to bring back brains and make decision-makers think of brigades as manoeuvre units in a corps context, almost all of them to be used at once in a war of necessity?

    Are Western military forces reduced to the toys of politicians or is there still some seriousness about actual defence?


    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/18

    A detrimental effect of ISAF

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    The German forces in ISAF are restricted in their options by political directions. German government politicians want our troops to participate for the sake of foreign policy credit, but they don't want to support real warfare over there. The result are restrictions which prevent an aggressive stance against the armed opposition to the mayor of Kabul and his cronies. The army units there have been reduced to bandogs on a really, really short chain, unable to influence the outside world much. The troops make the best of it and live mostly in their camp, turning it into an acceptable human habitat.

    This is mirrored by a disappointing police training effort that's hampered by the fact that German policemen are not really deployable and policing is an almost entirely state, not federal task in Germany.

    The smallish military effectiveness that results from this policy has become ever more visible in the last two years. This happened because failures elsewhere in Afghanistan and the redeployment of halfway effective Afghan security forces from the German area of responsibility into the South have allowed the Taliban to return in some strength to the North. The other 'pro-Mayor of Kabul 'armed forces in the country are apparently on the operational and strategic level no more successful, no matter how hard they try.

    - - - - -

    The visible low military performance is not representative for conventional warfare, when the PC gloves are off. Yet, it's not a safe assumption that this detail is understood everywhere, for the ISAF engagement also exposed some typical peacetime routine idiocies that reveal how much the army has distanced itself from its fearsome predecessors.

    The exposure of peacetime decline in military effectiveness can be (and is) sharp. German military history has a very unsettling example: The Battle of Jena-Auerstedt in 1807.

    The army of Prussia had fought extremely well in 1756-1763 (Seven Years War) against the armies of several much greater powers (France, Austria-Hungary, Russia). The Battle of Leuthen early in that war is one of military history's finest oblique order battle tactics examples and showed off the great standard of Prussian training and discipline of that time.

    Half a century later - after almost no hot conflicts - the very same Prussian army was defeated in the parallel battles of Jena and Auerstedt by the Napoleonic French army. Logistical failures, tactical failures, training failures and a lack of innovation had caused a great defeat and almost ended the history of Prussia itself.

    - - - - -

    I conclude that the ISAF mission exposes weaknesses of the Heer and - even more important - gives many people the impression of it being much less effective than it really would be in conventional warfare.

    This is a serious problem, not the least because it means that the mission has probably a net damaging effect on the constitutional mission of the Bundeswehr:


    Article 87a
    Armed Forces
    (1) The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defence. Their numerical strength and general organisational structure must be shown in the budget.
    (2) Apart from defence, the Armed Forces may be employed only to the extent expressly permitted by this Basic Law.
    (3) [...]
    (4) [...]

    The "purpose of defence" is first and foremost about deterrence, and deterrence depends on the impression of military effectiveness which you make on others.


    I'll add this to the long list of contra-ISAF arguments, maybe I'll sometime find a viable argument for the pro-ISAF argument list, too.



    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/16

    Blitzkrieg - the fair weather doctrine

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    There were roughly four mobile warfare doctrines of interest in the European theatre of WW2:
    The British doctrine, partially inspired by Liddell-Hart. It failed to produce convincing results in wartime (probably because it was a mismatch with the British and Commonwealth officer corps).
    The German doctrine known as "Blitzkrieg", inspired by Guderian (armor, motorization, exploitation of radios) and von Schlieffen (encirclement focus) which proved to be a surprising success in 1940 and 1941 and in a modified and rather crude form again after WW2 in 1967 and 1973.

    The Russian doctrine practised in the years 1943-1945 (and during the Nomonhan incident in 1939), which was inspired by Tukhachevsky and can be called as his concept "Deep Operations". This proved to be a capable tool for overcoming German and Axis defences, but was hampered badly by certain Red Army weaknesses.

    - - - - -

    Deep operations was geared towards a breakthrough and a subsequent exploitation of the same with a deep advance. It was quite a brute force concept and proved to be successful with a substantial quantitative superiority. The relatively high reliance on brute force made several qualitative weaknesses tolerable.

    Photograph taken by Michael Jastremski
    Blitzkrieg on the other hand required on qualitative superiority of leadership. It did not require a qualitative superiority of material or a quantitative superiority (and had neither in its successful applications). I'd like to call it a fair weather doctrine because it really depends on the inadequacy of the opponent's leadership. This inadequacy is nothing you can achieve on your own; it's an externality just like fair weather.

    - - - - -

    Both Deep Operations and Blitzkrieg were still highly influential historical benchmarks during the Cold War. Even as of today they're the two most modern basic recipes for mobile warfare. I am convinced that both rested so much on long gone conditions that they've long since become almost useless except for detail observations. Many if not most informed people would disagree, thus it's worthwhile to point out the aforementioned specific requirements:

    Blitzkrieg required and requires a qualitatively superior and well-prepared leadership. Any attempt of Blitzkrieg without such a superiority is bound to fail, like the Iranian armour formation which was all but annihilated during its failed Blitzkrieg attempt early in the Iraq-Iran War. Blitzkrieg does furthermore appear to require a certain superiority of formation mobility. It broke down when too many motor vehicles were lost.


    Deep Operations in Russian style required and require a quantitative superiority. Any attempt at Deep Operations without this form of superiority or with a too stark qualitative inferiority will likely fail.

    - - - - -

    Both very successful doctrines do therefore fail the litmus test of a symmetric scenario. Neither can advise a force on how to counter an opponent like itself. A truly great, modern doctrine should be able to master this litmus test and thus confirm its superiority over OPFOR or established doctrine.

    I am furthermore - as mentioned before - convinced that both doctrines are badly outdated and useful only for anecdotes and hints nowadays. Both doctrines were written and executed in a world which knew front-lines made up of infantry divisions. There's no such thing today any more.Today we have the mobile strike formations (armour or mechanized infantry brigades) and specialized infantry formations (mountain, airmobile) ... but no infantry divisions to set up and maintain a front-line. Any modern operational theory needs to understand what functions were provided by these front-lines and lay out a way how to substitute for these functions or how to make do without them.


    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/10

    Panzerbefehlswagen

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    Armada International broke a bit its own mold and published an article about AFV command post vehicles instead of publishing the 100th light or medium AFV article.

    (pages 8-11)

    It's despite the title still mostly about semi-mobile command post vehicles instead of vehicles for leading from the place of the action itself.


    This made me think about a typical German WW2 type of armoured vehicles again; Panzerbefehlswagen (~armoured command vehicles, command tanks).

    German army doctrine from the inter-war years and to some degree also since the 50's had an unusual emphasis on leading from the front. Even generals were expected to be at times present at their Schwerpunkt in order to understand and to influence the events at the most important and thus most interesting location of their area of responsibility. This included all commanding officers and was a major contributor for the extraordinarily high attrition among German generals (hundreds of general officers were KIA, a very unusual rate).

    It was understood even before the publication of the armour branches' existence that this would require armoured command vehicles in the case of armoured formations and units. Company, battalion and regimental headquarters required such command vehicles.
    The first examples were modified light (training) tanks such as the kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen (SdKfz 265).The armament was reduced to one machine gun, a larger superstructure replaced the turret to offer the necessary space for a decent radio set (FuG 2 and FuG 6). 184 were produced from 1935 to 1937 (plus six conversions):

    Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-318-0083-29 / Rascheit / CC-BY-SA

    This was a great boost for the ability to lead armoured formations and units, but the risks involved were too large. The vehicle stood out and was barely bulletproof.

    Later command tanks were built as slightly modified normal tanks, either with mock gun or with normal gun. Armour leaders were then capable of staying in touch with superior HQ and neighbouring unit's HQs via radio (FuG) while staying in touch with their own tanks at all times. Most Panzerbefehlswagen were based on the PzKpfw III tank: A dummy gun replaced the cannon in  order to mimic the appearance of normal tanks for survivability, but they still stood out because of large antennas.

    Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. D (SdKfz 267, 268); 30 produced June 1938 to March 1939 (FuG 6 + FuG 7 or 8)

    Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. E (SdKfz 266-268); 45 produced from July 1939 to February 1940 (FuG 6 + FuG 2, 7 or 8)


    Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. H (SdKfz 266-268), 145 produced from November 1940 to September 1941 and 30 from December 1941 to January 1942 (FuG 6 + FuG 2, 7 or 8)



    These proved to be notoriously short in supply, especially as they had also great potential as artillery observation vehicles.

    Leaders were not meant to fight, but to command. Nevertheless, a real cannon instead of merely a machine gun was still desired (even if for no other reason than self-protection). The next model offered this:

    Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf J (SdKfz 141); 81 produced from August 1942 to November 1942 (FuG 5 and FuG 7 or 8, 5 cm KwK L/42)

    The compromising large-frame antenna was finally replaced by a less conspicuous star antenna (see photo):


    Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf M (SdKfz 50) produced from December 1942 to February 1943 (FuG 5 and FuG 7 or 8, 5 cm Kwk L/60).

    The PzKpfw III series proved unable to mount powerful (long barrel, high velocity grenades) 75 mm guns and did therefore lose relevance in late 1942 in favour of the Pzkpfw IV which was able to mount 75 mm L/43 and L/48 guns. Panzerbefehlswagen III began to stand out among Pzkpfw IV tanks in 1943, and a Pzkpfw IV-based command tank had to be introduced:


    Panzerbefehlswagen IV; 97 converted from normal tanks from March 1944 to September 1944 (FuG 5 and FuG 7 or 8, 7,5 cm Kwk L/48). A similar quantity of almost identical tanks was converted as forward artillery observation tanks.


    Finally, even Pzkpfw IV became secondary to Pzkpfw V (Panther), and a Panther-based command tank was built:

    Panzerbefehlswagen Panther (SdKfz 171); 329 converted from normal tanks from May 1943 to February 1945 (FuG 5 and FuG 7 or 8). (Most Panther command tanks were model A Panthers).


    The extra equipment of such specialized command tanks varied between variants: Long-range radios, space for a map (thanks to often no cannon), additional vision slits, stereoscopic periscopes, gyrocompass (important for movements under low visibility conditions).

    Planned command versions of heavy tanks had a reduced ammunition load and were afaik not built.

    - - - - -

    Division to army commanders usually preferred faster vehicles, such as half-tracks.  They didn't move as close into the action as battalion and regiment commanders and didn't require the same level of protection (and they were able to take over a subordinate's command tank anyway). Rommel's "Greif" is a famous example of a command (radio) half-track:

    SdKfz 250/3 leichter Funkpanzerwagen (FuG 8)


    Another example is the half-tracked SdKfz 251/3 mittlerer Funkpanzerwagen (various radios were  used). This famous photo shows Guderian in 1940 during the Western campaign; an Enigma electro-mechanical encryption/decryption machine is visible.


    Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bild 101I-769-0229-11A
    Armoured reconnaissance units had radio vehicles as well; both examples without armour (which were common in the whole army) and such which were based on 6wd or 8wd armoured reconnaissance vehicles (Panzerfunkwagen).

    - - - - -

    The improvement of standard radio ranges was probably the reason why such specialist vehicles fell out of favour until recently. The category of semi-mobile command post vehicles prospered during the Cold War. The aforementioned Armada International article mentions the ubiquitous M577.



    - - - - -

    The importance of leadership can easily be underestimated when armoured warfare enters a discussion. Armour strength, firepower, thermal sights, speed, weight and other superficial technicalities can easily dominate the often more important questions of leadership, fuel consumption, reliability and ease of maintenance. The historical Panzerbefehlswagen are a good reminder.


    The approach of having a senior armoured force leader at his Schwerpunkt in an inconspicuous tank, able to make quick decisions and directly supported only by a tiny fraction of his staff, enabled a very agile style of command. The direct involvement (not always, but sometimes) in the most relevant battlefield section replaced the slow information gathering, processing and communicating by a staff and the quick decisions were turned into quick orders, short-circuiting both staff and the chain of command.
    Junior leaders which usually operate without a large staff anyway (battalion commanders) gained the additional benefit of a better equipment for their job (mostly the superior radio) and became thus more effective as well.


    It was always interesting for me to see how this concept which evolved years before WW2 from German peacetime army doctrine and which proved itself in wartime had no close parallel in any other army of its time (at least none known to me).The idea is worth to be remembered and appears to have modern descendants on basis of 8x8 APC and tracked IFV models.


    Sven Ortmann

    source: I didn't remember these vehicle types myself, so there was obviously a source. I chose the Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two. Minor errors - especially concerning designations - are possible, as the book has some translation errors.

    edit: About the radios

    FuG 5 - 10 Watt, 2 km range (transmit), Standard tank radio set
    FuG 6 - 20 Watt, 6 km range (transmit)
    FuG 7 - 20 Watt, 50 km range, ground-to-air set
    FuG 8 - 30 Watt, 10 km range, main divisional link set

    edit 2:
    A bit less careful data about the FuG 8: Maximum range was 65 km. 
    There were also - at least for Panthers - conversion kits for the conversion of normal tanks into command tanks. This included a reduced ammunition load in the case of the Panther (79 to 64). A consequence of these kits is obviously that there may have been much more command tanks than were produced at factories. It's also imaginable that mechanics removed the extra equipment from knocked out command tanks for installation into normal tanks.

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    2010/10/09

    Review: Jim Storr's "The Human Face of War"

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    Jim Storr's book "The Human Face of War" of 2009 comes at a hefty price, but I got it cheaply (three bucks) for four weeks thanks to the German library interlending system.

    It's a very intellectual book; much theory that's founded on empirical and experimental research. He offers a critique of anglophone and in particular British warfare theory and attempts to reinvent how to develop military theory based on concepts developed in sciences and philosophy.

    He trashes many of the post-Cold War military fashions (OODA, EBO, RMA, Rule of Four, attrition vs. manoeuvre, large staffs), pointing out why they were poor ideas in the first place and not founded on the right paradigm and methodology for developing warfare theory.

    His attempt at offering a better theoretical paradigm - one which explains instead of accepts seeming paradoxes - appears to be usable, but still incomplete. He focuses on the human aspect of warfare; dangerous, adversarial - driven by brains, not microchips..

    His contribution to tactical theory is centred on the generation of surprise and the addition of shock to surprise. Surprise and shock are known to be extremely powerful variables for the decision of engagements, but most theoretical works nevertheless pay little attention to both. Even Jim Storr's writing on surprise and shock is not comprehensive (lacking in examples and practical details IMO, but still among the best in modern literature.

    Some of the most interesting parts of the book were about not exactly well-known findings from studies and experiments, some of them running counter to conventional wisdom (such as that the attacker has a substantial advantage in house-to-house combat).

    I disagree with some points from his book and he didn't really complete some of his arguments (such as the rather fragmentary critique of the Rule of Four), but I still rate it as one of the most impressive military books of the last decades. I can only recommend to read it, although the price surely motivates cheaper ways of acquiring it than buying a new copy.


    S O
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    A new model Entente?

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    Issue
    France and the United Kingdom must exploit the present window of opportunity and substantially enhance defence co-operation.

    Context
    Operational demands and the consequences of the financial crisis mean that Britain and France can no longer preserve independent military capabilities that fully support their aspirations as global powers. If nothing is done, they will shrink beyond repair in volume and critical capabilities. Given extant capability gaps, traditional trade-offs will no longer suffice, and have actually already become counter-productive.

    Key findings
    Co-operation is now both rational, politically feasible and extremely urgent
    * French ‘European counter-weight’ arguments and the UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the US, which have stood in the way of co-operation, are no longer relevant
    * Co-operation should be introduced pragmatically and progressively from low-key opportunities to those of greater political significance
    * There must political will in both countries for fruitful cooperation to work. However, a grand political bargain between the two countries, or one at the transatlantic level, is not necessary
    * The primary objective is to ensure that French and British defence systems survive the coming decade relatively unscathed
    * This ‘New Model Entente’ has the potential in due course to improve relationships with the US as well as to develop a possible future European defence capability.

    Hat tip to Ultima Ratio.

    This sounds like a rational approach to me IF both nations want to keep their expeditionary military capability. Cooperation can lead to savings thanks to a reduction of capability duplicity.

    Sven Ortmann
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    2010/10/06

    Physical fitness requirements

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    Physical fitness requirements seem to be an ever-interesting topic in regard to land warfare. A high fitness standard seems to be quite self-evident for infantry, scouts and most engineers. Military history knows nevertheless many drafted and not necessarily physically fit (often not even healthy or quite dwarfish) infantrymen and engineers.

    There's greater disagreement about the physical fitness requirements for support personnel and armour troops. On the other hand, these troops were often required to serve as a kind of defensive (object defence or self-defence) infantry. WW2 experiences such as the infamous "Alarmeinheiten" (improvised emergency infantry and anti-tank units) and U.S. anti-air personnel being pushed into infantry units as replacements remind us of the importance of infantry skills and physical fitness of everyone, though.
    Guderian is on record complaining about the high losses of expert tank crews in infantry combat, for they were all too often used in the role of improvised infantry after their tank was lost. He regretted that these troops didn't receive a better infantry training.


    Discussions about the physical fitness topic can be quite lively, even if we ignore the petty nation-bashing that's often based on anecdotes and photos of certain overweight troops. Such anecdotes and photos originate in all armies.


    I'm in the mood to contribute a bit to this topic, and I think it might be of interest because I've got a rather unusual set of assumptions that leads to an unusual conclusion.


    First the assumptions: I am the "great war" guy who's only pro-"war of necessity"; pro-defensive war. It's rather unlikely that NATO or EU will be attacked by an army any time soon, and peripheral interventions are either very unlikely or not something I'd support politically.
    This puts us into the very advantageous - outright great - situation of not having to fear a great war in the next maybe two years. We can keep military spending low, take the time to experiment and most importantly: We should prepare.

    Prepare for war? Si vis pacem, para bellum?

    Not exactly. the situation is likely too good for that. Most allies could instead prepare for the preparations for war. We could (maybe should) prepare our forces for a quick (2 years) expansion (double or triple) which might become necessary sometime in the future to avert war.
    Until then, our low force levels would relieve our economies and they might also discourage high military spending in our periphery (doves and hawks usually disagree on the consequences of "easing of tension" a.k.a. "showing weakness" by 180°).
    A force expansion plan would probably be a better preparation than a campaign plan for us.


    So well, how to apply this "prepare for future expansion" theme to physical fitness?

    My proposal:
    Don't spend 150-200 hours per year on physical fitness if you could get the same fitness in a matter of weeks or months once the political horizon darkens. The physical fitness of today should be oriented at the peacetime training of today (in part to prevent injuries).

    On the other hand, the decision to prepare for war instead of preparing for expansion (any more) should switch a lever: At that time all troops should become physically fit for defensive infantry combat, and those who will necessarily be physically challenged in their assigned jobs should train to a very high level. of physical fitness Physical fitness training guides and equipment should be available. This includes civilian quality gyms (muscle factories) in all barracks. The increased standards should be strictly enforced, beginning in the officer corps, then among NCOs and finally among enlisted troops.

    S O

    Disclosure: I am no fitness freak at all, I dislike running and I'm bored by marching. My body was never above BMI 25, though. I was a subscriber in a gym for a while and again badly bored. I cancelled my subscription during a much too-hot summer when I temporarily lost all interest in even more sweat-causing activities. I prefer technical martial arts training with some warming up fitness exercises to running and lifting weights any time.
    .

    2010/10/03

    Stuxnet and cyber warfare

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    I observed the topic of the Stuxnet worm (a software targeting industrial machine control devices, with apparently high degree of sophistication and apparently first active in Iran).

    I don't really buy the assertion that this worm required a great project, some form of government backing or similar efforts for its creation. Those who deny the possibility that it might originate from a few hacker friends probably just don't know such competent and cross-qualified people.
    It could of course be the product of some intelligence agency's effort to sabotage some production in Iran; neither the pro nor the contra is proven.


    During dinner I watched CNN International and after a lot of boring and utterly uninteresting "business news" they finally reported about Stuxnet. It was interesting to see whom they interviewed; some guy from Kaspersky (they cited the competitor Symantec as well) and some Cambridge professor. There was no interview with some military or law enforcement or intelligence agency expert on the topic. Maybe the latter wouldn't comment, but I'm sure there are law enforcement departments specialized on computer crimes and these people would love to get CNN's attention in order to secure their future budget. The same should apply to those dubious "cyber defense" units that seem to pop up in some Western militaries.

    Somehow, CNN didn't seem to suspect relevant competence in such agencies, and neither do I.

    The Stuxnet case seems to be a good example about how civilian institutions - even for-profit companies - appear to be better suited for "defending" a country against software attacks.

    Just last year, while researching a book on America's digital illiteracy, I met with the Air Force General then in charge of America's cybercommand. He said he had plenty of new recruits ready and able to operate drones or other virtual fighting machines - but no one capable of programming them, or even interested in learning how. He wasn't even getting recruits who were ready to begin basic programming classes.

    The most effective and most efficient approach to "cyber defense" may be to push for the creation of some private sector anti-malware companies and sponsor some jobs at university computer security departments.

    - - - - -

    I wondered for a long time what exactly this photo from US Cyber Command (afaik) was meant to show, what kind of message it was meant to communicate:


    This guy is probably supposed to look very concentrated and concerned, monitoring internet activity (or something else!?). The graphics are colourful and look like straight from a CSI TV series.
    The graphics are also utterly useless. About as useless as his clothes' camouflage pattern. How competent does this guy look to you in the context of malware attacks? Looks can be misleading, but it's quite a photographer's professional negligence to not even insist on glasses.

    A REAL anti-malware nerd would more likely read e-mails or very nerdy computer journals. He would look very focusedly at a source code, not at colourful graphics. Colourful graphics are the Hollywood version of professional software. He would use a normal about 20" diameter monitor or two, not some sci-fi-ish display like that one.

    In short: He wouldn't even fit into the military. The intelligence services are forced to outsource much software-related activity because they cannot hire the real top talent, and neither can the military. The military's best shot at recruiting such top talent would be to ask judges and state attorneys to send computer criminals to them as part of legal deals.

    - - - - -

    Germany has an official "hacker" club, a club in a grey zone. The CCC is no criminal organization, but at the same time not exactly the wrong club if you want to find people who are competent enough for committing sophisticated computer crimes.
    This CCC and the Russian network of spammers (bot nets) and hackers in the St. Petersburg area are good examples for civilian competence centres for offensive and defensive computer activities (the Russians also have Kaspersky). They could easily pull off major attacks of the Stuxnet scale without even mobilizing a substantial portion of their potential.

    The (published) military efforts in regard to defensive and offensive computer actions appear incompetent and futile (if existing at all) in comparison.

    The militarization of computer attacks and defence against the same looks to me like a perfectly predictable bureaucratic expansion. The theory of bureaucracy predicts such behaviour just fine.
    What seems to be missing is a rigorous analysis of the optimum for software attacks and defence. The military isn't only late by almost two decades - it's the antithesis to the perfect organization for such activities. It's way beyond my understanding how anyone could think that setting up a "Cyber Command" was a good idea and not a 95+ % waste of taxpayer money.

    - - - - -

    The best defence and offence in the realm of software combat are to be found in the private sector. I think the offence is best managed by intelligence services while defence is best managed by non-profit enterprises and scientific centres, both supported with a very moderate amount of taxpayer money.
    A militarization of either or even a "Cyber warfare" look like very bad ideas to me.

    Conflict through software attacks is novel and thus still interesting. The topic justifies much intellectual and expert thinking. It's probably comparable to trade wars and diplomatic cold wars because there's no violence involved.
    The very special characteristics of software attacks are the difficulty of tracing back attacks and an often marginal control over consequences. The effects of malware are especially difficult to predict - unlike the effects of a denial-of-service attack, for example. Both offer much food for thought.


    Sven Ortmann
    .

    The role of the infantry branch

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    The Infantry Mission is — ‘to defeat the enemy through close combat.’
    (from an UK infantry field manual)

    - - - - -
    The role of the infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy.
    (from a Canadian infantry field manual)

    - - - - -

    The Australians seem to define this as the infantry's role:
    ‘to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, and to repel attack, by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain’
    (I've still got to add Aussie manuals to my collection, got this from a secondary official Aussie source.)

    - - - - -

    Das Jägerbataillon führt den Infanteriekampf vorwiegend in bewaldetem und bebautem Gelände sowie mit und um Sperren und Hindernissen, nimmt und hält bewegungs-ungünstiges Gelände und trägt zum Schutz von Räumen und Objekten bei.
    (The infantry battalion executes the infantry fight primarily in forests and settlements as well as with and around obstacles, captures and holds movement-adverse terrain and contributes to the protection of areas and objects.)
    (from a German infantry manual)

    - - - - -

    Le fantassin combat principalement à pied en engageant le combat à courte ou très courte distance et si nécessaire au contact direct avec l’ennemi.
    (It basically says that infantry is for short distance, very short distance or if necessary direct contact combat.)
    (from a French infantry manual)

    - - - - -

    The U.S. field manuals which I read in preparation of this post don't lay out the role of infantry so cogently, but feature a kind of statement of belief in AirLand Battle and some deployability strengths instead.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    So what's REALLY the role of infantry on the battlefield?

    These commonwealth-typical "close in and destroy" ideas were not only unable to become an alliance-wide consensus, they are regularly despised as idiotic (in more gentlemanly expressions, of course). This may be harsh, but these Commonwealth armies look almost stuck on the side of the bayonet fans from 18th century "bayonet vs. musket ball" tactics discussions.

    The French and Germans weren't as far off with their approach; focus on what infantry can do well.


    Infantry combat is in contrast to vehicle-based combat, although very often both are combined for extra benefits.
    The infantry's tasks are therefore almost all of those (line-of-sight) combat missions which can better be accomplished dismounted than mounted. This explains why the infantry's relevance varies a lot in different terrains and scenarios, unlike the UK phrase which cannot explain anything but anecdotes.

    A general description of the infantry's mission is really that simple, but a detailed list of these activities would fill several field manual pages. To revert to a primitive and obviously wrong if not outright stupid mission description (I'm still trying to be nice here) is nevertheless not justified.


    S O
    .

    2010/10/01

    The almost non-existing German security policy blog / Milblog community

    .
    Blogs came and passed since I published a list of the German Milblogs which were at that time known to me.


    The current situation is especially meagre. These are the only related blogs with a decent level of activity* :

    Still focussing on the public relations work of the BMVg.

    Maintained by a journalist (formerly working for the Focus), revived at this new address a while ago. Focus on news.

    Blog of security politician and previous member of parliament Wilfried Nachtwei. He writes mostly about current affairs.

    Security policy blog of the Rhein Zeitung (rhine newspaper); focus on news.

    Commentary on security policy by Hans-Heinrich Dieter, Generalleutnant a.D.; it began with details about his 'politically charged' end of his career and appears to have turned into a more general commentary blog, focus on current affairs.

    Zur Sicherheit
    FAZ (a national newspaper) blog on security policy; focus on news.

    Honestly, I dislike their grabbing of Michael Forster's "geopowers" brand. It's nevertheless a German news-oriented Milblog.




    No, seriously, that's it. There's no happy end to this list. I know no other seriously active* security policy or Milblogs from Germany. Check the old list and enjoy a series of 404 errors and dated articles if you don't believe it! Maybe you know some more?

    We're down to seven German language security policy and Milblogs in Germany**. The news-focused Milblogs don't even add much, for their info is mostly available elsewhere anyway. Without the news and current-affairs-focused blogs there's only one - with a tunnel vision on PR.

    A few months ago the author of the now-vanished Milblog "Weblog Sicherheitspolitik" agreed that there's no blog competing with mine at all in regard to tactical topics. It looks now like this was a vast understatement. There's pretty much no competition to me for not-news and not-current military/security policy blogging in Germany.
    This may have contributed to my record 21,552 page loads in September - despite mediocre activity on my part.



    The German Milblog community is almost dead. I am tempted to re-evaluate my original idea; parallel blogging in German and English. That would most certainly reduce the overall content output, though.



    Sven Ortmann

    *: More than two posts in September was my threshold, but most excluded blogs failed to register ANY blog posts FOR MONTHS.

    **: Mine is still excluded because of the choice of British English (or however you want to call what I produce here).
    .

    Study on internet censorship: Only 1.8% of blocked sites are active & illegal

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    .