2011/02/28

Arms deal of the century

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The tender battle between Boeing and Airbus has completed its third round (Boeing won 1st round,  battle was restarted, Airbus won 2nd round, battle was restarted, Boeing won 3rd round a few days ago).

This reminds me of the true "arms deal of the (20th) century"*; the C-135 "Stratolifter" and its key role as foundation for the airliner business success of Boeing. Hundreds of C-135 aircraft (and variants) were sold to the USAF. 

C-135C

This aircraft (internally known as Boeing 717) also became the Boeing 707 a year later (both originated from the "Dash 80"). The Boeing 707 was the great breakthrough for turbojet-driven passenger air traffic after the Comet had experienced pressurized cabin problems. The USAF support for Boeing in form of huge C-135 sales was likely the key difference between Boeing and its competitors.

The Dash80/C-135/Boeing 707 also defined the dominant aircraft layout for airliners: swept wings, engine nacelles suspended blow the wings, normal swept tail and tubular pressurized fuselage. I have a book on aviation from the late 50's and I can tell you that people didn't consider this layout as self-evident then, while they do so today.

The new tanker competition won't be nearly as important as the choice of the C-135, not the least because it's backwards. This time the military aircraft will be based on a civilian aircraft. 
This seems to be true for many military orders nowadays.


S O

*: "Arms deal of the century" is conventionally known as description for the F-16 tender, but that decision was much less important than the choice of the C-135.
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2011/02/24

Night fighter personnel - a remarkable historical anomaly

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Many if not most people know the Pareto Principle:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

(wikipedia)
 

This principle holds roughly true for fighter pilots: Few aces outshine the many more pilots who never really leave a dent in air war history. The contrast is even more marked because air combat is a deadly business, so an even smaller share of pilots has an even more out-of-proportion share of the air combat kills: These are the pilots who belong to the over-performing 20% both in regard to killing and in regard to surviving.

Junker Ju 88 G-2 night fighter

The air forces of World War 2 still had good uses or fighter pilots who didn't perform well. A formation of three regular pilots and one ace may encounter a hostile formation of four regulars or veterans. The three regulars dogfight for their lives without achieving much while the ace kills one or two enemies. In the end, there's likely a 1:0 or 2:0 balance. The ace on its own flying against four regulars would fare much worse (he could still score a kill surprisingly often thanks to surprise). Besides, he would have nobody for the confirmation of his kill claims.
It's similar to chess; the pawns are not very effective as individuals, but they play an important role. In the case of daylight fighters, the realistic optimum was probably 50% "ace"-quality pilots and 50% "veteran"-quality (survivable, but not really deadly) pilots.

This was different in night combat. The top night fighter aces were capable of impressive kill series (at times five to seven kills in one sortie, some of them had an average in excess of 0.5 kills per sortie).

Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer, top night fighter ace of all times

Meanwhile, the lesser performing pilots were quite useless (sorry guys, most of you still gave your best!). Night fighters hunted alone (very rarely in pairs). The regular night fighter pilots took off, flew without a clue in the dark and then struggled to find back to base and make a safe landing in the dark. Many of these regular night fighter pilots (or crews) scored a single confirmed kill, many more none.

This was a very different situation than in the case of the daylight fighters. The waste was very serious because
(a) the ground-based night fighter advising system (telling the night fighters how to close in with bombers until the night fighters' short range radios picked up the enemy) wasn't capable of helping many night fighters at the same time. I'm not sure, but I suspect they focused on helping the aces and thus widened the gap in performance even more (the aces were identifiable by their call signs).
(b) most night fighters were expensive two-engined aircraft with expensive special equipment (overall approx. three times as expensive as a standard daylight fighter). This was even worsened by the fact hat the exhaust flame mufflers reduced the durability of the piston engines and thus increased the cost even more.

Bf 110 G-4 night fighter

We should keep this in mind when we read the next time about how Kammhuber's request for 300 night fighters per month was denied. Fact is that the personnel resources for effective night fighter units were very scarce and it was very difficult to add effective night fighter crews to the force. A larger night fighter force would have had a marginally better effectiveness than the historical one.
Sometimes you simply cannot succeed by throwing more resources at a problem.

It's a classic case of (scarce) quality trumping quantity.

The things that could have saved the historical inner cities of Germany and many civilian lives in the night bombing campaign against Germany in World War Two were a bit more luck in radar research & development and an early introduction of the dual fuze ("Doppelzünder") for heavy anti-air guns. "More night fighters" was no promising approach. To the contrary, there were probably too many night fighter crews already.

S O
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2011/02/23

The Saam

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Back in the 80's a certain book was among my favourites in the local library: A German copy of "Fighting Ships" by Hugh Lyon. It was a small book which offered an overview over the modern warships at the time of its publication. The English original's first edition was published in 1981 (poor timing considering the news from the Falklands War soon-after). In fact, I liked the book so much that I bought one in ebay a year or two ago.

I can still recall many if not most ship descriptions from this tiny book, and this explains my surprise when I saw a photo of an Iranian ship crossing the Suez Canal (and provoking a ridiculous political and media echo): It was easily recognizable as one of those ancient Saam class ships from the book!

IIS Saam / Alvand

I immediately recalled the most interesting details from the book's description of the Saam; a decent gun, an outstanding top speed of about 40 kts, a ridiculously weak anti-submarine equipment, mostly useless short-range subsonic Seacat ship/air missiles and that strange light Seakiller ship/ship missile. The Saam class was a better gunboat, at most a coastal corvette, back in the early 80's.

Wikipedia told me that the ship class had been renamed, somewhat re-armed, a surprising quantity had survived the Persian Gulf War and last but not least; the ship from the Suez Canal was the former Saam itself!

The ship can today be regarded as a coastal corvette with a serious lack of effective air defences or as an oversized fast attack craft (not very much unlike Typ 143 A). It's also astonishingly old at 40 years; even some notoriously long-living aircraft carriers were decommissioned at a lower age.
An old rule of thumb stipulated that a ship is fine for about 15 years, can still be useful for 15 more years and then be decommissioned. Aircraft carriers and training ships were always exceptions because they had less problems with obsolete subsystems. The rule of thumb has been slightly stretched due to the slowed-down naval tech advances (and an increased readiness for upgrades) after the Cold War.

- - - - -

Let's face it; a marginally powerful warship shouldn't be taken more seriously when showing the flag than a sailing yacht. Symbolic foreign policy is hot air that dissipates if nobody cares. Gunboat diplomacy was relevant when a) it was done in countries who were even incapable of countering a marginally powerful gunboat or b) a gunboat's presence was merely the vanguard of a serious fleet.

There is no serious Iranian fleet. It's got three Kilo SSKs of questionable effectiveness (the basic design is OK, but everything else is in doubt), a bunch of FACs/coastal corvettes and a bunch of small auxiliaries.

S O
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2011/02/22

1990 - 2010

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The turmoil in the Arab world certainly begins to look a lot like the one in the Warsaw Pact around 1990.

We know what happened after 1990; the red scare subsided in core NATO countries and many Eastern European countries joined NATO.

Who dares to go on record with the prediction that the same will happen with Islamophobia and Arab countries as well?

S O
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2011/02/18

Leichte Divisionen vs. ACR

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A quote from "Panzertruppen: The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1933-1942" edited by Thomas L. Jentz (on page 27) has caught my attention:

In August 1936, the Generalstab des Heeres wrote to the Kommando der Panzertruppe on the subject of light units:
Instead of creating Panzer-Divisions, the Oberkommando des Heeres intends to create a light motorized unit in the Fall of 1937. The Oberkommando des Heeres requests that the Kommando der Panzertruppe review the intended organization for this unit under consideration and take a position on the following opinions:

The employment of the leichte Division is like the former army cavalry with the exception of decisive battles. The following tasks are planned for the leichte Division:

# Reconnaissance beyond the front lines,
# As a motorized unit under army control, reconnaissance attacks against enemy reconnaissance units or advanced troops,
# Screen the front and flanks
# Conduct delaying actions
# Close gaps
# Quickly occupy important sectors
# Pursue and overtake retreating enemy forces

As compared to Panzer-Divisions, which are planned for employment in decisive battles and breaking through enemy defenses.
American readers will probably recognize this as being the recipe for an Armoured Cavalry Regiment without the helicopter fetish.

Such Leichte Divisionen were eventually formed, disappointed in the Poland campaign in September 1939 and were finally reformed into armour divisions before the campaign against France in 1940.


S O

P.S.: It's really not difficult to provide a source for a long quote ... ;-)
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2011/02/16

Bundeswehr and foreign nationals

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The Bundeswehr has to make do without cheap short-service conscripts soon and is about to finally re-think its approach to recruitment.

The typical fear is that recruitment enough good young men will be difficult ( = expensive). This isn't surprising, for the Bundeswehr never felt the need to become good at recruiting!

One of the proposals for this issue caught the attention of mainstream media; the proposal to regularly recruit minorities living in Germany without a German citizenship.


FAZ.net „Deutschland braucht keine Fremdenlegion“


To be honest, I doubt that this would be a major relief, and a few per cent foreign volunteers in the army couldn't justify much fear about their loyalty. It's likely not going to help the combat troops cohesion, though.

Nobody seems to intend to hire foreign nationals as officers or for some kind of almost entirely foreign-manned Légion étrangère anyway.


I served with a native Indian and some native Russians in my unit back in the 90's; foreign looks and foreign behaviour patterns are no real news to the Bundeswehr. A passport is just a piece of paper and doesn't change much if the person was raised here and has lived here for many years. I expect that many minority guys serving voluntarily and gladly in the Bundeswehr would easily exceed the loyalty and determination of many if not most German 1990's peacetime conscripts.


In the end, it's a question of junior leadership (in the platoon) and comradeship among the troops how well such few per cent foreign nationals would serve in the army. This is probably the real problem; the Bundeswehr has deteriorated in these areas after the Cold War.

S O


P.S.: It's unlikely to happen if there's significant publicized opposition to the idea. The Minister of Defence von Guttenberg is not someone who puts up a fight for such detail ideas. He's rather the kind of politician who tests reactions by asking for proposals and allowing them to become publicly known  to test them before he commits himself to a plan.
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2011/02/15

Lessons from Cairo for police cooperation in Europe

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The Egyptian army did apparently not shoot (much) at its own people because the conscripts refused to do so.

This will certainly feed into the argumentation of pro-conscription crowds, but it's still just an anecdote under special circumstances for the context of pro/contra conscription debates (the Wehrmacht was still a conscript-based force, for example).

The same anecdote is most interesting from another perspective, though:

The primary force for oppressing the own people overtly is still the police. What does this tell us about police? At the very least it should not be a foreign police force, but well-rooted in the civil society.
Domestic policemen may support a dictatorship, but foreign policemen have even less restraints.


Think about the bilateral cooperation between European police forces with this in mind. European police forces have already cooperated to a degree at which foreign policemen were empowered by domestic authorities to serve in a riot control and event security role with police powers.


Zudem ist der Einsatz von deutschen Polizeikräften auf ausländischem Staatsgebiet als auch der Einsatz von ausländischen Polizeibeamten in Deutschland gängige Praxis und hat sich bewährt. Dabei sind die Polizeikräfte regelmäßig auch mit exekutiven Befugnissen ausgestattet.

 (Furthermore is the employment of German police forces on foreign territory as well as the employment of foreign police officers in Germany prevalent practice and has proved itself. [These] police forces are regularly equipped with executive authorities.)

The legal excuse is apparently article 24 of the Prüm Convention (2005) between Austria, Belgium France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.It was joined later by Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Norway, Estonia and Romania. The convention does not oblige signatory states to grant powers to foreign policemen, but it seems to encourage it.


- - - - -

I applaud when states prefer cooperation over confrontation.
It's also fine when they cooperate in order to prevent waste and cut mistakes. 

Nevertheless, foreign police with executive powers on German territory goes too far.



I bet that few will pick up this perspective in the coming months and years for mainstream debates.


S O
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2011/02/14

Kudos to Colombian drug smugglers

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Building a sea-going snorkeling submarine in a jungle is simply awesome!

I wish our military bureaucracies came close in resourcefulness.
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2011/02/10

Did you know ...

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... that the First World War a.k.a. The Great War lasted well into the Second World War?

The miniature state of Andorra had never signed the Versailles Treaty and was thus de jure still at war with Germany till 25. September 1939. (Or till the 50's, the stories diverge on this. The Andorran embassy in Bruxelles had no clue.)

I'm not sure that any other state ever lasted that long in a state of war with Germans. ;-)

The record for such finally resolved formal irregularities seems to be held by the Third Punic War.

S.O.
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2011/02/07

Historical crappy ideas. Today: Battleship "D"

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Scharnhorst was ordered as Ersatz Elsass as a replacement for the old pre-dreadnought Elsass, under the contract name "D". The Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven was awarded the contract, where the keel was laid on 16 July 1935. The ship was launched on 3 October 1936 (...)

Battleship Scharnhorst, Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), DVM 10 Bild-23-63-46

The intent of the Kriegsmarine's leadership was to reach parity with the battlefleet of France.

The very idea was childish.

Germany had barely left the great economic crisis behind and government insiders had the certainty that huge fiscal problems laid ahead because of the army re-armament and expansion. The construction of two expensive capital ships (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) was only justifiable with an actual military purpose, not with a mere childish pissing contest.

The concept development for these ships during the early 30's included many interim ideas and was very  arbitrary. It's now wonder that I'll soon have an easy target for deconstruction. 18,000 mt,  26,000 mt and 35,000 metric ton designs with 28 or 30.5 cm guns (11" or 12") were considered.


Now let's finally look at possible military purposes. These ships were incredibly expensive (more about that later), so they should really have been able to make a difference!

 
Baltic Sea; the only real potential opponent there was the Soviet Baltic Fleet, which was in shambles. Stalin could have concentrated the Baltic, Arctic and Pacific fleets there, but the fleet was simply outdated. Four obsolete dreadnoughts of the Gangut class were in the Soviet navy's inventory. Their effectiveness was very much in doubt in the Baltic Sea due to neglect, old age and the rather confined nature of the Baltic Sea. Littoral navy assets such as offensive and defensive minelayers and motor torpedo boats were available as very cost-efficient counters to the Soviet Baltic Fleet. The neutralisation of the Austrian-Hungarian fleet in the similarly confined Adriatic Sea in 1915-1918 was available as blueprint. The 1930's situation even added the possibility of engaging capital ships with bombers.


France was another potential opponent. The Kriegsmarine stared at the new French Dunkerque class, two ships which were developed to overpower the new German ships of the Deutschland class.
This was, as I wrote previously, a pissing contest attitude. Navy officers were paid for professional work, not for schoolboy attitudes. A professional work would first and foremost have led to the question what the Kriegsmarine could contribute for an acceptable conclusion of a war with France - or to a deterrence of France.
The answer to that question was simple and short: Nothing of relevance.

The offensive potential of the Kriegsmarine against France had no chance of becoming decisive, no matter how large the Kriegsmarine would be. France would always have been able to maintain its international trade via rail and vie the English Channel and the Mediterranean. Even the idea that the Kriegsmarine could have had a reasonable impact on French Atlantic shipping was quite utopian.

French battleship Dunkerque

Likewise, the French navy hadn't really the strength to maintain a fully effective blockade of German trade (as done by the Royal Navy in 1914-1918) in the 1930's. Again, littoral units and possibly bombers could have kept the French Navy away from the German bight. Blockade runners would have had a pretty good chance during winter months against the French Navy. A mere two battleships armed with 28 cm guns would not have changed the situation much, for the French had five old super dreadnoughts and the two fast and small Dunkerque battleships.The best opportunity for breaking a French blockade would have been to avoid the five old super dreadnoughts in any case, for the repair of damaged German battleships could take months.
One might disagree here and think that two battleships would have helped much to break a blockade, but even that is far from "parity". Germany needed at most 2/3 as much naval power as France for maintaining its overseas trade.
All this was quite moot, though; Germany was able to trade with many, many countries via rail or quasi-immune coastal shipping in a war with France. And then lets not forget that the Nazi grand strategy included a strive for economic autarky and securing continental resources for Germany.

The third possible opponent was the United Kingdom. The Kriegsmarine had only one promising option in such a scenario; protect the coast, seal the Baltic Sea against the Royal navy with littoral forces. Raiding British shipping with cruisers had zero chance of strategic success.


There was thus no real promise of (advantageous) strategic decisiveness for a German battleship fleet in the 1930's. It was risky politically (British antipathy was for sure), it was extremely expensive (again, more on that later) and it was risky tactically (even a damaged battleship could be put out of action for months, and a single lucky hit could destroy even a robust German battleship).


Now let's look at the costs.

Scharnhorst did cost 143.5 and the sister ship Gneisenau did cost 146 million Reichsmark (Bismarck and Tirpitz later about 200 each). These roughly RM 290 million plus operating costs for several years plus costs of investment in infrastructure don't really tell us much, do they? How much money were RM 290 million? RM 290 million were actually not terribly much in military budget terms - procurement was even during the 30's the smaller part of the navy's budget.

I prefer to look at alternative uses for the money, for this shows us the opportunity costs as well. Obviously, it would have been nice to cut taxation by RM 290 million or to invest the money for civilian purposes. Yet, even military alternatives looked enticing in comparison to the construction of two battleships.
The Imperial navy's huge budget had crowded out money from the army budget in the years 1898-1916, and this had certainly a gigantic impact on the course of the First World War. History repeated itself, nothing was learnt.

RM 290 million were actually the procurement cost of about 7,000 15 cm howitzers for the army (each 38,500 to 40,400 Reichsmark). Even the procurement of suitable tractor motor vehicles for these howitzers wouldn't have decreased this quantity much below 5,000.
That would have been about the Heer's less field artillery firepower of Autumn 1939 (despite absorbing Austrian and Czech field artillery). The Heer had about 4,900 10.5 cm howitzers , 400 10.5 cm cannons and 2,400 15 cm howitzers at that time.
What else could have been bought for RM 290 million by 1939? About 2,800 StuG III assault guns, for example. Or 12,600 SdKfz 251 armoured personnel carriers; a revolution for army mechanisation and reputed to have cut the losses of infantry in armour divisions by half, while allowing for much quicker offensive actions. That would have pushed the Soviet Union off the cliff in 1941.

A SdKfz 251. Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), Bild 101I-801-0664-37

RM 290 million would also have sufficed for the purchase of 2,900 Bf 109 E fighters. There would not have been a Battle of Britain against such a fighter force.

This was just the beginning. Two bigger battleships, together  the fiscal equivalent of  10,000 15 cm howitzers, were ordered in the late 30's as well; Bismarck and Tirpitz. Eventually, the only beneficiary of these four battleships was Imperial Japan, which had to face a few Allied battleships and aircraft carriers less because the Kriegsmarine kept them busy in the Atlantic.


The two battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were in my opinion produced at great cost, based on immature and unprofessional reasoning and in defiance of a fresh historical lesson. This failure was probably a good thing in the long run, but at least we should do better, understand and remember this historical lesson. Military procurement is not for pissing contests or prestige. It should make a difference for the good of the nation.


S O
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2011/02/06

Operational-level air warfare: Both the air force's and the army's perspective count

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I dropped snippets about air warfare in several blog texts, now it's about time for an integration of these snippets into a whole. My hope is that it's interesting and maybe inspiring for readers.

- - - - -

There have been several doctrines in the past - both in theory and practice. Few of them appeared to shine against a peer opponent in a rather short (months at most) conflict.
The Israelis lived off their fighter pilot superiority in the Near East, the Americans lived off their numerical superiority over Europe, Korea and Vietnam and off their general qualitative and quantitative superiority over Iraq. Germany depended on its qualitative superiority over the Soviet Union in 1941-1943 and the Soviet Union depended on its numerical superiority in 1944-1945. Likewise, Japan depended on superior pilot training in 1941-1942, while it was crushed by vastly superior resources in 1943-1945.

The only historical example of a peer v. peer air war which succeeded in a short time frame was probably the air war over France in May 1940. The German Luftwaffe focused its resources on the support of the decisive army offensive, while the French air force defended with an expectation of a long campaign and the British RAF lacked effective air/ground aviation at the time. The Luftwaffe suffered huge losses and failed to show any superiority in air combat despite a good superior fighter type. It still succeeded in providing critical assistance to the army. Later campaigns showed that the Luftwaffe's only real superiority laid in its commitment to the success of army offensives.

Modern air war has become much more complicated since WW2. Radar-guided missiles, area air defences, electronic warfare, much more effective night-time operations, much-increased support requirements of combat aircraft, airborne long-range radars, widespread use of ballistic missiles, widespread use of guided missiles against ground targets, beyond visual range air combat - the relatively simple recipes of the 40's are badly outdated.

- - - - -

Assumptions are important due to the lack of relevant experiences. How should a peer vs. peer air warfare (as it happened over France 1940) look like today?

I suspect that this should not be answered solely from the point of view of the air force or the army. Both have their needs and a full commitment of the air force to army support would amount to a charge of the light brigade, as evidenced by the extremely high A-4 Skyhawk losses of Israel early in the Yom Kippur War.
An army needs to accept that the air force needs to allocate many of its resources to the setting of the right conditions for army air support.
An air force needs to accept that the ultimate form of air superiority is a tank on the runway. It must not prepare for or even fight a pure air war (if there's parallel and potentially decisive warfare on the ground), thereby completely neglecting the needs of the army (and the opportunities created by the army).

- - - - -

The right balance is a piece of high art, for you cannot find it reliably with simulations, calculations or by extrapolation from historical air wars. I'll toss my design into the ring:

The air war would know four modes (~phases); any mode might be skipped depending on circumstances.

Mode 0: Force build-up

The air force does its best to build up enough power in the theatre for ambitious operations. This would be especially relevant for a surprised defensive alliance.

Mode 1: Fight for air force superiority

The opposing force is a (near-)peer, it would be able to stall attempts of offensive large-scale operations. Hostile fighters need to be downed (or their ammunition supply be depleted) and hostile area air defences need to be cracked up.
- Reduction of hostile fighter strength mostly through air combat
- (attempted) destruction of enemy air defences (DEAD)
- attacks on opposing air force bases in order to relieve the own defences
- attacks on hostile command and communications infrastructure
- few AF resources available for direct intervention in the land war

Mode 2: Strategic air warfare

Political and economic targets of the hostile nation are enticing for an air force; not the least because their destruction might prevent that the war lasts for years. The effect can be huge with few own lives at stake.
- attacks on rather political targets
   and / or
- attacks on economic targets
enabled by
- suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD)
- combat air patrols (CAP)
- few AF resources dedicated to direct intervention in the war on the ground
Strategic air warfare against economic targets should not require much time (more than a week) nowadays if the opposing air force has already lost much of its defensive capability. The drain on the precision munitions and drop tank inventories could be great, though.
Strategic air warfare against political targets (which would be much more than delivery of explosives to ministries) could last for many months, though.

Mode 3: Air force focuses on support of army operations

This focus is probably not possible against intact hostile defences; hence mode 1. A total elimination of hostile defences is on the other hand unlikely (see Kosovo Air War), thus a preference for sustained suppression efforts.
- continued suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD)
- continued combat air patrols (CAP)
- interdiction; interference with (and hopefully discouragement of) hostile road marches and supplies movements at daylight.
- close air support in support of the corps' Schwerpunkt and in crisis situations
- aerial reconnaissance complements and partially relieves the army's reconnaissance capabilities

- - - - -

Mode 3 is the only one in which an army corps should be very confident about the availability of air power for the support of its operations.
The relative absence of such support at other times is important, for  an army needs to be able to make do entirely without offensive air support for weeks. This won't necessarily be how a modern air war unfolds, but the army nevertheless needs to be ready for it. The experience in Afghanistan where even infantry platoons in trouble can call in air power to the rescue is in stark contract to the possible situation of entire brigades being unable to call in a single air strike in a peer/peer war.

Much air power is available for support of operations on the ground in mode 3; it should be used for greatest possible effect. This requires a high efficiency; not the least because the air force might already be badly decimated at that time.
Great efficiency is required, and this necessitates a focus on the support on the operational level: Do what's decisive at that level, don't stare at the tactical level.
An army brigade may get much air support on a deception operation, but be stripped of all air support at the instant when the corps commander thinks that the deception has either failed or succeeded. Company commanders on the ground would not see a link between the difficulty of their combat actions and the availability of air support because their horizon is the tactical level.

- - - - -

Modes 0, 1 and 2 would include little air force commitment to land war success. The army would nevertheless have its needs; a corps commander might decide that for example a certain bridge or two need to be destroyed. Would he have any assets to do this or anything to promise to the air force in exchange for an air strike on those targets?
He should. The army corps can help the air force against targets in range of its artillery (~80 km); that's self-evident and must not be withheld. An army corps supports the air force by rescuing downed air crews and army air defences may help against hostile air power as well; again, this is all self-evident and not subject for bartering. None of this would help against those bridges, though.

The army corps commander could on the other hand have exclusive control over long-range ground-to-ground missiles, such as Iskander, LORA or ATACMS. These missiles could offer a minimum air strike capability for the corps commander (against stationary targets) and they would give him something for bargaining. (Long-range artillery and army aviation add even more partial substitutes for air force support to the corps commander's repertoire.) This means he would be able to offer something in return for air support; ground and air force would realise their mutual dependence and would be forced to cooperate.

The air force could operate the very same missiles, but the ballistic missile lobby would need to fend off the manned aviation lobby and the unmanned aviation lobby for resources while there's no real competition in the army. In fact, the army's artillery would likely welcome the ballistic missile crowd and happily integrate them. ATACMS missiles can even be fired by launchers which can double as normal multiple rocket launchers.

- - - - -

Let's also look a bit closer at the air/ground missions in support of army operations. I proposed a focus on two things; impair the enemy's operational mobility (~interdiction) and support for army operations (at the Schwerpunkt, maybe previously in support of a deception operation in order to feign a Schwerpunkt). The third mentioned kind of support - close air support at the location of a crisis - is a rather undesirable improvisation because it requires a crisis.
The reasoning behind these conclusions rests on successful historical examples. The potential of  Schwerpunkt air support was demonstrated by German forces in 1940 to great effect and the mobility impairment was demonstrated by Western Allies in 1944 to great effect. The only other equally impressive approach was a part of the 1991 Desert Storm preparatory aerial bombardment; accurate attacks on dug-in tanks in the desert discouraged the tank crews from being close to their tanks. This contributed to the surprise of these units by the eventually advancing ground forces. The critical enabler here was probably the lack of concealment in the desert; an almost unique feature of the campaign that prohibits a generalization of the approach.

- - - - -

NATO and its air forces and armies never arrived at a convincing consensus about how to wage a peer/peer air war. There were always more enticing options than could be exploited at once. 
Some armies expected early interdiction of enemy reserves while the air forces were also concerned about the challenge by Warsaw Pact air defences and also about its offensive air war capabilities. The advance of ground forces would have threatened air bases and forced their evacuation, resulting in reduced availability and endurance of combat aircraft.
Army doctrines such as Air-Land-Battle did not really take into account the air forces' limited abilities while other army doctrines almost ignored the effects of air power on land warfare.
The history of the U.S.Army's rapid deployment ideas in 1999-2002 including the whole Stryker brigade idea showed that army commands could be as blind to the independent will of air forces as to rely on an air force's strategic air lift for their own bid to 'relevance' in short and surprising conflicts (this 'relevance' deemed to be in question because of air power's success over Kosovo in the first place!).


- - - - -

We also need to remember that air warfare is still quite dependent on weather and target identification issues. Some forces even hamper themselves with overblown airspace deconfliction requirements.
The weather problem could actually lead to the addition of poor weather phases to mode 0; it makes sense to use poor conditions for catching up with maintenance needs and for allowing air crews to recover from the stress. Again, the army might be forced to make do without much air support. The early days of the Ardennes offensive 1944 and poor weather phases in Operation Overlord and decades later during OIF are good historical examples for these phases.


- - - - -

I've heard and read a particular opinion often: The assumption that air power would cause a huge portion of total damage against hostile ground power. I don't think so.
The 1991 air war provided near-optimal conditions for a demonstration. The enemy was predictable, had largely ineffective air defences, lacked effective concealment and most enemies waited patiently.
Nevertheless, five weeks of powerful aerial bombardment caused less destruction of army material and ground power in general than four days of campaigning on the ground did.

The Luftwaffe of the 2010's would have less than 200 combat aircraft while the Heer could have the equivalent of one or two corps. The strength ratio is similar in allied countries. The defence of NATO would not happen in a terrain resembling Kuwait - it might resemble Kosovo (where air power failed to reduce ground forces significantly over months of bombardment) instead. Some areas of Europe lack concealment and features as much as Kuwait's desert, though.

Air forces could never commit all their peacetime power to army support in wartime; about a third or less is a more reasonable expectation in a war of necessity, especially after losses. 50 Typhoons won't defeat an opposing army corps. They can take out fixed installations, force caution on the enemy and do some damage - that's what they were adapted to do. They're not particularly well-armed against columns of vehicles with 100 m spacing, for example. German Typhoons can in theory carry seven guided bombs to kill seven trucks, but it's reasonable to expect much, much less lethality simply because that's how war worked historically. The same applies to the Brimstone missile of British Typhoons. The availability of the Brimstone missiles is limited to two air forces (only one of them in NATO) and the stocks can easily be exhausted. They're way too expensive for spending them on trucks and need to be reserved mostly for high-value vehicle targets.

Air power is not going to be the primary means of defeating the enemy if there's a ground campaign.

- - - - -

There's still one important question: Who says that the air force operates on a particular day in mode x?
The answer should be simple: The joint theatre commander.
Well, actually, the theatre commander may need to follow directions from superiors including a politician, but he's the one who should decide within general directions from above.

- - - - -

My concept is certainly not the piece of high art which offers a perfect balance of competing needs, but I think I showed how the introduction of rather unusual hardware, an organizational decision and the acceptance of different modes of air warfare can help to come to a compromise which incorporates the competing needs in a hopefully acceptable and promising package.

Is there any conclusion for the Bundeswehr in here? Well, it should look at ATACMS Block II for the Heer, for starters. It could review its air/ground capability against vehicles. Everything else is little more than a matter of will.

S O
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2011/02/05

Alliances and guarantee of independence (II)

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Years ago I wrote just for myself a list of restrictions for national security-related foreign policy that should be observed in order to prevent the repetition of severe mistakes. I wrote it in the style of 22 constitution articles (just for fun).

It was interesting to re-read this old document; I felt almost no need for changes.

One of these rules was that no guarantees of sovereignty should be given except to states which were demilitarised.

Why should any nation feel that it's a good idea to guarantee another nation's sovereignty if said other nation isn't ready to return the favour (thus establishing a proper, formal defensive alliance)?

One motivation that I can think of is the intent to use this to become involved in a conflict. That's what warmongers do.
Another motivation could be a missionary desire to establish world peace by deterring potential aggressors. On the other hand - why not ratify a real alliance in this case? The guarantee of sovereignty already includes all disadvantages of a defensive alliance.
Número tres finally could be a guarantee of sovereignty to a state that's not really threatened by a third nation, but needs to be convinced that ours is no threat. Italy can easily guarantee the sovereignty of San Marino and South Africa can easily guarantee the sovereignty of Lesotho without any disadvantage, for example.

Such guarantees of independence are in fact unidirectional alliances; one power pledges to defend another without getting the other's pledge in return. This does usually not make sense in a national security context for it could draw the protecting country into an otherwise avoidable conflict, but it makes a lot of sense in a "let's meddle in distant regions' affairs" policy.

In other words: I'd never advise to offer guarantee of sovereignty to another state except in rare and very special circumstances. One such exception would be if a small country saves the expense of a military which would be ineffective anyway and becomes demilitarised. It makes sense for France to protect Monaco and Andorra, for Italy to protect San Marino, for the U.S. to protect Costa Rica. Many small countries would be well-advised to maintain combat proficiency only in a Gendarmerie.

S O

PS: Part I
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2011/02/01

Summary of January

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This January was an exciting month - also for this blog. A lot of posting activity was 'rewarded' by a lot of visitors.
 
New records were set:
24th January 2011: 1,016 page loads
whole January 2011: 25,561 page loads

Both records were set without prominent
new links from better-frequented other blogs
(several earlier spikes were explainable by such links).

(statcounter data)

Meanwhile, I've got one blog post in the works since about September which has grown so long that I'll split it into about 16 parts, to be released day by day sometime in February or March (I guess). It's even written both in German AND English (thus even 16 x 2...).

S O
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