A "15 years too late" analysis on precision munitions and survivability

Precision munitions and smart munitions were the big hype of the 90's, but obviously I didn't blog during the 90's. Nor did I have particularly well-founded views on them back in the 90's. So pardon me for coming late to the party, please.

First some context, for no analysis should be done with an empty stomach:

Back in the World War Two era, the best defensive practice on flat land (against an enemy who preferred night attacks) was to have a forward line of own troops (FLOT, VRV - Vorderer Rand der Verteidigung) as a screen for the main daylight defensive positions (1). This forward screen was made up of small teams in ambush/observation positions or on patrol. Such far forward troops were naturally exposed to detection, no matter how well they camouflaged and concealed themselves. Sooner or later they were spotted.

In short: The more important position was to be screened against detection by a more expendable position. This led to a surprise advantage for the defender in major defensive battles and added uncertainty for the attacker in general.

- - - - -

Long-time readers of this blog do probably remember that I advocate camouflage and concealment all the time, period. Even small exposure is in my opinion acceptable only for very short duration (about 2 minutes).
That's of course a judgement result, not the reasoning itself.

To prove that I'm correct I would need to prove that even the aforementioned forward screen could not expose itself nowadays without unacceptable attrition rates or mission failures.

The relation of overall lethality of fires (most notably indirect fires, = rocket, howitzers and mortars) is the key. It has to be worse (=more lethal to the defender) today than back in WW2 to yield worse (for the defender) results. This lethality has to be seen in context of target quantity if you look at the macro scale (this relation isn't so important on the tactical level).

Many high explosive warheads  x  low probability of hit Ph.(2)
Fires usually had to be 'walked in' on the target, spending the surprise effect.(3)

Few high explosive warheads x high probability of hit
Fires can be very accurate on first salvo.

Now the question is whether
much HE x low Ph
is smaller, equal or bigger
few HE x high Ph

This would mean that accuracy (surprise) is the key advance, while firepower overall has decreased.

This would mean that accuracy (surprise) is the key advance, while firepower overall is the same.

This would mean that dispersion and accuracy (surprise) advances are overmatching the loss of ammunitions quantity.

The "smaller" and "equal" cases would -if true- allow the conclusion that precision munitions are not so much important as is the accuracy (knowledge of positions, environment and trajectory, correct calculation). You could -in this simplistic model- have the same effect with lots of dumb rounds being fired by good gunners and good guns.

The "bigger" case (which is widely implied or asserted to be true in publications) would suggest that the hype about the small dispersion of precision munitions (small circular error probability, CEP) was correct.

Well, what's the overall lethality that I meant?
'Shells' times quality of dispersion (less dispersion = better quality) is the measure against targets which don't evade fires when possible.
Against targets which do evade incoming fires you need to magnify the effects a lot to represent today's situation, for modern fires take immediate effect and leave no time for running to a secondary position.

- - - - -

I may not have made myself clear about this in previous texts (can only point out so much at once). The dispersion is in my opinion important, but not in itself the reason why modern ground forces need to break contact after a short time to prevent getting caught by support fires. They need to do so because you cannot run away from modern mortar or artillery fires.

That's why I have my conclusions about the role of modern support (indirect) fires, even without being able to solve the high explosives x dispersion equation (which is extremely complicated if you want to do it thoroughly) even though publications focus usually on one variable of this equation.

By the way; there has been near-constant frustration about the lack of realism in training in regard to indirect fires lethality and thus wrong training and doctrine. This goes back to at least the early 80's in literature. Unsurprisingly, I have yet to see an army manual from any country (I know infantry manuals from eight) that emphasises that unlike in WW2, hostile indirect fires are accurate on first salvo now.

The incompetent harassment mortar teams of Third World insurgents did certainly not help to press this point about modern indirect fires into the minds of our army leaders.

S Ortmann

(1): An approach similar to scouting in general: Jeopardize few in order to buy better security for many. This fundamental approach has mostly been lost to today's Western officer Corps due to their quest for (almost) no KIA on their teams. Such an approach is incompatible with singling out few for high risks, as high risks have (supposedly) to be avoided altogether. Their approach would increase the average risk-taking in a great war.

(2): A measure of dispersion rather than accuracy in this context.Dispersion tells how close the impacts are to each other, while accuracy tells whether the centre of the impacts group was close to the target.

(3): It was possible to avoid this and instead just fire short fire mission with many artillery battalions at once. This shotgun effect came surprisingly and at least some firing batteries were usually on target without corrections. The ammunition expenditure of this tactic permitted it only for large target groups and afaik it was preferred as a defensive fires tactic and not used much for the destruction of defensive positions. The exception was IIRC rocket artillery.

edit 2012/08: I read this old blog text today and now I understand it's very difficult to grasp, for I laid out my thoughts poorly. In case you don't get what I mean, just focus on the underlined parts and keep in mind that the classic responses to indirect fires were to (a) find shelter in field fortifications or (b) run to a new position faster than the enemy can correct his indirect fires aim.


On "I"nitiative

The concept of "initiative" is a mosaic piece of military theory that has confused many, provoked many discussions - and enabled many men in fancy uniforms to talk much without saying anything.

Discussing the role of "initiative" in military theory was fashionable long before I bothered to blog about anything. This didn't lead to any convincing writing about it reaching my bookdesk, though.
The main point of contention appeared to be (in my eyes) whether "initiative" in itself is valuable or whether it's just randomly associated with both good and bad moves.

Here are some snippets from U.S. doctrine (handy because published in English) about initiative:

When the friendly force has the initiative, it can force the enemy to conduct continuous operations to react to friendly actions and then exploit the effects of continuous operations on the enemy.
Possession of the initiative allows a commander to continually seek vulnerable
spots and shift his decisive operation when opportunities occur.
FM 3-100 actually kind of defines "initiative":

Initiative has both operational and individual components. From an operational perspective, initiative is setting or dictating the terms of action throughout the battle or operation. Initiative implies an offensive
spirit in all operations. To set the terms of battle, commanders eliminate or reduce the number of enemy options. They compel the enemy to conform to friendly operational purposes and tempo [...]. 

From an individual perspective, initiative is the ability to be a selfstarter, to act when there are no clear instructions or when the situation changes. An individual leader with initiative is willing to decide and initiate independent actions when the concept of operations no longer applies or when an unanticipated opportunity leading to the accomplishment of the commander’s intent presents itself [...].

In the offense, initiative involves throwing the enemy off balance with powerful, unexpected strikes. It implies never allowing the enemy to recover from the initial shock of an attack. [...]
In the defense, initiative implies quickly turning the tables on the attacker. It means taking aggressive action to collect information and force the attacker to reveal his intentions. Defenders aim to negate the attacker’s initial advantages, gain freedom of action, and force the enemy to fight on the defender’s terms. [...]
This much-abbreviated quote shows that the doctrine writers were once again confused.
The deleted parts did in great part reveal that "initiative" serves as a justification for the promotion of "mission-type orders". That's not what interests me here, though.
The same goes for the "individual" aspect of this idea of initiative in which being motivated to fight and thinking independently in conjunction supposedly already equals "initiative". In other words: The U.S.Army used one word for two completely different concepts.

At least a few years back "initiative" was one of the five "tenets" of (U.S.) army operations. The attention on it did go so far to assert that
A commander never surrenders the initiative once he gains it.

as if no such thing as the culminating point of attack did ever exist. That shall not be my main focus here, either - no matter how stupid such a generalisation is.

By the way:
FM 3-90 "Tactics" (2001) word search for "initiative": 83 x found
FM 3-100 "Operations" (2001) word search for "initiative": 167 x found

- - - - -

My definition/interpretation what is usually really meant with "having the initiative" in military writings:

The opposing force is so much occupied with coping with your actions and/or threats that he doesn't mobilise the resources to execute major actions that are more than mere reactions. (1)
This may sound eerily familiar to the first quote above, but there's a major difference in my opinion. U.S.doctrine and as a consequence much anglophone writing (thinking?) about initiative in military theory/arts purports that "initiative" is gained by and a benefit of aggressiveness. Gaining "initiative" is supposedly always about the offence. Even in defence, it's about switching back to offensive action.
It's all quite similar to the typical OODA school of thought.

Well, big institutions like that have a certain claim of legitimacy if they define technical terms. I will thus not argue that they got the definition thing wrong (although they should learn to be more concise!).

Instead, I will argue that they got their doctrine wrong.

Read my definition again, please.


Finished? OK. 
The key difference is that I do not assert that you need offensive action to gain the Initiative (I will write it with "capital "I" as in German in order to signal that I mean my idea of it).

You may just as well gain the Initiative by overstretching the opponent's resources by the multitude of threats that you pose to him.

Chess players know this. You do not really need to attack in order to paralyse an opponent who's weaker in figures. Sometimes all his figures are totally irreplaceable in his defensive scheme because your many options for attacks require him to defend so much.

A historical example would be El Alamein. Rommel had lost the initiative by failing in his last attack - and no amount of attacking would have helped to regain it. Nor did relentless pressing the previous offensive preserve his initiative. Montgomery had the Initiative because he was strong enough. He decided the time, location and direction of the next offensive - Rommel had no say in this any more after he failed to break through at El Alamein.

An opponent does not only need to cope with your actions, but also with your threats. He must not expose himself so much that you can exploit this much. The more threats he needs to counter with his precautions, the less offensive power is left for major moves of his own.

Judging by what I read and heard about it, this means that your opponent loses the initiative once he can barely cope with all the risks/threats (to him) that you create. This is the paralysis and disadvantage that some doctrines want to achieve through initiative.
U.S.Army doctrine is thus in my opinion not only lacking clarity and concise definitions in regard to "initiative", but is also - and this is a bigger problem in practical application - promoting  aggressiveness too much with it.
- - - - -

There's more to it: You can box your enemy into a corner by keeping him totally occupied with your threats, but what happens if he loses hope to counter your threats with defensive posturing?
He may attack like a cornered, wounded predator. There's no point in waiting till one of the unavoidable gaps is being exploited, right? (2)
This is an insight that aforementioned official writings would not create - because they lack the idea that you could gain initiative by anything else than attack.

S Ortmann

(1) : Clarification: You only have the initiative if you still have the reserve resources to stage a substantial offensive effort.
(2) : This kind of explains the 1944 Ardennes Offensive.


Readiness in mobile warfare

Some old book contained rules of thumb for meeting engagements and generally the decision for or against an attack directly out of a formation movement.

That wasn't about hasty attack or not - a "hasty attack" is still a planned attack. The author that I'm thinking about did indeed write about switching from movement to fight without any break.

His key criterion was an unusual one, I haven't seen it much in military theory during the last years: Relative readiness for battle.
His advice (based on German WW2 experiences) was to attack without further preparations if your readiness for battle is superior.
Preparations only serve the purpose of improving your relative readiness for battle, but the other side of the coin is that the opponent doesn't necessarily sleep all the time and improves as well.

A quick switch from movement to voluntary combat of course require some timely knowledge about your forces and the opposing forces - leading from the advance guard is imperative for such an approach.

The most stark difference in readiness for battle known to me (and in absence of strategic surprise) is the fate of the 5th motorised French division during the night of 16th/17th May, 1940. The division was in bivouac along a road - vehicles standing on both sides of it - on a length of ten kilometres, together with elements of a French infantry division and a French armour division.
During that night, the mere advance guard of a German armour division obliterated the 5th motorised division - it ceased to exist as a formation, with burned-out wrecks littering both roadsides on ten kilometres length.
No analysis of the hardware involved alone could explain this outcome.

Relative readiness - and thus readiness for battle in general - is obviously a major factor in warfare. It's another way to look at surprise in warfare, but it's more than that.

A formation does not need to be surprised in order to be less ready for battle. Earlier battles, poor positioning or movement, lack of suitable equipment and many other factors can contribute to inferior readiness for battle. It's thus more worthwhile to study readiness than to study surprise.

Readiness for battle is linked with agility, for reaction lags contribute to a lack of readiness against a sudden threat.

Readiness for battle - which is in large part an organisational and training challenge - ought to deserve more attention than the costly procurement of high-tech "force multipliers" that supposedly make a helicopter six times more deadly than its predecessor and so on.

You seek a cheap way to multiply your forces' capabilities? Make them the most ready for battle and seek mobile warfare!

S Ortmann


On Third World militaries

It's "on and off and on again" interesting to me to look at and think about developing countries' (para)military forces. I mean countries such as in West or East Africa, not partially modern countries such as Brazil, India or oil countries.

The typical developing country has few benefits from its military. It's way too often rather a threat to political stability and usually overstretched once an actual armed conflict arises.
Border conflicts and all-out interstate warfare are rather rare. The most typical form of warfare is against an armed insurrection by a minority or against paramilitary forces infiltrating from a neighbouring country at war.

An article about the rebuilding (from scratch!) of the army of civil war-torn Liberia caught my interest a while ago and points in my opinion at the most important aspect: It's all about the personnel.

You don't need much equipment for a typical developing countries' military, especially not heavy equipment. Some cheap NORINCO small arms, mortars and RPGs plus a few patrol boats, some trucks and pickups, tents, some fatigues and boots plus a useful radio equipment are about all that it takes.
All else is a question of personnel (competence and motivation).

First of all, the personnel should not have a murderous (civil) war background or be suspected of corruption.
Second, it should be properly trained, properly cared for and loyal to the law.
Third, it shouldn't be some conscript force but rather a cadre force in order to enable a quick force expansion in times of crisis.

I would begin by setting up an academy for gendarmerie training (half year basic gendarmerie course). Indeed, I wouldn't set up a military at all, but only a gendarmerie (semi-police, semi-military institution).

This gendarmerie would be the only representative of the central government's privilege of the use of force. 
The other police institutions could be locally elected sheriffs, and of course this aims at empowering the populace to get rid of corrupt local police through elections.
Parliament and government institutions can run their own compound security service and high-ranking officials can get a driver-bodyguard - but these would be restricted to handguns and a purely defensive employment of the same.

The gendarmerie would

(1) enforce lawfulness of local police forces (investigation and arrest, protecting local elections)
(2) guard the borders, serve as customs agency
(3) guard wildlife sanctuaries
(4) control resource usage (detect and investigate illegal wood harvesting, fishing, mining, pollution etc)
(5) prepare as cadre force for warfare
(6) serve as coast guard, including search and rescue
(7) provide basic airport policing and investigate illegal flights based on reports of civilian air traffic controllers
(9) serve as national police reserve, for example for securing large public events
(10) run its own academy
(11) guard prisons and watch prisoner labour groups (and as such oversee some construction projects)
(12) accompany anti-corruption officials as enforcers
(13) guard embassies
(14) serve as basic intelligence agency for observation of armed forces in neighbouring countries
(15) serve as basic counter-intelligence agency, mostly for providing basic security for critical government institutions (foreign ministry, ministry of gendarmerie, head of government office)

The seeming jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none approach is probably necessary to give the forces a good utility in peacetime. It helps furthermore to keep the gendarmerie fragmented and with near-permanent personnel turnover even in leadership positions: These would be very difficult conditions for a coup d'état planner.

The personnel would rotate irregularly, leaving enough experienced personnel in one function, but infuse new personnel as well. This near-constant movement of personnel (average duration on a specialty about 1-3 years in a row after 1 month training) should make it more difficult for individual units to get on a wrong track.

The defence itself could be based on a motorised infantry + local guided militia approach. Small teams of gendarmerie would train and lead village or local militias while gendarmerie with quickly trained enlisted volunteers would strive for a quick end in an interstate conflict through small unit and unit competence and small formation manoeuvre. Meanwhile, other quickly trained enlisted volunteers would reinforce the gendarmerie in its civilian functions. These volunteers would sign up for a two-year period, possibly extend for one ear each or get accepted into the academy for full gendarmerie training after the first two years. The motivation would come from decent pay and a bonus for later applications for government jobs or for access to higher education. Real gendarms would work for pay that's enough for a family and a pension that's enough for a household of two.

The academy would be the one central piece, and its leadership has to be selected carefully, for the academy leadership is probably the only part of the gendarmerie that would be able to pull off a coup d'état. It would thus be very restricted in terms of available weapons and ammunition. The academy could also serve as the institution's symbol and pride.
I would separate it into basic training, advanced (officer) training and specialisation training - three months, three months and one month respectively.

Developing country military affairs may lack pseudo-sexy fighters, tanks and aircraft carriers - but they add some facets to the topic of personnel. We (in the "West") don't regularly think of a military as a force to be kept in check for it could otherwise attempt a coup d'état, do we?



About time for a new political joke category in Germany

Politische Piratenwitze - political pirates jokes.

I'll give it a shot with my own creation:
Warum schickt Berlin die die Bundeswehr zur Piratenjagd vor Somalia?  -  Weil die Piraten in Berlin sind!"
(Why does Berlin send the Bundeswehr to Somalia for pirate-hunting?  -  Because the Pirates are in Berlin!"

The Piratenpartei Deutschland has gained 8% of the seats in the Berlin state elections 2011.
They don't fly the Jolly Roger, but a sail is still in their logo.

What's the reason for the success of such an exotic party (which has about 1 in 3,500 Berlin's inhabitants as members)?

Put simply, the failure of the FDP and the other parties to prevent the slide towards a surveillance and police state, as well as stupid copyright law excesses and similar. The original libertarian political area has been vacated by most of the (so-called) liberals (just like they shed their social wing, too) years ago - save for a single federal minister who does a good job on this. Nowadays they FDP is reduced to shameless promotion of certain business interests, as evidenced quite early during the current federal legislation period when they pushed for a quite inexplicable value added tax cut for the hotel sector.

The FDP has had a major problem in its relative similarity with the greens on many liberal (that is, not shamelessly pro-employers) topics, and now it's even facing a party that specialises on this neglected area. Which is a shame for both (so-called) liberals and greens, of course.

Well, let's hope these pirates aren't as harmless in the pursuit of libertarian agenda as they're unarmed.
Maybe they'll eventually board the Bundestag as well and call for an end of the stupid pirate-hunting off Somalia's coast?




Link to a discussion

Link to a discussion on Auftragstaktik, centralised synchronisation, centralised coordination, cooperation and deconfliction I got involved in on the Ink Spots blog (in the comments).

2009/07 Airspace deconfliction
2010/11 Planning vs. competence
2011/03 More on horizontal cooperation

S Ortmann


Different media strategies

This article (in German) describes the different strategies in Berlin and Hamburg in regard to fire raising of upper class cars.

The media reports with sensationalism about burning cars in Berlin, does strange campaigns about it, there are rumours about a political background being applied to every incident...the result is that many cars burn.

Hamburg on the other hand does largely ignore the problem in publications, no rumours are being pushed by local media - and the # of burning cars is shrinking.

- - - - -

I wonder whether the link to defence was obvious enough?!

S Ortmann


The semi-mess is unraveling into a full mess (Near East)

It looks as if the semi-mess of the Near East 'peace' is unraveling. The U.S.-led approach to peace in the region was to bribe governments in the region into accepting certain terms of peace (with military aid and access to prestige stuff such as photo ops with POTUS or access to shiny U.S. fighters and tanks).
Those governments that did not play along were denounced as rogue states,t error states and bullied (Libya, Syria, Iran) - while others were too unimportant and had to be content that they weren't invaded (Jordania) ... or they even were were invaded eventually (Lebanon).

The actual reconciliation between the people, between the populations, did not came into being. Israel's in my opinion terribly short-sighted security policy poured too much oil into that fire by being not content with status quo (see settlements) and military action.

Now Israel is looking at a terrible grand strategic situation. The Turkish Erdogan government is finally fed up after suffering a minimal dosage of Israel's usual disrespect for Muslim nations and turns from kind-of-ally to political opponent.
The Arab spring flushed out governments that were bribed into friendliness and even cooperation with Israel (such as the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza) - most notably the Egyptian one.

I suspect we're looking at a major shift in Near East foreign politics. The U.S. doesn't seem to be capable or willing to renew the interim system of governments bribed into peace (hands up; who thinks that annual multi-billion dollar bribes to foreign governments are still easy in the current U.S. political climate?).

Israel appears to be becoming very busy with internal problems (not just economic ones) - problems so large that even the distraction of bullying Gaza a bit didn't sway the focus away from domestic issues.

It will be interesting to see whether the EU approach to Near East peace (bribing the people AND the government by mostly civilian assistance, especially in 'Palestinian' areas) will get the necessary funds to take over. Somehow I doubt it, given the current fiscal moods in Europe.

Maybe - just maybe - the Assad regime will be toppled, with a new chance for Israel to make peace (unlike Egyptians, Syrians should be somewhat wary of anti-Israel rhetoric since it was employed by their dictator). Maybe if they find an agreement about Sinai Golan heights...but that isn't going to happen, of course.

It sucks to miss a 30-year historical chance to reconcile peoples while you can still do it.



War as last resort?

A while ago it was fashionable to demand that war should only be considered as last resort in foreign politics. I never really got into this idea, and it was opposed by the hawks at least behind the scenes.

It was an arbitrary maxim that did not stand plausibility and theoretical tests - nor did it stand the utter lack of principles and self-discipline amongst Western foreign politicians who increasingly bought into the idea that they could 'intervene' militarily in distant places at little political cost.

Why is violence only as last resort wrong?

Well, this idea that violence is justified only if nothing else helps is misplaced. Violence is justified if it's the least terrible choice.
It makes no sense to stay peaceful and endure a predictably worse outcome than by fighting back. On the other hand, it makes no sense to fight (back) and endure a worse outcome than achievable by diplomacy.
Most importantly - and this is what hawks don't seem to get - there's extremely rarely (if ever nowadays) an opportunity to actually gain something by being violent.

Violence / warfare is inherently destructive, not productive. You could only gain a material advantage by stealing. You can gain immaterial advantages (such as national independence or freedom in civil war) by becoming violent, of course.

In the end, the choice between war and peace depends a lot on preferences. How highly do you rate the losses of war, how highly do you rate the advantages of achieving political objectives in war, how highly do you estimate the probability of achieving them through warfare in relation to diplomacy?

It's understandable that people disagree on the question of waging war or not.

It's also perfectly understandable that Western hawks a.k.a. warmongers want to invade country x, then y, bomb z and tell us that this is serious, good foreign policy: They are idiots. Idiots have idiotic ideas.



On the identification of natural leaders

"JMA" (I know his real name, but people stick to nicknames at times, even I do) posted a question to me in the SWC blog:

[QUOTE=JMA;125537]In his blog our friend Fuchs has two enteries which connect to this issue:

"Natural", self-organised small units?

Self organization; online gamer clans and Germanic warbands

From the latter I quote:

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.

If Fuchs would like to expand on that here in relation to how one can select for leadership prior to exposure in structured training (in peacetime) or in combat (during a war) it would be appreciated.

Personally, I rate my blog higher than a forum where texts of mine will easily get drowned within days, so I decided to reserve the answer for the blog:

My key thesis is that you can spot natural leaders easier by watching people around them than by watching the potential leader himself.

You will not spot them if you put together a group of potential leaders, but if you put them into a normal sample group they might arise into natural leadership, kind of take over the group and lead it (at least in regard to specific problems).
Why not in a group of potential leaders? I experienced that before. They fight for power or at least reject unfounded claims for power or for having the lead voice.

A normal sample group finding its natural leader is quite close to having a squad well-trained and then seeing their only NCO die in battle. Who of the enlisted men -qualified by training as all of them- will take the lead, and be followed?
The German army began to prepare exactly for this before the First World War, and very often accepted such emergency leaders into NCO rank if they did well enough.

Such natural leaders are not necessarily the best decision-makers, but at least they get loyalty much easier than others (who might need the authority and powers given by the institution to lead men). This should result in superior team morale.

S Ortmann


Quick thought: It's a grand strategic tragedy

The West attempted again and again to establish a rule of international law and its institutions, and to empower them. Most successes of these efforts came in the era since 1944, most of them associated with the United Nations or the European Community/Union.

The restrictions imposed on government's freedom of action is unpopular among them, though. Great powers eroded and evaded the rule of law thus and established a rule of force for themselves. Even small powers did so - the EU stability pact was such an example where a treaty was eroded because of tolerated violations by both small and great powers.

We have the prospect that the traditional great powers will become less powerful in relation to the rest of the world and they might actually benefit more from a rule of (international) law than ever before - but it's probably too late. They worked hard on ruining their own concept. To demand adherence to a concept they hypocritically ignored at will will be understood to be an expression of even more hypocrisy.

The exceptions to the rule of (international) law have been established as common for great powers, and future great powers will likely exploit this to their liking.

(A probably too light-hearted illustration)
In the end, the foreign political arrogance, lack of self-discipline and loss of expensively acquired foresight of the Western great powers might prove to have been a terribly short-sighted and foolish grand strategy.

S. Ortmann



"ADAPTIV" is apaprently the newest gadget of BAe Systems; hexagonal tiles that control the infrared emission of an outer surface (=tiles become warmer or cooler, as far as I understand these physics).

There's so much media echo to it that I've seen it even in a national German newspaper (German newspaper authors are usually no miltech fanbois).

What strikes me is - except the practicability (dirt, reliability, perspective, temperature management, thickness, robustness, compatibility with daylight camo paints, saltwater resistance for naval applications) and cost questions (likely restricting this to recce and point vehicles) - that so far I didn't see one implication in any comment on it:

A system that changes the infrared signature of a (almost) whole vehicle that fast (assuming the video is not accelerated) would break the lock-on of infrared-guided fire and forget missiles such as the still relatively new and modern Javelin and (Euro)Spike.
Even the fibre-optic command control mode of (Euro)Spike would largely be countered.
In other words; you wouldn't need to deploy a multispectral smoke screen between yourself and the approaching missile to break its lock-on anymore.

What's more: Infrared guidance lock-ons could be prevented by near-continuous changing of the surface's signature like Rorschach's balaklava. This might affect even automatic tracking systems such as in (IIRC) the MBT Leclerq's gunner sight.

S. Ortmann

P.S.: "adaptiv" without the -e" happens to be the German translation of "adaptive"...I guess the Brits at BAe didn't consider this in time.

Mis-use of anti-terror hysteria

See this article (ESPECIALLY the "P2: Sneak-and-Peek" graphic!!!).

Rrelated: One example of so-called "anti-terror" legislation going ridiculously wrong

There's a pattern, and it justifies getting rid of the crap.



Camouflage concealment and deception progresses in the 20th century's German military

If you can be seen, you will be spotted.
If you were spotted, you will be identified.
If you were identified, you will be shot at.
If you were shot at, you will be hit.
If you were hit, you will be penetrated.
If you were penetrated, you are dead.

Most of the probabilities attached to these steps have worsened considerably for the target over the last about 170 years (since practical rifles and explosive grenades were introduced).

This is the reason why there are submarines, why even tank crews use camouflage, why "stealth" aircraft exist and why huge air and armour forces were eradicated in several Arab conflicts in mere days.

The best countermeasure to keep this chain of events from culminating in your death is to stop it cold at the first or second step. This is about camouflage, concealment and deception.

As usual, military history knowledge should be able to help us to grasp the problem and to develop analogue new answers to the evolving problem. That's (in part) why I compiled a list of interesting camouflage, concealment and deception advances of the German military forces during the 20th century. Some of them were internationally normal, others were possibly world firsts and some were most definitively world firsts.

These advances are primarily technical advances, for the tactical ones are way too numerous for a mere blog post.

Pre-WWI (1901-1913):

Intentional use of artificial smoke (in addition to the normal amount) in order to block the line of sight in naval surface actions (usually for withdrawal). This had been in used throughout the 19th century, but was established as a standard tactic only in WWI.

1907: German armies adopted grey-green field uniforms instead of the coloured ones (only light infantry units had used less visible colours such as green before).

First submarines joined the imperial navy. Submarines seek stealth if not invisibility by diving below the sea's surface. The aerial counterpart would be flying in or behind clouds and the ground warfare counterpart is tunnel warfare.

WWI (1914-1918):

scissor scopes / trench scopes that allow the user to stay behind cover while observing.Ironically, these scopes became practice targets for snipers and had to be camouflaged and kept small themselves.

slit visor for rifle scopes (sniper scopes), meant to avoid compromising sunlight reflections.

multi-colour painting scheme for steel helmets. Steel helmets - once introduced - also created the problem of undesirably bright sunlight reflections, as do many curved surfaces.

multi-colour painting schemes for guns and vehicles

early aircraft camouflage painting scheme

merchant submarine (blockade runner)

artificial battlefield smok

military aviation at night

employment of high altitude photo reconnaissance aircraft (Halberstadt C.V and C.VII, Rumpler C.VII)

extended army camouflaging against aerial reconnaissance

Inter-War Years (1919-1938)

early netting for camouflage

directional radio antennas for army communication

multi-colour printing on quarter shelter tarpaulin (an ingenious design that required a huge leap forward in textile printing technology)

new submarines with an unusually small above-water silhouette (meant for nightly surprise surface attacks)

introduction of many different camouflage painting schemes for military aviation

WWII (1939-1945):

deliberate exploitation of dust screens in desert warfare

slit headlamps for automobiles and trucks (meant to minimise visibility to aircraft)

night bomber technology with exhaust flame dampeners and radio navigation (Knickebein)

extremely high altitude photo reconnaissance aircraft (Ju86P and R) for missions over England (soon to be intercepted due to radar employment) and the Soviet Union (undetected till a crash landing)

radar jamming

camouflage pattern printing on both sides (coveralls, helmet covers; adaptable to different environments)

snow camouflage (white coveralls and paint)

low altitude flying (below radar and observer coverage) by Do 17 (and Ju 88) bombers beginning during the Battle of Britain (1940), later (1942) with Fw 190 fighter bombers

emphasis on dawn period attacks with bombers, especially torpedo bombers (1942)

smoke screening for industry targets; ground-based, with rockets, with light aircraft

misleading flare rockets (meant to deceive night bombers)

decoy industry targets and even major landscape manipulation to mislead bombers (including landscape manipulation to make ground imaging radars less valuable)

snorkel for diesel-electric submarines

Bold; underwater bubble generators for false sonar echoes

radar absorbing materials for snorkels

rubber surface for submarines, equivalent to modern anechoic tiles

acoustic sensors and mechanical computer for blind torpedo firing; no necessity to expose even a periscope to enemy radars

Walther engine for submarines and "electro" high-speed submarines; countering active sonar techniques of the WW2 period with unusually high underwater sprint speeds.

marginally radar-reflecting aircraft fuselage designs (example Horten Ho IX / Gotha Go 229)

Despite all this: The Red Army enjoyed the utmost respect of the German army for its ability to camouflage quicker, better and more often!

Cold War (1955-1990):

MBB Lampyridae polygonal stealth fighter (actually more of an aerial air-air missile launch platform)

control of infrared signatures by mixing hot exhaust gases with cool air (helicopters, tanks)

warship countermeasures to sonar and radar detection (noise and echo reduction, decoys)

Post-Cold War (1991-2011):

AIP SSK Typ 212 submarine (air-independent propulsion - doesn't need to extend anything into the air for weeks)

infrared camouflage paints

- - - - -

There was certainly more that I did not remember, but the pattern ought to be obvious nevertheless: The German military seemed to make advances in camouflage and deception primarily during wartime. A logical consequence is that there's likely a lag of survivability technique implementation until war breaks out.
We saw this with counter-RPG, counter-mortar and counter-IED technologies during the recent wars as well.

This is deeply disconcerting.



About nine years ago I began to notice the incredible versatility of LPD ships, first in a mine countermeasures (MCM) context (in which they usually don't operate, though).
My reasoning was that wartime naval mines tend to offer some surprises, so it's a good thing to have a good choice of MCM approaches. Helicopters, hovercraft, drone boats, underwater drones - all these small MCM assets can be employed by a LPD. The more daring approaches (using a ship in mine-infested stretches of the sea itself, primarily for employing its sonar) would be the only exceptions.

The amphibious invasion, resupply, evacuation, humanitarian aspects and the potential for being turned into a command ship, an improvised missile launch ship and so on are of course also versatility bonuses of a LPD category ship.

Chinese Type 071 LPD, (c)"kunlunshan 998"
I did never really write much about this fascination of mine for LPDs (I think I mentioned it once in a single line) on this blog, though. The reason is simple; it's about "Defence and Freedom". You usually don't need a LPD for the defence of your nation. You only want such ships if you engage at war on far away coastlines or prepare for the same. All you need to substitute for a LPD in an actual defence scenario are a few cheap civilian trucks with ISO function containers.
Refugee aid? Charter a civilian ship at a bargain price.

This is but one of many cost-lowering mechanisms that benefit countries which do not engage in far-away conflicts or prepare for the same.