Almost ever since I had this blog, I planned to write a thorough takedown of the Air Mechanization craze. Sadly, the amount of research required to fully lock & load for such a blog post was just below my motivation threshold for years.
This blog post idea is thus still on my list, but I certainly want to discharge a quick teaser (for a blog post that may never appear):
Air mechanization of army forces was a favourite of sci-if illustrators for about a century, and it appeared to become true during the Vietnam War. Some additional theoretical work appeared later, and the budget-rich U.S.Army as well as the wasteful Red Army invested heavily into it (the Soviets even supplied vegetables to remote Siberian villages with helicopters, as if no such thing as cost/benefit analysis ever existed).
The German army jumped on the air mechanization nonsense during the 90's when the Cold War suddenly ended and it was in dire need for a justification for its PAH-2 (Tiger) attack helicopter and NH90 utility helicopter programs. Sci-fi nonsense scenarios and concepts were developed, experimental formations were organised, the programs survived, the experimental formations survived as well - and we still don't have a single attack helicopter suitable for use in Afghanistan in service because the German air mechanization bullshit was just a scam.
That is actually a good thing, for one thing that's worse than stupid procurement is stupid procurement followed up by stupid doctrine.
Now why again is air mechanization stupid?
|French cavalry, 1914|
Well, it's just like cavalry. Not the 18th century cavalry or even 14th century one. More like the pre-1914 cavalry.
Pre-First World War cavalry was very expensive, had high training demands, was unsuitable for quick wartime expansion, promised great speed over most terrains while delivering quite mediocre actual march performances and it was a major pain in the ass for logisticians (huge fodder demands for all but light Eastern European horses!).
Today's helicopter forces are very expensive, have high training demands, are unsuitable for quick wartime expansion, promise great speed over all terrains but sit idle most of the time and they're a huge pain in the ass for logisticians (huge fuel demands!)
Pre-1914 cavalry proponents "justified" the costs with their supposedly great value based on their mobility. When war happened, they came, saw - and proved to be way too fragile against all but the most poorly armed and most unprepared opponents. Huge attrition in earlier wars did not make much of an impression until 1914. Nowadays everyone thinks it was a folly to trust those cavalry proponents.
Modern battlefield helicopter proponents "justify" the costs with their supposedly great value based on their mobility. When war happens, they come, see - and prove to be way too fragile against all but the most poorly armed and most unprepared opponents (and sometimes even against them). Huge attrition in past wars did not make much of an impression so far. Nowadays the world is still full of army combat aviation enthusiasts.
There's a blog post in the making about topics/hardware that fascinate military-interested people way beyond my ability to comprehend the fascination. I guess battlefield helicopters will make it on the list. I think only fools trust helicopters to prove their worth in a great war.
P.S.: 1914 cavalry proved to be most useful and at times indispensable as mere despatch riders. They were frequently ineffective as combat forces unless turned into infantry units..