2012/12/31

Rank inflation or "Chieftains without indians"

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Rank inflation pops up as a side topic in some posts on Defence and Freedom and I'm not motivated to write an encompassing post about it yet, but I'd like to redirect some attention at the casualties lists from recent conflicts with involvement of Western armies; Iraq and Afghanistan.

One such casualty list is here.

What's striking about these lists is that almost all KIA (and WIA) are either officers or non-commissioned officers. This applies to the casualties lists of several involved countries.

Deployments into distant dirtholes are somewhat special and may end up having a lower share of enlisted personnel than the deploying force has overall, but this effect cannot explain the ratio of officer - NCO - enlisted casualties.

Germany had this rank inflation issue for a long time, and it accelerated during the 90's when the force had to shrink without the system having the ability to shed the long-serving troops (8 years for NCOs, 12 for officers, two decades for officers who turned professional) as easily as enlisted personnel.

Tasks which were done by conscripts for decades were increasingly assigned to junior NCOs.

New personnel had to be recruited to keep the force young enough, and gifting NCO ranks to 8-year volunteer recruits ("Neckermann Stuffz") became a regular embarrassing fact of life instead of a rare occurrence.
NCO courses were watered down and senior leadership lost the Cold War's zeal to fire up training. This in turn resulted in junior NCOs being about as much trusted as were Cold War non-conscript enlisted personnel. Our Feldwebel (lowest rank of senior NCO, requiring a special course and traditionally a mainstay of German armies) became as trusted as were our junior NCOs during the Cold War. I recall some big brass guy bragging about how Feldwebel (previously platoon leader rank) shall lead all of our squads in the future (=now). It didn't cross his mind that this required watering down the same.

So basically today's Western armies use junior NCOs as enlisted personnel.

Just in case anybody doubted that our military bureaucracies need a major shake-up and it would be a good idea to do this during this magnificiently low threat era: This doubt should be gone.

S Ortmann


edit - related (hat tip to Eric Palmer blog):

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2012/12/23

Inflationary use of the word "ally"

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The inflationary use of the word "ally" has irritated and annoyed me for quite some time. It's inaccurate and accuracy is really desirable for a meaningful exchange of thoughts.

Americans and British appear to use the word much more often than actually warranted by "if you are attacked, we will fight with you" treaties. Germans don't use their respective word so indiscriminately, at least not in the context of countries.

One of the confusions which appeared because of the indiscriminate use of the word "ally" was about Turkey and Israel, with people asking why the U.S. government didn't staunchly support the U.S. ally Israel in its diplomatic conflict with Turkey.
Well, Turkey happened to be the true ally, and Israel being more the subsidised pet project of U.S. foreign policy. People talked of Israel as "ally" all the time*, though. 
Actually, there's no treaty saying that Israelis should fight side-by-side with Americans, while Turkey is a member of NATO (admittedly, the relevant wording of the North Atlantic Treaty barely meets the definition of a real alliance).
It was the indiscriminate (if not wrong) choice of words which confused instead of informed.

The Strategist blog has published a post citing two studies about ally behaviours, and the difference between these studies' results (one with a loose definition of alliance, the other more strict) supports the importance of not mixing up political cooperation with military alliances: Real allies joined the fight on their allies' side in about three quarters of the cases, while with the very wide definition of "ally" it's only one quarter!

It would help a lot if "partner" was substituted for "ally" more often, as it's more accurate and less confusing in many cases. This could also help to give actual allies the respect they deserve for sticking as an ally even with overly aggressive great powers.


S Ortmann

*: With one prominent exception, the CIA.
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2012/12/21

Is irrationality a factor for the preservation of peace?

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What's the point of staying in an arms race? Sooner or later, most participants will fall behind for a while, and if the other party is really aggressive this will likely prove the arms race efforts to be a failure.

An arms race with a big portion of capabilities which serve more on the strategic defence than on the strategic offence could be considered as an excuse. The problem with this is that it's simply not describing post-19th century arms races well. Fortresses are not efficient enough any more.

So maybe arms races -once started for some reason- are being sustained by uncertainty?
Being just a bit weaker and thus capable of demanding a high price for aggression (maybe even win despite initially smaller military power) might explain why arms races exist and do last a while. The temporarily inferior side accepts its temporary weakness and just doesn't want to fall behind by too much?

source
Yet, how could this be? A rational inferior power would rather yield than to fight a damaging war and accept the near-certainty of defeat. The supposed exacting of a price would be a bluff. To fight a war from a position of weakness is kind of like betting your left arm in a poker game when you only have a pair of deuces.

Yet maybe it's the expectation that the inferior power will indeed follow such an irrational course (=not bluffing, with exact cards unknown to the other 'player') of action which preserves peace.


This would be quite ironic, for there's a substantial amount of irrationality in play when wars are being prepared or actually waged, too. It's almost impossible nowadays to get a good return on war efforts (save for wars of independence or special interests) and justifying the huge expenses in peacetime without an actual conflict on the horizon requires even more irrationality in my opinion.


Still, irrationality may preserve peace at times, which should influence one's judgement of seemingly irrational leaders at times. An irrational leader of an inferior country may serve the preservation of peace, while the same leading a superior power may be a threat to peace.


By the way; I'm still unsure why arms races exist(ed) at all. There are scores of examples where one side simply stopped playing along and dropped out of the race, with no aggression occurring afterwards. See Greece-Turkey or the South American dreadnought arms race for obvious examples.


S Ortmann


Similar stuff years ago, and more specific to nukes:2009/03: Nuclear deterrence: It depends!
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2012/12/15

Camo fabrics

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OK, judging by the video, one could conclude that the process isn't really complicated.
This now-ancient report on some of the first multi-colour camo fabrics with different patterns on both sides probably gives a better sense for how complicated this stuff was back then.

 

It has only become more complicated with extra ingredients for camouflage against night vision devices, insect repellents, water repellents and even attempts to make the fabric less permeable to chemical agents

Too bad; almost all of the Western textile industrial capacity went overseas during the 80's and 90's (if I remember the time frame correctly). I suppose enough is left to equip a few million persons within months, though.

Back to the old patterns; the report shows why camo patterns especially for reversible clothing and tents weren't common until WW2: It was simply beyond technological reach until the late 20's. There were multi-colour camo patterns of questionable effectiveness during the First World War, but such fabrics only appeared half-way between the World Wars. Few armies substituted properly with camo nets, though; camouflage is a usual suspect for neglect during peacetime.

S Ortmann
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2012/12/14

TO&E debates

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A comment asked me to discuss something with an example TO&E (table of organization and equipment), and I declined. I'm still convinced that the relatively popular toying with TO&E is largely a waste of time.

I did mention that there are rare useful thoughts in such discussions, and that these could be better discussed in a generalised way. Here's a small collection of such thoughts and discussions which I picked up over the years:


General requirement; units or small units which are supposed to function if split need to be laid out for it.
In a simple (and by technology by now obsolete) example, a mortar battery (platoon) would need to be able to leap-frog, providing continuous support with at least half of the tubes while the battalion is on the move (while mostly deployed). There were some historical TO&Es which did not provide double fire control equipment and personnel as well as enough radios for this purpose.
___________

Another is the idea of having a Verfügungszug, a kind of bodyguard small unit at disposal of a commanding officer. A battalion commander would this way always have a platoon from which to draw couriers, replacement leaders, men for scouting missions, a security team for himself, guards for the HQ and finally if not most importantly a reserve in a crisis even after all 'line' battalions were thrown into action already.
Such (small) units were very popular in the pre-firearms age, but have fallen out of fashion. There were proposals to revive the concept since the 80's at the latest.
___________

Related, there's the proposal in the air to establish a scout/sniper platoon on infantry battalion level. Some armies assign a few snipers directly to 'line' (infantry) companies. Designated marksmen down to squad level (the UK with its LSW/SUSAT combo even had kind of designated marksmen in support units) exist as well. Yet, the highly trained specialists with scout/sniper skills make little sense if dispersed like this. Their casualties, sick and non-deployable soldiers wouldn't be distributed evenly, leaving some units without their support. Their specialisation furthermore requires uncommon training - the whole issue of maintaining proficiency is best-served by having them together in one small unit, in a pool.
Strangely, relatively few battalion TO&Es world-wide feature a scout/sniper platoon (as far as I know).
___________

The ever-lasting optimization challenge between having technical support troops pooled at a relatively high level or dispersed as organic support to a relatively low one. It appears that the former approach (preferred by the Soviets) works best with armies of modest access to said skills, while the latter is the more luxurious approach which costs more, but also performs better.
___________

TO of PzBrig 12,
(c) TUBS
The ever-lasting span of command (not "control") issue. It's easy to lead two manoeuvre sub-units plus your organic support and HQ, but such TO&Es get criticised a lot. Three manoeuvre units provide many more tactical options, but often lead to the unimaginative "two up, one back" tactics.
There are proponents for four manoeuvre sub-units, pointing out the many more tactical options and especially the ability to create a main effort without committing the essential reserve (example: two left, one right and one reserve).
I'm most unimpressed by these, for it's utterly common to see manoeuvre units to shrink a lot or be joined into fewer ones after the strength dropped somewhat. Many brigades don't deploy fully to a theatre of war, and would be even less understrength if they hadn't received replacements from other cannibalized brigades. This latter work-around is not available in a large-scale war, of course.  Add the inevitable early casualties, the sick and the troops used for a non-textbook purpose and you end up with understrength forces which make a mockery of such detailed tactical considerations.
I prefer to keep searching for info and thoughts on how to cope with understrength and loss of experienced junior leaders rather than to pay much attention to the recurring span of command debates.
____________

Tooth-to-tail ratio or share of infantry debates; too few infantrymen is a persisting problem, and was so ever since 1944 (with the Soviets and Germans bled white and anglo-americans burning through their pre-invasion infantry strength multiple times as well).
The lack of infantry has been known for decades, but somehow infantry isn't sexy enough of something.
The (edit: early) Stryker brigade (edit: TO&E draft) was criticised for being infantry-weak (astonishing, considering its textbook combat tactics - as little as such exist - were dismount-centric). Almost all Western or Warsaw pact brigade TO&Es known to me were weak on infantry ever since the 60's (German brigades lost a lot of their infantry strength over successive army structures).
____________

Mixed or separate branch battalions. You can have a tank battalion and an infantry battalion, train them separately and mix them into two mixed battalions only for action or higher-order training. Another approach is to train them as mixed battalions from the beginning.
The widely preferred approach is to do the former, for it makes training more efficient (there's enough wasted waiting time for soldiers without additional inefficiencies already). The problem of qualifying the senior leaders (battalion staff and commander) in leading such combined arms forces is often dealt with by giving them tours through different branches. You don't want a purely infantry-minded in command of a tank company on certain terrains, for example. There are nevertheless recurring demands for mixed battalions and organizational experiments for the same; an idea which is as undying as laser weapons and flying jeeps.
Even the idea of switching from one TO&E to another once company-level training is complete (a horror for inertia-obyeing bureaucracies) gains no ground permanently. This is in part because the mixing is supposedly helpful in tailoring mixed battalions according to needs. Again, I call B.S. because you can only mix what you have - a more infantry-centric mixed Bn forces you to have at least one infantry-weak one made of what's left.
So in the end brigade TO&Es usually show pure branch battalions, completely unrelated to how they would fight and an absurdity if you keep in mind that standing units were originally standardized in order to make it more easily known to higher-ups what kind of force they are.
____________

Specialised brigades versus unitary ones. This debate happens occasionally; there was a German debate on this decades ago, but we eventually understood our terrain in North and South Germany (Cold War times) was too different for a unitary brigade TO&E. This didn't mean the different brigade TO&Es which were developed made more sense, of course. Nowadays you can't even be sure that a Panzerbrigade has a different TO&E than a Panzergrenadierbrigade.
Ground forces with emphasis on being chess figures for great power gaming by bored and irresponsible politicians (also known as "expeditionary forces") cannot anticipate the kind of environment they will be sent to (unless said politicians prefer to play their games in about the same sandbox region over and over). This gives new life to the idea of unitary regiments or brigades. See USMC MEUs.
____________

Some stupid Milblogger proposed PGM companies, trying to provoke some thinking about how to include vastly different and relatively new means into TO&Es. Same with electronic warfare and signals stuff.
____________

The integration of reconnaissance or observation support into manoeuvre forces: The "how" is much-discussed, while I simply propose to keep dedicated recce organic above manoeuvre team (Bde, Bn) level because I consider it a necessity to have recce attached to areas, not formations or units. It's a long story and was occasionally mentioned on this blog.
One driver of discussions around the general topic of how to organize organic recce was and is the RSTA quasi-battalion introduced in the U.S.Army. It proved useful for recce, but didn't bring much fighting power or boots on the ground - and that's what brigade commanders always want more of (often with good reasons).
Cavalry Squadron (RSTA)
 ____________

Finally a TO&E aversion speciality of mine; I *strongly* dislike the idea of having army aviation elements in manoeuvre forces. The armoured cavalry regiments of old were extreme examples for this nonsense. There's little debate going on about this, for almost no army has so many helicopters to spare as to disperse them like this. The helicopter support dependency which developed in parts of Afghanistan could revive the issue if enough helicopters are available for such follies around 2020, though.
____________

Right now (or yesterday) I cannot remember other TO&E topics which ever attracted my interest, at least not below divisional level (there's an ongoing discussion whether to shed the divisional or corps level of command; I'm for keeping the corps level).
It's conspicuous how combat troops-related TO&E debates seem to dominate the list despite the fact that support troops are in the majority and have been so for generations.


See? None of these topics really required an actual TO&E here; they can all be described with words and in general terms. (The two graphics have only decorative value.)

S Ortmann
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2012/12/12

[German] Ein Lehrstück über die Wichtigkeit einer unabhängigen Presse

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[This blog posts centres on a German newspaper article about the failure of the press in Greece.]
 


Als wir die Liste veröffentlichten, haben wir deshalb nicht nur journalistisch korrekt, sondern auch moralisch richtig gehandelt. Man hat sich nicht deshalb an der Liste gestört, weil »persönliche Daten« bekannt wurden, sondern weil diese Liste die Realität widergespiegelt hat. Darauf waren die Namen griechischer Politiker, Publizisten, Geschäftsleute, Ministerfreunde, die von Besitzern griechischer Medien und von Bankern wiederzufinden, die bislang Immunität bei ihren politischen Gönnern genossen hatten.
Das war der Grund, warum jene Polizisten, die mich verhafteten, zugleich ihre Solidarität bekundeten. Sie erleben tagtäglich den Widerspruch und die Heuchelei der Herrschenden. Die jeweiligen griechischen Regierungen erscheinen nicht nur wegen der Einführung der rigorosen Sparmaßnahmen unsympathisch und unpopulär. Sie benutzen gleichzeitig die Krise, um bestimmte Interessen zu bedienen.

Diesen Fall sollte man einerseits im Kopf haben, wenn einflussreiche Köpfe der Presse und Politiker sich bei Schampus arg gern haben, aber auch in Hinblick auf die in vielen Ländern - und auch bei uns - zunehmende Konzentration des Eigentums an Presseorganen. Schließlich ist es auch noch in Bezug auf die öffentliche Kontrolle der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sendeanstalten relevant, aber da hatten wir ja bereits unseren eigenen Warnschuss-Skandal.

Ohne Wachsamkeit daheim nutzt alle Wachsamkeit da draussen nicht viel.


S Ortmann
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2012/12/11

[Fun] Invasion of Christmas Island, 1942

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This was followed on 7 March by an initially cautious and somewhat cursory bombardment of the island’s commercial installations by the battleships Haruna and Kongo. Unsure as to whether it might be being used as a submarine or air base, the ships approached from a distance, using their floatplanes to first reconnoiter the island. After they had determined that the British defences were minimal, the floatplanes dropped 60-kilogram bombs on the island—two of which dropped by one of Kongo’s aircraft destroyed the island’s telegraph station—before directing the battleships’ fire.
The bombardment appears to have been desultory—Haruna reportedly only fired a total of three 14-inch and fourteen 6-inch rounds—but was nevertheless sufficient to convince the island’s defenders to capitulate. As a white flag was raised on the island, the two ships ceased firing and observed as a motorboat, also bearing a white flag, came out to meet them. But as neither the IJN nor the Imperial General Headquarters had planned to occupy Christmas Island at this point—that decision came around one week after the battleships’ bombardment— the two battleships departed, leaving the undoubtedly confused defenders behind.

from here, pp 111-112 
  
IJN Battleship (or "battlecruiser") Haruna, 1944


File under "Stuff you don't want to be reminded about." or "Hilarious stuff if you're not from a particular country."


Now that was a "War on Christmas!" ;)
 

S Ortmann
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2012/12/10

CUDA, torpedoes ... hardware stuff for a change

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Torpedoes are best-launched against an opponent in pursuit, and you're quite safe from them if you run away from their launcher (starting when you're still a good distance away). This simple conclusion is based on the fact that an opponent closing in adds his speed to the torpedoes' while a pursuing torpedoes subtracts the target's speed from his own. The running tactic works because torpedoes aren't very much faster than surface warships (about 30-48 knots versus about 20-36 knots during WW2, for example).
I didn't pull this out of my dark place; it's a classic operational research result. Read Hughes if interested in more of this kind.


Surface warships of the WW2 era had torpedoes as complementary munition; their main munitions in surface engagements were shells (with exception of the Japanese torpedo cruiser Kitakami and even more so Oi). This and to some degree a heavy dose of ignorance about hostile torpedo performance meant that the aforementioned torpedo fight dynamic did not dominate naval battles. Second-best in face of powerful torpedo armament was to attack heads-on (small target area) and outright horrible was the classic Jutland-style battle line
Operational research tells us running in face of powerful torpedoes was best, but military history only tells us the alternatives weren't exactly satisfactory.
I figured it has become quite similar with air2air missiles as with WW2 surface warship torpedoes. This may have been so ever since AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles deleted the need for illumination from medium-range missiles so the shooter could turn and run himself (I suppose short range missiles would rarely allow for a timely escape and are rarely used head-on anyway). Maybe it was even already like this prior to the 90's, with a hunter-killer tactic in which the forward killer fighter fires a Sparrow and runs while a rear hunter fighter keeps the target illuminated with its radar.* (The smaller range of the Sparrow and coordination required would have made it a difficult tactic for head-on engagements, though.)

My understanding was that either way would lead to a huge expense of missiles for few kills if the enemy was smarter than WW2 admirals and understood the dynamic. Missiles would dominate over guns this time, after all. So I figured the typical air campaign between modern air forces would involve a lot of fighters forming almost a line yet moving forward and backward, launching missiles and dodging others'**. That is, unless some technological or training asymmetry overpowered the dynamic.

All this did not fit well to the very small quantity of missiles carried by some fighters; notably F-22, F-35 (which is not primarily a fighter, of course), Gripen - but also typical missile payloads of Hornets, Rafales, Mirage 2000s etc. Only the Russians/Soviets with their Flanker series openly displayed a preference for many (up to a dozen) air2air missiles onboard, followed by F-15 fighters with often up to eight.

So I didn't write about this dynamic - despite at least the non-speculative torpedo thing being really interesting.

Yet, a few days ago I found this about CUDA a.k.a. HTK.

So basically all those "few A2A missiles" fighters may become viable for the 'running forward and backward' skirmisher***-style again, not betting solely on technological asymmetry - and my confidence in the dynamic's relevance to modern fighters grew enough for writing, obviously.
Some glue on the backside of a mosaic stone of the art of war had appeared with these links.



S Ortmann

*: This tactic was reportedly used by Swedish Gripen pilots to embarrass some NATO fighter pilots on an exercise. They used AMRAAMs themselves, and instead of the hunter illuminating, he did feed the AMRAAM's computer with info about the target movements via datalink. This is supposedly also the reason for Russian rear-looking radars on some late Flanker versions; a rear-looking radar unites hunter and killer function in one airframe while using the same combat dynamic.
**: Anyone who has ever seen a Navyfield clan war (an interesting online game to watch human behaviour) should know this extremely well from the main fight of the battleships in this game. Quite the same dynamic despite shells still being multiple times as fast as ships on the scale used by this game.
***: Analogue to European 19th century skirmishers on battlefields and Peltasts.
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2012/12/06

Parasitic land vehicles for the army

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I spent a lot of time reading and musing about the problem potential promise challenge of having agile army formations, especially brigades. A single reinforced battalion battlegroup can easily have more than a hundred vehicles and this gets cumbersome real quick.

The road march length (vehicle lengths + depending on army and circumstances 50-150 m spacing between vehicles) can reach into kilometres real quick. Where to position your combat troops, where the support? Combat up front is nice for a frontal contact, with rearguard offers at least some mobile reserve, dispersed means best convoy defence everywhere against moderate threats, but is hopeless if there's a peer force contact anywhere. The greater the convoy, the worse the propblem.
Luckily, road march length is actually outdated thinking. nowadays it's more about the time a convoy needs to pass a point, which adds the element of average minimum vehicle speed. Still, a road march length of 10 minutes means a rearguard would at least take five minutes to help the centre in an ambush. Five minutes is a helluva lot time if armoured recce cars with autocannons engage machinegun-armed trucks. Also keep in mind there are often times not multiple, but only one (wo)man in some vehicles during logistical marches. I personally wouldn't want more than one per fuel or ammo truck anyway.

The vulnerability and clumsiness of large convoys is one thing; setting up and breaking camp is almost a science. Imagine the battalion CO wants the battalion battlegroup of more than a hundred vehicles - scattered in groups of small units in a wood or town - to break camp and resume march in any of four or five possible directions on short notice. Say, hostile forces may arrive and be noticed only minutes prior to arrival because security details cannot be set up far away for want of enough troops and the hostiles may be moving at 60 kph once they sense the presence of forces to be caught in inferior readiness for battle. 5 km radius for pickets, 60 kph - five minutes to either break camp and evade or to stand and fight. Horrible*.

Even a less horrible scenario may demand a very quick resumption of movement in an unplanned direction. Frequent movements and stops don't allow a textbook plan for the order of small units resuming the march for any possible direction. It depends on improvisation and training, on junior leadership and drivers getting it almost right without elaborate planning, rather based on standing operating procedures and experience.

Again, having less vehicles makes it all much less troublesome.
_____

It's thus that some issues concerning the agility of a battlegroup or brigade boil down at least in part to the quantity of vehicles.

This is why I'm so utterly amazed at the -in my opinion- crazy amount of wide low capacity vehicles ("wide" meant to exclude motorcycles without sidecars and small ATVs). The hordes of HMMWV- and Wolf-style vehicles always made me wonder: Why?

Want to operate a small radar? Two HMMWVs plus one or two trailers. Military chaplain? Gets a HMMWV and a driver. Officer on a mission from HQ to a subordinate unit? HMMWV and driver. Company HQ? Multiple HMMWVs and a real truck.
This way of providing mobility is extremely wasteful and outright incompatible with striving for great agility on the battlefield.

To find a way that solves a problem of such scale isn't easy, but I suppose I can submit at least a partial cure: Parasitic vehicles.

Look at this:
Forklift carried by truck

Some container trucks have their own forklifts. These parasitic vehicles are meant to reduce the wait time of the driver at depots and destinations; he can unload or load his truck without needing to wait for such a service. (S)he can work and add to income during times when the truck's log thinks he's having one of the breaks which are legally enforced for road safety in at least some countries.

Now back to the chaplain: I wouldn't give him a HMMWV and certainly no driver (who would be used as replacement for less useless job vacancies in a conflict anyway). Instead, I would give him (and many others, such as the company senior NCO ("Spieß") or couriers a durable diesel-powered ATV and establish as standard that almost all medium and heavy trucks need to be able to add such a parasitic vehicle (or equivalent extra payload container) to their back.
I would insist on more ground clearance than seen on the photo, of course.

I suppose this way we could eliminate up to 5% of all wide vehicles in a brigade, somewhat less in non-reinforced combat battalions.
_______________

Another way is the widely publicised way of replacing electricity generator trailers by using some kind of hybrid (combustion engine + electric motors) propulsion in light and medium trucks. The trailers wouldn't disappear, of course - it's human nature to use this freed cargo space instead for some other payload than a generator. We might save a few dedicated cargo trucks this way, though.
_______________

Back to a not widely publicised method; multiple use trucks. Most trucks are assigned to only one use, and this use requires the capacity of a 1.5, 3, 6 or whatever ton vehicle. Thus the army uses a 1.5, 3, 6 or whatever ton vehicle.
Now imagine we would not use a 3 ton truck, but a nine ton truck. The typical reaction would be an accusation of wasteful behaviour ("über den Durst"). Well, my reasoning is that three one-and-a-half task trucks can easily replace four specialised trucks.
Just imagine bigger fuel tanks, some extra storage for tent tarpaulin, some extra storage for ammo or medical supplies, food, spare tires, spare powerpacks, water filtration set, road repair equipment etc.
Some of the rather specialised extra cargo (such as spare powerpacks) would create a coordination challenge (how would the field vehicle repair workshop know whom to call for a spare powerpack?), while other extra supplies could be distributed in a most decentralised way (unless this actually kills some bureaucrat): Another small unit arrives, has a break, asks for some supplies such as diesel fuel. 
It's human nature that some would respond by hoarding and reject the request, but it's also human nature that the framework would encourage unbureaucratic black market trading.
Voilà, some supply problems solved.


I suppose we could at the very least reduce the wide vehicle count in Western armies by about 10-15% without actually losing anything important - and thus lower one roadblock on the way to a much-improved battlefield agility of our manoeuvre formations.


S Ortmann

*: Keeping companies largely separated doesn't help much, unless your tactics don't depend on more than company-sized manoeuvre elements for more than very short durations. It may depend on it for short durations only, but those are likely the time windows during which the performance is most important.

edit because of comments:


FORGET about reducing the spacing (gap) between vehicles as a solution. That's not even practical for civilian purposes and outright foolish for military marches in a theatre of war.
I looked around a bit for something I could refer to and think page 10 of this (chapter on dispersion) might serve as an intro into the cast-in-stone fact that military convoys shall not bunch up with tiny spacing between vehicles.
I mentioned the "50-150 m spacing" for a reason!
 
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2012/12/04

Comments

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I did away with the spambots a while ago by introducing the stupid captchas; it was either a few captchas for those who want to comment or up to a dozen (escalating) spambot BS comments per day.

There's a different reason for this blog post, though: An increase in conspiracy theory BS in comments.

I understand I do write quite often in disagreement with the mainstream (my agreements with mainstream don't appear worthy of writing about them to me), and there's probably a fine line between this and conspiracy thoeries. Some of my stuff may also be considered conspiracy theorizing - that's probably a matter of the point of view, I guess.

Nevertheless, I don't consider the comment section the right place for conspiracy theories. Open your own blog and write BS about money theory, shadow control of governments and the like in your blog if you insist on sharing it. 
** Skipping some disrespectful comments about conspiracy theorists and their fans here.**

I suppose my own rules for comments did and do so far not explicitly damn conspiracy theorising and I've got a bad feeling about deleting individual comments because of such off-topic BS content alone.

Instead, I will apply a measure I did so far only apply once; I will close comments on the topic in question entirely once conspiracy theories appear and don't stop immediately after first warning.I won't block individual voices, instead I will shut down the whole talk which doesn't single out anyone.
This excludes trolls, obviously. I don't empower them to close all comment sections here. Troll posts will still be blocked and collected for the amusement of friends.


S Ortmann
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2012/12/03

A quote on military procurement

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I recall informally proposing a test to disprove a debate-inspired claim that the A-10's anti-tank cannon would "never" destroy tanks in "all future wars." The test would have cost a few hundred thousand dollars. The colonel hearing this proposal told me something like this: When the Air Force needed a new plane - and its reasons were usually valid-it understood that opposition could arise for various reasons, financial, ideological, or parochial. Therefore, the service had to make a strong case, and part of this involved demonstrating that the current plane was dangerously unsatisfactoy.  In this case, the A-10 was the current model, and thus, did I really think the Air Force would give me money to prove it wrong?

From "The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate" by Douglas Campbell, page xi (found on google books, don't expect me to know the full book).
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On the Boxer deal with Saudi Arabia

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Spiegel has stirred up a scandal by reporting about an apparently pending export of heavy wheeled APCs (MRAV, GTK, Boxer - choose a name) to Saudi Arabia,  and it should.

I remember an article about a Saudi motorised (= wheeled armoured vehicles) regiment written by a Saudi officer and published in if I remember correctly either Armor Magazine or Infantry Journal, official U.S.Army publications. I didn't archive it, didn't find it again in the former and honestly don't know where in the archive of the latter is hidden. It may be behind the stupid AKO account firewall which Armor Magazine and Infantry Journal editors opposed so very much when it was introduced during the early GWOT craze.

Anyway; said article was perfectly clear that such wheeled armour Saudi troops were first and foremost meant to defend the regime domestically, being able to deploy on road to any domestic trouble spot in short notice (unlike tracked forces would typically do, or so was the opinion of the 90's). Going to battle against another military came second.


The scandal is a scandal because of this potential, without the people talking about the scandal even knowing how very much focused said Saudi army troops were and certainly still are on the domestic suppression role.

We shouldn't do business with the Saudis, who come most close of all to meeting the generally wrong Muslim/Arab stereotype of being dark age people. Their state is -by European standards- a single huge abomination, and we should apply ours standards when doing business in the world.
Doing business with Saudis is generally a poor idea for another reason; their inherent corruption tends to taint the ones who do business with them, there's too often some bribing by or of Germans involved when we do such business.


S Ortmann

edit: Found the article. It's in Armor magazine March/April '96!

"The Saudi Arabian National Guard Motorized Brigades" 

2012/12/01

A proper ground forces display for visitors

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I suppose most of my readers have experienced military demonstrations in front of top brass, politicians, foreign officers and/or mere business people as well, probably so from both perspectives.

Such events are always scripted in detail, rehearsed and often commented by someone with a microphone and a whole arrangement of loudspeakers. Everything that's supposed to be displayed gets its (usually boringly long) share of the demo and afterwards the visitors have seen soldiers moving and using hardware.


I've never liked these displays. They're a systematic disinformation tradition.

Here's what I would like to have as a ground forces display:

The whole parliamentary armed services committee gets invited, all senior civilian ministry of defence folks get invited including the new minister (they always seem to be new). They take their seats and pick up the binos, expecting the display.


Over the course of the next thirty minutes they'll hear some sudden noises and see some mortar smoke pop up. Nothing else.
After said half hour, the most senior officer of the army steps up in front of the audience and summarises;

"This is modern warfare as done by a modern, competent army".

The tank attack happened before you arrived because tanks are quick and they're best when they get to execute their mission before anyone not cooperating with them is ready for them.
The infantry seeking and destroying stragglers of the brigade overrun and shattered by our mechanised forces rested their survivability first and foremost on being almost never seen by said enemies. As a by-product, we didn't see much of them either.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is competent modern warfare as it should be against a competent and respected opposition. It's what we would strive to do in the event of getting called up to defend the alliance.
This is the "empty battlefield" as military history reports it about wars for more than a hundred years, almost precisely since the introduction of smokeless gunpowder. This is why you see very rarely if ever an enemy in video footage even of warfare against rag tag militias.
This was - for once - no theatre, but an information event. Thank you for your interest and attention.

Just once, please.


S Ortmann
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