2015/10/26

Critique of German army brigades

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I did this before, this time I'll use the Panzerbrigade 21 "Lipperland", which is part of Panzerdivision 1.

Die Panzerbrigade 21 „LIPPERLAND“, als eine von drei Kampftruppenbrigaden der 1.Panzerdivision, führt mit dem Brigadestab ihre unterstellten Verbände und selbstständigen Einheiten, überwacht und steuert deren Ausbildung mit Blick auf das gesamte Einsatzspektrum der Streitkräfte.

Die Brigade hat den Auftrag, in Operationen verbundener Kräfte in einem Szenario niedriger bis hoher Intensität operieren und kämpfen zu können. Sie ist befähigt, multinationale und vernetzte Operationen im streitkräftegemeinsamen Verbund zur Durchsetzung friedenserzwingender Maßnahmen zu planen, vorzubereiten und durchzuführen, um so die Voraussetzungen für Stabilisierungsoperationen zu schaffen. Darüber hinaus ist die Panzerbrigade 21 „LIPPERLAND“ beauftragt, in vollem Umfang turnusgemäß an den laufenden Einsätzen der Bundeswehr bzw. des Heeres im Ausland teilzunehmen.
Derzeit dienen rund 5200 Soldatinnen und Soldaten an vier verschiedenen Standorten in drei Bundesländern in der Panzerbrigade 21 „LIPPERLAND“.
This corrected a lie spread years ago, in which the ministry of defence claimed that the brigades' missions is combined arms warfare ("Gefecht der verbundenen Waffen", literally; combat of joined arms). The new mission statement has in common with other brigade's mission statements that combined arms warfare is merely expected in combination with reinforcements, not by the brigade itself.

This shows the brigade's organization (translated):

staff and signals company
tank battalion 203
mechanised infantry battalion 212
light infantry battalion 1
reconnaissance battalion 7 
armoured engineer battalion 1
supply battalion 7



It's weird that this (tank, mechanised infantry and light infantry battalions in 1:1:1 ratio) is called a Panzerbrigade (tank brigade). More infantry than tank battalions* was rather understood to suit a Panzergrenadierbrigade (mechanised infantry brigade) in the past. The difference between both wasn't only the ratio, but also the attitude and perspective (Panzerbrigade pushing for more tempo). Nevertheless, the designation likely is an outright lie. A SHAPE map of a war zone with this brigade would show the NATO icon for a tank brigade, which is wrong by modern standards. It's even worse in the sister brigade Panzerlehrbrigade 9, which has an additional mechanised infantry battalion for an even less tank-heavy ratio.

No organic battlefield air defences to speak of. The mechanised infantry battalion will have 30 mm guns with a kind of electronic timed shrapnel rounds for limited very short range air defence, and there may be some Stinger ManPADS somewhere, but other than that it's only 7.62 mm machineguns.

Hardly any organic mortars. The light infantry battalion has six 120 mm smoothbore mortars without guided munitions, towed by Mercedes-Benz "Wolf" (a.k.a. G Wagon) 4x4 cars.

No artillery whatsoever. The entire Panzerdivision 1 has a single artillery battalion as divisional troops (Artillerielehrbataillon 325), which has two batteries of PzH2000 and one battery of MLRS (with hardly any munitions available, in part due to the cluster munitions ban). I'm not sure how many PzH2000 these batteries have, but IIRC it's eight (two platoons of four each). These approx. 24 artillery pieces support a full three manoeuvre brigades with a combined ten combat battalions!
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My old impression persists; the German army and thus the Bundeswehr as a whole does not have an organization for its brigades (the above is but an example) that's meant to enable combined arms warfare. The neglect of indirect fire support is particularly devastating to the brigade's utility in conventional land warfare.
"Gefecht der verbundenen Waffen" has dwindled to a near-meaningless buzzword.

I didn't mention yet that the sister brigade of the same division, the Panzergrenadierbrigade 41, has not a single Leopard 2. A mechanised infantry brigade with no main battle tank! Context: They did originally not plan for an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) included in a Puma IFV. The whole brigade's anti-tank firepower after converting to Pumas might have been ATGMs used by dismounted infantry!

This is in stark contrast to the Cold War-era efforts to create well-defined structures**, based on experiences and needs. Nowadays  these brigades are merely staffs meant for defence-irrelevant "out of area" small war deployments, with administrative control over a bunch of units that are spread over multiple garrisons (in the above example five battalions and two companies spread over five garrisons).

The reason for this cannot really be the budget. To integrate an additional artillery-themed company into the reconnaissance battalion, an additional (ammunition) supply company to the supply battalion and to add at least a battery with a dozen PzH 2000 would not break the Einzelplan 14 budget. The current Bundeswehr - and thus particularly the Bundeswehr's political leadership of more than the last decade - simply did not insist on brigades as what they were supposed to be: Ready to fight manoeuvre formations capable of combined arms warfare.
Nowadays, every single "brigade" title is fake, a racket. In reality, these are "unit pools for Frankenstein deployment contingents with partial self-administration by a staff unit" and even that would be a lenient description, for those units don't deploy as a whole, ever.

Table of Organizations have little meaning once attrition by combat sets in, but to have seriously messed-up structures even without such attrition is not excusable.

A fashionable slogan of the last couple years was "Vom Einsatz her denken" (~to think from the perspective of the (overseas deployment) mission). This crap slogan comes close to explain this dysfunctional army structure. It's also utterly illegitimate if not unconstitutional. The army should have its thinking guided by two priorities:
(1) Keeping us at peace through deterrence
(2) In case of failure of (1), national (by extension collective) defence

(1) Der Bund stellt Streitkräfte zur Verteidigung auf. Ihre zahlenmäßige Stärke und die Grundzüge ihrer Organisation müssen sich aus dem Haushaltsplan ergeben.

(1) The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defence. Their numerical strength and general organisational structure must be shown in the budget.


It is very, very sad that the national media can scandalise something de facto unimportant as the performance of an assault rifle after consuming several magazines in a few minutes, yet they are never ever reporting that the very structure of the Bundeswehr is utterly unsuitable for its primary constitutional mission: 
 
Defence


S O

*: Counting Panzergrenadiere as infantry, and I don't care that some people would disagree with this. One Panzerbataillon and two Panzergrenadierbataillone was the typical Panzergrenadierbrigade before the army structures went downhill.
**: See "Das Heer 1950 bis 1970", Hammerich/Kollmer/Rink/Schlaffer, 2006
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