2015/02/28

Military theory - the evil twin

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Robinson is on his island. He's good at collecting coconuts and a poor fisherman, but he would like to eat fish much more than coconuts. Friday appears on the scene. Friday is a better fisherman, but prefers coconuts over fish.
Welcome to microeconomics 101, the simplest model of trade and how trade between two agents is a win-win for both and actual improves aggregate output. There are diagrams for this, of course. Macroeconomics has its analogy in free trade theory.
Economics is about how cooperation can lead to a better aggregate and individual outcome.

Military theory is the evil twin: It's not about how to achieve what cooperation, but about how to force others into compliance. Its only efficiency goal is to force the own will on others at least expense, whereas the aggregate outcome and at least one party's individual outcome (usually everyone's) are worse as a consequence of the process of (trying to)  forcing one's will on others.

Economics good, military theory evil. 
Too bad; countries often need the latter for avoiding its worst consequences, even if they don't like it.

Yesterday I did refer to economists' appraisal of biology as a supporting science, and suggested that military theory and political science could do the same. This wasn't by accident. Military theory and economics may be opposites, but this makes them similar as well. Economic theory is about cooperation, military theory is about confrontation. Both are about an interaction of agents, whereas a great many sciences such as geology, physics and math aren't about the interaction of thinking and competing humans at all.
Political science is in between both, in that it is both about cooperation and confrontation between competing agents (in military theory you usually don't compete with allies unless some honour code is in effect or said allies are expected to become rivals or enemies soon thereafter).
The similarities are promising enough; one field may gain insights by paying attention to other fields' findings. There sure is a better match than the faux analogies of geometry (Renaissance military thinkers) or misunderstood physics (von Clausewitz).

S O
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2015/02/27

"Your genes help determine how much money you save"

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Researchers Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel constructed a measure of savings by essentially tracking the changes in the net worth of the twins between 2003 and the end of 2007. They found that identical twins—who share the exact same genes—are significantly more similar in their savings behavior than fraternal twins. In fact, they conclude that genetic differences explained roughly 33% of the variations in individual savings rates.
Matt Phillips

Imagine a future in which such influences on behaviour, such biologically-mandated preferences, could be known about senior officers and top politicians before they they're empowered by command or office. It would be eerie in some way, but potentially world-changing for the better, too.

Citizens could almost know which politician would start a needless war because of some archaic territorial fight gene. An army could almost know in advance which officer would keep a cool head and find the right mix between caution and boldness.

Economics have begun to accept biology (neuroscience, for example) as a supporting science in the 90's as far as I know. Maybe political sciences and military theory should do the same, and embrace it fully to squeeze the maximum gain of insights out of it.

S O
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2015/02/24

Isoluminence camouflage

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The rise of tiny LED lights may have made this approach practical on a large scale. A different technological approach is IIRC to use surface materials which emit light when there's an electrical current in them.
Drones of any size and aircraft could hide visually with this because it's the shadow that makes even white undersides dark and easily recognizable.

We will likely not see any use in great quantities in the next couple years because platform life cycles and upgrade intervals are long and no major conventional war forces armies to optimise themselves with great effort.

related: Wikipedia article "Yehudi lights", secretprojects forum topic "Yehudi lights"
S O
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2015/02/23

An old scenario about Russia

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The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force...let them ally with PR China and they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel[land] before appeasement was given up. Imagine a reunification of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Russia was actually more self-confident (going alone), faced a weakened (economic crisis) Western world and (so far) grabbed less (the equivalent of Sudetenland, Memelland). Other than that, the scenario was much more spot on than the "COIN is the future of war!" slogan.


S O
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2015/02/22

Military lessons from the war in the Ukraine

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There are some interesting parallels between the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the Spanish Civil War. It's far from a replay, but nevertheless interesting (to me).

Back in Spain during the 1930's, new equipment was introduced to warfare, although they were mostly incremental improvements of First World War arms: Tanks, monoplane fighters, monoplane bombers with proper bombsights, dive bombers, heavy anti-air guns with elaborate fire control, light rapid fire anti-air guns, anti-tank guns, miniaturized radio sets (and especially the new voice-over-radio mode).
Some lessons were drawn from their use, both wrong and correct ones.

The incorrect ones were drawn because the conflict was not representative of the coming Second World War. The Spanish Civil War was mostly static, but not as much a trench war as the First World War on the Western and Italian fronts due to a shortage of artillery ammunition. It had its mobile phases, but these were reminiscent of the 'successful' offensives of late 1917 and 1918. The focused operational advances of fully motorized forces with tanks had but one disastrous parallel in Spain.

The combat in the Ukraine appears to be similar to what was known from Yugoslavia and Spain; lots of volunteer formations in service (I'm thinking of the Ukrainian side here), very little movement. Seemingly spectacular advances as the recent (possibly intentionally incomplete) encirclement of Debalzewe took weeks, while an action of this size would have been a day's work during 1939-1945.

The Russians may probably not draw many wrong lessons from this since they had similar actions in Chechnya already and employ mostly 1980's technology. Meanwhile, the West might draw some wrong conclusions, albeit the very small involvement will likely diminish this. It's mostly the effects of ammunitions such as (somewhat) modern artillery that may offer good insights for military forces in the EU. The Russian breakthrough day during the South Ossetia War is more worthy of study in regard to mobile warfare.

S O
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The miracle of Greece's defence spending efficiency

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Back in 2009 I wrote about the relatively high military spending of Greece and my expectation about its impending reduction.* I wrote:

Greece's military spending is about 3 % GDP, about twice as much as necessary in comparison with allies. That's already less than the 2005 figure of 4.3%. I expect a military budget crunch down to about 1.5-2% GDP till 2015.

According to SIPRI military expenditures fell from 7.660 billion EUR in 2009 to 4.472 billion EUR in 2013.


According to Eurostat** Greece's GDP fell from 237.4 billion EUR in 2009 to 182.4 billion in 2013.

This yields a drop from 4.21% GDP in 2009 to 2.45% GDP in 2013.
The CIA World Factbook offers a much smaller figure; 1.72% GDP in 2012.

- - - - -

Now let's consider what's missing in this picture:
An aggression against Greece. There was none.
Nor did the EU as an alliance or NATO as an alliance get into trouble because the Greeks spent less on their military.

This is the best real world experiment imaginable for the thesis that the Greek state overspent on defence. It wasted likely 1-3% GDP during almost the entire post-Cold War period. Furthermore, an unnecessarily high quantity of young men were removed from the private sector or had their education interrupted.***

Similar natural experiments happened for U.S.military spending: The U.S.Army and U.S.Marine Corps were very much fixed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had their training reoriented for occupation duties for years. Meanwhile, North Korea did not attack South Korea. PR China did not attack Taiwan. Not a single ally, much less the U.S. themselves were attacked by any real threat during these years. This is the best evidence imaginable in support of the thesis that the U.S. overspends on defence: All those army brigades busy with preparing for, being in or recovering after being in Iraq or Afghanistan weren't really needed for national or alliance defence at all.

One may consider such natural experiments as weak evidence, but they face no evidence at all pointing at the opposite conclusion!
There are merely claims and conjectures supporting the size of the military expenditures, not any natural experiment results. Never in modern history did a military budget cut lead to a series of events that ended with aggression - no matter how often the pro-military spending people assert that budget cuts put lives at risk and similar.


Greece's military spending efficiency was increased very much, as they got the same national security at a much lower price. Has the Greek military improved very much, become incredibly smarter? No, not at all. It was merely inflated well beyond the optimum previously (and I suppose it's still well above optimum today).
The reason for the oversized military spending was the stupid Little Cold War between Greece and Turkey. Turkey cannot possibly take even a single island away from Greece by force because Greece could call on all EU allies for defence, while nobody would be obliged to help Turkey. Still, politicians played with the myth of a Turkish threat for decades, similar to what happens in Pakistan. Now guess what the new government's minister of defence did right after taking office? He provoked Turkey with his new toys.


S O

**: I'd like to use this opportunity to voice my extreme disdain for the EUROSTAT website.
***: I know of a Greek student who wanted to become an engineer in Germany and was recalled for a pointless conscript service before he was able to complete his almost for-free university study in Germany. This happened after the Fiscal troubles blew up in Greece.
 
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2015/02/18

Bombing Libya was no success

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"The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over."


"One can debate whether all of this is done by design or by “accident”: if you realize that U.S. actions create further pretexts for war, then those who do this for a living must realize it, too (...); and how many times does something have to happen before “accident” is no longer a viable explanation (...)? But whatever else is true about motive, there is no question that U.S. militarism constantly strengthens exactly that which it is pitched as trying to prevent, and ensures that the U.S. government never loses its supply of reasons to continue its endless war.

Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.” Some non-governmental advocates of “humanitarian war” may be motivated by the noble aims they invoke, but humanitarianism is simply not why governments fight wars; that is just the pretty wrapping used to sell them."
Yet this looked the most "successful" of the recent Western interventions and bombings.
War does not work.
Interventionism is a wasteful folly.

S O
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2015/02/17

'Experts' interpret current warfare

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As mentioned in the previous post, so-called experts were startled by what they saw happen in the Ukraine, and rushed to maintain the façade of competence by supposing that they have the tools to understand what happens.

Yet be warned, I already covered this years ago:


This almost six years old blog post was nicely complemented by the comments:

I think you've stumbled on the old phenonema where if an alleged expert sees something he had not seen before, it is therefore "new" and he gets credit for developing a paper on it. Additional research and agressive peer-reviews not required.
Al Mauroni

The term "Hybrid war" is already expanding. Some read it as "irregulars using regular methods", others as "regulars using irregular methods" and finally some simply use it as a replacement for the "full spectrum" buzzword of the 90's.
S O

Now let's see whether Putin's ruse of using regular (para)military troops without proper identification and employ them in denied warfare against another power is anything new. If it was, the startled 'experts' might have a justification to talk of what happens these days as new, not old.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG),
also known as the "Flying Tigers"!
 

Real combatants of the United States Army (Air Force), who went on a 'vacation' and served with American-built fighters in China to fight for China as mercenaries against Japan. They did so based on an executive order of the POTUS and totally did not use proper U.S.A.A.F. uniforms until the U.S. entered the war officially.

Well, maybe you're not satisfied by this example because they were merely in a country at war, but not invading. Well, in this case I propose you read up on foreign involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

Putin used the fig leaf of deniability to enlarge his freedom of action, to get away with invading a country as the US and UK did with the fig leaf of WMD lies in 2003. That's no new kind of war, no new style of war and no new theory of war is required, much less new buzzwords of war. Western 'hawks' are merely angry that they themselves didn't come up with it and that some other power was brazen enough to do it.

There's hardly anything surprising to you about the face of war(fare) once you've learned enough about military history, for there are few truly new things.

S O
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2015/02/16

Countering Russia with military spending

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Plenty people with supposed "security policy" expertise have waken up to the fact that the NATO (and EU) got to secure its Eastern frontier only lately. I don't hear any mea culpas, but it's kind of embarrassing to supposed experts, isn't it?

Well, the other noticeable tendency of those people is to suppose that we need to spend more on the military to rise up tot he challenge (preferably in addition to continued nonsensical wars in sand bowls, of course).


Now that's another faux pas; the relevant question for changes in military budgets isn't whether an "expert" was startled, but the comparison of what's needed and what would be spent without any change.

Now let's have a reality check (though I've visited the topic before). This is how the pre-Ukrainian crisis spending looked like:


Now I see one country being crazy on military spending and then a long list of military great/medium powers.
Let's change the colours according to the situation in Eastern Europe: Blue for NATO/EU, Red for Russia and Belarus, orange for powers irrelevant in the Eastern European context:



You may now vet the data or put in the extra labour of correcting this with purchasing power parities, but the general picture won't change much. Russia would gain by about half the area (NOT diameter) in PPP.
We should also take into consideration that Russia needs some military power in Central and East Asia.

Startled "experts" want us to spend more based on their personal failure to pay attention to basics, whereas the facts about actual military spending call at most for more quality, but certainly not for more quantity of spending in regard to the security of the Western World.

The security of the Western World is about doing actual deterrence and defence well, not about spending (even) more!

 
S O
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2015/02/15

Logistics for quick continental deployments: Heavy AFV transport

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This is a drawing for a 60 ton flat-bed  trailer. There are bigger (80 ton, for example) and smaller ones - the carrying capacity is largely proportional to the count of axles. Such trailers can be widened from about 2,550 mm to about 3,750 mm, so a Leopard 2 (width 3,760 mm) should be transportable with a legal waiver  at the latest (or with detached skirts). It could be transported on long range administrative marches on motorways with such civilian trailers if the gravity force is being distributed well onto the axles by a stiff bed or additional pallets.

We don't need to look up official registries to know that we have a couple thousand such trailers in Germany, do we?

I remember from my time in uniform that the Bundeswehr actually has a couple contracts with civilian companies 'just in case'; for recovery of aircraft which left the runway and are stuck in grass, for hauling material et cetera. I do not assume that there are many big contingency contracts with shipping companies nor am I aware of legislation empowering the police to commandeer such vehicles in the event of crisis (Krisenfall).

Both might actually be a good idea, since this could enable the Bundeswehr to quickly deploy brigades with several days worth of ammunition on the European continent. And by "quickly" I think of a week till Romania at most. This is possible technically, so it's left to legislation, planning and training efforts to enable this in practice.

It wouldn't be very important whether a vehicle weights 30 tons or 60 tons if such preparations were in place; any talk of "medium" (25-40 ton) armoured fighting vehicles for strategic deployability would be nonsense.

The Bundeswehr has lived for decades with the need to deter with military power at home, and since has lived with the need to follow stupid military adventures with small (up to brigade-sized) contingents in distant places. Now it should -belatedly- turn its attention towards rapid deployments in force on the home continent.
This can be had cheaply; there's no need to purchase a dedicated and quite expensive tank transporter for every tank in the inventory. A SLT 2 "Mammut" costs a million € apiece*, and this is really only necessary in small quantities for recovery purposes (transport of immobilized tanks to field repair workshops).
 


Heavy AFVs can be deployed by rail or ship as well, but the latter is negligible in the context of Germany and I consider the former to be unreliable. Rail traffic could be disrupted easily by agents (cutting railroad signal cables et cetera) and possibly even by the fashionable 'cyber warfare' or in most extreme cases by air attack. All of these disruptions would be under control with security and repair efforts after a few weeks, but the point of a rapid deployment is to be rapid, which excludes modes of transportation that might be bugged for weeks.

Rapidity of a well-trained road march deployment of German brigades to the area of Warsaw: 

Less than two days for political decisionmaking lag
+ less than one day to call up all personnel and ready the material
+ less than one day to additionally assemble all required trucks
+ slightly less than one day for administrative dispersed road march to Warsaw area (~1,200 km)
+ few hours to unload, zero and otherwise prepare equipment
+ few hours march and deployment in area of operations
+ about one day reserve because of 'friction'
Sum: less than a week

A rapid deployment capability may be much more crucial than fancy gadgets for vehicles and troops. A Polish army trusting the German army's capability to arrive battle-ready within days could weaken the security of Poland's Eastern border and prepare for a rush into the Baltic itself to help stall (better: deter) a coup de main attempt, for example.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: It would probably cost about 700,000 € a copy if hundreds were purchased.
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2015/02/14

Excessive expectations

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Back in 2009 I described Extremist Warfare, the pursuit of maximalist, eliminationist objectives in war as if this was self-evident, normal or even the only way to wage war.

I suppose the conflict in the Ukraine has shown that this attitude problem goes much farther.
It seems to be a common attitude in the Western World to expect the whole world to follow the rule set defined (or made-up on the fly) by the Western world, even though Western great powers don't follow it themselves.

There was little reason to expect Russia to be a perfectly peaceful, cordial, cooperative great power in a world in which the Western great powers don't meet that standard themselves. Even Germany and Italy bombed Yugoslavia based almost exclusively on largely fabricated allegations. The US and UK violate their obligations to settle disputes peacefully and without threat* routinely and France comes close to this at least in Africa.

The expectation that Russia would be peaceful and the exasperation about the fact it isn't are simply tell-tale signs of a world view of excessive expectations. One could call this world view arrogant or naive.


I'm not sure that this world view would have been incorrect if the hypocrisy wasn't nearly as stark. Let's assume the West did not threaten, practice cruise missile diplomacy,  bomb countries, invade countries, operate assassination drones or occupy Afghanistan with maximalist objectives. The world - not just the hypocrites in the West - might by now (a generation after the Cold War) consider peaceful deals as the way to deal with disputes - without exceptions. Russia would not only have expected to appal the Western hypocrites, but the whole world with its actions in the Ukraine, and Russia's 1994 non-aggression treaty with the Ukraine would enjoy much more respect since international law would enjoy much more respect. Russia would probably have chosen a less appalling course of action to avoid the greater international opposition.

That's not what happened, for Neocons and less extreme yet similar-minded people were arrogant enough to believe they could get away with their offences without backlash. Just as the equally mature four year old boys in the Kindergarten didn't learn yet that throwing sand at others has some kind of backlash.

Will they ever learn? Certainly not. They cannot properly connect the dots between action and reaction - children fully understand this by the age of about six only. Some people never progress that far.

S O

*: Charter of the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty
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2015/02/11

A debate on intervention

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*intro musik*
*camera zooms towards show host*

Mr. Handsome: "Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for joining The Global News Show with Dick Handsome! Our topic tonight will be the atrocities committed in Dustistan and how our country should lead the response. I welcome Mr. Paul McFriedman of the Center for stupid ideas, a defense think tank! "

*taped applause*

Mr. Handsome: "and my other guest, Prof. Boring from the university of backwater."

*jingle*
*switch to camera showing Handsome and McFriedman*
*background screen shows a map Dustistan and neighbouring countries, lined with scary flames*

Mr Handsome: "Paul, three journalists have been killed in Dustistan yesterday. What's your take on this?"

*switch camera on McFriedman*

McFriedman: "It's a huge atrocity and shouldn't be tolerated. The free world must not be silent on this, it needs to react. We should take global leadership on this and build an alliance of the stupid. Then we should bomb the terrorists. I expect swift and decisive results. Air power strong, ugh!"

*switch to camera showing Handsome and McFriedman*

Mr. Handsome: "No ground forces?" 

McFriedman: Well, we should of course exploit this opportunity to set up a quasi-permanent base with a few thousand troops servicing themselves and supporting a few dozen troops actually training a regional force whose language and culture they don't understand. This works like a charm every time - as a political preparation for a larger ground forces intervention, for example."

*switch to camera showing Handsome*

Handsome: "I agree. This sounds perfectly sensible. You're a very serious person!

*Mr. Handsome turns to Prof. Boring: "Mr. Boring, what else could we do to kick asses?"

*switch to camera showing Handsome and Boring*

Prof. Boring: "Well, three dead journalists is a tragedy and no good news for press freedom."

Handsome: "Obviously."

Prof. Boring: "Science has actually devised models to help decision-makers find the right decision in such situations. A military intervention in such a conflict will at least cost a billion $, possibly ten billion $. The purpose would be revenge for three dead men, maybe the effort would save the lives of ten citizens who travelled into the civil war zone at their own risk. This would be a hundred million $ per life saved.
Meanwhile, authorities at home reject proposals for road safety investments on cost grounds because the price tag per saved life would exceed ten million $.
To spend a billion on possibly saving ten lives of adventurous journalists would essentially kill almost a hundred of our people at home. To spend ten billion $ on warfare would kill a thousand of us at home.
That's no efficient resource allocation."

*switch to camera showing Handsome and McFriedman*

Handsome: "Paul, you are an expert on these things. How far are our carriers away? Will it take more than a week to assemble an intervention force to bomb pickups and huts in Dustistan?"

McFriedman: "We can begin to bomb bomb bomb Dustistan today. It only takes an executive order. We powerful, ugh! We spend a fortune every year to have our carrier fleets patrolling thousands of nautical miles from our territories right under the nose of countries which people like me don't like because our paycheck depends on it."

*switch to camera showing Handsome*

Handsome: "We'll be back to discuss the intervention in Dustistan in a few minutes."

*commercial break*

- - - - -


I'm kidding. The Professor wouldn't be invited, much less allowed more than 20 seconds of uninterrupted commentary.


related:
For older related blog posts click this link to all Defence and Freedom blog posts
tagged "War and Peace", going back to 2007.


S O
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2015/02/10

Addition to yesterday's post

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Yesterday I wrote about a minor detail of tiny small units in the infantry, in an attempt to point out the human aspect and how it deserves more attention relative to hardware than it gets.

Today I like to put the infantry-centric post into perspective using two quotes from a1950's book about lessons learned in the Russian campaign 1943-1945*:

Ein Charakteristikum der meisten abgechlagenen Angriffe des vergangenen Krieges ist, daß sie bereits 200 bis 400 m vor den vordersten Verteidigungsanlagen abgeschlagen wurden. Den entscheidenden Anteil hieran hatte meist die Artillerie.
(A characteristic of most defeated assaults of the last war is that they were defeated 200 to 400 m ahead of the forward line of own troops already. The decisive share of this had most often the artillery.)**

This quote gains additional potency by an earlier quote:
Das Bekämpfen feindlicher Bereitstellungen durch "Gegenfeuerschläge" hatte bei der russischen Eigenart, die Angriffstruppen dicht geballt in den Angriffsvornächten vorzuführen, eine außergewöhnliche Wirkung in allen Großkämpfen im Osten der Jahre 1943 bis 1945. Der Munitionseinsatz hierfür übertraf sehr oft den des eigentlichen feindlichen Angriffstage; wie Gefangene häufig bestätigt haben, waren die Verluste hierbei wesentlich höher, als bei dem Angriff selbst. Zahlreiche Angriffe sind durch diese "Gegenfeuerschläge" bereits in der Bereitstellung zerschlagen worden.

(The fires on hostile marshalling areas by 'counter fires strikes' had given the Russian peculiarity to mass the assault troops in the night before the assault an extraordinary effect in all major battles in the East of the years 1943 till 1945. The ammunition expenditure for this very often exceeded the one on the actual day of the offensive. The casualties due to this were considerably higher than during the assault itself, as prisoners confirmed often. Many attacks have been broken during the marshalling phase already.)**
________

Granted, this was from an era of defended front lines instead of all-motorized forces facing each other in meeting engagements or cautious manoeuvres.
It's still a reminder that infantry is but a small cog wheel in a much greater machine. The attention it typically receives in the public is blown out of proportion - and this includes the output in this blog.
Infantry is of central interest in civil wars, but of much lesser interest in a national or collective (alliance) defence scenario.

S O

*: "Taktik im Russlandfeldzug", Eike Middeldorf, E.S.Mittler & Sohn GmbH, p.141 and 165
**: My translation
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2015/02/09

Marksman - not Designated Marksman, much less "DMR"

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The employment of snipers is typically characterized as a guy with a scoped rifle aiming well and being able to hit small or distant targets - while enjoying superior camouflage.
It's actually much more; forward observer and scouting or overwatch missions bordering on long range recon watchpoints, teamwork with at least one other sniper-qualified buddy are important other aspects.

Yet there's also the low end case, the integration of the sniper into the small unit of manoeuvre, the platoon or squad/section/Gruppe. This was called "designated marksman since at least the 1990's and was typically about having one guy with a scoped semi-automatic rifle in the squad for the pinpoint accuracy shooting. The difference to the 'true' sniper is that the designated marksman is part of the squad, while a sniper is typically assigned to cooperate with a platoon or company or to simply harass in a certain area.

The utility of a magnifying scope for assisting the squad leader in identifying personnel was hardly ever mentioned, but was probably even more important than the pinpoint accuracy. The archetypical rifle for this designated marksman model was the SVD "Dragunov".

PSO-1 sight picture of a SVD (c) Chabster

To be honest, I think this concept was always suboptimal if not outright wrong. Nobody can tell during peacetime training which soldier of the squad will keep his head down during an entire firefight and which one will return fire. That's one of the reasons why many reserve NCOs are a necessity (to replace too 'timid' squad leaders) and why not only the biggest, strongest guy should be trained to carry and employ the squad machinegun (which had up to 80% of the squad's firepower), but everyone.
The problem went away without addressing it specifically, though: magnifying optics better than First World War sniper scopes have become commonplace. Almost every infantryman has one if he's got a rifle from the late 90's or newer. The German army has a poor magnifying 3.5x scope and a poor red dot sight in its G36 rifles, many other military forces enjoy the benefits of newer ACOG sights or similar and there are even some variable zoom (approx. 1x-4x) scopes on the market, albeit still too expensive for regular troops.
Now every squad member who's not leading or machinegunning, caring for the wounded, moving ammo, radioing, reloading, employing grenades, providing rear or flank security or ducking behind cover can use a scoped rifle for pinpoint single shots in a firefight.*
The platoon leader can muster the survivors of the first firefight, strip the expensive sights from the passive soldiers (except on G36, where it's fixed...) and turn them into de facto porters while everyone else is employed with leading, machinegun, scoped rifle and/or grenade launcher.

What didn't I mention much so far?
Oh yes, hardware.
The usual way to cover the "designated marksman" topic is to obsess about the choice of calibre, choice of rifle, the scope - maybe even about the fancy paintjob of the rifle. Nothing on this list is really important compared to what I wrote before in my opinion.
The right man with a Gewehr 98 produced in 1910 could be effective when the wrong man with a Gucci gun and 6x scope wouldn't.

I am under the impression that small wars experience or not, the hardware-centric and planning-centric view has won and become dominant since the early 90's at the latest. The last man-centric fashion in the German Heer was probably the "Kämpfer" buzzword of the early and mid-90's.
Politicians, bureaucrats, industry, authors - everybody seems to prioritize hardware.
 The Milblogosphere exaggerates the prominence of hardware even more than the bean-counting and budget-aware bureaucracies. Scroll up: Even I didn't find any good picture of relevant soft factors, but it was easy to find a suitable picture of hardware to break up the text and make it more easy on the eye!

S O

*: Which means "rarely anybody", but that's another issue.

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2015/02/06

Halo's (not really) little brother

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Sometimes when I write something, I keep it simple and skip over some exceptions. My disdain for large army (rotary) aviation branches has one of its exceptions in mountain warfare, for example.*

This
(China Defense Blog)


is close to a worst case scenario for Indian National Security.

Helicopters have - if the weather permits - a fantastic transport capability in mountainous terrain. This was already evident with one of the very first helicopters. Mules and llamas are ridiculously manpower-inefficient by comparison (llamas require even more manpower per mass transported than mules, but less food per mass transported - which may be a decisive advantage over mules in some places unless the loads are in heavier pieces).

copyright see here
A high altitude-optimised Mil Mi-26 sibling would give the PRC an edge over India in logistics along their Himalayas border that India couldn't match for many years, maybe decades.



The sporadic Western attempts to build an all-new heavy lift helicopter are neither going to be optimised for this scenario nor affordable (and maybe not built at all). A current CH-53K is a class or two below the Mi-26 and ridiculously expensive. Add the notorious Indian procurement bureaucracy's corruption and inefficiency into the mix and the prospect for India to fare better logistically in the next border conflict with China than in the 60's is a pipe dream.
Then again, a border conflict in some forsaken mountain area is probably not all that important to an Indian living in a slum or in a village without toilets.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: And it's unreasonable to expect Germany to need much mountain warfare capability in national or collective defence. In fact, it never really needed mountain troops. They're probably a mere result of the annexation of Austria 1938 (several mountain units "for free" and for a few years an actual mountain border to secure) and the influence of the highly questionable Bavarian politician Strauss as West German minister of defence 1956-1963.
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2015/02/02

The stupid is strong in (German) navies

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I am a continental guy when it comes to German military power, and this blog post will show why and how much. Don't despair about the Germany-centric details, some 'fine' generalising stuff was placed at the end:

German navies have barely existed until the late 19th century, save for the period when the Hanse (a club of Northern German cities with a focus on long-distance trade) mobilised for naval warfare in the Baltic Sea.

This changed with the navy officer Tirpitz, Wilhelm II's childish fascination with the fleet and the Flottenverein pro-navy lobbying association which led to a series of naval arms race laws beginning in 1898. The strategic raison d'être for the naval arms race and the hyper-expensive warships was the idea that the English could be deterred from siding against Germany in a future war by a German fleet 2/3rds as strong as its own, because it would be too risky.
The English did the exact opposite - they arms-raced against Germany which made the 2/3 rule extremely expensive to achieve, turned strongly against Germany alliance-wise (1904, 1907) and ultimately joined the war in 1914 based on an obligation that hardly anybody believed to be that important previously.

Wilhelm II - a navy fanboi who made freehand sketches of the fleet

Technology played against Germany's navy anyway: The introduction of wireless long-range telegraphy made commerce-raiding much more dangerous for cruisers. It also failed to build proper protected cruisers with oceanic range (diesel engines for fuel efficiency coupled with coal-fired boilers for steam engines to make use of captured coal), spending almost entirely on strength in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. 

Even a British defeat in battle would have been pointless in the North Sea, for the battleships were quite irrelevant for closing the North Sea exits to German blockade runners and merchant raiders. A defeat of the British cruiser fleet in battle was impossible because it wouldn't be concentrated for battle.

The naval arms race since 1898 was politically disastrous by 1904, super-disastrous by 1907 - and still continued till the advent of super-dreadnoughts in 1916 because emotion had overtaken reason.

The German imperial-era navy had little to show for all its budgets; the new submarine arm was the only cost-efficient thing about it. Until its activities added the United States to the long list of enemies during the first World War and thus provided the final impetus towards defeat.

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The German naval procurement of the 1920's  and early 1930's was a low point. The budget was tight, but it was also squandered. The light cruisers were either obsolete by design (Emden's old-style armament) or extremely fragile and essentially unfit for combat (the later light cruisers of the Königsberg and Leipzig classes). The Panzerschiffe ('pocket battleships') of the Deutschland class were extremely poor designs: Too lightly armoured to be a real counter to the (deteriorating) Soviet battleships and inevitably useless in the merchant raider role for which they were optimised: A handful merchant raiders like them could not possibly make much of an impact save for newspaper headlines. They were political ships in nature; meant to provoke a change in international treaties including Germany's restrictions. Yet as usual, there was no beneficial foreign policy effect from German naval procurement at all.

Panzerschiffe - big guns for show, thin armour

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The German naval growth of 1933-1939 looks surprisingly* sane by comparison, albeit it's very dubious whether the political capital spent on the submarine treaties with the UK was worth it. The subs' coastal defence role was soon assumed by air power, and the submarine force would have been a wasteful distraction of resources in a conflict with only France or France plus Poland - and that was what the German military was preparing for. A conflict with France and the UK at the same time looked hopeless for economical reasons during the 30's.
The relatively sane part about the naval procurement of about 1934-1938 was the modest expansion speed which avoided personnel shortages and the suitability of this balanced fleet for breaking a French blockade at the North Sea exit between Norway and Scotland. The French could have maintained about half of their fleet as blockade force at most (almost all cruisers and destroyers had a poor endurance and they had but one aircraft carrier). The Kriegsmarine of 1939 could have defeated that half and could thus have enabled blockade running; transatlantic trade with high value goods such as concentrated industrial chemicals and scarce goods such as natural rubber and copper.
Meanwhile, the Soviet navy in the Baltic Sea was increasingly in disrepair and neglect after a sailor revolt during the Russian revolution and the Kriegsmarine was de facto dominating the Baltic Sea with little effort.
The sanity did not extend to the procurement of extremely expensive fast battleships. Those were more of a pissing contest entry than of military usefulness.

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It's astonishing that both German post-WW2 states rebuilt navies after so much demonstrated uselessness and budget squandering by historical German navies. Germany could hardly have lost the First World War if but a half of the navy budget of 1898-1913 had been spent on the armies instead (there were still separate armies for all German states, not a national one).
About the same can be said about an alternative allocation of half of the naval spending 1933-1942 on diesel trucks, tanks and guns.

Today we have again a 'balanced' navy, albeit a small one. A couple "frigates", a couple submarines, some mine countermeasure ships and some helicopters in disrepair. Back in 1940 a destroyer was worth about a hundred fighters, nowadays a frigate is worth less than ten fighters. This development of prices tells us that the small navy doesn't nearly squander as big a share of the military budget as historically. The level of wastefulness is rather comparable to the Inter-War Years: Small navy, few new hulls, but some very, very pointless ship designs.

Let's elaborate on the "pointless ship designs":
We purchase "corvettes" (K130) as "replacements" for fast attack craft. The military value in warfare is negligible. Those corvettes aren't even useful as pickets for bigger warships since they lack even basic ASW capabilities. Their crews are furthermore too small for cost-efficient use as training ships.
We purchase colonial patrol cruisers a.k.a. "frigates" (F125) which are good in patrolling only. We don't have colonies though. Their actual warfare strength is a disgrace. They are huge targets, incapable of self-defence against submarines, with short range air defence capability only and with little offensive power.
Meanwhile the F123 class of ASW frigates is apparently fine due to its sonar power and the F124 class of AAW frigates seems to be mediocre. The subs seem to have teething problems (like the corvettes), but are respected. Their miniscule numbers make them almost perfectly irrelevant for national and collective defence, though.
The final replenishment ship ("EGV") has meanwhile turned into an all-too obvious shipyard subsidy program due to the ridiculous unit price increase.

K130 corvette design - uselessness redefined!
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The stupid is strong in German navies.

Even occasional and short periods of sanity cannot hide the fact that German naval expenses have been largely wasteful - in ALL German navies; imperial pre-war, imperial wartime, Weimar, Nazi pre-war, Nazi wartime, West German Cold War**, East German Cold War and reunified Germany. The vast majority of their expenses did not serve the security of the people of Germany.

I suppose I expressed my attitude towards German navies clearly. I think quite the same about Italian, Russian/Soviet, French, Spanish, Belgian, Dutch, Polish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Turkish, Yugoslavian and Portuguese navies.

Naval spending tends to be wasteful:

Supposedly "maritime" countries (such as the UK) tend to overestimate the utility of a modern navy and are all-too often enticed to overspend on marginally useful naval capabilities.

Naval power was a "winner takes it all" affair until land-based air power came to dominate over warships even hundreds of miles from the shores. Underdog approaches to naval warfare (Jeune École, submarines, mine warfare) were somewhat promising, but they never reached the critical mass for actually helping to win a war. The underdog navies which attempted a balanced navy approach merely wasted resources in their delusion of capability.

And then there's the all-too enticing overspending and inefficiency of the dominating navies. That's where the outright ridiculous waste of resources happened and still happens.

S O

*:The incompetent Nazis messed up basically everything that they touched. Their few success stories were built on what was planned before 1933 already or achieved by the industry.
**: The German navies of the Cold War were perfectly irrelevant.
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2015/02/01

Gifted artists in the military

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Think Defence has a blog post about the surprisingly large reformed British military public relations / information operations bureaucracy: "The Twitter Brigade"

I suppose this is the primitive way of doing business (by the military, not TD).

You cannot create performance through budgets and personnel strength when it comes to artistic activities.

The modern military bureaucracies don't get this, and inflate staffs in pursuit of leadership capability instead of recognizing the importance of gifted leaders with all consequences.

It's in my opinion the same with PR and IO: You need a few gifted communications artists to do this well, the kind of people who could live off running a Youtube channel. The establishment or reorganisation of a bureaucracy with a thousand personnel or thousands personnel of staff size isn't going to achieve much unless you get lucky and happen to have said gifted artists in influential positions by chance.

Numbers become important only once you send off teams to distribute the message at a front with loudspeakers or other necessarily personnel-intensive methods of message transmissions.

Think Defence recently discussed the near-absence of British milblogging in part due to an official quasi-ban for active personnel. A flourishing milblogging scene would actually be a promising recruitment pool for self-motivated, gifted communicators. Another profile for such people are the military video producers like the American guy who made this:


(The filmmaker who did this made many other funny videos as well, but he closed his website www.braxtanfilm.com. He was enlisted in a military intelligence battalion and doing annual funny videos for events hosted by his unit. He had afaik no cameo in the video above.)

S O
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