2016/06/30

Kaliningrad Oblast and NATO forward deployment

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This map shows simple 90 and 500 km radii around (Russian) Kaliningrad city:

500 km is the likely range of Iskander-M, and 90 km is the longest range of an unguided rocket of the Smerch multiple rocket launcher.

The 90 km radius merely shows that if moved eastward, it could easily cover the narrow connection between Poland and Lithuania.
The 500 km circle on the other hand shows that almost all of Poland would be in range for a surprise salvo or generally for busting air bases (specifically runway/taxiway bottlenecks, hangars, air defence emplacements, control tower, fuel storage and nearby ammunition depot buildings).

It's thus sensible to think of Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic as likely airbases for a NATO counter-concentration effort. Tanker aircraft based in West Germany, Austria and even farther away would be needed to bring to bear such distant air power. On the other hand, Russian area air defences have nominal ranges up to 400 km, and I doubt NATO would routinely send tanker aircraft into even only nominal opposing forces air defences' range. Refuelling shortly after taking off and climbing to cruise altitude and a possible emergency refuelling after much fuel-guzzling afterburner use (for evasion or air combat) would probably all tanker support that combat aviation could expect.

Ground forces could be deployed further forward, but the growth in range of quite smallish artillery rockets these days probably makes anything more close to the Russian or Belarusian border than Warsaw largely unacceptable as well. A maximum readiness brigade could be based in the Polish far Northeast corner with an appropriate barracks architecture, though.

By the way; I don't think that Berlin being very close to Iskander's range matters much, and NATO's European HQ is even west of this map.


I looked at the issue of Iskander range and Kaliningrad Oblast mostly because I was curious about whether NATO troops may be forward based in Poland instead of Germany. The window of opportunity for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Germany is gone for the time being, due to Putin's aggressive foreign policy. The only scenario for such a withdrawal (be it advantageous or not doesn't matter right now) would be if it was decided that the troops need to be based farther forward for justifying the extra operating costs incurring from being based in a foreign country.
The graphic above makes a compelling case for not expecting any such push forward of air power at least. I guesstimate that the difference between a 500 km and a 1,000 km march isn't going to justify the huge expenses of all-new military bases either (unless the old barracks and airbases were in a very bad shape, requiring huge infrastructure investments anyway).

I suppose NATO should either set up (ground forces) bases directly in Lithuania or no new ones at all. The much more likely course of action is a very half-hearted, watered-down deployment of a few symbolic battalions in different places, including easily cut-off Estonia.
Meanwhile, NATO air power could make use of some reactivated Cold War airbases in East Germany and the Czech Republic, but I haven't seen a study about how many of those would still be available (= were not dismantled or built up for commercial purposes) at all.

Then again, NATO forces were based stupidly far forward during the 60's, 70's and 80's - maybe planners and politicians just don't care about them being in range.

S O
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3 comments:

  1. " Putin's aggressive foreign policy"

    You lost me there. Small defensive movements against a NATO putsch in Ukraine and an Jihadist onslaught in Syria are "aggressive moves"? How?

    The elimination of the ABM treaty by the U.S. and other U.S. policy measures against Russia are not aggressive then?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, attacking a neighbouring country that had its sovereignty guaranteed by your country is aggressive, period.

      And the Russian propaganda line that the event sin Kiev constituted a coup d'etat or Putsch are nonsense because the definition requires police or military to change the government with force - or else it's no coup d'etat, period. The Russian deception through choice of words is meant to delegitimize what was effectively a revolution and it serves to distract from the fact that the government was evidently grossly corrupt.
      Russia had no right whatsoever to attack, much less to annex conquered territory, period. It had Ukrainian sovereignty recognised and guaranteed.

      Delete
  2. @Morknecht:
    Frankly, stuff your Russian BS propaganda into your private dark place. I'm not stupid enough to fall for it. (He sent a comment full of obvious lies and BS.)

    ReplyDelete