Link dump October 2016

I added a hardware-centric blog to my blog list (on the left,), and here are some of the reasons:


A containerised multiple rocket launcher module is an intriguing idea, and I wrote about something similar a few times. It's clearly practical for guided missiles, but at the same time rather questionable for unguided or minimally course-correcting rockets. The traverse for any simple such design would be very, very minimal - maybe 15°. Enough for deliberate bombardments, not enough for quick reaction fires. MLRS type munitions couldn't be used without much effort, for they are front-loaded. 
A full traverse containerised MRL module may very well be possible (with folding walls) but this would likely be rather elaborate and the expenses for such systems can be quite astonishing (see MLRS modernisation costs from years ago; hundreds of thousands of Euro per launcher). 

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(c) LimpidArmor

Such a see-through 'virtual reality' helmet mounted sight for tankers is overdue. This was already tried with the F-35 fighter, and much of aviation technology finds its way to tanks sooner or later. All-round cameras were already installed in Merkava IV years ago. It was obvious from the start that mounting multiple monitors was a quite unergonomic interim solution.
(Meanwhile, the German industry and procurement agency finally moved away from cathode ray tube monitors in the newest IFV Puma. *sigh*)

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There's finally a towed/tethered sensor system for modern warships to extend the line of sight / horizon beyond what can be done with masts. Keyword DARPA TALONS:


Of course, this has been done before - as many 'innovations' - which made me expect such a thing for a long, long time. I probably didn't publish anything about this expectation because naval affairs aren't quite in my focus most of the time. I did expect it to take the shape of an autogyro anyway, for the first incarnation was an autogyro. Guess who did it. ;-)

The challenges for any such concept are quite obvious; you need enough payload (not much of a problem, as evidenced by Fa 330 Bachstelze which operated at 15 kts and lifted a man), you better supply electricity by copper cables from the ship and you need to stabilize whatever sensor you use (except maybe passive radar). I suppose this was technically feasible since the 1990's at the latest. The radar lifted this way cannot be nearly as powerful as the mast- or even superstructure-mounted ones, of course. Such radars can detect ships at long ranges, though - and I think they can also detect wave pattern disruptions caused by periscopes much easier than a much lower mast-mounted radar could.
150 m high electro-optical or imaging infrared sensors would also be VERY helpful with identification of boats and ships without a helicopter sorties.

One couldn't fully rely on such a system, though. It won't work in severe weather.

- - - - -

You want to criticize the Puma IFV or the procurement agency publicly?

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I wrote a lot about Iskander, LORA and other such "under 500 km" missiles. The Americans are actually giving this approach a try and seem intent on replacing the ATACMS missiles (which don't necessarily age well in storage) with something in the 300-499 km range. This time it's likely cluster munitions ban compliant and may thus be interesting for the German army as well. After all, we have hardly any suitable munitions for our MARS/MLRS (afaik no more than 1,000 GUMLRS missiles were ever purchased by Germany).

I doubt that this will influence air warfare doctrine (of the U.S.A.F.) much, though.



The jerry can

A bit of technical-military history that shows how important little, cheap innovations can be:

This provides a good excuse to mention once again a very wise insight of Mr. Luttwak:

Great advances are highly visible and quickly provoke a powerful reaction of rival powers, but small, unimposing innovations may provide a lasting advantage. 

In this case the importance of cans for storage and transportation of liquids was underestimated and the superior solution only recognised when it made itself felt on a campaign.



The biggest German foreign policy sin post-1945

Back in 1990/91 a coalition of 28 countries defeated the Iraqi military and drove it out of occupied Kuwait with roughly 2/3 U.S. troops. It seemed like a post-Cold War triumph for peace among nations at the time.
Some countries did not participate much or not at all with military means, but provided subsidies to support in particular the U.S. effort fiscally.

The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated the cost of the Gulf War at $61 billion.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states covered $36 billion.

Germany and Japan covered $16 billion.
(source CNN)

In hindsight, I think this was the biggest German foreign policy sin in many decades. Even the decision to de facto go to war against Yugoslavia in 1999 pales because without this earlier sin, it would likely not have happened.

To make a "won" war almost for free gave a terrible, utterly misleading signal to the people in the United States; a signal that war may be profitable. No doubt all that glory with a neat parade in best weather through flag-decorated streets, the testing of military equipment, the prestige gain et cetera was worth a very few billion dollars and about a hundred dead war heroes?

The U.S. had regained its appetite for great power games post-Vietnam already under Reagan and Bush sr before the 1990/91 Gulf War, but afterwards it was altogether different, public approval was much easier to get and sought after instead of rather sudden and previously unannounced military action. "Cruise missile diplomacy", the casual bombing of other countries, was born soon after 1991. Iraq had met all disarmament requirements by 1996, but wasn't left alone at all, and eventually broken for good in 2003.

What seemed like a moment of triumph for a world in which invading other countries was unacceptable and to be punished by the international community turned into the moment when one country decided that bombing and invading other countries does cost little, is fun and perfectly fine as long as it's the only country that does it. The German government helped to create that impression, with German public funds, fed by German taxpayers.



"War with Russia"




Colours and camouflages

Just a tiny info: There are a couple simulators on the web that allow you to look at images the way colourblind people see them. This one is an example, this is another one.

Flecktarn as seen by a blue-blind person (Tritanopia)
Naturally, I used this free opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about how camouflage patterns fare in the different modes*, but the outcome after using several photos with different camouflages and backgrounds was very simple: What matters more than anything else** is brightness and darkness. Shadows attract one's attention very much if they're in the wrong place. 

Even tank camouflage colour patterns can be quite effective (at 1+ km), but the shadowy running gear still makes a tank easily spotted (and the warmth of the running gear of a moving or recently moved tank is easily recognizable with thermal sensors).

So in the end, the best camouflage pattern is still the one worn while hiding in a shadow of a large, inconspicuous object.


*: This may be interesting to hunters, birdwatchers, wildlife photographers as well, since their camouflage will often look different to the wildlife than to themselves. 
**: I need to mention that out-of-place or easily recognizable shapes are a big issue as well. This is the reason for why the Israelis use such irregular, odd-looking helmet covers - they make the helmet not look like a helmet any more.


Acoustic sensors

Acoustic sensing with technical support had been introduced into warfare during the First World War. The British were early adopters of sound ranging to detect artillery batteries, used it much during the Second World War and they are still using acoustic ranging equipment for this purpose. This isn't expensive (except in personnel), but such a dedicated system is rather difficult to use in mobile warfare, similar to radio triangulation equipment. 

Nowadays the much more accurate artillery radars can cope with the demand for artillery and mortar locating much better, albeit with the disadvantages of much higher purchase prices and treacherous radio emissions.

Basic sound ranging operation
It appears that after many decades with little improvement other than the use of electronic computing, the Microflown acoustic sensor (which is no microphone) may actually have brought substantial improvement to artillery sound ranging. A small sensor package with multiple Microflown sensors can apparently not only register the time of a sound event, but also the bearing - allowing for triangulation as with radio waves (instead of using the time difference of the sound arriving at spaced microphones as shown above). The applications for this kind of sensor are numerous.

A modern application for acoustic sensors has been the use for sniper (and more generally firearms) detection, I wrote about this a bit more in 2009. Most such systems appear to rely on the supersonic crack sound caused by a sniper bullet, rather than the muzzle blast's noise.

typical sniper detection microphone array
A third - once quite important - use of acoustic sensing was the detection of aircraft through clouds with ground-based sound amplifiers. These grew to ridiculous proportions quickly.

I'm sure the relief brought by radars was great.

Why am I writing about all this acoustics stuff?
Well, there's one application that doesn't seem to be widely known; a non-line of sight detection of helicopters with ranges of about 8-10 km. The only published device for this that I found is the Israeli HELISPOT. It was available in Mk 2 version back in 1993 already, and apparently Mk 3 around 2003. So it's not brand new.

Range claims go up to 25 km in optimal conditions, and apparently the Israelis have or had a second system of this kind as well (source).

I think this is quite interesting, because when you think of networked warfare with no radio comm outage and you have microphones and acoustic sensors in many places, you probably don't even need any such dedicated devices. I'm certainly no sound or electrical engineer, but I suppose microphones mounted on vehicles for one purpose (such as sniper detection) could also be used for other purposes (such as early warning about helicopters), and this coupled with automated accurate navigation and radio datalinks may create a network of acoustic sensors that serves artillery detection, mortar detection, moving tank detection, helicopter detection and sniper/rifleman detection alike.

The network may break down if either navigation or communication breaks down, but with the right technology even a mere three vehicles with acoustic sensors in a 200 x 200 m area might suffice to accomplish such detections, and you can usually maintain radio comm over such distances and navigation (or at least bearings and distances between vehicles + heading of the vehicles) isn't much of a problem unless the vehicles are moving.

Now combine this with another entirely passive warning device against aerial threats, such as the classic AD/AD or its de facto successor Rheinmetall FIRST* and you have a foundation for battlefield air defences that's impervious to classic, counter-Radar focused suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD). Now add a missile such as Bolide (RBS70NG) that's extremely hard to counter (laser beam rider) and cheap and the outcome is a battlefield short range air defence that keeps manned aerial threats at a respectful distance (~ 5 km) at most times.

Furthermore, all the warnings can be transmitted to the troops on the ground by radio. Modern tactical radios often have satellite navigation (GPS, Galileo) integrated, and could receive miniaturised inertial navigation systems to bridge the times of satellite navigation unavailability. The endangered troops could thus be warned about the nature of threat (jet, drone, helicopter, tank, even sniper) and the direction and would be able to minimise their exposure by exploiting concealment against that direction - or set up an ambush.**
This doesn't even require them to report their location into the radio network. The software-define radio would rather run an app that listens to all warning messages, knows the own position and alerts acoustically only if the threat is relevant to the radio's user. This wouldn't work at all times, but sure would be welcomed as helpful whenever it works.

The end result is a serious degradation of effectiveness of attack helicopters and SEAD in particular. Tank, combat aircraft and helicopters would have a harder time generating surprise. All sensed threats but those out of range would see their survivability degraded by such sensors and communications against which they can hardly do anything.


*: "Other IRST concepts were created for air defence purposes, such as ADAD in the United Kingdom, ANSAR-8 in the United States, VAMPIR in France, IRS-700 in Sweden, SPIRTAS in Israel and IRSCAN in the Netherlands". Source
**: The same approach to warning troops can be applied to incoming artillery and mortar ammunitions: Artillery locating radars may calculate the point of impact of ballistic projectiles a minute or more (other times mere seconds) before impact. This data may be used to send a area-related impact warning, so troops can take cover or get out of the targeted area, denying the surprise effect if not even the entire lethality to the attacker.


Support vehicles self-protection

I did occasionally mention something that's deeply counterintuitive and unconventional. I oppose machineguns or whatever weapon on most vehicles, particularly supply lorries, but also on APCs and even HAPCs.

This saves personnel costs to some degree, but it also makes sense tactically in my opinion.

First, think about the conventional approach of the 1980's, a 360° machinegun (usually without shield) on an unprotected lorry cabin. Or on a Fuchs APC or M113 APC.

Fuchs APC with MG3 on 360° mount
Whoever did ever defend the decision to use machineguns on soft lorry cabs with no shield should have been beaten to pulp by the troops. Whoever did ever defend the idea to use machineguns on APCs without gunshield should have been kicked out of service and have all pensions revoked. That was seriously retarded nonsense. Well, shields were added once the Heer was sent into real wars, but this only proves the point that assuming competence or sanity of a peacetime army bureaucracy is a mistake. They are disasters waiting to reveal their nature, but get spared of such revealing events for yeas or decades.
The maxim "Wirkung vor Deckung" ('firepower first, cover secondary', my primary suspect for why there were no gunshields) is primitive bollocks and needs to be replaced by thinking NOW.

Now let's think about a reaction drill for APCs and similar, bulletproofed vehicles:
Assume there are no infantrymen inside. A company on a march with woodland 100 m on the left, crop field on the right comes under fire from within woodland. Infantry hides approx. 30 m inside the woodland for camouflage effect. The bullets don't penetrate, but manportable anti-tank weapons and munitions do. The marching was done at normal speed, 50-100 m intervals between vehicles.
Few if any other APCs would participate in the firefight because of the regular and necessary  spacing.

Hands up, who thinks a single machinegunner - manual or RCWS (remote controlled wepaon station) - would save the day?
I suppose he would at best fire blindly into the woodland area.

The story is quite the same if the ambushers are more numerous and engage multiple APCs over a frontage of hundreds of metres at once - every APC would be on his own, with hardly any support.

Now imagine the convoy comes under fire from the opposite direction - woodland 300 m distant behind  a field of wheat. Again, even a gunner with RCWS would hardly detect and hit anything. He certainly wouldn't suppress many either. Yet modern handheld "dumb" anti-tank weapons can hit an APC moving on a road at 200-600 m depending on type.

Nobody wants to feel defenceless in war, particularly not as soldier. Pro forma machineguns on vehicles provide a sense of being armed. It's deceiving. Such machineguns may have some (not much) utility in providing security while stationary, but that should better be done by pickets.

So what's my preferred alternative? Something like this:

(Better don't watch the other ROSY videos; one of them is killing your brain cells. Rapidly.)

Obviously, with this working well you have little use for a machinegun or any other gun on the vehicle. The smoke almost guarantees that a convoy under fire would let its rear vehicle reverse/turn and take another route, for driving through a killzone full of smoke would be a no-go. On the other hand; voluntarily going through a killzone is a no-go for almost all support vehicles.

This leaves mostly one particularly messy situation to discuss: What if the vehicles are stuck in the killzone, immobilised by obstacles and/or damage? I suppose it would then be foolish to stay inside even bulletproof vehicles, for stationary ones are particularly easy targets. One has then to decide whether to wreck the own vehicle or not, but either way one should evacuate it, grab a carbine and seek cover or concealment outside, maybe run. This, of course, works much better with the smoke solution than the machinegun solution, too.

Another bad situation is in hilly or mountainous terrain, where the shots may come from above. I suppose guns rarely if ever help much there either.

Or strong winds. I admit, the smoke is not going to last long under such conditions. Though (see first video) still possibly long enough for a  moving lorry to use its own smoke as concealment for several hundred metres.

And obviously, I'm not talking about occupation wars with harassing fires by untrained and marginally equipped warbands here. I'm rather thinking of attacks by bypassed hostile troops engaging a support unit in a European great power war.

Nobody needs solutions for wars of occupation because there's no point in wars of occupation.

About the manpower savings; you need 1-2 men in most vehicles anyway for operations. You would need 2-3 with a gunner. Now keep in mind that particularly the supply trains should probably have two shifts of crews, or else the lorries end up in ditches, buildings and other vehicles all the time. In this case 30 heavy lorries could make do with about 35 men with the smoke approach, but would need about 65 with the machinegun approach. Double that for two shifts so they can sustain resupply operations for two weeks and we're talking about savings of 60 men for 30 lorries. Applied to a full brigade wherever it works, this might save hundreds of men - or replace hundreds of lorry gunners with hundreds of infantrymen.



Army garrisons

( previous post: 2016-09 Bundeswehr garrisons)

Let's have a second look at garrisoning, and how it should be done on a blank sheet of paper - which is approx. the way it should be done with the long term in mind:

Important training areas (open fields, woodland, hilly terrain and for light infantry also swamps and mountains) that do not need to be erected should be close. In Germany this means that army manoeuvre brigades should probably be sited in Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.

Specialised infrastructure is an important determinant as well. A well-sized combat training village cannot be raised next to all barracks for financial reasons. You either cluster the barracks whose troops need to train in such areas close to them or they will end up with too few training sessions there.
This leads to huge economies of scale benefits with clustering brigades together, with them sharing training areas.

Another benefit of such a layout would be that these brigades could frequently engage in scripted and free play exercises against each other or 2/3 of one against the other plus 1/3 of its own for a 1:2 inferiority in the defence and so on. It's no wonder that such exercises are rare when you site your brigade barracks hundreds of km apart.*

Then there are reserves. An army that's not meant to please itself in peacetime (but to deter and if need be fight for a quick status quo ante conflict ending) needs reserves, including entire reserve army manoeuvre formations.
This leads to a very promising scheme:
Two brigades are based together no more than 50 km apart with most or all important training areas within 100 km radius. Two inactive 'shadow' brigades are their sibling brigades, sharing the very same barracks and vehicle parks. The reserves' equipment would be kept in good order and modern, for the active brigade would take the reserves' vehicles (99-100% ready to go, regardless of recent exercises) in the event of crisis and deploy quickly. The reserve personnel would be called up, take the vehicles that the active brigade was using for training (typically 80-95% ready to go), repair them, execute a series of exercises to get ready, repair again and then deploy using the tank transporters that already helped the first wave to deploy.

This way one could even have up to four brigades in one region, using two brigade-sized barracks, one 'urban' combat training area, some training areas with woodland, woodland on hills and open fields.

An army of the German Heer's size would need no more than four such clusters, and they should probably be in Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony.

Now obviously, despite the efficiency in operations and layout, this would still cost billions of Euros for new barracks and training areas. We have less than two brigades worth of forces in those places so far. To pull off something like such a garrisons reform would require to convince the parliament to spend several billions not on extra troops or equipment - things that easily communicate extra combat power - but on better conditions for training and living. The army would even need to close several actually fine barracks that just happen to be in quite pointless areas.

This was meant for typical army brigades. A militia force would no doubt need barracks (or rather equipment pools) close to where the militiamen live, thus many close to population centres and few in very rural regions. 
Army corps support units (that tend to have very road march-capable wheeled vehicles only) may also be dispersed, ideally between two or three clusters so they can join the brigade-level exercises with little effort.


*: I preferred to not talk much about the nonsense of dispersing one brigade into multiple towns.


The artillery has its own way of calling companies, similar to units that descended from cavalry in some countries A company of artillery is called "battery" (Batterie). It took decades to shed the traditional Abteilung (~detachment) and call a German artillery battalion a "Bataillon" instead. The (West) German artillery also needed two generations to finally incorporate WW2 lessons and admit that joint fire support teams (forward observers) should be versatile and call for artillery, mortar and close air support instead of the army having separate observers with different terminologies.
So there's ample evidence that a certain conservatism and tradition-orientation exists in the artillery, including the German artillery.

Technology and procedures challenge another tradition of the artillery, and this time it does to the very heart of it: 

Artillery guns (or multiple rocket launchers) used to be sited together in groups of 4-6 heavy weapons. Battles saw grande batteries from the 18th century onward, ad hoc concentrations where dozens if not hundreds of guns were sited together.

This is an obsolete approach. Such artillery concentrations create high value target areas and attract counterfires. There's no need for such grouping of guns any more anyway; as it was mostly done for economy. You needed less of the expensive radios, less land navigation effort (especially north finding) and less fire control personnel and equipment if you did all this for a battery instead of for every single gun.  Nowadays be have GPS/Galileo, inertial navigation systems, quality maps and radios are ubiquitous and relatively cheap.

Modern self-propelled guns are equipped with what they need to go into position to fire a mere minute or two after receiving a fire mission by radio. They can do so on their own, knowing where they are and which direction they're facing. They receive meteorological and fire mission data by radio and calculate their own fire solution by computer.

This finally begs the question: Why do we have batteries?

Nexter's Ceasar 2, 155 mm L/52 with autoloader
The tactical reason for batteries is gone. Whatever organisation the artillery should have should thus be based on administrative efficiency considerations. A modern SPG usually has a crew of 3-6 depending on type. A typical battery/company of six such guns would only have 18-36 (wo)men at the tip of the spear. That's rather a platoon. There's usually lots of overhead in such units beyond the SPG crews, but one could easily argue that an artillery battalion could or should look look this

HQ (with signallers)
  Meteorological and sensors company*
  Fires company** (including a small unit meant to scout future firing positions)
  Munitions company*** (with 15 ton 8x8 lorries)

I suppose such a reform could be used as a positive proof for a readiness to adapt to modern times by an artillery branch.


*: "Sensors" should include artillery radar, acoustic triangulation sensors and tethered drones for muzzle flash triangulation. A good case could be laid out for having JFST and non-portable free-flying drones in a non-artillery unit directly under brigade HQ control, serving the HQ's, tanks', infantry's and artillery's thirst for information equally.
**:: SPG and MRL may be mixed. There's no reason to separate them any more. Even surface-to-air missiles could be employed by the company.
***: with PLS / MULTI /DROPS equipment. Meant to haul munitions from a corps logistics hub area and carry up to two days worth of munitions till needed. Then drop  the pallet next to a SPG and return to the hub. A very different mode of operation from the other units.



The evacuation of wounded and injured personnel has become one of the areas of modern Western land warfare that were the most affected by the extreme desire to minimise the loss of (our) lives.

There have even been complaints that all too often MedEvac becomes THE mission once soldiers were wounded, and the original, real mission is only getting pursued once the MedEvac effort has relieved the unit in action off its wounded men.

A particularly favoured method of transportation of wounded soldiers is the helicopter, which is by far the safest, most comfortable, quickest and most expensive option. Protected vehicles with red cross and medical equipment have become quite common parts of convoys whenever the troops leave their forts.

early Rolls Royce Silver Ghost chassis
converted with a Rippon Bros of Huddersfield ambulance body

The classic approach is different: It uses a light lorry or even a car with an enlarged rear cabin with at most two litters (car), up to four litters (~ 1 ton lorry). The comrades apply rather incompetent first aid, then carry the wounded soldier carry him (or support him) back to a designated place where paramedics patch the wounded up some better if needed and give an infusion. Litter cars / lorries wait there or arrive there, take the wounded men (lightly wounded ones sit, badly wounded ones lie on litter) and bring them to a mobile medical unit.

The classic approach is somewhat capable of coping with large quantities of wounded men, the gold plated approach isn't. A unit couldn't switch from its mission to a temporary MedEvac mission in a European-style war either; this would render the army terribly ineffective. Maybe it does so in occupation wars as well.

10+ million € army helicopters aren't the only gold plated approach to MedEvac that's bound to fail miserably to cope with the quantities of wounded personnel in a European-style war. The current medical vehicles of the Bundeswehr include Fuchs, Wiesel 2, Eagle IV, Unimog, Duro 3, Bv 206S, Wolf, Yak and Boxer. This wide range of vehicles is but a glimpse at the chaotic and hardly well-planned vehicle procurement of the Bundeswehr. What's more striking is the Boxer vehicle, though: A Boxer is roomy and can carry seven litters, but its price of about € 3.6 million* is insane and the vehicle is huge.

I suppose that field ambulance vehicles are somewhat similar to NBC decontamination sets: It's about time to acknowledge that whatever such support we have or may get in our force structure is only going to be able to deal with the tip of the iceberg when we need them the most.

It's not just that we'll never have enough of the gold-plated solutions (helicopters, Boxer, Wiesel 2 etc.) - even the quantity of the relatively affordable vehicles is not going to be great for the simple reason that having a crew or two (driver and medic) in the active force costs well in excess of € 200,000 per year including overhead costs.

And frankly, our vehicles aren't all that promising anyway. I'm generally no fan of the 1.5 ton class of pseudo-jeep light lorries exemplified by the HMMWV, but the M997A3 with four litters (or seats for eight sitting wounded men) and light fragmentation protection are looking like a much better overall package than the likes of Yak, Duro, Eagle and the terribly high Unimog. One such M997 costs US-$ 137,000 "only".**

M997 HMMWV-based field ambulance
The Americans seemed to turn away from this quite economical approach in favour of several types of ambulance MRAP monstrosities, but then ordered new M998A3 vehicles only a year ago.

British Wolfhound MRAP, marked as field ambulance

I suppose the way to go is to make transport vehicles capable of serving as auxiliary ambulances; what's known as "casualty evacuation" (CASEVAC). Every APC, HAPC, IFV, MRAP, 4x4 car and flatbed lorry should be capable of this. They couldn't use the red cross (particularly not if equipped with a vehicle weapon), but they can provide the necessary transport capacity (quantity of litters), the necessary mobility - and they are usually available near-instantly.

There's but one huge problem; many of these aren't really capable. There was a fashion of installing shock protection seats instead of benches in APCs, IFVs and so on, and these non-folding seats don't leave much space usable for litters, or the movement and work of a accompanying medic. Even removable seats don't change this by much because the troops would hesitate to dump the seats, and if they did dump them they might end up with using primitive flatbed vehicles for the remainder of the conflict.

The expense for enabling a personnel carrier or flatbed vehicle to serve as an auxiliary field ambulance would be in the low thousands, spent on a medic backpack and a few collapsible litters - the occupied volume would be the greater headache in an APC or IFV.

Thus every time I see a protected vehicle meant for transporting a squad of infantrymen I ask myself: Are there benches (folding or doubling as litters) or seats? Where could/should a combat medic bag be stored? Where could/should collapsible litters be stored?

Then I end up being disappointed once more.


*: 2nd batch ordered recently costs € 476 million for 131 Boxer vehicles, variants not specified.
**: US-$ 89.5 million for 654 M997A3 The necessary radio set is likely not inclusive.


Sometimes you don't get what you want

Sometimes in  life you don't get everything to happen the way you'd prefer - adults are supposed to have learnt this lesson, little children usually still struggle to accept it.

Western countries have intervened in the Syrian Civil War because they had and have a strong dislike for the pseudo-jihadist bunch that made up one of the major rebel groups. Well, it seems as if those countries have it their way; the jihadi wannabes were so hopelessly inept that just about everyone in the region and at least four great powers became their enemies, and they have no real allies. The bombing maybe kept them from winning the civil war before they doomed themselves with their strategic idiocy and delusion.

But the West wasn't alone in its intervention, nor were the Arab brothers in arms the only other powers to intervene. Russia played jihadi whack-a-mole again (not for the first time, but they usually do it in the area of the former USSR). This was fine, but quickly everyone became aware that it was little more than a fig leaf for their real early stage objective of their intervention; they wanted to help Assad Jr. defeat the pseudo-pro-Western rebel groups first and foremost. The West cried foul, of course, including hypocritical critique about civilian casualties.

It appears that Assad Jr. is going to win that civil war, for the West wants to ensure the failure of the pseudo-jihadists, the Kurds are ready to accommodate themselves as de facto autonomous region (which Assad Jr. will likely tolerate) and the Russians are supporting Assad in his efforts to defeat the other rebel groups, including the less loudmouth-y pseudo-jihadist group in the Northwest that didn't really get hammered  by Western powers so far.

The Western great power gamers are not content with this. Their primary objective of defeating the pseudo-jihadist loudmouths lies ahead, but their secondary objective of 'regime change' for a Western-friendlier Syrian government seems out of reach.
Some warmongers are arguing for attacks on the forces of Assad, or even for defending the anti-Western rebel factions  against air attacks.

I think these are cry babies who don't want to accept that they are not going to unilaterally dictate what happens in Syria. Russia's position is strong - not because Russia is strong, but because the circumstances are overwhelmingly in their favour. They will almost certainly save the Assad Jr. regime, maintain a naval and an airbase in Syria and have Syria as arms customer and proxy in  the region.

The Syrian government is a government, so attacking it is very different from attacking a rebel group with the government's toleration. An attack on the Assad Jr. regime would be a war of aggression - a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, of the North Atlantic Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Russia would actually have the moral and legal high ground in defending the regime against foreign attack. The Syrian civil war is tiny enough compared to Russia's military capabilities for it to ensure regime survival by its support.

I expect Russia to "win" this conflict, and the West should be content with having participated in the whacking of the loudmouth pseudo-jihadists.
Syria is suffering greatly. It did not only waste years of economic activity, still has issues with poor rainfall - it also suffered greatly in life and health, in real estate, in civil society structures and so on. It may take five or more years to return to the pre-war economic output and 10-20 years to materially recover from the conflict. The likely continuation of corrupt and inefficient dictatorship is not going to help, nor is the near-certainty of this regime favouring supporter regions in recovery efforts by the government.

Western powers imply that they want to help the people of Syria when they reject the continuation of the Assad Jr. regime. There's a way how they could really help the people of Syria: Work for a quick end of this war, and then assist the country post-war in ways that make the life of the common people (particularly in the regions neglected by the government) better. Food security / affordable food would be a great help considering the agricultural crisis that will likely go on.
Jordania and much of Lebanon have avoided becoming the stereotypical Near/Middle Eastern hellholes, both are neighbours of Syria. Both may exert influence on the development of the Syrian society. Helping them to keep out what plagues much of the Near and Middle East may help the Syrian people indirectly.

That, of course, would be  no entertainment for warmongers who want to play great power games, games in which people get killed, preferably foreign brown people.



The XM1203 NLOS-C

I noticed that the XM1203 ("FCS NLOS-C") never got publicity with the appropriate emphasis, describing its true nature. Most who wrote about it were distracted by the vehicle mass. Even I commented - if at all - rather disparagingly about it, focusing on the by today's standard short barrel (38 calibres) and its thus hardly satisfactory range.

The XM1203 was - as its equally gold-plated and just as cancelled predecessor project, the XM2001 Crusader - equipped with a special feature: A liquid cooling of the gun.

Liquid cooling is traditionally only applied if the associated high weight is acceptable; this was accepted with Maxim-style heavy machine guns, and is still accepted with some naval gun designs (example). Evaporation cooling with water enables a gun to maintain its maximum rate of fire well beyond what its thermal mass would allow for (air cooling is weak and reduces the sustained rate of fire of howitzers to about 1-3 rpm). A SPG such as PzH 2000 can sustain its highest rate of fire for approximately a minute. The XM1203 was able to do so at least until it ran out of ammunition (24 shells at 10 rpm ~ 138 seconds). Its liquid cooling was relatively light weight:

"Following firing, the breech opens and the Automated Cooling and Cleaning System (ACCS) sprays a water/glycol mixture to extinguish residual propellant embers, clean the laser window, wet the breech seal and cool the propellant chamber."*

THIS was the most defining feature, not the by now ordinary networking stuff, by now ordinary maximum rate of fire, the obsolete barrel length or the 'only 50% too heavy for C-130J' weight.

What kind of army would define requirements for such a capability?

Well, I can tell what kind of army would NOT pay much attention to such a capability: An army that expects to face counterfires by long-range artillery. Such an army would expect its own artillery to change positions often, typically after firing a short burst of smoke shells or a MRSI strike** of maybe four HE shells. There is rarely going to be an opportunity to fire multiple MRSI missions on different targets before the "scoot" part of "shoot & scoot".***

Furthermore, an army that expects very high expenditures of munition per day - typical planning would be 200/day and barrel, Ukraine fighting reached peaks of 450/day and barrel!) would likely insist on a larger onboard munition supply, such as 60 shells.

What kind of army is left? I suppose an army that expects to beat up small 3rd rate or worse armies that pose little artillery counterfires threat, possibly after a quick deployment by (heavy) airlift. And one can read this off the design!


*: They used a laser to ignite the propellant, not some percussion cap. 
**: Multiple shells arriving within few seconds because they were fired at different elevation angles with different quantity of propellant modules. This is relevant for lethal shells (not smoke) and meant to exploit the surprise effect. All shells arrive before the targeted troops can leave the area or find cover. This is more lethal per shell (more efficient) than long bombardments with regular intervals between explosions. 
***: The SPG (or classically the entire battery) fires a few shells, then leaves the area in haste before counterfires arrive. The firing of shells can be measured by hostile radars and hostile fire control can calculate the point of origin. That's why artillery locations are very dangerous after firing commenced from there.


How to fix the Polish Armed Forces / Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej

This is one more part of my de facto series of super arrogant smart-arse posts on how to improve armed forces relevant for NATO's defence in Europe.

Military spending in Europe according to IISS "The Military Balance 2016":
Circles represent volume, colours represent increase 2014-2015

Status quo critique

The Polish navy is essentially useless and a waste of public funds. That would even be true if there was a need for a navy, for all of their ships are obsolete.

The Polish air force is essentially useless and a waste of money. The only not entirely unrealistic defence scenarios require a strategic surprise against NATO. To attack NATO without strategic surprise makes no sense as a scenario whatsoever. Yet such a surprise attack would no doubt find 90+ % of the Polish air force in its bases, and the effect would likely approximate what the Israelis did to the Egyptian air force in 1967. All of the major airbases are in range of 500 km range short range ballistic and cruise missiles launched from Kaliningrad Oblast (in addition to more limited quantities of naval cruise missiles that could be launched from Russian Baltic Sea warships).
On top of this, the entire Polish air force is obsolete: They have no area air defences better than 1970's technology. The 48 F-16C/D (Block 52+;  90's tech) are the only at least 2nd rate combat aircraft with AIM-120C and AIM-9X missiles. Their bases are in Central-Western Poland, 300-320 km away from Kaliningrad Oblast. There are doubts about their survivability. They would be worth little without AWACS support and are unable to penetrate Russian S-300 or S-400 missile umbrellas. Those three squadrons would not leave much of a mark in the event of war.

Polish land forces basing (c) TUBS - this would make sense only if
they wanted to surprise attack both Russia and Germany at the same time.
The Polish land forces are essentially disqualifying themselves with at least two critical mistakes:
(1) Roughly a third of Polish land power is so extremely close to Kaliningrad Oblast that it's effectively useless for defence, and thus deterrence. The barracks could be hit by multiple rocket launchers from within Russian territory and this wouldn't even be necessary, for they could be overrun in a coup de main similar to what happened to the Ukrainian military on the Crimea.
Roughly a third of the Polish land power is so very close to the German border that they would need long road marches (impractical for tracked vehicles under own power) to intervene in the area of Kaliningrad Oblast or Lithuania or even only East of Warsaw. This road march would include a crossing of the Vistula river, and this leads to the second mistake
(2) the Polish land forces' only military bridging capacity is grossly insufficient. They may be able to create one, maybe two pontoon bridges across Poland's main river, the Vistula, but that pontoon bridge (40 ton maximum) would be impassable for all main battle tanks, all new self-propelled guns and likely all heavy lorries laden with supplies.

On top of all that, their minister of defence is known to be of 'questionable sanity'.

- - - - -

Suggestions for change

(1) Get a sane, productive minister of defence who is only obsessed with the possibility of a Russian strategic surprise attack on NATO - not with Jews, Germans or communists.

(2) Disband the navy or reduce it to a tiny, tiny navy.*

(3) Reduce the air force and change its concept; F-16s as only combat aircraft*, but keep them on a base farther than 500 km from Kaliningrad Oblast.

Replace the worthless air defence units with actually meaningful air defence units. The air force's area air defence forces should be capable of establishing a double redundancy line of batteries in the Northeast plus a cluster at Warsaw plus batteries capable of intercepting cruise missiles at several Vistula crossings. SAMP/T missile batteries (military off the shelf, development costs limited to Polish translations) may be capable of this, but to equip enough units would be very expensive.
One SAM battalion should be able to intercept transport aircraft en route to Kaliningrad Oblast. This requires long range surface-to-air missiles, and the only promising choice here is the expensive SM-6 missile, a naval SAM. It could be adapted for launching from trailers, with bare bones fire control that's dependent on datalinks (receiving target into from AWACS, Typhoons et cetera). This should suffice to stop air lift efforts into Kaliningrad Oblast. The battalion would need an organic security unit to protect against the stereotypical Spetznaz threat, just like the other SAM battalions.
One missile battalion should be able to hit targets at 300+ km. ATACMS Block II and the Israeli  LORA missile come to mind. This, too, would mostly be pointed at Kaliningrad Oblast airbases and also at stationary radars there. Again, a capable organic security unit would be required to make this battalion reliable.

(4) Reorient the army; mechanised brigades need to be based east of the Vistula river, somewhat close to Warsaw. There are enough tanks for five Leopard 2 battalions and four PT-91 battalions. Nine satisfactory combined arms brigades are thus possible, though the new modern SPGs need to be purchased quickly, and preferably in greater quantity than planned (about 50% more). These brigades also need meaningful short range air defences instead of the Cold War crap that's currently in their inventory. The SPAAG PZA Loara was stuck in the 1970's conceptually and thus cancelled with good reason.
The mechanised field forces could be organised in three divisions; one facing north (Kaliningrad Oblast), one facing northeast (Lithuania ) and one east (protecting Warsaw by facing Belarus). The two north/northeastern-facing divisions could be under one corps command, ideally including plenty German, Lithuanian and air force liaison/exchange officers at its HQ.
The Polish Land Forces have the same bad habit as the German Heer; many prototypes, usually too small purchases of production items. This needs to be changed.

Multiple reserve ('national guard') regiments with good infantry strength, useful anti-tank armament, old artillery pieces and at least a company worth of old tanks (for assault gun tactics) each should be available within 48 hours of a mobilization order. The quality expectations don't need to be high; a limited tactical repertoire coupled with good quantities would suffice for a rather territorial defence that's forming a kind of second layer of defence behind the mechanised brigades that would need to be capable of more mobile land warfare. One such regiment could include an active guard battalion and serve as security (and evacuation escort) element for the government in Warsaw.  Such reserve regiments can be maintained at relatively low expenses, making them cost-efficient within a rather narrow mission.

Military engineer units need to receive either the M3 Amphibious Rig or the French PFM in order to create one or multiple MLC 80 pontoon bridges over the Vistula river, and quickly so. Both systems are military off the shelf; the only development work required would be Polish translations.

A single independent light infantry ("airborne") battalion may be worth retaining, mostly as a channel to absorb foreign NATO infantry competence by participation in exercises. An entire such brigade (6th Airborne Brigade at Kraków) is larger than sensible and thus wasteful. The battalion would often be on exercises outside of Poland and thus be considered as a strategic reserve (available no quicker than mobilized units) in defence plans.

Most army munition stock depots should be east of the Vistula, but still in the Warsaw region. Resupply of the manoeuvre brigades needs to be assured without dependence on a many civilian lorries or reserve personnel, and the resupply needs to commence on the 2nd day of conflict. Much of the military personnel that has a sensible peacetime job but is dispensable in wartime could have a secondary (upon mobilization) assignment to such mobilisation logistics units. This includes ministry personnel, army schools personnel and so on.

My often-stated distrust in existing anti-tank guided missiles applies to the newly purchased Spike missiles of the Polish land forces as well, but it would be overoptimistic to expect them to invest in HVMs before other NATO armies do. The quantity of modern ATGM launchers (264) is rather insufficient even for only the (proposed: nine) mechanised brigades.

(5) Improve the road links with Lithuania.** 

- - - - -

I implied a certain defence strategy here:
(1) Cut off Kaliningrad Oblast from reinforcements, then overrun it to eliminate the threats there (it could then serve as bargaining chip).
(2) Push into Lithuania early to prevent its  complete occupation.
(3) 2nd line forces serve as insurances that enable the commanders to shake off timidity and manoeuvre with some risk.
(4) The loss of Warsaw is politically unacceptable and thus it's OK to make it militarily unacceptable (munition depots) as well
(5) Poland is NATO and EU member and thus its national security is hinged on collective defence, rather than mere national defence. This means it can focus its forces on prevailing in the first week or two of conflict, until substantial allied reinforcements intervene.

My standard assertion was applied; proper deterrence and defence is possible without budget increases if only military policy and planning become smarter. Poland spends much already and doesn't need to spend more for national/collective security. I proposed nine active army manoeuvre brigades of two types (different by their Leo2 and PT-91 tank battalions), right now they have approx. (depends on how you count) twelve of lesser quality.

A Russian strategic surprise effect on NATO is highly unlikely. This is the result of our military spending and the service of our troops more than of anything else. There is little other purpose to military power in Europe than to keep such a scenario extremely unlikely. Hence the only justifiable obsession in regard to European military affairs is in my opinion the obsession with a Russian surprise attack. This does not justify excessive spending, though; the minimum level of effort required to keep such a scenario extremely unlikely is the level to aim for. There's much room for improvement in NATO other than spending and manpower increases.


*: It's likely politically impossible to get rid of them. 
**: Granted, this may rather be considered defence policy than fixing the armed forces.




possibly (c) COFDA

Guam is part of the so-called "Second island chain" that kind of encircles the PR China on the ocean. It hosts a large active air base, an almost as large long since deactivated air base, a commercial airport that used to be a military airbase (1943-1995) and a tiny naval airfield from WW2 close to the port that might still be used for emergency landings (if nets were installed to stop planes that lack arresting hooks) and for take-off of lightly loaded fighters. The port itself has a huge area protected from the sea, but few facilities. It's deep enough even for a CVN, though.

 (population ~ 162k)

So far my casual looks at satellite imagery didn't show substantial changes, but I didn't compare old and new imagery carefully. It can be told that the 2nd large airbase is not in use yet, though. B-52s can be seen on almost all imagery of the main airbase.

The efforts to turn the island with its small population into a kind of air-sea power fortress with a brigade equivalent of land forces is running into trouble anyway:

(nice bird's view on the main airbase there)

It's interesting to see that 4+ years after  the "pivot to East Asia" and after years of talk about "island chains" very little actually changed there. One could have expected multiple installation with navy air defence and sea attack missiles, some SPG battalion with anti-ship fire controls, a reactivation of all previously existing airbases, new runway pavements, new aircraft shelters, additional port facilities et cetera. Instead, most changes required to turn the island into a kind of fortress appear to exist on paper only, even after four years.

Maybe the inhabitants are right; to turn the island into a powerful base would amass so many military assets on it that a nuclear strike would become a really enticing option in case of conflict. This in turn might deter the amassing of military assets, and just maybe the island is for this reason not even close to as important as often implied or claimed directly.

The Japanese had a similar experience with Rabaul in the Second World War: Initially an important base meant to enable further southward expansion, Rabaul soon became more of a burden than an asset to the Japanese because it was in range of U.S. air power from Port Moresby and Guadalcanal/Lunga. It lost its importance as a naval base, and the IJN's fleet assets used the safer, more remote Truk atoll as their base instead.



Rheinmetall hand grenades

I found this nice summarizing PDF, so this blog post is simply about hardware.

You can disregard the "(c) 2007" at the bottom; it sure is Rheinmetall copyright, but the presentation was surely written later than in 2007.

The presentation file shows that - including designs taken from subsidiaries - Rheinmetall covers a wide range of innovative hand grenade designs:

  • flash bangs
  • offensive hand grenade
  • mini offensive hand grenade
  • defensive hand grenade (preformed fragments)
  • smoke hand grenade


not in portfolio, but under development elsewhere:

not in portfolio, but existing:
  • modular hand / rifle grenade (such as the old Polyvalent MDF)
  • modular defensive/offensive hand grenade with separate preformed fragments (such as competitor's Diehl DM 51 that's the Bundeswehr's standard hand grenade)

not in portfolio, may not exist anywhere:
  • linear cutting charge formed with stackable hand grenades
  • mini enhanced blast (thermobaric) hand grenade

This shows how diverse and complicated in design a munition of war with roots in the 11th century has become. The development is ongoing. 
It may very well be that the air burst hand grenade** and the blast enhanced hand grenade*** will be introduced into the Bundeswehr in the future, departing from the traditional offensive and defensive (or hybrid as DM 51) pattern. The stackable type looks like a military engineer munition. I sure hope there will be plenty of those multispectral (red phosphorous) smoke hand grenades in stocks.


*: when set to defensive it explodes with fragmentation effect, when set to offensive (blast-frag) hand grenade mode it likely first sheds its frag shell with low energy, then explodes as offensive (blast) hand grenade. 
**: which directs its fragments such that safe distances not much greater than with offensive hand grenades can be achieved
***: It would likely not called "blast enhanced" if introduced in the Bundeswehr, for NGOs caught up with this being a code for "thermobaric".