2017/06/27

Wartime challenges not related to "winning"

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  • guarding, processing, transporting and supporting prisoners of war
  • managing refugee traffic on roads
  • marking buildings (with red crosses etc), visible not only in visual spectrum but also on imaging infrared and radar imagery - and communicating the locations to the opposing forces
  • transporting, processing, housing and generally supporting refugees
  • repair of electrical networks and powerplants
  • repair of railway signals and actual rail networks
  • repair or replacement of bridges
  • salvaging ships and boats that were sunk or grounded in ports, in rivers, in canals and generally in maritime traffic lanes
  • clearing of minefields and unexploded ordnance in general (and confirming that suspected areas are safe)
  • rearranging trade (natural gas supply, food products, electrical power trade and direction etc.)
  • evacuating nationals from countries that suddenly became too risky (because more or less allied with the "enemy")
  • emptying or disabling gas stations in our "rear area" to deprive hostile raiding and deep reconnaissance forces of free fuel supply
  • inspecting possibly sabotaged infrastructure and fuel stocks
...and many more. The above list as what I came up with at the speed of my typing (6 finger system).

I have a hunch that we aren't really prepared for all of the above, that we neglected these things albeit no doubt the German Bundeswehr, Rotes Kreuz and THW have some obscure and likely not up-to-dated plans to do at least some of these things.

S O
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2017/06/26

More on tank warfare in Syria

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Daesh tanks, including some with most unusual, and possibly quite effective, camouflage:
One should keep in mind that the running gear gets very hot by friction, and is the key giveaway of a tracked AFV on a thermal imaging sensor. They didn't cover that so well.*

Syrian active (soft kill) protection system series "SARAB", introduced since early 2016:
This is similar to the famous Russian "Shtora", apparently effective against SACLOS guided ATGMs. An important difference is that the individual radiators are smaller and the sum of all radiators covers a much greater angle - SARAB-3 appears to cover 360°, and we can expect about 80-90% effectiveness against SACLOS guided missiles. The crippled Syrian regime was able to build this, imagine what a peer threat to NATO could do!
Such quite cheap devices could be stored in the thousands in depots, together with 360° IR/UV missile approach sensors and IR-opaque smoke munitions.
This would be devastating to almost all anti-tank guided missiles' effectiveness against vehicles with such protection.


S O

*: Don't worry, I have practically no Middle Eastern readers. :-)
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2017/06/25

The Qatar ultimatum

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So Saudi Arabia et al issued an ultimatum to the sovereign country of Qatar (another dictatorial kleptocracy, like the others). I wanted to read those "13 points" the news media was reporting about, and got seriously annoyed that all those "I have failed in my choice of job" so-called "reporters" failed to tell their readers/viewers/listeners those 13 points. 
Seriously, sometimes we want facts raw, not watered-down as if journalism was homeopathy!

So I looked up one source that finally showed the list (in a properly summarised form), The Guardian. This should be self-evident - it's their job, so no extra thanks for that. Instead, shame on the others.

The 13 demands in full

  1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
  2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  3. Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
  5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
  6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
  7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
  8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  10. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  11. Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
  12. Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  13. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.
My suspicion when I heard the news was this: "I think they're using terrorism as a pretense for a shakedown of a smaller sovereign country, similar to 1914 and 2002/2003."

Now let's look at the list:

(1) Not about terrorism, but about an inter-Gulf pissing contest, or if you prefer that framework for interpretation, a struggle for regional (or clerical) hegemony.
(2) This is about the supposed ties with terrorism, more about that later.
(3) Outright attack on freedom of press / freedom of speech.
(4) Outright attack on freedom of press / freedom of speech as far as I can tell (I don't know those outlets).
(5) Hostile to a NATO country.
(6) Redundant with (2)
(7) The parentheses are in there for a reason. This demand appears to be primarily about apprehension of political dissidents; the Saudis et al want to incarcerate political opponents which includes but does not exclusively affect MB people. The demand - as wide as it is - is utterly against Western values since they did not demand  the hand over of obvious terrorists only.
(8) Every sovereign country can hand out citizenship to anyone, period. There's no legitimacy and no IL legality to such a demand. Saudi-Arabia is interfering in other countries' internal affairs, in part by bombing them. The hypocrisy is at level "U.S.") here.
(9) Again, zero legitimacy or legality in hat demand. A sovereign country has the right to be in contact with foreign political factions.
(10) Sounds like utter B.S..
(11) Saudi Arabia et al have zero authority on such matters, and demanding such a one-sided surveillance regime is B.S.. The UNSC could fulfill such a role.
(12) This is essentially a demand to accept Saudi Arabian hegemony, an obvious attack of Qatari sovereignty.
(13) As written by a child, at best. At worst it shows this is an intentionally poison pilled list of demands that's meant as a prelude for invasion.


Now about the terrorism links: It appears that -publicly known since 2014- Qatar is indeed a safe haven for terrorism figures and terrorism-linked figures, as well as Qatar having funded a couple groups that some countries consider to be terrorist organisations. So that's not a complete fabrication.
The same could be said about the United States and certainly so about Saudi-Arabia, of course.

The proper way to go for Saudi Arabia concerning the terrorism link was to call the UNSC, argue, convince, get global sanctions enacted (there's little reason why any veto power should block them after they had flattered and cuddled with Trump). The sanctions could have escalated from financial to trade (not including food and medical supplies, of course).


So this list is a load of illegitimate and illegal demands that violate Qatari sovereignty.
The UNSC should be called to intervene and protect Qatari sovereignty ... wait, Trump already sold Qatari sovereignty for a PR stunt, and would block any useful UNSC resolution by the U.S.' UNSC veto power.

It is remarkable how closely and cynically Saudi Arabia applied the Austro-Hungarian and Neocon playbook of using terrorism as pretence to go after a sovereign and much weaker power.

Back in 1992-2002 we had an international order in which peaceful relations between countries had become the norm and aggressions had largely been frowned upon.
The end of the ideological Cold War conflict, the end of most colonialism (the South African Apartheid regime had given up), the example of 1990 in which a broad international coalition was formed to oppose a war of aggression with subsequent annexation of a sovereign country and the example of 1991 in which the aggression and annexation were reversed had built this international order. The pre-existing United Nations and international courts had finally become the central spot for addressing international disputes.

This order was damaged a couple times, but most importantly it was trashed by one of its key builders in 2003 with the war of aggression against Iraq. That was a grand strategic folly of global proportions. Afterwards, the recovered Russia(n Empire) became more audacious as well and disrespected the sovereignty of countries (and even its own guarantees) at will, pointing at the Western hypocrisy and using similarly obvious lies as pretenses and excuses.
This current crisis around Qatar shows that this aggressive behaviour has trickled down to regional powers. I expected Turkey to do such a thing next, but the Saudis were quicker.

Well, what should Europe do (we know the U.S. is pretty useless in this affair at this point)?
I personally think one could hardly be too harsh in the reaction. We should airlift supplies into Qatar through the airspace of Iran. We should call for the UNSC to discuss the crisis on its meeting on 27 June, to expose the uselessness of the U.S. in today's world if nothing else. Western (that is, European and Canadian) leaders should use strong words that clarify the nature of this extortion and reaffirm the sovereignty of Qatar. Western countries should also drop all reservations about hitting Saudi Arabia et al with sanctions for their sponsoring and tolerance of terrorism and terrorists.

On top of that, it would be welcome if the Turks airlifted a respectable army strength into Qatar, and European countries should help out with airlift capacities (both military and civilian). It's better to have a Turkish brigade equivalent in Qatar than an Iranian one.


Last, but not least:
To all countries who thought hosting U.S. troops or military installations would protect you against superior potential aggressors: 
You are fools!


S O

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2017/06/20

Weird aspects about AFVs in the Syrian Civil War

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1) Low intensity

The war has been going on, but tank losses are below 2 tanks per day. This is a very low rate of losses in my opinion. Other Middle East Wars (the conventional ones) have seen hundreds of tanks destroyed. It seems that the civil war is mostly in a standstill, with regime forces having difficulty amassing strength for local superiority that suffices for offensive actions. This seems to be first and foremost about personnel affairs, particularly motivations.

2) Tanks on overwatch / surveillance duty

Several videos show tanks getting hit by guided missiles while they are motionless on overwatch duty, hatches closed and not moving the turret.
This seems to be a generally underappreciated role of tanks. The first German post-WW2 firefight involved a check point where a Leopard 2 tank was standing, but entirely unmanned. Doctrine and training had not stressed the necessity to have at least one man in the turret at all times for security.
I think it was Ralph Zumbro who wrote about the employment of tanks in Vietnam and recounted how a single tank oversaw and dominated a valley. The main security challenge were the nights; supposedly the random occasional shooting of nearby bushes with a 40 mm gun sufficed to deter any attempts to sneak up to the tank with a satchel charge or RPG-2/B-40.

source: FM 17-98
The ideal overwatch would likely be a turret down position with the ability to move up to a hull down position in seconds. meanwhile, only turret roof-mounted (if not mast-mounted) sensors would be used for all-round search. Maybe these sensors could even be in constant rotation with automated detection of suspicious things or movements. Detached unattended ground senors around the tank could help, with their readings displayed on the tank's screens. So a combination of great (prepared) position and technical equipment for the surveillance mission could achieve a lot.

Of course, being attentive at all times and backing up into a turret down position in time would help a lot as well.

Instead, many comments on the tanks hit (and some of them destroyed) appeared to pay undue attention to turret all-round passive protection (armour).

3) Tracked self-propelled artillery and mortars

The import of 2S9 self-propelled (tracked) mortars made me wonder "why?!?". What's the point? 

The armour is barely bulletproof against rifle calibres (good 7.62x51 NATO might penetrate at 100 m), so that's no vehicle for line of sight support fires except at ranges where doing NLOS support fires with an observer who has LOS in shouting distance would work as well.

There is no need to shoot & scoot in indirect fires for want of rebel counterfires to regime arty and mortars (unless they're in line of sight, of course), so a towed 120 mm mortar would work just as well.

The mobility of a tracked platform is actually quite crappy for mobile operations around the roads through rather arid areas. A wheeled vehicle (particularly new commercial vehicles which can be expected to be fine for the next 30,000 -50,000 km) would be much more mobile.

Finally, Russian AFVs are not known for having fantastic air conditioning.

So why do they import 2S9 self-propelled tracked mortars instead of importing cheap 120 mm towed mortars and employ them with a pair of Toyota Hilux with a 0.5 ton box trailer?

The vehicles aren't new (hence likely worn out a lot), and one might think that Russia simply dumps unnecessary old matériel into Syria, but that doesn't excuse the maintenance and thus readiness issues of an old tracked platform used in a role where pickups suffice. The 2S9's above-average range (for a 120 mm mortar weapon) is no good reason either. Normal 120 mm mortar ranges suffice in that conflict; arty can deal with anything that's farther out.

It's weird. They have very little ability to afford imports, but they waste money on hardly suitable equipment.

S O
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2017/06/19

Self discipline and light weight

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I have argued a bit in favour of light weight equipment lately, which goes back to a need for high dismounted mobility for survivability which goes back to quick lethal indirect fires which go back to digitised artillery fire control with quick positionfinding which is really a problem because counterfires to arty have become really difficult because of deployment of individual shoot & scoot SPGs instead of batteries because of eased accurate navigation and of course there's the general improvement of accuracy due to said navigation improvements which eliminates the ranging shots so arty fires can proceed with lethal fires with first shot, and autoloaders improved MRSI so you need fewer SPGs for extremely lethal surprise fires ... it's a long rad tail of innovations and their higher order effects. In the end, my conclusion is that infantry needs to relocate by much more than 100 m within 2 minutes (at most 4 minutes) of being detected in order to survive.
Yet infantrymen aren't going to crawl & run by 200-500 m every few minutes or so if burdened by an average of about 30 kg and up to about 37 kg of equipment. That's not what humans do, period.

The comments to my utterances about lightweight equipment - here and through other channels - have often shown one typical answer, paraphrased it was
'but I have this pet toy that I'd like to be used, and those few more kilograms are totally OK, don't make much of a difference in themselves'.

That's exactly how one gets overburdened infantry that instinctively gives up on high agility, high mobility tactics.

The challenge is not to develop lightweight equipment. The challenge is to resist adding weight. Any weight. There is a famous and ingenious Bundeswehr cutlery set that I personally use for camping - it weighs 205 grams. I point at a titanium cutlery set instead. The 40 gram type, not the 42 gram type. Because weight.

One has to do this across the board, muster self-discipline at all times. Forget the Pareto analysis (optimising the biggest items  that make up 80% of the weight, for supposedly optimising the rest isn't worth the effort). I think we're at a time where infantry has to be lightly equipped first and foremost, in order to have the necessary agility (better freedom of movement by more choice of feasible routes) and mobility. Infantry doctrine should emphasize
  1. stealth (fieldcraft, to avoid detection most of the time and particularly in the approach)
  2. agility & mobility + smoke (all for breaking contact in time)
  3. burst small arms firepower at up to 300 m distance for up to 2 minutes duration (not necessarily a "mad minute", but rather surprise salvoes; hit & (over)run)
  4. ability to call for support fires quickly and accurately under ECM influence (primarily brigade-level artillery)
This would be largely the same for mechanised infantry, though with an additional emphasis on the ability to call for/direct line of sight fire support by the tanks.
_ _ _ _ _

All of this is to some degree already part of infantry doctrines, just as assault on trenches was not unknown prior to the First World War. The change that I advocate is about focus; it's about what to favour when you have to make a trade-off. I favour the four points above, and much falls aside for this
  1. long range small arms fires (past 300 m), including medium/universal 7.62 mm machineguns and the fashionable DMRs
  2. anti-MBT firepower in an infantry squad at all times (instead, merely issue anti-MBT equipment when there's an anti-MBT mission)
  3. bulletproofing against rifle calibre carbine's bullets
  4. cartridge provisioning for undisciplined fires, mad minutes, psychological relief shots or extended suppressive fires etc.
  5. storage space on the chest; big silhouettes are incompatible with stealth
I did over the years change (gradually) on some points
  1. no more advocacy of the always fashionable intermediate cartridge for dismounted troops (though I still favour something like .338 for mounted use instead of 7.62 and .50cal)
  2. largely gave up on light frag protection for legs and arms
  3. largely gave up on infantry anti-MBT munitions, which I considered as self-evident because that's the mainstream if not consensus thinking
  4. gave up on some pet items of my own because they were too heavy to advocate for

So I did some mental sacrifices myself in pursuit of self-discipline and focus.

Now the question is whether any major Western army will actually revise its infantry doctrine (the field manuals still look largely as in the 80's, save for additions about GPS, peacekeeping missions,  wars of occupation and such) and then consequently change its ways of equipping, organising, training and handling infantry small units.

The alternative is in my opinion that they would get a terribly bloody nose in the next peer conflict and would need to improvise such changes on the quick, with what's left of the infantry NCO force in order to train raw recruits in the new ways.

The (paraphrased) 'find the enemy, fix him from behind cover, wait till fire support kills the enemy' approach of one-sided clashes of Western resources-rich forces with bare bones paramiliary opposition sure did not force such changes on us. It forced such changes on them. Have you seen any insurgents with 28 kg of equipment carried lately? I kid you not - such heavily burdened insurgents weren't uncommon in earlier centuries.


S O
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2017/06/15

The Middle East and democracy

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I was a lazy blogger this month so far, but for today I found a lazy method of blogging: I pull an excerpt from an e-mail conversation and simply publish it, mostly unmodified:

The Vietnam War was a tricky issue. On the one hand it may have been necessary to make a great stand against export of Bolshevism somewhere even after it was done in Korea, but on the other hand one confused a war of national unification with a step towards Bolshevist world revolution. The errors made in Africa and Latin America were similar; all-too often the real motives were ignored in favour of the simple "they're communists!" explanation (though this ultimately failed to defend apartheid in Rhodesia and South Africa).
We're doing this again. All this attention on radical Islam in regard to daesh is bollocks.
The real conflict in Syria and Iraq is a different one. They have group loyalties that are more powerful than ideologies. Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds vote for their groups' parties, not for left-right parties. This leads to predictable subjugation / foreign rule of majority factions over minority factions. The Sunni Arabs may get a perfect Western style democracy and they will still feel foreign-ruled because Shiites and Kurds rule over them. There's again and again a rallying of Sunni Arabs in Iraq towards Sunni paramilitary efforts - which end up trending towards radical Islamic policies because radicals tend to dominate over moderates in civil wars.
The old answer was to have tyrannies that oppress one major faction, but these regimes crumbled.
The new answer should be proportional governance as it worked in Lebanon until war was imported to Lebanon after the PLO was kicked out of Jordan. Proportional rule like head of state is always a Shiite, head of government is always a Sunni, head of parliament is always a Kurd et cetera - and then promote programmatic ideological parties that transcend ethnic/religious factions.
They need no Western style democracy; they need old school Levant republicanism. The conflicts will cook up again and again (or be suppressed by tyrannic regimes) until they get proportional republicanism.
Now what do Europeans stare at instead? They freak out about some group of asswipes who pretend to follow the word of their imaginary friend and are world record aspirants in regard to making enemies.
"Islamofascism", the new "Communism".

S O
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2017/06/14

A possible AEW survivability solution

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I did repeatedly write about the survivability issue of airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft such as AWACS, Hawkeye or Erieye.

They seem fine on paper with their greater than 300 km radar range, but supersonic sprinting fighters and low observable fighters can get into a distance from where long range air-to-air missiles have a good chance of hitting those few precious radar aircraft. The Russians (and rumoured also the Chinese) have developed dedicated long range AAMs for AEW killing. Soon-to-be exported Meteor missiles have a good range as well.
Very long range surface-to-air missiles (such as S-400's 40N6 or the USN's SM-6) can threaten and thus keep at a long distance such aircraft as well. The same problem applies to radar aircraft such as J-STARS and ASTOR.


There is an option to address these issues prior to 2025 (though not really for naval aviation), but it's very expensive:

You could take the biggest supersonic low observable aircraft in the Western arsenal, the B-1B bomber, and use it as the platform instead of commercial aircraft, some slow turboprop-driven naval aircraft or even slower helicopters.

Four (very expensive) F135 engines would give it a 38% increase in thrust over the original F101 engines. This, possibly in combination with variable air inlets would regain a Mach 2 capability, and more importantly it would likely give the platform a supercruise capability. The optimisation for low altitude operation such as the tiny canards would be removed, and the airframe would be reverted to a high altitude high speed design, albeit while retaining low radar observability.

The B-1B was designed to have a low radar cross section, particularly up front.
correct exact figures and RCS from sides etc. are not publicly known, of course
This could likely be improved a bit with radar stealth advances of the past about 35 years without prohibitive LO optimisation costs.

Conformal radars for 360° AEW functionality could be added, particularly based on the IAI EL/W-2085. The B-1B is easily large enough to incorporate these, likely with little effect on aerodynamics and with a tolerable effect on RCS.

- - - - -

The outcome would be an AEW(&C) aircraft type that could radiate, which might attract missile attacks, but frequently the emissions would cease (and another aircraft 100+ km away would radiate instead). This may break the engagement sequence because missiles with 200+ km range would need mid-course updates by datalink to find their target, particularly if it's capable of moving at supersonic speed and can only be detected by the small missile radar at short ranges because of a small RCS. The AEW aircraft would not only rapidly get away from its last triangulated position (including reducing the no escape range of the threat missiles); it would also break contact unless the opposing forces have a good sensor close enough. And this "close enough" would be much more close than with current platforms.

Essentially, this might make an AEW kill as difficult (or easy - who knows?) as it was in the 1980's again.

The costs would be extreme:
A modification of existing airframes would likely make little sense due to the substantial airframe modifications and the fact that B-1Bs are worn after 30+ years of training including low altitude training.
  • A small production run of few dozen aircraft would require to set up a production line anew, with full fixed costs. Digital plans and coding for computer-controlled shaping would need to be done.
  • The F135 engines alone would cost in excess of USD 50 million per aircraft, likely USD 60 million per aircraft if a few spare engines are purchased to improve readiness rates.
  • The redesign for Mach 2 would cost a lot and take years.
  • The systems integration and likely upgrade of the EL/W-2085 radar systems would cost a lot.
  • Add a premium on all costs and the program duration because the U.S. DoD would do it, not Israel.
Keep in mind that a single comparably simple E-767 AEW&C aircraft costs a staggering approx. USD 400 million. A B-1B  and EL/W-2085 based solution could easily cost twice as much, if not a billion in program costs/copy. Even worse; the tactic described above requires two aircraft to be on station at any time for continuous observation.
A production of 60 AEW and 20 standoff ground surveillance radar aircraft could cost nearly a hundred billion $, and the operating expenses would be regrettably high as well.

In the end, it might be worth it if it succeeds in boosting AEW survivability and thus in making AEW relevant in defensive high end air warfare, though. I doubt it would help much in regard to offensive air warfare.

An alternative would be to use a rather low-flying AEW helicopter with a much more modest range, but the ability to dive & land when a missile threat is detected or suspected. This is what the French HORIZON program (long range ground surveillance radar) did. This may be the way to go for naval forces unless tethered solutions happen to work well.

S O
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2017/06/13

Political action for direct democracy in Germany

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In case any of the few Germans among my audience (we're down to less than 15%) are interested: Here are links to the pro-direct democracy initiative Mehr Demokratie e.V., including its current petition:


The British f***ed up with their Brexit vote (direct democracy) adventure, giving proponents of direct democracy a hard time. Well, actually the irrationality of people does so, for the Americans f***ed up with Trump through their representative democracy. It's thus obvious even by anecdotal evidence that representative democracy doesn't protect against f*** ups. I suppose that many people won't see that and will instead fall for the logical fallacy of demanding perfection from a reform proposal instead of demanding a net improvement only.

Mehr Demokratie e.V. has developed a bill with legal assistance that's actually very moderate. Essentially 100,000 signatures would force the parliament to consider a bill and if said bill is rejected (I suppose that would always happen, since even a certain amount of modification would be a rejection) a million signatures would suffice to force a plebiscite with lawmaking power.

I wish for a lot more, but this would be a decent improvement.


related:

S O
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2017/06/07

NATO throughout the times (my interpretation)

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The NATO as originally founded was meant as a defensive alliance against Soviet power, no doubt. It also served as a delineation of the Western bloc, and signaled that no overthrowing of any government by a communist insurgency would be tolerated within this alliance (everyone still remembered the Greek Civil War).

Western European designs for defence cooperation have in part been superseded and in part been given up once NATO with inclusion of the United States of America was founded in early 1949.

NATO assumed an additional role for some Western European governments once the Federal Republic of Germany joined; it was a harness to make Western Germany useful, and at the same time somewhat controlled while partially giving up its occupation.

NATO became the medium for the U.S. government for hegemony in Western and Southern Europe, and the French government reacted with a withdrawal from NATO's military institutions (France always remained a treaty member and thus a NATO ally).

This state of affairs lasted for decades till the end of the Cold War.

It was obvious that the old Soviet threat was gone by late 1991. This posed a huge challenge, for without the unifying bogeyman there was a risk that the European great powers and Americans would drift towards adversarial instead of cooperative stances. Western Europe and the U.S. could have become rivals or enemies instead of staying allied.
NATO thus became in part a bond - similar to a marriage vow - that was meant to keep Western/Southern Europe on the one hand and the U.S. on the other hand on friendly, cooperative terms - allied.

This required NATO to serve a more obvious purpose, though. A purpose that could be communicated (nobody wanted to talk of the risk of transatlantic hostility). Ideally, such an obvious purpose would require frequent cooperation and permanent institutions. Such a purpose was found by developing the idea that NATO wasn't only meant to defend itself, but also to provide for its security by stabilising and pacifying its periphery, its neighborhoods. This led to the multinational military actions in and over Bosnia and the Kosovo (Air) War. There were but two non-former Yugoslavian country that could have claimed that its sovereignty was at risk because of the wars in Yugoslavia: Austria (airspace violations) and Albania. Neither were NATO members. Still, every statesman in NATO seemed to pretend with a straight face that intervention in the neighborhood was actually about our security as well.

There was a parallel development in Eastern Europe. Countries that had gained freedom from Soviet dominance if not independence after generations or centuries of being incorporated into Russian Empires and Soviet Union joined NATO to protect themselves against Russia. Western Europe liked this, since pushing the frontier to the East made the distance to the Russian mainland very comfortable. Germany had been front nation throughout the Cold War and just about every WW3 scenario saw it nuked over and over. Now, after the NATO expansion, all of Russia but the Kaliningrad exclave seems very, very distant. The new NATO members saw this attitude and many of them (all three Baltic countries, Poland and Czech Republic maybe the most) sought close ties to the U.S. in addition to the treaty membership. They weren't terribly irritated by the obvious American disinterest in Eastern Europe and Russia throughout the GWB administration. They did to some degree refuse the idea that they should become obvious auxiliary forces providers, but they did pay a price to the U.S. for the feeling that the U.S: would be indebted in return: This price was participation in "small wars" (Poland in Iraq, several countries in Afghanistan) and the orientation of a substantial part of their armed forces towards such small wars rather than direct deterrence and defence in Eastern Europe. Much of the needed equipment was bought, but some equipment was also acquired through American military aid.

This state of affairs seems to have changed gradually from the South Ossetia War to the Crimea occupation. Calls for more seriousness in NATO about deterrence and defence in Eastern Europe (including finally creating contingency plans for defence) grew to public proportions (also in Norway) and by 2015 it's finally widely acknowledged that NATO is a defensive alliance - in Europe. Nobody really knows that Trump thinks about it.

There are nevertheless still remnants of the doctrine that NATO is a club for interventions, not the least because of the article V activation in regard to Afghanistan. This act was not really the intent of the Americans, but an effort to do once more something together for bonding and an effort to make the invasion of Afghanistan more acceptable at for the voters at home. The Taliban switched to guerilla warfare real quick and gave up overt political control of most of Afghanistan, so the supposed collective self-defence quickly assumed the shape of an occupation of Afghanistan. Never before had any alliance considered it to be self-defence to go after the hosts of an aggressor even after said hosts lost control of their country. But this wasn't about self-defence; it was about bonding for the cooperation-minded Europeans and it was about not yielding to brown Muslims for the Americans, which liked to receive so many auxiliary troops for Afghanistan while they were mostly busy occupying Iraq which they had attacked without any having any real self-defence excuse.

So now NATO is again a bloc facing the Russians, it may sooner or later be drawn into a U.S.-PRC conflict in one way or another and it's burdened by the remnants of a "bonding by intervention" doctrine. European statesmen are still very cooperation-minded, but the U.S. president seems utterly incapable of cooperation (neither understanding the concept nor how to exploit the European pursuit of cooperation), at least in regard to democratic countries. 
NATO is as of now mostly a European alliance, with the U.S. being a member in name due to inertia, not because of intact cooperation and will to cooperate at the level of its president.



S O
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2017/05/29

A hiatus in European-American cooperation

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The recent NATO summit and G7 summit may have huge influence on future (next few years at most) foreign policy in the West.

Previously, many heads of state and heads of government had their phone calls and ended them with let's say an 'opinion' about Trump.

Angela Merkel was forced to explain the “fundamentals” of EU trade to Donald Trump 11 times after he repeatedly asked to do a deal directly with Germany, a senior German official has claimed. The US President reportedly exposed "very basic misunderstandings" of how EU trade works during a meeting with the German chancellor last month. “Ten times Trump asked [Ms Merkel] if he could negotiate a trade deal with Germany. Every time she replied, 'You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU,'" the official told The Times. "On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, 'Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then.'"

This time they saw him in action at summits. The Brexit issue would have been the peak tension between May and others at such meetings. Instead, the huge division  between the Trump administration and the rest of NATO and G7 summit attendees was the dominant story.

I think they took away a different lesson learned than from the individual phone calls; this time, they gave up on doing much foreign policy with the Trump administration because it's pointless. Cooperation would be quite pointless even if Trump was able to understand their points (and paying attention for more than four minutes) at all and somehow convinced to agree (Trump seems to be naturally aligned to agree with dictators and authoritarians like Putin, Abdulaziz, Erdogan, Duterte - not so much with Western leaders).
An agreement is worth nothing if you have it with a man who's lied or misled on the record 488 in his first 100 days in office. I suppose in the future foreign policy in the West will invite the Trump administration to cooperate only pro forma, not for real. The diplomats will work towards cooperation that works without inclusion of the U.S..

I wrote years ago about NATO's function of keeping Europe and North America befriended instead of adversaries. It's astonishing that this may be shattered for a while by a single disastrous politician.

I was sceptical about the Eastern European emphasis on the alliance with the U.S. before, but by now - with Trump being in much better and much more cooperative mood with Russian diplomats than with NATO allies - it should be obvious that the way to go is to pay attention to European defence for real. The U.S. DoD may send small forces on photo op tours through the Baltics as much as it wants, but these are empty gestures now.

This is not about an end to alleged freeriding - the Europeans in NATO or EU vastly outspend and outnumber the much less modern Russian armed forces on their own. The U.S. is not needed for European deterrence against Russia. Most of the U.S. military is geared towards 'expeditionary' warfare; bombing and occupying people in the Third World with prioritisation of casualty avoidance over mission accomplishment. A large share of the U.S. armed forces isn't relevant to European defence anyway and the spending inefficiency is gross.

Instead, this is about doing preparations without the U.S. but without much usually wasteful extra spending. The relevant headquarters (especially SHAPE) and NATO AWACS units need to be able to function after all U.S. officers were kicked out for OPSEC reasons. Contingency plans must not depend on U.S. assets at all.
Essentially, we Europeans should pretend to not be allied with the U.S. any more, because we couldn't count on Trump in any way.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: I didn't see this before I published this post:


I wasn't aware that my interpretation is official policy already!
www.washingtonpost.com/world/following-trumps-trip-merkel-says-europe-cant-rely-on-us-anymore/2017/05/28/4c6b92cc-43c1-11e7-8de1-cec59a9bf4b1_story.html
P.S.: I really, really would have liked to take a dig at Italians as allies of Germany somewhere, but this topic is too serious.
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2017/05/24

"Bundeswehr" tag

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There is a theoretical possibility that I may need to withdraw at least some of the "Bundeswehr"-labelled blog posts for professional reasons in the near future, so in case you want to read them before they potentially disappear here's the link to all posts labelled this way:


This would not happen if I had stuck to "S O" as signature from the beginning.

S O
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2017/05/20

Lightweight warhead direct fire projection


The title looks awfully technical, but it's precisely on topic, for I see a gap in the available hardware.

I began to compile a list of lightweight equipment to see how much weight could be saved from the infantryman's load over a year ago, and identified a gap. There was no satisfactory device to propel a substantial grenade forward in direct fire.


All military off-the-shelf solutions appear to be deficient in one way or another.

The anti-tank weapons and munitions are often meant to penetrate heavy passive protection and are much too heavy for almost everything. The PzF 3 is one of the few good ones, but it's awfully heavy at 13.3 kg + sight unit.

There's a wide range of mid weight solutions with calibres of around 80-90 mm, but they are too weak against tanks from any but the best angles and still needlessly heavy (often about 6 k per round) for most other purposes.

The supposedly lightweight bazooka and RPG category solutions such as M72 and RPG-26 are terribly short-ranged. It's hard to hit a stationary tank at 200 m with these (unless you know the distance), and 300 m is an entirely impractical distance.

Rifle grenades overcame most of the old criticism with bullet traps and aren't that much slower to use than a stand-alone grenade launcher if the latter is not the primary weapon (extending a buttstock and flipping up sights costs time as well). Still, their dismal effective range and terrible dispersion in range at it disqualify rifle grenades. The calibre of rifle grenades varies form about 35-76 mm, with disclosed RHAeq penetration values of up to 275 mm RHAeq. The IMI BT/AT-44 HEDP round is a good representative at 41 mm calibre; 160 mm RHAeq penetration and 490 g weight. Still, its effective range of something around 100-150 m is very unsatisfactory in my opinion.

30 to 45 mm grenade launcher rounds need not apply. All of them have a small calibre and spin stabilisation, which degrades HEAT effect and thus penetration. The highest penetration claim for a 40x46 mm HEDP grenade that I ever found was the 90 mm RHAeq claim of the DM 12. That's theoretically enough to penetrate a BMP-3's frontal protection (~ up to about 60 mm RHAeq). The effective range of such a round is still dismal at a mere 76 m/s muzzle velocity (barely good for 100 m), and medium velocity models would have increased spin (=less penetration) and little more effective range.

Millions of "Panzerfaust" have been produced in WW2, most were used - but a mere few ten thousand were expended against tanks. Such "anti-tank" munitions are needed and used as grenade projectors beyond throwing range. This was observed in all wars ever since. All but dedicated anti-MBT munitions of man-portable grenade weapons should thus be HEDP (high explosive dual purpose = shaped charge with fragmentation liner outside) munitions or have no shaped charge at all.

- - - - -

The effective range of man-portable warhead projectors doesn't need to be huge against infantry because competent adversary infantry will hardly ever be detected beyond 100 m distance. The effective range against vehicles (including lightly armoured vehicles like BMP, BTR and BMD series) on the other hand should be fine. This should at least equal the 300 m effective range of small arms against soft targets, but 400 or 500 m would be better because no-one wants to dismount infantry from BMPs or BTRs 500 m distant from the next cover.

Having voiced my dissatisfaction with all the available hardware I'd like to present a hypothetical and certainly feasible design:

  • A simple launch tube with a 45-60 mm calibre
  • The sight accepts a standard night vision monocular device (such as taken from a helmet)
  • A rocket inside with a charge that expels the entire rocket forward at low speed with a slow spin, so indoors use is possible.
  • The rocket ignites and accelerates to a high subsonic speed (about 300 m/s) which it sustains.
  • Accelerometer chips measure the rocket's movements in four dimensions and a microprocessor calculates the fusing of minute charges to correct the trajectory against wind drift, gravity and so on.
  • A fuse which can be set to a short delay (enough to penetrate doors, windows and soft vehicles) or point detonation super quick modes by electromagnetic induction.
  • The HEDP warhead deals the damage (penetration and graze fusing sufficient to defeat a BMP frontally).  Its shaped charge should not use an expensive liner (no tantalum), and should be optimised for much effect behind thin armour plates.*
  • The accelerometers can be used to correct unsteadiness of the user, but they can also be used to observe the movement of a target which was tracked with the launcher's sight for two seconds prior to launch. The missile could then fly an intercept course based on the extrapolation of the movement.
There's but one weapon and munition that comes close: The Israeli IAI Picket. It's so very obscure and unknown I had to scan pages of my Jane's Weapon Systems 1984/85 book to show it, for there's almost nothing about it in the internet.


I suppose with today's technology such a rocket weapon could be reasonably cheap and weigh about 2.5 kg including a simple launcher. An effective range of 400 m should be feasible against 1x1 m target areas, even if the target is moving steadily. That's enough to choose where to hit a non-moving target instead of having an unsatisfactory chance to hit at 200 m distance at all as with RPGs. The Raytheon's Pike has shown how very small guided missiles can be made nowadays. Accelerometer chips of sufficient quality are what enables the flight stabilisation of all those cheap quadcopter toys. We don't need a gyroscope as the Picket had.

This goes beyond mere hardware. The ability to equip the infantry with well-ranged grenade projection and anti-BMD firepower at lightweight would enable a very different behaviour by infantry. It would be more agile than with legacy weapons and munitions, while having a much better punch against all but MBT targets than without or with few legacy weapons and munitions. Keep in mind, I don't trust even the heavy man-portable munitions against modern MBTs.


We could equip an infantry squad with a couple such munitions and be confident in their ability to deal with opposition in thin-skinned AFVs and adversaries behind walls or inside buildings up to the effective range of their small arms. They wouldn't need to carry a few super-heavy anti-MBT rounds just in case some thin-skinned BTR shows up and opens fire at 300 m distance, degrading their choice of evasion routes.
A squad of 8 with six 2.5 kg weapons (15 kg total) instead of three Panzerfaust 3-IT (42.2 kg with basic sight unit) would save 27.2 kg - that's 3.4 kg on average per infantryman. This makes a huge difference, especially since the three men who carry the rounds would be MUCH more agile and have much better endurance. The break-even is actually at six rounds of my concept and a single Panzerfaust 3-IT !
I suppose there's no question about the relative effectiveness compared to the cheaper LAW-style weapons (M72, Miniman, SARPAC, RPG-18/-22/-26, RPG-75) - they cannot compete in accuracy or range and most of their versions lack a fragmentation liner.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: One could in theory - if the infantry or scouts use a stand-alone grenade launcher such as AG36 anyway - use a different approach to the same end.  A muzzle-loaded overcalibre munition for such a launcher could do the same. Again, calibre 45-60 mm and fin stabilised, and the launch would merely provide a low muzzle velocity. The rocket would need to accelerate itself after this launch beginning at a safe distance so the rocket doesn't affect the user. I'm not in favour of stand-alone 40 mm grenade launchers, so I favoured the more bazooka-like approach.

P.S. next day: BTW, this kind of autopilot guidance is immune to quick reaction smoke, and the short time of flight (less than 2 seconds) has the same effect. The short time of flight isn't really a necessity, although it reduces the problem of gravity (the missile has to fight gravity mostly with minute charges in order to fly the programmed straight line).

*: This isn't trivial. Shaped charges in part rely on turning the armour plate into fragments for behind armour effect (spalling). The thinner the plate, the less they have to work with. Spall liners, fibreglass plating and highly ductile plates reduce the spall effect further. Finally, BTR type vehicles usually don't carry much inside that's good for secondary fires or even explosions. To penetrate them is the easy part of defeating them for good.
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2017/05/19

Prügelperser

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Erdogan visited Trump in Washington and his bodyguards saw it fit to assault peaceful protesters as if they were crushing dissent at home, in Ankara.



This reminds me of the Iranian Shah's visit to West Germany in 1967, which led to Iranian intelligence agents assaulting German protesters, which led to the creation of the German word "Prügelperser" ('beating Persians') specifically for this group of non-gentlemen.



The Shah, of course, was an absolutist monarch and his intelligence agents had zero respect for freedom of speech.

S O
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2017/05/18

Theory of conventional land warfare at low force density again

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There's a thing that you must not neglect when weaker and on the defence, even if this means neglecting everything else; reconnaissance and surveillance. The less assets you have, the more crucial it is to know how best to use them, and when to extract them from a crisis situation. You need knowledge about the enemy more than ever.

It's quite the same at low force density (few troops in a large region); some small element may encounter a superior hostile element any time because troops are not evenly dispersed. Local inferiority emphasises the importance of knowledge about the enemy. It's essential to avoid superior forces (or to delay them) and it's essential to extract a weaker element in a situation of impending doom.

The other ingredient is artillery, since it potentially covers a large area (or frontage) with its fires and is the quickest reinforcement for a locally inferior force.

General Otis, who had lived on that terrain, was also concerned about the ability of the two weak brigades to hold or even to cover 20 kilometres of ground. General Balck countered by saying that he would rely heavily an artillery in this sector.

There's still no major arms racing despite heavy mechanised forces and artillery have become fashionable in European NATO again. War scenarios for the defence of NATO (= what matters for conventional deterrence) are still showing a lower force density than the Cold War's Central European scenarios where a mere 26 NATO divisions faced a superior quantity of WP divisions on a roughly 1,000 km wide front for the first week. One brigade per 10-15 km frontage was a thin 'line', nowadays it's not unreasonable to expect temporary gaps as wide a a hundred km between brigades.

- - - - -

This should lead to a preference for scouting/skirmishing and artillery forces for "first two weeks of conflict" NATO ground forces in my opinion.

Instead, we see indications that more tank battalions and more artillery battalions will be raised in Germany after there was a perceived need to raise more infantry (Jäger) battalions during the Afghanistan occupation years. I have no knowledge of accurate plans (and doubt there are such plans yet), but there seems to be a neglect of scouting.

I write "scouting" for a reason; "observation" is not neglected. There are fine observation vehicles and (old) battlefield radars in use. Maybe the long range recon patrols (Fernspäher) should be more numerous (and accordingly less "special"), but overall surveillance and observation have gotten a lot attention post-Cold War. Technological progress was happening, and it was fashionable to exploit it (long range thermal cameras mostly).
It's the scouting part that's missing. Germany gave up the Luchs 8x8 vehicle years ago (out of service since 2009). It was quite silent, but its concept was stuck in the 1930's**. Nowadays we'd need something with a better gun, with better sensors, much smaller and with 360° camera coverage instead of a second driver for driving backwards. Sadly, there's no such vehicle available off-the-shelf that doesn't have the drawback of a too high ground pressure. It seems that either the expectations for the armament or the expectation for smallness won't be met. We have a choice between something Panhard VBL-like*** with a light armament (no more than a 20 mm gun such as the M621) and something as big as the Panhard SPHINX****.

It doesn't quite seem as if the doctrinal mistake of giving up scouting and focusing on surveillance & observation is going to be corrected in Germany and several other European countries (obviously excluding France) any time soon. The fashionable status of conventional land forces for deterrence should have led to more attention on scouting, but it doesn't seem so.

This may be because of the hopes on aerial drones as eyes in the sky. Aerial drones will not deliver persistent surveillance over a European battlefield, though. Much less will they be able to do true scouting here in the 2020's. They won't look into garages and sheds, under bridges, into buildings, talk to civilians, judge the state of foliage-covered forestry roads et cetera. This may become feasible in the long term (2030+), but that's a mere possibility and the gap is real. We shouldn't need to parcel out main battle tank trios for (noisy!) scouting while we have but a couple hundred of those.

- - - - -

This was so far mostly about "economy of force"; the weak forces that avert disaster in most places with as few assets as possible so the Schwerpunkt actions can be as powerful (irresistible) as possible.

I'd like to add that this temporal parallelism is not necessary, and at times not even advisable. We should strive to shape the battlefield in our favour before seeking a battle***** - battles should be decided ahead by preparations, not during the battle itself. This means that the conceptual and doctrinal Schwerpunkt should be on those forces that shape the battlefield in our favour. Scouting and skirmishing forces attached to corps or theatre command may do this by reconnaissance, counter-reconnaissance and interdiction of supply flows.

We should pay more attention to such scouting, skirmishing and raiding forces. MBT battalions represent a brute force approach that befit the targets of a strategic surprise attack much less.

one more link to a related post:

S O

*: Attack helicopters were believed to be very quick reaction forces during the 1970's (Brossolet et al) under the impression of experiments which yielded an exaggerated estimate of attack helicopters' lethality against tanks and before army officers began to understand how easy it had become for fighters to kill helicopters even at treetop altitudes. Helicopters are slower than artillery anyway; Artillery may intervene in a 4 minute skirmish 30 km away, while helicopters would arrive several minutes late.
**: Daimler Benz had a prototype 8x8 of such a concept in 1927 and the Büssig-NAG Sd.Kfz 231 of 1937 was almost identical to the Bundeswehr's Luchs in its concept.
***: SPHINX  and many other scout cars neglect the ability to comfortably and quickly dismount one scout to inspect buildings, climb to a better vantage point, look under a bridge and so on.
****: Germany could  upgun its Fennek, but its ground pressure is too high for soft soils without a substantial armament already. There are plenty soft soils in Eastern Europe, even in summer.
*****: I reject the inflationary use of the word "battle" for just about every firefight. I don't count anything smaller than a contact with more than a thousand dead as a "battle". Anything smaller is a "skirmish" (Scharmützel) at most.
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2017/05/17

Where is North Korea?

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Americans who could find North Korea on a map:
39% of independents
37% of Republicans
31% of Democrats

Net support for military action:
+5% of those who did find NK
+9% of those who did not

(I can't tell the support for military action because the share of the non-responders etc. is not given.)

Overall more those who did find NK on a map of Asia wanted something (military or diplomatic) to be done about NK than of those who did not find NK.

S O
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2017/05/14

MBT kits

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Wartime tends to show that the combat forces of peacetime tended to lack certain preparations. More specialised forces (NOT quite our "special forces") appear and vehicles appear and more countermeasures are introduced.* They aren't necessarily available when useful, but to be available sometimes is better than never.

This is a recurring pattern, and to take it into account may enable one to guess where we are lacking today.

Let's look at something that everyone seems to have an opinion on already; a tank platoon.
Today the MBTs of a tank platoon are meant to be identical and deviations from this are - safe for markers - rather technical imperfections due to different production batches, poorly functioning components, different state of being worn out and so on.

Would we still want tank platoons of identical MBTs after a year or two of experience-gathering in intense land warfare? I suppose no.

We might prefer upgrade kits (integration by army workshops) like this:

(1) command & control kit (longer range radio, larger and higher resolution computer screen, laser target designator for PGM fire support)

(2) air threat kit (LINK 16 download of air threat picture, Rheinmetall FIRST IR-based alerter device, radar warning receiver, maybe remotely-controlled weapon station with 20 mm gun that's usable against drones)


(4) mineclearing kit (KMT-like)

(5) recovery set (winch, dozer blade - also useful against barricades and surface-laid mines and to create hull down positions)

Most modern tank platoon organisations only include four MBTs, so having so many different sets would specialise every tank (and the mineclearing set would be carried rarely). The loss of any such specialised tank might be compensated by other tanks with the same set in another platoon of the company, but not inside the platoon. Then again, having but one such kit in the platoon would often be better than having none. Today we have none.


S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: Look at a German WW2 fighter, for example; the Bf 109E-1 series was the latest design as WW2 broke out in Europe. One light and one heavy fighter type. The light fighter evolved into fighter-bomber, bomber destroyer, night fighter, fighter reconnaissance, high altitude fighter versions in addition to successive baseline versions.
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2017/05/12

Estimates without complete information

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There's a quite promising (and successful) method for judging policies and organisations when up-to-date inside information is wanting:

Look at patterns and typical preferences.
This is much less inaccurate than to extrapolate the past.

I do apply this very often, and also presented some standard models that describe patterns. Niskanen's budget-optimising bureaucrat and the principal-agent model apply to seemingly all bureaucracies at least to some degree.

Another pattern I mentioned (many years ago) was that technology advances from one arena to another as it becomes more compact, more lightweight and/or simply less expensive.
Some areas of military affairs are kept secret for decades, not mere years - and become visible to outsiders (which includes the vast majority of actively serving armed forces personnel) only when applied on a grand scale in a conflict. It's thus extremely difficult to form an informed opinion on military affairs as a whole.

This is a problem in a democracy, for it requires a break between principal (the sovereign = the people) and agent (the armed services) somewhere. Somewhere along the chain of political decisionmaking there's a leap from ignorant to informed. The voter doesn't know military secrets (that were kept secret for real), and thus has to authorise policies (including spending) without being fully able to decide on basis of actual information instead of propaganda.

This issue can be reduced greatly by applying a substitute for accurate information; the interpretation of what's non-secret with the knowledge about patterns and preferences. 
Everytime an air force general who was a fighter pilot argues for new fighters you take it with a grain of salt.
Everytime an admiral complains that no warship was christened for a year and asks for more shipbuilding funds you take it with a grain of salt.
Everytime an army general argues for some fancy HQ or new tank battalions you take it with a grain of salt.

Their recommendations may be good ones, but it's utterly inappropriate to trust them entirely. If in doubt, one should conclude that they could do the job with less than they ask for - at least if they did a better job than they do.

On the other hand, it's rather not likely that the demonstrative confidence of the armed services in old key equipment is appropriate. A stealth fighter concept won't be utterly dominant in a high end conflict against a capable opposing great power that had the motivation, the means and 30 years time to devise countermeasures. Anti-ship missiles developed in the 1970's and upgraded only within the limits of their original concept are not going to be anywhere near as good as actually new ones of the same class. Anti-tank munitions (which in the West have a proven history of lagging behind the best Soviet armour designs) of more than 20 years age are not reliable against high end opposing forces MBTs, period.

This may sound "sceptical", but keep in mind that the other path is called "naive".

S O
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2017/05/10

Safe fuel storage at logistics hubs

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One of the things that the typically small peacetime exercises don't test & train much is how to run 'rear area' logistics, including how to run logistical hubs (the successors of the railheads of old). There aren't many supply transportation & field depot-running troops in peacetime armed forces. This is one of the areas that depend heavily on reinforcement by reserve personnel in many land forces.

I suppose it's fairly obvious that commercial transportation of supplies (semi trailers with container or fuel tank) should be the means of transportation towards two fairly protected and leap-frogging army corps logistical hubs. Transportation of supplies (=overwhelmingly diesel fuel and artillery shells & propellant modules) from the hubs to drop-off points (if not end users) in the field could and should then be done with military vehicles; mostly flat rack and PLS/MULTI/EPLS/DROPS-compatible vehicles in approx. 15 ton class. This resupply should happen daily, most likely it would happen on every other day and when things go wrong better don't depend on it at all. Hence all manoeuvre forces should be supplied for approx. three days minimum, and scouting forces for even longer.

Supply convoy in Vietnam; I would not want to serve in any
vehicle with "flammable" written in big letters on it, in a warzone!
The security of such supply hubs is an interesting topic. Relatively low quality troops could be used to secure them against attack on land, assuming that only armoured recce and airborne troops are likely threats (let's disregard agents and sabotage by civilians for this was hardly ever a substantial issue in short historical wars). Air and missile attack are an altogether different threat, and some area air defence system would be an obvious choice.

Defences alone would likely not suffice, though. The supplies consumed by a mechanised corps in a mere week may easily amount to 50,000 metric tons plus packaging material (lots of wood and plastic).

To store that many explosive munitions and that much fuel in a single area that could be secured against stealthy attackers like airborne forces or armoured recce forces by a battalion takes a huge area. All supplies distributed in pattern of 50x50 m cells with average mass stored per cell of 5 metric tons would still be 25,000,000 square meters - such as 5 km x 5 km, about the size of an airbase.
This area becomes even bigger if you want to keep one fire or secondary explosion from leaping to the next bunch of supplies by insisting on 100 x 100 m cells - now we're talking about areas such as 10 km x 10 km. You COULD bunch everything into a square kilometre, of course. That would produce a most impressive inferno once hit.


It's obviously the better the more closely you can (relatively) safely store at least the fuels, and this requires some resilience to damage. It might be possible to protect some fuel reservoirs by storing them below ground level (quickly done with engineers' earthmovers IF there are enough of both engineers and earthmovers). You wouldn't afford the resources and time to build Hesco barrier-styled  fortresses as on occupation camps at the end of the world, after all.
Storage slightly below ground level would still not fully protect them from whatever threat comes from above, and to cover the fuel tanks (typically bladder tanks, but there are also collapsible cylindrical fuel tanks) with much soil to protect against burning debris would make it much harder to leap frog quickly while a single small bomblet could still penetrate and set afire the supplies.



flexible fuel tanks that serve as their own trailer are most fascinating
Provisions that control the manage damage (countering leaks and extinguishing fires) without much human intervention would be great to have. Supply storage areas could be much more compact, and still withstand at least merely occasional attacks (or they could be much safer while still being huge).

Two rather obvious options for this are self-sealing rubber tank walls


and automated fire extinguisher solutions.


(principle of operation; it doesn't seem to be as efficient for bladder tanks)


Now let's play a guessing game!

What do you think, how very close to heart is a sufficient stock of such things (from self-sealing fuel bladders to piping and fire extinguishing systems) to the leadership of an army say, in competition with 200 more officer job slots or maybe ten to twenty new main battle tanks?
Do you think the four star generals would passionately argue to the minister of defence in favour of thousands of empty rubber sacks with protection features and equipment at the expense of some headquarters where 200 officers work?



This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I keep insisting on civilian control of the armed services and on reigning in against the pursuit of self-interest by the armed services. It's also why I am so concerned about the bias created by career paths (an infantry officer would have a different bias about bladder tanks than a logistics officer). The civilian leadership needs to be advised by or include non-insiders with sufficient knowledge, of course.

More on this problem in general (in a more abstract way again) later.

S O
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