2017/09/30

The Kurdish referendum

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There's a problem with the referendum, and as usual much of the media did a terrible job at shining light on it*:

The wording of the referendum question appears to be (translated):
"Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?"
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/iraqi-kurdistan-set-hold-referendum-its-independence-n803741

Now that's bad if it's the correct translation. They asked a small portion of Kurds, but the referendum seems to support claims on Turkish, Iranian and Syrian territories (so far I have seen no claims that the referendum was held in Syria) as well. Even to someone who's supporting the right of peoples to self-determination over the survival of existing borders that's troublesome. No group or state should ever lay claims on another state's territory. The Turkish, Iranian and Syrian Kurds may gain the right to secede on their own, Iraqi Kurds cannot create such a claim for them.

Kurdish settlement areas (not a Kurdish majority in all marked areas)

It's regrettable that the question wasn't limited to the Kurdish region in Iraq, for now Turkey, Syria and Iran actually have a good case for opposing the Iraqi Kurds. Now they can paint them as aggressive.

It may remain without significance because the four countries oppose the Kurds anyway and just about everyone appears to have picked a side or seems unlikely to ever pick a side, of course.

- - - - -

The Catalan independence referendum on October 1 is going to be extremely interesting. Imagine they pull it off and a majority votes for independence with a high turnout. This would be extremely interesting for Europeans. On the one hand the governments in Europe would not want conflict with the Spanish government, on the other hand there was the Kosovo precedent and generally lots of good arguments for Catalan freedom (if and once they vote for independence).
Some of the top politicians - including Merkel - are not psychologically prepared for this. Merkel doesn't really shape things. She's an administrator of the status quo policies who does u-turns on certain policies when the pressure can be expected to reach a breaking point soon anyway. She has no idea of what way the EU should head in the question of secession movements that are firmly opposed by their central governments.

S O

*: I'm not bashing the media in right wing "fake news!" style there. I'm disgusted by the huge difference between journalists' high opinion of themselves and the actual quality of their output.
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2017/09/29

Presentation on tanks by Hilmes

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This is a presentation of Rolf Hilmes (German tank 'pope' - equivalent to Ogorkiewicz) on post-WW2 tank technology (all in German):



This reinforces my impression that I spent too much time soaking up military-related info. I could have held about 95% of this presentation ad hoc. The details on M-48 fire control and the T-14's X-engine were the most notable things that I wouldn't have remembered.

S O
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2017/09/24

A quick take on tanks

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I found an old comment of mine at TD and decided to recycle it:

The problem is the price [of main battle tanks]. The technology of a MBT is approaching the technology of an AH-64E attack helicopter, and partially going [beyond] it.
There’s a point where people simply need to re-learn that tanks are valuable and can be decisive in battle even while suffering atrocious losses. The attempt to keep tanks alive by making them ever more expensive is likely doomed. The art will be to determine which features belong into a MBT and which are excess luxury.
The existence of weapons and munitions that can penetrate any surface of a MBT doesn’t make that MBT obsolete in itself. German tanks of 1939-1941 were merely bulletproofed – every single anti-tank gun, field gun, howitzer and tank gun was able to penetrate them at useful distances. That was the time of [the German tanks'] greatest successes. Later on some of them became almost impervious – and successes were localised.
During the 1960’s Germany developed the Leopard, which was not built to high protection standards. Instead, mobility, maintenance, durability, ergonomics, command and good firepower were emphasised. [The (probably excessive)] emphasis on protection stems from the 70’s when Burlington/Chobham armour renewed hope for balanced tanks that were [impenetrable in their] frontal 60°.

I deem it worth repeating.

S O
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[Fun] Boys never change

https://9gag.com/gag/aVMEyBK 

(The upper picture is from '44 or '45, but yeah.)
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2017/09/23

Hard body armour: A possible compromise

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I wrote enough about the folly of hard body armour in conventional warfare in a pre-powered-exoskeleton world. It's simply too heavy - the users are slowed down, exhausted and the necessary endurance, speed and agility is lost.

Radical positions are rarely correct, and also rarely followed. There's usually a majority preference for compromise, and even more so when intuition/feelings are biased against the radical proposal. Thus let's look at what might be a sensible compromise about body armour.

The current typical HE munitions still allow for a sensible role for about 2-3 kg heavy torso-protecting 'flak vests', which provide but the lowest level of fragmentation protection to stop the weakest about 80% or so fragments (more where the impact angle is a good one). Such vests are not "bulletproof" except against some weak pocket pistols with lead bullets.

Example distribution for an old HE shell (no preformed fragments, no internal serrations to control the fragmentation pattern):
0.1-1.0 g: 77% of fragments
1.0-10.0 g: 21% of fragments
10.0 -1 40.0 g: 1% of fragments.

To stop all but the heaviest 1% of fragments would require a NIJ level IIIa vest (the highest grade that's still soft body armour) that weigh several kilograms more, and even then it would only protect at a considerable distance to the explosion (way outside of the lethal blast radius).
Still, that's one possibility for a compromise between the lightest flak vests and the 15 kg nonsense. Such NIJ level II vests are actually quite common, especially with pouches for the heavy level IV plate inserts.

Another compromise could be the citadel armour principle. Citadel armour was introduce in battleship and battlecruiser design prior to the First World War. It was impossible to harden the whole ship, so the ship designers limited the shell-proofing to the citadel which usually reached from the forwardmost main artillery turret barbette to the rearmost one. This included protection for the boilers and steam machines/turbines as well as for the munition magazines. Everything else got at most thin armour plates meant to mitigate the effect of shell explosions inside, not to keep shells out.

Battleship Yamato armour layout - the citadel is visible
A benefit with citadel armour / all-or-nothing-armour was that armour piercing shells that could still penetrate this citadel armour at too short or too long distances (the 'immunity zone' was a few thousands metres wide) would do little damage in the non-hardened compartments because their explosives load was small compared to SAP or HE shells.

Let's look; where are our human equivalents to munition magazines?

I'm no medical doctor, but to my knowledge the only parts below the lungs and heard that lead to quick death if perforated are the main blood vessels; abdominal aorta, iliac, fermora. A hit in the lower spine would also be bad, for it almost guarantees paralysis of the legs and other discomfort.
Meanwhile, perforations of the lower torso's intestines can lead to death when perforated, but a 500 ml saline solution should in most cases buy enough time that CASEVAC/MEDEVAC and surgery would save the patient AFAIK. This is AFAIK different with the heart and aorta. Lung hits are really bad as well, and lungs are big. The upper spine is also useful.

So I suppose we could define the area above the diaphragm as the citadel area, and the front is much more relevant than the back. That's about half of the area of a 10" x 12" plate.

example of a 10" by 12" plate carrier
Neither is a good representation of relevant bullets, especially if one thinks of indoors combat (urban combat) where machineguns aren't that prominent, while assault rifles are. AP bullets are not as commonly used in assault rifles, but not terribly expensive steel cores are present in many Kalashnikov cartridges (7.62x39 and 5.45x39). I suppose the 7N22 bullet (5.45x39 mm, penetrates about 10 mm RHA at 100 m*) is about the most penetrating bullet that one should care about in regard to body armour until powered exoskeletons become practical and affordable. This threat is in between NIJ levels III and IV.

The "defense" industry has attempted to cover that gap with unofficial "level III+" and "level III++", but did not set its threshold there. Instead, they focused on common 5.56 mm bullets. Still existing III++ plates give an idea of the weight of a citadel armour plate; its weight would be in the 2-3 kg range including protection against excessive blunt trauma and with little multi-hit resistance.

Well, would such a little armour plate be worth its weight? I suppose there may be niches where that's a "yes" (mostly indoors), but even 2 kg can make a huge difference when you have to clear many buildings with many stairs. You'll only get the weight down and be agile if you muster the self-discipline to shave off weight on every opportunity.

There's probably but a weak case for combining both a flak vest and such a single chest plate. The only common fragments indoors are from AP mines, 30 and 40 mm grenade launcher HE/HEDP grenades**, HE/HEDP rifle grenades**, defensive hand grenades and offensive hand grenades with fragmentation sleeve added.
I don't have experiment test results on hand, but I suppose that blast, bullets and effects from large calibre hits from outdoors are the main problems indoors, not those fragments that a vest would stop at 2-4 m distance.

So there may be a case for a spare plate carrier with a single anti-7N22 chest plate (about 500 square cm) that could be worn instead of a nearly identical weight flak vest for indoors missions. This could be grabbed together with other equipment for combat in settlements (fighting in built-up areas / OHK) such as crowbars, collapsible lightweight ladders, demolition equipment for going through walls et cetera. This stuff would/should be stored in the infantry squad's transport vehicle (2 ton 4x4 or APC).


S O

*: Afaik penetration may actually be less than that at very short distance because of vibration issues, but I'm not sure about this.
**: Shot into the building from outside, thus typically hitting the back. Nose-fused HE is then much more dangerous than base-fused HEDP.
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2017/09/22

When thousands of nukes are no deterrence any more...

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I stated several times - including here - that I'm 100% positive that North Korea's little tyrant wouldn't use any nuke against the U.S., its troops or Seoul.
The reasoning is that the entire state of North Korea serves but one purpose at this point; to protect and please the little tyrant and his (direct) line of succession. His death would be guaranteed if he ever used a nuke in anger, even if he fled to the PRC and received asylum there. He'd be killed like UBL sooner or later.

Now there's one most irritating thought; what if Trump in his idiocy managed to shatter the one central and so far absolutely self-evident assumption that's central to the purpose of the nuclear triad? What if he convinced the little tyrant that he'll be killed anyway?

At that point no nukes or thousands of nukes would not make a difference. There would be no deterrence any more.


Idiocracy was not meant to be a instructional video.


S O
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2017/09/21

Combat resupply

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(see update at the end)

Combat tends to consume a lot of munitions, including munitions for direct fire - and those need be carried by either the infantryman or armoured fighting vehicle because let's face it, we collectively dismiss porters and those robodogs are nonsense.

A competent supply NCO in Vietnam was able to get a pallet loaded with all that's needed for utility helicopter airlift to the troops in contact. A very competent supply NCO would pack the stuff before it was asked for because he had the experience and paid attention to the radio chat.

I dismiss such helicopter logistics for European warfare and I dismiss this also for unmanned helicopters such as the K-MAX. Such helicopters are large and expensive enough to be high-enough-value targets for all those systems meant to defeat low-flying manned battlefield helicopters.



There is an alternative that might make sense for the especially weight-sensitive infantry, though:



The problem of resupplying infantry close to opposing forces or even in contact with munitions, medical supplies, hot food, fresh water and batteries might be solvable with rotary cargo drones. The small unit would need to have communicate a suitable landing zone's coordinates and a battalion supply team could send these drones en route (and recover them) with packages of 12-15 kg (it should suffice for the heaviest single relevant piece of equipment, such as an anti-tank guided missile).
The drones would navigate by inertial navigation sensor and could use a directional (downward focused) radio to interrogate another very low emission power radio beacon which would allow for a correction of a navigation error of about 20 m. I suppose (but did not succeed at checking it) that this error correction should suffice to land a drone on a flat roof after 20 km of flight.

The supply crew would recover the drones that landed in their varying supply point landing zones, switch in a charged battery pack, visually inspect for damage, check if the mission log shows any problems and ultimately load it for another delivery.

The drone could be equipped with the necessary sensors (such as LADAR) for flying close above the treetops of woodland to minimise the exposure to hostiles on the ground. Alternatively, they could fly below roof level through streets.

Any sensors but LADAR would necessitate an updating of maps with overland power lines and what maps generated by radar satellites in order to avoid crashes.

Here are some reviews of drones with up to 18 kg payload, that should be the relevant size and could also be used for a tethered sensor drone (almost no battery capacity needed due to cable power supply, no radio needed). Claims for rotary payload drones go up to more than 200 kg payload, but the next threshold after 15 kg should be at about 100 kg, since this would enable casualty and civilians evacuation (at night or complete with red-cross-on-white-cloth bags).

Now why am I not surprised that the big "defense" contractor companies didn't capture the market with this years ago?

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: My bad, I overlooked this. They think of something like this, but bigger.
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2017/09/17

Blog layout

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Bear with me - I'm trying to renovate this place.

I will create a proper title banner later.
Maybe this year. Maybe not.


four days later: Done. It's an embarrassing display of my lack of artistic creativity.

For comparison: The old background tile
and the old header. I recreated it with new images, ended up with the appropriate width and nothing really new.


I'm no artist.

S O
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2017/09/16

Infantry agility past and present

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Have a look at this, 1:47 min onward:



I didn't look specifically for a video about Germans, but simply one of the many WW2 videos where running infantrymen are shown (I typed in 'infantry attack' in YT and found this as 3rd video), in fact I had hoping for a Bersaglieri film.

The thing that strikes me is how quickly these actors can move (and the effect of a possible acceleration by manipulating camera film speed cannot be great, for such acceleration is usually visible). Their equipment is in the 10-15 kg range in my opinion, and only the machinegunner is at the upper end of that range.

I've seen people moving quickly a lot, of course. It's just that modern Western infantrymen are rarely seen running in action - they're usually much slower than that or run but a short 20-30 m sprint once in a while. I understand that - I'm 20-25 kg heavier now than during my (mostly skinny) Bundeswehr days and I notice my walking changes when I carry 10 kg. It feels different in the feet especially. The feet are signalling me that they would tire out quickly under that load. I myself was never nimble or much inclined to move quickly with a 10-20 kg load.

Let's come back to the Bersaglieri. They are the traditional light infantry of the Italians, and to some degree an elite compared to the regular infantry. They also had (and still to some extent have) an emphasis on speed.

Back in ancient times there was light infantry running next to cavalry if an army leader judged his cavalry wings to be inferior. This cavalry-supporting infantry would join the melee between cavalry and cavalry and often times decide it with their numbers and spears and/or javelins.
There hasn't been many examples of such running infantry for a long time, when the early 19th century Zulus and their still hard to believe endurance at running entered the stage and were documented by the Boers and British.

The Bersaglieri show off their emphasis on running and fitness in the most ludicrous way; they run on parades.



It's hard to take them seriously after watching this, but the attitude may be worth consideration!*

- - - - -

Now a part for Germans:

Ich habe die Sache mit dem Gauland und Stolz in den Nachrichten gesehen. Zitat
„Man muss uns diese 12 Jahre nicht mehr vorhalten. Sie betreffen unsere Identität heute nicht mehr. Und das sprechen wir auch aus.“ & „Wenn die Franzosen zu Recht stolz auf ihren Kaiser sind und die Briten auf Nelson und Churchill, haben wir das Recht, stolz zu sein auf die Leistungen deutscher Soldaten in zwei Weltkriegen.“
Ich fände es dümmlich wenn es nicht eine offensichtlich absichtliche Provokation wäre. Zudem ist es, was Amerikaner eine "dog whistle" nennen; etwas im Wortlaut Unverfängliches sagen, bei dem man davon ausgehen kann, dass es eine bestimmte Klientel in einer bestimmten anderen Bedeutung interpretiert. Es ist eine Art minimale plausible Dementierbarkeit, die dann aber doch fast jeder durchschaut.
Die zwei Sätze des Zitates stehen ohnehin in Dissonanz zueinander; entweder da ist eine starke Verbindung oder eben nicht. Wenn da keine starke Verbindung ist, dann wäre Stolz ein Schmücken mit fremden Federn.
Aber "das Recht" stolz zu sein hat jeder, ob's Sinn macht ist eine ganz andere Frage.

Ich finde es dümmlich, stolz sein zu wollen auf das, was andere mal getan haben oder nicht. Man kann sich an dem was andere getan haben erfreuen, man kann sie bewundern, aber stolz sein sollte man nur auf eigene Leistungen oder auf den eigenen Nachwuchs (was dann doch wieder ein Stolz auf die eigene Erziehungsleistung ist).
Dementsprechend verwende ich historische Videos zum deutschen Militär usw. wohl fast nur deshalb über das statistisch Wahrscheinliche hinaus, weil es eben sprachlich naheliegt oder in der Sache begründet liegt.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: I myself hate running, but it's not essential to anything I do these days.
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2017/09/15

Daesh is finished

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Just to state the obvious; my expectation that the strategic idiots of daesh will defeated themselves by turning just about everyone into an enemy has come true. They're in control of a road and a mere two towns in Syria as of today.

http://iswresearch.blogspot.de/2017/08/russian-airstrikes-in-syria-july-17.html


It didn't work out for Napoleon, it didn't work out for Hitler. Only the Asian steppe people from Huns to Mongols were able to afford having that many enemies because their strategic mobility was far superior, and they could (usually) deal with them one after the other.* "AQ" had such strategic mobility, but being a mere movement fashion they had their up and down, and have become irrelevant.

I never understood why everyone got so agitated about daesh. They were guaranteed to lose and frankly, they were and are the problem of the Syrians and Iraqis. The supposedly daesh-aligned criminals in Europe merely picked the asswipe fashion du jour, and would have most likely have picked some asswipe fashion regardless of daesh's existence anyway. There was never a real link between bombing daesh and criminals in Europe, nor between bombing daesh and daesh ultimately losing. The bombing may have hastened daesh's downfall while also helping daesh to recruit more idiots, though.

related:

S O

*: The Huns were finally stopped when they had so many footmen allies, captured cattle and booty with them that the West Romans and Visigoths were able to fight them unitedly.
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2017/09/14

The math of war or peace

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A proper equation for determining whether to go to war or not would look approximately like this:
http://www.HostMath.com/Show.aspx?Code=%5Cint_%7B0%7D%5E%7Ball%7D(probabilityofdefeat)%5Ctimes%20(severityofdefeat)dx%2B(war%20expenses)%3C%5Cint_%7B0%7D%5E%7Ball%7D%20(probabilityofsuccess)%5Ctimes(utilityofsuccess)dx 
 (An egoistical decisionmaker would go to war if the equation is true.)

I didn't get the formula right 100%, but I suppose it's close enough to convey the idea.  This calculation is impossible to make, for one cannot even imagine all possible scenarios, much less determine their probability and weigh them accordingly. The human brain simply doesn't work like that, it's more fuzzy. We're led by feelings and guesses. Some philosopher once called it the ultimate insult to humans that it's actually our subconsciousness that's in total control of our actions. Our consciousness is more like a commenter. We can consciously understand that decisionmaking would be optimal if we calculated some formula such as the one above, but then our subconsciousness simply does something, whatever that may be.

This is a curious thing, for I suspect that the equation that's really in use is an entirely different one, a two-variable equation. Something close to this:

with Z being between 0 and 1 and representing the decisionmaker's attitude towards risk (risk aversion, risk neutrality or risk taking behaviour).

Maybe some research into this by psychologists and game theorists could provide clarity (honestly, I did not do a dedicated literature research on this beforehand, but I found nothing like this in literature yet).

This could explain a lot (especially the observable marginal importance of costs of warfare on many decisionmakers), and it could clarify a lot for deterrence policies. There would be but two variables that matter; probability of military defeat and the decisionmaker's risk aversion. The problem with aggressors is that the potential defender would most rarely be able to pick the potential aggressor's decisionmaker, of course. Maybe that's why almost everyone seems to emphasise the probability of military success or defeat so very much.

S O
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2017/09/12

The changing battlefield air defence (II)

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Part I of this series showed how technological progress led to radical changes and how important the effective ceiling difference between light and heavy AAA or (V)ShoRAD and area air defences were.

This time I'll argue that it's become more complicated. The rise of missiles with much more autonomous seekers especially since the 90's (examples AIM-120, MICA, Aster, R-77 - the earlier AIM-54 did not trigger much) brought lock-on after launch (LOAL) into the air war repertoire.



This is hugely important in many ways, but one is of special interest: Nowadays the missile launcher unit does not need a line of sight  to the target or even only the point of intercept any more. It suffices if it gets targeting data that was generated based on distant sensors (networked warfare). The USN demonstrated this (quite late - it should have been possible two decades earlier) with a SM-6 missile that was launched based on aircraft (E-2D or F-35) targeting data only, not using any of the launching ship's sensors.

This unhinges the old two-layered air defence just as much as the advance in airborne ground targeting sensors (imaging infrared, imaging radar) in the 1980's: (V)ShoRAD simply doesn't protect much any more. Well-equipped hostile air power could engage ground targets effectively with impunity. Meanwhile, area air defences with LOAL capability combined with airborne (or land-based forward and thus line-of sight) targeting sensors could defend not only against those ShoRAD-immune threats, but also engage non-line of sight targets (such as aircraft and especially helicopters at very low altitude) that were previously the prey of (V)ShoRAD only.

This leads to two divergent paths for battlefield air defences:

(1) Missile launcher forward, airborne targeting sensor

An AEW aircraft of fighter provides the targeting info, and a mere missile launch container or rack on a vehicle platform with manoeuvre land forces (such as a mechanised battalion battlegroup) provides the LOAL missile with enough chemical energy for area air defence and a high effective ceiling.
The weakness of this approach is in the questionable air support; AEW aircraft could be destroyed or pushed too far back, and fighters would hardly be on station and facing the right direction (few have more than 180° radar field of view) much of the time. Land forces with inadequate air power support - that is, exactly the ones in need of battlefield air defences against manned combat aviation - would find such means of targeting to be unreliable.
The hostile air power on the other hand would still face great risks engaging such land forces, as the network of airborne radar and forward missile launcher would be intact at times and unpredictably so.

(2) Sensor forward, missile launcher more or less "behind"

This is a relevant scenario when you look at a smaller scale. The previous path was interesting with a network of hundreds of kilometres expanse. This second path is rather about the difference between forces rather close to the launcher. A battalion battlegroup or even entire brigade from a country with a poor military budget (such as Romanian land forces, for example) could fight alongside a much better-funded brigade. The low budget force could then use highly survivable sensors (say, Rheinmetall FIRST, RAFAEL Helispot or SAAB Giraffe 1X with on-the-move activity) to provide targeting data and the neighbouring force could use its stocks of expensive LOAL area air defence missiles to protect its brothers-in-arms. Armoured recce and irregulars that operate around a well-budgeted brigade could also benefit from such an air defence umbrella if only they have what it takes to provide good-enough and trusted targeting data.

the old-school (once rather gold-plated) Gepard SPAAG
Germany got rid of its Gepard SPAAG and its Roland battlefield point defence missile systems years ago, and the renewed attention on the actual constitutional mission of defence has led to a renewed interest in battlefield air defence. There are even some bureaucratic requirements; as least some forces need at least a fig leaf of battlefield air defences, and the leftovers of 1980's Stinger stocks are not taken seriously any more (that is, if they exist in Germany at all any more).

There are enough nostalgic people who think of reintroducing Gepard or introducing something similar to Tunguska. There's (justifiably) very little love for the puny LeFlaSys Ozelot which depends on mere ManPADS even though it has a better effective range and ceiling than a 35 mm gun.

I think these thoughts of reviving the 1970's and 1980's concept of battlefield air defences are nonsense. To do such a thing would be wasteful, and if we did it we should at the very least use a less easily-countered guidance principle; laser beam riding (RBS 70 NG with Bolide missile). But such (V)ShoRAD systems have tiny niches nowadays; mostly short exposure targets of opportunity (mostly battlefield helicopters) and keeping low quality air threats at a safe distance. They could also be used by armoured recce to besiege hostile forward air bases (harassing hostile aircraft on their landing approach). These niches are why I mentioned them as a ShoRAD solution for budget brigades.


Radar-equipped LOAL missiles tend to be expensive, and seem to keep becoming more expensive. I wouldn't be surprised if the AMRAAM-ER costs USD 1.5 million per copy even if Germany ordered 1,500 such missiles. (That would be still acceptable if it achieves a mere 10% kill probability against combat aircraft in wartime conditions!) Infrared sensor LOAL missiles such as IRIS-T SL offer much less range (thus also much less ceiling) and are much more questionable for look-down engagements (against very low altitude targets, for example), so their somewhat lower price makes them attractive as complements (also in order to achieve redundancy of guidance principles), but they cannot protect nearly as much as a well-functioning and (hopefully) not-yet countered AMRAAM-ER could protect.
Anyway; all LOAL missiles are awfully expensive and in my opinion too expensive for poorly funded land forces. Countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic and Slovakia should prioritise other equipment and should be able to expect some support from their allies in this regard.

I think the way to go for a rather well-funded European army such as the Heer is to have a multi-role brigade radar, but to not depend on it for battlefield air defence. Other (infrared, infrasound) sensors should complement it and the brigade should have rocket launchers with area air defence LOAL missiles (AMRAAM-ER would fit the bill) to project a sizeable battlefield air defence umbrella that can even protect less well-funded brothers in arms nearby. This was all about manned air threats and comparably expensive air targets, of course. There's more to air defences.


related

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: For clarification I'd like to add that I do not mean missiles such as Patriot, ESSM Blk I or SM-2 as "LOAL" missiles. Such missiles lock on their target sometimes long after launch, but they have no ability to lock on targets that are not in line of sight to an illuminator radar - that's a huge problem with their SARH guidance.
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2017/09/10

The changing battlefield air defence (I)

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I noticed that I didn't explain my interpretation of all things battlefield air defence properly, so I'll do this military theory series to explain. Keep in mind - as always - it's but an interpretation, and I may be wrong. One good reason to believe me to be wrong is that air defence is a very technology-driven area of warfare, and thus outsiders are prone to forming wrong conclusions because of incomplete information. What I'm writing here may very well be true, but it may just as well be outdated by 10-20 years concerning the state of the art. Also note that I will ignore ballistic missile defence, naval air defence as well as 'strategic' land-based air defence in this series.

First, the military history part:

Historically, battlefield air defences began with 75-88 mm guns mounted on platform motor vehicles. They were meant to provide a mobile force to destroy enemy airships and tethered balloons. Ambitious plans called for hundreds of such self-propelled anti-air guns even before the First World War. The First World War showed that the external ballistics of such guns were insufficient to repel tethered balloon deployments to a distance from which their observation was useless. Airships could not dare to fly over territory defended like that in daytime, though. Such anti-air guns shot a lot at aircraft, but the fire control was insufficient even against the less than 200 kph fast, less than 5,000 m high-flying targets. Barrage fires were used to protect the own tethered observation balloons against hostile aircraft. Machineguns proved to be important to discourage or weaken the attacks by aircraft on ground forces.

Little happened during the Interwar years, but some of the WW2 AAA were developed, among some anti-aircraft gun solutions that were failures. Much was invested in fire control, but without the appropriate attention to the correct approaches to fusing and shell steel brittleness.

During WW2 all guns weaker than 30 mm proved to be a disappointment; 20-25 mm guns were effective only at very short ranges, and with a great volume of fire. They required multiple hits for one kill, so they were more a deterring and damaging anti-air arm than a killing one. 30-40 mm guns were powerful enough to kill most aircraft with a single hit, but their range was insufficient against medium bombers. Most 37-40 mm guns had a poor rate of fire and were effective to about 3,000 m diagonal range. Their shells were often set to self-destruct after about 3,500-4,000 m of flight. The expense of such a battlefield air defence (including the usually necessary motor vehicle as tractor and the often preferred additional motor vehicles to enable a battery to march as one) was great, and even thousands of such guns were inadequate to properly defend against the fighter-bomber and Shturmovik threat.

Heavy AAA was of little importance to battlefield air defences. Intermediate AAA (45-55 mm) was a gap-filler that was hardly ever used.

Post-WW2 radio fire control became much more widespread, though even the self-propelled anti-air guns with their expensive platform vehicle and support often lacked radar fire control (examples M42, ZSU-27-2). technologically sound SPAAGs were available around the year 1970 (ZSU-23-4, Gepard, AMX-13DCA), but a vehicle such as a Gepard did cost three times as much as a concurrent main battle tank (Leopard I), so the SPAAG force that was mostly meant to protect the tank force almost approximated the latter's costs. Less ambitious SPAAGs were in service as well, with incomplete radar fire control (example M163 VADS) and accordingly cheaper, but also much less capable and thus required in even greater quantity.
Missiles began to complement guns for battlefield air defence in the late 60's, famously the semi-mobile SA-6 batteries of Yom Kippur War fame. Man-portable missiles (Redeye, Igla) and air combat missiles adapted for air defence (Chapparal) were of little consequence in the 70's because they were limited to tailchasing with their infrared seekers. Dedicated self-propelled air defence vehicles (Roland, SA-8) were more capable, but also expensive (and their towed equivalents such as Rapier were a rare compromise).
A reasonable, but not very mobile  budget solution of the 60's to the 80's was to combine a fire control radar with several towed guns (usually 30-57 mm calibre). Heavy AAA had largely lost its relevance because the long time of flight beyond 57 mm range and the high speed of turbine-powered aircraft made preventive evasive manoeuvres extremely effective against guns.
An exotic system was the Swedish RBS 70 with its laser beamrider guidance, which allowed a crew-portable battlefield air defence to engage air targets from all aspects within a reasonable range.

The 80's saw little change; the arrival of infrared guided missiles that would almost reliably lock on aircraft head-on made them a bit more effective (though their effectiveness was exaggerated).

Post-Cold War we saw a rise of a few SPAAG designs with complementary missile armament (Tunguska, LAV-AD), but they shared an important problem with most other battlefield air defences; the effective ceiling was lower than the maximum effective altitude for precision attack on land forces. The sensors (particularly thermal cameras coupled with instant laser rangefinders) had advanced to a point by the late 1980's that most battlefield air defences were merely able to push air threat above the effective range of anything but short dive bombing/rocketing attacks (= what the Soviets continued with good success and very few losses in Afghanistan after the arrival of Stinger missiles).

Area air defence batteries with longer-ranged, higher-ceiling missiles would be needed to complement the short range air defences (ShoRAD), but particularly the NATO countries trusted their air forces to achieve air superiority if not air supremacy quickly, and didn't invest much in such systems. What systems were available (mostly Patriot, IHAWK, Skyguard Aspide, recently SAMP/T) were at most enough to satisfy air defence requirements for support assets behind the manoeuvre forces, including bridges, airbases and headquarters. The approach of using (V)ShoRAD to push hostile air threats up where they could be engaged by area air defences was what caused much trouble to the Israelis in 1973 when they faced the SA-6, but it was established already in the Yom Kippur and Vietnam War that attacks on the area air defence batteries (and in particular their radars) would unhinge this teamwork. Russia, France, Israel and the UK committed some resources on dedicated equipment to locate and defeat such radars, but it was the U.S. that invested greatly and used this investment to bomb the Iraqis almost with immunity, but it was the Yugoslavs who showed that tactics could degrade such anti-radar efforts from destruction (DEAD) to suppression (SEAD), which meant that a sizeable share of the superior hostile air power was fixed in the anti-air defence mission indefinitely. The rapid consumption of expensive anti-radar missiles would be unsustainable and unsuitable for a large air war.
I recommend "On Air Defense" as a book to those who want to read more on the history of air defense.


S O
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2017/09/03

"U.S. Army unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe"

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But the assessment details a series of “capability gaps” the unit has identified during recent training with Ukrainian troops with experience battling Russian-backed separatists, who have used cheap drones and electronic warfare tools to pinpoint targets for artillery barrages and devastated government armored vehicles with state-of-the-art Russian antitank missiles.
Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army's years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.
“The lessons we learned from our Ukrainian partners were substantial. It was a real eye-opener on the absolute need to look at ourselves critically,” Col. Gregory Anderson, who commissioned the report earlier this year during his stint as the brigade’s commander, told POLITICO after it had obtained a copy of the report. “We felt compelled to write about our experiences and pass on what we saw and learned.”  


This is ridiculous. Nobody needs to talk to Ukrainian combat vets to learn these things. Practically all senior NCOs and senior officers worth their pay knew this, and for a long time.

The article didn't even mention the poor 155 mm artillery of the brigade or that its anti-tank defences are almost wholly dependent on the Javelin missile which can be defeated with mere multispectral smoke (a defence that doesn't even require any updates to tanks, just some cheap smoke munitions).

The problems likely go much deeper than that: There's a reason why U.S.Army personnel sucks at almost all multinational competitions, be it tanks, artillery infantry or whatever; it can be explained with the extremely common complaint about poor training of basic soldiering skills. You can hear and read these complaints almost everywhere.
The root cause appears to be the personnel system that prohibits any continuity. Personnel is getting moved into and out of units that quickly that any year-long training plan to build up qualification from basics to small unit level to unit level to formation level is moot. Too much personnel gets transferred out after learning the early stages, and replaced by new personnel that missed the basics training. There are also more mandatory training days per year than there are days available per year. The captains cannot possibly devise a training plan that follows all orders about mandatory training, an obvious failure of TRADOC.

To fix their personnel system (which has been demanded by reform proposers such as Vandergriff for decades) does not require additional money. It may even save a lot of money. I'm not sure how much of Congress' micromanagement-by-laws gets in the way of personnel reform, but I'm quite sure it should be done. In two decades I've seen great many calls for such a reform, and no-one standing up in defence of the current personnel system. The symptoms are really bad and warrant change.

related:

S O
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2017/09/02

Back when I joined ...

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I recently found an old diary of mine. It encompasses more than a year, pages full of codes for repetitive stuff that I did all the time. And kind of miss doing.

The last day in the diary isn't on the last page, by far. It reads
8:50 - 12:00 DB, Ankunft in der Kaserne,
It was the day I left for military service (DB = Deutsch Bahn, railway / Ankunft in der Kaserne = arrival at the barracks). My young days had ended abruptly.

I'm sure I forgot most of the first weeks and months in the Luftwaffe, but I didn't forget the first day. I arrived among the first six recruits that day, and the consequence was we were told to go into a room where three bunk beds were standing. Then we had to wait, for hours. The basic training was - like just about every other education or training I ever had - a thorough disappointment. We learned almost nothing, but this was already more than some could digest. 

One draftee was 2.06 metres tall and angry he hadn't told his draft official that he's 2.10 m, for then he wouldn't have been drafted away from girlfriend, own apartment and full time job. The recruitment office had no means to measure past 2 metres length, he could have fooled them.
He got a sweat suit and running shoes within days, and nothing else for the first three weeks or so. His supersized clothes and boots were simply not available in the barracks themselves. He also got a "Null Kilogramm Schein" (zero kilogram certificate) from the medical doctor - this excepted him from carrying anything but his clothes due to his joints and back issues. He still was kind enough to carry helmet and rifle on occasion - even though nobody could order him to do so. (Others got 10 kg Scheine.) Nobody could figure out what the Bundeswehr wanted from him. Eventually, he ended up as sauna boy; handing out towels and taking them back. Supposedly this was an all-essential job, for without such a sauna boy who kept watch the sauna supposedly would become filthy. Go figure, it was used almost exclusively by officers and senior NCOs.

There were plenty such anecdotes, and they fed my disgust for bureaucracies more than any theoretical education in economics ever did.

The most useful skill that I learned in those first months in uniform was how to fall asleep in an instant. We were kept busy artificially all the time, and the permanent stress made us take naps at every opportunity. When the order came to "self-study" in our dormitory, we all calmly went to the six-stool table there, sat down, crossed arms on the table, dropped our head and fell asleep in no time.

Still, with all that stress the Bundeswehr did not in any course or at any time train me the way all other trainings and educations went; usually it's too little learning for my taste, too much exercising for my taste. The Bundeswehr only met the "too little learning" part. I'm not joking; I did 30 push-ups in a minute every day during the months before I joined the Bundeswehr, at the end of basic training I was barely able to do 20 push-ups and when I left the service I was down to 15.

The Bundeswehr got considerably worse in the years since I left it, so I was told. Repeatedly.

S O
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