Fragmentation effects of artillery HE fires


Artillery high explosive fires are a complicated technical and tactical topic. Even the working of the shell itself is complicated. 

The radius at which the blast of the explosives kills is rather small and incendiary effects are usually unexpected and unintended side effects. Most of the HE effect stems from fragmentation.

Fragmentation of a simple steel shell is quite unpredictable, but there are some relationships known. Such shells burst into many tiny fragments and very few large fragments, some some fragments of intermediate size.

More ductile steel will create bigger and more big fragments (which was intended for heavy anti-aircraft gun shells), whereas more brittle steel will mostly produce tiny and small fragments.

Higher yield strength steel can be used to make shell wall thinner (but still withstanding the stress of firing), which allows for more explosives volume and mass for overall greater fragmentation effect. High yield strength steel tends tends to have high ductility as well.

Higher quality explosives can in theory be used to increase the effect. Pure TNT and the cheaper mix Amatol are classics obsolete by now. There's little reason to expect anything more powerful than RDX or a RDX/TNT mix in unguided HE shells. RDX is about 60% more powerful than TNT. RDX is ancient technology by now, so we can assume that the explosives of HE shells world-wide are of about equal quality within their shelf life.

A controlled fragmentation is possible by using a serrated the shell body, and the best way to do it is to serrate on the inside (which is trickier for production, and old hand grenades often used external serration). Serration on the outside raises the question of air friction and is less effective, but easier to apply. Serration on both sides calls into question the mechanical strength of the shell body (huge forces apply during acceleration and imparting spin in the barrel) and more than combines the required production effort (the serration patterns should match).

externally serrated / embossed

internally serrated / embossed











Another option to improve fragmentation is to have the fragments first (steel or tungsten balls) and then embed them into a matrix that allows the fragments to fly as intended upon burst. Another option is to use coils instead of balls, but I've never seen that option with artillery or mortar HE ammunitions.

So this is the state of art; steel or even tungsten balls embedded into a matrix. You can choose the material, explosive charge and ball size to tailor the shell for a certain penetration ability at a certain distance (ingoing shell velocity for a while). There are for example a couple hand grenades with such very small preformed fragments that they're for purposes of war harmless to personnel (except unprotected eyes) at twice their lethal radius already.

Small HE munitions are more efficient at fragmentation than bigger ones ceteris paribus. This is so because of the slowing air drag to the fragments. This was the driving force behind bomblet (submunitions, many small explosive grenades inside a shell, dispersed before impact) cargo munitions (ICM / DPICM), which are now banned by the cluster munitions ban in most countries.

It's nice to have temperature insensitive munitions (that still explode well when cold) and generally insensitive munitions (that leave the crew time to run away before they explode when there's a fire around the shell).

This was about the burst.

(link for more details:

https://www.daaam.info/Downloads/Pdfs/science_books_pdfs/2015/Sc_Book_2015-020.pdf )

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Next, keep in mind an artillery shell needs to be fused.

The typical fuses are delay fuses, time fuses, point detonation (PD) / point detonation super quick (PDSQ) and proximity (PROX, for artillery purposes always a radio frequency fuse triggered by its echo, with some counter-jamming precautions). Most fuses know two modes, to be selected by a tool; delay and PD is a common combination.

The point of having different fuses is to choose different locations of burst. Delay bursts inside the soil (for cratering) or buildings, PD/PDSQ is a cheap way of achieving some above-ground fragmentation effect (much better if it hits a tree), but many fragments go into the ground or up into the air when you fuse upon contact with the soil. Proximity fuses are meant to fuse the shell several metres above ground, so its fragments cover a large area and also hit troops who are flat on the ground. Time fusing is too tricky to use for this in indirect fires, and more relevant to illumination and smoke munitions.

This was about fusing.

(link for more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artillery_fuze )

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Next, let's look at the effect of angles. The angle of descent at explosion matters greatly. A shot at a very shallow angle will fragment to the sides, but project very few fragments forward. This is only OK if you use a delay fuse on flat terrain for a bouncing shot that explodes in the air after bouncing off the ground. This technique was in much use during WW2, but nowadays you simply pick PROX fuses for even better effect.

fragmentation pattern depending on angle and height of burst

A close to vertical angle is best for all-round fragmentation effect for a very slow ammunition (the picture depicts a shell moving more than twice as fast as a mortar bomb would) and greatly enlarges the lethal area compared to a 45° angle of impact. Fast-moving shells can have their optimum angle of descent well between 45° and 90°.

The angle of descent can be manipulated by howitzers (and to some degree also by most mortars) by choosing a different elevation angle and different propellant charge strength (more or less propellant modules). This also modifies the time of flight and a strong MRSI (multiple round simultaneous impact; how many shells arrive in first 10 seconds before troops in the target zone can react effectively) strike requires a mix of such combinations anyway to maximise the MRSI value.

(link for more details: https://nigelef.tripod.com/wt_of_fire.htm)

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Finally, let's keep in mind not all shells descend at the same velocity. Mortar munitions are often subsonic upon arrival, for example. This can also happen with howitzer shots. The motion of a fragment (ball) from the shell side wall is the sum of forward motion speed of the shell and sideward motion speed from the explosion. In the end, that fragment is moving diagonally forward to the side. The faster the shell at the time of explosion, the more pronounced this forward movement of the fragments. This matters much, for this forward movement means that the fragments are being driven into the ground. Fast shells need to be fused higher by the PROX fuse for optimum effect.

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So now we have the criteria for a maximum deadly HE shell:

  • not moving fast at time of explosion
  • descending well between 45° and 90° at time of explosion
  • embedded steel (good price) or tungsten (best effect) balls in matrix for controlled fragmentation effect with defined effective radius against a notional target
  • fused by a smart proximity fuse (ideally with PDSQ as backup and a time-based safety to prevent premature explosion in face of jamming)
  • preferably small calibre
  • also preferably NATO standard calibre for economic and cooperation reasons: 155 mm

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And this is it:

The older Russian 122 mm rocket 9M53F uses the very same principle, without the need to cope with a spin-stabilised shell's spin:

I seem to have underestimated the usefulness of the principle for spin-stabilised howitzer shells in 2015.

The ideal HE shell for suppressive fires (which have fallen a bit out of fashion as quantities of active duty artillery pieces have shrunk) and cratering is to have a cheap steel body and a PD/delay fuse. Cheap HE shells with delay fuse can also be used to intentionally create craters as obstacles especially on roads or as cover for friendly infantry. Not all firing missions have a use for high end maximum lethality ammunitions.

craters by HE shells of WW2 technology (source); quite capable of rendering roads unusable

Today we're expecting the first howitzer shots to be on target and for effect (exploiting surprise), but we would still shoot old school if satellite navigation systems failed and maps were insufficient. W would first use a salvo to observe where it lands, correct until the salvo is straddling the target and then switch to quick fire for effect. These first ranging shots would best be done with cheap HE shells with delay fuses. The cheap shell requires less expenses beforehand and the cheap delay fuse makes the impact very visible (thrown up dirt) and it would be least dangerous to friendlies who are often close to the target.












This blog post summed up enough to give the reader the basics to judge the own countries' artillery munitions approach. The German approach so far is -save for a handful of gold plated special munitions - to use insensitive explosives 155 mm HE shells with decent fuses and preformed fragments embedded in the shell walls. That would be fine, but the quantity of HE shells in stocks is (albeit not known to the public) bound to be small and part of those stocks may be older type shells at or past shelf life. Russia is widely understood to have huge quantities of really old (70's, 80's if not worse) artillery munitions, but they kept DPICM in their inventory, which gives them an advantage.

I suppose the details given here have brought across the message that the quality of HE munitions can multiply artillery effectiveness.



 *: among other things like accuracy, dispersion, communications, rapid fire control, sensors, quantity of artillery pieces, survivability of artillery pieces, quantity of munitions, reliable high throughput supply support, trajectory correction, placement of artillery pieces



The German army radio scandal

You may have read about the German army radio scandal: The German ministry of defence is about to purchase up to 20,000 radios of an analogue technology model from the early 1980's. The price per copy is expected to be outrageous (you could buy two new small cars for one museum piece-styled radio), and the order is going to Thales because they bought the developer of those Cold War era radios long ago.

The need to replace the old radios was obvious many years ago already (and published). We already missed out on buying late 1980's/1990's technology radios. The British Bowman program disaster and the huge excess of 1980's radios after the downsizing during the early 1990's may have contributed to this.

The scandal is a scandal because the need to replace the old radios was obvious, the technological progress in the field was obvious and the German army is obsessed with talking (and writing) about "Führungsfähigkeit", the ability to lead (for Americans; Command and Control, C2). And it interprets this ability in large part as the technical ability to communicate.

I have not yet any special insights into why the bureaucracy (and politicians!) failed so grossly, merely a couple suspicions. The list of my suspicions is topped by the guess that they went for a gold-plated maximum ambition solution, and then failed to get it done for the all-too-usual reasons of bureaucratic impotence. They clearly tried to get something customised to their requirements, for there are evidently plenty battlefield radio systems on the market, military-off-the-shelf and there was enough money in the budget all along if you know how to prioritise.

Some blame was put on politicians who spent on other things (such as warships - the parliamentary defence committee is infested by directly elected politicians from election districts with shipyards). The bureaucracy didn't put the necessary priority and bureaucracy resources on the radio procurement, though.

The radio procurement scandal also involves (though not mentioned in the recent reports that I saw) a miniscule quantity purchase of some modern radios a few years ago. AFAIK only special forces and the AFVs of a battalion for deployments received modern radios (aside from civilian satellite radios).


I have zero confidence that this extremely embarrassing scandal will lead to decisive change for the better. This is not a specific critique of any particular politician or any particular party. I simply don't think that ANY party has understood that the Bundeswehr is a bureaucracy that needs a harsh political leadership that breaks it away from the current path and forces a change of course towards doing the constitutional job of the armed forces. I don't expect any officers to be fired and no civilian bureaucrats to be kicked out of their positions of relevance at all in this most embarrassing Bundeswehr scandal of the post-Cold War period.

The blathering in writing will go on as well. They will write about a fantasy world in which the army is focused on getting command & control right, on getting combined arms right, on getting training realism right, on getting technical readiness up and in which 30+ years old concepts and hardware are still top notch. No concerns about them being easily countered by capable opposing forces will be part of the cheerleading articles. The senior officers will tell each other that they'll keep doing their job in the ultra-competent way they've always done it, and the tactics and techniques they learned at the Führungsakademie are the global gold standard.

I'd be surprised if the politicians who take the reins (ceremonially at the very least) will be able to see  through the B.S..



Link drop October 2021

I lost another complete (and long) blog post text (it only missed illustrations) because of the idiotic CTRL-Z bug in Blogger that leads to the whole draft turning blank. -.-

Now the topic (field artillery calibre choice/reasoning from Interwar Years to mid Cold War) might never be rewritten. 

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Affordable dismounted combat equipment enhancement


This blog post will lay out how the cost drivers of infantry equipment can be reduced to such a degree that poorly-funded armies and reservist infantry, support field troops & air force security personnel of well-funded armed forces can be equipped properly for a dismounted fight.

Cost drivers

The #1 cost driver of infantry is the personnel itself, through direct costs, overhead costs and opportunity costs. This cannot be helped much, but you may delete excess personnel from the table of organisation and 'outsource' wartime tasks into reserves. A reservist costs but a tiny fraction of an active duty soldier in personnel expenses.

The historical cost drivers included the firearm (about 45% of a worker's monthly salary for a rifle in 1930's Germany) and clothes (especially the boots), but these aren't really the cost issues nowadays. A good firearm (quality assault rifles can cost about 1,100 € per copy in bulk purchase) and good, functional clothes (hundreds of Euros per soldier) may cost less than 2,000 € per infantryman, an average month's income of an employee in Germany. So the ratio between clothes + gun to monthly average income remained about the same, but these items are merely the basics nowadays.

Estimates about the price of equipment for a U.S. Army infantryman today are well above 15,000 €. 

This infographic is about 15 years old, see also video at 27:51 here.

A proper frag protection helmet and frag protection vest should each cost much less than 500 € combined in army-level bulk purchases. Higher level protection costs more, but is very uncommon in poor army infantry, reserve infantry and among non-combat troops in general (and thus outside the scope of this text).

I don't have detailed data, but by my estimate the new big cost drivers are in no particular order

(a) night vision

(b) radio

(c) firearm sights

Sights can add a lot depending on how ambitious you are, a normal intra-squad radio adds hundreds to thousands of Euros and night vision can cost thousands of €.

Affordable equipment needs to last and have a long shelf life as well. This is necessary because reserves might take items from storage after decades of no use (just with regular counting for inventory bookkeeping). Air force security personnel are wannabe infantrymen and treat their equipment about as harshly as infantry does. Army field support units focus on their main tasks and are at risk to neglect basic infantry-ish soldiering skills and attention to equipment.

So we need long-lasting, long shelf life* affordable equipment for dismounted combat on a modern battlefield.** The price should be divided by the years this equipment lasts, with a bit of discounting of distant future years, as the equipment would stagnate in quality (save for software updates), while competing equipment improves.*** This means a shorter-lasting yet cheaper equipment can be the equivalent to a more expensive equipment in terms of utility for money AND average relative performance.

(A) night vision

The cheapest night vision for short duration is illumination by pyrotechnics, but those burn typically for 30...120 seconds and are thus not a satisfactory solution. Night vision devices have provided superior answers since the 1940's and became standard during the 1990's in decent-funded armies. The cheapest night vision devices are digital cameras, not very much unlike smartphone cameras in nature. They don't come close to the more old fashioned image intensifier tubes in their ability to multiply light, though. Digital cameras would need extra light sources in overcast or new moon nights. Still, the technology CAN be extremely cheap (by comparison to other night vision), and shelf life well in excess of 10 years seems very feasible.

My proposal is a combination of digital night vision goggles, cheap IR aiming lasers, fluorescent bullet bases (tracer-like effect), COTS**** batteries and IR Illumination drones. (Only squad and platoon leaders would get some (cheap) thermal sight.)

Helmet-mounted digital night vision binoculars should be available to a bulk buyer at about 100 € per copy. It should be mentioned that digital night vision is consuming much more electrical power than analogue tech, so the supply and recharging of batteries is quite a burden by comparison.

The cheap IR lasers are visible only with night vision devices. You could have a simple laser trigger on a fore grip with both battery and laser installed in that very same fore grip. Such cheap IR lasers would be very effective aiming aids with helmet-mounted night vision devices at the relevant combat distances for the intended users. Price about 30 €

Fluorescent bullet bases should be more than bright enough with digital night vision goggles. The commercially available fluorescent tracer bullets are indeed too bright; the tracer effect should only be visible to night vision tech from behind. They would allow troops to see what others are shooting at, not just what others are aiming at (which can be shown with the aiming lasers). Every bit less confusion and cluelessness is welcome in nighttime firefight stress. (Cartridges are munitions, not weapons or personal equipment. I won't add the price of this.)

COTS batteries; AA AAA or CR2032 batteries won't become obsolescent anytime soon, and the ability to switch off the lights of red dot sights means that no tritium-illuminated sight is giving you away to night vision users at night. The price of such commercial batteries is negligible.

IR Illum drones; I wrote about IR Illum pyrotechnics weeks ago, and I also mentioned the duration  issue. It's likely MUCH smarter to have an artificial 'moon' (silent, unpredictably-manoeuvering drone at 100+ m altitude below cloud cover with a wide angle LED IR light) with 10...30 minutes on-station time. Someone 2+ km away would have to launch one such drone every 10...30 minutes, recharge the recovered ones and adapt the autopilot programming to changing needs. This should be less effort and cheaper after a night or two than using IR Illum a lot.

The soldiers could additionally deploy their own thrown LED beacons (set to flashing or illumination); a COTS battery coupled with a LED light and almost nothing else (example here). Their costs would be tiny (less than 5 € per copy including the battery) in a huge bulk purchase. Such LED beacons can also be used for communication, such as marking mine-free lanes, communicating to air power, marking cleared rooms and so on.

(B) radio

Intra-squad radios are a great tool, but they can also be quite costly. You can gold-plate them A LOT, up to complete inertial navigation system with occasional GPS/Galileo use, alerting for incoming indirect fires or aerial threats, NBC alert, voice-to-text and text-to-voice for minimizing data transmission needs, encryption/decryption. Alternatively, you could go for really cheap stuff that works under favourable conditions out to 400 m and costs 30 € per pair in toy stores. 

I suppose it's possible to find a middle ground; a bulk order for 100,000 pieces without (AA) batteries should be doable at prices that even the worst-funded NATO armies can afford. 128 bit encryption/decryption seems doable at that price. I say € 10 M including development effort; 100 € per copy for the launch customer for 100k items bulk purchase. This is still multiple times the price of Linux-capable maker computer boards with CPU, graphics and stuff. A self-made software-defined radio with encryption/decryption capability ends up at less than 50 € material cost in retail prices, by the way!

You can't have such prices if you don't encourage non-arms industries offers in your tender, of course. Harris, Thales and the likes would never offer such a price. Their rifleman radios cost thousands of Euros per copy.

(C) firearm sights

I've been arguing in favour of rather short infantry combat distances (at the very most 400 m dismounted vs. dismounted for assault rifles, but only up to 200 m is really relevant) for a while because you did something wrong if you can be seen from more than 100 m distance and you shouldn't give your position away with needless shooting before you were detected. Leave all the 300+ m targets to snipers, AFVs, indirect fires or collect intelligence by observing them rather than forcing them to become more stealthy! Shorter combat ranges also allow for more lightweight weapons, munitions and sights.

The natural conclusion for affordable sights is thus a red dot sight with an integral on/off switch and CR2032 battery power (COTS). Sights for longer ranges aren't needed. The price per red dot sight could be as low as € 50. Quality sights cost a lot more, but this is about making it affordable for troops who would usually not have quality sights anyway. Red dot sights (and their batteries) could be trusted down to -20° C. This would usually suffice, and a very simple (100 m fixed range) folding 'iron' sight could be installed as backup. Even a cheap red dot sight is a huge improvement over iron sights in the stress of battle (not so much on a firing range).

Maybe I'm delusional here, but I estimate the normally just assault rifle + clothes + helmet equipped support soldier of some Eastern European NATO army or Western European army reserves could be turned into a much more effective and thus much more confident (and this is the real value here!) night combat-capable rifleman at the staggering price tag of  about 300 € plus 300 € per infantry squad and platoon (COTS thermal imagers for small unit leaders to enhance detection) and another 20,000 € at unit or battalion level (for the illumination drones set). (This leaves frag protection vests out as they are already widespread in use.)

Let's assume a hypothetical support battalion of  300 personnel with 10 platoons and 30 squads. This sums up to about 122,000 € modernization cost for the whole formation. The illumination drone team of two might need a cheap 4x2 vehicle, let's assume 15,000 € for that as well. The expense per head stands at about 450 €. This is affordable. It would shock our procurement agencies with its lack of mil spec robustness, but the alternative is to have no night vision other than an NCO's flare gun and flashlights, usually only iron sights only, and no intra-squad radios at all.

This applies just as much to infantry of poor non-NATO countries and of course also to stored sets for reservists and 'rear' area troops in well-funded armed services.


Uniforms are an obsolete concept


Everybody nowadays agrees that the red, blue, white uniforms of the absolutism era and even 19th century would be a horrible idea on a modern battlefield. They made troops especially visible and identifiable, which made the commanding of formations on a battlefield easier. Firearms improved in firepower, and it became imperative to seek concealment, cover, camouflage and be dispersed.

The French persisted in using colourful uniforms into WWI
(correctly colourised photo)

The reason why such easily visible uniforms are obsolete is that they're too easy to detect and identify. You cannot afford that on a modern battlefield because firepower has become terribly lethal (and the partial bulletproofing of infantry doesn't change this).

That's EXACTLY the reason why I think that ALL uniforms - including modern ones - are obsolete.

What? You think it's not that easy to see a camouflage pattern-clothed soldier outdoors at 100 m?

Me neither, but you should stop thinking with your eyes. This is the age of electronics. It's a decades-old story that law enforcement uses aerial sensors to find marijuana plants based on their colour spectrum.* This is literally something that can be done with a man-portable drone over several kilometres range.

Likewise, all those exactly military specification-following camouflage clothes and vehicle camouflage paint jobs (and even the industrially-made ghillies and camouflage nets) can (as far as I know) be detected quite easily by their spectral fingerprint. They stand out to a appropriately-prepared sensor and computer as bright red would do.

A typical man is unable to correctly name more than two or three shades of green. Some Amazonian tribe reputedly knows 50 names for different shades of green. A computer can correctly identify ten thousands of shades of green in less than 1/1000th of a second.

Weathering of colours (such as many times washed clothes, or old vehicle paint jobs) is very likely something that the algorithm can simply take into account. The false alarm rate may be an issue, but today's machine learning methods and an ability to zoom in on a first detection for confirmation should render false alarm rates acceptable.

Camouflage patterns are furthermore patterns. Repeat, patterns. Pattern recognition is one of the strengths developed for computers in the past two decades. Camouflages patterns are difficult to discern from certain backgrounds for a human brain at certain distances - but a dedicated computer algorithm can identify such patterns easily regardless of context.


In the end, technology may spell doom for uniforms and standardised vehicle paint jobs for battlefield usage, leaving us with uniforms for non-battlefield troops, which would be a relic - largely devoid of function.

The things that may be redeemable about battlefield uniforms are their shapes (cut) and materials.

Predictability hurts in warfare - and what's more predictable than an army wearing the same clothes and painting all its vehicles alike, for decades?

edit: a somewhat related research paper


Figure 4 shows the problem; the amouflage fabric looks like foliage to us humans, but a spectrum analysis shows something completely different. Figure 6 reminds me of how algorithms can easily discern a small boat from a background of seawater and white spray - the effective contrast is much greater to the algorithm than to the human brain.



 example: channelsystems.ca/sites/default/files/documents/UseofSpectralPropertiesforWeedDetectionandIdentification_Noble.pdf  If still in doubt, look up 'marijuana spectrum detection', but absolutely avoid searching for 'marijuana spectrum'...

P.S.:  Years ago I wrote that camo pattern uniforms are fine for non-combat, non-reconnaissance troops, but combat and reconnaissance troops should strive for better camouflage effect than possible with standard pattern uniforms. Ghillie-like camo jackets modified for the local and seasonal environment, for example. Camo pattern clothing risks suggesting that it's good-enough camo by itself, but both combat and recce troops should strive for better stealth than that. One way to ensure this could be to give them monochrome grey, green or brown camo clothes (at least for the torso). Now I think that maybe the visible parts of such a colour base layer could be very troublesome.



Sensor fusion attack drones

An Israeli firm exhibited a supposedly world-first drone in July*; it is a loitering kamikaze drone that combined a passive radio frequency seeker with rather ordinary electro-optical and thermal sensors.

 (marketing video; don't believe everything you see in advertising)
It appears to be the product of the 'small Harop' development project (I could have checked this, but it's too peripheral and I'm no paid author here).
This drone is no doubt still rather expensive (think: car to super sports car price range) and it's big, but let's assume that costs and sizes go down over time as usual and make such drones/missiles affordable in large quantities. 

The new face of air dominance** would not be thousands of P-47s, Typhoons and other tactical aircraft over Normandy '44 or hundreds of A-10s and supersonic jets slaughtering withdrawing Iraqis in 1991: It could be thousands of loitering (and in case of no success returning for recovery) drones that do not only search for targets with thermal sensors (often based on cues by dedicated recce assets), but also detect almost all*** kinds of radio emissions as a lead for further investigations with IIR and E/O. Multiple communicating drones could pinpoint emitter locations precisely by triangulating, so ceasing emissions is of little help against drones that can look with imaging infrared sensors and know very well where to look.

Movements would compromise stealth as they did in '44 and ever since, but so would also many uses of radar and radio communications.

This is not only a horror scenario for underfunded small country armed forces fearing that their country might be targeted for bullying by some great power(s): Such oppressive use of drone airpower might be the fate of those who neglect updating their idea of air war and reorienting their battlefield air defences in time. An once-a-decade investment of € 1 bn with almost no operating costs might suffice to dull the tip of the spear of two mechanised NATO brigades.

*: This blog post was actually written and scheduled for publication on July 15th.
**: This is about the exploitation of air dominance. How to gain and sustain it is a different issue.
***: Some radio frequencies have so very high atmospheric dampening and some such emitters so very low power that detection is impractical beyond uselessly short distances. This includes wireless communication between personally electronics carried by the same person or vehicle. Other radio links would be directional and some radars would 'look' horizontally with too little emission power upwards to where the drones would be.


Link dump September 2021


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It's a couple years old, but I suppose it could be relevant for windows of subsonic aviation and land vehicles in regard to avoiding the glare that's in daylight more of an issue than whether your camo paintjob is plain grey or some fancy digital six-colour pattern. This glare issue is why AFVs and many battlefield helicopters have only flat glass areas that reflect direct sunlight only in one direction instead of in many like a beacon.

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Don't be a covidiot.

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 FYI gidmk.medium.com/is-ivermectin-for-covid-19-based-on-fraudulent-research-5cc079278602

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This is a humorous collage showing Russian troops on Kabul airport. It made me wonder whether there's a point to having a tail gunner position AND a bow gunner position on military transport aircraft after all.

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I blame Austria for the existence of this joke.

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[German] tagesspiegel.de/politik/heiko-maas-und-der-abzug-aus-afghanistan-wer-wissen-wollte-konnte-wissen/27535630.html

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[German] zeit.de/stoerungsmelder/2021/08/24/goldgraeber-am-rechten-rand_30939

Ich meine ja schon seit Jahren, dass es wichtig ist, über den Schwachsinn der in Amerika abgeht informiert zu sein. Deren Schwachsinn schwappt häufiger mal nach Europa über. Diese Verquickung von rechter Propaganda/Hetze/Angstmacherei mit Verkauf von Büchern, Nahrungsergänzungsmitteln, Gold, Waffen und Post-Apokalypse Ausrüstung (zum Beispiel schwachsinnig unzureichend kleine Mengen von Saatgut) ist dort schon seit langem ein offensichtlicher Bestandteil des rechtsradikalen Subkultur. Beispiele:



Auch beliebt ist die Abzocke als Geschäftsmodell bei weißen Evangelikalen "Predigern" (insbesondere beim 'prosperity gospel' mit dem "seed" Schwachsinn), die sich auch mit Rechtsradikalen vermischen, weil sie nicht blöd sind und wissen, dass der Rechtsradikalismus ein Sammelbecken für Schwachköpfe und andere Leichtgläubige ist. Das ist genau die Zielgruppe, die Evangelikale für ihren eigene Maschen brauchen.

Diese Abzocke mit eigentlich offensichtlichem Schwachsinn erzeugt also ein Profitmotiv und auch finanzielle Fähigkeiten für antidemokratische Gruppen, die einen Großteil ihrer Landsleute einfach nur noch hassen.




A high-end conventional land warfare doctrine (III)

Now let's imagine the *evil* Russians launch the Great Patriotic War 2nd Edition for Re-unification of the motherland and invade the Baltics. There's little or no other justification for Western European land forces spending at high levels, so it's my go-to scenario
The invaders would have an initial advantage of surprise and quickly overrun the Baltics and the Polish garrisons close to Kaliningrad Oblast, but the militias would activate largely unscathed. The Polish would panic and mass remaining regular army troops close to their capital Warsaw plus a delaying force between Warsaw and Belarus. 
The German army could respond in force the quickest (if prepared!) due to geography. Pontoon bridging would bridge the Oder and Vistula, bypassing busted bridges. Six German brigades would deploy near full strength within few days together with one raider regiment, one Fernspäher regiment, a few brigades from the Czech Republic, Hungary, the U.S. and some all-wheeled French formations. The German corps would at first set up its forward support group part North of Warsaw and its rear one inside or Southwest of it. The battalion battlegroups would establish something of a line to check the invader advance, and the heavy skirmishing would commence where infiltrations could be executed at reasonable risks. The raiders would dash forward through further gaps they had to find themselves while Fernspäher teams peel off from their convoys east of the Baltic allies' territories to go into observation posts. Kaliningrad Oblast would be cut off for capture by later reinforcements. Raiders would set afire airbases, petrochemical and chemical industries and airports as far away as Moscow, and raid many high value targets including long-range jammers that target NATO electronic support aircraft and satellites. They would also become an integral part of the air war effort of dismantling Russian fighter and area air defence capabilities enough for the arriving NATO air power to intervene with almost full power aqnd without a lengthy DEAD (destruction of enemy air defences) campaign. 
Russian formations in the Baltics have to face destruction in very lopsided clashes or withdraw once disadvantaged by their moving pocket status, encircled by light and heavy skirmishers. Their air defences and reconnaissance assets wither away under the skirmishers' harassment and progressing constriction. 

Yes, Russia could threaten with tactical nukes in an attempt to deter a liberation of the Baltics, but there would be hardly any targets as even the corps-level support group clusters are dispersed in a 20x20 km area. It would take multiple 100+ kt TNTeq thermonuclear warheads to explode close to or over Warsaw to destroy it. That wouldn't be a tactical strike any more, it would risk escalation to major thermonuclear war. Even such a strike would not necessarily matter much, as the German corps support groups would soon be dwarfed anyway by what other allied forces arrive to take over.

The militias and the actions of the heavy skirmishers show that the invaders never really accomplished a total occupation of the Baltics . The spectacular actions of the raiders signalled to the Russian public that the conflict isn't under control of the Russian high command at all, and reinforcements from the Southern Military district necessarily get diverted to combat the raiders together with Russian Air Force's ground attack assets.
The German brigades can progressively switch all their manoeuvre elements to the heavy skirmishing role as more and more allied conventional brigades arrive to take over the more traditional non-skirmishing tasks.
There's no need to extend heavy skirmishing beyond the Baltic and Polish allies' territories, as the objective is to expel the invaders. The brigades would occasionally go a few kilometres past those territories, but their support groups would stay within, limiting the incursions into actual Russian territory to 40 km save for Fernspäher and the (quickly waning) Raider activities that constitute no gain of ground at all.

Finally, the German heavy skirmisher and raider units as well as the exhausted Fernspäher can be recalled and recover in theatre reserve as the area becomes so flooded with allied brigades that very different and rather brute force-ish operational art with emphasis on superior firepower including air support takes over till the expulsion of almost all invaders. The German brigades' support groups would switch to support allied ground combat units of less well-funded NATO/EU armies. Finally, there's a cease-fire that NATO can live with (Baltics 90+% liberated, including the Eastern borders). The occupied Kaliningrad Oblast gets traded back in exchange for still-occupied Iceland and Svalbard as by political decision.



A high end conventional land warfare doctrine (II)

To recollect, part I divided the theatre of land warfare into four successive areas:
  1. "rear" (blue) areas (say, Western Poland)
  2. militia-monitored areas with more or less harassment of invaders (say, Northeastern/Eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)
  3. "red" areas with Fernspäher surveillance at least at points of interest
  4. "red" areas with only satellite surveillance
Now it's about time to present the role for the heavier forces.
The "rear" areas would see supplies being moved by civilian logistics contractors with civilian vehicles. Civilian police would police the roads to manage refugee streams and try to keep the military traffic flowing. Rail bridges are certainly useless, and road bridges might be busted and replaced by pontoon bridging. Those pontoon bridges would have prioritization of traffic according to the needs of the war effort and would be defended by classic air defences and anti-ballistic missile point defences.

The militia-observed areas would be the terrain for mechanised brigade combat as NATO usually envisages it, but with an important distinction: Mechanised manoeuvre elements of about company size might operate both within and beyond the effective radius of the brigade support umbrella. 
The company-sized mechanised manoeuvre elements outside (too far forward of) the brigade support umbrella would be called "heavy skirmishers" and have a very much changed (skirmishing) mindset and repertoire. They would focus on the line of sight fight and act more as encircling, harassing, delaying and armoured recce force; Americans and military historians might term them "light cavalry". Their historical precedents do indeed reach back almost 2,000 years to Romano-Parthian wars, when light Parthian horse-archers caused great trouble to the by comparison sluggish Romans. The firefights of such heavy skirmishers would preferably hit non-combat troops hard, and the contacts with combat troops would be short but fierce in the best of NATO's ambushing delaying action tactic tradition.

These heavy skirmishers would turn opposing forces' battalion battlegroups and larger formations into constricted moving pockets. They're shaping the battlefield BEFORE our forces would be committed into decisive action in brigade(s) vs. brigade clashes. The intent is to disadvantage the invading opposing force to the point that its defeat in an eventual clash (preferably our pincer attack) with our formations of equal level is ensured before it happens. 

You're mistaken if this sounds defensive to you. The zone in which heavy skirmishers operate could be pushed forward, the heavy skirmisher forces would engulf then "defending" hostile brigades (or battlegroups) and turn them into (moving) pockets. This is possible becuase of an assumption that there's no defended front-line due to a low forces to area ratio.
The brigade-level support groups and their support umbrella could be pushed forward likewise. Opposing forces subjected to this treatment risk destruction if they advance too far or persist for too long, and their superiors would be tempted to order their withdrawal. 
At this point the land campaign could resemble the early 18th century manoeuvre of professional European armies which attempted to outmanoeuvre each other and capture ground (even fortresses) without decisive battle. You always need to still be capable of succeeding in pitched battle, and never fully trust the compelling effect of manoeuvre, of course.
You need much depth for such a doctrine, and "must-defend" locations within this depth (say, Warsaw) need to have rather stiff local defences to make this doctrine politically feasible.

The heavy skirmishers and some even farther forward operating raiders (previously described as armoured recce-ish) would also affect the air war. Helicopter forward operating bases and even air force airbases would not be safe from them, and the organic high effective ceiling air defence of the raider companies (or rather their support group) would endanger opposing airpower in areas it would otherwise deem safe (such as close to its airbases, or within their own area air defence range). 
The raiders would be a diversion and raiding/sabotaging, rarely ambushing force. Historical precedents include the Long Range Desert Group. It would use 14.5 mm B-32 bullet-proofed 6x6 motor vehicles with non-conspicuous tire profiles. The French wheeled AFV concepts come the closest to what I envisage. The main gun on most vehicles should be somewhat air target-capable, ranging from 40 mm CT up to 76 mm with 30+ rpm. The latter would render a dedicated self-propelled howitzer at raider company level unnecessary, as it could double as indirect fires weapon (it would rather lack multispectral smoke munitions, though). The raider platoons need some dismount strength to inspect bridges, clear buildings and so on, and these dismounts should be able to dismount quickly and get back into the vehicles quickly as well. Dismounting the AFV gunners or commanders does not suffice.

Finally, the support umbrella radius particularly of the brigade needs to be pointed out as an important input variable: These support umbrellas provide the light and heavy skirmishers with support (including artillery fires), and to a small degree also the Fernspäher and raiders (quasi-ballistic PGM range ~ 500 km). The ratio of forces to theatre of war area and the effective radius of the support umbrella (it would be about 40...80 km regardless of whether we use brigades or divisions) leads to my preference for brigades over divisions. We (NATO, EU) wouldn't have enough divisional-level umbrellas in the war zone in the first 14 days of a surprising war, but we could have enough equally-large brigade-level umbrellas in place.

The mobility and endurance of the vehicles used in the heavy skirmisher units as well as corps command's opinion on how much they'd need to move around would define the maximum reach of the heavy skirmishing forward of the brigade support groups and their supply drop-off points. The depth might be disappointing with today's AFVs. We might have 30...40 km ordinary under-umbrella manoeuvring plus maybe only 20...60 km of additional heavy skirmishing depth while rather 100...200 km of the latter would be desirable for full effect. Tanks with more compact main weapon munitions* and much more fuel for greater de facto endurance (enough for four days) would be preferable. An alternative is to use multicopter drones for resupply (120...150 kg payload), which would be another support umbrella capability. Their mission radius would likely be limited to dozens of km, so they wouldn't extend the skirmishing depth very much. This also shows why the heavy skirmishers need much anti-drone day & night ability even without autonomous killer drones coming into play; it could be essential for the encirclement effect.




*: I don't think going for 130 mm tank guns is a good idea. It's single-mindedly focused on APFSDS power. The aforementioned versatile 76 mm quick fire option would suffice for most purposes, and could be complemented by rocket launch tubes compatible with both HVM (a CKEM-like 130 mm APFSDS substitute) and powerful blast rockets (not FAE/thermobaric, for these would cover the minimum range of the HVM for AT purposes and FAE/thermobaric is unsuitable for this). 75 mm was understood to be the smallest highly effective HE calibre in WW2, and today's HE shells and fuzes are better. This is not just about hardware; it's about one's idea about what tanks are meant for.


Fall of Kabul imminent


Now with the Fall of Kabul imminent I'd like to explain it so far as I can (and there's always a chance that I'm wrong). I can simply quote a comment I wrote here a month ago to answer a question:

"The Taleban collapsed in 2001 not because of bombs but because of a cascade of desertions, local groups changing sides. The expectation was that at the very least the foreigners would take over the cities and the ring road like the Soviets did.
This is very likely what's happening now. The previously West-supported central government (basically the non-Pashtu factions) is likely collapsing without giving much of a fight because local allegiances switch again. Their troops were motivated by the foreign money, not by patriotism, faith or ideology.

This local allegiance thing is the whole reason for all that[junior officer]-level diplomacy that was done for decades with the elders of villages and such. The foreigners were trying to have such local factions on their side, and this effort has ended with obvious consequences.

Those few anti-Taleban forces that won't collapse (basically some narco warlord armies) will probably withdraw to some defensible section (IIRC they held a Northeastern valley by 2001) or to neighbouring countries other than Pakistan.

The mobile Taleban troops are very, very few compared to the astonishingly large population, but the very much armed population doesn't fight for its freedom from pseudo-theocrats, so they will lose it."

Was it wrong to withdraw? No. It's not our job to fight and pay for their freedom. The Taleban number about 0.1% of the Afghan population. It was easy-peazy to fight them off, if only the Afghans had attempted to. The Afghan society is dysfunctional and unable to maintain freedom, thus it's not going to live in freedom. (And "freedom" is really a loaded and perspective-dependent word anyway.)

You care about people being oppressed? Fine, tell me how many hours of the year you are exasperated about the hellhole dictatorship otherwise known as Eritrea!


The West sent troops into Afghanistan because there were some Pashtu-nationalist/pseudo-theocrats in power who maintained hospitality for a guy (died a decade ago) who paid and motivated some dudes (mostly Saudis) to kill Americans.

By all historical normal standards nothing more than a punitive expedition was inevitable. Toppling the Pashtu-nationalist/pseudo-theocrat regime was still within the range of normal. Establishing a government that was more friendly before leaving was also within the range of normalcy in the post-colonialism era. 

Staying there and declaring that nothing but the total elimination of the former hospitality-granters would suffice was deranged.

To keep doing it for two decades was total batshit crazy.

And now remember; elimination of the Taleban was impossible all along because they also existed in Pakistan, and Pakistan wasn't even put under serious pressure, ever. How could it be? It's de facto allied with the PRC (a UNSC veto power) and a nuclear-armed power itself.


So the sane thing would have been to leave Afghanistan by summer 2002 at the latest, and leaving the defence of the government to the warlord militias (which were worth a lot more than this 20-years-Western-trained Western-subsidised piece of shit racket known as Afghan National Army).

Now there's at least hope that Afghanistan will find peace after four decades of civil wars, albeit under the rules of Pashto tribal customs. So let's welcome the rapid fall of Kabul. The longer it takes to fall, the more the people of Kabul will suffer.

related (I consistently opposed the Afghanistan occupation bullshit):