"6th generation" fighters

The Brits and the French have shown their mockups for 6th gen fighters.

I never understood why the Americans didn't use a delta wing without any separate tail fins (fully tailless). It's the bare bones configuration, without any stabilisers that function as reflectors.
Nor did I understand why the F-35 was built as a single engine aircraft (though is suspect it's one of the drawbacks caused by the STOVL version). Two engine aircraft have multiple advantages, including the ability to control roll with thrust vectoring. The F-35 was never realistically going into the low (cost) end, a niche that's now reserved for the Gripen (NG) in the West.

I myself think a completely tailless design is the obvious choice from an aerodynamic and radar stealth point of view. Two engines and a limitation to an exportable size and price (rather a F/A-18E/F equivalent than a F-22 equivalent) seem obvious things to go for as well.

The really important things that I expect in "6th gen" combat aircraft are different, though:

(1) DIRCM, likely in dorsal and ventral position and likely retractable. 
Directional infrared countermeasures (lasers) that dazzle the IR sensors of incoming short and medium range missiles are very effective given enough output power and accuracy and could ruin IR-guided missiles' probability of hit. Radar-guided missiles can be messed with by many means, but smart IR-guided missiles are very difficult to defeat, as they reject decoys quite well and can even re-engage after missing.
The upper (dorsal) DIRCM 'turret' may also serve as satellite communication emitter, and both DIRCM turrets may serve as laser communication emitters for datalinks between friendly aircraft. The DIRCM may even be used as first choice IFF (identification friend or foe) interrogator (with normal radio interrogation as backup if there's no positive reply).
The lower (ventral) DIRCM 'turret' might be used to sweep the ground in search of skyward-looking optics (detecting them by characteristic reflections), which might make sense if the approximate origin of hostile surface-to-air missiles is known. The ventral DIRCM might also double as laser target designator. Overall, compact DIRCM in (strike) fighters may be one of the two new big things in air warfare.

The Russian 101KS-O DIRCM ...
... and points of installation (behind & below cockpit).

(2) Rear-looking smartly devised AESA radar
'Stealth' aircraft, ground-based standoff jammers, long range SAMs and long-range air-to-air missiles make the life of AEW&C aircraft such as the famous AWACS miserable and short in wartime. Our combat aircraft would not be able to lean much on AEW support, and certainly not when over hostile ground. 
Fighters should thus better have a good all-round situational awareness without AEW support. Passive sensors such as DAS are limited in effective range due to their resolution, and datalinking to enable multiple aircraft to join their radar data is very imperfect. You'd still need to have some allied fighter to look to the rear, and that quite impractical much of the time, particularly on strike missions over hostile ground.

The simple technical answer is to have 360° radar field of view with onboard radars. This sounds extremely expensive because high performance AESA radars such as APG-77 have only a field of view of about 110...120° because the antenna is fixed. That's too primitive. An angled AESA antenna (say, angled by 40°) that can be rotated 360° can turn a 100° field of view AESA antenna into a 40°+100°+40°=180° field of view AESA antenna (just not all 180° in a fraction of a second).* It's also possible to combine typical 1980's mechanical antenna steering with active electronic steering as for the European CAPTOR-E radar antenna. The latter approach fits better to non-rotation-symmetric radomes and antennas (those with far from circular shape)

Such a hemispherical field of view is half of a spherical field of view, so you can achieve the latter by adding a second (tail) radar. That's why having two engines (thus having space for an antenna radome behind and in between the nozzles) makes even more sense than we're used to.

Such a pair of radars with lots of quite automated modes (including jamming in their frequency ranges) would address many tactical challenges. The rear radar wouldn't even need to be as big as the front antenna; a quarter of the antenna modules (and thus sectional area) yields about a third of the range. That should be enough for most purposes.

Such 360° RF coverage could double as quite directional RF datalink emitters and receivers. It could also detect incoming low signature missiles in time for ECM or DIRCM efforts.

An important purpose of a rear radar would be the tracking of already detected aircraft (which requires somewhat less power than detecting). The rear radar could on its own track a target that a missile has been launched at, upload target info updates to the missile - all while the fighter itself is running away at supersonic speed.

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The disconcerting thing is that the Russians thought of ventral and dorsal DIRCM in their Su-57, and were pioneers regarding modern (strike) fighters with tail radar in the Su-34/-35 series. The Su-57 features a tail radar as well.

Another disconcerting thing is that the Franco-German concept for a new fighter shows off neither DIRCM nor a tail radar in its admittedly very basic published model:

Avionics have been huge drivers of combat capabilities in modern combat aircraft, and also huge drivers of their price.** I suppose it's important to reserve the volume, power supply capacity, cooling (or heat sink) capacity and surfaces for key avionics in future combat aircraft. An aircraft without such reserves could be uncompetitive by the time it becomes operational, quite as non-'stealth' aircraft cannot really be upgraded into 'stealth' aircraft.

Though there is one thing to remember; no matter how sophisticated fighter avionics become, such fighters will be irrelevant against small near-ground drones. A post-2025 high end "air war" might be de facto split into a mixed on-ground and near-ground drone war, conventional air war, ballistic missiles (defence) and and space war. We shouldn't focus resources on the conventional air war domain that we got used to.


*: This is an analogy to the smart use of rotating AESA antennas on modern warships. Some warships use a single AESA antenna or a two-sided rotating AESA antenna high up instead of using much bigger, heavier, larger and more expensive fixed AESA antennas. That's more economical and due to the higher vantage point it even pushes the radio horizon farther out despite lesser power.
**: Turbofans are obscenely expensive as well.


NATO's boundaries

I suppose all readers have noticed that some (U.S.) Americans complain about NATO not being of use, just a drag.
Well, much of the costs of the U.S: military in Europe actually stem from either learning from exercises or from supporting stupid small wars using infrastructure in Europe.
The current gentleman's agreement appears to be a give-and-take that Europeans provide bases for U.S. politicians' military adventure games and the U.S. remains in turn involved in deterrence and defence for Europe(an NATO).*

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Hawaii became a U.S. state in 1959, a decade after the original North Atlantic Treaty. It's not covered under the treaty.** The PR China could nuke Honolulu and the U.S.' NATO allies would not be obliged to do anything against the PRC under the North Atlantic Treaty.
Americans should maybe recognise that the alliance with European protects the continental United States; the Chinese may nuke Guam and launch missiles at Hawaii, but they surely wouldn't want to pull UK, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Norway and Germany into a hot conflict against them. Low information Americans may disrespect the military of those nations, but their combined air and sea power is easily large enough to be undesirable for Chinese war planners and strategymakers.
So right now NATO is a factor that (likely) has a limiting effect on how a Sino-American 21st century war would look like. The treaty might make such a hot conflict a lot less messy by being restricted geographically.

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Still, Americans may at some point wish to renegotiate the geographical limitations of NATO out of greed and obliviousness about the aforementioned effect. This could happen in the context of another accession treaty, that is when some country wants to join (Bosnia? Serbia? Finland? Ukraine?).

Europeans who do professionally think about the alliance or foreign policy strategy should be prepared for this, and make up their mind in time.
  1. Would we want to allow the Americans to drag us into a stupid Pacific (Cold) War?***
  2. How important is it to us to get some more country or countries into the boat?
  3. How important is the probable limiting effect that NATO has on a possible stupid Pacific War to us?
  4. Would we want to spend the extra resources on preparing for an air/sea war with extremely long logistics lines?
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Personally, I'd reject such an expansion of coverage.


*: I still suppose the biggest utility of NATO is that it kept the U.S. and EU from becoming antagonists over the many diverging interests and opinions, of course. The Europeans don't need the actually small American contributions to their deterrence and defence against Russia; most of the U.S. armed forces are irrelevant for Europe anyway, and almost all of the others would only come into effect long after a Russia could have overrun three European NATO members and possibly defeated the forces of a third one.
**: The original article 5 of the treaty was modified by the accession protocol for Greece and Turkey (in article 2) and still includes no Pacific islands.
***: Keeping in mind how needlessly aggressive and reckless their own behaviour is. Germany ought to have learned its lesson from standing by the side of an aggressive and reckless Austria-Hungary in 1914.


Link drop November 2018



This means nothing unless they get rid of the deconfliction requirement in between, though the potential consequences are huge. There's nothing keeping us from doing the same with modestly upgraded 1970's strike fighters, of course. The technology is not the inhibitor; the inhibitor is whether you want to give the FAC the command authority (not just ability to request) over artillery assets.


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-> Maritime transport -> World merchant fleet -> Ships built ...
Sort this table by gross tonnage built. It reveals a picture of what nations are shipbuilding nations and which basically revel in memories about shipbuilding. Think about this with a hypothetical Pacific arms race in mind. I suppose it would be about as fair as this race:

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It's war porn, alright. The impact pattern is also a clear reminder about how indirect fire support tends to have a greater dispersion in range than to the left and right.
The "MLRS" in the video is nonsense. "MLRS" is a specific and different type of "MRL" (multiple rocket launcher). "ISIS" is likely nonsense as well. ISIS territory did not extend to the vicinity of Latakia. The targets were much more likely FSA troops if the "Latakia" reference is at least approximately correct.

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I mentioned earlier that the USN is a land attack navy that only pretends to protect maritime trade. Now they make it public knowledge that they wouldn't even only secure their nation's military sealift ships.

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 WTF does Mauritania need a LST for? To order such a ship is insanely inane corruption. They could have been corrupt about orders for new railway equipment instead. That would at least have offered some actual benefits to the country.

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(At the time of this writing it's still unclear whether four or up to 22 F-22 were left behind.)

Look how flimsy the hangars were constructed in a hurricane-threatened area, especially relative to hardened aircraft shelters.

That's what happens when an armed service pays most attention to shiny prestige objects and it's also what happens if there's a hollow force syndrome; expenditures are allocated to maintain or expand what the leaders like the most (especially quality and quantity of platforms) instead of doing an all-round optimisation.

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A critique on "CNO" @ Navy Matters blog:

(you can disregard the comment in the middle, and please graciously ignore the typos, too)
 is not okay if the blog post says this

(He did indeed delete the first comment about that conflict and he deleted that above-documented (slightly typo-ridden) comment as well.)

That's contrarian argumentation for the sake of defending one's position, damn the facts. On top of that there's some unprovoked arrogant insult involved.
I've encountered such behaviour a couple times and it always makes me wonder whether my at times a bit combative approach to pushing back against some comments takes similar wrong turns at times. I don't remember doing anything equivalent to deleting a comment that points out a 100% 180° conflict between a post and a comment of mine.
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hated it

still do

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I was already wondering if and when they would try to lease Rabaul. This one is close.

What's next? Palau? It has an international airport with a 7,200 ft runway.

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Can you imagine that a song like this could be created nowadays? It feels as if the very sentiment is at odds with the Zeitgeist today. The same country has 'shithole' insults on Twitter instead, in addition to the Zamunda fantasies that were already known in the (later) 80's.

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They can now dive, too. We're lost. ;-)

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Funny side note; more than 11 years of mil blogging, and just a few days after Canada legalised marijuana some company offered me to send me a free leather gun holster for review. It was the first unsolicited hardware review offer. Hmmm....

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INF - I don't hold back this time

The Able Archer 83 exercise freaked out the Soviets. They seriously feared that NATO was intent on attacking the Warsaw Pact. The West did not expect this, and was slow to understand it. Eventually, U.S. president Reagan was briefed on how seriously scared the Soviets were, and how close this episode had brought the world to World War 3 and the ruin of civilizations. It was one of the three or four scariest and most dangerous moments during the Cold War.
Then Reagan's best characteristic kicked in; he learned the lesson and turned from a Cold Warrior with aggressive rhetoric into someone who had arms control (and partial disarmament) treaties negotiated and eventually signed them as well.*

Land-based missiles between 500 km and 5,500 km have thus been banned between Russia and the U.S. through the INF treaty in 1987. The European countries did not circumvent this, and so land-based missiles of such ranges are effectively non-existent in both NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries.

A 3,500 km missile can cover practically all of Europe and the Mid East from Russian territory.

3,500 km radius

The by now ancient Polaris SLBM had a length of less than 10 m in stored configuration and much more than 3,500 km range. Missiles of this kind could be transported and launched from 40 ft, 45 ft and 53 ft ISO containers. The missile could carry one heavy warhead or three warheads sufficient for hardened aircraft shelters (akin to SDB).
The cost per missile + launch container might be around € 2...3 million, including a conventional warhead capable of penetrating 2.5 m reinforced concrete (enough against many if not most hardened aircraft shelters) before explosion, and alternative proximity fuse for above-ground explosion.

500 such missiles would cost maybe EUR 2...4 billion including the missile and payload development.

Now what could Russia do with such a relatively cheap arsenal?

without such complications as chartering container ships - straight out of legitimate military bases.

The military, deterrence and defence world as we know it isn't all about nature's laws. It's a product of path dependency. An important part of this path is that MRBMs and IRBMs were practically outlawed in the 1st and 2nd world just prior to PGMs becoming utterly commonplace. 

The threat of a precision-guided medium range quasi-ballistic missile alpha strike to air power has a historical parallel; Maxim machineguns vs. sabre-wielding cavalry. The only way to survive this is to not be in sight. To get rid of the MRBM/IRBM ban equals uprooting the security architecture of an entire continent.

The lying moron tramples on this pillar of European security**

He's proven himself to be the security threat number one to all of the EU and European NATO.
He's almost certainly a Russian asset. He's certainly earning Guinness World Records for inanity, idiocy, ignorance and dumbassery in the by now extremely unlikely case that he's no Russian asset.


*: There were other examples of where he reversed course, for example after the Beirut barracks bombing and in regard to tax cuts. Republicans post-Clinton pretend to revere Reagan, but they refuse to follow his example.
**: For absolutely no gain fucking whatsoever. Even IF the Russians HAD some treaty-violating cruise missiles - so what?  Cruise missiles take hours to arrive at long distances, we could prepare and defend against that. What shackles have the U.S. thrown off by leaving the treaty through chapter XIV? NONE WHATSOEVER. The inefficient and sluggish Pentagon bureaucracy won't even have such missiles ready for at least a decade, unless they want to park naval cruise missile launchers onshore. Which would be idiotic, considering that they could simply store naval missiles in some old ship hulk for the very same practically non-existing benefits. There's no sensible scenario that calls for U.S. land-based MRBMs/IRBMs!

The lying moron's and the one-trick walrus' amount of idiocy goes well beyond my horizon of imagination. I have not in my entire life met a man with such a despicable idiotic brain, and this includes the crazies who loudly argue with themselves on park benches!

True conservatives dislike punks.


Sea Phoenix - or: "How long did Western navies bet on the wrong horse?"


Early shipborne missiles for air defence were quite simple and very much restricted in their capabilities. Some had great ranges, but all of them were rather well-suited for defence against bombers and relatively dumb large missiles (up to light fighter jet size) than for defence against sea skimming missiles or strike fighters flown with attention and skill.

Moreover, the guidance methods required many large antennas, but still limited the quantity of targets engaged in parallel so much that simple saturation attacks were useful for overwhelming them.
The various shortcomings led to the observation that electronic countermeasures (especially decoys and chaff) were actually more effective against missiles than the shipborne air defence missiles.

The obvious saturation attack challenge motivated the West - and the USN in particular - to adopt a modified semi-active radar homing scheme. Early SARH missiles had their target illuminated from launch to hit (or miss). The HAWK missile (homing all the way killer) even explained this in its name. Late 1970's and 1980's tech SARH missiles (examples SM-2 and Patriot) flew by autopilot and had their target illuminated by some radar only during the terminal phase. This allowed for a better trajectory (intercept course, and more close to ballistic), and it reduced the time the illumination radars had to illuminate for one (potential) kill. This helped to increase the theoretical kills during a saturation attack - if only said attack was flown at high-enough altitudes. There were few benefits against sea skimming missiles or strike fighters.

The USN in particular still went all-in on the concept of having giant expensive radars on cruisers and destroyers, air defence coordination rooms in cruisers and lock-on after launch SARH missiles (SM-2) as air defence. ECM and short range air defences were afterthoughts by comparison. The ECM sets were expensive, but the CIWS and short range SAMs (Sea Sparrow) weren't highly regarded.

Eventually, no war ever really tested this AEGIS system (which reached the kind of capability that was supposed in the mid-80's by the mid-90's only) and navy fanbois keep loving it regardless of their knowledge of its shortcomings. There was too much positive propaganda about it.

Still, nowadays it's understood that active radar missiles are the superior alternative. They solve the saturation attack challenge (in theory) by being completely independent from any illumination radar, and they can kill sea skimming missiles before the ship's sensors can see them if only some external sensor provides sufficient and timely target data tot he launching ship. These missiles' active radar seekers furthermore know the distance to their target (SARH only provides 2D directions), so they can calculate a much-superior intercept course in the terminal phase compared to SARH where the missile simply keeps pointing its nose at the return echo's direction. This improves the lethality against manoeuvring targets such as strike fighters. It's at last in theory even possible to re-engage a slow target that's been missed after turning around.

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Active radar homing missiles have become available in quantity with the AIM-120 AMRAAM in the early 90's. They are expensive and far from flawless, but it's fair to say that the Western navies overslept the development. AMRAAM arrived in 1991 after long development delays. To introduce an active radar homing missile (Aster) in the late 90's was a significant delay compared to what the air force did - particularly considering that air forces did not face such sea skimming or saturation threats in the same way. Their fighters could run away from overwhelming odds at almost Mach 2. A warship is a static target by comparison.

So Aster was introduced by the late 90's in Europe, SM-6 and Sea Ceptor were introduced in the 2010's and ESSM Block II may or may not arrive in operational service before the 2020's.
So the delay in adopting active radar homing as mainstay of naval air defence is about 6...22 years compare to air combat, right?


The latter missile (or rather system - missile and radar had to be seen in context) was available for shipboard use and very promising during the mid-1970's already!

naval Sea Phoenix installation; launcher and radar
The proposal required the installation of the F-14's radar in a shipboard version together with a launcher box for a dozen Phoenix missiles. This was far from optimised*, but obviously superior to the simple SARH (all the way) Sea Sparrow installations that became NATO standard instead. Some tests were done, and then the USN focused on AEGIS because it emphasised defence against the old school Soviet high-flying missiles instead of against state-of-the art sea skimmers.
Sure, Sea Sparrow was much cheaper, but it was also near-useless against any serious attack. The short range and dependency on SARH would have allowed for one or two kills in theory during an air attack, and the expectation value after taking into account all the fire control issues and probability of kill was rather below one.
Moreover, Sea Phoenix was likely a more capable** air defence proposal than the entire AEGIS system when facing multiple sea skimmers. A destroyer with two illuminator radar may or may not succeed to launch SM-2MR missiles against four incoming missiles before impact (likely rather two). A much smaller ship with much less expensive radar tech but a (rotating launcher) Sea Phoenix set could have fired at 6...12 targets instead.

In other words; there are strong indications that Western navies did bet on the wrong technology horse for 25+ years and are still trying to get out of the technological lock-in after about 45 years. Moreover, betting on the AEGIS/SPY-1/SM-2 horse led especially the USN onto a path towards buying very expensive, very large ships for air defence that provide little advantage over smaller ones if the opposing force is smart or at least matching what the Argentinians were capable of in 1982.***



BTW; Phoenix did cost about half a million dollars, about the same as a Standard ARM which was based on the SM-1 missile. Sea Phoenix may have been not terribly much more expensive than a SM-2 missile after all. It was several times as expensive as a (Sea) Sparrow or Aspide missile, though.

*: Normal 3D ship radar could have been used and the missiles' solid fuel rocket could have been modified for more initial thrust to better suit the surface-to-air role. 
**: Assuming that its radar seeker was appropriately modified to deal with sea skimmers).
***: Super Étendard strike fighter flew very low, climbed shortly to find target ship, approached it very low, launched Exocet missile and turned away without offering a target for a SARH engagement sequence. The Exocet missile flew as sea skimmer and was detected so late that SARH intercept (with the much-respected Sea Dart missile) didn't happen. ECM didn't happen in time either - the ship was hit by the only missile fired. An entire squadron of such pilots, planes and missiles would still be a great challenge for USN cruisers and destroyers today despite the introduction of VLS, ESSM and some conceptual improvements in ECM.


Baltic land forces - musings

The Baltic countries have tiny populations compared to Russia, and appear to be threatened by the heavy division equivalent that Russia has in the St. Petersburg area, as well as another heavy division equivalent that Russia has in 10...24 hrs road march distance and at least one light brigade equivalent worth of Russian air assault troops.
The terrain restricts movements much with woodland and very wet & soft soil conditions in many places as well as some rivers and lakes, but this applies much less in wintertime when almost all water close to the surface is frozen. The improved wintertime navigability of the terrain (save for deep snow conditions) offers attackers many more possible routes or advance than the small Baltic armed forces could cover with their allied tripwire compound battalions. Offensive manoeuvre would be almost guaranteed to succeed. The de facto absence of area air defences and the weakness of the merely symbolic air policing fighter flights allows freedom of manoeuvre for Russian air assaults.

One could in theory build up the Baltic military forces, militarise the countries and make them strong enough to resist whatever first wave the Russians could throw at them currently. This could be a fairly simple ten to twenty years effort mimicking the Israeli army. Allies would provide military aid (subsidies), domestic companies would tailor equipment and services to match the specific Baltic needs quickly, conscription could turn the majority of 18...45 year olds into soldiers and reservists. Partial mobilisation and movement (hiding) of high value targets would have to occur at a slight hint of possible invasion. A major mobilisation would meanwhile become unsustainable for more than a few weeks in peacetime because it would shut down the economy (Israelis already know this issue well).

Obviously, this doesn't happen. Even the otherwise military aid-giving Americans thought of "tripwire" multinational compound battalions as answer to the Baltic security challenge, not of any 'Baltic IDF' scheme. The entire approach would help little in the next couple years anyway.
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This leads to the obvious approach; the planners look at what little budget and manpower they have, look at what obsolete equipment they can get gifted by friendly nations and draw up miniature armies. Lithuania created three brigades (one even with high end SPGs), Latvia and Estonia each one brigade (Estonia buys SPGs). Mobilisation would add almost nothing but lightly armed forces, for they lack the heavy equipment stocks for a medium or heavy forces expansion.

This uninspired conventional approach is guaranteed to fail if tested in my opinion. They lack any effective or even reliable protection against fixed wing air attack and are horribly inferior to Russian artillery and tank forces. The idea of operating as combined arms brigades is bound to fail in face of the potential opposing forces that can mount a much more complete and much bigger combined arms effort. The force density would furthermore be so low that this approach is like locking only one of ten doors to your home.

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This begs the question
"What is the optimal military policy for the Baltic countries?"

The first thing to remember and internalise is that the Baltic countries are allied with other EU and NATO countries. They do not need to defend themselves alone, but on the other hand they will not receive much military support in the first weeks of war.

Their countries would be part of a larger strategic map; an invader would seek to occupy them, establish a link to Kaliningrad Oblast and then either proceed to position himself against a counteroffensive or first attempt to push Poland into neutrality by disarming its brigades and going after Warsaw.

To successfully secure the Baltics does not require a successful defence of the Baltics themselves; it requires a decisive sabotage of the aggressor's operational and strategic plans.

Less generally speaking; one doesn't need to keep invaders from roving through the land; it's enough if their leaders understand that they cannot achieve their objectives. The Baltic countries could achieve this in many ways:
  1. They can make the entire Baltics inhospitable for high value targets (forward air bases, area air defence units, forward rotary aviation airfields, tank repair workshops, forward headquarters, electronic warfare units).
  2. They can achieve a giant diversionary effect by binding at least interior ministry troops and army reserve infantry battalions in a security role.
  3. They can wreak havoc against targets in Russia by infiltrating and sabotaging even hundreds of kilometres deep against military road traffic, critical infrastructure, airports and airbases.
  4. They can provide superior situational awareness to allied manoeuvre forces by being everywhere and reporting from everywhere - as if there were thousands of long range scout teams in the theatre of war.
Forces that were custom-tailored to achieve this would provoke countermeasures to some degree, but they would also considerably raise the bar for operational war of aggression planning.

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Well, what would such forces look like?
There are historical precedents, and the answer is in my opinion a combination:
  • Jagdkampf (Germany, Austria)
  • Raumverteidigung (Austrian)
  • Long Range Desert Group (British Empire)
Jagdkampf is about a (reinforced) infantry platoon that pursues a mission 'behind enemy lines', mostly in a raiding and sabotaging, but also scouting fashion. It's extremely demanding regarding morale, cohesion and austere logistics.

Raumverteidigung is an operational-level concept that strives to make an invasion undesirable because it causes the invader more trouble than it benefits him. Austria was a possible terrain for flanking movements by the Warsaw Pact (akin to Belgium in both World Wars) and also threatened by NATO, which might want to force passage from, Germany to Italy for cut-off forces.
There were several such small unit infantry-centric concepts for survivable yet yielding low cost defence against the Warsaw Pact's tank and artillery strength in the 70's and 80's.

Raumverteidigung does not oppose a mechanised invading force first and foremost with mechanised forces, but with less fragile infantry forces that would resist for weeks.  They did still maintain some light mechanised mobile forces (they were necessary for opposing forces simulation anyway).

The Long Range Desert Group conducted long-range raids with unarmoured cars in the North African desert, collecting intelligence by observation and then striking especially airfields with sabotage raids (strike first, then gather intel proved to be the wrong order of events).

There's are two serious problems with any such rather infantry-centric approach:
Problem #1; snow.
Even the most stealthy and most elusive infantry leaves plenty traces of its own movement in snow. Snow also slows infantry down much of the time (except on skis). Small units can survive superior opposing forces only by evasion or stealth, so snow would compromise their survivability to some degree.
Problem #2; cold.
Infantry is more affected by very cold weather than mechanised forces are. Infantry has to seek shelter in buildings (or at least tents) during much of the time, whereas mechanised and even merely motorised forces have heated mobile interiors.

After weeks of deliberation I see but one solution to these problems: The stay behind militia needs to limit its movements to civilian movements while snow covers the landscape. This may be almost no movement if the invader implements a curfew. They could still be effective in some ways. They could gather information and transmit it by laser instead of by radio (to avoid triangulation), which would of course require satellites that could pick the signal up and reply with a robust signal.

The trivial answer to snow and especially snow+curfew is thus that the information gathering and violent resistance would need to happen from inside buildings. The most effective way to do so would be to use autonomous flying drones from within buildings.* Very small drones that fly at treetop height would not be traced to the building (military intelligence would still identify the origin sooner or later), but could execute pre-programmed reconnaissance and attack missions (warhead ~ approx. 40 mm HEDP) autonomously. They could be launched and recovered at night.

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Latvia and Lithuania might actually delay an invading mechanised force (NOT air assault force) by securing the Daugava river for a while. This requires to make the bridges unusable, keep observation posts on both sides of the river and harass and disrupt hostile bridge engineers' efforts. That's a good case for MRLs in the area (SPGs are inefficient**). 

Latvia and Estonia could set up cheap raiding forces that would infiltrate towards the St. Petersburg region, nearby Russian airbases and other high value targets (switchyards, telecom cables etc.). They would use various means and ways that would require a disproportionate security effort to defend against.

All three Baltic countries should focus most of their military spending on a kind of Raumverteidigung scheme. Jagdkampf specifically is platoon-centric and may not even be optimal.
One could instead create small militia infantry sections (3...10 personnel) instead, most of which would be rifleman-centric and capable of sneaky raids, harassing sniping and long range scout-like observation.
Others would focus on direct fire support (using M4 Carl Gustav), high angle fire support (commando mortar), providing SatCom and HF communication links, electronic warfare (especially jamming against arty and mortar fuses and common portable radios), tank hunting (using ERYX or Spike SR) and harassment of hostile low level aviation (using RBS 70 NG / Bolide missile).
All of them could be trained at handling some of a gazillion of allies-sponsored autonomous small treetop altitude reconnaissance and attack drones.

The mission of these militia forces would cover the aforementioned points 1, 2 and 4. The small size of the individual elements and the radio jamming would render the invader's indirect fire support inefficient. The leg-only mobility in battle would make mechanised counters largely inefficient in many terrains as well, as mechanised forces could not or would not dare to pursue into infantry-favouring terrains.

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Such forces would not achieve much on their own, but the Baltic countries do not stand on their own - and their fate would be a repeat of 1940 if they did, anyway.

There wouldn't be any brigades, and hardly any impressive heavy weapons to show off. Russian war planners would anticipate a quick passage at least to the Daugava, and they would likely come up with means and ways to cross it rapidly despite the defenders' efforts.
They would anticipate huge troubles for the later weeks due to guerilla and raiding activities, though. Air defences could not safely deploy forward, air power could not safely deploy forward, supply lines would be threatened by substantial harassment efforts, electronic warfare forces could not safely deploy forward. Huge quantities of security forces would be required to cordon off against and to hunt raiders. Even more security forces would be needed in the Baltic countries themselves, causing an infantry weakness among the manoeuvre forces without being able to properly secure a steady flow of supplies.

The rest of the deterrence and defence job would be a job for the allies, in particular Poland and Germany.

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I should mention: It's fashionable to think of "hybrid" aggressions nowadays.
Well, those are extremely simple to deal with if you have superior military power in your team. You cordon off the intruders, prepare and finally kill them. A hostile strategic surprise attack is a much greater challenge.



*: I understand that this looks both intellectually lazy (reliance on a sci-fi-ish technological answer to a problem) and impossible for the time being. One could instead bet on the invader being unable to fully exploit vulnerabilities in the first couple weeks of occupation, but I'm too uncomfortable with that bet.
**: SPGs have a higher fixed cost for the launch vehicle/system, but lower variable costs for the effect of munitions. SPGs are thus cost-efficient if you expect them to shoot much. I don't expect this in case of Baltic defence because SPGs would be high value targets that would be searched, found and destroyed fairly quickly.


Link drop October 2018

Regarding the camouflage patterns; the absence of any macropattern is striking. 
Regarding the KF-X; a F-35ish multi-role combat aircraft with two F414 (or EJ200) Engines is a very good idea in my opinion, and I'm sure the USN would have preferred that (for safety reasons) over the single-engined F-35 version. I wonder why the F-35 wasn't limited in commonality to the avionics. The airframe and to some extent the engines differ anyway, so one could have created more role-optimised versions (leaving all the STOVL drawbacks to the Mariners and small carriers STOVL version).
The Germans and French appear to develop yet another European co-operation multi-role combat aircraft (or fighter) from clean sheet. I see no indication that anyone is picking up some foreign development project such as KF-X and completing it with indigenous and other avionics and engines tailored to the own needs and political-economic conditions.

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They deserve to be 'under fire' for having such incompetent face paintjobs in broad daylight!
Even this one is better!

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Light brigade changed into medium brigade, medium brigade changed into heavy brigade (both based on CONUS). With their super-fast personnel turnover rate they could have turned a light one into a heavy one instead.  Well, maybe the infrastructure is the reason. Anyway, this plus paying attention to EW threats reported from the Ukraine and the modification of 8x8 Stryker APCs into 8x8 Stryker IFVs by adding a super-expensive 30 mm autocannon turret is much of what the U.S.Army thinks makes it more credible vis-à-vis the Red Army Russian Army. Ah well, and they revived/refurbished some Avenger vehicles, including the idea to use it with AIM-9X (a huge change in capability, and somewhat unlikely to happen with enough missiles).

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 Regarding the blog here: I have https redirect on, so even if you see old http links in old posts to some other old posts - that should lead you to a https page.

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[German] "Diese Kolumne ist eine Unverschämtheit"
Und man mag hinzufügen; was auch immer man mit der Zielgruppe des Frustes anstellt; die Ursache des Frustes tangiert das nicht.

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[German] "Wieso es keinen Rechtsruck gibt, aber die extreme Rechte trotzdem wächst"
Die Sache mit dem Vertrauen in Staat & Parteien bezweifle ich, da werde ich mal auf Umfragen achten. Ansonsten; der Artikel spiegelt im Wesentlichen die Forschungsergebnisse der Amis wieder. Hierzu passt mein alter Text zu Progressiven und Konservativen.
Die Klage, dass es in Deutschland keine echt konservative Wahloption gibt, stimmt schon weitgehend. Merkel hat halt zugunsten der Amtszeitverlängerung der CDU (und CSU) einige nicht-konservative Standpunkte mit ihrem parteiinternen Machtnetzwerk aufgezwungne, weil die Standpunkte gerade bundesweit Mehrheitmeinung waren. Dadurch haben die besonders Ängstlichen (also Konservative) in Deutschland keine bürgerlich-konservative Wahloption. Damit sind sie allerdings nicht die einzige politische Richtung, die unrepräsentiert bleibt. Sozialliberale zum Beispiel stehen am Wahltag auch rätselnd vor den Wahlzetteln.



"Never was so much owed by so many to so few" or 'the tip of the spear'


The Roman Republic moved to a professional military because long campaigns (and occupations) in distant places had become too much of a burden to the citizens (conscripts from the middle class had to leave their trade for years, and their families were ruined).*

from left: Hastati, Velites, Triarii, Principes.
The not shown Equites were the even wealthier horse owners.
From then on professional troops, mercenaries and Foederati ally-mercenaries fought wars on Rome's behalf. The society demilitarised, and for centuries large swaths of the republic and later the empire were so far away from any threat that they didn't feel war first hand for generations if not centuries. Very few (hundreds of thousands) fought wars for very many (dozens of millions).

We have essentially the same model (few professional troops) today as well. Conscription is a theoretical legal term now in Germany, most of the EU and in North America. Almost all of the EU is so far from any non-ridiculous threat that having a small tip of the spear with a shaft doing no more than supporting the tip works just fine.

In fact, it's even more extreme than 1.5 million men and women being tasked with the defence of 500 million people who are largely disinterested in military affairs. The 1.5 million are supposed to expose themselves to great(er) risks in wartime for the benefit (security) of the 500+ million others.

About 80% of those 1.5 million men and women are in support units that are not meant to fight unless attacked (if ever). The roughly 200k...300k actual combat troops in Europe are supposed to expose themselves to (even) great(er) risks in wartime for the benefit (security) of almost everyone else, including the support troops.

Then again there are the reconnaissance troops, vanguards, wing security detachments, rearguards - a small part (at most 1/3) of combat troops plus the dedicated reconnaissance troops who are expected to accept great risks (such as walking into an undetected ambush, or a deception op) for the benefit (risk reduction) of the other combat troops.

The tip of the spear becomes ever more narrow the more close one comes to the point.

This may actually change with autonomous robots (sci fi warfare), but for the time being the Western civilisation is implicitly applying the military risk management technique of exposing very few people to great risks in order to reduce the risks for most.

This is a difficult-to-bear situation unless one prefers ignorance or refuses to pay attention.

Article 1 [Human dignity]

(1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
(2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.
(3) The following basic rights shall bind the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary as directly applicable law.

Article 2 [Personal Freedoms]

(1) Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law.
(2) Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable. These rights may be interfered with only pursuant to a law.
(source, I underlined the parts that the constitutional court referred to in its ruling)

Judges aren't the only ones who have difficulties with the idea that sacrificing few for the benefit of the many is acceptable: Philosophers have had difficulties with this for a long time. 
One relevant philosophical question is whether we would be allowed to kill one to harvest the organs to save many. It's very much the same dilemma as with the aircraft or the once self-evident military focusing of risks.
There's no really satisfactory answer; we would like to have it both ways, and thus seek to research technological ways out of the dilemma.

Western armed bureaucracies have understood and felt the waned acceptance of the idea of sacrifice in war. Americans tend to call this "casualty aversion", but the underlying problem is in my opinion that the fashionable B.S. talk of many anglophone soldiers and some German Afghanistan veterans is simply untrue: The troops at the tip of the spear don't risk their heads FOR their nation. They risk their health and life in B.S. small wars that did practically no good to their nation. They're not the tip of the spear - they're just a detached splinter that does not provide benefits to the vast majority of people at all. They were sent into cabinet wars.

We've spent a generation undermining a fundamental pillar of how and why a military works in defence of its nation (or by extension its nation's alliance). To expose few for the benefit of many is an unpleasant dilemma that we prefer to avoid (the way to do so is to keep the peace). Yet it's also how the military works at a moist fundamental level, and undermining this concept with stupid little wars may haunt us mightily in the future. We sabotaged our own minds into a lesser readiness for future defence.**


*: Another motivation was that the middle class was eroded by bottom-up redistribution of income and wars (as early as late in the 2nd Punic War the cheap (low income group and thus cheaply self-equipped) velites skirmisher troops had become a very suboptimally large share of the field armies as there weren't enough middle class citizens left who were able to afford the Hastati or even better gear).  Such poorly structured armies struggled against the Macedons and failed against the Cimbri and Teutons.
**: I'm not preaching militarising our minds. I do NOT believe that we are culturally soft, or too old or in any other way unable to wage war. I believe that those who claim so underestimate how mindsets change when SHTF. To undermine fundamental concepts that were proved effective for millennia is still irresponsible as long as we have no good substitute ready.   I'm pointing at a brick. That's not the same as claiming there's an insurmountable wall in our path.

edit: I had another, closer look at the drawing with the post-Camillan reforms / pre-Marian reforms troop types and some details seem to be off, so please don't take that drawing too seriously.


Exotic ancient weapons: (IX) Penobscot double bow

First, an engineering view of the double bow.

The Penobscot bow / Wabanaki bow / Mi'kmaq (double) bow is an advanced version of a cable-backed bow with very different mechanics. It's different in its performance from bows that simply use wider or thicker limbs or more limbs.

photo uploaded by "Judson"/"Judson127", taken from here

Mechanical engineers learn that everything can be considered to be a spring; even a solid block of steel is a spring. We can apply a force to it and it will either compress or elongate. We usually cannot see the tiny change in its dimensions, but it happens. Its spring constant simply requires a powerful force for very little change of its dimensions. Spring steels in coil spring shape make it much easier to experience how steel yields to mechanical forces.

A bow can be considered a spring as well - you pull harder, it yields more - and just like a spring, it stores energy in the process. This energy can be released for the purpose of accelerating the arrow (or with an arrow guide, the dart).

Bows (and many other spring arrangements) have no spring constant, though; the amount of force required to pull the arrow back by one more centimetre depends on how far you already pulled it back. The bow design doesn't simply compress or elongate, but changes its shape as it yields to the pulling force (the string notches approach each other).
The ideal bow design would accelerate the arrow with about the same force regardless of how far it's still drawn (but that's not feasible). The force must not be excessive (or the user couldn't draw and hold the drawn bow well or at all) and should not be low (for the sake of accelerating the arrow well).
This cannot be done with a single spring; you need a set of springs (or a more complicated design such as the recurve or composite bows) to approximate this ideal.

Springs of different spring characteristics can be arranged to  create a non-linear spring curve; this way compressing or elongating by a certain distance doesn't require the addition of the same force regardless of how much the spring system has already been manipulated.

The double bow is such a two-spring-ish system in spirit. The small front bow is not just an overly elaborate way of making the bow stiffer; it actually modifies the spring curve (requires more force to draw at first, thus also accelerates the arrow more) as a parallel spring, and by consensus of double bow users, it does so in an advantageous way compared to a self bow of equivalent technology. You get more performance out of such a bow for the same maximum (28" draw) draw 'weight' than with an otherwise equivalent technology self bow.

That, by the way, is the reason why people who create double bows with the front bow almost as long as the main bow either didn't get what the design is meant to accomplish or are merely trying to create a bow that can make do with poor material (poorly suitable woods). A proper performance double bow has a short front bow that gets fully drawn fairly soon in the drawing motion.

(BTW, the Penobscot double bow is supposedly not really "ancient", supposedly it's just over a hundred years old - I doubt this, but don't have sources that mention it earlier.)
edit: I decided to add this link, asthe author there actually shows a diagram with force-draw curves. The Penebscot double bow design essentially leads to a quicker rise in draw strength on the first centimetres (inches) of draw. During the shot, the arrow gets accelerated with more force when it's forward that much again. / I also cleaned up the text above a bit.

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Second, this video on African martial arts (unrelated to double bows):

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Third, some general remarks on non-firearm weapons:

It's amazing how after some study one becomes mostly able to tell the way a weapon was meant to be used by merely looking at it, including some requirements for the associated armour.

The hilt of a blade weapon in itself can be formed to almost force the user to use a certain motion for slashing. This particular hilt design alone tells the observer that the blade will be very curved sabre's blade.

Curved blades typically require a relatively high quality material because they almost never have two edges, and one edge could quickly become dull in an extended battle. Curved blades are especially meant for cutting, so holding a good blade is important (harder edge allows for a sharper edge) and difficult (harder edge ~ more brittle edge).
The one exception I'm aware of are the bronze age sickle swords, and their users were probably prepared to sharpen their weapon with a grindstone on their own as in agricultural use of sickles.

Curved blades are never made for thrusting into the body; they are made for cuts and slashing motions. The cutting motions may include a pushing and pulling motion, but only to cut along the side of the target. The pushing cut isn't really an option with forward-curved blades such as sickles, romphaia or falx.

Straight blades can be built for thrusting into organs, but don't necessarily have the point for it (Celtic swords were largely limited to slashing, as the point was often dull). Very fine points give away the intent to penetrate an armour type that's not very good against thrusting attacks (typically mail), and are thus uncommon in areas where such armours that are vulnerable to thrusting attacks are rare (example East and South Asia).

An extreme case are the smallswords and the like - straight sword-like blade weapons meant exclusively for thrusting with the point, without a shard edge. These continued to be in use after mail armour fell out of fashion in almost all of Europe (Balkans excluded). Frankly, my suspicion is that they were optimised for light weight, as respectable sidearms that aren't too much of a burden on their user.

Large handguards tend to be associated with no use of shields, or use of shields very unwieldy (pavise) or very small (buckler). Handguards can then help protect the hand when you cannot do it with a shield. An exception is the customary retention of large handguards along with late medieval plate armour, but one should keep in mind that swords were sidearms and thus also (if not primarily) used when the wearer wasn't fully geared up.
Blunt weapons such as maces and hammers (also hammer components in weapons such as the pollaxe) were either an extreme budget solution (clubs) or a response to very effective armour. Blunt force can even be effective against plate armour and equivalent helmets when blades and pointy weapons fail. The latter are usually built to be nimble in their use and thus quite lightweight. Axes and blunt weapons require a lot of mass where it matters the most; at the end of a pole or short shaft.

Single-handed weapons that are quite long among their kind (mace, sword, sabre) tend to be cavalry arms. Their increased length compensates for poor riding skills* or a loss of dexterity caused by the user's armour.

Lances and pikes were usually held low, while spears were held high (if used single-handedly) for a greater choice of movements.
Polearms with oval pole cross section and/or dedicated axe head, spike or blade elements (examples pollaxes, halberds, naginatas) were meant for slashing and/or swiping movements. This in turn indicates that they were meant for two-handed use, and thus lead to an emphasis on good armour protection for the user, since shields would be quite impractical.**

Javelins are particularly interesting; the very light ones were used in great quantity by dedicated skirmishers and cavalry, while the more elaborate ones such as the famous Roman pilum (no doubt the most advanced and most capable javelin design ever despite lacking an amentum or spear thrower) were carried in small quantity (one or two per legionary; that's still up for debate). The pilum's purpose was threefold; a demoralising/shocking salvo, disabling shields by sticking to them (making them unwieldy and enabling the enemy to push the shield sideways) and finally an emergency use as a spear, particularly against cavalry.***

Spears are capable weapons for one-on-one situations unless the enemy has good armour. Their use was typically rooted in at least one of three motives; poverty (spears as versatile budget option), horsemen threat (spears as anti-horseman weapon,**** obviously not helpful against missile horsemen) and third, disciplined forces employing closed order tactics (example Greek phalanx).

As with swords, the width of the spear tip usually indicates whether a spear was meant for use against armoured opponents or not. A wide, leaf-shaped spear tip would be for use against unarmoured opposition (example iklwa), or for the hunt. Boar spears and some other spears had some guards to limit penetration.

Particularly short stabbing blade weapons such as the Spartan short xiphos versions or Germanic seax were associated with very restricted close quarters combat, such as fighting in a phalanx or shield wall where the gaps between shields and the air above could be used for very short stabbing motions. Another use for such short sidearms was on board of warships (for boarding actions), usually with a blade that's well-suited to slashing (which makes it useful for cutting tows).

Likewise, the design of shields allows conclusions about their use.


*: Not all horsemen were good at horsemanship games and thus capable of picking stuff up from the ground while riding, so they needed longer weapons to strike targets lying on the ground. That in turn is important because to simply lie on the ground is a reasonable approach to protect oneself from a cavalry charge; horses will avoid to step on such irregularities to avoid injury.
**: This requirement finds in exception of the very late halberd-ish weapons such as partisans of the firearms era, about 17th and first half of 18th centuries. The same applies to bayonets. The requirement may not be met because of economical reasons, but two-handed polearms were rare when good body armour was unaffordable unless the use of powerful halberd-like weapons made it quite pointless anyway (example Japanese warrior monks with Naginatas).
***: The pilum slowly fell out of use when the longer spatha sword gradually replaced the gladius sword. The disciplined Roman infantry (even auxiliary infantry) was able to resist shock cavalry with disciplined closed order formations (horses don't run into spear tips, but the don't run into shield walls either) and a longer sword made the need for some spear-ish weapon against cavalry less pressing. There may thus have been such a relation between the rise of the spatha and the decline of the pilum (in favour of plumbata and cheaper simple javelins). Alternatively, the increased use of light javelins by horsemen may have led to a better opinion about them, eroding the pilum's role. Last but not least, the late imperial Western Roman infantry faced much more cavalry and actual spears became much more common in service again. Spears and pila don't go well along because spearmen tend to keep close formation, whereas pila require some more space for the user to throw. In the end, the pilum+gladius combination was unique to late Republican and early Imperial Rome, and a hugely successful approach that seemed to have been suboptimal in other times and places.
****: Long straight swords could be used to deter cavalry as well (Pallasch weapons were used by cuirassiers of the 18th century almost as if they were spears).


[deutsch] Dipl.-Ing. Rolf Hilmes: Überflüssig oder unverzichtbar? Zur Zukunft des Kampfpanzers


A presentation (in German) of the German 'tank pope' Rolf Hilmes (the German equivalent of Ogorkiewicz in authorship).

Sorry, I had nothing really to blog about this week. I've been too busy with other things for weeks (the past three or four blog posts were pre-scheduled).