2021/07/31

Indirect command by ambition areas

.This blog post describes a radically different command technique from the perspective of the subordinate commander.

- - - - -

Think of a jigsaw puzzle's backside.

Now mentally interpose this jigsaw pattern* onto a map of a country. That could be South Korea, Poland, Lithuania, or Romania, for example. Every single such tile of this now divided map is a couple kilometres wide and a couple kilometres high.

You're a commanding officer of an army unit or formation** in the area. Corps command issues you a super-simple set of orders: A list of six-digit codes. Each six digit code describes an area (four digits) and a level of ambition (two digits). Your computer or a member of your staff translates this onto your map and for the first time you see your area of responsibility.

You can see by the colouring (and two-digit codes) on your map that in the East you're supposed to delay strong opposing forces and hunt for weak opposing forces (counter-reconnaissance), in the West near a military engineering bridge you are supposed to decisively engage opposing forces and in the North where a motorway stretches from East to West you're supposed to report combat troops, but destroy the 'soft' support troops of opposing forces.
Your staff also learned about what other formations and independent units received orders for these tiles, and they're usually the same level of ambition for similar level (size) organisations. Another formation has an overlapping area of responsibility; most of it is to the South, but they share the responsibility to decisively engage in the West of your area of responsibility.
 
Your staff arranges a quick communication between you and the other formation's commander and you agree that in the case of a major westward incursion through your area of responsibility you'd decisively engage together, with your formation continuing its delaying action till the other formation attacks the attackers' flank or back, and then your formation commences a counterattack with less than 15 minutes lag.

There are no phase lines, no simplistic one-dimensional neighbouring unit relationships, no geographic objectives to reach. You need to decide on your priorities within the framework of the simple ambition mission by corps command. More importantly, you have the freedom and autonomy to act, and to act timely.

Corps command updates your area of responsibility and the ambition levels, and this is how it orchestrates dispersed forces in area and time.

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

 P.S.: The Kriegsmarine's naval map was conceptually similar. A submarine would be sent to a large square for patrol, and when shadowing a target convoy by radio it would use the code for a higher resolution (smaller) square to report its location.

The transition from one state to another would be a great challenge for the described command technique. Many different ways how to do this are imaginable, but I didn't write about even only a few options. The reason is that experimentation would have to evaluate different transition techniques, and possibly invent all-new ones. There might also be different transition techniques for hasty and deliberate transitions.

*: or a similar pattern that's more adapted to the terrain than mere hexagonal or chessboard

**: Company, Battalion, brigade, division - it doesn't matter now. 

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2021/07/24

The battlegroup gun

This blog post will argue for a multi-purpose, relatively short-ranged "battlegroup gun".

Army artillery was historically divided into siege artillery, fortress artillery, field (battle) artillery and regimental (infantry) guns.

The distinction between field artillery (later divisional artillery) and regimental or infantry guns (later battalion mortars) was driven by a need for long-range main effort artillery that dominates the battlefield on behalf of the army (or Napoleonic-era corps, later division) commander and some artillery that supports an infantry regiment (later battalion) on behalf of the the regimental (later battalion) commander.

The latter was required to be more mobile (lightweight) to keep up with an infantry advance and being too short-ranged for a higher level main effort weapon was an advantage rather than disadvantage.

I wrote a lot about this before, but decided to revisit the topic:

/2015/12/battalion-battlegroup-organic-indirect.html

/2011/10/history-of-infantry-gun-in-us-and.html

The German army neglects the battalion indirect fire support. We have very few 120 mm mortars in active use. 155 mm howitzers (also not exactly many) cannot cover all indirect fires needs, though. They would often be 15+ km away, and radio communication may be unreliable over such distances. Their 155 mm shell is fine for long ranges, but rather inefficient for fragmentation effect since the removal of cluster munitions from the arsenal. The original reasoning for the 150...155 mm calibre was to penetrate field fortification overhead covers, and post-WW2 it was a quite efficient calibre for bomblet cargo shells. Nowadays its only really relevant lethal munition is the high explosive shell, which covers a rather small area with effective fragmentation effect relative to its weight. 155 mm is also rather inefficient for illumination munitions, and those are regaining importance since infrared illumination shells can nowadays assist the troops' night vision goggles in overcast and new moon nights. (IR-Illum may be unnecessary due to an alternative, though.)

Another advantage of an organic fire support is the shorter time of flight. Arms manufacturers can create nice presentations claiming that their gold-plated 155 mm round can provide fire support to dispersed troops in a 80+ km radius, but those rounds might be in flight for well over a minute while organic howitzers might deliver effect with cheap rounds with about 10 seconds time of flight and their dispersion would be so small that guidance would be superfluous.

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Now let's think about the land face of war: I suppose we could think of a corps area as a very shallow fish pond. The corps HQ may draw neat brigade icons on the map, but the fish tank would actually have much smaller fish than that; battalion battlegroups*, likely further divided into often independently manoeuvring company-sized battlegroups. Some fish would rest, a few would move, and sometimes there's a flurry of activity and suddenly all of them move for a short time and shoot for an even shorter time.

There would be no "front line". The corps commander would be well-advised to rather give frames to the manoeuvre forces; a line which opposing forces shall not pass and a line which friendly forces shall not pass without explicit (per-)mission by him. Orders might also be focused on points; reach this point by a certain time. (I'll lay out another command technique approach in a later blog post.) The manoeuvre forces would have arrangements for cooperation and if needed hierarchical decision-making (between commanders of formations or units of the same level), but most decisions would be made by leaders on the spot. 

There's something remarkable about mobile warfare, and such land warfare would be a mix of hiding/resting an rapid movements/clashes. You don't really need great firepower ranges when you're highly mobile. There's no advantage to having your artillery far from your spearhead if this doesn't add to security - and it would not with a mobile battlegroup. Instead, the artillery might be tasked to help secure the less line-of-sight combat-capable elements of the battlegroup (munition vehicles, fuel vehicles, bridgelayers, electronic warfare vehicles, air defence vehicles and so on). Additionally, you could simply move some 10 km towards some bridge or helicopter forward operating base if you wish to shell it and are 10 km too far away for it.

The one reason to give a battlegroup long-ranged (~40 km) artillery could be to enable a massing of fires from multiple battlegroups in one fires mission on one target. This could make sense, but I suppose it's needlessly troublesome. This burdens the mobile battlegroups with the munitions required to support other battlegroups and the battlegroup artillery piece becomes a much bigger and thirstier (likely tracked) vehicle. The fires would be tell-tale signs giving away the bivouac site or forcing the battlegroup to keep its own artillery outside of its bivouac (and thus less secure).

I suppose the superior approach is to divide the brigade into up to four battalion battlegroups and one support group. The support group would provide centralised services and an umbrella of support (electronic warfare, area air defence, long-range artillery fires). This allows for the desirable massed fires out to 40 km, or with exotic munitions out to 80 km from the brigade supply group. 

Meanwhile, the battalion battlegroups could mirror this with their own split; multiple company battlegroups and one battalion support group which would include much less ambitious support (bandaging, two days worth of supplies carried, short range air defences, <20 km range artillery fires).

A use of the 105 mm calibre allows for artillery fires from wheeled vehicles**, which are well-suited for rapid movements with little fuel consumption, little fatigue and few maintenance needs.

/2014/01/truck-mounted-artillery.html

(105 mm howitzer high explosive shells typically weigh 15 ...17 kg, 155 mm HE shells typically 42...44 kg. The difference in area covered with fragments is not nearly this great because fragments of a given useful size lose velocity rapidly. The greater quantity of fragments of a 155 mm HE shell can keep a good area density of fragments farther out, but it cannot magically sustain the energy of the identical fragments and their initial velocity is similar. Alternatively, it could go with fewer bigger fragments. The optimum design usually depends on what effect on impact is required. NATO prefers the 155 mm calibre mostly for more efficient use of personnel (a 155 mm gun requires about as much personnel as a 105 mm gun) and greater range. 150...155 m calibres were subjectively preferred over 105 mm during both world wars, but tables telling how many shells are needed for a given purpose (suppression or destruction) treat both calibres as substitutes and tend to show that you need less shell mass with 105 mm shells to do the job. Both 105 mm and 155 mm use the same one fuse per shell, and fuses add a substantial cost to the shell and explosive filler.)

The 105 mm calibre could effectively provide support with high explosive, multispectral smoke, (near-)infrared illumination and even a special fin-stabilized (slip ring***) mortar bomb for extremely close high angle fire missions (down to 400 m as 120 mm mortars can do, this requires 80° maximum elevation). They might also deliver precision guided munitions occasionally, particularly fin-stabilized ones with slip ring.

A 105 mm gun could even be used to launch guided subcalibre (such as naval 76 mm HE) projectiles at much higher velocities than the full calibre muzzle velocities, which in combination with 80° maximum elevation would offer an effective heavy anti air gun capability. This might be useful to destroy (or deter) at the very least flying observation drones without expending missiles that cost 1+ M € apiece on them.

Another option would be to use a 320° training ability of the turret (assuming a dead angle for low elevation shots caused by a hardened cab; so 360° training, but 40° not usable for lower register shots) for some auxiliary anti-armoured vehicles capability. Suddenly appearing armoured recce vehicles, IFVs and from some angles even MBTs could be defeated with tandem shaped charge (fin stabilized) rounds in fixed combustible shell cartridges.

This mirrors the multi-purpose potential of brigade-level artillery, especially the MRLs just as the battalion battlegroup-level support group mirrors the brigade-level support group.

- - - - -

The objective that drove my reasoning might be obvious to the reader by now; the battlegroups should be as compact and agile and least be burdened with tasks as possible. They should thus be limited to line-of-sight combat troops and some essential support for the same, not with any further support tasks. We should leave as much of the fuel and munition carrying and consumption to the brigade support group.

The conventional answer would be to use 120 mm mortars, and I suppose that the much greater versatility of 105 mm SPGs with turret is obvious as an overwhelming advantage. Additionally the spin-stabilized 105 mm shell is just as deadly as a 120 mm mortar bomb, but has much less dispersion. Very flat shots out to maybe 2 km distance could normally be considered to have more dispersion in range than mortar shots, but electronic fusing based on counting the revolutions (the spin length being known, as it's defined by the barrel rifling) enables accurate fusing at a set distance. Very flat 105 mm shots would furthermore be much harder to detect for counter-mortar/counter-artillery radars than the always high angle mortar shots.****

So to summarize; I'm in favour of an army indirect fires triad:

  • battalion-level 105 mm turret SPG (multi-purpose) under battalion BG CO command and only in emergencies supporting other BGs
  • brigade-level 155 mm SPG (main effort firepower, low priority on multi-purpose) under brigade CO command and supporting beyond the brigade
  • brigade-level variable calibre MRL (multi-purpose) under brigade CO command, but also some external fire missions (mostly area air defence)

That being said, the German army (Heer) doesn't pursue such an approach. Its MRL force is diminished, having a marginal quantity of munitions (PGMs) in storage only. Its mortar force is close to non-existence. Our brigades lack organic 155 mm SPG fire support. This may be considered acceptable as long as there's divisional 155 mm SPG pool that could be parcelled out, but we have too little of that as well. As of Spring 2021 we had a total of four artillery battalions (155 mm SPG and 227 mm MRL) for a total of eight brigades (counting the German-French brigade as well). That's three arty Bn for seven German-only brigades. It appears it's more important (to the bureaucracy and politicians) to have almost 11% of our military personnel in the medical branch. That doesn't sound inflated at all, right?

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: In the end, a mere look at the organisation and quantity of indirect fire support in the army suffices to declare our army leadership catastrophically inept, if not suspicious of being compromised by the FSB. This problem dates back for many years (1) (2). 

Disclosure: I have a weak spot for solutions that are modest, if not austere. This may have influenced my reasoning.

*: Up to 1,000 troops and 100 motor vehicles, led by a major or lieutenant colonel.

**: I would rather prefer 8x8 offroad logistical trucks as basis than smaller vehicles, as this minimizes the convoy size and quantity of needed drivers. /2014/08/the-dragoon-problem-lingers-on.html

***: Avoiding that the munition gets much of a spin from the barrel rifling, as much spin  renders fin-stabilization impossible. Fin stabilization allows 80° maximum elevation for indirect fires and it allows for much simpler 2D course corrections.  

****:  Counter-mortar/counter-artillery radars typically scan the horizon to detect shells, rockets or mortar bombs as soon as possible, during their ascent. Hills, woodland and buildings can create a dead angle in which these radar beams would not detect the ammunitions in flight. Mortar bombs with their apparently very reflective metal fins furthermore create a stronger echo than howitzer shells.

 

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2021/07/17

The support group fractal (II)

 

There's an obvious downside to what I wrote in part one: The tethering of the manoeuvre units to the support group by a tether length defined by the support umbrella radius. This part will deal with multiple ways and reasons that mitigate this downside.

 

The geographic location of the support group is one mitigating factor; it's of course not stacked on one point, and a brigade support group would not be crowded into a 1x1 km field, either.

One way of mitigating the tether length issue is to split the support group or parts of it into two leapfrogging fractions. The supported area would then be 8-shaped.

Another one is to give the support group itself an onion-like layered shape, with some support assets farther out. The outer layer could consist of support assets with some degree of self-defence capability or greatest stealth, but in practice it would likely consist of those that attract fires; artillery and radio frequency emitters (radars, jammers). All of these need to shoot and scoot / emit and scoot, at least until opposing forces ability to pinpoint them have been degraded much. The outer layer would have quite some outer radius itself, which adds to the tether length.

Another option is to actually parcel out some of the support assets to the manoeuvre elements after all. This may actually be unavoidable if radio comms cannot be maintained with adequate reliability and bandwidth over long-enough distances for support from afar. To be competent at operating with support assets parcelled out traditionally is not admitting conceptual defeat; it's having a plan B in case plan A doesn't work, and this is a top necessity for military plans anyway. We haven't had a high end conventional land war in 75 years, so almost all novelties since then are more of less untested and might disappoint or even be outright unworkable.


The later parts will be titled differently, but I will lay out higher order effects of the fractal on the general concept for high end peer land warfare.

 
Next blog post: The battlegroup gun (related topic) and on August 7th there'll be another related blog post, deep outside the box military theory (command technique). The two blog posts 14th and 21st August will lay out a 'vision' about land warfare of the future (but before all-robot armies).
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2021/07/10

The support group fractal (I)

 

(Warning; full military theory/organisation nerd-wonkery ahead. I didn't even attempt to make it more readable with lots of symbol pictures. Either the topic fascinates you or it's just a boring wall of text.)

Fractals are never-ending patterns, the discovery of mathematical algorithms to create such images led to many psychedelic room decoration posters.

Mandel zoom 00 mandelbrot set

I'm going to propose a fractal for the organisation of ground forces in action; a recurring theme for tables of organisation and equipment, with almost clone-like similarity of reasoning at all levels.

First the basics, though.

Armies usually organise with a certain preferred span of command; one leader (and this HQ) is responsible for usually three, sometimes, two, four and rarely five subordinate manoeuvre units/formations. A typical pattern in German 20th century history was to have one leader commanding three manoeuvre units/formations and one heavier armed unit/formation. The heavier weapons component was typically mortars and heavy (tripod) machineguns for a heavy weapons company at battalion level, whereas the artillery regiment at divisional level had howitzers and maybe cannons. This division was in part about mobility; 120 mm mortars are not supposed to change position every time an infantry company proceeds from one village to the next. Heavy machineguns were often parcelled out to reinforce defensive positions, and sometimes such HMG units were tasked to defend a frontline section or area of their own, where a static defence was deemed to be promising. Artillery regiments were able to move their fires relatively quickly, and thus often considered to be the divisional commander's main effort weapon. 

There were quite a few proposals to deviate from such conventional patterns; an interesting one came from Uhle-Wettler, who proposed to give the commanding officer of a battalion a Verfügungszug. You could expect 3 x 3 infantry platoons in a triangular infantry battalion (3 companies, each 3 platoons). The Verfügungszug would have been a 10th infantry platoon under direct control of the battalion leader without any company command in between. There are many ways how such a 10th platoon could be used and misused, and the key here is to trust the Battalion leader to use it well. The concept is reminiscent of the personal bodyguards of elite soldiers used by commanders from antiquity till the medieval age.

I don't intend to enter the discussion about the optimal span of command / span of control (this time). My interest is now rather on the non-manoeuvre component.

Let's begin at the lowest level for this, the infantry platoon. There are many specialist tasks and equipments that might make sense in such a platoon, but not in its squads/sections:

  • platoon leader (junior officer) 
  • senior non-commissioned officer of the platoon (with platoon leader for advice)
  • combat medic with dedicated combat medic backpack
  • signaller with longest-range (backpack) radio tech in the platoon
  • anti-material rifle user (counter sniper / penetrating single shots marksman)
  • portable infantry gun user (think M4 Carl Gustaf)
  • commando mortar user (for IR Illum, multispectral smoke)
  • munition porter(s)
  • demolition engineer (with enough demolition equipment to blow up a small bridge or block a few roads quickly)
  • ESM specialist (radio and radar detection, direction finding, interception) with ~15 kg ESM backpack
  • ECM specialist (fuse, drone and comms jamming) with ~15 kg ECM backpack
  • ManPADS user
  • ATGM team(s)
  • CBRN specialist with portable CBRN detection sensors
  • joint fire support control specialist with tripod-mounted forward observer sensor

That's more than a squad/section in its own right, and some people would even add tripod machinegun teams to such a list.

There's not much of a case for an equivalent at the company level unless we take into account reality; no army combines all the bullet points above into the platoon level. So some (particularly the last couple bullet points) could instead be in a company-level support small unit.

The battalion level offers more 'opportunities' for combat support: a military intelligence team to make sense of the ESM readings and other reports as well as to coordinate radio usage and ECM, civilian interaction specialists, messengers, radio relay operators, air defence warning sensors and coordination, indirect fire support (such as with 120 mm mortars), fibre-optic guided missiles against helicopters and high value targets on the ground, various portable-sized flying drones, a sniper platoon, more medics, supply platoon for water and munitions, recovery vehicles and more.

Next, the brigade level offers more opportunities for a support group, and this is where I will lay out my 'philosophy' behind it a bit:

Think of umbrellas span up by the support group. The umbrella covers the area in a certain radius with its support. This radius depends a bit on circumstances, but also on technical limits. An area air defence umbrella would have a radius determined by the kinetics of its missiles (or line of sight by lasers) and the target speed, altitude and evasive abilities, for example. An ESM or ECM umbrella would in part be dependent on how good the vantage points are. Other support is not so much limited in radius, some examples would be taking over and handling prisoners of war, providing medical support and providing military intelligence support, HQ 'services'.

The support groups of all levels of organisation should have a 'support umbrella span' (effective support radius) that fits best to their level. A brigade does not need a commando mortar company, and an infantry platoon needs no area air defence battery.

I prefer to skip the divisional level, thus the next support group of interest is the corps-level support group. This would have its own level-typical support abilities, and this can include missiles (air defence and fixed ground target destruction) for hundreds of kilometres range, a long range scout regiment, an army rotary aviation regiment, an armoured reconnaissance / light cavalry / mounted raiders regiment, two logistics hubs and units that take over supplies from civilian logistics vehicles at said logistics hubs to move them forward to brigade drop-off points using military 8x8 vehicles.

The corps support group would be different in one way from the lower level support groups; the lower level ones would often hug one of the manoeuvre groups of its own level for security. The corps-level support group would instead be in a secured 'rear' area (behind a river, for example) where exhausted manoeuvre and scouting forces would rotate into to get some rest (12 hrs of sleep + maintenance/repairs and assimilating reservists and late-coming personnel to fill gaps).

This 'fractal' can be repeated in other kinds of units and formations, such as tank battalions, independent artillery regiments and so on. A particular advantage of the separation between manoeuvre elements and support elements as described might be lost in some instances, though: The manoeuvre elements become more handy, agile, stealthy when we cut off some support to make them smaller. The manoeuvre element commanding officers would not be burdened with security for and maintaining mobility of support elements. Sure, a battalion battlegroup commander would still have to care about his support group company, but the manoeuvre composite company leaders wouldn't be encumbered like this.

Let's look at the difference between parcelling out two 120 mm mortars (self propelled) to each manoeuvre composite company of a battalion battlegroup and keeping all 120 mm mortars in a separate support composite company:

The mortars with the manoeuvre forces (say, a tank platoon and an infantry platoon) would have more reliable radio links to the company leader, the munitions would fly for a few seconds less, a little less auxiliary charges would be needed and dispersion would be smaller. The advantages of keeping them in a support composite company would be most of all better security (less stressful for the crews), ability to shoot when the composite manoeuvre company is on the move and most importantly of all; the manoeuvre composite company leader doesn't need to think about them. There's no 120 mm SP vehicle stuck in a ditch that needs recovery. 120 mm munitions are no concern. The company convoy is much shorter. Different offroad abilities of the 120 mm SP vehicles wouldn't matter. He needs not be concerned with how to hide the SP mortars while still letting them have a useful field of fire. The company becomes less easily visible and audible. The shots and radio comms of the mortar teams don't attract artillery fires onto the company. It's a lot less of a mess for a leader who can now focus on the line of sight concerns and call on support without being concerned with most downsides of support.

Other support assets should be on their level and not distributed to a lower level simply because their support service is rather relevant in context to the area of operations rather than the organisational elements. Reconnaissance and surveillance should be a corps-wide activity, with manoeuvre forces merely doing security (pickets for bivouac, vanguard/rearguard/flank security on the move).

Last but not least I'd like to emphasize that this was (as mentioned) about the organisation of land forces in action; optimal administrative and training organisations are different and may indeed change over time depending on the peacetime activity.

The described fractal describes a common pattern, a theme for how to provide level-suitable support without unduly burdening manoeuvre elements of the same level. I consider this highly advisable to reach the levels of agility, stealth and bearable burden on manoeuvre element leadership that are necessary to cope with the modern high end conventional warfare environment.

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

 related:

/2017/11/square-or-triangular-my-two-euro-cents.html

/2017/11/the-square-structure-issue.html

/2012/12/to-debates.html 

*: Some of these things are present in sections of certain armies. These details are peripheral to the real message here, and I insist anyway.

 

P.S.: In case you have questions or doubt the relevance of this; blog posts are scheduled for up to August 21 that build on this text, and the relevance of the concept will become visible.

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2021/07/03

Link dump July 2021

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First some good news; I have blog posts done and scheduled till end of August, so there should be no Defence and Freedom blackout Saturdays for a while.

And now to the assorted links and bits of the month:

 ----------------------------

www.asianews.it/news-en/20-Indian-and-43-Chinese-soldiers-die-in-clashes-along-Himalayan-border-50365.html

This is the explainer for it:

indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-if-soldiers-on-lac-were-carrying-arms-why-did-they-not-open-fire-6467324/

So basically, this is highly ritualized warfare, on exactly the same level as ritualized Hoplite warfare. Except that the ancient Greeks fought over arable land, not useless rocks and ice-cold water.

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www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/china-nuclear-missile-silos/2021/06/30/0fa8debc-d9c2-11eb-bb9e-70fda8c37057_story.html

 - - - - -

- - - - -


- - - - -

The French amphibious vehicle / pontoon bridging solution (there are few suppliers in NATO, I think only three):

cnim.com/en/businesses/defense-security-and-digital-intelligence/motorized-floating-bridge-pfm

(see video at bottom there)

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www.oryxspioenkop.com/2020/08/belly-of-beast-ypg-monsters.html

- - - - -

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- - - - -

twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1406692241956118533

Shit

boingboing.net/2021/06/02/the-true-history-of-a-small-mistake-that-made-scientists-screw-up-covid-aerosols.html

WTF!?

boingboing.net/2021/06/19/a-blow-by-blow-explainer-on-how-boris-johnson-set-the-uk-up-for-a-third-wave.html 

Out of the EU and still causing trouble in Europe.

- - - - -

The video is almost a year old and shows little but that they integrated their 130 mm design into a tank turret and test fired it. This flew totally under my radar for nearly 11 months. I suppose this means I'm officially no tank nerd.

- - - - -

[German] augengeradeaus.net/2021/06/bundeswehr-hat-afghanistan-verlassen-deutscher-einsatz-am-hindukusch-endet-nach-fast-20-jahren/

Finally. Now get the fuck out of Mali and all the other non-NATO and non-EU areas as well and focus on actual deterrence and defence!

- - - - -

[German] www.kontextwochenzeitung.de/wirtschaft/533/trumpscher-wahlkampf-7556.html

[German] www.merkur-zeitschrift.de/2021/06/14/gegen-die-luegen/

Conservatives and right wingers all over the world have little to nothing to offer in terms of policies that actually improve the most voters' lives. They hardly talk about policies; they talk how evil and dangerous their enemies are; hatemongering and fearmongering. The actual conservatives also talk about how there is supposedly no alternative to their inaction.

They have to run smear campaigns based on fear and hate because that's all they got besides making the rich richer and enriching themselves. The difference is merely the intensity.

- - - - -

[German] www.dwdl.de/magazin/83296/wie_kritische_medien_in_oesterreich_unter_druck_geraten/

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[German] www.deutschlandfunk.de/problem-false-balance-journalisten-sollen-einordnen.2907.de.html?dram:article_id=498526

 

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2021/06/26

Army hardware you might have missed

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... or not appreciated appropriately so far (mostly infantry stuff).

45° mounted iron sights with straight buttstock rifles


This is originally civilian tech, from a shooting competition league that requires to shoot with both iron sights and other sights. The shooting has to be quick, so it's advantageous to have both on the same gun. The German approach (G36 rifle) of having both sights above each other is a poor compromise. Rifles with straight buttstock can be used with approx. 45° offset iron sights for engagements at short range and this additionally allows for a reduced silhouette (which is normally quite a problem with straight buttstock rifles, as they necessitate sights high above the barrel). The reduction of silhouette stems from the bottom-mounted magazine that would be at 45° degrees, enabling a lower barrel position when the 45° off iron sights are in use.
 
quick external explainer article here

multi-spectral 'smoke'

Infrared sensors ("thermal" sensors, mid and far infrared spectrum) can see through ordinary smoke such as HC smoke. White phosphorous smoke is an unsatisfactory concealment as well. Multispectral smoke has been developed as remedy, it does obscure in the infrared spectrum, albeit the duration of this concealment is still somewhat short. IR SMK munitions are till relatively new (multispectral smoke came up for real in the late 90's  AFAIK) and were not really high priority in the last two decades when Western armies were more concerned about beating up or suppressing resistance by opposition that had close to zero thermal sensors. I have no knowledge about the inventories, but I strongly suspect that we have much too few IR SMK munitions in our depots.

Another possibility is to not expend smoke munitions, but to use reusable smoke generators. The M56 vehicle and M58 vehicle are claimed to be able to provide 90 min visual obscuration and 30 min thermal + millimetre wavelength obscuration. 

HC, WP or simple evaporated diesel fuel isn't good enough as obscurant on the battlefield any more. You need dedicated consumables that have fibres (often carbon fibres/graphite) and other stuff suspended in the air to block modern sensors.

video of a naval example:

infrared illumination

Another novelty are infrared illumination (IR ILLUM) munitions. Modern low light night sights use the near-infrared spectrum (not really thermal sights), but they are merely intensifying (by a factor of a couple ten thousand times). So they depend on having at least some light source (whereas the objects themselves are the radiation source with mid and far IR "thermal" sights). Early generation low level sights thus needed some infrared flashlight (often seen on 1960's tank photos, first tank-mounted application: 1, 2), as do present-time children night vision toys. The moon and stars usually provide enough light, but they don't through dense clouds or during new moon. That's when IR ILLUM can help out and give the low light sensors the needed light. IR ILLUM munitions work like normal ILLUM munitions, but are hardly visible to the naked eye. Finally, digital camera-like low light vision doesn't have the extreme intensification of the other dedicated low light technology, but digital cameras can see even colours at night if only there's enough light. "Enough" light may still be black to the naked eye, of course. Another advantage of digital cameras as low light sensors is that they are incredibly cheap by comparison. So IR ILLUM munitions and the old school illumination lights (which don't need to be mounted on your weapon or vehicle, they could also be thrown) could team up for an affordable night vision combo.

example https://dn-defence.com/rgw-90/rgw90-illum-2/?lang=en

intra-squad radios

Radios had trickled down to platoon level by the Second World War and squad level by the Vietnam War. Then there was no further progress made until the 1990's, when mobile phones became affordable consumer goods even though police did introduce radios for everyone in the 1980's at the latest. The first generation of intra-squad radios was still quite bulky, but currently available ones are really lightweight (about 300 grams + batteries) and battery demands seem manageable. The quite reliable and secure voice communication inside the infantry, engineer or scout squad is a huge boon for stealth, situational awareness, leadership and morale. Range issues persist inside settlements and wet woodland, of course. The power output and the atmospheric attenuation of the frequencies used makes it very hard to direction find and triangulate such radios from useful distances.

backpack ESM

That being said, backpack radio electronic support measures (radio direction finding, saving and transmitting of readings) are a thing and potentially of great utility. Radio direction finding and triangulation of hostile positions is of value if the hostile emitter doesn't move and can thus be hit with indirect fires, but even more useful is to slowly and steadily build up a situational picture by logging which emitter appears to get answers by which other emitter. This way you might find not only the locations, but you can identify hierarchies and identify company, battalion,, brigade command posts. Battalion and brigade command posts will usually have their emitter about a kilometre away from their actual command post, but the triangulation is a starting point for finding said CP with other means. Later on you can hit all those detected and identified emitters and CPs with a few minutes of artillery fires and the local opposing forces will be limited to individual actions against your following push on the ground.

example www.chemring.com/(...)

backpack ECM

Artillery shells were equipped with radio proximity fuses for the first time in WW2, to enable hits on aircraft with near misses. The same kind of shell could also be used for great fragmentation effect with airbursts a few metres above ground, and this was first done in late 1944 on a battlefield. This threat was countered by the 1960's or so with dedicated jammer vehicles, so few in quantity that they might only be used to protect high value locations such as at forced river crossings. The jammers were finally shrunk to backpack size in the 1990's, and had to be adapted to jam mobile phone connections in the occupation wars 2003ff (as many such mines were fused by mobile phone). Nowadays there are (heavy) ECM backpacks capable of broadband jamming, which includes the jamming of infantry and tank radio communication in less than one kilometre radius. The might -depending on frequency- also be suitable to jam battlefield ground surveillance radars and air/ground attack radars, but this would require adaptation for the corresponding radio bands.

examples: 

mctech-jammers.com/products/mc-4-8-ra/

www.intercept.ws/catalog/4542.html

expendable ECM

HEXJAM is a published expendable ECM jammer, suitable to disrupt ground forces tactical radio communication in less than a kilometre radius. The benefit of a stationary expendable jammer over the backpack solution is that you don't need to be concerned about its susceptibility to direction finding and triaggulation, and this is important exactly when such expendable jammers may be practical to employ; in rather static situations. You might have such a jammer emplaced at an ambush site, for example.

https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/docs/960800-kornuta.htm

DRFM ECM

This is not much of an army technology, but the technology has advanced to a point where tiny decoys can repeat radio frequency signals and thus act as a kind of reactive jammer, creating a false return signal/echo and thus false target. Ground forces can employ much simpler means, such as simple fixed reflectors (90° angle reflector, Luneburg lens) instead. The mentioned repeater decoys may thus be a niche solution for combat aircraft with their specific needs, but who knows, maybe this DRFM tech becomes relevant to ground forces as well. Maybe they could double as expendable radio relays?

IR strobe/beacon

This is super-cheap tech, popularized by the Black Hawk Down movie and available for little money on mail order. Back in the old days ground troops placed flags on the ground to keep friendly aircraft from shooting at them and to give them an orientation where the enemy might be. Nowadays we can do this with IR strobe lights, albeit it's not quite for sure how useful this is when the opposing forces may have low light or thermal sensors as well.

tiny LED flashlights

This is first and foremost civilian technology. I keep seeing big flashlights, and I consider those to be nonsense. Very cheap very small very light LED flashlights provide more brightness than old big flashlights, so we should use the tiny ones. Additionally, everyone who mounts a light on a gun is doing it wrong.

importance of magnifying sights for target ID rather than aiming

Magnifying sights  have become very widespread in the past 25 years, nowadays a normal infantry rifleman can expect either a red dot sight or a magnifying sight on his rifle or carbine. Normal infantry can easily make do with 4x magnification. 1.5x magnification as used with some German early WW2 sniper rifles and in the famous Austrian AUG rifle allows for easy use with both eyes open, but this fallen somewhat out of fashion relative to red dot sights without magnification.

Magnifying scopes of 3x to 4x power have a benefit aside from more accurate shots well past 100 metres; they have proved to be even more importantly useful for positive identification of targets. You better don't shoot at everything that moves, for it could be friendlies that move in your field of view. So you often times have to identify what you see before you may shoot, and the magnification helps greatly with this. 

The old style was to let the squad leader control the squad's firepower, and the squad leader is supposed to have 15x binoculars for identification. The Americans apparently never fully bought into this disciplined way of shooting in infantry combat, and became particularly endeared with the distributed ID capability that the magnifying scopes offer. This is also a driver behind the use of magnifying scopes on machineguns, even though the machinegunner's firepower should really be directed by the squad leader if the squad is more than a mob.

stripper clips

Stripper clips are ancient stuff, don't really deserve to be called "technology". Still, they seem to be underappreciated as a means to cut down weight.

/2014/10/stripper-clips-and-infantrymans-load.html

captive piston commando mortar

This is another ancient tech, which is in my opinion underappreciated. Commando mortars with less than a km effective range have been highly appreciated by several armies (especially the British Empire/Commonwealth and French armies) for their usefulness. Their usefulness with high explosive (fragmentation) mortar bombs is debatable and highly dependent on the user's skill at the very least, but their usefulness with (IR) ILLUM and (multispectral) SMK munitions should be undisputed. They reach much farther than even 40 mm MV rounds. 

The captive piston principle came up in the 1960's and keeps the propellant gasses inside the cartridge case. This eliminates muzzle flash, keeps the weapon quite clean, limits the maximum practical pressure (range), largely keeps the barrel from heating up and minimizes the noise of the (subsonic) shot. Pistols with captive piston munitions really just make a 'click' and repeating sound. 51 mm captive piston commando mortars are as silent as 52 dB at 100 m.

The French use the Belgian FLY-K / JetShot design that's been around for half a century by now. I don't see why anyone should use an ordinary commando mortar instead of a captive piston design. Sure, ordinary munitions are more easily sourced and cheaper, but I prefer the stealth advantage especially for the illumination work. By the way; commando mortars hardly ever use auxiliary charges, so the captive piston design's inability to make use of auxiliary charges is not a factor.

Noise and effect of conventional 51 mm mortar

/2014/12/the-stummelwerfer-and-2b25.html

/2014/04/underrated-french-infantry-arms-and.html

ultralightweight ballistic helmet shell

Helmets are a pain in the ass neck. It should be a no-brainer to keep them lightweight, but weight savings keep getting misused for performance enhancements as with all infantry equipment. The infantryman is thus perpetually overburdened. There are some very lightweight, plentiful protective helmet shells available at much less weight than standard issue helmet shells, though. This should receive more attention.

http://www.armorsource.com/helmets/ljdaire.shtml

decoupled suspension for tracked vehicles

The German Puma infantry fighting vehicle gets much attention for its unmanned turrets, gold-plating, high price and the long time it took to mature. An interesting feature hardly ever gets much attention: The running gear is de-coupled very much reducing vibrations inside and thus reducing the fatigue of its crew and passengers. There's only one other promising approach to have this as far as I know, and that's the (ancient tech) rubber band tracks. Combine both in a under-30 tons vehicle (approx. limit of rubber band track suitability) and you'd have a crew and (in APC or IFV) an infantry squad that's in much better shape when the shit hits the fan.

germanarmor.blogspot.com/2020/04/puma-ifv.html

portable inertial navigation system

Satellite navigation (GPS, Galileo, Glonass) is great and accurate, and depends on geostationary orbit (35,786 km high!) satellites emitting ridiculously weak signals (GPS: 44.8 W with 12 dBi antenna gain). Drowning these signals with jammer emissions is easy for both Russian federation and PR China.

The go-to alternative for accurate navigation without SatNav is a inertial navigation system (INS). This was first used in aircraft in the 1960's and has been miniaturized and lightened tot he point that cheap smartphones have rudimentary INS abilities. Even the more accurate, more expensive accelerometer chips are quite cheap and we could simply give all radios an INS capability and SatNav capability. The INS would continue the navigation between SatNav reception updates or other (possibly manual) location updates.

The talk about military GPS receivers being jam-hardened and so on is physics bullshit in my opinion.

M885A1 EPR

This 5.56x45 mm cartridge was highly publicized and largely laid to rest the debate about whether 5.56 mm is a too weak calibre for dismounted use. Yes, there are still some efforts for an intermediate calibre, but this cartridge solved so many issues that the case for an intermediate cartridge was moved into a 'luxury problems' category.

The lead-free steel-tipped bullet is semi armour-piercing and its loading is so hot (high pressure) with such quick combustion (suitable for short barrels as in M4 carbine) that the performance (deadliness) issue of short barrel 5.56 mm weapons can be considered solved. The quicker combustion is also supposedly reducing muzzle flash (albeit flash hiders work wonders anyway).

The downsides are the the exposed steel tip scratches the weapon and magazines and the hot loading is wearing out guns quicker (and I suppose a few guns may generally be unsafe with this chamber pressure).

.338 Norma Magnum machineguns

The other intermediate calibre debate was less public; the search for a gun between 7.62x51 mm NATO and 12.7x99 mm NATO (.50 BMG). Everything that's armoured against anything is armoured against 7.62x51 mm NATO. The cartridge isn't terribly much respected regarding chewing through walls or sandbag cover, either. I myself was and are a proponent of such an intermediate calibre for vehicle-mounted machineguns (and sniper rifles). The reason is that the 12.7 mm cartridge is overkill for most purposes, the cartridges are terribly bulky and everything that's more hardened than against 7.62NATO is hardened against all but subcalibre 12.7 mm bullets.

It appears that the known sniper rifle calibre .338, more specifically the .338 Norma Magnum, had its breakthrough with an order for USSOCOM. There are two machineguns available for this calibre:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightweight_Medium_Machine_Gun

tactical-life.com/news/sig-mg-338-machine-gun-first-look/

Sadly, it appears that the order was for dismounted use machineguns. That's horribly wrong in my opinion. It's just one more case of weight savings by technology being misused for performance gain rather than to finally lighten the infantryman's burden. The armed bureaucracies seem unable to appreciate the human component, agility, endurance.

Sound-based sensors

The acoustic sniper detection had a boom in the past two decades, the unattended ground sensors using microphones have been largely ignored (and maybe not much of a success), and the infrasound detection of helicopters (even without line of sight) is outright underappreciated.

defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2016/10/acoustic-sensors.html

I'm a proponent of a remotely controlled weapon (.338 machinegun) station on all battlefield ground motor vehicles except motorcycles and Medevac vehicles. Such a RCWS could be an ever-present defence against drones, but this requires sensors. Staring IR sensors plus microphones (doubling for mortar triangulation and sniper detection) could form this sensor package, and fire control would use an additional visual/IR sight with laser rangefinder/Ladar. Acoustic sensors seem underappreciated to me, and this in a very critical spot.

Tracers that don't burn

This https://ammoinc.com/product-category/product-family/streak-ammunition/ is a less intrusive alternative to tracers, and might be suitable for a universal day/night round. A weak glow is all that you need at night, and we don't need tracers in daylight. I doubt that the small cross section and high speed of a 5.56x45 bullet allow for the visual tracer effect in daylight with this technology.

Tracers used to be useful for small unit leaders to communicate where to shoot at, but this seems to be less of an reason with intrasquad radios and it wasn't a universal practice ever, anyway.


This was uncharacteristically hardware-centric, but in part it's a preparation for later posts.

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

.

2021/06/19

The army air (non-)defence scandal

An interview is causing some waves, for it starts with the observation that German armed forces would have stood no chance to Azerbaijan's because of their inability to defend against drones. This may be an exaggeration*, but the issue is indeed severe, and I'm happy that the public takes note.

I've been on this for years; the lack of army air defence (let's neglect the two irrelevant bullshit pet projects and their miniscule procurement quantities) is a serious and fairly obvious flaw.

/2015/11/the-overlap-between-artillery.html

/2015/11/future-air-target-id.html

/2015/11/an-army-corps-for-germany.html

/2016/09/heavy-spaags-for-2020s.html

/2017/08/very-low-level-air-defence-against.html

/2017/09/the-changing-battlefield-air-defence-i.html

/2017/09/the-changing-battlefield-air-defence-ii.html

/2017/03/air-superiority-in-european-war-in-next_17.html

/2018/05/summary-modern-air-defences-for-europe.html

It's not just me, of course. Many former army air defence soldiers and also many fanbois have publicly regretted the demise of German army air defences. We should absolutely avoid nostalgia for the gone Gepard and Roland systems, though. Neither one would be of use today.

Cold War nostalgia: Self-propelled anti-air gun Gepard. Small, simple drones could easily defeat it unless it was upgraded so much that we could just as well buy a new vehicle. Small prop-driven kamikaze drones could simply shut down their engine and glide at bird speed to the target. This would defeat the 1970's doppler filter. Terrain-following killed drones could pop up and engage in fewer seconds than the reaction time of a Gepard. And then there's the issue of reduced radar cross section drones. Gepard is also quite useless against aircraft, which can accurately attack (with dumb bombs and rockets) from well above its effective ceiling. Even Stinger's greater ceiling was insufficient in mountainous Afghanistan. The Stinger myth claims many kills over Afghanistan's sky in the 80's, but the Soviets lost hardly any of the simplistic Su-25s.

My last link summed up what I consider advisable instead: Expensive area air defence missiles to force high cost aircraft (platforms) into cautious behaviour, cheaper missiles to hard kill the most dangerous munitions, some multi purpose firepower (such as against helicopters and high value ground targets) and last but not least thousands of remotely-controlled weapon stations on thousands of motor vehicles, rigged with the detection & identification gear needed to be effective even against below-treetop bird-sized drones.

I still hope we can avoid flying "fighter" drones for drone air-air combat, for those would need to be quite autonomous and that's a Pandora's box that mankind can hopefully kept shut.

Last but not least; the army air non-defence scandal is another good reason for German civilians to NOT respect the top brass and the BMVg, as it's one of their many gross failures to make proper use of public funds. We need some clean-up politician to head the BMVg, not career politicians who are expert at rising through the ranks of the internally rotten CDU only.

related (external links):

https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2021/01/aftermath-lessons-of-nagorno-karabakh.html

https://www.rand.org/blog/2020/07/drone-era-warfare-shows-the-operational-limits-of-air.html

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: By the same logic the Wehrmacht stood no chance against the Red Army of 1941 because it had no good guns against the T-34 and KV tanks. Land warfare is much more than a mere comparison of hardware quantities and qualities.

P.S.:  I doubt that ANY army in NATO would be able to cope with the drone campaign used in the recent conflict. The only sliver of hope would be stand-off radio jamming, as even those army air defences that are in use would likely have failed just as much as Armenia's. Stand-off radio jamming is only going to be helpful until drones become autonomous hunter-killer systems, though.

.

2021/06/12

German naval power analysis for 1923...1939

Germany exited the First World War with a very much reduced navy. Its three most powerful ships were already obsolete by 1906, faced superior French equivalents (still in service for inexplicable reasons) and completely superior French and British battleships (and British battlecruisers). It was not allowed to have submarines, but the British, French and Soviets had or built plenty submarines The only slivers of hope for the German naval position were the Soviet neglect of the Baltic fleet (and other Soviet fleets, a consequence of some anti-Soviet mutinies in the navy) and the hope that the French would not dare entering the Baltic waters with battleships.

Blank_map_of_Europe.svg: maix¿?derivative work: Alphathon /'æl.f'æ.ðɒn/, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The German navy of the 1920's and most of the 1930's was basically only good for a naval blockade of Poland, and that was rather pointless considering the strategic situation on land and the possibility that Polish arms imports by sea might be escorted by a foreign great power navy. 

flag of the Reichsmarine 1921-1935

I suppose the ships and boats of Germany in the 20's and 30's can be divided into groups, with very distinct utility and justifications.

Group A: Coastal forces

image linked from kbismarck.com

(1) minesweepers (the German approach to it was also usable as a coastal escort of little capability)

(2) coastal minesweepers (smaller and cheaper boats mostly useful for sweeping marked lanes in front of a port over and over again)

(3) torpedo recovery boats (for training, could also be done by the minesweepers)

(4) net layers (to close and open net barriers near and in ports, could be improvised with very small civilian ships)

(5) defensive minelayers (could be done by modified coastal cargo ships in wartime as done during WW2, so the peacetime navy only needed some testing & training opportunities. Many non-specialised craft had mine laying rails for this.

Vorpostenboot / picket boat, image linked from german-navy.de

(6) picket boats (most of these would be wartime production or modification, technically similar to coastal fishing trawlers)

(7) motor torpedo boats (which make close port blockades too dangerous with potential nighttime surprise torpedo attacks and also make passing the Danish straits between North Sea and Baltic Sea very dangerous)

(8) minebreakers / hull-mounted influence minesweepers (sweeping mines by triggering them itself, preferably at a survivable distance ahead)

(9) 15 cm coastal artillery Most German coastal cities are quite inaccessible to accurate coastal bombardment by geography, unless one assumes undisturbed operation of an aerial forward observer. 15 cm was and is a sufficient calibre to defeat smaller units that might come close enough to such coastal cities for line-of-sight fires, or dare to enter rivers.

15 cm C/28, photo linked from weaponsandwarfare.com, hat tip to Mitch

Group A is mostly what you could even have in law enforcement or civilian institutions. Minesweepers evidently were civilian in the immediate post-WW2 years, for example. Motor torpedo boats (and coastal minesweepers) would have been great for customs, police and maybe even civilian search and rescue, and easily converted in a few days for military use. The coastal artillery could have been under army control*, as was later partially done during WW2.

The ships and boats of group A were relatively cheap and dual purpose. They could be justified due to their low cost.

Group B: Blockaderunning enablers

Blockaderunning would be feasible in a conflict with France (albeit this would have been a quick decisive defeat on land until about 1936) in three ways:

(1) Blockaderunning cargo ships could exploit Norwegian territorial waters for safety and then sprint just the final section from Oslo to German Baltic Sea ports.

(2) The blockaderunners would have to run roughly the double distance in case France does not respect neutral Norwegian territorial waters, and could be intercepted by cruisers, auxiliary cruisers and destroyers between Norway and Scotland. The blockaderunning would thus likely happen in severe weather (and new moon nights) or during wintertime (long, preferably new moon nights) with possibly still bad weather (especially rain).

(3) Wartime production unarmed trade submarines (as done in WWI, suitable only for cargo of great value relative to its volume and for natural rubber import).

Blockaderunning enablers would be destroyers (escort mostly against the dozens of French submarines, though for lack of a sonar until the mid-1930's mostly by spotting rather than by engaging them) which would not fare well in severe weather, light cruisers (good against destroyers, auxiliary cruisers, and at most against light cruisers or at night heavy cruisers, but still not promising for severe weather) and heavy cruisers (basically only useful against cruisers and against destroyers in daytime).

The French fleet had no fast capital ships until the mid-30's and could not have maintained more than 50% of its capital ship, cruiser and destroyer strength on blockade patrol. Blockaderunners of 21+ kts speed would have been able to slip by the battleships in good visibility if enabled by good scouting. Light cruisers were still considered to be the best scouts, as aircraft were not very capable until the mid-1930's, and Germany could only have used modified passenger aircraft for naval scouting till the mid-1930's anyway. Destroyers were faster and cheaper than light cruisers, but slower in rough seas and generally much weaker in a gun duel.

The few German heavy cruisers with 20.3 cm guns built in the mid-late 1930's might be considered suitable for the blockaderunning-enabler (escort) task.

The only really reliable approach against a French naval blockade would have been to do some clandestine overseas trading through the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and for clearly German export goods with wartime-built trade submarines. The blockaderunning enablers were thus not a 100% necessity.

Group C: Diversion for blockaderunning-enabling

German 28 cm SK C/28 triple turret. The first triple turret munition transportation issues solved for a rate of fire about equal to twin turrets. image linked from navweaps
 

Three heavy cruisers with unusually large primary artillery calibre of 28 cm (actual calibre 28.3 cm) were a subject of great political debate in the late Weimar Republic and meant as treaty-legal replacement orders for the three pre-Dreadnoughts. Their 28 cm triple turrets were spectacular for cruisers, but more spectacular (and less obvious to the public) was their diesel engine-enabled range, which permitted mid-Atlantic operations from German ports even without refuelling at sea. The actual impact on French maritime shipping could not possibly be considered important to a war effort, so the only flimsy excuse for their existence would be a diversion; drawing battlecruisers and heavy cruisers away from the far blockade task in the North Sea. The problem with this was that the only French cruiser with the speed and range for hunting them was the Algérie, a rather inferior contemporary heavy cruiser that would not have been sent out to chase such a German ship alone. It would rather have been sent after an auxiliary cruiser. The only French ships with the speed, range and combat ability to hunt these German raider cruisers were the two battlecruisers built in response to them. These two battlecruisers were also incredibly useful for a more capable North Sea blockade patrol and might not have existed if Germany hadn't built these three heavy 28 cm gun cruisers.

Diversion only works if the opponent doesn't understand that not being distracted is more advantageous for him or if the diversion is extremely cost-efficient. This and the inherent illogic of the three 28 cm cruisers rendered them unnecessary.

Group D:  Coastal submarines

Coastal submarines (type II) eventually mostly served as training boats, but they could be considered a complement to the motor torpedo boats in that they would deter entering the Baltic Sea in force and deter close blockades. They were not needed for either role when they were commissioned, for at that time non-dedicated aircraft were able to deter such French naval actions.

Redundant to air power and motor torpedo boats, the coastal submarines were an unnecessary, avoidable and dangerous irritation of the UK.

edit: In case you're confused as I previously mentioned they were not allowed by Versailles Treaty to have submarines: Here's the background story.

Group E:  Lots of prestige ships and boats

These ships were supposedly useful for commerce raiding and submarine blockade in the Atlantic.

This group includes the four battleships, which were near-irrelevant for commerce raiding and unnecessary for blockaderunning-enabling against the French navy due to the availability of air power by the time of their commissioning.

This group also includes the oceanic submarines, all of which were only pushing the British into thinking of Germany as primary antagonist (which was not as self-evident as one would think today, for there was still the Soviet Union and Italy was the European troublemaker #1 in 1936-1938, which is nowadays largely forgotten).

None of these made sense. A war against France without war against the UK could not possibly be influenced much with commerce raiding or submarine efforts, as France could trade through the UK (easily secured English Channel) and the Mediterranean. A war against both France and the UK looked hopeless during the entire 1920's and 1930's. The French collapse in 1940 was contrary to any justifiable expectations and contrary to the strategic imbalance, which greatly favoured the Western powers. A naval blockade against the UK after a defeat of France could much better be done by air power (see Mitsubishi G3M abilities, first flight 1935) than by submarines, as Germany could more quickly produce thousands of long range bombers than hundreds of oceanic submarines. Furthermore, the effect of ASDIC (sonar) was unpredictable, making any bet on submarines at least as risky as a bet on the much more versatile air power.

Furthermore, Germany would first have needed to defeat and occupy France before it could hope to defeat the UK with a naval blockade, so using versatile air power that's both useful for defeating France and defeating the UK made more sense. Submarines were not very capable at shelling French land forces.

I consider any opinion that there was a near-success of the submarine blockade during WWI to be delusional. The UK was at no time even close to the import restrictions that Germany suffered from throughout the war. Germany had a famine in the winter of 1916/1917 before Ukrainian agricultural resources were captured. The UK didn't even come close to the scarcities faced by Germany outside of this famine. A naval blockade against the UK could not possibly be decisive as long as the easily-secured Portsmouth-Le Havre route was available for trade, enabling even distant overseas trade through the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles. A successful naval blockade of the UK would thus have had hostile control of Northern France as a necessary condition.

The expensive and provocative group E seemed to lack sufficient justifications.

Group F: Armed merchantmen/auxiliary cruisers

The French had very little ocean patrolling ability, so even the North Atlantic would have been a promising area of operations for such raiders if the UK stayed neutral. The French ability to hunt and stop auxiliary cruisers on other oceans was negligible.

anatomy of most successful German WWI raider SMS Wolf (with aircraft "Wölfchen"), image linked from squadronshop

It didn't take much to create an effective auxiliary cruiser for commerce raiding. You needed a preferably fast (17+ kts) ship with very good endurance at sea, some holding cells for prisoners, cranes, at least one 10.5 cm or bigger gun. Luxury features would be extra crew quarters for prize crews (and prisoners), surplus guns to turn prize ships into additional auxiliary cruisers, strong gun or torpedo armaments capable of surprise-killing a cruiser, beyond-the-horizon passive sonar or a scouting aircraft** with associated equipment (especially a catapult). Such auxiliary cruisers did thus not require much expense in peacetime. Even the crew could mostly be drawn from conscripted merchant marine personnel and would not require much if any expense in peacetime.

Group F needed no peacetime justification, for it incurred hardly any expenses (if any expenses at all) in peacetime.

- - - - -

I wrote a rather polemic text about the stupidity and uselessness of German navies before, but this more in-depth look shows that at most some paramilitary coastal forces were ever required and at most a modestly-budgeted navy similar to the Weimar Republic's navy could be justified, albeit not be proved to be necessary.

This lengthy blog post still doesn't come close to a comprehensive and 100% conclusive argument, but I did what the format permits (hopefully) without being too boring for almost all readers. Moreover, naval-interested readers will likely have noticed the completely different approach and narrative of this blog post compared to just about all literature on the subject. Most literature on the ships and navies of the era has an almost fanboi-ish approach by comparison. It doesn't analyse the actual needs, or missions, or budget justifications. Some admiral issued a requirement for a certain ship? That's good enough for just about every author. I like the excellent books of M.J. Whitley in particular, but he, too, doesn't cover non-technical aspects much and only mentioned very briefly what capabilities the men behind the procurement wanted.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: It could have been under army control, save for the Versailles Treaty restrictions which rendered such an option nonsensical. I'm describing here why capability-wise hardly any naval establishment was needed. The political-legal restrictions enforced another reality.

**: Such floatplanes were incredibly useful not just for scouting. They even tried (and presumably sometimes succeeded) to cut the radio antenna cables of ships so they could not emit an emergency radio message.

P.S.: The German cruiser designs of the Interwar Year were all badly flawed:

light cruiser Emden: unusually good range, but inefficient and poorly protected artillery concept

later light cruisers: unsuitable for severe weather, built more for show than performance, could not withstand battle damage well, too large crew

28 cm heavy cruisers: slower than most new foreign cruisers, cost-inefficient, unsuitable for severe weather, poor secondary and anti-air artillery, armour insufficient as protection against all heavy cruisers, too large crew (albeit the excess could be used to man prize ships on a raiding patrol)

20.3 cm heavy cruisers: unreliable propulsion (due to very high steam pressures), fuel inefficient even by steam propulsion stnadards, poor anti-air artillery (insufficient though better than what the French and British heavy cruisers had), armour could be penetrated by French Algérie at some relevant distances without being able to penetrate Algérie's deck or belt armour as well, too large crew

It's remarkable that these ships were poor at severe weather, even though this would have been ideal weather for blockaderunning. The German navy appeared to have been too centred on pleasant peacetime cruises close to German ports. The  post-Emden light cruisers in particular were built more to look good on paper than to excel in combat, a 180° reversal of German pre-WWI naval design philosophy.

Likewise, the Japanese overloaded their ships to the point of some of them capsizing in storms. The Italians exaggerated (the importance of) the speed of their cruisers. The French had very flawed guns on their early super destroyers. Americans and Italians in particular had heavy cruiser turrets with barrels so close to each other that the horribly large salvo dispersion disarmed the ship for long range duels. Flawed ships were common, but it's striking that the poor seaworthiness of German cruisers was contrary to the least weak justification of their existence.

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