2023/03/18

Un-German behaviour

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The Americans have that derogatory word "un-American" to describe that something done by certain Americans is (supposedly) very untypical and unworthy. The literal equivalent "undeutsch" is not nearly comparable, so I stay in English and call the behaviour that I'm going to call out "un-German".

There's political behaviour in the topic of German defence policy that's so strongly un-German that it deserves to be called out.

You may now think of the far right's and far left's eerie Putin and Russia fandom, but that's not what I'm going after this time. It's true that our far right appears to be even more "vaterlandslos" (un patriotic, literally 'without fahterland', a derogatory term usually used against socialists in Germany) than the far left, despite their opposite self-image, but that may be covered another time in its full ugliness.

The REALLY un-German behaviour violates something very central to the German way of life.

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There's a comical view / caricature of Germans as people who are zealous about "wörk! wörk! wörk!", and this could not be farther from the truth. We are passionately lazy, well almost all of us. Very few of us are pitiful workaholics indeed. The ordinary German is very lazy. This laziness drove us to value efficiency very, very highly. We despise wasting time, we despise wasting work, we despise wasting materials. We despise that someone wastes our time by being late to meet us. Simply put, we despise the waste of resources. The wasteful and embarrassing large-scale infrastructure projects of "Stuttgart 21" and "BER" were incredibly shameful and un-German, and accordingly received much hate and ridicule.

Now have a look at people with (often even non-professional) interest in defence policy: The dominant opinion is that we need to spend more on the Bundeswehr. Supposedly, we underfunded it and need more, more, more. These people appear to seek an emotional satisfaction from feeling that the national armed forces are powerful, regardless of whether there's excess power and thus excess spending (waste of resources).

The current military spending of about € 50 billion per year is supposedly not enough, even though Ukraine seems undefeatable to Russia (the only significant threat to NATO in Europe) after never spending even only € 10 billion on an annual military budget and receiving material assistance much smaller than € 50 billion.

An ordinary German should inevitably come to the conclusion that we should spend LESS, not more, after having a close look at the issue. Hardly anyone does look closely, and those who do seem to be thoroughly un-German and irrational because of a pro-military emotional bias.

The vested interests of armed bureaucracy (especially the professional officer corps, which I simply like to blame for many ailments) and arms industry are pushing for more spending, and that's absolutely no-brainer ordinary and to be expected. More military spending isn't a waste of resources to them; they are obvious net beneficiaries of increased military spending.

The un-Germanness of others who comment on defence policy and of our politicians on the other hand is extremely repugnant. They deserve no better than the shamed managers of Stuttgart 21 and BER.

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2023/03/11

Mea culpa a.k.a. Great news!

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Some of my writing (or much) around 2010 was based on the assumption that frontlines would be indefensible in a European conventional war (at least involving NATO), or that such a large war would end before enough troops arrive in the theatre of war to enable a defensible frontline.

Here's a particularly late example.

I wrote about the functions of frontlines and how to replace those instead of having fragile mechanised battlegroups only. Mechanised forces need to rest much of the time, and they risk being overrun in bivouac if they rest without the protection of a defensible front-line. And by "defensible" I mean that it takes a concentration of forces and a proper breakthrough effort to penetrate it. This means that it would be too risky to infiltrate with armoured recce as raiders and similar, for they might fail to exfiltrate even if they somehow successfully infiltrate.

Well, the Ukraine War shows that the Ukraine - a country hat never before spent even only € 10 billion on defence in a single year - can hold a ~1000 km frontline against the Russian land and air forces' conventional might with foreign material assistance that does not seem to exceed its peacetime credit worthiness.

What went wrong?

The Russian land and air forces' conventional might is crap. Their only strengths were huge stocks of dumb munitions and at least nominally good quantities in relation to Ukraine's forces, especially in the air.

Right now it appears that I rather described what would happen in conventional war between Russia and China with their extremely long border (and in Mongolia) rather than describing what would happen in Europe. I admit, I did assume shorter acceptable defensive frontages per brigade or division than was widely accepted in NATO army doctrines anyway.

So I was wrong, and that's great news!

The feasibility of frontlines means that NATO could apply its hugely superior air power from the safety behind a rather reliable frontline. It also means that the Baltics - and especially Lithuania - would not almost inevitably be overrun, as not just I assumed.

The newfound confidence in the defensibility of frontlines also means that the force structures of NATO armies are very wrong, and again that's great news! We have an emphasis on mechanised forces in our armies, and some armies went for a medium weight route in an attempt to avoid the costs of 'heavy' brigades of the mechanised infantry or tank brigade style (both with many main battle tanks and tracked infantry fighting vehicles). We can instead spend much less on our armies by operating with 'motorised infantry' style brigades (or divisions). These would emphasise infantry numbers (and reserves) and artillery (with emphasis on long practical range), while armoured vehicles would be reduced to maybe one tank battalion per division (for counterattacks mostly) and relatively cheap armoured transports to insert/supply/evacuate infantry. We could even make much use of reservists, with half of such formations being reservists formations and the active ones being scheduled to get full infantry replacements after about 100 combat days.

So great findings overall!

The conclusion from the Russo-Ukrainian War is not just that the Russian land and air forces are as bad as barely imaginable before the war: It's also that they have been further degraded by attrition, their munition stocks are heavily reduced and their level of competence is so low that they permit vastly lower cost land warfare paradigms to be used.

The icing on the cake is that their weaknesses were old ones; they are displaying a perfect storm of all the weaknesses shown by Russian&Soviet armies and air forces in the past 200 years. There's thus very little reason to believe that they could "military reform" most of their debilitating weaknesses away in a decade or two. Those weaknesses are deeply ingrained ones.


The overall conclusion should be that we should reorganise for MUCH lower defence budgets and reorient our societies' resources to address other challenges, such as the decarbonisation.

It is a sad truth that primitive thinking rules over us. The widespread perception is that the threat is bigger rather than smaller, and that the expenditures of the past were inadequate to face it. That's total bollocks. Ukraine defends against Russia with less than Germany's defence budget. They didn't exceed a fourth of our defence budget in any year before 2022. We (NATO / EU) overspend on defence and should be focused on improving the efficiency of military spending rather than indulging in the absolute primitiveness of discussing or even passing increased military budgets.


S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2023/03/08

Attack waves (tactics)

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The Russian (and before that Soviet) misuse of attack wave tactics in land warfare should not mislead my readers into thinking that attack waves are a bad idea in general.

The Russians do attack waves wrong.

Wrong way of using attack waves:

Superior orders an attack, that atatck fails, subordinate officer is urged to keep pressing and orders another wave that fails as well (as it has even less element of surprise), another wave, another wave ... German reports from the Eastern Front in 1941-1942 mentioned such very stupid behaviour. The success rate of the follow-up waves is near zero, but the subordinate officer can report that he did his duty by ordering repeated attacks.

Correct way of using attack waves:

The first wave assaults and occupies the first line of defence (preferably with element of surprise and a good combined arms effort), but is then somewhat exhausted, disorganised and probably weakened by suffering wounded and killed personnel. They might press on, but would soon exceed the culminating point of their attack and risk disaster when a counterattack strikes. So instead of pressing on, the first wave prepares to receive a counterattack.

The second wave was already part of the original breakthrough plan; it's meant to push through where the first wave succeeded and to use its good order and freshness to assault and overwhelm the second line of defensive positions.

Same with the third wave, if necessary. It might also be a wave meant for instant exploitation of a breakthrough through a two-line defensive system.

A fourth wave should be unnecessary, as the first wave's troops should be able to follow up on the third wave if needed (or become a reserve).


S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2023/03/04

That 'peace' manifesto

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"“Dog whistle politics” is the practice of sending out coded political messages or subtle signals, which are designed to be understood only by a narrow target audience."

(Political dictionary)

"Plausible deniability is the ability to deny any involvement in illegal or unethical activities, because there is no clear evidence to prove involvement."

(Political dictionary

A couple German celebrities and failed politicians (former left/far left party leaders) have recently promoted a manifesto for peace in Ukraine. I do vehemently disagree with the proposal that compromises should be made with the aggressor Russia (presumably by Ukraine), but that's a matter of opinion. Some people value peace more than freedom, and I do sympathise with the "Lieber rot als tot" (Rather red than dead) attitude of the 80's peace movement, for example.

Another key demand of the manifesto is to stop the "escalation" of arms deliveries. It's rather confusing how supposed peace activists could oppose the remaining arms deliveries escalation stage of delivering combat aircraft that would be used to stop cruise missiles from hitting civilian buildings and installations, including playgrounds.

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The manifesto was not received by the news media in a literal sense. In my impression they did largely report that it was against arms deliveries, if they reported contents at all.

That's why I brought up the two quotes first: The manifesto is in my opinion somewhat dirty rhetoric.

The authors wrote a manifesto that says very little, but implies very much. It's not meant to be read as it's written (dog whistle), and the difference between the wording and the message is supposed to provide plausible deniability against charges that it's favouring the aggressor Russia.

It's fair to say that the manifesto and the political demonstration of reportedly 13,000 people were meant to create political pressure against arms deliveries in general, not just against "escalations" of arms deliveries.

That sounds radical and pro-aggression today, but it was actually ordinary German law and practice until we delivered weapons to the Kurds for the fight against daesh a couple years ago. 

 

BTW, I don't think that the authors of the manifesto were bribed by Russia to do it. I think they're deluding themselves into thinking that what they want is feasible and smart.

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2023/02/25

Forces of the line and forces of exploitation

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The conceptual difference between a force suitable for holding (and slowly moving) a frontline and a force suitable for rapid exploitation of the absence of an uninterrupted frontline (including pursuit) is stark.

It takes different tactics, different organisations, notably different hardware, different tactical mindsets and different logistics to become really good at either, and it seems to make no sense for an army to try to build formations that are good at both, for that appears to be very inefficient.

The line formation

A line formation would follow the heritage of an infantry division of WW2 (not the Western Allies 1944/45 kind).  It creates an elastic defence-in-depth with multiple prepared positions. The field fortifications should be well-hidden, have overlapping fields of fire, use the parapet defence concept and use overhead cover against 152 mm HE shells exploding a few metres above (with proximity fusing) or a 82 mm HE mortar bomb scoring a direct hit.

The general concept is to avoid that opposing forces detect the platoon positions, so they need to be well-hidden, radio emissions need to be avoided (and faked in false positions) if possible and fire team-sized pickets need to be in front of platoon positions. Attackers should be delayed by the pickets, endure indirect fires until they make surprise contact with hitherto unknown main defensive positions. The surprise effect is then lost, and defenders may move to other, still hidden, positions for renewed defence with new pickets. To remain in known positions would lead to avoidable casualties to hostile indirect fires.

Some platoon positions would double as points for launching quick counter-attacks. All intrusions of opposing forces into a platoon position would trigger a counterattack by a rear platoon, a company in trouble would spring a counterattack by another company, a battalion in trouble would spring a counterattack by another battalion. These counterattacks should be self-evident and near-instant, but use unpredictable routes & directions. Counterattacks are not necessary when the hostile attackers don't succeed at breaking into main defensive positions, though.

Lost terrain may later be retaken with deliberate attacks with limited objectives. Sometimes the lost terrain will even be abandoned by frustrated hostiles if their position there becomes untenable.

The typical movement under pressure would thus be retrograde. Positions should be capable of 360° defence, but optimised for about 120...180°. Leaders will be very concerned about securing flanks, staying in communication with neighbouring friendlies, avoiding friendly fires.

Casualties would be inflicted by 90+% through indirect fires (mortars, artillery), nowadays maybe including drone attacks.

Attacks would make generous use of artillery fires. An attacking company might receive support from the majority of artillery of a division-sized force. Well-executed artillery fires would use suppressive fires and smoke to keep some hostiles from defending effectively. The defenders in the path or on the objective would be subjected to neutralising artillery fires at least. They may not die or be wounded, but almost all of them should be combat-ineffective for psychological reasons. The attackers should further scare the defenders (noises, tanks) and give them opportunity to surrender (megaphones, attacking infantry intent and able to accept surrenders).

Attacks would typically be frontal, though advance into one objective may enable a flank attack on another objective.

Many tricks of the trade can be exploited in such deliberate attacks. The best possible attack does thoroughly discourage local resistance. This is about tactical psychology on the levels up to battalion command. It's much better to see hostiles running or to accept their surrender than to shoot it out.

Forces of the line will face near-continuous attrition and require influx and integration of many replacements. Replacements other than officers should be integrated in reconstitution periods at a rather safe distance from the frontline (certainly more than 40 km). NCO and enlisted replacements should not trickle directly to units at the frontline.

Such forces don't need very many armoured vehicles. A few dozen tracked APCs could suffice for an entire division of the line, but a battalion of tanks would be welcome support. Repeat; "support".

The exploitation formation

An exploitation formation is very different. It does actually not need terribly much indirect firepower and relatively small amounts of munitions. Its troops would rest behind the frontline as a force-in-being and maybe providing occasional support. They should not be the ones penetrating the first line of defence, though maybe lend armoured vehicles and indirect fires support to a line formation for it. This formation needs to remain almost entirely intact (including the quantity of munitions carried by indirect fires vehicles) until breakthrough is achieved.

It would then move quickly to exploit the breakthrough. Maybe it's tasked to reach an objective such as a geographic bottleneck (maybe a bridge or a pass) or an obstacle (coast, swamps, mountains). Maybe it's tasked to link up to another spearheading force to complete a two-pronged encirclement. Maybe it's tasked to roll up the frontline by moving parallel to it, overrunning support units. Maybe it's tasked to reach and overrun an airfield, high-level headquarter or a depot/railhead area.

Exploitation formations such as tank brigades (should) have different mindsets than line formations such as an infantry division. Their leaders' thoughts are focused on the next (interim) objective whenever they have reached an (interim) objective), and they would prefer to either evade hostile counterattack forces or to deal with them with an aggressive attack of their own. Line formations would often have their (small) units prepare for defensive actions on the position once they have reached a (usually less ambitious) objective.

Forces of exploitation benefit greatly from off-road mobility for a great choice of routes, from long driving range of vehicles, from carrying supplies for several days of operations and from bulletproofing of all vehicles (the latter due to sketchy all-round security). They will move among hostiles, need a 360° security effort during rests and the ability to project support fires 360°, but they do rarely face battle-ready combat troops, manned field fortifications or minefields during exploitation.

Their mentality needs to be very different. Quickness of movements, rapid reactions and total acceptance of unsecured flanks and rear become essential. The burden on the human mind and body won't be sustained for more than about four or five days before a dangerous drop of performance. Longer-lasting actions need thus be much less intense than actions of up to four days.

These exploitation formations have great use for reconnaissance, which still includes scouting on the ground even if there's support by bird's view sensors. Scouts on the ground can draw fire from hostiles who eluded our sensors.

To loan an analogy used by a WW2 veteran officer from memory; they [German WW2 tank divisions] resemble more a nimble rapier than a sturdy broadsword. You need to know where to thrust and must not rely on brute force, or else such forces will be worn down quickly.

The line of sight combat of such exploitation formations is a nimble switching between tanks leading on open terrain and dismounted infantry leading on close terrain. The optimum ratio between tank and infantry battalions in such mobile forces is 1:1 (according to WW2 experiences, taking into account WW2-ish personnel strengths of infantry battalions).

These forces should strive to maximise the count of prisoners made rather than to maximise killing. The handling of prisoners of war is a challenge, though. Sometimes captured enlisted personnel would better be disarmed and locked into rooms with some drinking water rather than be guarded and taken along.*

Such mobile warfare consumes much more fuel than munitions. The vehicle and the logistical components of a formation meant for exploitation should be oriented accordingly.

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Most armies are traditionally incapable of getting the exploitation formations really right. They try and are proud of their achievements, but simply never achieved the rapidity and nimbleness achieved in some other armies. A lack of rapidity exposes exploitation formations to counterattacks (remember the unsecured flanks and rear) and often foregoes an element of surprise and many opportunities.

Forces of the line are much less demanding, albeit there are huge differences in how sturdy they really are when tested for real. Line formations are much cheaper in terms of equipment, much cheaper in terms of training expenses (both duration of training and cost per training day) and much better-suited to reservist forces. Exploitation formations absolutely need real exercises in the field; computer and tabletop exercises don't come close to suffice as simulations of actual mobile warfare. The exercises also occasionally need to span at least four days across larger areas than any army training ground in Europe has to offer.

NATO armies attempted to create mechanised brigades and divisions capable of doing both, and in the process few armies achieved great rapidity and nimbleness for exploitation and those formations lack infantry for a sturdy defence-in-depth on a wide frontage. Light forces (airborne, mountain, European marines, rangers) aren't good at either role** and would at best supplement actual forces of the line in specific terrains (mountains, swamps, woodland, towns and cities). I am unconvinced that forces with wheeled bulletproof vehicles would be suitable for the exploitation role, though this depends on how very much not battle-ready the opposition is in the area (and on how soft the ground is).

S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: Back in 1941 many captured enlisted Red Army soldiers were disarmed and merely told to walk towards some prisoner collection point, as advancing Panzerdivisionen lacked the infantry strength to take care of them.

**: Not enough organic indirect fire capability to stand & fight as a line formation on their own.

P.S.: A third kind of formation is notable and suitable for warfare without frontlines: A skirmishing and screening force. Such a force would substitute for a much higher force density effort with formations of the line forming a defended front-line. Some NATO forces have had such formations, either under the guise of armoured reconnaissance or as 'cavalry' screening force with mostly a delaying action mission. I thought and wrote much about such skirmishing & screening forces in past years, but the demonstration of defended front-lines in Ukraine indicates that we should rather look at the forces of the line. A land war between Russia and PR China is a scenario in which Russia could make good use of skirmishing & screening forces, but it would likely lack the competence to pull them off. 

I did illustrate this to make it easier on the eyes. The first symbol is a friendly infantry division, the 2nd one a friendly tank brigade. WW2 experience was that it was fine to organise forces of the line in divisions, but exploitation formations should be more nimble than a tank division. A tank division commander usually only had direct control over a regimental-sized vanguard anyway. The optimum during WW2 was a tank corps consisting of at minimum three small tank divisions. The battalions would be 50% square tank battalions and 50% triangular infantry battalions (on APCs), with self-propelled organic divisional artillery. You needed a tank corps for spearhead operations because a tank division on its own could not penetrate deep and handle the flank counterattack risk at the same time.

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2023/02/18

Basics regarding the Russo-Ukrainian War

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The ability of some people to perform mental gymnastics in regard to this ongoing war is astonishing. Most if not everything of what is being said and written in favour of Russia in this war is untrue or irrelevant.

So I thought it's a reasonable idea to write down the basics in a very clear and somewhat concise manner:

 

(1) Practically all countries of the world including the Soviet Union and thus its successor, the Russian Federation, have signed the Charter of the United Nations. This charter is the most important international law document regarding whether a country conducts legal violence against another or not.

It says among other things in Article 2:

  1. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
  2. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

So it's wrong to attack another country without clear UN authorisation or without exercising a right to self-defence.

(2) There was a Ukrainian independence referendum in 1991. Every single region of today's Ukraine chose independence as Ukraine (being ruled from Kyiv) over staying part of the USSR (being ruled from Moscow). Yes, Donbas and Crimea sided with Ukraine as a nation state.

There was no later referendum or election turning this around, for any region. There were shams that faked something, but no actual referendum or election about secessions or annexations of Ukrainian territory since. There is thus no legal basis and generally no reliable basis for any claim that a secession or annexation of Ukrainian territory is an expression of the people's right to self-determination.

(3) The Russian Federation recognised the sovereignty of Ukraine directly and indirectly many times, including once even signing the Budapest Memorandum, in which the Russian Federation even guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty.

(4) Russia is an empire built by subjugating, colonising and to some degree assimilating foreign peoples for centuries. They merely did the colonising mostly next door (exception being the temporary colonization of Alaska) on two continents rather than overseas. It's an extant colonial empire that pretends that no part  of itself is a colony, just as the French pretended in the 1950's that coastal Algeria was no colony.

(5) No country has any rights to enjoy a threat-free neighbourhood, or to have any buffer zone to potential threats. International law can only work if it's the same for all countries, and thus no country's sensitivities can possibly infringe on another country's sovereignty. Any demands for neutral buffer zones, spheres of influence and the like are illegitimate and carry no weight as arguments.

(6) Other countries doing wrong does not right any wrong committed by Russia, nor does that give Russia any additional rights.

(7) NATO never promised to the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation to not accept Eastern European countries as new members. There are claims about a non-written promise, but those are disputed (among others by the late Gorbachev) and carry no weight in international law. The USSR or the Russian Federation could have insisted on a written, signed and ratified form of such a promise, but they didn't.

(8) The reason for the growth of NATO is not a NATO intent to prepare for aggression against Russia, but the new members seeking security from Russian aggression.

(9) The "Partnership for Peace" program was not an additional encirclement/encroachment of the Russian Federation by the West, as was implied in some propaganda graphic: The Russian Federation itself was part of "Partnership for Peace".

(10) Even if every single Ukrainian was a corrupt anti-democratic Nazi with a swastica tattooed to the forehead, that would still give no country any justification to fire a single shot at or inside Ukraine.

(11) Russian propaganda claims about Nazism and fascism in Ukraine are ridiculous anyway, for (a) the Russian Federation under Putin checks all boxes on a fascism test itself, (b) the Russian government tolerates various big fascist groups within Russia and (c) Russian government lingo identifies every Ukrainian as "fascist" who is in favour of an independent Ukraine, which confuses patriotism with fascism. The whole Russian "fascists" line of attack is propaganda bollocks, regardless of the true anecdotes about a few people in Ukraine, a country of  about 43 million people.

(12) Russian military personnel invaded Ukraine in 2014 when Crimea was occupied.

(13) Regular Russian military personnel invaded Ukraine in the Donbas area in 2014 and Russia also subsidises and equips the secessionists there since. Many of those secessionists were not born in the Donbas and didn't live there before the invasion.

(14) Russians claim that Ukrainians regularly shot at civilians in Donbas. While that's in some cases true, it happened only because of Russia's aggression. Moreover, Russia's behaviour of targeting civilians including schools and hospitals in Syria and Ukraine takes away all moral weight from such Russian accusations.

(15) Ukraine has the legal and legitimate right to kill any Russian combatant now. Russia still hasn't got the legal right or legitimacy to shoot at anyone or anything in Ukraine because it's the aggressor. There are no legitimate targets for Russians, even the Ukrainian military is no legitimate target to shoot at for the Russian armed forces and their mercenaries.

(16) The Ukrainians overthrew a Moscow-friendly president in a revolution. The elections since were democratic and give full legitimacy and legality to the Ukrainian political leadership. To have a revolution gives absolutely no other country any right to attack. It's that simple, and any Russian opinion on that matter carries zero weight because only Ukrainian opinions matter regarding who should rule in Ukraine.

(17) To push Ukraine to ceasefire negotiations equals to aid the Russian aggressors. The Ukrainian government is convinced that such a respite would benefit the Russian aggressors more than the Ukrainian defenders.

(18) To push Ukraine to peace negotiations equals to aid the Russian aggressors. Russia has no legal or legitimate claim to get anything from Ukraine that could be a bargaining chip in such a peace treaty. Russia is the aggressor. The Ukrainian government refuses to yield anything Ukrainian to Russia. Polls indicate that it enjoys an overwhelming popular support in free Ukraine.

(19) The only ones who have bargaining chips that could possibly be given to Russia in exchange for peace are other countries, especially the U.S. and EU countries. Possible bargaining chips could be frozen Russian assets and lifting of sanctions, while yielding parts of Ukrainian sovereignty to the aggressor is not acceptable to Ukraine and would reward aggression, thus provoke further aggressions. The Western governments' attempts to achieve peace for Ukraine through diplomacy were rebuffed by the Russian government, so for now there's apparently no acceptable path to peace through negotiations.

(20) There is by now no reasonable doubt that the Russian government intended to annex all of Ukraine. The renewed attack on Ukraine in February 2022 was meant as a war of conquest. The de facto dictatorial Russian government wanted to subjugate the Ukrainian people.

(21) The Russian Federation is infringing on the sovereignty of other countries as well, most notably Moldova and Georgia. It does in both cases secure secessionist puppet regimes with regular Russian armed forces in place (in Moldova, in Georgia).

(22) No NATO member is a 'bad' ally because of supplying arms to Ukraine or because of not doing so. There's simply nothing about this in the North Atlantic Treaty nor in the accession protocols.

(23) It is a war. In fact, the Russian Federation and Ukraine have been at war since 2014 already.

(24) It's deservedly called Russo-Ukrainian War because the aggressor is customarily mentioned first when naming wars. 

(25) Corruption in a country does not in any way give any other country a right to attack. That's also in the interest of the Russian Federation, which is an oligarchic kleptocracy with a de facto dictatorship.

(26) An illegal or illegitimate government does not authorise any other country to invade in general. That's not even close to an excuse for an invasion, not even for part of an excuse.

(27) Crimea is not Russian territory. The Russian opinion on this doesn't matter. 

(28) The Donbas oblasts of Donezk and Luhansk are not Russian territory. The Russian opinion on this does not matter.

(29) It's an unacceptable concept to demand that a country under attack by a nuclear power should surrender to the aggressor to avoid nuclear war. This way the nuclear powers of the world could subjugate all other countries.

(30) The delivery of arms and munitions is not an active participation in a conflict. It does not equal 'being at war'. We have centuries of history from five continents to back this up.

(31) To oppose the delivery of arms to Ukraine is a legitimate stance (freedom of opinion, freedom of speech), but it's not really a "pro-peace" or "anti-war" stance. It's first and foremost a "pro-subjugation of Ukraine" stance. A "pro-peace"/"anti-war" stance would have to take into account that a successful war of conquest might provoke more such wars. Those who sabotage the Russian effort to subjugate Ukraine have better grounds to call themselves "pro-peace"/"anti-war" for it. 

(32) Wars get very often decided on the battlefield. Sometimes peace won by campaign victory leads to a follow-up war, but very often it does not. Meanwhile, wars that were stopped by quasi-permanent ceasefires do very often lead to cold conflicts lingering for generations, which slowly poisons relations, culture and governments (examples Korea, Bosnia, Near East, partially also Cyprus and China).

TBC



S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de
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2023/02/11

A 6th generation combat aircraft for Europe

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The normal ideas for a 6th generation fighter / combat aircraft follow the established triad of air dominance fighter (F-22 continuation), strike fighter (F-35 continuation) and bomber (B-21?).

The usual expectation is that more gadgets will be added (including lasers powerful enough to at least damage optical and thermal sensors). It's also widely believed that a 6th generation combat aircraft will be optionally manned if not outright unmanned, and cooperate with drone 'wingmen'.

I have my own thoughts about what would be sensible instead, and I only really pay attention to defence of Europe. So the scenarios are either an air power-supported land war in Eastern Europe (worst case vs. Russia, PRC and Turkey at the same time) or an air/sea war with land-based air power and air defences facing seaborne aerial threats (including quasiballistic missiles). The latter scenario is of lesser importance, as it relies on the U.S. turning full-blown fascist and hostile and they could alternatively use SpaceX Spaceships to haul warheads into low orbit for bombarding Europe (by the 2030's). So the main scenario is a land/air war in Eastern Europe.

There are many land-based, non-manned aviation alternatives to manned air power and even many ground alternatives to most unmanned airpower, such as firing quite cost-efficient surface/surface missiles at targets within 120...500 km.

A 6th generation combat aircraft would thus have to be able to hide on airbases and airports 500+ km away from the ground combat and it could best justify its huge expenses by filling unoccupied tactical niches. I will probably later publish a draft text on what can substitute for manned air power in what roles. For this blog post I'll just state that I think about a survivable radar platform for about 60,000 ft altitude, using radars both to find air targets and ground targets, albeit this may be done by different aircraft versions with different radar bands.

unofficial X-44 Manta depiction, (c) Fox 52

The platform would be roughly similar to the X-44 concept, albeit with more spaced turbofan engines and consequently a single centreline underbelly air inlet (to still have S-duct).

I chose the X-44 concept as a starting point because the entirely tailless design helps much with radar stealth.

The spacing would be necessary to enable having the same radar in the tail as in the nose (thrust vectoring might be limited by the radome). The radar would use a rotating ~45° angled AESA antenna, enabling semispheric coverage for each nose and tail radars and thus full spherical overall radar coverage. The aircraft could freely manoeuvre at 60,000 ft with supercruise speed (afterburners not needed, actually).

All missiles would be kept in a central rotating magazine weapons bay (or two) between the turbofans, similar to what some bombers have. There would be at least six missiles and a few free-flying DRFM decoys in there.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/31799/proposed-facility-would-drastically-cut-down-time-required-to-arm-bombers-on-guam

The missiles would mostly be dual purpose missiles, capable of hard-killing incoming rockets and killing pursuing aircraft at similar ranges as today's best infra-red guided missiles. This entire aircraft's purpose would be more similar to today's AWACS (AEW) and J-STARS aircraft than to a F-22. 

Munitions would primarily be fired from the surface, but the bird's view at 60,000 ft is an important niche capability to make full use of such surface-based munitions.

The idea is to feed radar data from bird's view perspective into a networked air and ground war effort. This includes air contact data (L-band radar) and ground contact and ground mapping data (X-band). A detected hostile fighter would not be engaged by this aircraft, but by ground-based missile launchers at command of a ground-based air war command. This aircraft concept would not be meant to fly over hostile ground, but it would be able to venture out to sea (Baltic or Black Sea, for example) and its stealth, flying performance (altitude, speed) and missile countermeasures would enable it to fly close enough to the ground battle for a useful field of view into hostiles-controlled terrain.

The X-band radar version (not both radar versions on one plane) could use leads given by the L-band version to determine the vectors of aerial contacts more accurately than even the combined contact info of multiple L-band version aircraft. The X-band radar would still mostly look at the ground (or surface at sea) and at what flies or floats below the surface radar line of sight, though.

The countermeasures would include at least one laser powerful enough to render infrared, UV and visible light seekers on missiles near-useless and possibly even to badly damage the seeker of active radar-guided missiles. The dual purpose missiles would try to trigger the fuse of hostile missiles, but also try to damage or destroy said missiles (maybe even with EMP warhead against radar-guided missiles?).

The aircraft would transit about 500 km per sortie, so a useful on-station duration of one hour would require about 3,000 km range in a high-supercruise-high flight profile with full missile load. This range, the survivability features, the munitions bay and the two big radars would lead to an aircraft rather a bit larger than the F-22. This causes huge challenges on the ground, as hiding would be difficult. Moreover, such a highly complex aircraft would rather not permit sustaining more than one such two-hour sortie per day, and midair refuelling wouldn't help much to extend flying hours per day, but require much extra effort and permit more distant basing.

So assuming we would need 10 on station, that would be a total requirement for 240 aircraft + reserve for not ready aircraft (another 100 maybe) + attrition reserve. The required total might be 500, difficult to afford for such a niche capability. 10 on station might not even suffice to satisfactorily cover the entire span from North Cape to Suez Canal or Caucasus region for NATO. Maybe the cost would be prohibitive, ensuring that an approach with only low altitude drones and ground-based equipment replaces the air war even if the opposing forces still insist on air power as we know it.


S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

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2023/02/04

I revised some of my strategic assumptions and conclusions

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It's about time to revisit key assumptions & conclusions of mine that I used since about 2009 at the latest.

I assumed that Germany's contribution to NATO and EU defence should be driven by its geographic position:

  • not a frontier country itself
  • not directly threatened itself
  • close enough to the frontier for airbases that allow tactical aircraft to fly sorties on the Eastern frontier without refuelling
  • close enough to the frontier to deploy road-mobile troops to the Eastern frontier within mere days
NATO in Europe (in dark blue), (c) "Starfire25"

My conclusions were:

  • The army should orient itself towards very high readiness and the ability to deploy into combat over 1,000 km road within few days. Most allies could not reinforce Poland or Lithuania as quickly as us.
  • The army would not need to remain in action for longer than four weeks, as allied troops would relieve German army forces, which could then be pulled away from combat for refit
  • It's much more important to provide airbases in Eastern Germany than to add a couple tactical aircraft to active service in an alliance that has 2,000+ tactical combat aircraft in active service

Furthermore, I believed that there's about 5% probability of Russia attacking NATO within 20 years. The only "promising" scenario for that would be a strategic surprise attack based on a belief that there would be no nuclear war.

My reasoning was that Russia was the only justification for substantially more military spending than a mere scheme to retain military-specific competencies that could not be reacquired within about two years. We could safely reduce military spending to a small fraction without the Russian threat.

Now for the reality check:

Russia didn't execute a strategic surprise attack against Ukraine. Even the public knew about invasion preparations for months. NATO would have had time to counter-concentrate if it had een the target of the attack.

Russia expended the missiles it would have had to use in a strategic surprise attack on NATO, and it did so piecemeal.*

Russian logistics and doctrine were incapable of rapid and deep incursions in Ukraine. This means it's not all that decisive that Allies arrive in NE Poland and Lithuania within a few days. The same applies to intervention by tactical air power.

Russian non-state but state-steered propagandists expanded the acceptable discourse towards fantasies of killing everyone in NATO except a certain American fascist on TV.

Poland is building a huge (likely Potemkin villages) army with lots of  prestigious and very visible army systems purchases (especially tanks, SPGs, MRLs).

The Polish government (more accurately; the PiS party) is pissing me off with its Germanophobia and adversarial stance towards Germany and its abuse of Germany as a bogeyman to gain votes. Thus I lost interest in orienting the German military to specific Polish defence needs. As of now they can thank us for us not leaving NATO and leaving them with largely cut lines of communications to their Western allies.

The Russian armed forces embarrassed themselves in Ukraine, exposing that they are crippled by combining all known defects of Russian armed forces known from the past 200 years in one moment of time. To work out of this malaise with military reforms seems impossible for the kleptocrat regime. IMO only some of the problems will be solved or alleviated before 2040.

The economic situation of Russia and the fiscal situation of the Russian state have worsened badly due to sanctions, and even lifting many sanctions won't change that Russia will have much less exports in the 2030's, as their export goods are getting substituted. Russia won't be able to afford a rebuilding, much less sustain an enlargement, of its armed forces. The probability of war with NATO has dropped well below 5% over the next 20 years.

Ukrainians proved that at least select troops (with previous basic military training and good performance in primary education) can acquire enough competence with equipment and tactics within months.

Even the German peacetime training course has less than 90 workdays.

Adjustments to the conclusions:

I believe it's fine if the Polish want to go crazy on the army regardless of their small economy. Let them play army powerhouse at their own expense, it's their wealth that gets wasted. To elect shitty politicians has consequences, everywhere. We suffer our consequences, they suffer theirs.

We're close to the Eastern frontier, but I don't care nearly as much about high readiness any more. I believe my conclusions of 2009-2021 regarding high readiness are still easily in the realm of acceptable ambitions, but now I deviate from them. I had been indoctrinated with a cost efficiency mantra during years of university studies, and sticking to conclusions from old assumptions leads to wasteful actions. 

My ambition for Germany is now rather one army division in Eastern Poland within a week than one corps within a few days. The actual, real-world German army readiness is instead up to one brigade there in days (starts moving within 2...7 days).

A second wave should include another division equivalent of reserve formations, none of which should doctrinally be meant for very demanding manoeuvre warfare.

I stick to my opinion that adding and improving airbases matters more for alliance deterrence and defence than to buy sexy toys for Luftwaffe generals who don't want to be real estate administrators.

Munitions should be stocked for 30 days (NATO expectations, but ordinarily I don't care about what NATO wants) as an interim step, with ambition to reach 90 days worth of munition stocks. This is mostly about the need for indirect fires consumables (155 mm HE and IR-SMK shells, multifunction fuses and 4...5 propellant modules per shell).

We can go for a smaller active army than I believed; a smaller active army than we have.

 

We should turn away from the "standing army" paradigm that neglects the reserves

towards an emphasis on army power two weeks after mobilisation (V-Fall). This allows for much more army power two weeks after mobilisation with a smaller budget. It still permits to send a proper but small division (two brigades or three small brigades, few divisional troops) within a week (with consumables and 90% personnel and vehicle/major weapon system readiness for action).

I shall adjust my blogging accordingly.


S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: The use of dedicated launcher vehicles instead of having one launcher per missile lends itself very poorly to a massive surprise attack with missiles anyway. A Russian arms company proposed a containerised missile launcher, but that didn't go beyond CGI. A rearmament with enough launchers for mass launches would put the strategic surprise attack against air forces in Europe back on the table.

P.S.: There are also a couple adjustments to my opinions regarding supply logistics, Russian countermeasures and air defence, but I separate them into later blog posts.

It's good practice in administrations and business administration to revise strategies every about five years. I am revising old opinions after about a decade based on much new information. I don't feel ashamed about the need to change my views.

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2023/01/31

Wagner and SS

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Hitler's NSDAP party had a paramilitary organisation for bullying, intimidating, 'security' at events and plain brawling against communists and social-democrats; it was called the SA.

This SA quickly became very important and very powerful in 1933, as among other things it gained power by providing personnel for the government's new auxiliary police force that did the dirt political stuff that the regular police wasn't reliable enough for.

Its leader became too ambitious* for Hitler and was eliminated in 1934, the SA was dissolved.

A much smaller violent party organisation rose to prominence instead. This SS had been a kind of bodyguards organisation at first. It took over much SA personnel and among other things the running of the KZs, which were at that time mostly holding political prisoners.

You didn't need to be well-versed in military matters to rise up the ranks in these organisations, most important for a career were

  • being loyal to superiors
  • being able to shout commands well
  • being ambitious
  • participating in social events with other 'leaders'
  • talking shit

Some men rose through the ranks because of personal connections to top leaders, in the SA this included wartime friends of the SA leader.

The military arm of the SS was founded soon after war broke out, in late 1939. It became a parallel organisation to the army.

There was another parallel German ground force in WW2; the air force (Luftwaffe) had initially a ground combat element in shape of paratroopers, which gained much attention and prestige in 1940 and 1941. It wasn't difficult to raise them as a good infantry force because the air force itself was created in 1933 with army officers.

The army bled white in the Russia campaign 1941...1943 while the air force wasted hundreds of thousands of infantry-suitable young conscripts in utterly inflated organisations such as pickets all over occupied France to observe the sky with eyes and microphones. Thus the Luftwaffe came under pressure to provide men for ground warfare. Its ambitious and blusterous boss Göring didn't intend to have hundreds of thousands of young men transferred from HIS air force to army. So he formed air force divisions for ground combat, with more or less ridiculous names (including a 'paratrooper tank division'). These divisions appeared a decade after the inheritance of skilled army personnel by the air force and they generally weren't average or better fighting forces. Their equipment was mostly 3rd rate (including many captured weapons with insecure munitions supply) anyway. Their leaders would have been fit for occupation security regiments, while their young conscripts should have been channelled through several months of retraining in and by the army before being sent to the front.

 

Back to the Waffen-SS; it was founded in late 1939, enjoyed no inheritance of thousands of highly skilled army officers and once in action on the Eastern Front in 1941/1942 it quickly gained a reputation for reckless and unnecessarily casualties-rich tactics. In short; it was led poorly.

This did improve eventually, but the continued quick expansion of the Waffen-SS to rival the army ever more and the concentration of talent in one 'elite' flagship division meant that the waning army critique of Waffen-SS casualty rates was probably more about the deteriorating army experiencing rising casualty rates itself in 1943...1945 than about the Waffen-SS becoming very good at tactics.

Brutality towards not only the enemy but also towards the own men was employed by the Waffen-SS (and the army itself was already brutal by today's standards including an outrageous casualty rate during training).

Neither the air force's dabbling in ground war nor the Waffen-SS' were rooted in rational optimisation of national warfare potential. These were political efforts, meant to elevate their leader, some inner circle crony. Neither army competitor was particularly skilled and both suffered excessive casualty rates (including the original paratroopers, who were ruined in the Crete invasion).


Fast forward to 2022, we see the Wagner PMC employing inept tactics and brutality in a ground war in order to elevate the political weight of their crony-in-command, Prigozhin. The organisation has a few former military officers, but isn't built on such 'competence'. Wagner PMC's behaviour  fits to the fact that the Russian Federation checked all the Fascism test checkboxes in the past years.


S O

defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

 

*: It didn't help him that he was a fat by the standards of the day, gay and in the focus of public disaffection with the new regime and its corruptness.

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2023/01/28

(Light) infantry today

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Light infantry appears to have a strange fascination on military fanbois. It's almost the embodiment of playing soldier. No boring work in offices, no counting stuff for inventory list in a depot, no truck-driving, no car mechanic work, (almost)  no fiddling with 20 years-old electronics. Just camo uniform, guns, physical fitness, occasional exercises in fake villages and fake buildings, and of course - especially lately - weird vehicles. Snowmobiles, quads, 6-wheel ATVs - reminiscent of recreation almost.
 

such toys aren't really new

Light infantry was in high demand in Afghanistan because the supply lines were troublesome and there was simply no capacity to support mechanised forces, so it was about infantry, engineers, MRAPs with air support.

The Russo-Ukrainian War of failed Russian annexation expectations provided a reality check.
Sure, there are some videos of "special" forces using buggys or quads to infiltrate through the thin line of pickets and platoon dugouts that the Russians established to guard the frontline.

Almost all of the infantry had a very different experience, though. Mechanised infantry (riding in or on BMPs) is best to be reserved for mechanised actions, so other infantrymen should man the front-line.

Those infantrymen are also "light" infantrymen, and by all evidence that I saw they do not carry equipment like crazy, even bulletproof plate armour is very rarely used. They fight light (far from the overburdened mules known from Afghanistan patrols), 
 
 
but most often they do less glamorous and glorious things; they hide and more importantly, they build field fortifications and make them bearable to live in.
 
So digging, sawing, construction work, installing camouflage netting and observation duty in trenches appear to be about 80% of the skill set that infantry needs in this war.
 
Artillery and mortars cause about 80...90% of the casualties in such war scenarios. Some of the rest is caused by air power, accidents, tanks, dedicated anti-tank teams and snipers. The ordinary infantry man matters little as a fighter - tacticool gucci gear or no tacticool gucci gear. Mosin-Nagant rifle or HK416 matters for morale, but it matters little for physical results of a war.

Infantry is not much of a killing factor. To mobilise 300,000 men for infantry and to send them to the front-lines means more meat bags to keep the frontline from collapsing, but it means very little regarding how many casualties the other side will suffer.

Infantrymen are in modern conventional warfare similar to the pikemen of the 16th century field battle in Europe: They hardly ever harm anyone who didn't come close to them to attack them. The pikemen didn't do much of the killing; the musketeers, the arquebusiers and sometimes the artillerymen did that.

The supply of artillery munitions predicts how many casualties will be inflicted, albeit with diminishing returns.

The #1 quality of the regular infantryman is not "lethality" that Westerners like to obsess about (fanbois, industry and often even the armies or marine organisations). The #1 quality of the infantryman is to endure the threat of indirect fires and still accomplishing the mission of holding or (rarely) taking ground.

Modern non-mechanised infantry is 90% about Hodor and only 10% about Gimli.

Western armies should rediscover this old insight from the World Wars. The implications for resource allocation, training programs, TO&E and doctrine are huge.

S O
 
P.S.: This does NOT mean that hard body armour is a good idea. Even most armoured vehicles don't reliably stop all fragments of a 152 mm HE shell at 50 m distance, but field fortifications do.
Furthermore, it's not enough to dig in. A platoon should have at least two well-built positions available, and the 'rear' one should be kept hidden. Fortified positions should become smaller down to pickets for four or five men 'far forward'. The idea has to be to have few exposed much so that many stand a better chance at hiding successfully. The field fortifications to be used to actually stop a well-executed determined push should not be known to the attackers before they come into line of sight contact.
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