2019/08/17

Unreliable partners

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(I had nothing prepared for this Saturday, so I present you a text that was finished, but apparently not published in March 2017. I think it aged well. The rather pro-conservative but not pro-fascist Washington Post recently published that the lying moron had passed 12,000 falsehoods and misleading claims since inauguration.)

Trump made a speech that was hailed as this best in a long time, kind of "presidential", literally unpresidented.

The problem with this is that fact checking found him false on up to 51 of 61 claims made in 61 minutes.

examples:


There's a controversy about a few of those, so I play it safe and say he said 40+ falsehoods in one hour of speech to the legislative branch of government. That's the speech that was widely considered his best.
Now think about this for a while. 40+. Maybe you like Trump and are inclined to claim that there were maybe only 20+ or 10+ falsehoods. That would still be 10+ falsehoods in an hour. With previous presidents of the post-WW2 era (save for maybe GWB and Nixon) 10+ falsehoods would have been considered be outrageously much and the speech to be their worst - not the best as with Trump. That's how normal the constant lying has become in U.S. politics since Trump appeared on the stage.

It's difficult to come up with 40+ falsehoods of Chancellor Merkel over the entire course of her Chancellorship since 2005, and I write this despite disliking her and many CDU policies.

Thus it's established (once again, as if any further proof was needed) that the president of the United States is a liar, likely a pathological liar or what was called a "bullshit artist".



The conclusion is that the United States have a very powerful president whose statements are worthless because of the high frequency of falsehoods and who bases his policies on ideas that don't stem from reality, but from fiction.

The United States have essentially become an unpredictable random factor in global affairs.

It's pointless to talk to the United States' president unless the plan is to manipulate the president. Nothing he says can be considered a reliable statement of fact or a promise.

This is a stark contrast to the immensely stable 'Washington rules' establishment foreign policy which had its flaws, but rarely did anything unpredicted. Reagan's nuclear arms reduction negotiations were among the most unpredictable policies under the old paradigm, and they were a pleasant surprise.

Today, form a German perspective, the #1 partner in national/collective security should be France. I chose France over the UK because the UK hasn't made up its mind about whether it's a European or a North American country. The executive branch leadership of the U.S. is a near-worthless partner as of now, unpredictable and living in a fantasy world of "alternative facts".


S O
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2019/08/10

INF 2.0

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It's official - the INF treaty is gone.
The question is what should we do now.

A launcher for SS-20 "Saber" (RSD-10 "Pioneer"),
the missile that scared the West into negotiating the original INF treaty

I've pointed out before that medium range ballistic missiles with conventional precision guided warheads are a terrible threat to high value targets (HVT) in Europe.

Ballistic and cruise missiles offer vastly more bang for the buck than strike fighters and their precision-guided munitions (PGMs) if you plan for but a week or two of air war. A combat aircraft approach (manned or not) causes huge costs for the platform, and it takes many sorties to compensate for this by using cheaper (than 500+ km missiles) PGMs. The break-even of costs between a strike fighter and surface-to-surface-missiles depends on many variables, of course. I wager it's not in the first two weeks if you take into account that strike fighters have operational expenses for on average 20+ years, which adds to their fixed cots in this comparison.
To make this more clear, here's a simplistic model to show the general idea:

An aircraft costs 150 million €. It needs a munition costing 100,000 € to deliver a 250 kg warhead precisely.
A medium range missile costs 750,000 €. It precisely delivers one 250 kg warhead each. Its launcher has a negligible price (simplistic model, but quite true if you look at the simple Sergeant missile launcher, for example).
The break even would be after 230 targets engaged with 250 kg precision-delivered warheads at about 173 million € total costs with either approach.

I have also made my case that the least unrealistic actual defence scenarios for NATO (or EU) in Europe might last no more than a few days or weeks because a threat of tactical nuclear weapons employment could (and would) prevent a counteroffensive politically.
____________

These are my three pillars for my assertion that conventional 500...3,500 km precision-guided missiles are a terrible security threat to Europe. A few hundred such missiles could deliver a terrible blow to our air forces, navies, headquarters and army HVTs (such as counter-battery or air defence radars and command vehicles). The cost of preparing such a terrible blow could be a billion € or less.

There was no such precision strike technology available to the Soviet Union, so most people don't appear to have understood its ramifications yet (since the Americans mostly used such missiles for bullying Third World countries, not so much for unexpected Six Days War-ish first hour strikes). The mass media stupidly writes and talks about nuclear-tipped medium-range missiles, as if Russia couldn't hit us with longer-ranged nuclear-tipped missiles at will if it meant to. The news media totally misses the real problem. INF was a nice cost-savings deal for the very late Cold War, but afterwards it turned into a requirement for the viability of Western European air power.
____________

I see two general options in response to the end of INF:
  1. Accept that our deterrence and defence must not critically rest on high value targets that could be targeted by PGMs and restructure our deterrence and defence accordingly.
  2. Quickly replace INF with something that keeps Western European air power viable.
#1 will be almost impossible. There's too much path dependency, too much inertia, too little chance to convince people of the extreme threat of conventional PGMs to our HVTs. Armed bureaucracies such as air forces will no doubt fight to preserve what they love; especially the gold-plated combat aircraft.

#2 is thus the only hope of avoiding horrible levels of waste that go even beyond the ordinary military bureaucracy wastefulness.

Sadly, the United States' foreign policy is controlled by a lying moron who may be a Russian asset, so they are of zero use to Europe (as in so many other cases these days). Even the "Transatlantiker" crowd (zealots with an ideology of emphasis on European-U.S. cooperation) have given up on the concept of cooperation with the administration of crooks, grifters and incompetents. That change was overdue, for it's been obvious for two years that it's pointless to negotiate with someone who lies and wants to cheat you, and who considers the signing of a treaty as but the end of round one of cheating and bullying.

The good news is that nobody needs the United States to create a useful INF 2.0.

I'll lay out a draft of how INF 2.0 could work, taking into account that the Russians need to be motivated to sign, ratify, implement and sustain it.
____________

INF 2.0 should feature these rules
  • treaty members; EU countries, European NATO, Russia, Belarus
  • missiles of 500...3,500 km range would be banned in Europe, Turkey and south of the Caucasus*
  • no treaty member bases or transports 500...3,500 km missiles on ships or submarines (excluding a defined list of sea-based legacy missiles and legacy naval aviation missiles)
  • Russia must not have any 100...500 km missiles in Kaliningrad Oblast
  • Russia would be allowed to have a moderate quantity (to be agreed-on, should be no more than 300) of 500...2,000 km cruise missiles in Asia**
  • Russia's Asian 500...2,000 km cruise missiles must not be loaded into or onto any aircraft
  • air-launched 500...3,500 km legacy  missiles can be retained, and replaced on a 1:1 basis (single warhead each and no replacement of cruise missiles by ballistic missiles)
  • no conversion of ICBM or SLBM for conventional warheads by any treaty member, nor any preparations for such a conversion
  • treaty members must not increase their quantity of ICBMs or SLBMs
  • European signatories do not permit U.S. or Canadian missiles to be based in Europe or Turkey
  • European signatories do not permit U.S. or Canadian ships with 500...3,500 km missiles to enter their territorial seas (exception for passing the Straits).
  • European signatories do not participate in or help fund the development or procurement of operation of missiles that they couldn't operate under this INF 2.0 treaty.
  • Russian 500...2,000 km cruise missiles would be accompanied by a European observer mission, which gives Europeans an early warning if these missiles are moved into range (denying the strategic surprise attack option); this means a right to unlimited access to every missile for inspection including x-ray inspection up to a specified total x-ray dosage per missile
  • General inspection regime to certify compliance, run by the United Nations with bloc-free country personnel only
  • This general inspection regime includes that missile tests need to be announced and observed, and the inspectors get the opportunity to see if the range limitations are observed
  • Range of missiles defined as range when carrying a 50 kg payload (warhead + guidance, could be calculated based on test results with a heavier payload)***
  • Treaty members may leave the treaty 12 months after announcing the move to the other treaty members
  • We could sweeten the deal with some long term contracts for Russian commodity exports and a European aviation project using a Russian gas turbine design.****

(Russia would likely not agree to a total MRBM/IRBM ban because the Chinese wouldn't, and the Chinese wouldn't agree to it becuase they need such missiles as one of the ways to keep American carrier battlegroups at a safe distance in wartime. Hence the complicated Asia exception which necessitates extra tracking by inspectors.)

We need to push our intelligence services***** to learn about Russian 500+ km inventories and missile production. It's the #2 priority behind early warning of an attack.

INF 2.0 should be in force before 2025. The heads of government of Germany, France, Italy and Spain need to step up and publicly, urgently warn the public about the problem once we know that we won't get INF 2.0 before 2025. We'd then (at the latest) need to move much funding from air forces and navies to armies AND deploy at least half of our combat and combat support aircraft to a permanent training mission in Canada where a surprise attack would be much more difficult to pull off.

My guess is that European politicians are so unimaginative and used to muddling through without any actual strategy that they couldn't pull this (or anything smarter) off. The ability to develop and enact strategy has atrophied in the West. We'd need a von Bismarck-calibre politician to change this quickly.

previously:

S O

*: 3,500 km suffices to hit all of Europe from Russian soil east of Kaliningrad Oblast
**: 2,000 km is the approx. distance between Asia (Ural mountains) and European NATO
***: This is so low because relatively light Small Diameter Bombs proved to be able to penetrate hardened aircraft shelters. This means a 50 kg warhead would almost certainly  be able to do the same if mounted on a very fast impact 3,500 km quasiballistic missile.
****: Raw materials commodities and gas turbines are almost all that works well in the Russian economy. The commodity deal would be economically and fiscally important to Russia and the gas turbine deal would be a substantial prestige boost, at least if we sign a NDA that keeps us from bitching about the product quality afterwards.
****: The spying ones, not the counter-intel ones, of course.


P.S.: Not every single EU country would need to agree. INF was only a bilateral treaty and worked even though the Soviets  knew that legally the Europeans could cheat the spirit of the treaty by getting MRBMs. INF 2.0 could work just as well as long as the Russians trust that the European non-signatory powers would not cheat its spirit, either. Germany, Poland, Baltic countries, France, UK, Turkey, Italy and Spain would probably be required members.
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2019/08/03

Link dump August 2019

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edit later this day: Blogger appears to have a problem with commenting right now. I myself cannot reply to comments using Google Account or Name/URL options any more.


It's important to have a people working in the government who live in the reality, not in some racist fantasyland.

edit:
Just so you guys know; I WILL ignore (and delete) crude attempts of explaining the crime stats in the one pic with a single correlation.
The insinuated/supposed correlation isn't even one, as anyone who looks at statistics the way a scientist looks at them (rather thans someone in pursuit of bias confirmation).

I have accumulated so much knowledge about causes of crime (that should be common knowledge, but sadly isn't) that the two deleted primitive comments are way beyond my and thus the blog's dignity.
 
Don't get me started on how complicated and laborious it is to do actual research on topics such as causes of crime. One could have a discussion on scientific findings on the subject, but crude attempts to do primary research or insinuate primary research results that aren't is a no go. The two comments on the topic so far were on the 'nazis ate breakfast, thus breakfast causes world wars' level of 'thought'.

Besides; anyone who thinks the stats in that pic were the point of that section didn't get the point.


(Have you ever wondered, how certain things get into places they don't belong?)

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A good summary of the idiocy.


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The total costs of the Puma program (350 IFVs for the German army) is 5,989 million Euros. 17 million Euros per vehicle. I suppose the insanity is obvious.

We need to phase out (dishonourably disband) the procurement bureaucracy and blacklist all officers who were ever involved in it (save for the technical experts) or in corresponding jobs in the ministry of defence. Then we need to set up a new procurement bureaucracy with all-new procurement rules that employs the technical experts for nothing but their technical expertise. All executives in new equipment programs should preferably be retired SaZ officers (no active or former professional officers) with thorough project management training (much more than just the IPMA basic certificate!) and at least three years of civilian development project or procurement management expertise. Ordinary civilian procurement executives can be hired for the repeat purchase of spares, replacements and so on.


S O
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2019/07/27

No good title

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There were a couple ages-long tensions regarding force composition and armament in land forces:

One example was the conflict of choosing between melee and missile capability. There were archers with good melee capability (such as the Babylonian troops with bow and spear), but much of the time missile troops were poor in melee and melee troops were poor or mere targets at range. Attempts to create a hybrid that was good at both were made, but didn't seem to be successful enough to finally settle the question.


State of the art during the mid-17th century was to have a growing share of missile infantry (musketeers) and a waning share of melee infantry (halberdiers) to protect the missile infantry especially against cavalry. There were also some late attempts to combine missile and melee prowess, such as by the double-armed man with longbow and pike (the sword didn't count, being a mere sidearm).
The arrival of practical bayonets seemed to  settle the issue. The musketeer  became able to turn his musket into a lousy spear. It was good-enough to scare horses and the shots were good enough to scare hostile infantry. Some attempts were made to improve the melee prowess with blade sidearms, but they proved largely impractical (and the iron alloy quality for blades was quite expensive).

Then - a long time later - the problem came up again. Again, there were two kinds of infantrymen; submachinegunners with short range firepower and riflemen with long-range firepower. It took only a generation to harmonise this by moving towards intermediate cartridges and the assault rifle.

Now we hear people 'whining' about supposedly insufficient range (that is, from mountain to mountain) of such cartridges, and more powerful single shot rifles ('designated marksman rifle') were introduced, in yet another effort to enjoy more longer range specialists' benefits.

The lesson is probably that we should be glad to have a hybrid, but there will always be people who think they're smarter than the compromise and long for the benefits of specialisation. I guarantee you; the more specialisation we add, the more people will think that the hybrid is the smarter choice.
___________

Another such tension was about armour; how much protection is the right level of protection?
Heavily armoured warriors / soldiers usually are more capable in melee. Lightly or unarmoured troops are cheaper, quicker, have better endurance, are better-suited for extreme temperatures, can swim and unlike some of the most-armoured troops types they do need no servants.
Rome attempted to standardise its troops into armoured troops under Marius, probably because this was best-suited for professional (16, 20 years of service) troops. This was hugely successful, but they had to support their core of professional troops with lots of specialist and mercenary troops, most of which were much less well-armoured.

The question about armour appeared to have been answered for good by the late 18th century when even heavy cavalry no more used even only breastplates. The bullets of muskets had good penetrative power and armour seemed to be quite pointless. It was reintroduced for a short stint during the Napoleonic Wars (for cuirassiers, but other troops added at least some head protection as well).
Iron manufacturing improved, and 'bullet-proofed' body armour was tried again and again from the mid-19th century to WW2. It never made it into general usage, though steel helmets did in face of the high explosive munitions' fragmentation threat. Other materials were used to add protection tot eh torso against fragmentation, but only by the 1990's did the bulletproofing of torsos take off again. Helmets were bulletproofed against rifle bullets again sometime around 2010.

Again, it's nothing but an ancient struggle. The drawbacks of personal armour protection remain largely the same (weight, cost) while technology swings the pendulum around.
___________

The force composition between highly mobile (cavalry) forces and rather slow-moving (infantry) forces was another such struggle.
The pendulum swung towards mounted forces during the migration period, and swung back towards dismounted forces in the 14th and 15th centuries (in Europe). The great increase of rifle firepower during the mid-19th century seemed to make cavalry obsolete save for mostly non-combat purposes, but the motorization seemingly pushed the pendulum back towards  highly mobile forces, up to complete motorization. On the other hand, horse cavalry forces were not really much quicker on long-distance marches than infantry anyway. Horse cavalry had its advantage mostly in battle mobility and in quick marches for a day or two as required for reconnaissance. We still have a similar difference between tracked and wheeled forces; tanks are more mobile off-road, but wheeled mobility gives most troops actually better march mobility than the tracked tanks possess. So motorization did not really push the pendulum around all that much; the overall level of mobility was increased (albeit not by much in face of opposition*).
Theorists of the 60's to 80's thought of the helicopter as being the true high speed alternative on the nowadays, but their costs grew to such extremes after the 1960's that their use en masse has become unaffordable.
___________

Professional high quality troops vs. cheaper low quality troops in greater numbers. Frankly, this choice almost always ended the same way; a mixes force was more cost-efficient to both a high end-only and low end-only forces in land warfare. The only exception I can think of is the enlightenment age when armies became quite homogenous in their internal quality in Europe. There were Jäger and Grenadier units among more common Prussian Füsilier infantry and there were different kinds of cavalry, but overall the German, princes, French and British appeared to have applied high expectations to all their infantry at least and the rather mixed concept and mixed quality Austrian army did not prove superior to this.
The idea of all-high end land forces was revived by de Gaulle in his theoretical work, but an all-mechanised force still seems impractical and most importantly, we know it would be inefficient.
The interest in all-professional forces was renewed post-Vietnam War, but "professional" did not necessarily equate "higher quality" compared to long-serving conscripts as peacetime comparisons between U.S. Army and (West) German Heer revealed. Nowadays we have good reason to believe that even professional forces need a strong reserve personnel pool.


S O

*: I remember a 1990's article from an American military professional journal that showed how the advance speeds of quick campaign moves didn't change much with motorisation. Pre-motorisation armies were often very quick for a couple days as well. Motorised armies didn't come close to exploiting their technical speed.
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2019/07/20

(Current) Bundeswehr policy

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The German secretary of defence is falling the career stairs upward after a string of failures with no real successes to show in years of being in command of the German military. This is an unpublished blog post (written long ago) about this secretary of defence's policies and expected effects. I wasn't sure enough to publish it, but I suppose it's accurate enough in hindsight. SecDef also failed to repair the horrible procurement system, an attempt that I didn't expect to happen. To be fair; the procurement system is in small part broken because the parliamentary committee is part of the problem. 

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It's becoming more clear that the new German minister of defence (background in family and social policies, little clue about military affairs) will focus on personnel affairs of the Bundeswehr. Some political risk aversion is likely; this politician still plans for a bigger political career and major blunders in this office don't fit into such plans. This makes new stupid small wars less likely. They're probably well outside the comfort zone and too far outside of popular opinion.

The personnel affairs focus will likely pay attention to attractiveness of the service, more integration of women, compatibility of family and deployments and the like.

The sum of this may be an improvement, but it's bound to worsen a problem which I intended to write about for a long time. The problem here is the choice of words, though.
________

But first the recent developments from the press:
The media folks don't like the current ruling coalition, and they pay much attention to the minister of defence because she's such an obvious mismatch. The reports first looked a lot into her potential area of activity; the attractiveness of service. The obvious choice for research by journalists is to look at the complaints which soldiers filed last year. That's apparently where the journalists who are usually well-insulated from all things military began paying attention to a common complaint; that female soldiers can pass tests and get promotions without delivering the required performance (and thus competing unfairly with male soldiers for acceptance as professional soldiers after the initial volunteer service). The journalists began highlighting these complaints. This serves both the journalists' hostility to this coalition and the particular choice of minister of defence (since it's almost unreasonable to expect that the minister is going to correct the issue) and it is about the minister's focus on attractiveness of service.
________

Now about the (not entirely new) problem:
Some Western military forces had serious recruitment challenges during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but oddly not necessarily with their infantry recruitment. There is apparently a small share of the male population which has an innate desire to go to war (exactly once). It's some strange male instinct (or cultural thing?) apparently, and its major drawback for recruitment is that these men typically don't re-enlist after one tour in a war zone; they've "had their war" already, and we all know this kind of job sucks 90% of the time anyway so few of them stay.*
 
A less extreme phenomenon among the same lines is that likely thousands of men seek military service every year (in Germany alone) because it's manly or something - without expecting to see combat.

Furthermore, a majority of enlisted and NCO personnel is according to decades of Bundeswehr experiences more satisfied with their job if it's a challenging, if not tough, one. Easy, simple service is too boring (and everyone who served knows the particular problem of idling).

A nicer, more gentle service may attract more recruits in the mid and long term, but it may easily make re-enlistment less likely, lead to more complaints about idling and may also make recruitment of suitable personnel for the combat units much more difficult.

The Bundeswehr recruitment videos of the past couple years were originally meant to be the centre of a critical blog post. I never wrote it for a simple reason: I couldn't stand watching all those videos in entirety. I sure cannot stand embedding or linking to a single one either.
The message of some of these recruitment videos was approximately 'Join us and don't worry - the Bundeswehr isn't so very military. You can do civilian-like jobs, merely with different work clothes.'
By now it should be obvious what's the big problem with the choice of words here: The official line has gone so far away from a "tough" line that criticizing it makes it difficult to keep appropriate distance to some dumb right winger bullocks. Dumb people talk a lot of shit, and they occupy a lot of keywords which would otherwise be a good choice to describe the problem.

My concern is efficiency and satisfactory effectiveness of the Bundeswehr and our defence policy in general. It doesn't help to make the big stick not only smaller, but also softer and more gentle to handle with a coating for great haptic quality if in the end it's too limp for its intended role of scaring or beating the s### out of (potential) aggressors. That's what defence is about, after all; to deter and if that fails to save with violence.
The more efficient the tool is, the smaller and cheaper it can be.

I have "doubts" whether the soft and nice approach is a good idea for the army. I don't mind it for the air force or navy, but the army will run into trouble if the recruitment focus is on non-combat types and if the training is oriented at not burdening the personnel much instead of challenging them to become hardened experts of their profession. I also don't think that the much wished-for ideal of being able to plan your career (and its locations) for years in advance makes much sense in the greater picture.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: I'm not going to provide evidence for this, as this is neither a paid nor scientific text and I'm not inclined to look up gazillions of articles to find the sources again. In case you wonder where it came from; Canadians published this issue based on their recruitment and retention experience during their Afghanistan involvement.

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2019/07/13

How to fix ... the United States Navy

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The U.S. Navy (USN) has a long list of problems that deserve fixing.

The typical naval-focused or naval-interested blogs and pundits have a short list of changes to the USN that they favour. These favoured fixes can be summarised as "double down!". The call for more warships is most popular, while a few more specific calls for improvement predictably pop up when there was again some typical scandal or collision accident. (And the LCS is controversial, to say the least.)
The "double down!" lobby does not pursue national interest; it has an irrational desire to see an ever more powerful navy. Some of those people are rationally motivated actual lobbyists, who get paid by industries to push for more spending that will enrich said industries.

These are the problems that deserve fixing in my opinion:
  1. the USN costs terribly much in general
  2. the months-long deployments disrupt private lives and make USN jobs unattractive, requiring high pay for compensation and depressing re-enlistment
  3. the USN is so very much focused on land attack (and secondarily on air defence) that its ASW and counter-mine abilities were neglected 
  4. the USN gets involved in provocations in distant waters that threaten world peace
  5. the USN is ill-prepared regarding munition stocks, training, hardware and doctrine for the only pressing major war scenario
  6. the USN's forward-deployed forces are terribly exposed to strategic surprise attacks (by military and clandestine assets)
  7. the USN would need months to muster its forces even for the least unlikely defensive war scenario (Naval Station Norfolk - Perth/Australia is 11,000+ nmi if the Panama Canal is blocked; that's 26+ days at 18 kts)
  8. the USN has a navigation competence problem that's the visible tip of the iceberg of a more general competence problem rooted in a poor personnel policy and the need to assemble crews for months-long deployment tours in time
  9. the U.S. cannot compete with the PR China in regard to warships arms racing on its own
#1 is the worst, especially when seen in context of #5.

The most fundamental mistake

...is the endless rotating forward deployment to distant places with both carrier battlegroups and amphibious battlegroups. The amphibious groups follow a mere regimental-sized force concept that's never been of good use in many decades. There was never a both legitimate and useful peacetime employment of such or smaller size in U.S. history that couldn't have been done by airlift as well.

The only major threats

There are really only two major threats; Russia and PR China. Russia's strategic navy (SSBNs) should be left alone. It should be supreme order never to threaten any second nuclear strike capability, for this could lead to a panicked preventive first strike by some other nuclear power. This leaves very, very few really operational Russian naval forces as relevant potential targets for the USN. The Black and Baltic Sea Fleets would be handled by the Europeans unless they redeployed before hot conflict.
Overall, the USN does not need to pay attention to Russian naval forces from Europe other than a few submarines in the North Atlantic. The Russian land-based long range bombers would be a greater naval concern, and one could expect them to be redeployed to different airbases or airports in order to prevent their simple destruction on their peacetime airbases. So there might be some ASW and AAW issues in the North Atlantic, though they would be small compared to what else would happen in a NATO-Russia conflict. To secure a transatlantic New York-Lissabon sea lane (3,000 nmi) with a daily 18 kts convoy per day in either direction would require more than 14 escort groups. This alone would cost so much if done with conventional warships that there's a better strategy. We could handle Russian submarines (other than SSBNs) in port, possibly their replenishment ships and Russian naval bombers with air power and simply endure the damage done by whatever submarines and bombers slip into the North Atlantic.
The Russian naval capabilities in the East are similar, but even smaller (unless they redeploy their naval air power to the East). The Pacific Ocean offers ships a great choice of routes. This makes it harder for the Russians to find targets.

The other major threat is the PR China. There was some talk about attack aircraft ranges for naval air attack on China, but this subsided. It appears that the current dominant idea for a hypothetical naval war with the PRC is mostly about a distant naval blockade and possibly defence of Japan. Land attack would probably be limited to cruise missile launches, and the cruise missile stocks would be depleted quickly. Attacks on the turbine rooms of non-nuclear powerplants might be the most devastating and still acceptable option.

The Chinese navy builds up its own surface forces to about equal size to the USN, maybe larger. A long distance blockade would stretch the blockading force, and as a consequence all blockade task forces would be fairly small. The Chinese could in principle pick them off one by one. To counter this requires either a successful attrition of said Chinese naval forces 'by a thousand cuts' (such as by SSNs and possibly offensive minelaying killing one ship after another) or a decisive battle that clears the seas of major PLAN forces before the victorious remnants set up the naval blockade.

Another somewhat credible scenario is that the USN might be sent to face off some Chinese fleet in some distant crisis (imagine China trying to take over control in some distant country, for example). This could lead to a large naval battle as well, though I don't remember any such scenario (naval battle as consequence of a fleet face-off in peacetime) from history.
 
How to fix it

Changes in posture

The USN should assemble almost all of its ships and submarines in a battlefleet on the continental West coast of the U.S.. 

There would be exemptions to this force concentration: 
  • SSBNs
  • training ships
  • small flotillas detached for training with Europeans, Japanese or Australians
  • some SSNs tasked with shadowing Russian or Chinese subs
  • some ships cruising between battlefleet and shipyards
  • oceanic survey ships 
  • hospital ships


About 80% of the USN should be on the West Coast.

Why there? The West Coast is protected by the North Atlantic Treaty, unlike Hawaii. This is an additional disincentive against a strategic surprise attack on the battlefleet in port. The USN would be central to any Pacific war, but it would be a sideshow in any European war. It makes sense to keep the USN in the Pacific for this reason.

Why concentrated like this? Wartime usage of surface fleets would include much larger task forces than the small task forces that cruise the seven seas today. Proper training has to include many large scale exercises between large task forces and between large task forces and USAF or allied forces. Finally, only a moderate share (no more than 60%) of the fleet must be in ports to further discourage a surprise attack on the ports. All of this fits to a concentration of by far most of the USN on the West Coast.

The battlefleet should have exercises at sea with typically much less than a month duration. Time at sea could be limited to about 40%. Proper personnel policies could ensure vastly improved competence despite the reduction of operational expenses by the reduced time at sea (see later in this text).

Attempt to trade away the amphibious fleet

The Chinese amphibious fleet is the most severe threat to Taiwan's independence and also a huge factor for naval war planning in general. I see exactly one way to eliminate this problem in peacetime:

Trade the USN amphibious warfare capability in a double zero disarmament treaty. All Chinese amphibious warfare ships would be scrapped in exchange for all USN amphibious warfare ships getting scrapped. The Chinese marines would be disbanded and Chinese paratroops limited to current nominal strength in exchange for disbanding of the USMC (land warfare and STOVL components, not CVN-going fixed wing aviation) and limitation of the airborne to current nominal strength.

A hypothetical Pacific War gets a lot less messy and a lot less fuzzy if such a double zero disarmament treaty can be made to happen. The greatest value of the amphibious fleet and the marines is their bargaining chip value; they are most useful if they cease to exist. That's why such a double zero disarmament treaty should be a policy objective.

Changes in structure

Naval aviation is crazy expensive (example; the aircraft purchase costs are approximating the ship procurement costs and were exceeding ship procurement costs previously). It should not be expanded. Even the wisdom of replacement carrier construction is questionable. The known design faults and excessive costs of the Ford class add to this.
A reinforcement of naval air power by land-based air power makes a lot of sense on cost grounds. This is particularly true for maritime (surface) surveillance and and for strikes on surface task forces or land bases. Land-based combat aviation has insane mission radii when supported by tanker aircraft. Single engine single seat F-16s were used to bomb Afghanistan!
Kits to convert airliners into tankers within a few weeks are a much more cost-effective approach to enabling oppressive air strike at sea dominance than to build insanely expensive carriers with dedicated naval air wings and insanely expensive escort warships. The USAF would need to participate in training and at least some of its combat aircraft should be compatible with chute-and-drogue refuelling*, though.

Mine hunting capability needs to be available in numbers that would suffice to secure lanes in front of all U.S. major ports AND in front of overseas bases in wartime. This does not need to involve new dedicated minehunting boats. Truck- and air-deployable drone sets with remote control from a container on land via small relay boat might suffice. A minehunting boat only adds a different mode of mobility to such equipment.
Some lures (acoustic signature faking boats) could also be used for minebreaking. Classic minebreaking is about moving an actual boat or ship to trigger mines below. These lures would instead be meant to trigger self-deployable torpedo-like drones to approach and thus give away their presence. The lures do thus not need to mimic hydrostatic or magnetic signatures, which makes them much smaller than more ambitious minebreaking drones and potentially air-transportable (by C-5B).
Today's general purpose warships such as the Arleigh Burke destroyers are inefficient for counter-mine purposes. You need to find and destroy mines along a lane in front of a port several times before a task force arrives, not only begin with the mine hunting once it arrived.

Scrap the useless LCS, or maybe sell them to the Saudis or other kleptocrats who like shiny toys regardless of their wartime uselessness. Brunei and UAE might be interested and some other kleptocrat despots might like a LCS as a presidential yacht as well. The LCS seems to be designed more for this than for combat anyway.

The West Coast battlefleet needs an aggressor flotilla that can represent the best non-nuclear submarines (AIP submarines, a.k.a. SSI or SSP). A MOTS (military off-the-shelf) purchase of five or six Type 214 submarines without any equipment or software modifications (other than translations) would be a good fit.

ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed and tested with cargo convoys in mind. Both ASW and AAW could be covered by using (small) container ships as auxiliary warships in wartime (and during annual exercises). 

Other ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed to turn cargo ships into armed merchantmen (auxiliary cruisers) for a distant naval blockade. An auxiliary cruiser only needed a weak 10.5 cm gun armament for successful raiding in the world wars. Nowadays it would need two medium helicopters with a boarding party and some lightweight anti-ship missiles as well as the ability to call an anti-ship bomber.
The use of such auxiliary cruisers for distant blockade purposes would be extremely cost-efficient (even assuming that at least one of the helicopters needs expensive sensors and missiles). It would not require much shipyard capacity, which the PRC has in abundance and the U.S. has almost none of. Such auxiliary cruisers would be difficult to identify (particularly for hostile submarines) among all the actually civilian maritime traffic thousands of miles away from Chinese ports. The use of helicopters would enable each auxiliary cruiser to control a fairly large (and moving) patrol area (I estimate at least 200 x 200 nmi, but it could be much larger with a very capable medium helicopter type).

A small training fleet should be established which uses well-equipped dedicated training ships on world cruises. All the new personnel meant for shipboard employment would complete one such world cruise with 1/3 leisure days in 20+ foreign ports. This would be a major recruiting tool, and should be the only time most of the navy personnel has to be away from home for months. Navy personnel not meant for shipboard employment would not participate.

The battlefleet should be structured into three task forces with very stable compositions. This enables similar (1 on 1) and dissimilar (2 on 1) combat exercise scenarios in addition to combat exercises against land-based forces. The permanency of these task forces could foster a competition among them and could also help develop and try out different approaches to master challenges.

Personnel policies

Kick out all known officer duds instead of protecting them. There should be no remorse, no false loyalty!

Divide the service into land-limited career and sea-going careers. The land-limited personnel system could be a continuation of the current one, though some improvements are no doubt desirable.
The sea-going personnel should have a totally different career system. The initial training on world cruise training ships was already mentioned. Later on the men, women and whatever would mostly have a trial period on non-combat ships. Those who are well-suited and well-motivated for a career as naval sailors for life would become exactly that; they would join a warship crew and more likely than not retire from the Navy at age 60 without ever having been transferred to another team or having left the navy before that age.** The others would become submariners for a few years or go to land-based units.

Imagine the competence of a warship crew of which more than two thirds have served together on that ship for well over a decade, and almost everyone has years of experience in his job and additional years of experience in some other job on the ship! This should reduce the bridge crew competence problem that was revealed by multiple collisions. General purpose warships become much more useful if the crew has enough experience in all missions rather than being 'jack of all trades master of none' because the crew gets torn apart after a couple months of training on a range of missions.

The SSBN fleet would be exempt from this 'sailor for life' thing because of the discomfort of SSBN patrols. SSBN crews could thus be recruited the traditional way, and the SSBN fleet could be used as a recruiting ground for the SSN crews (which would sometimes do weeks-long patrols - typically only for shadowing of SSN/SSGN).

The quantity (and share!) of officers can and should be reduced by much. This should be simple since there would be much fewer busy bases, a smaller training effort and several unified combatant commands can and should be disbanded (CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, USSOCOM, USEUCOM).  I wrote "simple" instead of "easy" because the officer establishment would fight any such reform, of course.

Naval aviation

A helicopter design would be needed for the auxiliary cruisers; modified UH-1Z might become an acceptable stop-gap solution.

The purchase of F-35B is utter nonsense and it's very regrettable that the F-35 overall design was compromised by the STOVL obsession of the B version. Orders for F-35B should be changed into F-35C. The U.S. is not going to get any better carrier-capable combat aircraft than the F-35C anytime soon (prior to 2040). The F-35C should thus become available in a quantity of about 600 aircraft (for 9 carriers) to almost 800 aircraft (for 12 carriers) plus at least a hundred training (early production) airframes. Super Hornets could be held in reserve to replace F-35s lost in wartime. Their utility as tankers and stand-off surface attack munition platforms won't diminish till 2040.

A carrier-compatible "6th generation" combat aircraft or drone should enter service in the early 2040's. It would need to be multi-role and suitable for export (= affordable and versatile). A joint USN-USAF-JASDF-RAAF development project is advisable.

Land-based USAF F-35A do not need to be qualified for new anti-ship missiles. USAF C-17s could launch long range AShMs, with land-based F-35As acting as escorts. The USN doesn't need a land-based F-35 component other than for type training and as reserves. Its naval aviation units could still fly training sorties from airbases when their carriers are in port, of course.

I distrust the P-8 concept of an anti-submarine aircraft because I don't think that submarine-hunting with sonobuoys makes much sense. It might work when the approximate position of a submarine is already known, but I doubt that capability is worth the expense. The location would typically be known if there's a warship with ASW helicopter in the area anyway. The modern very silent and reduced echo submarines defy any true large area surveillance as far as I know.
The USN does nevertheless need maritime patrol aircraft for tracking and identifying ships, or else it would neither defeat hostile surface raiders nor keep a distant naval blockade from being very leaky. Such maritime patrol aircraft need no ASW equipment, but they do need imaging equipment for ship identification (synthetic aperture radar, thermal, visual). Their demands on airfields (runway length, maintenance hours per flying hour) should be modest. I suppose that the existing 'global' business jets would be a fine fit (Gulfstream 650s are domestic products). They would frequently need to drop below their optimum cruise altitude for thermal/visual ship ID, though. Drones such as MQ-4C are not reliable enough in this job unless one fully trusts the wartime reliability of communication satellites (which I don't). They don't appear to be cheaper than a G650 with a sensor outfit and some extra radios anyway.

The surveillance of the Pacific Ocean could be complemented by sea surveillance satellites and use of other satellites, but I have a hunch they might be less reliable assets in wartime than dispersed aircraft.

Wartime basing

Japan and Australia would be the most relevant forward bases for the USN, though warships would limit the presence in Japanese ports to the absolute minimum duration. I have no idea why Australian politicians are so keen on 'security' cooperation with the United States that could drag Australia needlessly into a Pacific War. Yet Australia would be the prime base for Southwest Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean operations as long as they have such an attitude.


The dominance of land-based air power would push the USN to seas far from Japan for a distant naval blockade. An employment as a battlefleet 'fleet in being' backup to a triple layer of MPA+auxiliary cruisers+bombers in the Eastern Indian Ocean seems rather sensible to me. The U.S: would not necessarily have access to land bases there.

Hawaii would serve as a safe port for damaged ships, for storage of some missile munitions in wartime and as a refuelling point (especially for refuelling replenishment ships and auxiliary cruisers) for North Pacific operations. It would also be relevant for occasional convoys coming from or going to Japan, and these would in large part be protected by Japanese ships.

Forget about Guam; Guam should be demilitarised, that's its best bet on not getting devastated in a war.

Submarines (SSN mostly) should have some forward bases for frequent resupply of munitions at sea. This is a necessity if they have to deploy many naval mines.*** Some submarine replenishment ships with freezer rooms and lots of spare torpedoes would be needed.

The use of land-based air power for strike dominance at sea would be much easier if countries such as Malaysia were cooperating. The USN could only bet on this approach if it designs the effort to work with no other bases than American and Australian airports and airbases, though.

The USN's war plans need to be promising in case that South Korea remains neutral. South Korea could not be defended against Chinese invasion by land without nuclear strikes. Likewise, the U.S. should not trust that South Korea would provide its huge shipyard industry to an arms racing cause.

Testing

Testing needs to become much more rigorous again, and zealously protected from politics. Any officer who declares a ship or aircraft type operational without comprehensive testing with no substantial shortcomings left needs to be fired in a most mortifying manner.

Also, 'test' some LCS (each one of both classes) by letting the USAF blow them up in front of practically all admirals. This should get the message through to never ever develop and 'justify' such a waste of money again.

Some other things

Fire every single individual involved in the Iran Air Flight 655 incident if any such individual is still in the service. Strip anyone involved from their ranks, even if they are already retired.

Fire all officers who ever lied to the American public. This includes EVERY SINGLE officer who ever promoted the LCS in the shape it took.**** Make an example of them that all other and future officers understand. 

Fire every single officer in the chain of command who was involved in selecting the idiotic blueish uniforms and wasn't determined to stop them from becoming introduced.

Add a lot more escape provisions to warships. The current requirement for 110% life raft capacity (AFAIK) is grossly insufficient for wartime emergencies. Some inflatable life rafts could be pierced and become useless when a ship is hit, and actual emergency evacuations of a ship hit by a torpedo would not be efficient in making use of existing boats and life rafts. About 150% life raft capacity might suffice.

Attitude changes
  • land attack is unnecessary for deterrence & defence and thus becomes a low priority
  • capability needed to defeat a threat after a few months of mobilisation has to guide force design, not stupid regional combatant commander peacetime patrol wish lists
  • wartime capability also has to guide budgeting; no self-sabotage into a hollow force***** in order to blackmail politicians into bigger budgets any more!
  • accordingly, the USN has to overcome its fixation on active strength (and in particular on ship quantities): Auxiliary cruisers and land-based (USAF) air power are indispensable substitutes for warships because of their superior cost-efficiency.
  • forget Rickover's fetish; nuclear propulsion has to justify its horrible costs
  • hostile surface forces can and should be defeated first and foremost by land-based airpower
  • forget "freedom of navigation" patrols
  • combat ship crews should be lasting teams, not potpourris of ever-rotating personnel
  • forget about WW2 and Cold War path dependency things; there's hardly any use for amphibious forces for the U.S. (much more for the PRC!) and aircraft carriers can be substituted for by much less expensive and less specialised assets in most sea regions

S O
*: The USAF's preferred refuelling method is much more difficult to retrofit to airliners.
**: Any by writing "team" instead of "ship" I mean to say that almost the whole ship crew would be transferred as a team to a new ship if their old one was decommissioned.
***: I don't think of simple naval mines here. The idea is rather to use electric torpedoes such as DM2A4, which might be used as self-deploying mobile mines and would attack a passing target just as a heavyweight torpedo does. This means the SSN could deploy most of its remaining torpedoes as mines when it returns from its patrol area.
****: This excludes the early Streetfighter concept works because working on some unconventional concepts should be encouraged, not punished. To promote a waste of resources on some obviously useless warships is something very different.
*****: "hollow force" = neglect of consumables buys and upgrades in order to maintain or grow nominal strength in ships and aircraft. The top brass does this to avoid actually efficient cuts and bets that some future Congress will expand the budget any more after lots of cries about poor readiness and a "hollowed-out force".  It's cynical bollocks and self-sabotage that should be punished.
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2019/07/06

Link dump July 2019

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/2019/06/sources-say-downed-uav-penetrated-deep-into-iranian-airspace/

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https://tass.com/defense/1065905
 76 Su-57 by 2028. Not few, not many.
Many Typhoons and F-22 (produced since 2003 and 2002) will be really old by 2028 already.

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defence-blog.com/army/ukrainian-soldiers-obliterates-unique-russian-artillery-reconnaissance-complex.html

The vehicle has tracks, but the crew chooses to operate from the road, which makes determining its coordinates much easier. This is the kind of tactical stupid that's borne out of complacency. Same deal as with Frenchmen letting recce drones fly the very same route day after day during the Kosovo Air War.

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bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/06/30/soros-and-koch-brothers-team-end-forever-war-policy/

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china-defense.blogspot.com/2019/06/pr-photos-of-day-smurfs-training.html
Hardly anything in these photos makes sense (to me).
The physical fitness stuff is stupid, the uniforms are stupid, the simulation of underbarrel grenade launcher weight with (not fixed) canteens is stupid, the urban combat tactics seem stupid, the way of moving with backpack over a rope is totally stupid.

I'm a bit conflicted. On the one hand there's history showing that Russians have a consistently (over centuries) poor efficiency in warfare, and Chinese the same. There's plenty indications that their tech sucks more often than not, and plenty people told me that Chinese psyche is unsuitable for innovation et cetera.
On the other hand I also reject the notion that Russians or Chinese could be stupid or systemically unimaginative as individuals. There's nothing in IQ statistics pointing at them being stupid.

Maybe there's something wrong in their culture that explains this. Something that systematically nudges the people toward poor performance.
I'm sure that no Western armed service would so consistently and stubbornly publish such stupid photos. The use of stupid blue digicamo camouflage on marines alone is too much of an embarrassment. The USN has such stupid uniforms as well, but not for land combat (though theirs are stupid and dangerous, too).

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https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1141659389553795072

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Somehow they missed the message from the German Einheits-PKW of WW2 that all-wheel steering is nonsense for military vehicles.*

Maybe it's the bulletproofing (and even mine-proofing) of our times' army vehicles that drives developers towards such overly complicated, heavy, thirsty and expensive vehicles. An armoured vehicle can be sold at five to tenfold price of a comparable unarmoured vehicle, even if the difference is little more than RHA plates (the difference is not quite as extreme with up-armoured vehicles).

Just a reminder; we could still move four humans with equipment around in a 1950's design Jeep, offroad and on-road. I assure you, they could move from A to B in a timely manner.
There's no doubt a golden middle, but I tell you, JLTV and other recent monstrosities ain't at it.

related

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romeanditaly.com/the-discovery-of-2000-year-old-gladiators-helmet-in-pompeiis-ruins/

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I've put my warship series AAW chapter from February 2018 (equivalent of 20 book pages) into http://www.analyzemywriting.com/ and the result was devastating. The readability grading ranged from grade 12.57 (Coleman-Liau) to grade 15.81 (Gunning fog). So I looked for a second opinion and asked https://app.readable.com/ for another Flesch-Kincaid score with a text version that had headlines, lists and captions removed (analyzemywriting gave grade 12.66 for Flesch-Kincaid). The result was grade 12.0 (and Gunning-Fog grade 14). At least I had a "cliché count" of 0%. 

"For comparison, according to this source, academic papers are written at about the 12th grade level. Malcolm Gladwell writes at the 9th grade level, F. Scott Fitzgerald at the 8th grade level, Stephen King at the 6th grade level, and Ernest Hemingway at the 4th grade level. It also says that only about 1 in 8 U.S. adults can read at the 12th grade level."
quoted from here

I have as far as I know also issues with too much use of passive voice and presumably some other habits regarding choice of words and grammar that are suboptimal.

This compound of writing issues might explain why I keep having the impression that many people who comment seem to be oblivious to my already given arguments. They may simply not have read them.

I don't even know how to write simpler British English and I don't think switching back to Simplified English would help, so don't expect any improvements on this front regardless of this new-found awareness. Sometimes there's just a problem, and no solution to be expected.

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 OpenSeaMap with maritime traffic

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https://9gag.com/gag/axzrznb
https://www.rferl.org/a/biggest-loser-in-kazakh-presidential-election-could-be-government-reputation/29991513.html
 (I did not find some NGO or OECD election observation report.)

It appears to be a rather widespread problem:
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/votes-in-invisible-ink-just-vanish-in-ballot-7vkg8p2bcp3
https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/03/how-to-rig-an-election/

https://blog.penvibe.com/elections-and-disappearing-ink-pens/

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www.vice.com/en_us/article/8qbq5x/the-cia-spied-on-people-through-their-smart-tvs-leaked-documents-reveal
"1984" was meant as a warning, not as a guide!

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The Balkans.

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I suppose we should get a study to see if the results can be reproduced, and if yes we should simply ban such surveillance software, period.

Meanwhile, our German ministers of the interior seem to have a consensus that the government should be able to spy a lot more on its citizens. They want encryption vulnerable and internet companies to yield as much surveillance info as possible when asked.

This is what I wrote about when I complained about the principal-agent problem. Our politicians should lead executive branch divisions to force them on a path of pursuit of national interest. Instead, they adopt the bureaucracies' self-interest for more authority, more budget, more, more and more.

“We reason that increased resources and independence from others cause people to prioritise self-interest over others’ welfare and perceive greed as positive and beneficial, which in turn gives rise to increased unethical behaviour,” the researchers concluded.

That would explain a lot - and point at a solution: Let them feel their actual dependence on others.You did not build that without the effort of many others, without the infrastructure provided by government, without the rule of law and enforcement of law by the government et cetera.

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 Next Saturday: A "How to fix ..." series blog post.
And no, it's NOT about Sweden, Spain or Finland.

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So in etwa.


S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de


*: It might make sense for large 9+ ton trucks if they are expected to use narrow river or mountain roads a lot, but AFAIK there's no such vehicle. Timber truck drivers negotiate such roads without such bells and whistles mostly by skill.
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2019/06/29

'FutureFuel'

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This is a very interesting study in my opinion. Ammonia has popped up in many articles during the last 18 months or so as a possible solution to the hypothetical hydrogen economy's problems. There was some technological progress in efficient hydrogen release from ammonia a few years ago.

I suppose Ammonia (they really need to make up some fancy name like "FutureFuel" for it to dispel the association with its pungent smell!) might become the fuel of the future for most land vehicles that need more range than is economical (regarding the vehicle costs, not the energy costs) with solid state batteries.


Ammonia could also (maybe in hybrid designs with substantial solid state batteries) become standard fuel in future military land vehicles (ammonia stored in pressurized tanks) if it succeeds in civilian automotive sector long range applications.

The U.S. military has looked into biofuels and biofuels are also popular with many conservative politicians in Europe (mostly because they want to give their farmer voters some gifts), but biofuels make very little sense. Nature is ridiculously efficient at many things with its evolution-optimised organisms, but it is horribly inefficient at converting sunlight into usable energy. Photovoltaic cells have an efficiency of beyond 20%, while photosynthesis has efficiency of less than 2%, commonly less than 1%. Technical energy gathering solutions are more area-efficient than biofuel production by an order of magnitude (even taking into account the later value added steps till we have comparable fuels). Utility scale photovoltaic power is now also among the cheapest power sources in the world.*
We should gather energy in poor vegetation productivity areas with much solar irradiation (some areas of Spain come to mind, we don't need to go to Africa for that) and use the more productive areas for food and non-energy raw material production (or let them  recover to avoid soil degradation and erosion).

I reckon from the current point of view that future transportation propulsion should be mostly about solid state batteries, ammonia fuels (the latter often for use in fuel cells) and for both ships and large aircraft; liquid hydrogen.
This would have huge implications for military logistics, but also for very low temperature operation of motor vehicles.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: https://aneconomicsense.org/2019/06/20/the-increasingly-attractive-economics-of-solar-power-solar-prices-have-plunged/  There has been a flood of very recent study publications about the extreme economical advantages of  solar and hydro power in pure money economics (even before taking into account external effects). Only natural gas powerplants can compete (if there's a pipeline or gas field nearby). Coal and nuclear power are a waste of money right now, and to build any new coal or nuclear powerplants is utterly stupid. This does put a huge question mark on what the Saudis want "civilian" nuclear power tech for.
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2019/06/22

Ironclads

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I spent some time looking into the short Ironclad era - an era of roughly 15 years that began with the first iron-armoured warships and ended with a seagoing warship that had all its guns in turrets and used neither sails nor oars (only steam engines and screws) for its propulsion.


There were less than a hundred Ironclads. The pace of construction was fairly modest compared to the exertions of the 1890's to 1916. Many ironclads were modernised with better guns few years after introduction in service, and some ironclads had their armour plating improved to keep pace with better-penetrating guns (even doubled armour thickness).

The quality and thickness as well as wood backing of armour advanced at a fast pace, and a ship launched just a few years earlier might just as well have been unarmoured when facing some of the newest, biggest guns.

The success of the era-concluding Devastation class seems unlikely to me even in hindsight; its freeboard was scary small and its armament were a mere four slow-loading heavy guns. Still, this was the prototype battleship, setting a dominant design that lasted until HMS Dreadnought (1906) appeared and in many ways more similar to today's warships than to warships just 15 years before its time.

HMS Devastation (built 1869-1873)
The Italians lost the only major naval battle of the era through a horrible fleet leader performance and an unbelievable degree of gunnery incompetence (missing seagoing ships at less than 1,000 m with entire salvoes).

Sadly, the literature about the era appears to be very limited. I found (and read some of them):


Modern Ships of War by Sir Edward J. Reed and Edward Simpson, 1888

The British Navy, Past and Present by S.Eardley-Wilmot, 1888

The Development of Navies by Captain S. Eardley-Wilmot, 1892

Ironclads in Action by H.W. Wilson, 1896

Our Iron-Clad Ships: Their Qualities, Performances, and Cost by Edward James Reed, 2011 (the author died 1906, so this is a new edition)

The Old Steam Navy: The Ironclads, 1842-1885 by Donald E. Canney, 1993

Ironclads At War: The Origin And Development Of The Armored Battleship by Jack Greene and Allessandro Massignani, 1998

War at Sea in the Ironclad Age by Richard Hill, 2006

Ironclads: An Illustrated History of Battleships from 1860 to the First World War by Peter Hore, 2006

British Ironclads 1860-75 by Angus Konstam, 2018 (Osprey)
European Ironclads 1860-75 by Angus Konstam, 2019 (Osprey)

Some of the new books recycle 19th century books' contents, including using refurbished drawings. I disregarded the many books about the uninteresting American Civil War's ironclad riverine boats and coastal fair weather (negligible freeboard) vessels.


I hoped to find some insights and lessons about what happens when there's some revolutionary technology and armed bureaucracies try to cope with rapid technological progress. I didn't find any such things in the books about the Ironclad era yet.
Technically, HMS Warrior's screw design and HMS Waterwitch's pump jets were surprises to me; both were approaches that would avoid the drag of the screw when the ship is sailing and became superfluous by the time HMS Devastation dropped the rigging altogether. Sailing rigs were afterwards only sensible for cruisers, particularly raiders (the auxiliary cruiser SMS Seeadler of WWI fame was a sailship for this reason).

BTW, three Ironclads survived; HMS Warrior in Portsmouth and two small Dutch ironclads (HNLMS Buffel (Hellevouetsluis, Netherlands) and HNLMS Schorpioen (Den Helder, Netherlands)).

You might find this summary of 19th century armour development of interest.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: Hat tip to the Russians for having a contemporary to HMS Devastation in their coastal warship Admiral Lazarev. It was actually laid down two years earlier and was superior in its armament concept by having three instead of two twin turrets. Reminder; the move from HMS Devastation's pattern of two twin main artillery turrets to a broadside of at least six main artillery guns was the key to the "all big gun battleship" concept a.k.a. "dreadnought" revolution three decades after HMS Devastation and Admiral Lazarev. The Russians were peripheral backwater to Western authors and their ship was a (not terribly small) coastal warship, so HMS Devastation get's more attention as groundbreaking design. I was guilty of this as well, hence this addition.
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