Baltic land forces - musings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Link drop October 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article 1 [Human dignity]

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

Article 2 [Personal Freedoms]

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

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

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

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


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

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


Exotic ancient weapons: (IX) Penobscot double bow

First, an engineering view of the double bow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Third, some general remarks on non-firearm weapons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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



Some science stuff of interest


The haemoglobin alternative was found in those sea worms around 2003 or so, and it can be produced in powder form. The powder combined with sterile water (I suppose boiled water cooled down works fine) can be transfused as replacement for blood. This could have a noticeable impact especially on combat medics, and make enforcement of water discipline (water instead of other beverages carried in canteens & bladders) even more important than before. It's likely a much better blood substitute in emergencies than saline solution because it actually transports oxygen instead of merely averting a volume shock.

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Microsatellites / Cubesats

Up to 500 commercial imagery satellites planned by in one service alone. The company "Planet" has already 285 satellites in space. 88 of 104 microsatellites launched by a single Indian PLSV rocket in early 2017 were from that company; 4 kg each.
Such satellites would matter a lot to warfare (a tiny quantity of commercial imagery satellites already proved valuable in the 1991 Iraq War), and it appears that anti-satellite munitions (=rockets) would not be a suitable approach against them.
Moreover, they appear to be affordable to almost any potentially warring government by the dozens at least.
A great power would either need blinding (not just dazzling) lasers or near-continuous radio data link jamming to defeat such a reconnaissance capability in space. Anti-satellite missiles that cost millions of Euros each are no appropriate countermeasure. The most affordable countermeasure might be to simply disable the operator's control capacity on the ground and hope that the adversary has no backup plan to counter this move.


The use of lasers for communication would of course make communications activity much safer for those on the ground, which might be a huge boon to clandestine agents (and assets), long range recon patrols and armoured recce guys.
The optical receiver would be highly susceptible to damage by hostile lasers, of course.

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Interesting. I suppose much of what seems to be loss aversion may furthermore be framed as  imperfect information (better information about potential losses than about potential gains).
Imperfect information and its consequences are very important in most fields, including economics, engineering (which works with much more rules of thumb, approximations and guesswork than would be comfortable to the end user) and military theory.
Math, most of physics and IT are largely unaffected by uncertainty and imperfect information, though even there it's often but a question of how close you look.

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"[...]deradicalization activists argue that much of what the left thinks it knows about shutting down racist extremists is misplaced. When it comes to changing individuals, denunciation may counteract rather than hasten deradicalization. If that seems like surrender, consider that some researchers who study hate groups think we should view violent extremism not only as a problem of ideology, but also as a problem of addiction: a craving for group identity, adrenaline, and the psycho­logical kick of hatred. As with substance addiction, there may be no silver bullet for curing extremism, only a lifelong battle to leave such impulses behind."



Link dump September 2018

As usual, here are links and commentary on first Saturday of the month:

F-15X proposal
(I haven't found any definitive illustration of a F-15X.
This image is about the AMBER missile racks from 2015.)

Boeing pitched a new F-15 version to the U.S.A.F., presumably at a lower fly-away price than the F-35 and supposedly loaded with up to 22 air-to-air missiles as the most striking feature.

This looks like a design that takes a heavy strike fighter and adds a niche capability for air combat. This 'missile truck' approach fits well into a concept in which F-22's are up front on combat air patrol in an air war, and make use of farther to the rear F-15s as missile launchers. There aren't enough F-22s to maintain large numbers of them up front 24/7 (particularly not far from the air base, as in a pacific air war scenario) and they carry but eight missiles (only six AMRAAMs) each on an air superiority mission. Things such as towed decoys* ruin the probability of kill of such missiles, so the entire air superiority missile load of a F-22 may very well be worth less than one kill against sophisticated opponents.

There's a segregated hunter/killer approach with low observable F-22 up front detecting targets while trying to avoid detection and sending targeting data to farther behind F-15s that serve as killers (missile trucks). It's a tailored approach to compensate for the small quantity of missiles carried by F-22 (and F-35) inside and the small quantities of on-station F-22s. It might work because the missiles' no escape zones are much greater than the detection ranges against LO fighters. The F-15X would still be an all-round capable strike fighter in a 'let's beat up some poor small power again' scenario.
The high quantity of AMRAAMs carried may also allow for a routine launch of two or more missiles per target, in an effort to wear down the target's (towed) decoys and kinetic energy (the latter through its evasive manoeuvres) for a final, lethal missile approach.

This entire niche depends on the F-15X's ability to withstand the threat of long-range missiles itself. This and the likely quite high maintenance costs, obsolete looks (first flight 46 years ago) and unusually high RCS (apparently an order of magnitude bigger than of Typhoon or Rafale) of the F-15 will likely kill the proposal. It's also questionable how F-15Xs could help F-22s against LO fighters.

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This means some extra weight, but maybe there are at least some real world uses for this weird-looking tech.

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It's interesting to see them swarm the bull like bees swarm a hornet to overwhelm it in defence of the hive. I wonder if there's some hidden instinct left over from the prehistoric times. It may have been a random outcome, of course.

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Oldie, but goodie. I wish I had this file when I wrote the warship article series. It didn't add anything noteworthy to my knowledge, but it would have been a very nice link to offer.

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DIRCM (lasers that dazzle incoming infrared-guided missiles) have become really small. I think this size is OK for installation on the topside of combat aircraft.** The next generation of IR-guided missiles really needs to be able to deal with DIRCM (there are several countermeasures to lasers known).

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So the Chinese copied the German Troika approach of naval minesweeping (more accurately; "minebreaking") as well. I didn't know that so far.

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Quick mention (no link):
It's a blast from the 80's. Soft kill protection for airbases and such hasn't caught on as far as I know, but I suppose it should in light of conventional cruise missiles. This isn't the 80's when we thought an attack on an airbase would probably be done by a 20+ kt nuke on a ballistic rocket.
Isn't it weird that they had developed what it likely takes to defeat conventional cruise missiles in the 80's, but that kind of missiles really only became an issue to the West long after the Cold War?

related: smoke used to conceal targets from bombers in WW2
German smokescreen use at Wilhelmshaven in June 1943
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I wonder what kind of people such implausible Fox News propaganda does address.


*: Such as Lobushka towed decoy, more details on this kind of countermeasures are here if you can read it (or use an online translation service). A towed decoy can be considered to be a lure, but towed between missile and target it can also trigger the missile fuse at a safe distance (even if the missile is locked on the aircraft).
**: Such an installation could still defeat threats coming from below; simply roll the aircraft. The advantage of topside is that the field of view would not be obstructed by external payloads, the laser might be used as emitter for laser-based SATCOM and the topside is a less troublesome regarding the RCS of LO aircraft.


German politics (2018)

German politics appear to keep shifting, albeit slowly. The old extreme form of stability of the Kohl era is gone, nowadays parties can lose giant chunks of their base in a few years, or multiply their votes for no apparent reason.

Here's my summary of the current situation:

Still the biggest party, and apparently the only one that still maintains the "Volkspartei" reputation; trying to represent (almost) everyone, in principle electable for all population groups (though the "C" as "Christlich"/"Christian" is a bit of a deterrent to non-Christian people of faith). They are still allied with the CSU and thus present only in the 15 states where there's no CSU.
The CDU is facing three fundamental issues:
1) An entire generation of politicians who want to get rid of the career glass ceiling that's the Merkel establishment.
2) Voters who slowly notice that the CDU didn't solve a single problem since the early 90's.*
3) The CDU is not seeking to trigger, magnify and exploit fears among the electorate due to the "Volkspartei" approach, or at least not much. Their half-assed exploitations of the organised crime, terrorist, salafist, Reichsbürger (anarchists), Identitäre (neonazis) and paedophiles bogeymen is peanuts compared to the staple of fearmongering, scaremongering and hatemongering that conservatives exploit in many other Western countries. This leaves opportunities to other right wing parties.
In regard to military affairs it's noteworthy that soem CDU politicians haven't really gone past the end of the conscription. That topic was brought up again, but I don't think it will go anywhere. Keep in mind it was brought up during the low news summertime.

Bavarians, the Texans of Germany. The CSU is present in but one of 16 states, and though quite competent at governing it (some corruption in the CSU is completely understandable given that they governed Bavaria for 60 years without any other government ever cleaning up).
They share issue #1 with the internal opponents of Merkel, do not share issue #2 with the CDU (I don't like many of their policies, but they do occasionally solve or even prevent problems) and they understood issue #3. The CSU has a history of loudmouth and aggressive behaviour anyway, so exploitation of fearfulness is second nature to them.

These supposed social democrats are rather Blairites and as far as I can tell nobody seems to consider them to be champions of the poor and lower middle class any more. The entire party's existence appears to be due to inertia, and it's withering away rapidly. The left wing of the party deserted in disgust of Schröder's policies long ago (mostly to LINKE and greens, I think), and the remnants have hardly anything to offer to anyone. Regardless of who you are; you can find a party that represents you better than the SPD. I suppose that almost all of the remaining SPD voters vote for the SPD out of habit or because they know some particularly convincing SPD politician.

The greens have a reputation as a party of academics rather than as an environmental protection party nowadays.
They keep shooting themselves in the foot by means of their reflexive siding with minorities and thus with what's in English widely called "social justice warriors". There's hardly ever any underdog or minority that the German greens do not side with, which doesn't exactly sound like smart politics. They could probably be a 30...40% party nation-wide if they hadn't this "pro-minority" reflex. They're still doing quite fine, as they don't have many no-go issues for voters save for the reflexive siding with minorities. In fact, they are en route to become the biggest party in some particularly wealthy areas and appear to become the second-largest party in some more states. Their minority focus may actually fade as and if they grow into a "Volkspartei".

They are liberals in the literal sense (not "liberals" = social democrats, as in the U.S.), and this party of liberals is extremely close to "business", not at all close to "employees" or even "unemployed people". They could have joined the governing coalition, but bailed out of the coalition talks for still not really publicly understood reasons. The FDP is notable for its extreme volatility. Anything ranging from not passing the 5% threshold and thus not entering the Bundestag up to 20% of the Bundestag seats appears possible with the FDP.
Politically they do little but providing stalwart defenders of civil rights and rule of law for the ministers of justice offices and helping the wealthy and rich.
Corruption may be at work in the background; the party has some extreme finance issues and some of their pro-business policies such as the infamous VAT tax break for hotels were fishy.

They're dead. They didn't get their internal party workings right and eventually failed for good in elections.

The one relevant left wing party. They're in governing coalitions in some Eastern states, but at the federal level they haven't been in power ever and thus bathe comfortably in ideological purity, which makes them quite insufferable to most people regardless of how well they point out actual problems of workers, retirees and unemployed people. The orthodoxy wing appears to be winning against internal efforts to steer towards 'realpolitik'. I suppose they won't become part of a governing coalition at the federal level unless they would be needed to keep neonazis from power (which won't happen). Last but not least, their majority loves to side with minorities.

Founded as a party with a weird predominance of economics professors that rebelled against the common European currency and CDU inactivity, they suffered two waves of hostile takeovers first by the far right and then by the even farther right. Nowadays they're still maintaining a minimal deniability regarding their neonazi party nature, but that may break away any time. Ever since the takeovers they went all-in on fearmongering and exploitation of fears, but most of them are stupid enough to be true believers. Those are no cynical politicians who exploit fears of dumb people to gain power and then redistribute income from the middle class to the rich.
They have the stable roughly 4-6% neonazis-in-Germany base plus a fluctuating and not really predictable base of protest voters. Anything ranging from 4-20% of the vote seems possible for them, and 6-16% is probably what one should expect in the next elections.
The AfD could easily collapse from infighting or if some other party succeeds at attracting the protest voters (the Realpolitik wing of the far left tries such a thing). Fearmongering is always possible, so actually solving any issues that the AfD fearmongers about is rather not going to make it go away. Nor should any sensible person expect a fearmongering-based party to actually solve any problems; to solve actual problems would debase the party (which discourages the not-so-true believers), and all-too often the fearmongering isn't about real problems anyway.

Polls about how many votes the parties would get if there were federal elections next Sunday:
The next federal elections will be no later than 2021, but the elections in the states could in the meantime change the 2nd chamber of the parliament (the Bundesrat), which has powers in regard to legislation that burdens the states.

There's no sensible coalition in sight that would address real issues with real, competent reforms. I suppose that Germany is going to enter the 2020's on autopilot.


S O,

*: This is but a slight exaggeration.
A top CDU politician, Schäuble, recently said in an interview: "Wenn die jungen Leute sich nicht wehren gegen uns Alte, dann geht es schief. Wir Alte können bei jedem Problem gut erklären, warum eine Lösung im Prinzip nicht möglich ist." (Something goes wrong if the young people don't push back against us old ones. We old [politicians] can explain for every problem why a solution isn't possible in principle.")
THIS is the problem with the CDU conservatives in power in Germany: They don't think that problems can be solved, thus they don't try to solve any problems. Why don't they think that problems can be solved? Well, many problems could be solved by accepting some other, smaller problem to pop up. That would be an improvement (just as buying food solves the hunger problem, but costs money), and it's also a change. Those people are real conservatives; they abhor change. Thus they cannot solve problems whenever this requires change.
Again; German CDU conservatives are real conservatives; they don't want change. Just stay the course. They're not like American conservatives who want radical change towards some unworkable 1920's gilded age-like fantasyland.


War as a continuation of policy? (II)

The first part showed that CvC did not cover all political motivations for waging war; war isn't always about making others yield to your demands.

I suppose he wasn't able to fully describe the core of the nature of war because he looked at it from the wrong angle.

CvC looked at what could be achieved through warfare.

He should have been aware that only a small minority of those princes who waged war in his era and earlier eras actually achieved much or anything by waging war.

War is worse than a zero sum game; it first reducing the cake, and then presumably changes who gets how large a share of it. That's because warfare is destructive, not constructive.

You don't win it by competing about who can build something quicker or drive down illiteracy or child mortality rates the quickest. Instead, it's about destroying, killing, maiming and taking away.
It should be deeply unintuitive to think of it in a 'who achieved what' framework.

Instead, let's look at the true nature to describe and understand what war really is.

War is the absence of peace. This sounds trivial, but it isn't.

Humans are a social species. We're not loners who only meet up for mating as many other species do. The burdens of late pregnancy and of the long upringing of children to the point where they are self-reliant (producing more than consuming) are so heavy that humans need to stick together to afford them, and accordingly need to be able to coexist in proximity to each other (in a social group).

Nature has prepared us well for life in small clans, and such small groups have an easy time maintaining good enough relations to other insular clans for evolutionarily advantageous interbreeding. Evolution did also prepare us to fight other groups / clans to gain or protect access to essential resources (and sometimes also fight for breeding opportunities as described in the legend of the Sabian women, for example).

Evolution did not optimise us for life in megacities, and the understanding of a nation of millions to billions of people as the own community is overburdening many human minds as well. They think of smaller groups as their own community (or focus on the looks of people), and refuse to feel kinship to more or less arbitrarily defined "others" even in their own "nation". This refusal to accept fellow nationals as kin undermines the illusion of a nation, and thus the effective working of that illusion. It's truly unpatriotic, as true patriotism is all about bolstering the notion of national community and kinship.

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It's culture that allows us to nevertheless function as larger communities, even as nations - without too many destructive conflicts with each other. Culture even allows us to maintain peace with other groups (clans / nations); the highest level of culture is probably international law.

War is essentially a slip from this peaceful coexistence. It's a slip that allows us -in narrowly defined ways- to cease being social and instead start killing and generally display destructive behaviour. It's a relaxation of cultural norms that enable us to live in a community (of nations). This release can be fun especially to men, who once in a while plainly enjoy to destroy things (even blow them up) - just as a 3-year-old prefers destroying toy block towers over building them.*

War - the absence of peace - is a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction (of what's not yours).

This relaxation of cultural taboos doesn't necessarily have a real objective.

It may happen because those in positions of extraordinary power did let their guard down and did simply not maintain the taboo. The German government of 1914-1918 could not point out what exactly Germany was fighting a bloody war for, for example. There was no approved, much less communicated, list of objectives or demands against the Western Entente powers. Demands were made up for the Russian government only when the Russian forces began to fail. War had happened because peace wasn't protected. The cultural taboo of killing and destroying was not maintained.

There are wars in which openly communicated and/or secret lists of demands existed, but they're merely one subset of all wars. The demands were not necessarily the reason for or cause of war.

War is first and foremost a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction. Warfare goes on until all sides re-established this taboo (or escaped** or were eliminated), not necessarily until at least one side yields to demands of at least one other side.

The whole 'war as continuation of policy with different means' way of thinking frames war as an activity pursued to achieve something. Achievement is the exception; net achievement (actually "winning" as "gaining") is extremely difficult because of the destructive rather than productive / constructive nature of warfare. The framing doesn't properly describe war.
I claim with great confidence that less than half of all powers participating in all of mankind's wars have actually achieved more than lost. To think of warfare in the framework of achievement is about as much a folly as to think about betting in a state lottery in the framework of winning.

The "achievement" framework is deceiving, leading to a misunderstanding of the nature of war. It's not even a satisfactory description of the mere political purpose of war.


**: This applies to nomadic people and those who migrated (such as the Goths) to evade an enemy. 


War as a continuation of policy? (I)


"At the decisive battle of Fleurus on 26 June 1794 the Austrians even began by launching a series of assaults which, after a very hard-fought day, held the French to at least a draw. However, the Austrian commander then consulted his secret political orders and realized that he had no need to fight at all. Tired of the game, he retreated without being forces to do so. (It transpired that the core Austrian war aim was to allow the French to capture Belgium so that the Austrians - through the arcane workings of 18th-century diplomatic logic - would be awarded Bavaria as compensation. Oddly, in the event they weren't.)"
"French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815", by Paddy Griffith

This is a curious episode.
On the one hand it supports von Clausewitz' conclusion that war(fare) is the extension of policy. On the other hand it adds to the cases that do not align with his conclusion that the aim in warfare is to disarm the political opponent in order to force him to yield to your demands.

Other examples where this conclusion isn't confirmed are wars of extinction (such as many of the Indian Wars in North America or the hunt for anyone loosely affiliated with AQ) and a couple wars that happened for no other reason than revenge or payback for insult. It's also very much possible that the Franco-German war of 1870/1871 was at least initially about unifying Germany (minus Austria; "kleindeutsche Lösung") rather than the eventually huge French reparations.

The question of the objective of warfare is one of the weakest spots in Carl von Clausewitz' theoretical work.*


*: Let's ignore his brain-melting terrible grammar and non-existing prosaic qualities here.
He would never be this popular if the people actually read his works at length. I'll happily read "the art of war" for the 10th or "Principles of War" for the 5th time, but certainly never read my "Vom Kriege" edition a second time from front to back! I heard it's going to be translated to yet another language from the German original, and I pity the translator.