2016/12/06

Tripwire forces - and why I reject them inevitably

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Here's the very root of the tripwire forces issue:

(1) Many people think that tripwire forces are purposeful because they - being a kind of hostage taken by their own government - would force their government to get involved in the event of aggression, and thus ensure it political commitment  to defence. This act of foreign policy communication is meant to bolster deterrence and protect the peace.
Sure, the tripwire forces (especially super-symbolic multinational ones) would likely be easy targets in the event of deterrence failure*, but that doesn't matter, for this whole paradigm depends on one assumption: We are overwhelmingly superior in military power, and effective defence only depends on signalling that this superiority would be brought to bear against an aggressor.

I'm not sure that people who follow this paradigm really thought this through, but what I wrote above seems to explain their behaviour regarding deterrence and tripwire forces.


(2) And then there's the other paradigm, which I am applying: In this paradigm military forces are for deterrence AND defence, and setting part of one's forces up for failure in the event of an aggression is unacceptable.
As an addition that's rather uniquely mine I did add that the will to defend against an aggressor should be signalled by extreme fitness of the armed bureaucracy. Reaching this fitness requires the political masters to pursue it, disrespecting the self-interest of the (naturally lazy and egoistic) bureaucracy if not outright punishing the bureaucracy so much that it doesn't dare pursue any self-interest but avoiding said punishment for pursuing self interest.


Well, before I digress even more I'd like to admit that my preference for the latter paradigm is predetermined. I once studied economics, and this includes a creeping yet thorough indoctrination: You get indoctrinated to hate wastefulness.

The first paradigm is the wasteful one, since it requires overwhelming military superiority, not "just enough" military power for deterrence and defence. Only overwhelming military superiority would allow for a waste of military resources, and even negligence regarding fitness and deployment speeds.
I suppose everyone understands that "overwhelming superiority" isn't the same as "just enough". In fact, "just enough" may be reached at a state of military inferiority. Just look at Finland coexisting with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. The Finns were no doubt NOT superior militarily.

My other insistence on fitness and on addressing typical issues of bureaucracies (I wrote a lot about the basic descriptive models Niskanen's budget-optimizing bureaucrat and the  principal-agent model) was predetermined by my economics studies as well.**


The first paradigm is kind of correct; European NATO HAS an overwhelming military superiority of Russia, the only not entirely ludicrous threat generator in its neighbourhood. Within the existing imbalance of power and the first paradigm militarily ineffective symbolic composite battalions, one per Baltic country and even one for Poland, make sense.

It's just unbearable to me how wasteful the whole situation is. To spend but ten billion Euros too much on the military is equivalent to killing more than a thousand of our citizens by neglect. Scratch the "equivalent to". I suppose we overspend by a much greater margin, looking at how poorly the armed forces in European NATO / in the EU are oriented at deterrence and defence.



S O

*: Think about how extremely well the poorly armed U.S. airborne troops who served as tripwire forces in Saudi-Arabia during the Gulf crisis 1990 fit to this description; hopeless militarily, but backed up by overwhelming power.
**: So very much that I grew tired of adding links to it.
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2016/12/05

What Europeans could do for more efficient deterrence and defence

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Europeans - both European NATO and EU - spend enough, have enough nuclear munitions and have enough manpower to deter aggression and defend themselves. I wrote about this several times, and the real world data on European military power is mightily in conflict with widespread perceptions which were warped by Americans. Thus this blog article won't be about hot to make European defence more effective. It's about efficiency; in this case having both enough military power to quickly force a status quo ante white peace after an (hypothetical) aggression.
I'll heavily lean on what I wrote before, so this is in part a summary.

- - - - -

In general
  • Orient the military towards deterrence and defence against Russia (excluding Turkey here despite it's in NATO). Mediterranean defence and long-term security against a potentially hostile United States are very unlikely scenarios that justify very, very little expenses.
  • Any non-overt armed incursion needs to be faced with the same decisively destructive power that would be applied to military forces, and preferably so within 60 hrs. The first salami slice needs be salted at a dosage that eliminates all appetite for more for at least one generation. 
Naval affairs
  • Even maritime-minded people who are very much impressed by their naval history or long coastlines should begin to rationally think about the limit of the actual need for naval power. 
  • Both the Russian Baltic and Black Sea fleets are close to irrelevant luxuries. Their ships might launch cruise missiles, and accomplish very little else. Their ability to let loose of all their land attack cruise missiles in the first minute of a conflicts turns all efforts for the quick destruction of these fleets moot. These fleets might leave their home waters and join the Russian fleet in the Arctic, for example. This means that European countries with Black Sea and Baltic Sea ports cannot rationally justify naval expenses with these Russian fleets that would only need be destroyed if they leave said waters - and would easily destroyed by air power and land-based systems if they attempted to do so during a hot conflict. 
  • Countries in proximity to Russian territory (Germany, Poland, Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria) should thus not bother spending on naval power because farther back countries - several of which are naval-obsessed - can deal with whatever naval threat is on the Atlantic Ocean, while simultaneously being in a much worse geographic position to quickly and efficiently provide land power for defence (and thus deterrence).
  • Rear area maritime shipping lanes (Hamburg to Gibraltar)  could be secured with a land-based approach and boats instead of prestigious and expensive warships that would not possibly be available in sufficient numbers anyway.
Air power
  • The rule of the pilot caste needs be broken, or else both the use of drones and the use of ground and sea-launched cruise and quasiballistic missiles for precision strikes on stationary and semi-stationary targets will keep being neglected in favour of more pilot seats.
  • Air forces need to redeploy their high value assets (mobile radars, aircraft, missile firing units) at the slightest hint of crisis in order to prevent a strategic surprise attack with hundreds of missiles on these targets. 100 Typhoons are worth little if 80 get knocked out in their hardened shelters by direct cruise missile hits in the first hour of the conflict. This redeployment needs to become so common and routine that nobody would hesitate to do it - which means that the personnel of these units would much of the year live in the field or on other airfields and even civilian airports.
  • It's cost-inefficient and in a hot conflict fairly slow to lean heavily on highly sophisticated strike packages of the American model. Likewise, it's very risky to lean heavily on stealth. The relatively brute force and modest ambition of missile saturation attacks could on the other hand deliver powerful blows at highly useful ranges against stationary and semi-stationary targets.
  • Land strike against mobile targets is hardly efficient in the frame of long-range interdiction. Engagements within 100 km of powerful friendly land forces on the other hand could and should reach peak efficiency by reducing air power to the eye in the sky, with long-range artillery delivering the fires. This rests on the assumption that radio communications could be maintained at useful distances (or to satellites), of course. Air/ground missions  would hardly be less dependent on useful radio communication ranges anyway.
  • Ship strike from the air is a relevant topic, and a much cheaper alternative to naval power, especially naval air power. This requires highly capable anti-radar and anti-ship missiles in the inventory, and sufficient training (simulator and real) of suitable attack patterns. Both missile types could have a dual capability (also precision strike against radars / structures on land).
  • Small countries should not operate their own air force, but rather contribute personnel (and some funds) to common air components.
  • Said common air components could include quick change transport/tanker aircraft, AEW aircraft (preferably quick ones), electronic warfare aircraft (same), training aircraft (similar to NFTC).
Land power
  • Small NATO / EU members should focus on having one good brigade or several good brigades, not trying to create a full spectrum miniature army with assets that typically belong to divisional or higher echelons (army aviation, long range artillery, higher HQs, area air defences etc.) or elaborate training establishments.  They should also abstain from raising or maintaining any "elite" units, such as paras, special forces et cetera that would only dilute the personnel foundation of the brigades.
  • The larger NATO / EU members (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Poland) should imbalance their land forces in favour of such above-brigade assets in order to balance out the total alliance military power that could and would be brought to bear in the first weeks of a hot conflict.
  • A NATO land warfare exercise establishment capable of handling four army brigades should be established in Southwestern Poland, and should at all times house 3-4 army brigades. These would double as kind of forward-deployed forces.
  • Armour, artillery and anti-tank defence need to gain in importance regarding resource allocation again. You cannot face Russian forces with brigades that have hardly any indirect fires capability. 1980's anti-tank munitions are still usable against BMP/BTR/BMD, as HE fire support and for demolitions, but pointless against the MBTs an aggressor would use.
  • Land forces that cannot be deployed quickly are of little relevance. Quick deployment means arrival at 80% of nominal strength with three combat days worth of supplies, 1,000 km and two pontoon bridges away from garrison within 48 hours of the first warning order. This does NOT require a 8x8 APC-based "medium" brigade, or any other of the "medium" nonsense that was cooked up in the last two decades. It DOES require that 80% of nominal strength can be deployed by road  and arrive in operational condition. This is perfectly possible with tracked vehicles of any relevant size, if only there are enough tank transporter semi-trailer combos. It is also possible with MBTs arriving later, if only 80% of the nominal strength arrives on its own wheels in time. It may also require a personnel surplus in the units, or else the personnel side could make the 80% threshold unachievable.
  • Long-neglected army branches such as air defence need more emphasis, and relevant quantities of hardware. "EOD", military intelligence, HQs above brigade level, "marines" and medical services may shrink (though the exact advisable corrections differ between countries). "Special forces" could and should be disbanded though I exclude long range recon patrol / long range scout / Fernspäher from this; I simply don't think they should be "special" at all.
  • The logistical and planning sides of a rapid establishment of sufficient strength in NE Poland and Lithuania need to be fit for the rapid deployment of forces. This includes ensured passage over natural obstacles such as rivers and non-reliance on fragile means of transportation such as rail (even diesel-powered locomotives depend on easily-sabotaged signals systems and of course easily-sabotaged rails) for any time-critical transportation. Nor must we be dependent on supremely expensive airlift, or on sealift over the Baltic Sea. Enough alternative road routes need be available between Poland and Lithuania.
In general, part two
  • Europeans can easily spend a third less on military affairs in 220-2025,  and still have more deterrence and relative military power than in the status quo. It's about efficiency, and not wasting resources on items that are irrelevant to deterrence and actual defence. It's entirely NOT about spending more, or spending some arbitrary percentage of economic output. That nonsense is merely getting pushed by special interests and people who are ignorant of or disregarding the fact that in reality Europe is a military powerhouse, including compared to Russia.
  • I recommend that countries with very low per capita economic output or very high public debt limit their military expenditures. Greece, Belgium, Albania, Bulgaria and also Romania easily fall into either of these categories. A great benefit of being allied is that you need to spend less to provide for deterrence and defence since the efforts add up better than the requirements. The pervert idea that a country needs to spend more to justify its place in an alliance is merely pushed by those cynics who want small countries to serve as auxiliary troops pools for great power games. They don't have security in mind, but playing games with the lives and fortune of people they don't care about.

related:

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: This wasn't meant to be published yet; I meant to keep it as a draft for a while and keep working on it. Well, now it's out, so I keep it as is.
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Musings about naval power in European waters

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I have a big and a quick blog post in preparation, but both are calling for a preceding one to explain a particular assertion of mine in greater detail:


First, let's agree that air power can destroy surface ship targets very well if suitable hardware and training is available (especially enough munitions) and the range isn't too great.
Surface warships would engage other surface warships primarily with quite lightweight surface-to air missiles (against which hard kill defence are quite impractical) and usually dedicated anti-ship missiles (of which usually no more than eight are on board). 
Combat aircraft meanwhile would typically use supersonic anti-radar missiles and anti-ship missiles (quite the same as fired by surface warships) in synchronised attacks, and follow up with bombs to finish off the already damaged ships. This air power can be shifted by hundreds of kilometres within less than an hour. Surface warships of any kind - including dedicated air defence frigates, destroyers and cruisers - without benefit of support by fighters and AEW aircraft would be little more than snail-like targets; easily stomped one after another by air power.
That air support is hardly going to be reliable.

(c) NormanEinstein
So essentially, the Eastern Baltic Sea and much of the Black Sea would be at least very, very dangerous waters in the event of war there. This suffices to make the sea lanes through these seas unacceptable for maritime transport in wartime. One could try to force one's way through such dangerous waters, but the outcome would be unpredictable and thus unreliable. If nothing else, the threat of air attack, missile attack and maybe even artillery to the ports in the region would disqualify the sea lanes.
It would be irresponsible to allocate resources to such maritime activities when it comes to designing the national military of the 2025-2030 period. Thus we should not plan to use these seas in the event of collective defence.

Similarly, there's hardly any - if any - justification for spending on naval abilities to kill hostile warships in these sea areas. This would de facto be all about modern submarines (SSI) anyway, and those are very specialised ship killers with hardly any relevance to air or land warfare. Yes, they could also launch land attack cruise missiles, but so could a barge - and the encapsulated cruise missiles for launch from submarines tend to cost twice as much per copy than those meant for surface launch.
The spending for ship-killing capability in regard to such seas should be about air attack and anti-submarine mining in narrow straits (Bosporus, Øresund et cetera).

Summarizing this, I say we need no navy in the Eastern Baltic Sea, we need no navy in the Black Sea, and whatever aggressor naval power might be there in the event of collective defence would merely be a diversion for our air power, keeping a couple dozen combat aircraft and up to twice as many crews busy for a few days.



Now the other part of the story; what if an aggressor (Russia, of course - the only not entirely unrealistic threat) has fleets there despite them sitting in a death trap?
Typically, this would lead to primitive reactions; every ally of ours with a port in the region would feel compelled to maintain a navy. Typically the urge would call for a well-rounded navy. A few subs, a few air defence ships, anti-submarine ships, mine hunters...a huge waste of funds.
This makes hardly any sense, for said threat fleet would be useless there in the event of war. The surface warships would be little more than targets for air attacks, and their submarines would not find targets unless we're stupid enough to feed them. Whatever cruise missiles the threat fleet could launch could be launched in the first five minutes of hot conflict, so it would be irrational nonsense to spend funds in pursuit of an ability to kill the platforms before they launch cruise missiles.

Those threat fleets become troublesome only if they leave those restricted waters prior to conflict and reach the Atlantic Ocean where air attack would be much more difficult due to the distances involved.

Now should those countries in geographic proximity to the only relevant land and air power threat build fleets that could follow a fleet into the Atlantic Ocean and engage it there? I suppose that would be nonsense. 
Their geographic situation demands a focus on land power, and (only if the budget is large enough) secondarily air power. There are other, more distant, countries which are obsessed about naval affairs because of irrelevant irrational reasons such as past naval  power or the length of their coastline. Those will afford the naval power needed to subdue a timely evacuated threat fleet, regardless of what a country such as for example Romania does in regard to naval spending.

- - - - - -

I mean no offense, but I do not expect readers / commenters to fully follow this post and to absorb the reasoning. It's too distant from mainstream for this. There are plenty special interest groups that push the other way as well. Still, I felt this separate elaboration was appropriate ahead of the coming blog posts.

Long story short; our European deterrence and defence would not suffer if less (or nothing) was spent on naval power in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. To some extent the musings above can be applied to naval power in the Mediterranean Sea as well.


S O
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2016/12/04

Multinational tripwire battalions in Baltics, Poland

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I' typical German in that I want it done right if done at all, even if I'm not in favour of doing it at all.
My opinion on tripwire forces is cast in stone; they're stupid ideas of politicians who are too lazy to come up with anything smart.



Still, the application of the tripwire forces concept in the Baltic countries is even more stupid than expected. They get the details wrong.
Participation by Norway (which should mind its own national defence), for example.


Here's how I would recommend to pull it off if I was professionally obliged to recommend any tripwire forces scheme:

Three composite battalions, one in each Baltic country:

HQ (LIT = host country)
1st Combat troops company including a MBT platoon(FRA)
2nd Combat troops company (ESP)
3rd Combat troops company (ITA)
Logistics company (smaller NATO members)

HQ (LAT = host country)
1st Combat troops company including a MBT platoon (UK)
2nd Combat troops company (GER)
3rd Combat troops company (NL)
Logistics company (smaller NATO members)

HQ (EST = host country)
1st Combat troops company including a MBT platoon (US)
2nd Combat troops company (TUR)
3rd Combat troops company (HUN)
Logistics company (smaller NATO members)

Not participating:
POL, NOR (which have their own borders to care about),
ROM (which has a terrible army that's stuck in 1950's-1970's tech),
GRE, BEL, POR (should focus on domestic issues and don't need to bear much responsibility due to their small sizes)


Such a design of a tripwire force would
  • have all three Baltic states covered (tripwire force in Poland is pointless even if one believes in tripwire forces)
  • have one nuclear power present in every of the 3 Baltic states
  • have the foreign components by major alliance members as combat troops (thus bound to be involved in combat in case of invasion)
  • commit authoritarian governments that cuddled with Putin to NATO defence
  • not distract NATO frontier countries from minding their own national defence
  • spare most countries that really, really should focus on domestic issues first (exception ESP and ITA due to their size)
  • have host country HQs and especially COs (!!!), which means that any component of the tripwire force that doesn't defend in the event of invasion would need to disobey orders to do so (in the public impression, not necessarily according to command regulations)
The composite battalions would be utter crap as combat formations unless the companies know how to fight well as isolated companies, but at least the political angle would be done well. The mixed battalions that are being raised for real are pretty much random designs by comparison.

S O
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2016/11/26

[Fun] This weather sucks

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To be fair, the German air force security companies that I saw had a habit of jogging in the rain.
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2016/11/24

Fact checking

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There's another problem, even for those who do fact-check: Context.

For example, Swedish rape statistics look outrageous, with insane growth of rape crimes in a short time.
This was repeatedly blamed on immigrants, though the blame should be laid at the feet of the Swedish parliament. They redefined "rape" so widely, that many activities which aren't even sexual harassment in most OECD countries are counted as a rape felony.

The outrage should rather be an outrage by man rights activists (since men are overwhelmingly being targeted by this legislation) rather than xenophobes.


The insane output of lies, distortions, hateful narratives et cetera on the internet, effectively adding hatemongering efforts in English countries to other countries through the English reading skills of the population,  has become and been recognised as a major challenge for freedom and peace within Western societies. The dangerous idiots were always among us, but their mode of operation and their communication have been expanded by technology.
Meanwhile, the establishments of Western democracies had such a long run that their failures piled up and their achievements have become self-evident and don't improve the establishment's reputations any more. Said establishments have also exhausted their range of abilities, being unable to muster the political effort for major reforms to address current perceived or real problems. This is particularly obvious in countries with very stable political leadership as in Germany; we had the same chancellor since 2005, and two of the three legislative terms since had a grand coalition of the two major parties. All this under the leadership of the conservatives who by default are not very keen to reform (else they wouldn't be conservatives). 

There is much to do, particularly by voters, but taking action on basis of counterfactual beliefs sure isn't the way to go.

S O
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2016/11/21

Lightweight equipment

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Much has been written about the infantryman's burden and the resulting tactical restrictions (and health problems) - including here.

I did a self-experiment over the last year or so: I attempted to compile - using open source intelligence only - a list of equipment that could fit budgets of most European states, serve the purpose (admittedly in the framework of my opinion of what needs be done) and is vastly more lightweight than the stuff in actual use.

The list of items both on my list and selected by the Bundeswehr didn't grow long:
  • LOWA mountain boots (not lightweight, but I didn't find as fantastic ones at lighter weight)
  • Panzerfaust 3-IT round (not lightweight at all, but its weight is excused by necessity)
  • Esbit solid fuel
  • flare gun (astonishingly I didn't find an as capable, yet more lightweight one than the old P2A1)
  • ID "dog tags" (you better not make them of anything other than a thin sheet of stainless steel, for aluminium alloys may melt and punching titanium alloy sheets might be more troublesome for marginal weight savings)
  • NYXUS Bird forward observer multi sensor
  • 5.56x45 mm calibre (with old-style not very heavy ball bullet)
  • ball pen (no kidding - it's more important than much else)
The list of problems is about as long; I didn't find really suitable items in the categories
  • short flak vest (with little overlap to some kind of frag belt)
  • multitool (with the right combination of tools - most multitools seem to be made for electricians)
  • backpack
  • "kleine Kampftasche" (large pouch attached on the belt in the rear) and pouches in general
  • cold weather gloves (I found a pair that is fine, but not rugged - on the other hand, I consider gloves as consumables anyway and there's not much weight-savings potential)
  • infantry hand/rifle grenade (I couldn't find an appropriate successor to the by now primitive Polyvalent MDF)
  • minimalistic NBC mask (not a full one, but one carried during a conflict when NBC attacks are possible, but most unlikely. It's meant to be fine for an hour and fold better and weigh less than a full one. Replacement by full NBC mask once NBC attacks become likely or confirmed.)*
The bags weren't found because I cannot tell if all items would fit in. No suitable flak vest was found because the fashion moved away from flak vests and I didn't find any vest that was short enough to complement a wide ballistic-rated carrier belt. The grenade and mask things weren't found because such concepts are simply not accepted widely.

I was also astonished that I couldn't find better night vision monoculars than the already quite aged PVS-14. It seems that development did hit a ceiling in this area and turned towards more performance** instead of towards lighter weight and less power consumption. Much of the PVS-14's weight and size seems to stem from the ruggedisation rather than from the night vision functionality anyway.

I noticed that in order to get lightweight equipment you seem to need to
  • not seek maximum performance (especially weapon range and protection, this also helps regarding costs)
  • use mostly less than 10 years old equipment (munition types are the oldest items on my list)
  • avoid wintertime

Wintertime is troublesome because of extra weight for extra insulation by clothes/sleeping bag/insulation mat. It may also disqualify fuel cells as main relief from battery weights (they don't work at less than -20°C), deep snow makes snowshoes and/or ski equipment necessary for much dismounted movement. Overall, essential individual winter equipment may easily weigh 5 kg more before adding a proper tent.
Summertime may also be somewhat more troublesome than spring or autumn because of how much more water you may need to carry.
_ _ _ _ _

Here are some of the lightweight items I settled on for the list

Rafael Spike SR - a standalone ATGM munition that needs no separate launcher, not even a bipod. Easy use. Weighs less than some unguided much shorter ranged munitions. It can be trusted against AFVs other than modern MBTs (especially in their frontal 60°).
under 10 kg

M4 Carl Gustaf - the 4th iteration finally is lightweight. The weight of rounds is light compared to bazooka-style weapons of comparable warhead weight and lesser range. The fire control accessory should be the Aimpoint FCS 12, the de facto successor to Simrad's IS 2000 sight. This sight weighs half as much as one round, so it's a great investment if you miss less often with it.
about 6.7 kg + FCS about 1.6  kg

Ultimax 100 Mk 8 (light) machinegun with its proprietary 100 rds drum and quick change barrel - a LMG doesn't get lighter, and the drum is fine if only every squad gets a tool to assist with reloading the drums. The proprietary drum weighs about 720 gram; three drums for 300 rds weigh 2,160 grams while ten 30 rds magazines for 300 rds would weigh minimum 3,500 grams. (The company's own marketing brochure is about older, less improved versions.)
4.9 kg without optical and night sights or a spare barrel + its pouch

ArmorSource LJD Aire (regular cut) - a helmet with NIJ level IIIA protection rating and full coverage at record light weight. It grows about twice as heavy with night vision adapter and night vision monoculars, of course.
850 grams without external accessories

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Large sleeping pad (can be reduced to little over one litre size)
570 grams

Mountain Hardware Hyperlamina Flame sleeping bag - synthetic filling that doesn't lose much effectiveness when damp, not suitable for deep frost without extra layers of insulation (straw, additional textile covers, tent).
1,110 grams

Esbit ultralight folding titanium stove The normal solid fuel folding stove weighs almost 100 grams. Individual solid fuel tablets weigh 4 grams. 
11 grams. This weight was no typo.

Esbit 750 ml Ultralight Titanium Cooking Pot The FireLite SUL-1100 is bigger and weighs 20 g less, but this one appears to be more practical and fits to the stove for certain.
106 grams

Esbit ultra lightweight titanium cutlery set 
42 grams

Sawyer MINI water filter - filters almost 100% of bacteria/protozoa issues out and is suitable for filtering water for storage in containers. This should reduce the need for water resupply or boiling of poorly filtered water.
57 grams

Surefire G2X-D Pro flashlight - lower output power setting for map reading, low power consumption due to LED technology. Military flashlights should NOT be attached to weapons.
125 grams with batteries

Getac V110 ruggedized notebook
1,980 grams

Nikon COOLPIX AW120 ruggedized digital camera with integral GPS and digital magnetic compass (for documentation purposes, not reconnaissance. It is discontinued already; the AW130 is the current successor model. Downside; temperature range ends at -10°C.)
213 grams

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10x26 binoculars (small, affordable and lightweight, but better than many old military binoculars. I mean this to be issued to every army NCO and officer, and to be handed over to soldiers on security duty. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use. Downside; temperature range ends at -20°C.)
297 grams without laser filter

Zeiss Victory 10x45 T* RF (high quality binoculars with laser rangefinder. For infantry platoon leaders. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use.)
995 grams with battery, but without laser filter

NYXUS Bird MR with tripod (forward observer sensor; thermal camera, laser rangefinder, digital magnetic compass & military GPS in one. One per infantry platoon or scout squad).
1,600 grams with battery

Redfield Rampage 20–60x60mm Spotting Scope with tripod (non-angular design, relatively cheap and lightweight. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use. There are better ones, but the quality difference is less relevant than how widely such spotter scopes are used at all. Every infantry platoon should have one.)
1,055 grams without tripod or laser filter


Compare this with what your country uses instead. The items listed here will almost always be substantially more lightweight, often times at superior performance compared to the legacy equipment.


So it IS possible to reduce the soldier's load by much if you don't use old equipment and muster the self-discipline needed to be satisfied with 80-90% performance.

It was confirmed in this research that technological advances often were exploited for increased performance instead of first and foremost for decreased weight. It's no wonder that after hundreds of years of technical progress we still burden the infantry to the limit. Agility, speed and endurance are biological, not technical - and not considered as output (performance) of equipment worn. Those items which were developed for minimum weight were not used widely.

I think it's similar with motor vehicles; you COULD standardise and achieve great ranges (500 km off-road) if you really wanted to, but different trade-offs are preferred.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: The ER 2000 comes close, but is still much too bulky. I think of a transparent plastic film hood with filter and a snorkel-like mouthpiece which includes the exit valve. A separate nose clip and the use of external dust goggles to prevent fogging of the hood in the field of view complete it. The dust goggles solution may not work with some flat face shapes (common among East Asians) because the plastic film would there be pressed on the eye. The filter size would be minimalistic for at most 1 hour duration at little physical effort (120 kg man + equipment, walking with occasional 50 m jogs).
**: Wide field of view installations, thermal vision, combined nightsight/thermal vision, night colour vision.
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2016/11/20

Air power as part of an anti-tank effort

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Recently I wrote "Why do I imply a marginal role of air power in AT [anti-tank] efforts?". Here's the answer.

(1) Interdiction in the old style is very difficult to pull off at great depth, particularly against respectable air defences and air power opposition. The easiest way to do it would be to blow up a few railway bridges with cruise missiles. That's of little use if there's a large choice of possible routes for the forces to be interdicted, and of no use against the forces that surprised you with a strategic surprise attack on day one.

(2) Interdiction in the theatre of ground operations - essentially the air attack on march columns on roads - is very difficult if timely warning enables the march column to stop and hide under foliage and camouflage netting in time. Such a route might also be protected by air defences.
Timely warning is not difficult because threat aircraft would need to announce their presence by active radars in order to survive the threat posed by fighters and radio communications can be expected to be effective in the rear, so dissemination of the air threat warning is possible.

The need to hide does reduce the average convoy speed and effective road capacity, but depending on how many air threat warnings were given during a day and how long they last this effect might be smaller than the effect of near-permanent air attacks during daytime in 1944/45 which reduced most movements to hours of darkness.

(3) Respectable air defences could be overcome, but typically this would require a combined arms effort in the air - a strike package. These sophisticated arrangements of different aircraft types with different roles, location and timings have their roots in the early Second World War, but were developed to something resembling today's efforts only by the time of the Vietnam War.
it's typical of strike packages that only a certain share of the involved aircraft would actually engage the main targets on the ground (rule of thumb; no more than 40%), and the effort would require dozens of aircraft. This leads to but a few ground attack aircraft being over the target area, and most likely so with more clear skies than presence. Much if not most of the time the target ground vehicles could move undisturbed.
This may lead to a Stop & Go tactic of the bloc with the inferior fighter force: Vehicle convoys would be protected even with active radars and radar jammers while on the move, whereas in presence of an overwhelmingly capable strike package everyone on the ground would hide inside buildings (barns, garages) or under foliage (woodland) plus camouflage netting. Small vehicles might also simply be parked and covered with inconspicuous objects that hide the engine hood's warmth.

It's about time for a relief for the eyes:


(4) Close air support has quite the same issues, albeit the ground targets would receive slightly less warning time.

(5) Autonomous killer drone attacks are feasible, but so far almost exclusively man-in-the-loop munitions were deployed. Systems like German Taifun / TARES or the U.S. LOCAAS didn't become part of arsenals. Their range would be limited to less than 150 km anyway, and targets would move long distances between launch and arrival of the drone.

(6) Man-in-the-loop killer drones of the infamous Predator/Reaper recipe are effectively occupation warfare and assassination tools. Every such drone would be nothing but an easy practice target to all air defences with sufficient range and ceiling. The radio link (including by communication satellite) would also be jammed rather easily, and it's highly questionable whether the bandwidth demands of a single drone video stream would be justified by the tiny firepower of such a drone when there are literally hundreds of other platforms in need of the services of the very same satellite communication network.

(7) Long range sensors would fail against a prepared (aggressor) great power. There are radar jammers that defeat radar aircraft like Sentry (AWACS), Erieye, J-STARS and ASTOR, creating huge safe areas into which such radar planes cannot look reliably. Additionally, such radar aircraft would be the highest priority targets and face very long range air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. It may very well be that in a conflict about the Baltic states AWACS radar coverage could only be maintained over Germany, Denmark and the North Sea, but not over Eastern Poland or even the Baltic sates, much less the St. Petersburg area.
It would be quite irresponsible to launch risky strike packages at deep moving targets such as brigades on road march without even knowing about their location. Likewise, it would be most difficult for fighters on offensive combat air patrol to secure such strike packages without the benefit of support by AEW&C systems like AWACS. Their radars can only cover the ~ 110-160° front sector, and the fighters would need to make many turns very often in order to maintain all-round awareness of the air situation. Any pincer attack would be most devastating in regard to beyond visual range air combat tactics because evading missiles incoming from one direction might mean to run into missiles incoming from the opposite direction.

(8) Desert warfare has warped perceptions, and the Kosovo Air War did an incomplete job at repairing this damage. It's actually very, very difficult to find ground targets while flying at 15,000 ft or more - especially if it's a single seat strike fighter and the pilot also needs to pay attention to the air defence threat picture and the air combat threat picture. It would be much more likely to see such a pilot dump his few guided bombs on mere lorries or even false targets than on main battle tanks.
Conditions as in Kuwait and vicinity where pilots had the easiest possible job at detecting hostile ground vehicles are extremely unrepresentative for much of Eastern Europe. You get most close to this in Southern Russia and some parts of the Ukraine. But those are huge areas, and the ratio of strike fighters to area would be very different there than over tiny Kuwait.

(9) Air power that faces a strategic surprise attack may be in a much too poor shape for doing much about hostile tank forces for a long time. A cruise missile surprise salvo by bombers, warships and submarines could take out hundreds of highest quality combat aircraft in maintenance halls, aircraft bunkers and the tarmac of airbases. Other alliance air power would trickle in over weeks, but it would first need to ensure survival by a defensive campaign tactic if it stands no chance to defeat the threat air power by aggressive action. Such aggressive action would be hardly feasible in face of area air defences, safe for launching (air-launched) cruise missiles from safe standoff distances.

(10) I do not quite count aerial battlefield observation as 'air power' when I reject that air power would be very important for an anti-tank effort in a war between great powers in Europe. No do I play down the utility of air power against mechanised forces in for example the second month of a conflict. I do think that the former is about artillery striking with mere support by air, while the latter is unsatisfactory because early failure to cope with mechanised forces may be catastrophic and a (months) long war needs to be avoided due to its destructiveness.



This was written by a guy who wore the uniform of the German air force (Luftwaffe), so this is not army fanboy-ism.

S O
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2016/11/18

Future light anti-tank defences (III)

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earlier D&F articles on the subject:

It is fairly safe to assume that modern (mid-1990's and later) portable anti-tank equipment can cope with old main battle tanks - up to 1980's tanks that received no upgrades. Well-upgraded tanks from 1970's and later might pose a difficult challenge to portable anti-tank firepower, though. We may or may not see improvements in light anti-tank defences that provide an upper hand even against 2020's threats.
The fight against large groups of main battle tanks (tank company up to united tank battalion) would be very tough for infantry especially if the latter is dispersed for better control of large areas and better survivability. Large groups of tanks employed in the framework of a large combined arms effort would likely suffer minimal losses at hands of portable weapons under most circumstances.
The dismounted force facing large groups of tanks would thus do well to report, evade, hide, and to strike only under favourable circumstances (tank company not battle-ready, attack on lesser-protected vehicles, much support available and so on).

An infantryman's and indeed army soldier's most important asset against hostile tank forces might thus (still) be the knowledge about their capabilities and limitations, for this opens up paths for survival. Dismounted forces could nevertheless be very important (especially if they keep motorised vehicles nearby for high mobility) by providing reconnaissance (detecting, identifying, tracking and reporting the threat force) and weakening the opposing force bit by bit (eliminating some recovery tanks, bridgelayers, command vehicles, EW vehicles, air defence vehicles, supply lorries, IFVs, APCs in most of many small strikes).

The level of ferocity of such actions can be increased from the opposing forces' brigade resting area (maybe 200-400 km in front of our corps' logistical hub) towards areas of greatest importance (corps logistical hub, capital, important river obstacle, rear national border of invaded country). This can be done by successively increased levels of ambition not only of small units, but up to manoeuvre brigades.

A delaying effort may see highly mobile mounted forces engaging advancing mechanised opposing forces again and again with combined arms effects, (far) ambushes and deception to slow and wear them down. This would be particularly promising if the employed forces enjoy a mobility advantage over the mechanised threat. This may be achieved with wheeled vehicles vs. tracked vehicles in some areas, but also with equal vehicle mobility by adding counter-mobility efforts (blowing up bridges, minefields, fake minefields, ambush positions faked by radio deception, deception and diversion by noises, smoke walls triggering fear of ambushes et cetera).

Finally, the forces with great utility for rapid offensive action ("our" mechanised brigades held in reserve) could switch from a stand-off supporter role (providing MedEvac, area air defence* and artillery support) to an aggressive role in direct engagements. Their tank companies in particular could exploit the well-shaped battlefield (worn down, scared, exhausted, partially damaged opposing forces by now lacking crucial but originally rare support vehicles & superior situational awareness by defensive reconnaissance effort & superior air support this far "back") and strike, preferably still exploiting the benefits of surprise and crossfires.
Their equipment would not be light and could thus bring to bear superior levels of penetration, sensors and mobility in face of threats compared to any "light" effort.

This "heavy" effort would be the one that should strive to keep a penetration surplus over even the best-protected areas of even the best-protected opposing vehicles. This is where things like 130 mm tank guns belong to. Furthermore, attack helicopters (of which I would not recommend to procure and maintain many) might be effective and worthwhile in a well-shaped battlefield (though almost certainly not 'far forward').

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This leaves several interesting questions:
  1. How could and should still kind of "light" forces engage the intruding mechanised threat in a delaying effort (instead of a dispersed harassing and incremental reduction effort)?
  2. How to defeat hostile mechanised forces - and in particular 2010's technology main battle tanks - when one is on the offensive (raiding or advancing for possession), and thus unable to exploit such gradual shaping of the battlefield to one's own advantage? Or in other words; how to counter the described defences?
  3. How best to make use of legacy equipment (and training)?
  4. Why do I imply a marginal role of air power in AT efforts?
  5. What motive behind this series did I hide so far?
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I told you it's a big topic, even four parts do not suffice.

S O

*: Assuming area air defence is organic or attached to manoeuvre brigades. This is standard exactly nowhere to date. It would be feasible, though.
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2016/11/17

Future light anti-tank defence (II)

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I already wrote about future light (portable) anti-tank defences from the hardware-centric view, for a technical advance calls for adaption. Today I want to address the topic from the tactics angle. Warning; this is a looong blog post (and still cut short).

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As mentioned before, blowing up tanks or killing their entire crew isn't necessary. Often times missions can be accomplished through mobility kills or firepower kills.

One of the fairly easy tasks would be to defeat one or two tanks which support hostile infantry in an urban environment or on a forestry road. This would be easy because the tanks would be so few. One would need to limit one's exposure to them till their protective infantry was defeated, and then multiple hits scored on the tanks (preferably in salvos) would force their withdrawal or defeat them right away.
The real, hardly resistible strength of armoured forces can be found in their massed use. Dozens of tanks (or even only one company) together have such a concentration of firepower coupled with sensors, mobility and protection that an infantry platoon or even company would hardly be able to resist unless the terrain is very advantageous.

A possible approach in face of such opposition would be to avoid the armoured fist and strike at the soft underbelly of the beast: The dismounted force could hide till the tanks have advanced out of sight and then strike at the less hardened, less combat-capable supporting vehicles (including armoured personnel carriers) that follow. This was also one of the most successful anti-tank tactics of WW2. The tanks often passed through, but the following trucks were engaged. Tanks without supporting infantry, with little or no munition and fuel resupply will be defeated sooner or later. Deep penetrations by armoured spearheads require adequate security for the rather soft supporting forces.
But this requires thinking about AT defences on the larger tactical if not operational level. The platoons in contact would not experience how their effort eventually defeats the tank force. They would not consider their effort an anti-tank effort, though brigade and higher HQs would think of it this way.
Another possible approach is to attack when the opposing force isn't combat ready; tank companies need to spend much time on refuelling, maintenance and simply sleeping. They would risk artillery strikes if they did so very visible to hostile observers on open terrain, so there may be the option of attacking them through terrain with short lines of sight in their state of much-reduced readiness at their bivouac. It's difficult to provide security in such terrains without much personnel on picket and patrol duty, and exactly the right personnel for this (infantry and scouts) would hardly be available in a sufficient quantity. And if it was available and used like that it still couldn't rest, thus reducing the formation's abilities through exhaustion over time.
Again, a substantial security effort would be required to protect against this, just as regarding the soft underbelly approach.

Let's stay at the formation level (battalion and higher) for a while; a favourite of mine are area-specific mission tactics. To appoint a force to a defined area (with some overlap and arranged communication with  neighbour forces) and doctrine-defined levels of ambition would suffice as an order. The level of ambition would use steps ranging from a mere 'stay and survive in the area!' up to 'destroy all hostile elements in the area at any cost!'.
An infantry force with an order from the lower levels of ambition would -by this order- understand that it doesn't need to engage tanks unless the conditions are very advantageous. Such forces would -  if arrayed at sufficient depth (similar to certain 1970's and 1980's concepts like "Raumverteidigung")
wear down a tank force and its supporting elements and yield enough to stay relevant in the area. Armoured spearheads could penetrate such defended areas by paying an attrition toll and thus advance to their objective, but they would rather not eliminate the opposition. The infantry forces on such a mission wouldn't be brittle, but flexible under stress. A tank force going into bivouac in such a web of light forces would be very susceptible to swarming and attack pulses during its rest, particularly at night.

Another aspect of light AT defences is that when your firepower is limited you may want to focus it on the highest value targets. A tank column advancing through a bottleneck might see only its lead vehicles engaged, blocking the route (physically or by fear) temporarily. An armour battlegroup might see only is mineclearing tanks engaged prior to running into AT mine defences. Command, air defence, electronic warfare, forward artillery observer and recovery AFVs are rare, important and usually identifiable as well. Again, the forces in early contacts would not necessarily see the superior hostile tank force (or even only a single MBT) defeated, but they might lay the groundwork for its eventual defeat.

AT tactics have historically often been particularly successful when they followed one of two patterns (aside from employing extremely superior equipment or crews):
  1. Ambush situations
  2. Deception, confusion and surprise
About (1); an 1980's approach for this was to rapidly lay an AT minefield (scatterable mines ejected from an AFV or lorry), let the tank force run into it and then when after the first few minehits it was forced to stop hit them with artillery.** They might move to escape the artillery kill zone, but that would only lead to additional mine hits. MLRS/MARS was and is even able to scatter AT mines with rockets, so a tank force could have a minefield dropped onto itself or onto its escape routes.



Line of sight crossfire ambushes are utterly standard procedures for both tanks and ATGM units simply because fires from two directions (minimum 70° apart) allows at least some fires to become effective from outside the most protected forward 60° of main battle tanks. Ideally the two axis of attack would be 90-180° apart.
It is somewhat questionable whether such fires would be satisfactory at long ranges because this requires guided missiles, and guidances might be defeated by countermeasures. Short range AT munitions on the other hand (such as Panzerfaust 3-IT 600, which scores well at up to 600 m against stationary targets) would rarely be in position in the quantity desirable for effective salvoes. This is an arithmetic problem. A frontage of 3 km could be defended by ten ATGM launchers in two groups; they would be able of a ten round crossfire salvo. 10 Panzerfaust launchers (sights) on the other hand would suffice only for a frontage of about 400-600 m against moving targets. You would need many more of them than ten to cover 3 km frontage with a good salvo capability. It gets even much worse if the typical line of sight (or field of fire) in the area is as short as 50-100 m (a city, for example). Terrains with short lines of sight but many possible routes would thus rarely allow ambushes with large crossfire salvoes unless the opposing force has plenty infantry. This is nothing new and independent from what new MBT types enter service, but it's particularly troublesome if your portable AT hardware is weak and thus crossfire salvoes are especially important to you.
Every soldier hopes to be the ambusher instead of being ambushed or even only in a fair fight, but geography and arithmetic are sometimes harbingers of bad news.

(2) Deception, confusion and surprise
German forces used very elaborate, very mobile and often quite desperate tactics to defeat very hard-to-kill French tanks in 1940 and very hard-to-kill T-34 and KV tanks in 1941/1942. This often included feigned attacks (often only the sound and dust clouds of moving tanks of the weakest types), use of smoke, quick surprise attacks - anything but brute force. They had a superior ability in this (and actually scored much better kill ratios than the spec sheets of the tanks used would suggest) because of their superior radio communication and thus much quicker commands and much quicker reactions. Russian tank companies that were attacked from a flank or the rear often didn't react as a unit simply because the few tank commanders that noticed the attack at all (and maybe even its origin) had no means to communicate this other than maybe movement and fire (especially with tracer bullets).

Today's tanks all have radios, but it's still possible to recreate this situation by radio jamming. Both hand-emplaced expendable radio jammers (example: HEXJAM) in ambush situations and artillery-delivered radio jammer shells (example: VRS-546) can be used to make radio communication very hard in a fairly small area (few hundred metres radius). Drones might work as well, small rotorcraft drones could self-emplace themselves in a pattern just minutes before the tanks arrive and be activated remotely, then withdraw (for reuse) on autopilot with their remaining battery power.

The hostile tank force might use the confusion caused by radio jamming, smoke walls and noises to its own advantage because forces of both sides might be affected, of course. They would still be at a disadvantage if they are surprised by these means while their opponents are prepared and expecting, even calling for or deploying additional IR-obscuring smoke. Furthermore, any aggressive reaction drill by the surprised force might lead it straight into another ambush or mined areas.
Such troublesome and difficult tactics aren't new (as was mentioned before), but they greatly gain in importance if you have great difficulties penetrating hostile tanks (as did the German Heer often have from 1940 till 1942).
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Portable short range AT weapons will face an additional difficulty that's been rather uncommon in the past: All-round 360° digital vision of the tank. An early 360° surveillance sensor was the Vectop system on late Merkava tanks.


This was still a rather manual system as far as I know, with crews looking at monitors only. Future tanks (including upgraded 1970's tanks) could make use of daylight and thermal cameras with 360° coverage with automatic and passive detection of muzzle fires, patterns (men, helmets etc.), missiles, unguided warheads in flight and so on. This could be used to avoid radiating with an active protection system radar at all times. The automatic surveillance could be much more able to detect threats and make a tank crew actually more aware of its surroundings than an infantry squad*** (classically it's very much the other way around). Acoustic sensors could detect rifle fire and even detect and classify shouted commands after filtering out the tank's own and other tanks' noises. An electronic support system could notice hostile radio usage in the vicinity, especially low output power intra-squad radios that cannot be detected and triangulates by dedicated electronic warfare vehicles at several kilometres distance. A LIDAR system could detect optics by their reflection characteristics (though with a certain false alarm problem) and double as fire control sensor for a hard kill active defence system that shoots down incoming warheads.

Such a possible reversal of situational awareness superiority would force much caution on any dismounted force in contact with hostile tanks. This might become more troublesome in itself than a poor chance of scoring a penetrating hit.
It's one more reason to favour pop-up salvo fires whenever possible. The dismounted squads may wait behind concealment with but one minimal signature (periscope) observer each, pop up, be detected simultaneously, shoot and disappear before the tank crew could react. An active protection system may be able to react in milliseconds, but the crew couldn't. The more time you give the tank crew to make use of its tools the worse for you. This was always true, but the more capable the tank crew's tools, the more important this becomes because the tolerance for sloppiness shrinks.

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I cut this off at this point. Maybe I'll muster the energy for a part III with more musings about future dismounted AT tactics later.

S O


**: Detection algorithms would still be stupid. They wouldn't as easily as humans notice suspicious details, such as open windows and doors, removed roof tiles, objects out of place et cetera.
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