2008/01/16

Quality vs. quantity

We (Western forces) waged small wars for decades. Not a single conventional war was total or at least in large scale and difficult terrain at the same time since the Korean War truce.

The combination of this experience and of our high-tech societies has turned our forces into high quality but small quantity forces. This is a good idea concerning the personnel. Germany has shown that a cost-saving and work force-saving small military does not prevent a rather quick readiness for total war by its transformation from a 100,000 military to a millions of men military in 1933-1939 (and to a lesser degree the UK Great War experience in 1914-1916).

But I believe it's different concerning the equipment. Our equipment tends to be small quantity/high quality as well, and much of it hasn't got nearly the industrial base to produce it for a rapid force expansion. In addition to this our army equipment tends to focus more and more on force protection capabilities that would be almost useless in a great war.

Think about the classic Tiger vs. T-34 struggle in WW2. The Tiger was a high-tech and high-power tank (although not 100% modern) and was opposed by the rather crude T-34 tanks. The Germans weren't able to produce enough Tigers and its focus on protection even reduced its usefulness for the German operational tactics which focused on mobility (the post-war Leopard I was much less protected). The T-34 otherwise was easily produced in astonishing quantities and could be used by poorly trained personnel.
The optimal tank would have been in between, but this historical example clearly shows some basic truths.
You need to have the industrial base to support your force in a Great War - you should have a military that does not demand much more than what your industry can supply.

This lets me think about our lacking metal industry - how many gun barrels can we produce each year? How many ships can we produce? How much of our automotive industry could adapt to build medium armored vehicles? How much armour steel can we produce? How many cartridges can we produce?
We have several industrial shortcomings. It doesn't help to have military equipment designs that aren't designed for quantity production. Much of our military equipment is even so old that the civilian production has already shifted to other production methods and materials.

We'll be in real troubles if the machine building industry moves away as well.

The suitability for quantity production in arms races and wars should be a more important requirement in our military equipment design and selection processes.

Sven Ortmann

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