Old military literature

I had a look at old military journals recently - both in my personal collection and those archived in the internet.

The result was sobering.

1980's military literature was close to utter uselessness for today. Pretty much everything about the organizational and political domains as well as everything quantifiable was completely obsolete. Especially the planning for the German army in 2000, dated 1989, was devastatingly obsolete as early as 1990.
The end of the Cold War was indeed a time of many radical changes.

A couple of still useful articles were in 1980's journals, though. These were the articles with military history context - and they focused on military core competencies more often than not. An example was an article about Stoßtrupps (raiding patrols). That one was timeless. Much of it applied to stone age warfare as much as to today's and likely also to future infantry warfare.

1990's articles weren't much better than the 1980's articles, though. The technological foresight was either wrong or didn't reach out farther than about five or at most ten years. Again, political and organizational topics were a waste of time and paper.

Many pages were wasted on (hyping up) hardware projects that didn't yield any in-service hardware even as of today. It's sobering to see how the authors argued that this or that toy that was never bought would be absolutely indispensable as of today. On the one hand they were exaggerating or simply wrong - on the other hand they tell us about how incomplete today's equipment probably is.

And again, articles about military history and military core competencies proved to be the most worthwhile.

My conclusions are simple:

1) Truly useful articles in military-related journals are about military history and/or military core competencies (tactics mostly).

2) Articles about hardware are informing about present or near-term state of the art, but not about the medium term or long term future.

3) I possibly read the wrong journals.

Sven Ortmann


  1. On point two, most articles on Hardware are advertising and not to be trusted.

  2. German military journals have quite often articles about technology basics that are not tied to specific models.

    Other articles (and they have pretty much become dominant in SuT, for example) were written by officials about ongoing programs or trends in certain areas of expertise (like AFV development in general, or hybrid electric drives) - these articles cannot be advertisement, but they can be very close to propaganda.

    Articles about specific hardware are always questionable unless it's one of the short data sheets (photos, drawing, basic parameters for a ship, aircraft or vehicle) that were common in the 80's/90's.