The square trick

18th century infantry had three most important tactical formations for battle: The column for efficient marching, the line for efficient use of firepower forward and the square as an all-round defensive formation to prevent being overrun by cavalry.

The infantry had to form squares if faced with cavalry (even if the cavalry wasn't charging). That was very disadvantageous because this all-round defence formation was very slow-moving if not completely stationary. It was also very dangerous if there was a threat by infantry and cavalry at once because a battalion in square formation was only a fraction as strong against enemy infantry as in a line formation.

That was - even before we factor in any artillery - an interesting combined arms benefit for those who held up a cavalry charge threat while really attacking with infantry.

An all-round defence is always inferior to a defence with a directional focus (at the latter's strongest side).

- - - - -

The modern conventional battlefield - hypothetical as it is - would most likely not see uninterrupted front lines as during the World Wars and the Korean War. The force density is simply not large enough; we would see brigades (actually clusters of battalions) with huge gaps between each other. These gaps would need to be filled (and if possible also controlled) by reconnaissance units and small detachments.

Reconnaissance units may well prove to be the least-prepared branch in the next major conventional war. The whole branch seems to be completely under-resourced and short of modern requirements in most if not all countries (and my previous comments on the subject cover just a tiny bit of the problem).

The aforementioned gaps mean that units don't need to "break through" in order to reach the enemy 'rear'. Small companies could (if the terrain isn't too restrictive) manoeuvre around a brigade and threaten (and hit) it from every direction.

Now imagine a combined arms company with dedicated doctrine, TO&E and training for independent armed recce. Many such companies (let's call them 'heavy skirmishers') could swarm out and fill the landscape like water would do. They flow around enemy strengths (rocks) and exert pressure on them from all sides, even eroding all parts of the rock that aren't strong enough.
The same flood of heavy skirmishers also drowns or breaks all small, weak opposing objects in their path.

The brigade could waste time by attempting to chase and destroy the more agile and really small heavy skirmisher units. One of the many inadequacies and problems of such a response would be that the brigade's combat units would be busy on the tactical offensive and likely run into many ambushes without scoring enough decisive blows against the many harassing units.

The more likely response is the delegation of combat units for all-round security (cover) missions. A brigade that provides all-round cover for its 'support' components would be very vulnerable to a well-directed blow (or even two).

It would be quite impaired in its ability to execute retrograde movements like delay or an withdrawal - it would effectively be a moving pocket at best. This includes cut-off support routes.

Said brigade would furthermore have inferior (so-called) "situational awareness" because the more combat-capable heavy skirmishers would easily dominate over the usual weak recce or even observation units.

Finally, this 'moving pocket' brigade in all-round defence formation would hardly be an offensive threat.

A promising counter-measure to the mentioned corps-level tactic (or operational art) is a competition for the more effective heavy skirmishers or the employment of dissimilar counter-forces (attack air power, for example).

Almost everything in warfare is susceptible to countermeasures, so this shouldn't surprise. A race for the stronger heavy skirmishers would resemble the quest for the stronger cavalry of earlier ages. You can easily look back to Alexander the Great or, more appropriately, to Hannibal's Cannae and Zama battles. The fast-moving cavalry that was able to hit from behind had been subject to a competition for millennia. The side with the better cavalry often had the decisive advantage.

Today's armies may resemble cavalry armies with their full motorization and partial mechanization.
That analogy is nevertheless rather poor. Unit speed isn't really proportional to vehicle speed. Units move much more slowly and react much more slowly than a single vehicle. Even a single battalion is a nightmarish convoy of vehicles. A company on 60 km/h tracks is therefore much more agile on the battlefield than a whole brigade on 100 km/h wheels.
The brigade as a whole is rather clumsy, while small units are agile. That turns small units into a better equivalent of cavalry.

In the end, we're lacking light cavalry (most people associate horses with "cavalry", so I prefer 'heavy skirmishers' as working title).

- - - - -

I assume that companies are the right compromise for the 'heavy skirmisher' concept. They can be numerous enough, have enough redundancy in functions, are agile enough (sufficient survivability) and are powerful enough to overcome both soft support units and enemy armoured recce units.

Now compare this understanding of armoured recce-alike companies with the weak armoured recce and armoured observation formations of modern armies.
Field manuals speak of widths where I think of areas if of any geographic limitations at all.
They focus on recce where I think of dominating the gaps.
Furthermore, orthodox armoured recce units up to battalion aren't combined arms units in German, French or U.S. armies.

- - - - -

OK, that was a glimpse of what I'm working on in regard to operational art in ground war. I could easily fill fifty to hundred pages with the modern ground operations topic, but it's still a work in progress (as everything in the art of war should be). The logistics part and mind issues (morale, daring, endurance) are especially tricky.

"Trading the Saber for Stealth" may be an interesting read for those interested in armoured recce today. It approaches the subject from a specific U.S. direction, but adds many useful points.
The French call "vacuum areas" what I call "gaps" (well, actually "espaces lacunaires"); see "Fighting in vacuum areas".



Iran's secret facility and the greater picture

Word is out that Iran has a secret facility linked to nuclear technology.

OK, that in itself is something between not newsworthy and normal. Many states have secret facilities, and secret nuclear facilities aren't exactly an Iranian innovation either.

Iran is also (at least still) in the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty (NNPT), and this facility could be a violation of that treaty. Maybe it is - maybe not - I don't care much about the difference for now. Let's assume it is a violation.

That would mean that Iran is in violation of an international treaty. Let's repeat that: Violation of an international treaty.
That's in itself quite the same as for example violating WTO rules - which happens frequently, and quite important nations already violated international treaties quite often.
A treaty violation falls well short of an aggression.

So what's the problem? The NNPT has no chapter about sanctions for violations. I know that because I read it - and because we would have heard about the sanctions quite often if they existed. The Soviet Union and United States of America were in permanent violation of the NNPT till the nuclear arms reductions began in the 1980's (it's debatable whether the UK and France were in violation as well).
Again; no Iranian innovation.

Oh, by the way; Iran can leave the NNPT and thereby delete all its obligations in only three months if it wishes so (see Article X of the NNPT).

- - - - -

OK, what's the excitement really about?

The next suspect for a good reason is that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as international authority on war & peace affairs has issued resolutions on the Iranian nuclear affairs topic: UNSCRs 1696, 1737, 1747 and 1803.

Now keep in mind that the UNSC rests on the United Nations which rest on the Charter of the United Nations - a decidedly pro-peace charter. The fundamentals of the UN would not be violated by such a secret facility or even defensive nukes (preparation of a war of aggression would be another story). I doubt that the UNSC would have a good foundation if it really decided sometime to legalize violence against Iran based on a nuclear arms program.

The UNSC is a weird committee for critique against Iran anyway; its most important (veto) members are all nuclear powers themselves, and some of them have already violated the NNPT themselves. Some veto owner nations also protect a country that's in a steadfast defiance of a UNSC resolution.

In a fair world, several members of the UNSC would be outlawed states for waging wars of aggression and repeated violation of international law. Instead, they're the jury on Iran - a nation that hasn't caused any war for generations. The foxes are in control of the henhouse.

The UNSC may sanction Iran, but that would likely be on feet of clay in regard to ethics. Such an action would likely be Realpolitik and power politics. It would likely be an institutionalized exercise of the rule of force - in the head of an organization that was meant to replace the rule of force by the rule of law.

- - - - -

The only actions that would really justify and legalize violence against the Iranian nuclear program would in my opinion be:

(1) Preparations for a war of aggression.

(2) A war of aggression.

A nation that prepares to attack another one deserves to be outlawed to some degree. Yet, even that is a question of proportionality. It would be inappropriate to completely outlaw a state and deny its sovereignty totally for mere preparations for a small border war, for example.

A secret facility in itself doesn't prove an intent for a war of aggression and doesn't qualify as a preparation either. Such a facility can have many uses.

- - - - -

This begs the question why do press and blogosphere comments mostly sound so differently and hawkish in their analysis of the secret facility affair?

I blame the warmongers a.k.a. "hawks".
Many people in the Western World have accepted the point of view of the hawks. The Western median publicized opinion on Iranian matters has drifted far away from a rational & neutral stance to one driven by warmongering. The hypocrisy has been veiled by propaganda and a very strange, one-directional view has been adopted by Western mainstream.

Strong, even violent actions may soon be appropriate against Iran - but let's not ignore the many domestic problems of the Western World. Supreme respect for the Charter of the United Nations would suit us well.

- - - - -

The whole treatment of Iran is extremely unsettling to me. Iran is a direct neighbour of the NATO member Turkey. The Turks live in a quite hot quarter of the world without going nuts and paranoid at all. Their relaxed and friendship-seeking, even mediating ways of foreign policy are almost admirable (they're badly tainted by their irrational politics in regard to the Kurds). That's especially true if compared to some other alliance member's fearfulness in face of by comparison marginal foreign threats and in comparison to their foreign policy.

The alliance with Turkey obliges us to care about their national security. Lighting a fire in a haystack right next to their house is on the other hand likely detrimental to our Turkish allies' national security and legitimate interests.

- - - - -

Let's look at the issue again - this time from yet another angle:
Let's look at the possibility of defensive intent and assume that we're not talking about the emotion-laden "Iran" but about Uruguay (sorry, Uruguay!). Uruguay (or "Country Orange") wants to build nuclear weapons for defensive purposes in this scenario. It leaves the NNPT, everything is formally correct.
Could the intent of having nukes - or the nukes themselves - be illegitimate?

There's no reason why Uruguay shouldn't have the right to have them if other states have that right. So it's either not about the nukes themselves (and for the purpose of this scenario we already assumed a defensive purpose) or something is wrong about the established arsenals.
So what could make such nukes in Uruguay a bad idea (aside from the costs)?

It comes down to the risk of their use with the associated indiscriminative mass destruction and contamination (a problem that applies to established nuclear arsenals as well) and the idea of non-proliferation.

These two motives in turn come down to the idea that nukes in themselves are evil and we should get rid of them or at least minimize their quantity.

And that's exactly where the responsibility of the established nuclear powers sets in. The hypocrisy of those who criticize Iran and on another day criticize Brown or Obama for their recent nuclear arms reduction intents is difficult to stand. There's still the obligation to work towards nuclear arms reductions and disarmament in the NNPT, after all. Non-nuclear powers in the NNPT have a claim on this - this includes Iran since it signed.

We can criticize Iran for an alleged intent to build nuclear weapons. Yet at the same time we should go forward in nuclear arms reductions and set a minimal deterrence with nukes in the range of dozens instead of hundreds or thousands as a medium term goal.

See also the newest UNSCR, which is on this topic:

There's no credibility to be found in a hypocritical stance on nuclear arms.

- - - - -

I would prefer to have no loud-mouth in (partial) power in Iran, and I would prefer an Iran without NBC weapons and medium or intermediate range ballistic missiles.

On the other hand I would prefer a Western world without a high level of hypocrisy, and with a minimal nuclear deterrence strategy in the U.S., UK and France. It would also be preferable if no nation violated the Charter of the United Nations or The North Atlantic Treaty with warmongering, threats to other countries or wars of aggression.

This world is a shitty pace in some regard. And let's be honest; the Western world has its share of responsibility for this poor state of the world.

By the way; I would become really, really angry if all that fearmongering, warmongering and hawkish diplomacy drags my country into a war.

Some people (usually hypocrites) argue that all this international law and ethics stuff is really not that important. They refer to the rule of force.

Well, most of them are ignorant hypocrites in my opinion.
They may have a point about the rule of force (albeit they're usually just blind in regard to the huge amount of backlash caused by international law violations and unethical behaviour in general). Yet, if we grant them the right to praise the rule of force then we should not allow them to refer to the rule of law in those cases when it fits their interests. A selective respect for international law is no respect for international law.
Outlaws have no respect for the law.


German defence policy (reform?)

Michael Forster took on a hot topic in his log-running geopowers blog recently; the discrepancies in German defence policy.

Reading between the lines, I can only imagine how much effort it took to not attack the Secretary of Defence directly in the blog post.

There's not much good to say about our SecDef, or his qualification for the job. He even lacks power in his own party, a poor setting for the budget definition process.

Forster calls for a defence policy review (and between the lines for a new SecDef) and addresses the chancellor in this question. Her track record isn't exactly promising. We had too many ministers who got their positions due to party arithmetic, and few who got their job for their qualification. Merkel is an administrator, not an effective head of government. A lack of drive for improvements is a general trait of German conservatives since the 80's - they conserve and rarely launch real reforms. I doubt that she'll change course just because the results are terrible.

We need new brains in top offices, but we also need a good discussion. The financial problems of the Ministry of Defence are just a symptom of a very strange defence policy.

Our constitution says that our federal state raises military forces for defence, but much attention and many man-days were spent on nation building adventures since about '93.

We should have a discussion and come to a conclusion, and this discussion should be public. The defence policy needs broad public support or else it won't always be funded adequately.

- - - - -

We may arrive at a dual conventional/unconventional mission defence policy - and having done so could allot the necessary resources.

We may arrive at a conventional defence policy - and finally modernize and take care of the ridiculous state of affairs in our conscription system.

We may arrive at an unconventional mission focus in our policy (that would be no defence policy any more, of course).

Either way; we need reforms in our MoD, sweeping reforms:

(1) We need new (qualified) civilian decision makers. We need professional competence, not only party politics and networking competence. We need a better involvement of party and faction leadership in defence policy.

(2) The ministry needs to connect better with the Bundestag committee on defence. This is necessary to get better support of the parliament for our defence policy.

(3) We should screen generals and admirals. We have too many duds who choke the organization instead of moving it forward.

(4) We need to downsize the civilian defence employee staff. That should be simple; many employees are close to the retirement age anyway.

(5) We should review our outsourcing practices. Some outsourcing projects don't work acceptably.

(6) We need to overhaul our procurement system. Speed, cost-efficiency and conceptual clarity have gone missing.

(7) We need to re-organize the forces. The Heeresstruktur 2010 is an illness, not a proper structure.

(8) We need a solution for the conscription problem (I say let's deactivate it).

(9) We should prepare for a quick army enlargement (million man army in six months) in case of a security crisis in Europe. The peacetime army strength should be a secondary concern to its wartime strength if we don't dismiss conventional warfare entirely.

(10) We should overhaul the personnel system to stop (and reverse) the rank inflation and to set more ambitious qualification requirements for leadership positions.

(11) We need a reset of the quite inept press and public relations (recruitment) efforts.

(12) We should eliminate crazy rules. It's been Bundeswehr general knowledge for decades that the Bundeswehr would need to shred many rules if it was sent to war. That was acceptable during the Cold War, but now it's time to remove legal constraints in topics like environmental restrictions on vehicles used in war zones.

I'm not optimistic about this. A new government with the CDU as major coalition partner would probably address only two or three of these points effectively. That would likely drop to one point if SecDef Jung stays in office.

Oh, by the way; be assured that no party is going into next Sunday's elections with a program on defence policy that is anywhere near as ambitious as this list was.


"Bosnia's lesson"

I was never a fan of the whole Western participation in the Afghan civil war. My expectation was a combination of raiding and bombing as response to 9/11, and was pleasantly surprised when a regime change was effected in Afghanistan without much effort.
Everything that happened later (the whole occupation & nation building stuff) never convinced me at all. The West should have left Afghanistan - and left it to the Afghans (Uzbeks and Tajiks, actually) in 2002.

The discussion about a new Afghan strategy (and withdrawals) is raging in many Western countries now, and most arguments in use old and well-known.

George Will's explicit pointing at the Bosnia experience in nation building is a nice exception. I didn't look that closely at Bosnia as an example and parallel yet.

Western troops have been in Bosnia and Herzegovina since late '95. About fourteen years of nation-building (mostly in peacetime) were not successful in creating a stable state or nation. The ratio between population and Western troops was much better and the culture is much more 'Western', literacy much higher and religious/ideological issues much less relevant than in Afghanistan.

In short: We had a test run for ISAF in SFOR, and the test run is not even close to the ISAF expectations despite much more favourable conditions.

Some recent discussions were about the option of re-focusing on the real enemy AQ and get rid of the Taleban obsession (Biden, Krulak and many others). Maybe that's a good plan.

Sven Ortmann


The latest slice by Schäuble

Schily, Schäuble, von der Leyen - federal ministers are slicing away freedoms and safeguards in Germany piece by piece in a salami technique that's already in use since 9/11.

The latest slice aims at the parliamentary control over our foreign intelligence agency. Luckily, it's just an attempt so far and won't be done before the elections next Sunday.

Bundestag bald ohne Geheimdienst-Kontrolle?
(Federal parliament loses control of intelligence service?)

Many other countries have no parliamentary control of their intelligence services and live adequately with it, but that's no good reason to massacre our parliamentary control.

Nations have different sets of safeguards and rules to preserve freedom and citizen's rights and to keep the Leviathan in check. You can take a away a few or reform them, but a wide-angle massacre among almost all safeguards is in my opinion an enemy of our free and democratic order.

The parliamentary control of the BND, an intelligence agency that eavesdrops on international phone calls and has a history of scandals, is not debatable. A minister who even proposes to remove this control should be fired. Actually, there are dozens of reasons why Schäuble should be fired and I really, really hope that he gets dumped after the election even is his party remains in power.

Sven Ortmann


Pains, Cold War, so-called rogue states and terrorists

Imagine you've got a headache.
I know a 100% reliable method of getting rid of that pain:
Break your arm.

It works. A greater pain displaces the other pain - you don't care about the headache any more if your arm is broken.

We lived our lifes with a broken arm for fourty years. Then it fixed itself. Suddenly, we began to feel a headache that we didn't take seriously before. Our whole stupid mind began to focus on the new, previously irrelevant, pain. Now here we are, spending even more for painkillers on a lesser pain than before - and cannot get rid of it.

Now if we only learned to ignore the lesser pain as we did it before - but without breaking an arm. The painkiller bill is really despicable and hurts our general warfare - err, sorry, welfare.

Well, maybe it's human fallibility to elevate the currently most pressing pain to "unacceptable" status, no matter how small it actually is. Maybe we're doomed to seek out the tiniest pains if there's no greater one, we probably need them to define ourselves.

On the other hand - maybe if we used reason to control our actions and kicked away all those easily scared pussies who whine about a scratch - maybe we could focus on avoiding major wounds instead of addressing scratches with a huge pharmaceutical arsenal?



Disguise as a conventional forces tactic

This is a quote from an Army study of 2005:

Future enemies have certainly learned from the experiences of the Iraqi military in the last two wars. If a BMP is easily destroyed at two kilometers but a pickup truck with an RPG can infiltrate to within 100 meters of a U.S. tank company, it makes little sense to continue to build battalions of BMPs. We can expect that future conventional enemies will attempt to blend in with the local population by employing forces in civilian clothing and mounted in commercial vehicles. As American UAVs proliferate on the future battlefield, the importance of "blending in" will grow. Adversaries will seek ways to deceive surveillance systems by avoiding detection or by becoming indistinguishable from the increasingly cluttered environment in which they operate.
(Emphasis mine)

This is an interesting thought.

It reminded me immediately of the South African Valkiri multiple rocket launcher which can be hidden behind a normal truck tarpaulin.

Disguising (a form of deception) instead of camouflaging may actually work if there's a lot of 'noise' (civilians and their hardware) and relatively few targets in the area (low force density).
Filtering the noise would require that OPFOR inspects much of the noise - a very personnel-intensive task that distracts from other missions. Many modern combat brigades are too weak on MP and infantry and would be in great troubles if faced with such a challenge.

Such a disguise tactic might actually be useful in economy of force missions, but not in the Schwerpunkt area. The necessary ratio of targets:noise and the difficulties of employing disguised forces in concentrated, decisive tactical blows seem to preclude their use at the Schwerpunkt in any other than supporting roles.

- - - - -

The disguise tactic also reminds me of guerrilla tactics in urban warfare, especially the Vietnamese ("Blooming Lotus") and Chechen ones. They didn't assault a city from outside to cut it in pieces, but infiltrated and attacked from inside. The infiltration happened in disguise, of course.

On a tactical level, the NVA used a technique known as the "blooming lotus" to take the town. This methodology was developed in 1952 in an assault on Phat Diem. Its key characteristic was to avoid enemy positions on the perimeter of the town. The main striking columns moved directly against the center of the town seeking out command and control centers. Only then were forces directed outward to systematically destroy the now leaderless units around the town. This outward movement, like a flower in bloom, gives the tactic its name. A reserve was maintained to defeat any counterattack that is mounted to relieve the command center.

It's questionable whether conventional forces can adapt to such a tactic, even under favourable circumstances. The required mindset isn't part of conventional forces leader training in most if not all armies. Special forces are prepared for such behaviour, but conventional forces (except maybe in leftist Asia) seem to be ineligible.

I didn't check the conventions this time, but I think soldiers keep their combatant status and do nothing illegal if they use civilian vehicles and attempt to appear as civilians as long as they don't drop visible indicators of their army. Such an indicator doesn't need to be recognizable at 50+ m distance if I remember correctly.

Armies with the determination to improve and adapt to modern warfare and with an inability to defeat intact Western brigades and air power in battle may think about the disguise tactic.

Armies with superior brigade combat power and air power should think about the disguise tactic both as a possible OPFOR tactic and as a tactic for screening, security & recce missions.

Sven Ortmann


Relevant Chinese history

Different background lead to different behaviour. The expectations about other's behaviours and standards applied can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. Such conflicts (and foreign policy mistakes) may be avoidable with a sufficient understanding of the other's background.

That's why I'd like to mention three important parts of Chinese history.
I'm no China expert, but I know a lot about history, and some events in Chinese history were just too large - they had a lasting influence on the Chinese culture.

- - - - -

Historical Fact #1 is their never-ending quest for unified central governance.

China had been (re-)unified in 221 BC (after the period of the warring states that gave us the teachings of Sun Tzu).
Since then it was in an seemingly endless struggle against decentralization. Many powerful governors of provinces attempted to rule independently, many uprisings led to preliminary independent states and the 20th century civil war of communists vs. nationalists was the last great division of the country.
China isn't really one nation, but it's a group of nations that know prosperity only from times of unity.
The Communist's party reputation rests in great part on its ability to keep the country united (except Taiwan, of course) and to prevent civil war. (Another reason for its power is its ability to prevent famines.)

This historical fact leads to two important insights:
(1) It's near-insane to expect mainland China to accept a secession of Uighurs, Tibetans or other regions, or to give up its claim on Taiwan.
(2) The PR China can be expected to crack down reliably on too independent (corrupt) governors and bureaucracies in order to retain as much central control as the central government wants to have.

- - - - -

Historical fact #2 is the Chinese experience with religious fanatics/sects.

The best and most influential example is the Taiping Rebellion. It raged in 1850-1864 and killed much more people than the First World War. The reason was a pseudo-Christian sect.
This war is almost entirely unknown in the Western World - that's not surprising, for Western knowledge of history in 'exotic' places is pretty much limited to universities with historical seminars.

This historical fact should help to explain why it's pointless and very irritating to call for a more moderate treatment of sects like Falun Gong by the Chinese authorities.

- - - - -

Historical fact #3 is the Opium wars and the effect of Western imperialism on China in the 19th century.

The short story is that China was humiliated, partially colonized, pumped full with drugs, subjected to dictates about domestic legislation, exploited and disrespected by foreigners - especially Europeans.

The foreign control of Hong Kong (by the UK) and Macau (by Portuguese) was a well-known reminder of this history till a few years ago.

This historical fact explains why Chinese have a good reason to reject even the slightest attempt of outside interference in domestic affairs. We can attempt it, but it's most likely a stupid idea.

- - - - -

On top of that there's of course a rich culture and history as an ancient civilization.

There was also a bloody war with Japan in 1937-1945 (with several previous clashes) that deserves to be called the beginning of WW2 because it was really a huge war with many victims and only ended with the Japanese surrender.
The Japanese did never really apologise for the war and what Japanese forces did in that war. That and a lingering racism in the triangle of China-Korea-Japan is a serious burden on foreign policy relations in the region.

- - - - -

We should look at China's history and its lasting impact in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts and irritations. The knowledge of history also helps to avoid illusions about China and our influence on it.
Other historical facts than the ones I mentioned lead to additional insights, for example its own (limited) imperial history and its history with Korea and other continental neighbours.



On defensive firepower and much else...

Many proponents of the "Revolution in Military Affairs" argued that future wars would include many precision strikes. Some even argued that future armies would not need much armour to prevail on the battlefield; the enemy could or even would be defeated before line-of-sight combat begins. That was an important assumption as it helped to create a 'light-itis' in the U.S. Army (the development and procurement of light and medium weight vehicles with the hope of replacing heavy main battle tanks at least partially) and European armies It wasn't entirely innovative, though; the belief that fires could destroy an enemy and reduce the advance to a policing action was already invented (and shattered) in WWI. Watered-down versions helped the Soviet and American armies to break through deliberate defences in WW2.

It wasn't surprising that these firepower-centric views were especially strong in the U.S. and in Russia/the Soviet Union. Both had armies with a tradition of emphasizing firepower.

The Russian tradition dates back to at least 1943. The losses of the war in 1941-1943 had wasted their pre-war junior officer corps and a shortage of young and well-trained infantrymen limited their options. Their solution was a strong emphasis on indirect fires in breakthrough battles.

The U.S. Army tradition (of emphasizing support fires) is older; it dates back to WWI when the inexperienced and quickly inflated U.S.Army arrived in France and accepted the French army (itself relatively short of quality infantry and heavily emphasizing artillery) as its teacher for the trench war (the U.S. Navy looked at the Royal Navy as its mentor in WWI).

- - - - -

RMA applied the precision fires idea to the offence and defence, with an emphasis on hitting targets (forces and their supplies) that are not in ground combat at the time.

That feature had been emphasized a lot in the early 80's AirLand Battle doctrine which in itself was based on the expectation that Soviet reserves would arrive at a WW3 Central Front in waves.

Earlier (WW2 air war) examples of such battlefield interdiction (like the bombing campaign of the Normandy invasion) had similar intents, but often with an emphasis on operational effects (like slowing down reserves or deception - especially over France). The interdiction bombing effects on a division in WW2 was often as much about affecting its movements as it was about inflicting damage.

RMA critics considered the fog of war still as a valid problem that reduced the effectiveness of interdiction and standoff fires in general and they don't believe that brigades could reliably be ruined before close combat.

I recall a RAND study about the employment of different precision weapons in a defensive battle scenario They assumed that a highly dispersed march (packages of at most three tanks) could overwhelm the U.S.'s ability to meet RMA expectations (even with an imaginary ideal stand-off missile).

- - - - -

An U.S. Army unit was completely surprised by an Iraqi counter-attack in force in 2003 despite quite easily observable terrain. This practical experience eroded the RMA fashion. The Anaconda battle in Afghanistan and the last Lebanon War had similarly disappointing lessons learned; even a very high concentration of sensors and time for preparations revealed only about 50% of the actual enemy fighting positions before they opened fire.

The assumption that the enemy would need to be defeated in actual battles - not so much by interdiction and standoff fires - has been fashionable again in the last few years.

That's not the whole story, though. Warfare is complex and defies most easy answers.
The golden mean is probably a neither/nor. Stand-off fires work surprisingly fine in a tactical defence and surprisingly poor in the tactical offence. They're no 100% reliable option, though.

Look at this quote from a German 50's book about WW2 Eastern Front experiences:

Der Wert der neuzeitlichen Verteidigung liegt in erster Linie in der abstoßenden Feuerwirkung aller Waffen. Sie ist aber nur dann von kampfentscheidender Wirkung, wenn sie zeitlich und örtlich zusammengefasst wird und den Feind in einem Schwächemoment trifft.
Ein Charakteristikum der meisten abgeschlagenen Angriffe des vergangenen Krieges ist es, daß sie bereits 200 bis 400 m vor den vordersten Verteidigungsanlagen abgeschlagen wurden.

("The value of the modern defence lies in the first instance in the repelling fire effect of all weapons. It is however only of decisive effect if it is combined in time and space and hits the enemy in a moment of weakness.
A character of most defeated assaults of the past war is that they were defeated already 200 to 400 m in front of the most forward defensive positions." The emphasis is original.)

Major soviet assaults were defeated - if enough resources were available at all - more by very competent and military intelligence + flexible artillery leadership and observers (quite the same; battery commanders were often up front as forward observers) than by anything else. The infantry controlled the terrain and was capable of defeating small attacks, but large ones were smashed by focusing several artillery battalions on one target area for a very short time (like two minutes). The German army developed this as its model defence against infantry attacks because its infantry had been reduced to a shadow of its former self by years of extreme warfare.

The same author (Middeldorf) also wrote that German fires on Russian marshalling-areas often did more harm to the Red Army than battle itself:

Das Bekämpfen feindlicher Bereitstellungen durch "Gegenfeuerschläge" hatte bei der russischen Eigenart, die Angriffstruppen dicht geballt in den Angriffsvornächten vorzuführen, eine außergewöhnliche Wirkung in allen Großkämpfen im Osten der Jahre 1943 bis 1945. Der Munitionseinsatz hierfür übertraf sehr oft den des eigentlichen feindlichen Angriffstages; wie Gefangene häufig bestätigt haben, waren die Verluste hierbei wesentlich höher, als bei dem Angriff selbst. Zahlreiche Angriffe sind durch diese "Gegenfeuerschläge" bereits in der Bereitstellung zerschlagen worden.

(The battle against enemy marshalling-areas by "counter fire hits" had due to the Russian characteristic to present the assault troops densely concentrated in the night before attack, an extraordinary effect in all great battles in the East of the years 1943 till 1945. The expense of ammunition for this exceeded very often the one of the actual enemy day of attack; as prisoners often confirmed, were the losses at this significantly higher than at the assault itself. Numerous attacks were already broken up in the marshalling-area by these "counter-fire hits".)

(I attempted a most direct translation, please bear with me concerning the poor syntax.
The original syntax is already quite intricate itself.)

The combination of RMA theory and WW2 experiences suggests that indirect fires were and are indeed able to defeat* enemy offensives before any close combat.
We don't and didn't even need air power or electronics to achieve this.

The WW2 precondition for such a success was an orderly (not 'fluid') situation. Those defensive successes were achieved at a (poorly manned) defensive line, after all.

Defensive success in mobile warfare looks different; it's usually a combination of delay actions and counterattacks. The missing factor was the order and surveillance by an infantry picket line. The observation capability of a front line can today be emulated in large areas with the right organization, tactics and technology.

Improved communications, sensors, artillery ordnance (self-propelled systems) and navigation have certainly improved the artillery's capabilities beyond the fantasy of WW2 generals. These are even more reasons for much confidence in artillery.

- - - - -

Western artillery has suffered a lot in the wars that NATO member forces were involved in since the 60's. Artillerymen were (mis-)used as infantry or military police and often didn't even deploy with their full equipment. Several (not all) artillery modernization efforts have been postponed. Air forces were able to rival artillery in its core role (with close air support) because of very weak (or none) opposing air power and air defences.
Many modern NATO generals hold the belief that today's artillery needs much less ammunition than in previous years (opposite to the trend) because of precision weapons. Precision weapons should probably be regarded as a niche application due to their cost and info requirements. Many promises can be kept with old-fashioned artillery as well.

- - - - -

We've got ongoing discussions about whether to prepare more for conventional war, to prepare more for future and present occupation wars or to do both. The artillery seems to be among the biggest losers of the past two decades' focus on peacekeeping and occupations.

It might help Western artillery forces if we re-emphasize the fact that a healthy army's indirect fires can defeat a powerful offensive without necessitating much close combat.

- - - - -

At the same time it's a good idea to acknowledge that this doesn't work as well on the offensive. It's just as the Middeldorf wrote; the enemy needs to be hit in a moment of weakness. He needs to be exposed.

Even well-hidden defensive positions can be exposed by modern sensors, but that's still a slow, laborious and unreliable process. It will likely not become much better against competent enemies anytime soon because of a predictable race between sensors and ECM+C C D**.

Finally, mobile warfare (usually very fluid) requires neither silver bullets nor is the enemy in strong positions; the full exploitation of such an opportunity-rich situation requires very agile leadership and agile units with good endurance (sleep, consumables consumption and reserve, low maintenance requirements).

- - - - -

We don't need one magic solution for land war. Land war isn't all the same even in one type of terrain with one type of enemy. The emphasis needs to be different, depending on on the situation.
Deliberate defence, deliberate offence and the exploitation of fluid situations (movement to contact doesn't describe it well enough) place the emphasis on very different virtues.
This is no news for hundreds of thousands of active and former soldiers, but as an insight it's strangely absent in military fashions.

It's really disappointing that one-size-fits-it-all receipts with supposed silver bullets keep attracting so much attention. Meanwhile, important strengths like battlefield agility, quantity indirect fires and unit endurance remain well below the potential because they don't receive the well-deserved attention.

Sven Ortmann

*: "to defeat" doesn't mean that "to end" here - it just means that the attack is already destined to be a failure.

**: CCD = camouflage, concealment & deception. Countermeasures to enemy vision and sensors.

edit: On the U.S.Army unit that got surprised by an Iraqi attack in 2003:
A quote from the paper "Trading the Saber for Stealth":

The largest conventional tank battle of the war occurred on the morning of 3 April 2003 when elements of three Iraqi brigades consisting of no fewer than 100 armored vehicles and up to 10,000 soldiers converged on 3d Battalion, 69th Armor, as they guarded a critical bridge crossing the Euphrates River at Objective Peach. This type of large conventional force is the ideal formation that the extensive surveillance network operating in Iraq should have been able to detect. Lieutenant Colonel Earnest "Rock" Marcone, commander of 3-69 Armor, claims that the Iraqi Republican Guard did nothing special to conceal their intentions or their movements. They attacked en masse using tactics that are more recognizable with the Soviet army of World War II. LTC Marcone reported that, despite the large conventional force moving against him, we got nothing until they slammed into us. In fact, the battalion did not receive a single piece of intelligence from their higher headquarters to indicate that such a large attack was imminent. The commander had terrible situational awareness that night in spite of the large array of airborne reconnaissance platforms that were supposedly watching his front.


Countermeasures - badly underrated

Countermeasures - in the broadest, not just technical, sense - are badly underrated.

Let's look at an especially underrated aspect of countermeasures: Their cost.

It doesn't suffice to accept that action (measure) causes reaction (countermeasure) and to take this into account when judging the promise of the action.

A more complete picture becomes available if you also consider the costs of countermeasures, which is even more rarely done.

One example is anti-ballistic missile technology. It was said that the Israeli interceptor missile "Arrow" (meant to intercept Scuds) - costs more than its target. The situation was even worse; an intercept would usually expend two Arrows for a good chance to intercept one Scud.

This is a quite common problem of anti-missile defences. The target of the offensive munition is usually easier to hit than the missile itself. This leads to defensive systems that are more complex and expensive than the offensive systems.
This expense may well be worth it, though - it's a fallacy to compare only munition costs.

An older example on a truly massive scale was the British night bombing campaign of WW2.

I saw this study about its cost-effectiveness recently. It looks like other cost effectiveness assessments about the British night bombing campaign.

The findings are that the strategic air offensive cost Britain £2.78 billion, equating to an average cost of £2,911.00 for every operational sortie flown by Bomber Command or £5,914.00 for every Germany civilian killed by aerial bombing.
The conclusion reached is the damage inflicted upon Germany by the strategic air offensive imposed a very heavy financial burden on Britain that she could not afford and this burden was a major contributor to Britain’s post-war impoverishment.

The cost of countermeasures is mostly being ignored; the author looks at damage done instead.

The actual wartime contribution was less in the destruction of civilian property, civilian life, economic capacity or morale. The greatest wartime contribution was that it forced Germany to defend itself.

WW2 was decided at the latest in late '42, so let's look at the German countermeasures to Allied strategic bombing - almost none of which was of U.S. origin up to late '42.

Let's ignore the immense expenses for radars, phone lines, Luftwaffe personnel, airfields and night interceptors. The expenses for heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) are impressive enough on their own:

Germany produced 2,876 8.8 cm AAA and 776 heavier (10.5 and 12.8 cm) AAA in 1942 alone. The vast majority was not sent to the fronts, but kept at home (and in France, Benelux) - almost exclusively as defence against the British/Commonwealth bombers.

Keep in mind: Germany was in a fierce ground war of unheard-of proportions in Russia during all of 1942.

Nevertheless, it only produced 1,285 light field howitzers (10.5 cm), 135 field cannons (10.5cm), 636 heavy field howitzers (15 cm) and 126 17 cm guns in 1942.
2,182 guns for the front-line troops in total (excluding AT guns, infantry guns and mountain guns).

AAA required a high muzzle velocity and good (85°) maximum elevation, AA guns were therefore much more expensive and complex guns in comparison to field artillery than their calibre suggests.

The situation was almost as serious in regard to ammunition;
8.8 cm AAA: 12,942,000 shells
10.5 cm AAA: 857,000 shells
12.8 cm AAA: 44,000 shells
10.5 cm light FH: 18,40,000 shells
10.5 cm cannon: 778,000 shells
15 cm heavy FH: 5,078,000 shells
heavier artillery: 310,000 shells

An advantage of shells is that they're consumables. Most Eastern Front guns were pre-'42 production guns, but the Eastern Front shell consumption in '42 was almost certainly a bit below the '42 field artillery shell production. German field artillery gun production was quite the same in '41 & '42 while the ammunition production multiplied (roughly by four).

The British/Commonwealth bomber threat reduced the German artillery strength at the Eastern Front likely by more than a quarter, yet this is usually being ignored. That's how much countermeasures and their costs are under-estimated.

Let's learn from history.

Next time when a certain new weapon or munition shall be developed or procured, let's ask ourselves some additional questions (to be answered with guesses, of course):

* How likely is an enemy reaction?
* How will the enemy react?
* How quickly will the enemy react?
* How much will his reaction diminish the new tool's effectiveness?
* How much will this expense hurt him?

The answers will vastly improve our understanding of the project's value.

Sven Ortmann

Source for WW2 artillery figures: "Ursachen und Folgen. Vom deutschen Zusammenbruch 1918 und 1945 bis zur staatlichen Neuordnung Deutschlands in der Gegenwart" Bd.26, Herbert Michaelis u. Ernst Schraepler, Berlin


Questionable German submarine exports

Germany has - as Sweden, for example - a rather restrictive law on arms exports. We don't export into crisis regions.

OK, that's the theory.
In practice, there's the possibility of exceptions. A cabinet-level committee can allow arms exports into states in crisis regions, such as Israel, Turkey or even Pakistan.

The basic idea of the restrictive law was that we don't want to fuel the fires of foreign conflicts, but still have some arms exports in order to sustain an industrial base for our own forces.

German arms showing up in foreign conflicts are always fodder for journalists who usually choose to critique the government over it.

Two such arms exports worry me a lot; submarine sales to both Israel and Pakistan.

A G3 rifle or Leopard tank used for no good in a distant civil war is a displeasure, but German-made submarines in use in foreign and non-allied nuclear arsenals create a seriously aching feeling in the stomach.

The Israeli submarines of the Dolphin class (3+2) are widely considered to serve as an equivalent of nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) in the Israeli navy. They're very difficult to detect and track and therefore almost unassailable second strike platforms for a nuclear revenge.
Their range (especially if supported by a logistics ship) also increases the reach of the IDF (almost global with some improvisation).

The same will probably be true for the Pakistani submarines, which will apparently be three Typ 214 models with air-independent propulsion (AIP) and even greater stealth (much-reduced need for snorkeling). Those submarines will supposedly be made mostly in Pakistan ("95%" - maybe assembly and weight-wise only), but the design is German and it's obvious that the project in this form would be impossible without German cooperation.

Both powers would be able to maintain nuclear deterrence without those subs, both are without doubt involved in a crisis and in both cases I would prefer not to see German submarine types in their inventories.

I've got to admit that this is really just a feeling, a political opinion. It's not based on a advantage-disadvantage analysis. These arms exports just don't feel right to me.
My guess is that if someone polled all German voters about whether we should help Israel and Pakistan to get submarines for their nuclear deterrence, the vast majority would decline.

Sven Ortmann



Confused. Really, really confused.

Mystery #1: The German popular support for the ISAF mission improved after the Kunduz bombing incident* (and the prior months). It's still a minority position, though.

Mystery #2: The distribution of support and no support for the German ISAF mission among party members. The greens (a pacifist party till '99) seem to be very pro-ISAF. The reason are probably because the humanitarian fairy tales that were build around it for years.
Another reason may be that the Greens get now much more support in polls than ever before - many of the "green voters" in recent polls are new to the greens.

I'd have expected maximum support in CDU/CSU (conservatives), followed by SPD (social democrats) or F.D.P. (libertarians).

The far left (Die Linke, socialists, only major party that officially opposes the ISAF mission) gained a few per cent in recent polls. Some comments in blogs and newspapers linked this to the Kunduz/ISAF affair, but I doubt it.

Sven Ortmann

*: I'll wait a bit more till the confusion and misinformation about the incident is under control. It seems to be a very complex incident, and three politically opposing parties don't help its understanding.


Recruitment video (fun)


The video was probably done by former soldiers. I experienced all of this (slightly varied, of course) during my service.

Sven Ortmann


Military reputation

I had once a conversation about war, peace, nations, beer, soccer and women.*

Sometime during that talk I was tempted to offer a rather cliché-laden statement, something along the lines of "Only ignorant people want to wage war against Germans. Nobody wants Germans to go to war. Our last wars were world wars, the world wouldn't survive a Third."

Then I thought twice and didn't say it. That wouldn't have been my statement, but the beer's.

We're not the same Germans as those who waged the world wars.
The French are not the same as those of 1940.
The Israelis aren't the same as in 1973 any more.
The British have little in common with the Brits who controlled an empire.
The Americans are far, far away from their supposedly "golden generation" that mobilized in WW2.

Time, long periods of peace and events change the character of military forces thoroughly. There's some lineage visible and armies keep some characteristics that differentiate them from others, but they don't stay the same at all.
The German Heer (army) had a different face in every decade of its existence, for example.

I know someone who goes around telling people about once a month that this and that country's military isn't the gold standard for military prowess and that nevertheless he doesn't know which military is.
Hey, I don't know either - and I'm sure no-one does.
In fact, I doubt that such a thing, a universal benchmark military, exists. It's much more complicated (and probably was so for centuries). The different military services of different countries could probably be described by a three-dimensional matrix of service-function-degree of competence.

Some armies get hyped up and others get bashed - and both may be completely unjustified.
Those who consider this or that force as especially good usually seem to ignore its shortcomings.

In fact, many strengths seem to have a dark side of the coin.

Strong logistics - thirst for and dependence on supplies
Strong fighter aviation - weak air defence
Superior protection - less use of micro-terrain for cover & concealment
High share of professionals - few infantry, reluctance to risk casualties, few reserves
Good electronics - neglect of basic skills
Heavy combat vehicles - ill-prepared for closed terrains

In the end, supposedly powerful armies with a good track record in some areas often disappointed spectacularly in another arena (Israel: Sinai to Lebanon, USA: Iraqi desert to Iraqi cities, Soviet Union: Nomonhan to Finland, Japan: Malaya to Guadalcanal, France: Northern Italy to Sedan, Germany: Summer of 41 to Winter of 41/42).

Maybe we should get rid of the idea that some armies are good and others are not. Military history suggests that military performance is context-dependent.

Some even unorganized and under-developed (para)military forces can be superior to very sophisticated and rich forces in an arena that suits them well. The notion that a certain army is "weak" can (and often did) lead to a terrible underestimation. Such a (in most extreme cases) one-variable judgment is an oversimplification.

That's a devastating idea for generalist forces that pretend to be powerful on a global scale and in unforeseen scenarios ('global full spectrum dominance blablabla').
The ability to excel in very different scenarios may require to have several significantly different military institutions (even several armies) at hand. It's probably no mere coincidence that the U.S. has Army, Marines, National Guard and at times a discussion about quasi-civilian forces (Barnett et al). That may be in part a consequence of its global entanglement since 1898.

The quite recent emphasis on adaptability, a kind of universally useful trait, may be a step in the right direction. I doubt that bureaucratic monsters (as modern armies are) could ever become highly adaptable, though. Adaptability may be fostered among individual leaders, but probably not as much as an institutional trait. It would at least be quite difficult to create and to maintain.
Adaption also takes time. Violent conflicts become quite expensive if you stumble around at first till you finally find an approach that works (and doesn't necessarily suit your comparative advantages well).

Sven Ortmann

*: And was now unable to resist the temptation of an illustration...
"Military reputation" is excessively difficult to illustrate with symbol pics to loosen up the text wall.


Roman warfare - remarks

I've got a few small books in my car just for reading when I'm in a traffic jam or at a doctor's waiting room. German doctors have 90% women's journals and the remaining 10% are either for small children, old or about cars.

So I sat again and read in a small book by Adrian Goldsworthy about "Roman Warfare". I've certainly read more than enough on the topic, but somehow I once felt tempted to buy that book and here it is.

The doctor was slow, I read three full chapters. The overall description of Roman Warfare was well-known to me, but there were some bits that I'd like to share and comment:

The warfare of the late fifth and fourth centuries BC became increasingly bitter and the consequences for the losers much more serious.

The story of Rome's early history is one of steady, if often slow, growth in power and size. The earliest myths of Rome's history show a willingness to absorb outsiders into the community, an attitude quite unlike that of Greek city states who were highly jealous of the privileges of citizenship. Slaves, most of whom at this period were war captives, received full citizen rights when they gained their freedom.

Wow, that's food for thought for xenophobes.

The longer the battle went on the harder it became each time to persuade the line to close once more. Officers played a vital role in urging on their men to sustain this effort, Centurions were elected from those with a record for gallantry and the Romans took great care to praise and reward soldiers who displayed individual boldness.

OK, so who said an army is no democracy or democracy doesn't work in an army? ;-)
I've seen many incompetent leaders in captain to colonel rank who hadn't, didn't get and didn't deserve the respect of their subordinates. Some were simply doing harm to their units and were good for absolutely nothing.
I wonder whether it's possible to implement some kind of bottom-up system to get rid of such duds.

Armies tended to move rapidly to confront each other, since defeating the enemy army was their main function, but then became very cautious, camping only a few kilometres apart for days or even weeks without fighting. Often each side marched out and deployed in battle formation every day, the two kines within an few hundred metres of each other, yet neither was willing to advance the final short distance and force a battle. Frequent skirmishes and single combats were fought between detachments of cavalry and light infantry, and victories in these helped to develop a feeling of superiority over the enemy.

He's obviously as much into over-length sentences as I am.
The thing about approaching, but not risking a decision immediately is a very common trait of warfare. It happened throughout history, but this rule has its exceptions just as every rule in warfare. Nevertheless, the description of preparing for decisive actions while already standing close to the enemy still sounds a lot like modern warfare. Think of 9/39-4/40 Western front, WW2 Eastern Front between offensives, Korean War or the Iraq-Iran War. This emphasizes the importance of striving for an unfair advantage, of the quest to decide the battle before it happens. This whole facet of the art of war can even be traced back to Sun Tzu. You better don't do it too obviously, though. The enemy will refuse battle if he understands that you have too much net advantage.

The second interesting part was about skirmishing. I look much into skirmishing - its potential, requirements and effects - in my theoretical work (I actually keep the better part of my writing out of the blog). Western armies have emphasized the decisive battle and battle formations over skirmishers/scouts and in general the ability to shape the battle. Maybe we look way too much into powerful combat brigades and not nearly enough into much smaller and much more elusive skirmishers.
Tactical and operational doctrine is mostly about intense combat, and not nearly as much about the actual shaping ops and tasks like screening/scouting/harassing.

Although often outmanoeuvered by more skillful opponents, Roman armies were still tough opponents who continued fighting long after most other armies would have conceded defeat. In part this was a result of harsh military discipline which inflicted severe penalties on soldiers who fled even from the most desperate situation.

Now excuse me for being predictable, but this reminds me very much of the Wehrmacht. It's staying power was incredible. Some historical divisions were broken by 5-15% losses while others kept fighting stubbornly after 40% losses. Some units crumbled once encircled while others kept resisting in a pocket for months, often even breaking out.
This difference is one of the not-so-secrets of the art of war that you don't find in field manuals (neither new nor old). It's more than just leadership, organization, enforced discipline - it's about motivation (as is indeed almost everything in human interactions). Napoleon gave a rule of thumb like 3:1 for morale over troops. This whole morale thing needs to be emphasized. The power of armies is too often being measured in quantitative and technical means even though morale is most important.
We spend billions on developing tools and weapons, millions on developing operational and tactical concepts - how much do we spend on morale?

Military history has a lot to offer - even an introduction book on an epoch can still hold lots of interesting remarks. In three chapters!

Sven Ortmann


Soldiers of the future (programs)

Infantry equipment hasn't improved much in the inter-war years or between the Korean War and the end of the Cold War.
WW2 advances focused on weapons and ammunition while Cold War developments focused on lighter rifles and better AT/AP grenade projection capability.

The accumulated opportunities for technical improvement and the concentration of 'few casualties' wars with highly trained infantry allowed for major modernisation efforts in the 1990's.

These modernisation efforts included clothes/bags, camouflage patterns, weapons, radios and even computers. The tank technology competition between NATO and WP had lost relevance and the AT weapon modernisation was degraded to merely one of many modernization efforts.

Germany exchanged almost the whole set of infantry equipment during the 90's, ("Soldat 95") but another type of modernisation attracted more global interest: High-tech modernization with altogether new tools based on micro-processors. The U.S. Army's "Land Warrior" program became the model for many comparable (and mostly less Sci-Fi) projects in other, mostly "Western" nations.

Australia - "Land 125" ak.a. "Soldier Combat System" a.k.a. "Wudurra"

Belgium - "BEST"

Canada - "Integrated Protective Clothing and Equipment" (IPCE), "Integrated Soldier Systems Project" (ISSP)

Czech Republic - "21st Century Soldier"

EDA (multinational) - "21st Century Soldier System"

France - "Fantassin à Équipements et Liaisons Intégrés" (Félin) ", "Systéme Combatant" (SC) 2005

Germany - "Infanterist der Zukunft"(IdZ)

India - "F-INSAS"

Israel - "ANOG", Integrated Infantry Combat Systems (IICS) a.k.a. "Dominator"

Italy - "Soldato Futuro"

NATO (multinational) - "NATO Soldier Modernization Plan"

Netherlands - VOSS (~Improved Operational Soldier System), "Soldier Modernisation Program" (SMP)

Norway - "NORMANS"(Norwegian Modular Arctic Network Soldier)

Poland - "Tytan"

Romania - "Romanian Individual Fighting System" (RIFS)

Russia "- ~"Project Wolf" a.k.a. ~"Soldier 2000"

Singapore - "Advanced Combatant Man System" (ACMS)

Slovenia - “Warrior of the 21st Century

South Africa - "ANOG", "African Warrior"

Spain - "Combatiente Futuro" (Comfut)

Sweden - "MARKUS"

Switzerland "IMESS"

United Kingdom - "Future Integrated Soldier Technology" (FIST)

United States - Army: "Future Soldier", "Future Force Warrior" (FFW, succeeded by Future Soldier), "Objective Force Warrrior" (OFW, succeeded by FFW), Marines: "Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad"

In short: Modernisation of the infantry is about as much in fashion as decimating the infantry was in fashion during the 90's. And this modernisation fashion emphasises a "system" approach instead of classic patchwork.

The funny outcome: Program managers needed to admit that reality is a bitch.

The components were envisaged as a part of a whole, but didn't mature all at the same time. This and requirements creep turned several of these projects into patchwork despite the systems approach. In fact, the U.S. "Land Warrior" program even had several generations of equipment in it.

These programs did a lot for better communication, camouflage, firepower, protection against climate.

The disadvantages were considerable as well.
The previously dirt-cheap infantry has become an arm with more expensive individual outfits than a Gucci-Rolex-tailored clothed pimps have.
The most expensive part of the old infantryman equipment was the rifle - now it's about a fraction as expensive as its sighting accessories alone.

The relatively high cost wasn't the only problem, of course. Electronics compatibility, weight, bulk, energy supply (= weight + builk + cost) and a disctraction from classic skills (as navigation with compass & map, guessing of distances) became serious drawbacks.

The weight problem is the ultimate problem, and drastic measures had be taken to keep the weight problem in check. Weight savings became a major objective of such programs and only about one in four to one in ten infantrymen actually get a near-full suite (with all those electronics), while most only got a 'light', reduced set.

The cost (and immaturity) problems also restricted several programs to the infantry and close troops. Logistics troops rarely get any of the new toys, for example.

It seems as if the quest for ever better infantry equipment will go on for a while. Programs will either be extended or get similar successor programs. The enormous innovation in the trekking and civilian "Tactical" markets as well as the almost global interest in infantry tool innovations lead to enough incremental innovations to keep program managers busy.

The model for the future maybe the U.S. Rapid Equipment Force (REF) that seeks good off-the-shelf equipment. It's apparently turning to just another bureaucracy, but the basic idea looks sound especially for small soldiers.

The use of a collection of off-the-shelf hardware mostly defies the "systems" idea, though. That nice (on paper) idea is probably already in the death row.

- - - - -

The whole stuff isn't new, of course. There was already such a thing in the 1950's. It led to a series of rifle development dead ends. 1959:

The interest in infantry modernization seems to overreach a bit. It should be obvious that training budgets and time as well as the allocation of resourceful recruits are more important for the infantry (and by now usually more deficient) than most gadgets.

P.S.: Yes, I think it's appropriate to mock some of the projects by adding pictures of Robocop and Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers. Some real, official mock ups shown on conventions and exhibitions were no less ridiculous.

Robert A. Heinlein's original novel "Mobile infantry" suit may have had a huge subconscious effect as well. Others have pointed at the "Predator" movie alien as inspiration for cloaking etc. and some other sci-fi movies offered a concept in which every soldier in action has a radio link to an advisor, similar to the motorcycle Sci-fi detective series "StreetHawk".

edit 2013-06: http://china-defense.blogspot.de/2013/05/pciture-of-day-mic-sudan-shows-off-its.html
edit 2015-10: A 1980's concept from the UK: http://augfc.tumblr.com/post/132042234505/infantryman-2000-in-1984-scicon-services-ltd