Not in 2010


Apparently not in 2010!

P.S.: I'm back from skiing vacation. No bone was harmed.
Travelling to the Alps was quite pointless, though. Deep snow was everywhere in Germany.
Btw, I'll post a lot in early January.


Hungarian government makes a questionable move towards press "oversight"

There are likely very few adults in the Western world who hadn't thought at least once that it would be really nice if a certain TV station or newspaper got sanctioned for the crap it pulled off. We usually think about it and then we remind us that it's the other side of press freedom.

Governments have the same temptation, but unlike us they can actually do something against the press. 
The Hungarian government has apparently not restrained itself and set up a press oversight system staffed with government party officials.

The European governments are seeing the need for economic and fiscal cooperation and are unlikely to confront the Hungarian government seriously about this violation of otherwise well-established European ideals any time soon.


Tanks - thoughts on a blank sheet of paper

The widespread understanding of tanks is likely outdated because there has been only a rather limited set of experiences post-'45. Lean back and enjoy some thoughts of mine; I attempt to substitute for our lacking military history experience with my brain power and knowledge about military equipment.

I am of course in a hopeless situation as an under-resourced individual here, but the stuff might still be relevant to your interests.

The established idea is that tanks are no good in terrain with short lines of sight.

The tank crews' weapons out-range infantry weapons (a) and thus they're better off in open terrain. Even man-portable infantry weapons have been a deadly threat to tank crews since 1943 (b).

Tanks need to have some spacing in order to mitigate indirect fire effect with dispersion (c) and in order to insure themselves a bit against surprise contacts. The spacing is more practical on open ground where platoon and company leaders can still see their tanks (d).
A buttoned up (hatches closed) tank crew has typically a poor all-round vision (e). Infantry can sneak up and employ even Molotov cocktails and improvised explosives against such a partially blinded and deaf tank crew.

Open ground is also typically less riddled with obstacles that are relevant to a tanks' mobility. A tank can drive through a tree or a house, but it's not recommended standard practice.

Thus, tank crews learned to avoid areas with short lines of sight unless they really need to enter them.

It was nevertheless understood since the 70's that tanks are also terribly exposed to hostile long-range weapons on open ground. The open ground became the favourable terrain for attack movements when the opposition was blinded or suppressed, but cluttered ground was understood to be favourable for hiding and ambushing.

Let's look at some changes in military technology next:

(a) Infantry became equipped with sophisticated guided anti-tank missiles of 2,000 m range. This enables them to shoot at tanks at practically every relevant distance whenever there's even a choice between close and open terrain.

(b) Man-portable anti-tank weapons are based on the shaped charge principle - the armour penetration principle that can be defeated more easily than all others. Tanks have been optimized for tank vs. tank fighting for decades, as tanks were the greatest tank killers in WW2 and in the Arab-Israeli Wars of '67 and '73. This narrow optimization lead to an extremely strong frontal armour (glacis, turret front) and as a compromise poorly protected sides and rear.

The lack of serious opposing force tanks after the Cold War has led to a different compromise, though: Upgraded and new tank designs are now meant to resist man-portable anti-tank weapons all-around.

These very same man-portable AT weapons have also increased in range. A Panzerfaust 60 of 1944 had 60 m effective range, a Panzerfaust 3-T600 has 600 m effective range. The increased range makes it ever more difficult to avoid their firing envelope. Much of this increase (about the jump from 300 m to 600 m) happened in the 90's when computerized sights with laser range finders gave the infantry high-quality fire control aids for their heavier man-portable anti-tank weapons.

(c) The indirect fire attack of choice against tanks isn't any more a concentration of hundreds of bomblet shells and rockets. Modern artillery turned towards precision munitions and seeks direct hits. Dispersion doesn't mitigate such a threat any more.
In fact, dispersion might add to the tank's vulnerability because it's more difficult to maintain a large multi-spectral smoke wall than a small one. Dispersion might at times force tanks into poorly concealed positions, while at other times concentration might do the same. Overall, recent developments have added a question mark to the value of dispersion.It became a more situation-dependent method than ever before.

(d) Many modern tanks have a Blue Force Tracker or similar system. Such a system can show the location of every unit, small unit or team on a screen and can be updated in short intervals. A well-designed system of this kind can offer a unit leader an accurate and up-to-date overview about the positioning of his teams as long as radio traffic is permitted and possible. A tank company leader doesn't need to maintain a line-of-sight to all his platoons and tanks to know where they are - not any more.

(e) They have been possible for decades and are slowly being added to modern tanks: All-round camera systems for tanks. The Merkava 4 tank has such a system; the commander knows about the surroundings of his tank and eventually he would also know about nearby hostile infantry. This awareness is now independent of whether he's buttoned up or not (as long as the system works).

- - - - -

This begs a central question: Is close terrain really still a tank-unfriendly type of terrain? Is cover and concealment for infantry within infantry arms range really a problem any more?

Maybe it's not. Close terrain offers many advantages to a tank as well. These advantages have merely been overshadowed by the perceived disadvantages during the last decades.
The short lines of sight offer the element of surprise to a tank and they allow for a quick withdrawal. The enemy in LOS is isolated from most of his comrades because of the short lines of sight. An attacking tank company that bunches up and fights its way through a short line of sight terrain could dominate the local fight with its superior concentration of fighting power and its superior protection. It could also exploit the short lines of sight in order to mitigate hostile support fires simply by keeping its exposure to any one hostile position too short for a proper indirect fires mission.

Maybe we should think less in terms of line of sight than in terms of  density of obstacles to movement. A terrain with long lines of sight yet very little terrain that tanks can negotiate (such as in the high Alps or in the Pripyet Swamps) is no tank-friendly terrain. The LOS is irrelevant here.
Likewise, a quite obstacle-free terrain with much concealment (such as a wood with many young trees and bushes) for a LOS of only a few hundred metres at most might actually be excellent terrain for tank crews if these tanks are properly equipped.

Is this correct? I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea because there was no real test for it.

This is -again- a topic where it becomes ever more obvious that we don't know how to fight under modern battlefield conditions against a first rate opponent. Exercises on training grounds don't provide a satisfactory answer. Neither do the rather anecdotal combat experiences in the wars after 1945.

We might be up for some really, really terrible surprises in the next major war.


P.S.: You might be irritated by the possible conclusion that long LOS battlefield terrains  are probably poor for everyone - infantry and armour alike. This should be a non-surprise given that I have long advocated that exposing yourself is getting you killed on a modern battlefield. I just applied this more to infantry than to armour so far.

I forgot to mention: The ability to negotiate obstacles gains importance once obstacles become the decisive tactical restraint. This means that fully tracked vehicles with good trench crossing ability, good power/weight ratio, low mean maximum ground pressure and possibly a dozer blade would completely outperform any of those fashionable 8x8 vehicles and probably also 55+ metric ton tanks.


Critique of the Battle of Britain (strategy)

I wrote a text on strategy and some details in the Battle of Britain back in 2004. I revisited the text several times in the meantime, but found no suitable channel for publication. The style was so different from what I write on this blog that it didn't fit here either.

The problem was solved when I found the "Battle of Britain and the Blitz" military history blog of Mitch Williamson, a very prolific blogger (he has many blogs!). He agreed to post it and now there's finally an appropriate home for the article. Problem solved.

Replacement link here, since his Williamson's network of blogs took accidental damage and the original link is thus obsolete.


Not scared ... again.


On another note, a bus driver recently killed himself and a victim when a bus crashed into a house in Germany. Nine people required medical treatment because of shock.

Bus drivers are known for their superior lethality in comparison with errorists.

Last seven days' results:

Bus drivers : errorists

Who scares you more?
Neither scare me.



Supply, demand and a weird statement

If there is cost growth, I think we will just have to reduce the buy.”

This quote was from Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale, the context was cost growth of the F-35 combat aircraft project.

The attitude is extremely weird (and he was just the anecdote-supplier who represents decades of military spending habits in several NATO countries). It's even more weird that people seem to agree. I guess that happens only because humans can adapt and get used to almost everything.

- - - - -

It's about decision-making; there's supply and demand, and the supply was changed by a price increase. The demand side revises its decision accordingly because the demand is typically lower at higher prices. It's really first or second semester microeconomics.

The graphic below shows the situation under the assumption that national defence demand is fixed (always the same, no matter what's the price) I assumed that it's fixed because threats are exogenous - they are not being influenced by the price of an F-35. No matter what's the price of an F-35 - the same quantity is needed (that's the assumption). Demand is thus assumed to be inelastic.

This assumption doesn't seem to fit to the observed behaviour. The quantity in the graph stays the same, even after supply was changed to a higher unit price.

Well, who's wrong? Hale and all those other military spending professionals who behaved similarly over the past decades? Or maybe the assumption of inelastic demand is wrong?

Let's test the latter explanation: Let's assume that demand is elastic.
How could it be elastic? The threat that the F-35 is supposed to counter is still exogenous.Well, there could be substitutes - a higher price for a good could motivate the potential buyer to buy something else instead to meet his needs. Interestingly, military project cuts tend to be independent from other projects being enlarged or created.
The next graphic shows a variable, elastic demand. This demand is being influenced by cost. It appears as if in this scenario the F-35 has a diminishing marginal utility for the demand side.
In other words: At least some F-35s of the initial planned quantity are apparently not necessary for defence, for defence is an absolute requirement that would cause an inelastic demand.

Finally one graph for a (probably) plausible demand curve. It's a composite curve consisting of an inelastic demand for a necessary quantity of F-35's plus an additional demand curve that recognizes a reduced relative marginal utility of the F-35's.

This may of course be misleading. Maybe I applied the wrong model (a market)? A market without market failures is by design able to create the perfect resource allocation. That's why - even despite the many existing market failures - it's a popular model and was my first choice. I used the market model because of a faint hope that military procurement might actually be about serving the public, about an efficient allocation of resources.

- - - - -

There are more suitable models, and I'll employ Niskanen's Budget-Maximizing Bureaucrat model next: A bureaucracy serves itself (and thus needs to be supervised by people with useful motivations). This "serves itself" manifests itself in the maximization of the budget. ITS budget.
I was taught an Niskanen's economic view of bureaucracies which basically assumed that in the beginning, every additional buck spent on the bureaucracy yields more than one buck advantage for the society. This ratio worsens up to the point where spending more on the bureaucracy creates a net damage to society. The bureaucracy is fine with this - it looks primarily at its budget, not at the general welfare. At some point, it becomes obvious that the over-sizing of the bureaucracy compensated most of its original net advantage. The bureaucacy is unlikely to reach the point where it does more harm than good to the society because external forces (political supervision) intervene in favour of other interests than the bureaucracy's.

So basically the model of a bureaucracy is about its quest for an ever greater budget and ever more staff - up to the point where exogenous forces intervene and limit its budget.
Suddenly, the quote makes much sense. The bureaucracy has fought for its budget and got a limit imposed by an exogenous power (the legislative). Its procurement costs rise - and it simply operates within its limit, within its budget. It buys less.
It was probably not really about defence all along. Moreover, with such a model in mind the air force leadership would be not appear to be a credible source about the necessity of the buy altogether!

- - - - -

We could also assume the model of a bartering process. The requirements might have been inflated (and public cost estimates may have been intentionally low). That would enable the reduction of a quantity which was originally deemed necessary (in public, but not for real).
That, of course, would imply that the original figures were never realistic and the original quantitative requirement would have been incorrect.

Any insights?
Well, yes. First of all a trivial one; the planned quantity of a military good cannot have been an absolute necessity for defence if its reduction is ceteris paribus acceptable.

In fact, the feasibility of "Sicherheitspolitik nach Kassenlage" ("security policy according to budget situation") is a strong argument for the suspicion that there's a huge amount of waste in military budgets if the budget is not kept tight.


P.S.: This is really not about the F-35. The quote is representative for a greater symptom and was selected because it was readily available and required no translation.


The Wikileaks epic just got more interesting

So far Wikileaks actions look more embarrassing than endangering to me. Wikileaks gained credibility with lots of most likely real leaks - it's probably becoming attractive for seeding disinformation with false leaks. Even the publishing of real leaks can produce advantages for the embarrassed party, such as "See, we do in secret mostly what we told you in public!"-type of messages.

Now it's getting really interesting, though:

By Rob Pegoraro

The credit-card firm's [MasterCard] Web presence has been largely unreachable for the past few hours after a coordinated attack intended to punish it for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks.

Reports such as TechCrunch's post indicate the "denial of service" operation was coordinated through 4chan, a free-form message-board site that's been used to arrange numerous other sorts of Web mischief and sabotage, as well as a separate effort called Operation: Payback.

This sounds to me like it's turning into a cultural war - establishment vs. sub-40ish pop culture. The parallel to conflicts between government and extra-parliamentarian opposition in countries such as Iran is interesting.

This is also interesting (and adds to the embarrassment of the leaks!):

Journalism professor and media critic Jeff Jarvis grumbled that he could use Visa and MasterCard to contribute to the Ku Klux Klan -- but not to WikiLeaks.

In any case: Don't mess with crowds which can self-organize - unless you're ready to endure the pain. There's going to be a huge backlash for the anti-Wikileaks/anti-Assange actions. They probably knew that this could happen and delayed the concerted efforts against Wikileaks' hosting and banking providers for exactly this reason.

Sven Ortmann


Senri nyumon - An Introduction to the Principles of War (Japan, 1969)

It came recently to my attention that this little '69 gem from Japan isn't as well-known among military-interested people as I assumed.

A Translation from the Japanese
Dr. Joseph West

Original authors:

Kentarō Anabuki Nobuyuki Suzuki Ryōichi Funakoshi
Minoru Ueki Seiichi Tauchi Hachirō Maeda
Kaoru Onisawa Kenji Takagi Shōsuke Maki
Yūkō Kashiwaba Inao Tanaka Masaya Maki
Makoto Katō Sunao Chamura Katsunori Makino
Toshio Kamo Matsuji Tomisawa Tomohiro Matsui
Kokki Kiyofuji Mitsukuni Narishige Diahachi Matsumoto
Yasushi Kunigo Shōki Noguchi Yonejirō Matsumoto
Osamu Kōno Naoyuki Nozoe Tomoyoshi Miki
Keijirō Sakae Takatomo Hamaguchi Takeji Yamauchi
Harutaki Sasaki Hitoshi Fujiyoshi Taneaki Yamanouchi
Hisashi Shibata Kiyomi Haruyama Kazuo Yamamura


edit 2014-10: Updated the link.



Quote of the (yester)day

And the award for best quote of the (yester)day goes to ...
shared by the commenters DomS and Mat at the British MilBlog Think Defence!

“we are increasingly irrelevant to the US as an ally, I can see them calling on India next time”

Phew. Thank god for that. Although heaven help the Indians.



Example: How to fool modern air power

"All that glitters is not gold".

One of the favourite targets for air/ground attacks (next to  other high-value objects such airfields, command nodes, supply depots, air defence radars and tanks) these days is still the bridge. The destruction of bridges can stop or even entrap an enemy force or cut off its supply.
Well, that's the theory. In practice, this is a disruption and never complete. The right timing is most important for the operational level commander.

Back in WW2 bridges were quite easily destroyed in dive attacks (45-90°) with heavy (454-500 kg) bombs. A few hits did usually suffice for destruction, although some bridge constructions proved to be very resilient.

Guided munitions proved to be very useful against normal bridges, beginning with AZON bombs and even an active radar-guided glide bomb in WW2, later the very first laser guided bombs in Vietnam and finally GPS-guided bombs over Iraq.

There's a problem, though: Warfare is a contest against a thinking enemy who is often quite inventive.

Civilian bridges can easily be destroyed, and this is so utterly well-known and self-evident that armies prepare for this with military bridging. These military bridges are often segmented and can be repaired quickly. To cut such a lifeline reliably for more than an hour or two requires multiple attacks over time - something that doesn't exactly suit modern high-quality-but-low-quantity air forces well.

It's even worse: The enemy might be crafty.
The Chinese, for example, employed some underwater bridges when they endured total enemy air superiority.  Other armies (including the U.S.Army, which did not really need such a thing) did and do it as well.

ES91-56-6 (SC349005) 2 ½ ton trucks cross a river by underwater bridge, eight miles northwest of Taegu, Korea, on their way to the front line. 16 Sep 1950

Such underwater bridges have their tarmac a few centimetres below the waterline and alternatively it's also be imaginable to submerge a (pontoon) bridge like a submarine when an air attack is expected and to raise it again once the sky is clear again.

(Finally there's the possibility of using amphibious trucks as ferries, such as the M3 Amphibie in German service. This is a rather low capacity tool, though (few vehicles per hour).)

- - - - -

Such bridges are difficult to find, but that's not the critical problem any more. Radars could very well detect the crossing movement of motor vehicles from very far away. The problem is rather in the attack. How do you aim a guided munition at such a target?
Infra-red sensors won't work - they "see" only the water surface!
Radar sensors won't work -  they "see" only the water surface!
Visual sensors or naked eye won't work, they "see only the water surface!
Laser illumination on water - not exactly promising!
GPS and INS (inertial navigation)?

GPS and INS can hit a target of known location, but that might be tricky as well. Military engineers could use a submersible pontoon bridge and move it by 20-100 m every hour. All it takes is a proper preparation of the riversides!

Now you're flying a 150 million bucks super stealth jet with some jam-proof high-tech guided bombs in your weapons bay - and you're still impotent against a crafty military engineering river crossing effort. That's certainly frustrating. Your only hope would be to remain entirely undetected and to catch the bridge while it's on the surface. You would probably have to do this twice a day and your whole squadron might be forced to do it a dozen times per day in order to reliably interrupt the bridge connection, though. You might think that they will eventually run out of pontoons, but how many pontoons can they buy for 150 million bucks !?

We can think of countermeasures against stealth, countermeasures against the guidance of stealth aircraft's air combat missiles - but the most important countermeasures to stealth aircraft might turn out to be completely unrelated to hard kills of flying objects (aircraft, munitions): 

Good old camouflage, concealment and deception plus a saturation with a low-quality-but-high-quantity approach are still valuable. Even bridges - once one of the easiest targets for bombers -  can be turned into impractical targets for modern bombers.

Sven Ortmann

You know that people have gone overboard mentally when...

... a toy robot cemented to the base of a pillar detours traffic down-town for hours because people fear it's a bomb.



German federal budget 2011 and German conscription about to end

The next German federal budget is available here (well, its PDF document).

Einzelplan 14 (the budget of the ministry of defence, BMVg) gets 10.3% of the cake in 2011:

Die Verteidigungsausgaben werden im Entwurf des Bundeshaushalts 2011 mit rd. 31,5 Mrd. [Euro] veranschlagt, im Finanzplan bis 2014 mit rd. 30,9 Mrd. [Euro] im Jahr 2012, mit rd. 29,6 Mrd. [Euro] im Jahr 2013 und mit rd. 27,6 Mrd. [Euro] im Jahr 2014 fortgeschrieben.

(The defence expenditures are being set in the draft of the federal budget 2011 with approx. € 31.5 billion, in the financial planning till 2014 with approx. € 30.9 billion in the year 2012, with approx. € 29.6 billion in the year 2013 and with approx. € 27.6 billion in the year 2014.)

In billion Euros:
(2010-2014 in 2010 Euros)

2008: 29.5
2009: 31.2
2010: 31.1
2011: 31.5
2012: 30.9
2013: 29.6
2014: 27.6

The government expects an economic output of € 2,447 billion in 2011. This would set the military expenditures at a rather low 1.3% GDP. Well, we're not in a Cold War any more.
The government's expectation for economic output in 2014 appears to be € 2,571 billion. The military expenditures would then drop below 1.1% GDP.

The budget deficit has to be reduced to .35% BIP (~GDP) in 2016 for legal reasons (constitution article 115). Additional constraints for the years  2011-2015 were set in multilateral agreements and treaties. The overall budget had to be planned with this in mind.

The planned budget deficits in billion Euros are
2010: 80.2
2011: 57.5
2012: 40.1
2013: 31.6
2014: 24.1
The military expenditures will apparently be smaller than the federal budget deficit till 2013.

Often times you need to invest first in order to create long-term savings; golden handshakes, real instead of improvised building repairs, setting up new and more efficient barracks and such.
The financial planning aims instead at a quite immediate and steady reduction. They really should have spent several billions immediately when the economic crisis raised calls for stimulus spending. That could have been the kick-off spending for future savings and it would have reduced the backlog of delayed hardware procurement and construction projects.
Instead, we'll feel the cuts more severely than the mere budget totals suggest.

I am personally fine with a trend towards 1% GDP military expenditures as long as security situation on the EU's periphery doesn't deteriorate substantially. My disagreement is rather about the "how", not about the "how much in total". I guess everyone with some interest in defence policy has his own thoughts and disagrees at least a bit with such a budget plan.

- - - - -

The last party (CDU) has in the meantime abandoned the conscription. We're going towards about 185,000 military personnel (the last conscripts will leave in mid-2011) and 75,000 civilian personnel.


P.S.: Let's not discuss "free riding" in the comments before everyone has read this.


I warned you, really!


I Warned You, Really.


Russian arms imports

One of the most interesting news from Russia during the last years (aside from the T-50 fighter prototype) has been the Russian interest in buying Western arms.

The Russian interest in buying a Mistral class ship from France came as a surprise last year, and since then there have been additional reports about Russian interest in Western equipment, such as the Iveco LMV vehicle.

A summary is here and an interview summary is here.

The Russian arms industry is in shambles and not exactly up-to-date in regard to electronics - that's well-known. This wouldn't prevent a rebuilding effort, though. It's furthermore very rare that states seek to purchase foreign products merely for the purpose of instilling some competition into the market.

Russian relations with the PR China have entered a rather cool period again and Russian relations with India have apparently improved much.
Is this Russian interest in arms deals (I suspect they're interested in some offset deal, the supplier's nation would commit to buy Russian hardware in return) a symptom of a new Russian grand strategy?
Maybe they want to integrate with the West; cooperation instead of confrontation, similar to West Germany's post-'49 grand strategy? Putin's recent proposal for a free trade zone encompassing the EU and Russia (albeit with unknown details) appears to confirm this.
The involved diplomats and deal negotiators have an interesting job these days, for sure



Earlier high-tech military technology conflicts

I found this old website about early radio technology a few weeks ago. Some of its most interesting articles are these:

Both are interesting because very similar stories exist about 1940-1945. High frequency warfare is usually depicted as a WW2 thing, but it apparently began in WWI.

- - - - -

The first article is also relevant to a topic that seems to interest quite a few people; why did the German military perform so out of proportion in both World Wars?

The answers aren't only in the German army's leadership and training system of the 1880's to 1943 period.

Germany was a leading country in physics, chemistry and engineering till the end of WW2. It's still strong in engineering (in fact, engineers play even an excessive role in the German economy) and its chemical industry is still strong as well. The physics research isn't outstanding any more, though.

It was the chemical industry that enabled Germany to fight in WW1 until 1918 because it substituted imported nitrogen (saltpeter) with a process to extract the same from air. It provided Germany with coal-based substitutes for natural rubber and crude oil in WW2.
The engineering strength led to the great arms industries,  the quick rise of the navy in 1898-1914, the ability to compensate for bomb damage on a never seen before scale (the arms and ammunition production of 1944 was much greater than that of 1943) and the huge surge of military-technical innovation of 1938-1945.

Strong research in physics enabled a strong electrical equipment industry which was almost capable of meeting the combined radio technology advances of Britain and the U.S..

Finally, Germany had and has the second-largest population in Europe, second only to Russia.

Judging by this history, we better hope that the next huge war of necessity strongly benefits financial 'industry' and other service-related skills and capacities, for that's what many NATO countries went for instead of sustaining and expanding actual industry-related skills and capacities.



A CDU politician on a rampage against civil liberties - again

A leading CDU politician proposed a restriction of the freedom of the press, so the press shall not report about possible terror targets any more. It's so outrageous that even a CDU-friendly newspaper reports about it.

Why am I not surprised that such an assault on civil liberties comes from a CDU politician, not from the supposedly dangerous "Die LINKE" party?

Oh, I remember. It's not news. CDU politicians have also proposed internet censorship, using the military for policing at home, database-driven profiling of Germans and numerous domestic espionage and surveillance proposals including the documentation of internet connections.

That's also the party which produced numerous laws that were afterwards declared unconstitutional by the federal constitutional court - and this was often times even expected as early as when the bill was passed.

Finally, CDU politicians have promoted the idea of a third category of people, between the "guilty" and "innocent" people: "Gefährder" ('endangering people'). This word has repeatedly been used in the last years (and almost established through repetition) to unhinge the protection of some people against the state's powers. The suggestion is that 'they' are 'they' and not 'us' and 'they' are dangerous, thus can, should and need to be treated different. They only think of thousands of people, of course.

Zuerst holten sie die Kommunisten;
ich schwieg, denn ich war kein Kommunist.
Dann holten sie die Juden;
ich schwieg, denn ich war kein Jude.
Dann holten sie die Gewerkschaftsmitglieder unter den Arbeitern;
ich schwieg, denn ich war kein Gewerkschafter.
Danach holten sie die Katholiken;
ich schwieg, denn ich war Protestant.
Schließlich holten sie mich,
und da war keiner mehr, der für mich hätte sprechen können.
(Martin Niemöller)
(First they came for the communists;
I kept silent, for I was no communist.
The they came for the Jews;
I kept silent, for I was no Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists among the workers;
I kept silent, for I was no trade unionist.
Afterwards they came for the catholics;
I kept silent, for I was protestant.
Finally they came for me,
and nobody was left who could have raised his voice for me.)

The only good thing about this is that the junior coalition partner cannot afford to lose its civil liberties reputation; they will most likely block such CDU efforts. The CDU and its sister party CSU are for the next few years limited to preparing the ground for such deteriorations only verbally and in print.

Sven Ortmann


Air-burst hand grenades

Rheinmetall appears to be developing a new defensive (1) hand grenade for Sweden and showed it off at an infantry symposium in Germany a few weeks ago (~an industrial fair).

The hand grenade can be thrown as usual, erects itself upright with a mechanism, launches its warhead into a height of 1.5 metres and there it explodes, showering the lower hemisphere with fragments.

The only photo known to me is in the current issue of the SuT journal (German). I didn't ask Rheinmetall for permission to use the photo in light of what I'm going to write about the concept.

My first impressions were of course "mean!" and "technically interesting!".

Next, I recalled the technical predecessors:

* Jumping warheads have been employed with medium mortars, 30mm low-velocity grenades and anti-personnel mines. The principle appears to have satisfied the users (and horrified the enemies) when a clear shot upwards was possible (such as with AP mines). High trajectory grenades of such a kind were apparently rather unreliable.

* The mechanical principle for erecting the device after impact has been widely used for scatter mines and appears to be quite effective as well. Here's a mine which shows the principle:

POM-2S anti-personnel mine
The technology was clearly available at least a generation ago, maybe two. Why wasn't such a high performance hand grenade developed before? There's sometimes a reason for such an omission.

- - - - -

I did recover quickly from the first impression, though. Effectiveness isn't all that you need. The most deadly hand grenade is not necessarily the best one. Well, it may be sometimes, but not necessarily in the whole picture.

A maximization of a hand grenade's lethality like this reveals probably a fundamental misunderstanding of a hand grenade's purpose (this blames the Swedish army material procurement, not the developer).

The German production of hand grenades from 1941 till 1945 was 140 million. Most likely less than one per cent killed a soldier, while most likely the vast majority of the production was spent in combat or training. 

This should come as no surprise, for hand grenades are not primarily about killing and wounding. They are much more often employed for two other purposes:

* Scaring the enemy; deterring the enemy against closing in / chasing the enemy away

* Security; attack on an area (such as a room or tunnel) that might be occupied by the enemy

One example; combat in woods. Forget the daring attacks through woods in peacetime exercises. Infantry combat in woods among well-supplied regular army infantry tends to look differently.
Even as early as 1914 when no machine gun was at company level or below and when there were only handguns and bolt action rifles, infantry got pinned down regularly in wood combat. The deadliness and scariness of the rifle fire simply did not permit much offensive movement. Such combat often degenerated into hand grenade duels. Both sides threw many hand grenades because raising the head for locating enemies and aiming ranged from futile to suicidal. Rommel's "Infanterie greift an!" book mentions several such hand grenade duels, for example.

Now think about it - how much does the increased frag effect really help? Even a 100% increase in lethality (just an example figure) could in practice turn out to help only in 5% of the cases, leading to a net loss of capability because of the increased weight.
It's likely very dependent on the situation,and on the ground condition (flat or waved). It might even be prohibitive if the cover of friendlies is too low and would protect against an air burst frag effect.

I would rather prefer a lightweight hand grenade for most purposes. There are such lightweight hand grenades. Examples:

Austria: Arges Type HG 86 - 180 g, fragmentation
Egypt: Kaha Number 1 - 210 g, concussion
France LU 216HE - 165 g, concussion
France Alsetex SAE 210 - 190 g, concussion
Greece Elviemek EM 02 - 140 g, concussion
Netherlands: NWM V40 - 136 g, concussionfragmentation

Such hand grenades can be as small as 6 x 4 x 4 cm.
Normal hand grenades range from about 270 to about 570 g, with fragmentation types usually being much heavier than concussion types. The mini hand grenade throwing range can reach out to 40 m, while the heavy examples can be typically thrown to about 30 m. Safe handling with a glove is a concern, though.

- - - - -

Hand grenades can be 'improved' in a technical, engineering sense. Such an improvement would be about better explosives and better fragmentation pattern. The simulation of fragmentation patterns of warheads in computers keeps quite a few engineers in their jobs. It's a typical technical way of looking at hand grenades.

A rather 'military-historical' perspective emphasizes that infantrymen like to expend them for many purposes, not just for actually hitting the enemy with high probability. A large quantity becomes most important.

A practical perspective would emphasize the fact that hand grenades are scarce in part because they weigh a lot. A great weight efficiency becomes important.

A more military-theoretical perspective suggests an emphasis on the psychological effect: Hand grenades define areas in which nobody wants to be. You can use this to keep the enemy out of the area (such as the area immediately in front of your position) or to chase him away.

This psychological value of a hand grenade is certainly improved by a well-deserved reputation for deadliness, but I have little doubt that thirty lightweight hand grenades are scarier than ten high fragmentation hand grenades.

The procurement of lightweight hand grenades with high quality explosives is likely one path of improvement, but there's more: Flash effects could be added.

An enhanced flash effect could help a lot, especially at night. It would require only about five gram of additional filler, preferably on the outside of the explosive. The effective dazzling radius against night sights and unprotected eyes could be enlarged considerably beyond the concussion radius.

There are numerous complaints about the weight carried by the infantry. It's probably not a preferable development path to create a heavier and more complicated hand grenade for increased lethality in the few per cent hand grenade uses where this really counts. 

That approach may be right, but I suspect it's not. I do rather suggest to look more at weight reduction and flash effect.

(1): "Defensive" because of the fragmentation effect. Fragmentation hand grenades are regularly preferred when friendlies are behind cover, while "offensive" blast/concussion grenades are preferred if the casualty radius has to be low or for demolition. The jumping warhead approach is only reasonable for the defensive type.


edit 2016: A video appeared in the meantime:

It's now called "SHGR07".


Camouflage is no end in itself

These photos of a German self-propelled howitzer in Afghanistan show its camouflage paint coating (the photos are several months old):

The camo looks appropriate in that region, doesn't it?

The only problem is that camouflage makes almost no sense for large vehicles over there. It's extremely unlikely that vehicles there will ever avoid being penetrated just because they used camouflage. It would take a lot of dust from vehicles driving ahead or a very partial exposure to allow the vehicle (crew) to avoid detection or to avert good aiming by the enemy.

The SPG will probably not even move much outside of the camp, for its range is about 40 km. It might leave the camp in support of more distant actions, but then it would most likely be stationary for most of the time and easily spotted and observed anyway simply because it's a huge tracked vehicle and not well-suited to running around much on a deployment that's going to last months or years.

I assert that this camouflage was applied without much thought - it was applied because it's what you do. Camo has become an end in itself for some.

I noted a similar phenomenon with Camouflage for choppers in Afghanistan a year ago.

What shall this howitzer do? It shall provide superior firepower and scare the enemy away (or kill him).
Imagine an impressive paint coating and a few life fire demonstrations - the whole province shall know the beasts. Give them a paint coating that means every child is going to remember them.
Don't give it a paint coating that looks as if you attempt to hide the SPG. Make it look fearsome, notorious, commanding respect. Tiger stripes maybe. Black-red-gold. Gold. Chrome. Paint a lion face on its glacis.

Whatever - just don't fall into mindless routine and give it a futile camo paint coating only because that's what's usually being done.

I am a huge fan of even extreme forms of camouflage (search for "camouflage" in the search box if in doubt), but camouflage is great because it's often an effective means to an end. There can be superior alternatives in some cases, and officers get paid to think about what shall be done. They should in my opinion arrive at the conclusion that this is such an exception.


About body scanners...



"Sgt. Giunta's fair fight"

By Robert H. Scales and Paul van Riper

Scales and van Riper do correctly point out that peacetime efforts of armies are supposed to give an unfair advantage over the enemy in wartime. They complain that this was not done for modern infantry, as evidenced by (in their opinion) fair infantry combat in Afghanistan.

- - - - -

I would like to point out several problems in this article:


Is infantry combat in Afghanistan really "fair"? They appear to have very high expectations, for I would count bulletproof vest plates, marksmanship training, indirect fire support and air support in the available quantity already as very unfair.


They appear to have believed in the Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) fashion's promises, have observed how RMA largely failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and now they aren't irritated by the failure the slightest bit. Instead, they demand a greater push for RMA (for perfect situational awareness thanks to robotic eyes in the sky). This appears to be a 'little bit' inflexible. 
Granted, they also point out movement mistakes (not securing the high ground), but those movement mistakes are a result of the addition of heavy hard body armour.


"Yet as a proportion of total combat deaths, infantry deaths have increased from 71 percent in World War II to 81 percent in wars fought since."
This doesn't seem to be a proper remark because this statistic is dominated by  the wars in Korea and Vietnam, not by the two 2000's wars. The infantry's share of losses has in fact dropped to a low recently because the enemies target everyone who's on the road, not just and not primarily infantry. Non-infantry units had to serve as auxiliary infantry and had casualties in those missions as well.


How exactly do these two quotes fit together without a serious dissonance?

Too often defense gurus inside the Beltway still view war as a science project.

After nine years of war, no small unit in such peril should ever cede the high ground to the enemy, particularly when unmanned vehicles are capable of monitoring constantly overhead and transmitting clear pictures of the surrounding terrain.

Ortmann to Scales and van Riper: You should not blame technology whores and then propose a high tech fix yourself!


They should be asking why the richest nation on Earth could not have done more to help this small infantry unit spot the enemy ambush from the air and defeat them with overwhelming killing power.
Did they seriously suggest that the U.S. should spend more on the military? The quote certainly sounds as if they blame the civilian world for the infantry's woes. This sounds ridiculous with the incredible spending levels in the background. They should rather blame the dysfunctional procurement system and the military service itself - than the nation.

- - - - -

Here are my proposals for fixing the problem:


Don't fight stupid, useless wars of choice.

- - - - -

OK, maybe readers would want to read alternatives just in case
someone really believes the occupation_war_against_the_guys_
the_guys_who actually_attacked_the_U.S._many_years_ago (and
died in the process) is a war of necessity even many years after
they lost power:


Don't red tape them with excessive force protection requirements (armoured vehicles which cannot leave the 'roads', heavy body armour plates, airspace deconfliction).


Don't force them into stupid behaviour (commute to war, predictable patrols).


Re-structure the ground forces if you're in a multi-year fight in order to meet the demand for military police and infantry troops (instead of retaining the peacetime all-round structure).


Re-think the American Way of War, which fared poorly every time it faced infantry-centric forces which were neither trapped on small islands nor composed of elderly and boys. Produce something different than the extreme caricature of this way of war that is known as "RMA".


Think about diversifying infantry into light and heavy again - for combined operations, not for very different battles. The fight for hill and mountain tops was the job of lightly laden light infantry before the 19th century when all infantry became standardized. The skirmishers with their light weapons and no or light armour fought for the hill tops and ridge-lines, the heavy infantry with body armour and large shields advanced in the valley and was sent into the larger fights.
Maybe modern infantry could split up into lightweight and full kit as well to be both superior in firepower+protection and in positioning?



Those dangerous bus drivers!

I do often belittle terrorists as less dangerous than tired bus drivers.

Well, it's about time to back it up. Here is a statistics brochure of the German bus companies association. They're obviously the last to exaggerate the lethality of bus drivers. They used an official statistic anyway.

Kills by bus drivers (or as the association calls it; deaths in accidents in which buses were the main culprit) in Germany:

Year Kills by bus drivers
2001 42
2002 34
2003 30
2004 31
2005 28
2006 20
2007 31

Total kills by bus drivers in seven years (newer statistics not available, but enough bus kills in the news): 216

Total kills of Germans by terrorists in the same period: Honestly, I gave up searching for the statistic after an hour. There are apparently no statistics for such small figures, at least none that are easily found. The figure should be about three dozens for the whole period if I remember correctly (combat KIA in AFG don't count, it's simply not terror to attack foreign armed soldiers when they're in uniform in a war zone - and these losses are kind of self-inflicted because we sent troops to AFG voluntarily).

This contrast doesn't mean much, as both problems are being suppressed with a certain amount of effort each and the efficiency of additional effort (~less dead per million spent) is as unknown as the efficiency of the last effort (how large a fraction of a life was saved by the last million spent on countermeasures?).

It does nevertheless explain why Germans don't tend to get excited about the terror "threat". Terrorists are pretty much not noticeable and irrelevant. Incompetent loud-mouths.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: I'm sorry bus drivers, comparing you to terrorists was obviously very close to an insult on your competence and intellect. Some group had to be compared to state the point.

edit: I forgot.
We need to declare the WOBRD!  War on bus-related deaths!
A couple billion bucks for security personnel and technical gadgets will do the trick.
Every new accident will tell us about a security gap that needs to be fixed.
We need to FEAR the terrible accidents.
Report him if you see someone who might look like a bus driver!
Global wire-tapping will help us to identify bus drivers with psychical problems or even bus drivers who drink a beer at dinner!
And since we're at it, let's raid bus stations, too. They're not exactly related to bus accidents, but they sound so similar. We will of course not just raid the bus stations, but in fact we need to station policemen there for  - well, some pundits on TeeVee will tell us when we can recall them.



Wish list

Two dozen topics are under preparation for this blog, but somehow I'm not convinced that I'll eventually post all of the texts.

I'm curious; what do readers want to see as topic?

Blogs get mostly the audience they deserve, and usually the audience is more aligned with the author than average. I figure that some wished-for topics could interest me too.

Drop a line in the comments if you think you've got a good topic for a non-mainstream blog topic!

(You will have a hard time if you want to convince me to write more about minor nuisances like terrorists or pirates).

Sven Ortmann

One of the most stupid and most boring things to do:

To translate your own (foreign language) text back into your mother tongue - all 2,100 words.

It's funny; an English text is as a rule of thumb only about 80% as long as a German one. Well, that may be true unless I do the translation. My ratio tends to be the opposite. I guess I'm more concise in German.

The good thing about it: There's a big post is under preparation, in both languages. Topic: A(nother) national security strategy and policy for Germany. I guess 2,100 words is already quite concise for such a topic.
Don't even think about asking me for a French version. It's doable, but I don't want to be cruel against the French language.



The truck convoy security challenge, seen from the operational level

It's a tough job to escort a vehicle convoy properly. It's rarely done in (conventional) wartime because the threat is either too small or the probability of escorting success doesn't justify the employment of rare combat units.

It's commonly preferred to escort convoys with units or small units which have at the moment only a small utility in their primary role. Armoured reconnaissance and ill-equipped anti-tank small units often meet that fate in situations that don't favour their employment in their supposedly more typical missions.

- - - - -

The basic problem is that even a strong convoy escort would still be at a disadvantage against ambushers because the latter can exploit the strength of tactical defence and they can abort disadvantageous ambushes, thus create a systematic tactical bias in their favour.

Convoy self-defence has very serious limitations, too. Gunners on truck cabs have often times a field of fire of only about 320 degrees because the tarpaulin, container or module is too high. The personnel costs of the additional gunners are high in wealthy countries and loaded trucks cannot really counter-attack off the road.

It makes therefore sense in conventional warfare to escort convoys only with a small escort, barely enough to defeat or discourage weak opposition, such as hostile stragglers and infiltrators.

- - - - -

Now let's have a look at the air and naval domains, in search for solutions to analog problems.

There's first the example of WW2 bomber escorts. Both the Germans in 1940 and the Americans in 1944 recognized that close escorts (fighters close to the bombers) were not very successful. They succeeded in keeping some hostile interceptors busy, but they scored rather few kills themselves because fighter/fighter lethality rested largely on the element of surprise in both World Wars. The close escorts simply surprised nobody as a formation. Interceptors were also able to dive to safety and escort fighters were then obliged to stay at altitude to protect the bombers, and thus unable to complete the interceptor's kill.

The more successful approach was "freie Jagd" ('free hunting'); patrols of fighter squadrons in the general area.
Interceptors attempted to avoid these and thus rarely used opportunities to surprise them. The far escort fighters on the other hand attacked every time. The result was that the far escort fighters had much more success because they had what is known as "initiative". They chose their optimal cruise speed, their optimal altitude and were often able to attack with surprise effect.

A naval example is the Second Battle of the Atlantic. The Allied attempts to secure ship convoys in the Atlantic were modern and innovative, but they weren't decisive. The Allies only finally defeated the German pre-War submarine generation when they had enough ressources (bombers and sub hunter ships) to turn the whole Atlantic into their submarine hunting ground.

Well, what could modern ground forces learn from these examples?

Close escorts may be necessary as a 'last line of defence', but they are likely not the most promising component of an operational-level convoy security concept.

Truck convoys and their escorts have another problem which both examples did not have; the escorts cannot cruise much faster than the escorted vehicles. In fact, tracked combat vehicles may have a considerably lower (technical) cruise speed than all trucks. Armoured trucks as escorts are unlikely to move significantly faster than loaded trucks as well.
This makes it even more difficult to 'hunt' ahead as a kind of detached vanguard or to escort closely.

The general problem persists; far escorts can run into ambushes just as easily as truck convoys - and they will do if the ambushers consider them to be worthwhile targets.

Something better is needed, an approach that dissolves the initiative problem.

This approach could be a distant relative of what was done in several occupation wars: Secure the route (or the general area) permanently instead of providing powerful escorts to all convoys!

[***This fits well to another approach to logistical transportation, the dispersed transportation (which enables much more ton-km per truck). It's obviously impossible to escort pairs of trucks with an escort which can defeat serious ambushes. Such dispersed logistical transportation would nevertheless benefit much from a secured area (they don't all use a single main supply route, thus "dispersed").
Dispersed log movements have many other advantages as well, an example is the crossing of  log movements on a junction. Two convoys meeting each other would lead to one convoy waiting while the other would pass. Dispersed log movements would not require this, for the trucks would be spread much more over time and rarely if ever arrive at the junction at the same time. Dispersed log movements also save time at depots, or every truck can begin its march once it's loaded and does not need to wait for others. Well, now back to escorts.***]

It's simply better to be first in the area, before the ambushers arrive. This way you don't run into their ambush, but they may stumble into yours. The way to go is therefore to detach convoy security forces from the convoy body almost entirely or entirely.
The logic works in other areas (such as recce and security for combat brigades) as well and leads to the desirability of a more general area control with dispersed small units instead of dedicated convoy security forces. Many army challenges can be addressed with this approach (and several new challenges need to be mastered in order to suceed with it).
That's a long story, of course. It holds much potential for an operational art revolution.