Internet Censorship: Wehret den Anfängen

"Child pornography is great," the speaker at the podium declared enthusiastically. "It is great because politicians understand child pornography. By playing that card, we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file sharing sites".

”One day we will have a giant filter that we develop in close cooperation with IFPI and MPA. We continuously monitor the child porn on the net, to show the politicians that filtering works. Child porn is an issue they understand,” Johan Schlüter said with a grin, his whole being radiating pride and enthusiasm from the podium.

a lobby organization for the music and film industry associations.

OK, and now let's put an end to this. I'll do my part and inform the member of parliament from my district (both the state and federal parliament's), the German parties (state and federal) and maybe also the Bundesverfassungsschutz (kind of intelligence agency to monitor extremists in Germany). The more people mail them the more likely we can reach their attention threshold.

Such a pro-censorship behaviour of an organisation's representative is showing hostility to our constitution if it's being shared by the German equivalents (and it may be that the Danish organisation is active in Germany anyway).

These people need to be exposed for what they are; dangerous. People in suit and tie don't look as conspicuous as a skinhead or green-haired Antifa activist do, but that only makes them more dangerous.

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.)

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: This post was repeated in German due to its importance.

Internetzensur: Wehret den Anfängen

"Child pornography is great," the speaker at the podium declared enthusiastically. "It is great because politicians understand child pornography. By playing that card, we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file sharing sites".
("Kinderpornographie ist großartig" erklärte der Sprecher auf dem Podium enthusiastisch. "Sie ist großartig weil Politiker Kinderpornographie verstehen. Durch das Ausspielen dieser Karte können wir sie dazu bringen zu handeln und Seiten zu blockieren. Und sobald sie das getan haben können wir sie dazu bringen, mit dem Blocken von Tauschbörsen-Seiten anzufangen.)

”One day we will have a giant filter that we develop in close cooperation with IFPI and MPA. We continuously monitor the child porn on the net, to show the politicians that filtering works. Child porn is an issue they understand,” Johan Schlüter said with a grin, his whole being radiating pride and enthusiasm from the podium.
("Eines Tages werden wir einen riesigen Filter haben, der in enger Kooperation mit der IFPI und MPA entwickelt wurde. Wir können kontinuierlich Kinderpornographie im Netz überwachen um den Politikern zu zeigen, dass Filtern funktioniert. Kinderpornographie ist ein Thema, dass sie verstehen;" sagte Johan Schlüter mit einem Grinsen und strahlte dabei Stolz und Enthusiasmus vom Podium her aus.)

einer Lobbyorganisation von Musik- und Filmindustrieverbänden.

OK, und nun lasst uns dem ein Ende setzen. Ich werde meinen Teil leisten und die Abgeordneten von Bund und Land meines Bezirks, die Parteien und vielleicht auch den Verfassungsschutz informieren. Je mehr Bürger die mit solchen Informationen bombardieren, desto eher wird die Wahrnehmungsschwelle überschritten.

Solch eine pro-Zensur Haltung ist verfassungsfeindlich und sie wird vielleicht auch von deutschen Lobbyisten und Verbänden geteilt.

Solche Leute müssen bloßgestellt werden als das, was sie sind: Gefährlich. In Anzug und Krawatte sind sie äußerlich weniger verdächtig, verfassungsfeindliche Extremisten zu sein als Skinheads oder grünhaarige Antifa-Aktivisten, aber das macht sie nur umso gefährlicher.

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)

Sven Ortmann



Finally, pigs can fly!

I had a suspicion I wouldn't see it in my lifetime: Camouflage has arrived on boots.

At least one army is finally doing a troops testing with camo boots - the Canadians (they've also been a bit innovative in regard to camo patterns a few years ago). Maybe there were earlier tests, but not to my knowledge.

Camouflaged boots were available for hunters (quite brownish) and as civilian pop fashion boots (impractical).

OK, maybe we can scratch boots from the "not really camouflaged yet" list. What else?

Weapons (at least rifles) are increasingly being camouflaged, at least in war zones. The good old sniper rifle and white winter camouflage isn't alone any more. Spray-painted (factory and self-made) rifles have been in use for years. Again, hunters and civilians with a faible for camo patterns seem to lead.

Helmet (night sight) mounts; there are camouflage-printed textile covers to hide these at daylight.

I haven't seen heavy infantry weapons (machine guns, AT weapons) - in real camo colours or pattern yet. Grey, black, brown wood - nothing else yet as far as I know.

Kneepads. Some kneepads are camouflaged, but many aren't (see photo). Their wide-spread use by ground forces is a relatively new (few years) story any way.

Weapon sights and other weapon accessoires; rarely if ever seriously camouflaged (snipers excluded). This includes the need for anti-reflection devices (either improvised or bought).

Gloves; many different gloves are available with a camouflage pattern, but simple colour (black, grey or brown) gloves still seem to be more widely used.

- - - - -

This camouflaging of small individual equipment items makes sense, but let's let's not forget that printed camo patterns aren't the real deal. The real deal are disorderly 3D camouflage items.




Battlefield visual ranges

These photos of a recent Pakistani Army firepower display (Azm-e-Nau-3 "exercise") reminded me once again of an anecdote from the late Cold War.
Officers and experts from NATO countries were discussing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), their merits and their optimum range. The Milan system had a range of 2 km while a couple other systems had ranges of about 4 km.
Finally an Israeli guest gave a comment. He reminded everyone that they would be happy if they had more than a single kilometre visual range on a battlefield because dust, smoke from fires and smoke from WP shells would be omnipresent.
I think this anecdote deserves to be remembered in all present and future discussions about expensive weapons and munitions.



P.S.: F. Uhle-Wettler published his book "Gefechtsfeld Mitteleuropa" at about the same time and stirred up the Bundeswehr with his diagnosis that our army was way too mechanised for a Central European battlefield. The many settlements and forests required much more infantry than was available.

(Ironically, my copy of that book was once part of the German II. Corps' staff library.)


A little bit German artillery and anti-tank defence history

The German army had a serious anti-tank defence problem back in 1940-1945. It's today possible to guess the ideal mix of material and organisations* to cope with their anti-tank problem, but they didn't do a good job back then.

The problem surfaced during the short campaign in France 1940 for the first time. Both French Char B-1bis and British Mathilda tanks had thick enough armour plates to withstand the German standard AT guns (3,7 cm Pak 36; a commercially very successful and often-copied model that had nevertheless outlived its usefulness against heavy tanks even before the war. The gun was good in comparison to foreign counterparts, but not good enough by far).

The later campaign in Russia confirmed the problem when the Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks proved to be too well-protected as well. The German standard AT gun was performing well only against the huge inventory of old and new Russian light tanks (T-26, BT-5 & BT-7, T-60, T-70).

The roots of the problem date back by many years.

Tanks weren't "shell-proof", but only "bullet-proof" back in the 20's. New tank designs began to reach good speeds (30 km/h) only at around 1930. The increased speed meant that normal artillery (field howitzers with muzzle velocities of about 500 m/s) was increasingly reduced in its ability to hit those new tanks at long ranges (a flight time of about 2.2 sec was later considered to be OK for AT purposes by NATO).

The first shell-proof (at least against frontal hits) tanks appeared in the mid-1930's and shell-proof tank frontal armour wasn't standard until about 1942.

So the 30's were a phase of rapid technological and conceptual change. The German dedicated motorised anti-tank units (Panzerjäger) were planned to be equipped with 3.7 cm guns - and this plan was carried out with bureaucratic momentum despite the growing obsolescence of the gun.

Critics of the German anti-tank effort in WW2 usually point at this failure; the failure to replace the 3.7 cm gun early with a 5 or 7.5 cm AT gun. (This failure is actually explainable by the pursuit of squeeze-bore technology guns. This technology was unusable in wartime because of its consumption of rare tungsten.)

The anti-tank effort wasn't only an effort of the Panzerjäger, though. The Soviets used their artillery in concentrations to break German armour attacks and the French had similar, initially promising efforts in the later phase of the 1940 campaign.
Why wasn't this possible for the German army?

Anti-tank fires require a rather high muzzle velocity. This improves the hit chance against moving targets at long range and it also gives the shell more kinetic energy. Cannons (lower maximum elevation, higher muzzle velocity and smaller calibre for same gun weight than howitzers) were therefore better suited for anti-tank defence than howitzers. Gun-howitzers (a mixture of both categories) were satisfactory until about early 1943.

Germany's light field artillery began to move from cannons in the 7.5-8.8 cm range to 10.5 cm howitzers even before the First World War, a few years after the quick-firing gun revolution. This trend towards heavier shells and higher angle of fire (and thus shell descent) had intensified during the war. 7.5 cm light field cannons were still in use during the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr time, but they finally dropped out of favour during the army build-up of the 1930's and were considered to be obsolete (although they were kept in service due to a generally inadequate production output.

There were good reasons for this from the artillery branch's point of view:
* The higher maximum elevation made howitzers more useful in forest terrain.
* The higher angle of fire and thus shell descent created a superior fragmentation pattern of the shell.
* Light field cannons had only small explosive effect per shell.
* 75 mm calibre effects on impact are difficult to sense for artillery observers at long range.
* Howitzers were able to penetrate overhead cover of field fortifications in direct hits.
* Artillery had to use indirect fire (without line-of-sight) most often for its own survivability, and especially light howitzers were more suitable enough for this in general.

The howitzers retained shields and were thus easily capable of disposing enemy tanks back in WWI and up to the mid-30's. It seemed as if dropping the 7.5 cm light field cannon out of production in favour of more 10.5 cm light field howitzers was a smart move.

So it happened - the newest 7.5 cm light field cannon design - 7.5 cm WFK L/42 with a long barrel (unusually high muzzle velocity of 701 m/s and thus a good range of 13,500 m), a good max. elevation of 42° and a barely tolerable weight of 1,625 kg wasn't put into production.
The 10,5 cm leFH 18 became instead the standard ordnance of the light artillery detachments of German artillery regiments.

The Russians introduced an even better light field cannon (76,2 mm Pushka obr. 1936g) with 1,350 kg deployed weight, 706 m/s, 13.6 km and an incredible 75° max. elevation in 1936. (German artillery designers had a reputation to be a bit on the heavy side while Russians had the reputation of being a bit on the light side.)
This 7.62 cm gun was later captured in 1941 in great quantities and adopted by the German army as Pak 36(r) because it was one of the greatest anti-tank guns of the war.

The Russians later introduced a lighter (1,120 kg deployed) gun with less max. elevation (37°) - the ZiS-3 gun. The most incredibly fact about this gun was the insane production quantity. It was also very popular (once captured) in the German army and was adopted as Fk 288(r). It was lighter than the German 7.5 cm Pak 40 of the time and almost as easy to handle in the field as the German 5 cm Pak 38.

The British had their own an anti-tank problem in WW2, but this was concealed until 1942 by its fine standard field artillery piece, the 25 pdr (8.76 cm) gun-howitzer. Its muzzle velocity of about 532 m/s wasn't good, but it was still capable of being used in an emergency anti-tank role until early 1943.

Well, what had happened? Much of the German anti-tank defence problem of WW2 had its roots reaching back to the 1900's, before the invention of tanks. The artillery branch had optimised itself for its core role of indirect fires and not paid attention to the emerging threat of shell-proof armour. The German artillery was therefore not as effective in the German anti-tank effort of WW2 as it would have been necessary. Attempts to correct this (such as the use of captured guns and 7.5 cm anti-tank guns in German artillery units and the creation of assault gun detachments as part of the artillery branch) were significant, but obviously not enough.

The German artillery branch failed to meet wartime expectations (in WW2) because it wasn't versatile enough due to its pursuit of maximum effectiveness in its core mission.

This didn't influence the early Bundeswehr much. The early Bundeswehr had to use foreign Western ordnance and didn't pay much attention to an anti-tank role for the artillery until the 1970's with the rise of dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) and after the Cold War the "smart" SMArt155 guided AT munition for 155 mm howitzers.


*: My take on this:
Panzerfaust for all troops, Panzerschreck at Platoon (or infantry in defence: Squad) level, enough AT bar mines, a regiment of motorised 7.5cm AT guns /light field guns per division, an assault gun battalion (Sturmgeschützabteilung) with 7.5cm casemate gun AFVs (assault guns) per army corp and several of the same directly available to army (2-4 army corps) commander with a move from 7.5 to 8.8 cm calibre beginning in 1943.

edit 09/2012: More on the effectiveness of the 3,7 cm Pak: http://operationbarbarossa.net/Myth-Busters/Pak-36.html


A quote of "Omar"

This is a quote of a comment left by someone who called himself "Omar" (and signed a previous comment with "Sincerely, A Proud Muslim" at another blog:

...there are many in the Islamic world that view the United States as a natural enemy, The greatest fallacy is to attribute this to a question of religion. It really is all about the distinct perception held by the Islamic population at large that US foreign policy is to their detriment. Religion plays a role in the way it is used as a rallying cry and a banner under which to fight against the perceived enemy. Naturally, the Islamic world is not homogenous and things vary to some degree from place to place, but rightly or wrongly, US foreign policy is viewed as a threat and that is the reason why the Islamic world is at loggerheads with the US. To reinforce the issue, do you see the same level of antagonism directed at China? A land of polytheism and therefore the most anathema to monotheistic Islam.

I felt this was worthy of repetition.

It's really about foreign policy, history, respect, reputation, interests - a poor combination can yield a needless hot conflict. It's the job of foreign politicians and the diplomatic corps to prevent this from happening.
Shit happens at times, but you really should repair the damage once there's a needless conflict - and you cannot do so until you get the diagnosis right.

Sven Ortmann


Rehabilitating "Operation Gericht" (Battle of Verdun)

The Battle of Verdun is being 'remembered' as a colossal waste of lives and a failure.
It's correct that a quick peace would have been a MUCH better option on every day of WWI, but I think that history writers don't deal justice to the German military top leadership of the time.

First of all, they were as unable to foresee the future. The experiences of 1915 weren't telling enough to anticipate how the Battle of Verdun would look like.

- - - - -

Germany could have limited itself in 1916 to attacks with limited objectives (very small raids or capturing of small areas of particular interest, usually with surprise effect and very few troops) on the Western Front. This is what many consider today as a superior alternative to the Battle of Verdun. There were enemies with their own will to take into account, though.

Both France and the British (Empire) had the intent and capability to launch offensives in France. The British had alternatives overseas (especially against the Ottomans), but they needed to exert pressure in France in order to support the French.

The Germans had thus the choice between launching an offensive themselves or to wait till the Western Entente powers launched offensives.

Nobody can foresee the future or be certain about alternate history, but it's relatively obvious that the French would have launched an offensive to their leadership's liking if they had not been drawn to Verdun. The French would have had the initiative, thus being able to choose location and time. The location would certainly have been a much better choice for them than Verdun because Verdun was a protruding front line extension with bottleneck logistical connections (only one rail line).

The German's option of not launching a major offensive in the West would not have freed many divisions for actions on the Eastern Front because an offensive was bound to happen on the Western Front anyway; the only questions were the time and place.

- - - - -

The tactical level was full of dilemmas

The German offensive at Verdun provoked a French counter-offensive by capturing some prestigious ground at Verdun. In other words; a limited, short offensive gained the initiative and fixed much French strength at Verdun, the least favourable battle location for the French.
This did also ensure that no joint British-French offensive could take place in the North where both armies were in contact.

Historians are still debating whether the German commander von Falkenhayn had a pure attrition strategy for Verdun. The primary operational value of the offensive was a different one anyway; the transfer of the operational initiative from the French to the Germans.
If a major French-German battle in 1916 was inevitable (except for the peace option) - why not choose the location yourself?

- - - - -

The execution of the Battle was problematic. The initial attacks didn't gain much ground. This loss of ground was enough to provoke French attacks, but this didn't mean that only the French were provoked to attack. The defence requires counter-attacks for stability, for the enemy usually gains some ground. The ground would quickly have been lost if the Germans didn't include counter-attacks in their defence.

There was basically a choice between
(1) exploiting the advantage of a tactical defence (without counter-attacks) and accept that the whole operational effect would have quickly been lost because the French would quickly regain all lost ground
(2) defend with counter-attacks and accept that both sides would mix tactical defence and tactical offence, leading to no systematic exchange ratio advantage for either side.

The pursuit of additional German ground gains after the French had counter-concentrated was only adding to the cascade of attack and defence of the original offensive - with the same dilemma.
It's easy to see why the soldiers on both sides had the impression of being fed into a mincing machine.

You may wonder "why not accept enemy offensive and defend with the advantage of tactical defence without much counterattacking"? There are three major problems with such an approach;
(1) The German war economy depended on captured French iron ore mines. A long withdrawal was therefore unacceptable.
(2) Morale and discipline of an army are getting hammered if the troops do only withdraw and never advance. Commanders at level division and below might have reduced their effort to a delay because ground was to be paid for blood anyway and wouldn't have meant much any more. A delay would have allowed too great ground gains by the Western Entente.
Such a permanent withdrawal under pressure would have risked an operational disaster.
(3) The tactical defence's greatest advantage of the time were trenches. A slowly withdrawing army would have had much lesser quality field fortifications than the Germans had at their static front line.

The German Army had one more alternative; a partial and controlled withdrawal to a shortened front line, similar to the 1917 withdrawal to the Siegfried line. This shortening of the front line freed 12 infantry division for the theatre reserve in 1917. The material and time requirements of the construction of the Siegfried line were certainly a challenge and the withdrawal would not have averted a French offensive to their linking.

It's my conclusion that launching the Battle of Verdun was among the smartest (= among the least terrible) military options. The tactical problems of the battle themselves were a hellish choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

This leads to the smartest thing to do in early 1916 (both sides!): To seek armistice and peace. This war broke many European countries for no apparent reason; some officially and even more unofficially so.




The military spending free riding discussion

There's again a public discussion about whether allies of the U.S. have a free ride on its military spending. Many comments and contributions in this discussion are charged with faulty logic, ignorance, disinformation, prejudices, domestic partisanship or emotions.

One example of this discussion is here.

Bigger graphic file here. Hat tip to P.a.p.-Blog.

I think the "answers" in this decades-old discussion can be grouped like this:

(1) Yes, they do. They should spend more.
(2) Yes, they do. The U.S. should spend less.
(3) Yes, they do. It's what the U.S. wants; be ahead of all other's military capabilities.
(4) No, they don't. It's no free ride if you pay billions as well.
(5) The greater U.S. expenses are due to its need for greater logistical and forced entry capabilities.
(6) No, the Europeans don't, for there's no problematic threat to them in sight.
(7) It depends. About which ally are we speaking?

Now I'd like to comment on these generic answers:

(1) Yes, they do. They should spend more.

What for should Germany spend more on the military, for example? It could modernise its military a bit quicker, that would feel better for military fans - and few else. There's no present threat we'd need to build our military up against. Equipment shortcomings are more a problem of suboptimal procurement than caused by budget limitations.
The answer may be correct in regard to Japan and Taiwan, but I suspect that Taiwan simply has a different grand strategy than an utterly hopeless arms race with mainland China.

(2) Yes, they do. The U.S. should spend less.

The "Yes, they do" part suffers from the same problem as (1). The "spend less" part makes sense, but it depends of course on the preferences of the U.S. electorate.

(3) Yes, they do. It's what the U.S. wants; be ahead of all other's military capabilities.

Again, same problem as (1) with the "Yes, they do" part. The later part is a reasonable attempt of an explanation in my opinion.

(4) No, they don't. It's no free ride if you pay billions as well.

It's a reasonable perspective, but it doesn't really answer what the critics mean; the different efforts in %GDP.

(5) The greater U.S. expenses are due to its need for greater logistical and forced entry capabilities.

This is again a reasonable explanation for a significant part of the difference in military spending. Let's again take Germany as example; there's simply no reason why we should have a forced entry Marine Corps and a full-fledged amphibious fleet or strategic sea-lift ships. There was a discussion about one amphibious landing ship (enough for a battalion of ground troops) in the 90's and the idea was dismissed.

(6) No, the Europeans don't, for there's no problematic threat to them in sight.

This is a major part of my answer to the question as well. See my explanation in (1).

(7) It depends. About which ally are we speaking?

That's a smart answer - and apparently too smart for many participants of the discussion.
South Korea faces a clear threat and has a strong military (the U.S. forces in South Korea are very small by comparison). It's lacking a modern fighter force to face the PRC's air power, but they have no chance to change this anyway because of their much smaller economy.
Taiwan has a quite 'suboptimal' army and seems to orient its military spending at the scenario of a military air/sea blockade by the mainland Chinese.
Japan could clearly spend more on its military and shape up, especially back in the 90's when it was pouring fortunes into stimulus projects anyway. Japan is on the other hand not in serious conflict with any threat country and might be well-served by a neutrality policy with a defensive military strategy.
The European allies could overpower both the Russian threat and the Arab threat at once. There's no real need for any U.S. military strength for the defence of Europe. It has two nuclear powers, guaranteed air dominance based on European air forces alone, vastly superior ground forces (due to higher quality) and vastly superior naval power. It takes a huge prejudice or ignorance to think that Europe's defence wouldn't be ensured without an unusually high level of U.S. military spending.

- - - - -

I've sometimes read the opinion that the Europeans would spend more if the U.S. spent less. The opposite may be true.
Some of the European army modernisation efforts are aimed at interoperability; compatibility of communications equipment. Many other costly projects are about buying "modern" equipment ; the old equipment has at times only become outdated due to newer U.S. equipment, not due to threat equipment. The Javelin ATGM with its lock-on infra-red sensor is a good example. TOW could still be considered to be modern and on par with all threats if Javelin wasn't introduced. Some European armies have bought Javelin or the similar Israeli Spike missile.

A U.S. military procurement low tide could contrary to some expectations even reduce European military spending.

The military needs of the East Asian partners of the U.S. are being driven by the increasingly more powerful Chinese military. It's reasonable to say that the latter's growth is at least in part due to the threat posed to China by the U.S.. A great power like China cannot be expected to accept naval and air superiority of a distant great power in its coastal waters. The same can be said about air superiority of the same distant great power over China's territory (in the event of conflict). It's only natural that China invested in a large modern fighter force - and this created the fighter procurement shortfalls of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan in the first place.
A U.S. national defence policy that's more about defence and less about force projection would be less threatening to China and would likely reduce, not increase the military strength needs of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan (although not necessarily their budgets).

The "free ride on U.S. military power" discussion suffers from a U.S. bias. It seems that most voices heard are of American origin. The discussion rarely takes into account that allied and befriended nations often have entirely different expectations for their military, different preferences, different strategies, different threat perceptions ... or the ability to think of threats first and military requirements second.

The ability to deploy 10,000 to 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan, an amphibious invasion fleet or an aerial tanker fleet would have little value to most allies. The idea that they're somehow free riding because the U.S. does things (like the Iraq invasion) that its allies don't want to do is quite fallacious at times. The Iraq invasion was against the political will of most allies, for example. So how would they "free ride" on the U.S. capability to pull off such invasions? The U.S. itself doesn't seem to benefit much of its "force projection" capabilities except some extremely nebulous "global stability" or "dominance" advantages.

It's also noteworthy that the U.S. military spending isn't so high because allied countries asked the U.S. to spend more and more. It's that high due to domestic U.S. political culture and habits. Being "strong on defense" is somehow being regarded as a plus for a national level politician. There's no such (assumption of) preference for military power in most other countries. Republicans boast that they're strong on "defense" and democrats don't dare to be labelled "weak on defense", leading for example to military budget increases under the Obama administration for no other apparent reason.
The reaction to a "I'm strong on defense" statement in a European election campaign would look approximately like this: "Huh? What do you mean? Anyway - what will you do to create more jobs?"

Last but not least, there is a desirable free-riding in regard to non-conventional forces. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan could build up nuclear arsenals if they weren't kinda protected by the nuclear-armed great power USA. The latter doesn't want such nuclear proliferation, so this free ride in terms of nuclear forces is entirely intentional.

It's illogical to accuse others of a "free ride" after raising the own expenditures for domestic reasons to almost half of the global expenditures and without being able to point out against which problem the others should spend more.

Show me a threat that Europe cannot meet on its own or together with a hypothetical 2% GNP military spending U.S. ally and I'll agree that we're not pulling our weight (having a "cheap", albeit not "free" ride).

The greatest concern is Europe's ability to ramp up its military power within 2-6 years in response to the emergence of a real major threat. Demands for more expeditionary capabilities and U.S. forces don't help in this regard. Only U.S. R&D on military tech is helpful, and that's a rather inefficient contribution because U.S. military R&D is extremely cost-inefficient.




"The Death of the Armor Corps"

Recommended reading:

by Colonel Gian P. Gentile

I consider this as an anecdote about a far more general trend.
There will be counter-forces that will reverse this trend on the basis of the 2006 Lebanon War (where the IDF discovered that its combined arms battle training was lacking due to its occupation with the Palestinians) and the 2008 South Ossetia War (where Russians won a classic land battle with armoured forces, but discovered training deficiencies as well).

The sooner the West gets out of OEF-A & ISAF, the sooner will the damage to our combined arms proficiency be repaired.

Sven Ortmann


Musings about mountain warfare problems

Mountain warfare is a classical topic and quite interesting. What you really want to do in mountain warfare is to march through valleys, passes and tunnels - or to prevent the same. You need to secure the mountain peaks to do so. This was already reported by Xenophon based on his own experiences more than 2,300 years ago.

And the Greeks were well pleased to see the hills, as was natural considering that the enemy's force was cavalry; when, however, in their march out of the plain they had mounted to the top of the first hill, and were descending it, so as to ascend the next, at this moment the barbarians came upon them and down from the hilltop discharged their missiles and sling-stones and arrows, fighting under the lash. They not only inflicted many wounds, but they got the better of the Greek light troops and shut them up within the lines of the hoplites, so that these troops, being mingled with the non-combatants, were entirely useless throughout that day, slingers and bowmen alike. And when the Greeks, hard-pressed as they were, undertook to pursue the attacking force, they reached the hilltop but slowly, being heavy troops, while the enemy sprang quickly out of reach; and every time they returned from a pursuit to join the main army, they suffered again in the same way. On the second hill the same experiences were repeated, and hence after ascending the third hill they decided not to stir the troops from its crest until they had led up a force of peltasts from the right flank of the square to a position on the mountain. As soon as this force had got above the hostile troops that were hanging upon the Greek rear, the latter desisted from attacking the Greek army in its descent, for fear that they might be cut off and find themselves enclosed on both sides by their foes. In this way the Greeks continued their march for the remainder of the day, the one division by the road leading over the hills while the other followed a parallel course along the mountain slope, and so arrived at the villages.

The higher positions are dominant; that was true with stone slingers and bowmen just as it is today with hand grenades and machine guns. The classic solution is to first employ light infantry to take the mountain peaks, then to proceed in the valley. This was neglected early in the Korean War when South Korean and U.S. forces lacked the infantry to control the mountains. The results were devastating as usual in such cases.

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Mountains and some forms of hilly terrain present an interesting tactical problem. Most vehicles are of little use and there's often little that obstructs the view. The latter is especially true above the tree limit.

Russian unopposed advance through the northern part of South Ossetia (maybe still Northern Ossetia) in 2008. The actual breakthrough happened in a different terrain type.

Open terrain with wide and long fields of fire is usually tank terrain; attacking infantry has marginal survivability on such a terrain if it faces a strong opponent. Mountain areas often have very long unobstructed fields of fire - Tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles are nevertheless much reduced in their value in mountainous areas due to mobility restrictions.

Mountain infantry is therefore in a kind of "1915" situation. It faces extremely powerful hostile fire-power on open terrain and it lacks armour.

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There's not much of a problem with defence; it's almost a dream land for forward observers, mortars and howitzer artillery (the latter being mostly in valleys), at least for the first few kilometres. The calculation of firing solutions was laborious until the 80's, but that problem is mostly gone today.
The terrain makes most methods for counter-artillery targeting ineffective. Sound ranging is confused by echoes, flash sighting is impossible because the barrels are behind mountains and counter-artillery/mortar radars have difficulties with their usual mode of operation as well.

The restrictive terrain makes it also quite easy to guess good spots for harassing fires or marshalling areas.

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The offence problem is this one: How do you advance against a strong opponent on mountainous terrain with little or no concealment & cover on possible routes of approach?

The terrain does often offer enough concealment and even cover for resting and observing troops. The issue is different for advancing troops. You need to move from one rock cover to the next, exposing yourself to observation and fire.
Infantry can negotiate the terrain only slowly and needs to move over long stretches of terrain without enough cover and concealment. The use of smoke for obscuration of movements is also difficult, in part because winds are often strong on mountains.

Combat in Afghanistan confirmed many problems despite the poor marksmanship and ammunition supply of the enemy - who has on top of that almost no indirect high-angle fire support. Combat experiences also confirmed how easily infantry can be pinned down in mountainous terrain.

Classic surprise tactics - offensive movements at night or during poor weather - are of greatly diminished value in the age of infra-red and remote sensors. Such well-timed assaults are still feasible against paramilitary opponents, but they're not really promising against modern military opponents. It's dangerous to negotiate mountain terrain at poor visibility and weather conditions in itself anyway.

Orthodox answers

Some people discuss the problem of mountain warfare as a hardware choice. Longer-ranged weapons can in theory win a fire-fight at long distances. It's too bad that such longer-range weapons are heavier than normal and require more (and heavier) ammunition than short-range weapons would do. Weight is a painful problem in mountain warfare even with lightweight weapons. The defender can ceteris paribus match and exceed the attacker's fire-power because he doesn't need to move as much.
The long-range weapons path offers no solution for the attacker's troubles, not even for the direct fire fight alone.

Another approach is to forget about tracks, tires and boot movement and hop into helicopters. This is done quite much in Afghanistan.
Hot & high conditions aren't nice to helicopters, strong opponents would have appropriate air defences and conventional mountain warfare would already strain the helicopter force to its limits with logistical tasks. The choice of landing zones is rather limited and powerful defenders could easily cover these LZ with fire. Helicopters are an expensive niche solution, a barely feasible answer to mountain warfare tactical mobility in small wars.

Another approach is the one from the official field manuals. The ones I know basically advise to choose the least terrible route of approach. Use cover & concealment whenever possible, accept to make a detour.
That doesn't solve the basic problem, though. Such attacker-friendly areas would most likely have the due attention of the enemy just like the LZs. The FM advice works best in scenarios with a rather low force density.

Field manuals also emphasize the importance of dispersion, but that's not very convincing either. Dispersion did not keep the infantry capable of offensive actions over flat, open terrain. Why should it suffice on open and much less easily negotiated terrain? Its contribution to a problem solution could only be small.

It's also an option to reject the idea that vehicles cannot handle the terrain and employ them nevertheless. The German allocation of Wiesel weapons platforms with 20mm autocannon or TOW missile launcher to mountain infantry battalions is an example for this approach. The Wiesel is tiny and able to negotiate some bridges and paths up in the mountains. Yet, its ability to go where you want it to go is not reliable. Maybe sometime in the future walking vehicles can negotiate all terrains that can be negotiated with mere boots, but such Sci-Fi won't help us in this decade.

Well, how could a solution for offence in modern mountain warfare look like?

Much of the defender's firepower would consist of support fires. Air power and counter-artillery fires approaches to this challenge would most likely remain very incomplete, but maybe there's another way to take mortars and howitzers out of the equation: It might be possible to cut the communication connections.

Cable communications are possible in mountainous terrain and they're relatively difficult to cut unless you know their position or spend much ammunition, but radio comm is more important anyway.

It might be possible to jam radio comm in mountain warfare.

That's almost guaranteed to fail if only classic radio jamming techniques were used. Hills and mountains are the definition of a shield against jamming attempts. The jammers would usually need to have a line of sight to both emitter and receiver (observer and firing position). Artillery-delivered radio jammers (yes, this stuff exists, and it did so for decades) may be part of the answer (if they can handle the hard mountain surfaces). Aerial jammers may be another part of the answer (preferably cheap medium sized UAVs).
The degradation of opposing (observed) support fires may be part of a solution.

The destruction of forward slope defensive positions by support fires (battalion and higher support) coupled with a suppression of ridge-lines and mountain peaks (by HE) and battlefield interdiction by further fires on bottlenecks behind the opponent's forwardmost mountain peak (fires on road bottlenecks) may help a lot. The idea is basically to minimize the line-of-sight (LOS) combat as well. The less LOS combat, the less casualties among the advancing infantry.

Very light equipment, good physical fitness and adaption to high altitude is of great importance for infantry on mountains. Body armour needs to be limited to partial protection against fragments (light helmet & light "flak vest" at most).

Their mobility on the difficult terrain defines the duration of an attack. The slower they are, the more they're exposed and the longer the need for support fires.

This forms a reinforcing loop: Less duration of support fires allows for more intense support fires and that again should relieve the infantry from some pressure (casualties) - which again allows quicker movement. The limit for this is the speed of the infantry in negotiating the difficult terrain. This speed is being defined by terrain, morale, physical fitness and equipment. Additional equipment can be brought forward once the ridge-line is under control.

Movement speed is of course a huge problem in mountainous terrain, where "everything is slower".

One hour is added for each 300 meters of ascent or 600 meters of descent to the time required for marching a map distance.
FM 3-97.6 Chapter 4-22 (U.S.Army)

Even medium moutaineous terrain (about 1,000 to 3,000 m peak altitude) terribly slows down all movements. Troops with normal flat country training and normal equipment would likely not meet offensive requirements, but maybe properly trained (including stair climbing training instead of normal running) and equipped troops would.

In the end, conquering a mountain peak or ridge as part of an offensive requires either a high tolerance for casualties or a combination of quick infantry with a quite liberal application of combat support.
The new position would allow for good enough observation to marginalize the opponent's activities on the reverse slope, in the next valley and on the counter-slope. It could be necessary to defend it immediately against a quick counter-attack, though.

Such a mountain-by-mountain advance would be terribly "expensive" against a strong opponent no matter how it's done. This is where the airborne idea comes up again. An airborne assault on "rear" mountains could prevent an orderly withdrawal of the enemy to the next ridge-line and it would likely face a less "hot" landing zone than during an assault on the front mountain. (The airborne threat can at the very least motivate the opposing force to develop a deep defence, thus weakening their forward-most defences.)

Maybe there's also an opportunity for a AFV-led assault through the valley at the moment of the opponent's fall-back.
AFVs are extremely vulnerable in mountainous regions not only because they are often limited in their movement; they also expose their weakly protected top to enemies at higher altitudes and main battle tanks lack the gun elevation to fight back effectively. Modern combat vehicles could address the latter two problems with active protection systems that add top protection and with auto cannons (which tend to have a better maximum elevation angle than MBT cannons). Such improvements might suffice to make an armoured thrust through a valley feasible and promising in a situation of turmoil.

The armour attack would serve only one purpose; push forward the culminating point of the attack.
The exploitation of a short transition phase of much-reduced defensive ability is important for the creation of offensive momentum. Some relevant mountainous areas aren't very wide. A single offensive could succeed in breaking through or at least reaching the highest line of mountains from which the later mountain peaks can be observed more easily.

There are of course huge problems with all of this. Friction, morale, isolated pockets of stubborn resistance, areas of enemy-held infantry terrain and unobserved defensive artillery fires, for example.

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The previous thoughts on a possible solution to the mountain offensive problem were about conventional warfare - when an army faces a powerful enemy.

Today's small wars looks very different. Air power can intervene freely, the paramilitary force has almost no mortars and no artillery, the ratio of helicopters to ground troops is quite favourable and the paramilitary force isn't able to establish a deep, known defensive zone without gaps.

This opens many, many more options for the military force. It's kind of discouraging that mountain (and hill) warfare is nevertheless seen as a difficult challenge. Infantry still gets fixed by small arms fire and (counter-) offensive action is often limited to close air support.

That may be in part because of a high risk aversion and because powerful air support is available, but it's certainly no good preparation for wars of necessity; defensive wars against real powers.
(We're lucky that we have a real chance of not seeing such a war for decades, of course. But then again I fear that there's too much stupidity in mankind, and it could get us into real trouble quite soon.)

The snippets about the tactics employed in AFG that I've learned about suggest that the situation could be improved by splitting the military force up into enough separate manoeuvre elements. One or two might still become fixed and suppressed, but others could advance and exploit that the enemy isn't strong enough to maintain control of the terrain at his flanks and rear.

The objective in every fire-fight there should be the encirclement or an ambush on withdrawing enemies; the troops in contact should ensure that no opponent escapes; almost none of them shall be allowed to join another fire-fight against them or their comrades again.
There are only a few thousand enemy combatants, and the huge war machine that got deployed to AFG should really be able to mobilise enough capabilities to win fire-fights decisively.

Merely extracting a platoon out of a fire-fight without casualties and with some claims of enemy WIA and KIA is not sufficient; that's pretty much a draw and will likely lead to a more refined attack by the enemy on a later date.

March separated - encircle or ambush - destroy trapped enemies with support fires. The "destroy with support fires" part may be substituted with "capture prisoners", of course.

The result could be that the option of infantry-on-infantry combat in mountainous or hilly terrain would be scratched from the enemy's active repertoire.

Instead, warfare on mountains and hills is still a huge problem, most opponents escape from fire-fights. Seriously; modern, trained and lavishly equipped forces that struggle to achieve decisive tactical victories against a rag-tag militia despite a ~10:1 manpower advantage and a ludicrous budget and material advantage are an embarrassment. They would likely fail catastrophically in a conventional war mountain offensive against a strong opponent.
I don't blame the small units in contact; it's the whole concept of fort garrisons doing little more than a few raids and patrols that fails embarrassingly in AFG. Isolated small infantry patrols can easily be pinned down and become limited to calls for fire support.

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The prospect for rapid advances without major assistance by the opponent's failures is marginal in mountainous terrain. The attacker can nevertheless mass fires, support and expensive modes of transportation to achieve an almost irresistible local superiority. The defender may be hampered in his ability to cope with a rapid assault (employment of reserves and fires) by the natural slowness of high altitude operations and by the shielding effect of mountains against artillery fires.

Mountain warfare against paramilitary forces should be relatively easy given the extreme asymmetry of support and training.


edit 2015: I repaired the morale of the story (the italic part).


About why we think we're great and about army structures

Western armies think they're great in comparison to others, and for several reasons. We've made huge improvements in many key areas of military art.

Troops discipline - major leap forward since the late 17th century

Training - major leap forward early in the 20th century

Equipment - major leap forward since early 20th century, enabled by industrialised economies

Supply system - major leap forward in mid 19th to mid 20th century based on railroad and internal combustion engine (trucks)

Detect and identify enemies - major leap forward in 20th century thanks to aviation and sensor technologies

Lethality - major leaps forward during mid-19th century till late 20th century (rifled weapons, rapid fire, precision guidance)

Mobility - major leap forward in mid 19th century to mid 20thc entury (railroad, internal combustion engine)

Communication - major leaps forward in late 19th to mid 20th century (wire and wireless comm)

Protection - partial great advances since early 20th century (armoured vehicles, body armour)

A job well done, we're state of the art -
problems mostly solved, no real need to change?

Well, that's a common attitude, but I beg to differ. Look at the Think Defence blog, for example. Its current topic is the British army structure. Their underlying assumptions are quite conventional as usual in such dicscussions.

I think there's a significant problem with the aforementioned list: Warfare is a contest against intelligent opponents who adapt. The different advances leave different potentials for adaption. The most potential for countermeasures seems to exist in regard to the "detect & identify" topic.

The current insurgency-centred conflicts seem to emphasize the point. There's much attention on protection and some on supplying and equipment, but those conflicts are ultimately about the identification of enemies. They would long have been over if the enemy was permanently clothed in military fatigues. He isn't.

Guerrillas master an extreme form of countermeasure against identification; blend in with the environment (population). This proves the potential of such countermeasures.
Military forces can also use countermeasures against "find & identify". Radar "stealth" and submerged silent submarines are obvious example, camouflage clothing another one.

Countermeasures against "detect & identify" pose probably the greatest problem for offensive-minded armies in modern warfare.

We have little difficulty eradicating enemies whom we have detected & identified if they are nice enough to not move too quickly out of sight. The Western forces' lethality (firepower + accuracy of the same) is enormous. The real problem is to detect & identify without exposing yourself too much to the enemy's lethality.

Using mostly combat troops for the "find & identify" seems to be rather primitive and costly. It violates predictably the ideal of "seeing without being seen". Moving combat forces to the enemy to get into contact tends to yield intense fights, they tend to have limited stealth, they have few specialisation advantages in the "detect & identify" business and their employment tends to provokes a decisive fight.
I'm under the impression that it's better to shape the battlefield to your advantage before you should engage in a decisive fight - there's little time for this if you let combat forces do most of the recce.

This seems to pose a challenge to the existing balance between combat and reconnaissance. The problem can be interpreted as a strong argument in favour of more reconnaissance/scouting and counterreconnaissance/ counter-scouting capabilities.

Additional scouting capabilities (and troops, units) aren't for free, of course (at least not beyond a small degree of improvement by minimising waste).
Combat forces and recce forces are competing for ressources.

I am under the impression that we didn't adjust well enough to this challenge. I have the suspicion that the optimum balance would have a greater share of recce forces.

How could we address the ressource allocation conflict between combat and recce elements? Taking away too much combat strength is no good idea, after all.

One way out is the use of extremely efficient scouts; many small teams that offer a great coverage, can easily hide or break contact if necessary and require little if any elaborate support. I think of Long range surveillance (LRS) teams that do not make use of expensive army aviation support except in emergencies. We could make good use of much more of them.

Another way out of the ressource allocation dilemma is to combine combat and recce in one type of unit that leans more toward recce than combat in order to make a difference. Again, this unit would need to be small to achieve a good coverage at low cost. One example of this kind of hybrid Recce/Combat unit could be what I call "skirmishers" or "light cavalry".

The more conventional answer would be armoured reconnaissance, but that branch has experienced a shift towards observation technology (away from combat) in several countries since the 90's.

This was but one rather unconventional point that I'd like to raise in regard to EVERY Western army structure. There are more, such as about infantry numbers in general or about the mix and interaction of formations on the operational level.
We could instead discuss army structures in a less fundamental approach and just discuss topics like "light vs. medium vs. heavy", "brigades vs. divisions", "disband this tradition regiment or not" and similar. I have a suspicion that such a discussion would not be radical enough. It would ignore rather fundamental challenges that were built up by technological and other developments during decades of relative peace (no great war among high-end powers since 1945).

Sven Ortmann