An old quote that still worries me

Germany has sixteen state and one federal secret service for the monitoring of domestic threats to the constitutional order. The literal translation of these agencies' names would sound like "Constitution protector".

They observe far left parties, far right parties and if I remember correctly also some sects and a bit organised crime. I really only care about the observation of extremist parties, though.

There was (admittedly, back in May) an article about the observation of the Linke, the German socialist party (which has few per cent seats in most parliaments here) and how representatives of that party decry this observation as politically motivated. The protest points at the many laws passed by mainstream party state and federal governments in Germany which didn't pass a check of the respective constitutional courts. Their conclusion; the government parties should be observed, for they violate the constitution.

Well, both sides have their point and honestly, I'd like to see whether we couldn't do without such domestic political spying.

The response of a Bavarian politician in an interview was worrying. He said

„Auch die Forderung, Deutschland solle aus der Nato austreten, beweist, dass die Beobachtung weiter sinnvoll ist.“

("The demand that Germany should leave the Nato also proves that the observation stays meaningful.")
source: Welt.de

Sorry, this is no reason for suspecting anti-constitutional tendencies at all.
The German constitution allows for the membership in such an alliance, but it doesn't demand membership in NATO and NATO is actually disposable for Germany's national security due to the Lisbon Treaty.
Germany is a sovereign country that can leave NATO if it wishes and that would not be the tiniest bit counter-constitutional.

I understand that a very right wing party's (in the German spectrum; in the U.S. political spectrum they would at most be moderate Republicans) representative prefers a far left wing party to be labelled as possibly counter-constitutionalist, but said left-wing party has a point: The CSU itself has its own issues with the constitution, especially the federal one. The NATO-related point on the other hand was nothing but an embarrassment for its user.


P.S.: 31 posts in a 31-day month. Don't expect me to keep this pace, I had a few free weeks this month.

Military procurement lessons (re)learned of the last decades

The series of procurement disasters around the world is long and impressive. Projects lasted far to long (some lasted for three decades), busted their budget badly, produced mediocre or unsafe equipment, didn't meet the forces' real needs, were cancelled after high R&D costs or a combination of several such failures.

It's astonishing that the problem isn't under control, for the lessons were learned and could be implemented:

* No cost-plus contracts that motivate the supplier to bust the original budget.

* Neutral yet competent cost estimates are necessary because pro-program persons and institutions downplay (lie about)  the costs.

* No political decision to stretch a program, for this increases the cost more than lending money for a timely program execution.

* Program managers need be loyal to the taxpayer, not to their project.

* Program managers need to be held responsible for (lack of) performance.

* Research and development need to be separated to keep technology risks down and avoid costly delays.

* The armed service needs to have the (technical) competence to define what it needs.

* Do not force multiple armed services to agree on a "joint" product. At least don't let them believe that they might get a custom development just for their service if there was no joint project. This never works out well.

* Do not allow "upgrades" that come close to the cost of a new product.

* Do not stare at the modernity of the product at the beginning of its operational service. Look at the average modernity over its lifetime. It may be better to replace mediocre products more often than to buy one super product and stick with it for a decade after its obsolescence.

* Small development cost items should be developed with industry capital.

* Off-the shelf products very often meet or exceed the requirements and should be bought.

* The state must not become soft and grant waivers over the original contract (build a tough reputation by enforcing contracts).

* Good contracts and requirements coupled with a tough procurement stance on the same allow for a very lax project supervision that doesn't burden the supplier with paperwork.

* Development requirements creep needs to be mostly avoided, this can be pone by requiring very high-level agreement for every change of requirements during a development project.

* Block special interests.

* Do not develop a product if you need only small quantities and could buy something off the shelf.

* "Perfect is the enemy of good."

* Do not allow your supplier to treat you as a low-priority customer. The taxpayer's interests deserve above-average engineers and priority!

* Do not allow suppliers to misunderstand the defence budget for a subsidy pool.

* Do not develop a major product in cooperation with the French. They will bail out once it becomes irrefutable that the product won't be "100% Made in France".

* Punish low performance of bidders in previous contracts by giving contracts to their competition.

* Do not encourage industrial concentration in mega corporations.

* Break up mega corporations with a competition protection act or by pressuring them to disintegrate into cooperating yet fully independent companies by withholding contracts.

* Last 10% of performance causes 30% of the costs, so KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

* Early development phase fixates 80% of costs (total development, per unit), so get it right soon.

* Think in the long term. Don't muddle through all the time, dare to standardise ideal calibres and vehicle families even if that's in contrast with existing inventories.

* Don't launch a development project if the future availability of funds for full development and production is questionable.

* Do not combine an whole army reform program into a bundle of development projects. Launch a development project for the link instead (communication standard and hardware).

* Do not allow fashions to take over your R&D department. Chase the proponents of fashions that violate common sense out of the ministry.

* Quality is overemphasized in peacetime, quantity is essential in wartime. Do not allow designs that are not affordable in quantity.

* Do not overemphasize platforms over ammunitions, spare parts and training funds.

* Use clear and honest information when informing parliament and public, do not misguide and conceal with 6+ definitions of "cost" or other trickery.

* Avoid one-trick ponies. Versatility is a value in itself.

* Demand and enforce that all public servants and soldiers involved in research or development or procurement projects sign a commitment with a huge contract penalty that keeps them from working directly or indirectly for the industry. Relieve those who reject it.

* Agree with the major opposition party if you're about to launch a development  & procurement project that is despite observing all these rules still expected to last longer than your government coalition.

I wrote this list in 30 minutes without dedicated research, just out of my memory. The lessons learned are really obvious. There are only two explanations for why military procurement efforts are still so often a mess: Incompetence and evil.
It looks to me as if politicians don't do their job, followed by lower ranks mixing incompetence, red tape caused by incompetence and inappropriate interests into the problem.

Any reform needs to be a top-down effort. It's therefore appropriate to hold politicians (especially minister of defence and his highest tier secretaries) responsible for every failure that began when they were in office. Such gross failures should haunt them even after their continued their political career in opposition or another office.


"Who Says Dumb Artillery Rounds Can’t Kill Armor?"

Here's another article which I cited very often, a kind of mythbuster piece:

new link
By Major (Retired) George A. Durham
Field Artillery Journal, U.S.Army, Nov/Dec 2002

.(MBT demolished by indirect 155mm HE hit) 

edit 2015-11:
Additional (original) document on the topic, shown by a Swedish armor blog.

edit 2017-06:
A link to a OIF lessons learned presentation with the quote
"Much more effective against armor than effects tables say" about 155 mm HE


Unfree labour phantasies in German politics

(I'll try to keep my distaste for certain proposals and politicians well enough in check to write this piece objectively. It's a tough challenge, for sure!)

Three debates are raging  in German national politics these days;
(1) Reform of the conscription
(2) A provocative book about migrants in Germany
(3) Extending the operating periods for nuclear power plants

I'll discuss the first one (conscription is about to become suspended apparently).

Conservatives have fought hard for conscription in the 50's. A conscription-based Bundeswehr was part of the governments' Western integration grand strategy. The Bundeswehr was meant to contribute with 12 (of a total of 26) divisions for the defence of Western Europe, in Central Europe,  effectively buying Germany a place as almost normal country in the Western World (in combination European unification and reconciliation and cooperation policies with France) shortly after WW2.

It has apparently turned into a conservative party (CDU/CSU) doctrine and ideology since then, for conservatives are the most fierce defenders of conscription in Germany.

The most extreme and in my opinion despicable attempt to save this kind of unfree labour is a proposal of Lower Saxony's minister of the interior, Schünemann.

Nach den Vorstellungen von [...] Schünemann könnte die Dienstpflicht nicht nur in den Streitkräften, sondern auch in der Bundespolizei oder in Zivilschutzverbänden geleistet werden.
(According to the ideas of [...] Schünemann could the service not only be done in the armed forces, but also in the federal police or in civil defence organisations.)

(source: FAZ)

This would actually be legal under our constitution, but not everything that is allowed needs to be done. The constitution allows a lot, including much that Schünemann and his party would not want at all. In fact, the constitution demands plebiscites - which his party opposes fiercely.

- - - - -

The central problem is habituation.
Humans can get used to the greatest nonsense and damages.

Lean back, relax, free your mind. Imagine a world that hasn't seen conscription for generations. You should really muster your imagination and distance yourself from what you're used to.
No major power threatens our country, in fact no real power does. All is fine.

Suddenly, a politician makes his way into newspaper headlines with the idea to force our youth into unfree labour - underpaid, of course. He also wants to strip those who serve their unfree labour period in the military of some of their free speech rights.
Keep in mind; the military can easily make do without unfree labour, the federal police has never employed unfree labourers and the civil defence organisations don't need that either.

What would our reaction be?

My guess:
* We would draw parallels with the Nazis one year forced labour which they imposed on all young men. Many wouldn't hold back and call him a Nazi.
* We would point out that there's absolutely no necessity for unfree labour.
* We would point out that we want and have a free society, and unnecessary unfree labour is an assault on our civil liberties.
* We would protest as much as necessary to get this irresponsible politician gets fired from office.

Why doesn't this happen?
Simple: Germans got used to the abhorrent concept of conscription. They got used enough to it that many even tolerate it in times of no real threat whatsoever. Myths and lies have been formed and spread around conscription to defend it, the fact that almost only German-speaking country retain conscription in Europe isn't well-represented in news at all.

- - - - -

The German society is increasingly under burden of the long-term consequences of political decisions made in the 50's and 60's (and myths created in that period). This was a period of almost exclusive conservative-liberal governance and thus the conservatives stem against some reforms that would address these problems. Some problems aren't on the to-do list of any party because their roots have become so self-evident and unquestioned that  no party has an internal majority in favour of facing the issue. The export orientation and trade balance surplus is such a problem that has been turned into a strength in federal German mythology.
Conscription on the other hand is a legacy of the early Cold War and the Western integration grand strategy that keeps haunting and hurting us for no other reason than the fact that the party which fought for its introduction fights against its suspension, too.



Mean maximum pressure paper

This is a 70's scientific paper on the mean maximum pressure (MMP) index including MMP values for historical vehicles.


It proved to be important in almost all discussions and conversations I've ever had on tracked vehicle soft surface performance.

It's just a technicality, but an interesting one.
(Grab it before Rapidshare deletes it!)

edit: new link (supposed to last longer):

 edit 2012: http://oron.com/y0dylb0w48w6

edit 2012/08: Hrmpf. Oron is down now.

Schwerpunkt and "Klotzen, nicht kleckern!" - the balance problem

"Klotzen, nicht Kleckern! (Boot'em, don't spatter'em!) is one of many famous quotes of Guderian.It shows one example of the Clausewitzian concept of Schwerpunkt (concentrating forces to be strong enough for the decisive battle) in the art of war.

This concept is universally known and somewhat understood (there are misunderstandings!). The real challenge isn't to decide on a Schwerpunkt approach, but to balance between the Schwerpunkt and the other remaining forces.

Clausewitz understood that you need to leave a minimum of forces on duty elsewhere even while amassing forces for a decisive battle. World War battles show this very well; Reserves were sent to the location of offensives, but in fact most forces were left to guard other sections of the front line.

I mentioned Guderian, in part because he provides an interesting example for this challenge in procurement. The infantry of WW2 had great difficulties to advance against defenders on open terrain. The obvious solution was armour support, and thanks to a request/idea by von Manstein this armour support was developed in the form of the early assault gun; a normal tank with a casemate gun and high explosive grenades. Guderian opposed this, fearing for the strength of the armoured divisions; assault guns were competing for funds and production capacities.
Guderian was initially mostly successful, in this internal struggle for resources and the concentration on tanks for the fast troops instead of for infantry divisions is often cited as a superior decision of the Germans in comparison to the French decision to disperse many tanks as infantry support vehicles in 1940.
History didn't end in 1940 and neither did WW2. The actual history went on proving that assault guns were needed (and extremely successful). This was even acknowledged and understood by Guderian, whose armour branch never got enough tanks (but tank divisions were in fact partially equipped with assault guns late in the war) anyway.

The optimisation problem is evident: Back in 1940 the decisive action was the armoured spearhead in the centre an it needed almost all armoured strength. The infantry divisions didn't need to advance much for early operational success. The circumstances were different in 1942-1945 and required a difference balance.

"Klotzen, nicht kleckern!" is a maxim, but maxims must not replace thinking. Maximisation and minimisation are rarely the best idea; we should always strive for optimisation.

- - - - -

The Western forces of the 60's to 90's had a very important balance problem as well. They had to balance between "line" divisions (equivalent to the vast majority of German WW2 divisions, the infantry divisions) and the mobile operational strike forces (equivalent to the few armoured & motorised German divisions of WW2). Eventually, the former atrophied and the latter formed almost the whole of the Western forces. The operational consequences of having no forces to establish and maintain a somewhat stable line were probably never understood.
The new post-2003 forces of Western nations have partially evolved away from this problem, as even the armoured forces (supposedly "Cold War dinosaurs") atrophied, leaving us mostly with support troops, the traditional establishment of light infantry (mountain, airborne) and some motorised infantry.
We were lucky that the imbalance of the previous generation of forces was never truly tested and exposed in war. Let's hope that we'll be lucky enough to never see the present imbalance tested seriously before we inevitably get rid of it

The Schwerpunkt concept remains valid, but it requires a good balancing in every application. Those other forces that are not focused on the supposedly decisive action are essential and must not be reduced too much.


photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-139-1112-17 / Knobloch, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA


Guns are (apparently) very sexy!

... sexy enough to not even need a chick for success!

A few days ago, on 23rd, I blogged about the first heavy calibre machinegun. This particular model isn't well-documented in the WWW or in books, and I blogged about it simply because I like to point out neglected or underestimated stuff.
The blog post wasn't the normal gun documentation, though. I attempted to put the gun in context and point out how important it could have been.

This blog post followed a period of increased visitor activity which was likely caused by a few links and an improved rate of blogging on my part.
Then happened the unexpected (yes, it was still unexpected despite all my previous experiences); the machine gun text plus a link to it at the Firearms Blog pushed this blog beyond 1,000 visitors in a day for the very first time (previous record was 991). In fact, it even reached 1,065 and 1,105 visitors on two days in a row.

It's incredibly frustrating. There are so many blogs and websites about hardware around, and it' really no wonder: That's what almost the whole audience seems to want. Trying to be smart, uncover some background stuff, tactics & operational art, military history - these topics don't have remotely the same attention as simple guns, guns, guns.

If you want to start a MilBlog with many visitors simply focus on guns, tanks, aircraft, ships and bigger guns. It's a foolproof plan.


A British satire on military procurement


A very funny (albeit a bit old) British satire:


Roman multi tool

The "Roman Swiss Army Knife" multi tool exhibit received some attention early this year. It is a piece of great metal working (reminds me a bit of a Roman lock I saw in a German museum).

It's a good reminder for those interested in military history: Our knowledge of history is very fragmentary. Descriptions of historical societies and organisations tend to underestimate the capabilities and complexities that were achieved long before our times.

One example: An old mine was discovered somewhere in the Mediterranean region years ago (forgot the location). The people who found it believed that it was a 18th century mine because of the elaborate water pump system. It turned out to be almost two thousand years old.

Military historians can easily underestimate complexities because of our merely fragmentary understanding of earlier military forces. The bow is such an example. Mongol and even more so Janissary bows were very advanced (the contemporary English longbow is primitive by comparison) and archery was an art at a much higher level than for example a modern basic military training.
All Janissaries were supposed to be their own bowyer and arrow-maker (and this was achieved for many generations)! It required much training to be effective with a relatively low velocity arrow against moving man-sized targets in battle. A superficial look can easily lead to a low opinion of archers.

It's similar with the art of war. Yes, there was a low point in the art of war in Europe during the Dark Ages because of chivalry and arrogance excesses. The art of war - and especially the knowledge of ruses of war - was on the other hand quite advanced and interesting in Europe from Leuctra (371 BC) till Belisarius (560 AD) at least.



Cracking down on corporate spying ! (?)

Germany had in the past few years a row of scandals with an identical theme: Corporations became bold enough to behave as if they were entitled to treat their employees like subjects. This concerned especially the spying on subjects, err, employees at work and in general.

This behaviour did fit well to the seemingly ever-increasing desire of the state itself to spy on the citizens.

This latter trend was stopped when the liberals joined the new federal government as junior partner. The coalition treaty between conservatives and liberals already pointed at this, and the new Minister of Justice was a strong signal that the liberals were serious (the same minister had resigned in the 90's from the same office in protest against a then new wire-tapping law).

The wait was long, but now the government even seems to attempt to turn back the trend a bit. The brazenness of the corporations was an easy target for this. The BMJ (Ministry of Justice) developed a bill to restrict such spying and surveillance.

BMJ speech transcript here.

This is good news, of course. There are some open questions, though.

I) Will this attempt to roll back extend to executive powers or will it be limited to corporate rights?

II) Will the discussion about Google Streetview discredit and distract those who fight for protection against spying too much? It looks like an utterly irrelevant and childish discussion to me.

III) Will the Merkel cabinet be able to act decisively on anything?

IV) Some laws of the aforementioned trend were enacted when conservatives were in power. Can they back-paddle?



Guttenberg's five proposals


The German Minister of Defence v.Guttenberg has offered five proposals in the discussion about the conscription. He's expected to face the most resistance from his own party (the Bavarian CSU) - in part because of party politics (he's a rising star of the party and a threat to its chairman) and in part due to the dogmatic pro-conscription stance of the CDU/CSU.

Said conscription has turned into a farce because only a few ten thousand young men serve annually - and only so for six months due to the influence of the anti-conscription junior federal government coalition party (FDP, liberals).

Here are Guttenberg's five proposals:

Modell eins sieht einen Gesamtumfang von 205.000 Soldaten vor. Die Zahl der Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten wird in zwei Schritten bis 2012 auf 155.000 reduziert. Es bleibt bei 25.000 Grundwehrdienstleistenden W6 und 25.000 FWDL.
Modell zwei wäre die Radikalverkleinerung in drei Schritten bis 2013 auf 150.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten. Keine Wehrpflichtigen, keine Kurzdiener. Die Einberufungen enden 2011.
Modell drei: Ebenfalls vom kommenden Jahr an keine Einberufungen mehr, Abschmelzen in sechs Schritten bis 2016 auf 156.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten.
Modell vier: 156.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten (in sechs Schritten bis 2016) plus Freiwilligenkomponente von 7500 Kurzdienern. Guttenberg hat bereits deutlich gemacht, dass er sich auch vorstellen könne, diese Komponente auf bis zu 15.000 aufzustocken, wenn das Parlament das wünsche – ein Hinweis mit Appellcharakter an den Haushaltsausschuss.
Modell fünf mit insgesamt 210.000 Mann ähnelt Modell eins: 180.000 Berufs- und Zeitsoldaten plus 30.000 Grundwehrdienstleistende. Hier kursiert die Bewertung, dieser Ansatz wäre um zwei Milliarden Euro teurer als Modell 4.
(source: FAZ)


Model one envisions a total strength of 205,000 soldiers. The count of professional and volunteer soldiers will be reduced in two steps to 155,000 till 2012. It remains at 25,000 conscripts W6 (six months) and 25,000 extended term conscripts (conscripts who volunteered toe extend their service to up to 23 months).
Model two would be a radical shrinking in three steps  till 2013 down to 150,000 professional and volunteer soldiers. No conscripts, no short-service soldiers. The Bundeswehr would stop calling  conscripts in 2011.
Model three: Likewise no calls of conscripts beginning in 2011, reduction in six steps till 2016 down to 156,000 professional and volunteer soldiers.
Model four: 156,000 professional and volunteer soldiers (in six steps till 2016) plus volunteer component of 7,500 short service soldiers. Guttenberg has already expressed that he could expand this to 15,000 if the parliament wants it - a hint at the treasury committee.
Model five with a total of 210,000 men resembles model one: 180,000 professional and volunteer soldiers plus 30,000 conscripts. This is rumoured to be two billion Euros more expensive than model four.

(Explanation: I called those volunteers who volunteered for four (enlisted), eight (junior NCOs) or twelve  (junior officers) years. "Professional soldiers" was my translation for those NCOs and officers who either stayed in the Bundeswehr after that volunteer period or joined afterwards with needed civilian skills (such as doctors) - these continue to serve till retirement.)

It's big news that a debate about the Bundeswehr has made it into the first slot of evening TV news. Such discussions are rather rare.

The five models don't look promising, and it's most likely a waste of time to discuss them in detail for lack of detail and because they're just starting points for a discussion that's expected to last for months because Chancellor Merkel is incapable of quick decision-making (she prefers to play party politics instead of addressing issues).

The savings will likely be disappointing (model five's description already hints at it) and the impact on force structure may very well be disadvantageous. There was an expectation that new infantry units if not formations would be raised/reactivated because the parallel overseas missions have exposed the lack of light troops. This is extremely unlikely to happen in all five models.

I personally don't oppose all personnel or budget cuts for the Bundeswehr or frequent structural reforms.
Instead I'm all for doing it right: Cut the fat, reorganise to an efficient force optimised for its constitutional mission with the very low medium term level of threat and very strong alliances in mind. I fail to recognise this in the whole discussion.



The granddaddy of heavy calibre machine guns

The British introduced armoured vehicles with internal combustion engine ("tanks") into land warfare in 1916 on the battlefields of the Western Front trench war; the First World War as most imagine it.
Germany had addressed the same problems with more infantry and artillery innovations instead of with tanks. Its anti-tank defences employed many means, but they weren't fully satisfactory. The British simply concentrated too many tanks on a too narrow front and were thus able to overwhelm the defenders on the battlefield if they didn't blunder (the exploitation of this breakthrough was still a problem in search of a solution).
- - - - -
The tanks of WWI were very imperfect, and one of their imperfections was a very weak armour plating. Their armour was barely able to withstand hand grenade explosions and steel-core bullets fired from normal machine guns (7.92x57mm AP).
One of the few German development programs against this new problem was the development of the granddaddy of all heavy calibre machine guns: The Tank und Flieger (TuF, tank and aircraft) machine gun. It was basically an enlarged Maxim machine gun with a more powerful cartridge that offered the necessary penetration power to turn tanks into Swiss cheese and it had the necessary external ballistic performance to serve as air defence in a good radius.
fully automatic, water-cooled, Maxim action
calibre 13x92mmSR (semi rimmed)
approx. 300 rpm cyclic
penetration of 24 mm steel at 100 m (90° / 120-150 kg/mm2 strength)
penetration of 18 mm steel at 300 m (90° / 120-150 kg/mm2 strength)
(common tank armour of that time was 6-16 mm)
The first prototype was demonstrated on July 1918, 50 pre-series copies were ordered in August 1918. The army didn't get any copies any more because the war ended shortly after.
This kind of firepower would have been badly needed in 1919 if the Western Entente powers had realised their plans for many thousands of new tanks and ground attack aircraft.
- - - - -
Such heavy calibre machine guns proved to be rather useless as anti-air and anti-tank weapons in WW2 and were instead used for air combat and ground/ground fires.
Their weak performance in the air defence during WW2 should be seen in context of the vastly increased aircraft speeds and aircraft firepower. The .50cal machine guns used by the U.S. Navy proved to be near-useless for the protection of destroyers and capital ships in part because Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft released their torpedoes and bombs outside of the effective range of .50cal weapons.
The poor performance against tanks was on the other hand a product of a revolution in tank technology that occurred in the 1930's. WWI tanks were bulletproof, but most WW2 tanks were shell-proof. Even early WW2 tanks weren't well protected - armour thicknesses as up to 30 mm weren't uncommon. Such an armour was able to defeat anything up to calibre 25mm, but rarely anything better. The famous T-34 shock was in part the shock cause by the T-34's shell-proof front and side armour. It was pre-dated by British Matilda tanks and French Char B-1(bis) tanks, both of which were shell-proofed as well. The Germans had still defeated these in battle and didn't expect similar or better armour in the Soviet Union.
Weak anti-tank weapons such as the M2HB and anti-tank rifles were still useful against scouting vehicles and protected auxiliary vehicles such as the half tracks, of course.
(Surviving TuF example in the WTS museum, Germany.
photo courtesy of milpic.de, description detail here)
The TuF (and the comparable M2HB) would have been a useful heavy machine gun for the "heavy" companies of infantry battalions during the 20's and 30's - a period that luckily experienced little modern warfare. This is probably the reason why these heavy calibre machine guns never rose to fame as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, but as air combat and vehicle-mounted ground combat weapons.
By the way; the same 13mm calibre cartridge was also used for a 13mm Tankgewehr in 1918, the granddaddy of all anti-material rifles (a.k.a. anti-tank rifles)!


My three real topics

Months ago introduced labels and added them even to older posts. Two dozen different labels characterise the blog's texts now. Actually, that's way too much.

The blog is - and always has been - about only three big topics - all else being mere fillers, such as humour.

These topics are

The creeping introduction of domestic spying and additional authority powers over citizens in Germany.

I gave a vote to the FDP last time and was rewarded with Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger as Germany's new secretary of justice. She's our most reliable civil liberties bulwark and stopped the despicable trends once in office again.

Own thoughts on military theory, about solving military problems with as much smart thinking as possible in order to minimise the need for brute force.

Sometime in late 2009 I decided to hold back the real diamonds for a possible book publication in a few years. The blog gets only hints about a theoretical work that began patchy and is growing into a large mosaic where astonishingly much fits and comes together.

Pushing against the widespread attitude in several Western countries where the military is still considered not only as a tool of national policy, but as a promising one for offensive use.

This problem is rooted in history, traditions, myths - and lack or rational thinking. Some nations have actually made big leaps backward on these topics and became much more belligerent in the last generation.
Their belligerence is illegal because they signed and ratified (thus giving law-like weight) treaties such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Charter of the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty. All of them banned the threat and use of force for anything but defence.
The huge wealth of mankind's history documentation also suggests that wars extremely rarely paid off for a country or tribe. Most often even supposedly "won" wars gave a net benefit only the tiny share of the "winning" people. Nevertheless, millions of people are ready to say that they want an expeditionary military (costing billions to hundreds of billions extra per year) for the mere "potential" that's supposedly in the threat and aggressive use of force.
The Western civilisation has to address the herculean task of ending this foolishness. We might end up with a Third World War after all if we refuse to learn from mankind's history.

Sven Ortmann

Doctrine No.18: Tactics nowadays

The French military journal "Doctrine" committed a whole issue to the adaption of tactical art to small war circumstances and finally published it in English as well.



* Back to the Art of Tactics
* Radical Changes... and Continuity in the Tactical Field - New Conditions for Operations
* Offensive, Defensive, Security, Assistance Operations - Current Trends between ther four types of Operations
* Simulation assets to Study Tactics to the benefit of Commanders and Operational Headquarters


* A British Perspective - Land Operations a Military Philosophy


* Our Tactical Heritage since de Guibert
* The Detterent Pressure or Gulliver Unbound
* AAR : Review and perspectives
* Basic principles, you've Said : Basic Principles...
* Concept of Operations : a Change in Questionings
* FT-02 : Converting the Try





The "age of movement to contact"

Movement to contact is the most primitive form of offensive movement with deployed forces. Tactics and Operational art manuals & books are full of much more effective and elaborate forms of offensive movements.

This didn't prevent the "age of movement to contact".

Exercises are often about incredibly slow-paced and do often allow for the "deliberate attack". This attack requires reconnaissance, planning, orders, preparations, movement into positions and finally the attack itself. It's the philharmonic orchestra version of battle.
Officers are usually aware that this is utterly unrealistic unless it's about a breakthrough battle in otherwise static warfare.

A hasty operation is an operation in which a commander directs his immediately available forces, using fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), to perform activities with minimal preparation, trading planning and preparation time for speed of execution. A deliberate operation is an operation in which a commander’s detailed intelligence concerning the situation allows him to develop and coordinate detailed plans, including multiple branches and sequels. He task organizes his forces specifically for the operation to provide a fully synchronized combined arms team. He conducts extensive rehearsals while conducting shaping operations to set the conditions for the conduct of his decisive operation.
FM 3-90 (2001, U.S. Army)

Fortified, static front lines as in much of WWI and WWII are impossible in almost all modern warfare scenarios, though. The German, French and Soviet armies of WW2 consisted of a few highly mobile divisions and about 85-95% foot-mobile infantry divisions. The latter formed the static front lines while the mobile forces prepared for the next mobile warfare phase.
Today's armies are smaller versions of the mobile forces, with no bulk of slow infantry divisions.
Land warfare between conventional forces would probably have calm phases when no side dares to close in, but there would be almost no set-piece, deliberate attack battles.

The established alternative to the deliberate attack in less slow motion-ish situations is known as "hasty attack" in English. "Hasty attack" is deceptive; it's still nothing that's done without substantial preparations.

- - - - -

Forces which were presented with a new tactical situation every two days in peacetime exercises found themselves reacting to new developments every few hours against the Iraqi forces in 2003. The Iraqi forces were certainly not known for their mobile warfare prowess. A hostile force that masters mobile warfare would pose an even greater challenge and likely often times cause a temporary breakdown of command by brigade and division staffs.

A German armour regiment commander defeated a clearly superior French tank concentration in 1940 with a handful of competitive tanks and many light (rather suitable for training) tanks. He moved a lot, attacked here then there - employing his useless light tanks for deception and his few medium tanks as the hard hitters. This kind of tactical brilliance decided many battles against superior tank forces, even against the T-34 in late '41 and in '42. A movement to contact against such tactical brilliance is a recipe for disaster if not outright suicide (+manslaughter of subordinates).

- - - - -

This is usually the time when writers begin to blather about the OODA loop (observe-orient-decide-act) and how completing the loop quicker than the adversary means to get inside something and to win.
The sad fact is that instead the OODA theory breaks down at this speed. The "observe" part is the first one that breaks down; the iconic situational awareness (holy golden calf of ground forces RMA and focal point of the marketing of many military hardware suppliers) fails.

Ground forces which operate at high speed often lose their understanding of the surroundings - they simply stumble into the enemy - they do movements to contact if they advance at all.

Movement to contact is a type of offensive operation designed to develop the situation and establish or regain contact (...). A commander conducts this type of offensive operation when the tactical situation is not clear or when the enemy has broken contact.
FM 3-90 (2001, U.S. Army)

This is not necessarily a bad thing; many incredibly one-sided battles in military history were begun with a movement to contact by either one or both forces. The problem is that in a movement to contact the only qualitative advantage to be had is the superior readiness for battle. A commander who conducts a movement to conduct does not use more advanced tactics for additional, unfair advantages over the enemy.

This readiness for battles includes everything associated with small units; hardware, morale, training, ammunition, vigilance, leader's talent, relative positioning and facing and so on.
It does not include operational art at all. A force which conducts a movement to conduct and stumbles into an enemy has likely few if any advantages built up on the operational or formation tactical level.
The exception is of course the specific case when the operational leader intentionally seeks decisive combat ASAP because he is sure about the own forces' superior battle readiness. There's a name for this tactic that slips out of my memory once I read it.

This was the standard in 2003, and the Iraqis were way too demoralised and incompetent to exploit this negligence. The failure of the operational and formation tactical level to create substantial advantages through clever manoeuvres was not punished. No harsh punishment (such as the French were punished for their operational failure in 1940 and the Soviets in 1941, the British in 1942) meant little attention and little learning effect.

The Israelis blundered into Lebanon in 2006, were punished for their blunders by Hezbollah (embarrassing!) and worked hard on rectifying their issues ever since. The Russians blundered into Georgia and succeeded against Georgian forces that were about as incapable of exploiting blunders as were the Iraqis - but nevertheless the Russians seem to have recognised their blunders in that short episode.

NATO members on the other hand became immediately distracted by occupation duties including the frustrating fight against pesky, minimally capable yet elusive opponents. They replaced the failed RMA fashion with the COIN fashion and oh boy, we know how well that one performed.
It looks as if they slept over the necessary learning and issue correction phase in regard to mobile warfare proficiency on the operational and formation tactical level.

- - - - -

Modern operational art has nice books with basics, but it seems to be out of synch with modern ground forces' mobility.

The age of movement to contact should be ended ASAP. The key to this is to fix the "situational awareness" thing - but not the military-industrial way. That one has failed badly, and at high fiscal cost.
Instead, the answer should be operational and tactical.

I have a proposal for this, but I have also mercy for the readers of this text, so I won't turn it into a long book chapter right now.


edit 2014: In hindsight, I should have written about "meeting engagements" instead of "movement to contact", for it's more what I had in mind.



U.S. air power in perspective

Certain bloggers and pundits are frequently quite alarmist about a decline of U.S. air power.

It's true that the inventory of aircraft is shrinking, in part (not only) because of rising costs of combat aircraft. The F-22 didn't even come close to early expectations for 750 fighters (187 for real). The F-35 is unlikely to exceed a 2,000 production run unless a major conventional war pushes unexpected funds into the program. The annual planned production of 80 F-35 for the USAF seems to be fiscally out of reach by at least a third (more like a half), for example.

An absolute decline / downsizing / shrinking / reduction isn't necessarily a reason for complaints, though. The waste of taxpayer money in an inefficient program - well, that's a good reason for critique. The anticipated production figures in themselves? Not necessarily.

Let's compare the expected U.S. air power of the late 2010's:
187 F-22
552 F/A-18 E/F
88 F/A-18G
??? F-35
(20 B-2)
(??? F-15 and F-16 multi-role models)
(all of them minus a few losses from accidents)

The overall sum of modern combat aircraft would be about 900-1,200 in the late 2010's (it depends on the F-35 program).

For comparison (again ignoring accidents):


140-180 Typhoon
dozens of old Tornado (mostly a SEAD version, 70's airframe)

United Kingdom:

160-232 Typhoon
150 F-35B
(serious cuts & foreign sales of in-service aircraft are possible)


180-224 Rafale
20 or more Mirage 2000-5F (70's airframe upgraded with 90's avionics)

96 Typhoon
few Tornado (SEAD version) or F-35 instead

87 Typhoon
(+possibly dozens early-model F/A-18 near their end of life)


130 F-2
(+ old F-15J/DJ)

South Korea:

(132 KF-16C/D Block 52)
(60 F-15K)
(90's technology in 70's airframes)

PR China (plans are not really known):

200 or more J-10A/B
96 Su-30 (90's technology in a 70's airframe)
120 or more J-11 (A: obsolete copy of Su-27, B: same airframe, indigenous components)
??? J-15 (copy of a Su-27, -30 or -33 model ?)

270 Su-30 (90's technology in a 70's airframe)
hoping for a few dozen of a total of 250 PAK-FA (Suchoi T-50)
45 MiG-29K
126 "MRCA" (gen 4.5 strike fighter competition)
(+ 46 Mirage 2000-5; 90's technology in 70's airframe)

hoping for a few dozen of a total of 250 PAK-FA (Suchoi T-50)
28 Su-30 (90's technology in a 70's airframe)
36 Su-33
48 Su-34
48 Su-35S/BM
24 MiG-29K (90's technology in 70's airframe)
(up to 445 70's technology Su-27's)
(possibly still up to 245 Su-25 ground attack aircraft)
(286-386 MiG-31 strategic interceptors; no true front fighters)
(Russian air power in general; it's mostly a paper tiger air power
because of 12+ years of minimal training and funds)

It seems as if the U.S. air power was quite oversized - unless you compare it with Sweden, Israel, Bahrein, Katar or the UAE, small nations with disproportionately strong air forces based on either clever procurement, subsidies or crude oil wealth.

- - - - -

Keep in mind that the U.S. would in no reasonable scenario need to go to (air) war against a well-equipped air power without allies; the reasonable combinations are:

Conflicts in East Asia:
+ South Korea or
+ Japan or
+ both

Defensive wars in Europe and its periphery:
+ Germany, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy & smaller allies

The PAK-FA, J-10B and J-11B are the most interesting unknown variables for they could incorporate hidden innovations to counter the concepts of the F-22 and Super Hornet (both known since the 90's). Even such innovations wouldn't de-value their adversaries completely, though. It would more likely lead to a more even playing field or restrictions on mission profiles.

It's unlikely that the Russian and Chinese air forces will to be brothers in arms soon; the "Western" air superiority seems to be ensured (in the conventional understanding of air power).
The F-35 program can be allowed to shrink without classic air superiority (and even air supremacy) at risk, it seems.

- - - - -

I think that the political problem here isn't so much the comparison with potential adversaries, especially not with inclusion of possible allies.
The problem is the comparison of the future, present and past air force. The problem is that humans get used to things/conditions and bureaucracies resist against reductions.

The problem is that people are irrational and think of "air power! air power! air power!" instead of "air power as part of the efficient answer to actual national needs".
Costs are not seen as the counterpart to value in US. air power debates, but as a mere limiting factor for overall might.

Today's U.S. Navy is a greater air power than all foreign air forces. The same holds true for the USAF. Most other powerful air forces are either allied, friendly or neutral.
What exactly is so scary about a "smaller" air force? The lesser annual costs and the smaller urge to attack foreign countries?

One line of thought asserts that a certain mass advantage discourages potential challengers. A huge, huge USN or a huge, huge USAF would prevent that a another power would challenge them, ever.
Well, the proponents of this idea should probably have a look at the naval army race of 1898-1916 and the Dreadnought revolution. I also fail to see how NATO was prohibited from accepting an arms race with the militarised Soviet Union of the early Cold War with its sick artillery and tank inventories.

In any case, it's difficult to make the point that the USAF needs to keep its numerical strength of the 90's with "5th generation" aircraft for strategic defence. Such a reasoning is even questionable if the purpose is strategic offence.

I as a German have greater confidence in allies if they focus on curing economic and fiscal woes to stabilise their pillars than it they continue a military procurement orgy on brittle pillars (and in part on foreign loans).
It's also quite important that the U.S. sticks to its obligation of the North Atlantic Treaty and doesn't launch wars of aggression, for these pin down military power and endanger allies. A "shrinking" USAF on the other hand is of no concern to me.


edit 2010-08-20: I excluded deliberately many 1980's or low performance aircraft such as most Tornado IDS; non-upgraded Mirage 2000, the AMX, Japanese F-4s and obsolete Chinese models. These will either be cut till the end of the decade or be simply without relevance in regard to relative air power.
The old Su-27's could be ignored as well, for many of them are simply outdated (lacking competitive missiles and avionics for modern air combat, yet being useless for air/ground missions).

edit 2018-01: An overview over Russian air power inventories is here. Their expectation for 2027 is 1,100-1,200 combat aircraft.


Ship models: HMS Manchester

I'm thinking about soon building some ship models as a calm, relaxing hobby again. The glue and colours don't smell well and require an open window - and that's only a good idea till winter sets in.

My preferred idea is a 1:700 (20 cm) model of the HMS Manchester (D95).
I was always fascinated by its long foredeck (which was created by lengthening the Sheffield class). It's one of the most beautiful ships in my opinion. The newer clean, polygonal warship designs look boring to me.

Here are two beautiful photos of HMS Manchester:

Too bad: The 1:700 Revell model isn't on offer to date - I need to get it somewhere off a store shelf or in an online auction.


edit: I bought a 1:700 Revell model; 13 € incl. shipping on ebay.

An unorthodox view on OP 'Overlord'

The only thing approaching a unifying theme for this cataclysm we call “WW II” is the United States, THE major allied participant in the Pacific (think logistics all you commonwealth coalition guys that are thinking “what about us” as you read this) and the United States becomes the principal partner in the Western alliance which is handling, admittedly only 20-30% of the European War duties against the background of the massive Soviet-German war. I have written this before but will write it again, we say at CGSC that Overlord was simply a deception operation to support BAGRATION and the destruction of Army Group Center!

En Avant!

Dr. John T. Kuehn
CDR USN (ret)
Associate Professor of Military History
Adjunct Professor, Norwich University
CGSC Ft Leavenworth

Hat tip to War and Game.

The sense of smell for reconnaissance

Some people (apparently with a better sense of smell than I have) swear that it's important to eat what the enemy eats, wash with what the enemy washes and not to smoke if you shall go on a patrol in a forest. Your different smell could otherwise give away your presence to the enemy.

That may very well be true. The sense of smell has nevertheless a very restricted utility for armies.

Again and again and again some developers attempt to develop some explosive sniffer tool or similar for the military. Even worse; they even get funds for this nonsense. Here's a recent example: Danger Room: "Secret New Sensors Sniff For Afghanistan's fertilizer Bombs"

Let's be frank (even more than usual): That's a waste, crap, a rip-off. Such sensors are useless. To grant funds for such projects is an evidence for stupidity and incompetence.

A simple, short anecdote from WW2 can explain (and prove) it:

Soviet partisans mined railways to destroy German supply trains. The Germans reacted by deploying dog teams with dogs trained to sniff for the mines. They found some mines. The partisans observed this and dispersed small quantities of explosives almost everywhere on the tracks. The great sense of smell of the dogs was rendered useless, utterly useless. The false alarm rate made the whole "sniffing" approach 100% useless. It's still 100% useless.

Engineers who attempt to develop smell-based explosive detection tools for general or route reconnaissance are wasting time and money. This is especially obvious if it's not done in perfect secrecy.



The inner workings of a Greek phalanx

Ancient Greece had few horses (except in the plains of Thessalonia), so infantry became the dominant part of land warfare.

The Greek city-states developed heavy infantry and an almost ritualised form of warfare that required the frontal confrontation of two battle lines of heavy infantrymen.

This changed profoundly when Athens (+allies) and Lacedaemonians (Spartans, + allies) faced each other. The Athenians were superior at sea and inferior on land and refused a decisive land battle. This long (one generation!) Peloponnesian War became a civilisation-shattering experience that pretty much ended the phase of cultural prosperity and advances of Greece. On the other hand, it began a time of military innovations in the Hellenic World.

A generation later the Lacedaemonians faced off against the numerically inferior Thebans in the Battle of Leuctra, and the apparently genius Theban general Epaminondas finally introduced serious tactics into Hellennic warfare; the famous oblique order that overwhelmed one wing of the enemy and thus turned the enemy's line. It was a very early application of the Schwerpunkt principle.

Up to that time numbers of men and their quality as hoplites (including their equipment) had been the most decisive factor.

- - - - -

Hoplite equipment evolved over time. One trend (attributed to the general Iphicrates) took place after the Peloponnesian War and included longer spears, lighter armour (more mobility as sword fighter) and can be considered to have been a reaction to the rise of light infantry (skirmishers) such as the Peltast javelineers.

Most literature about Iphicrates-style hoplites and later Macedonian heavy infantry with even longer Sarissa spears appears to focus on the spear length. I suspect that the Sarissa (r)evolution was overshadowed by the much more drastic changes favoured by Iphicrates. Iphicrates probably deserves to be remembered as the first infantry equipment revolutionary (leaving Marius far behind).

First, an example that helps to understand my point: The German techno music festival "Love Parade" experienced a disaster a few weeks ago when 21 people died and about 500 were injured. The cause? The masses were pressing towards a stair. This pressure sufficed to kill and badly injure people. The deaths occurred because of deadly pressure on the upper bodies.

This scenario is quite similar to how Hellenic battles worked before the spears grew very, very long. The clash was at least as much about pushing as about stabbing with spears and swords (the apparently preferred Greek sword, the kopis, was rather a slashing than a stabbing weapon).
The forward ranks needed a stable bronze cuirass. This did probably provide more crucial protection against the ranks behind its wearer than against the enemy (who was usually behind two shields).
Greek phalanx warfare was almost always decided when one phalanx broke. There was no real exploitation phase, fleeing warrior-citizens were not cut down in a pursuit (remember, few horses!). Losses per battle were therefore low both absolute and in per cent. This made frequent wars over tiny conflicts sustainable for the city-states.

Now think about it; you need no armour on your back to protect against the enemy in such a kind of combat. Greek bronze cuirasses were still a two-part body armour, though: Front and back part. No weight- (and cost-) saving half-cuirasses apparently.

That's because the body armour was apparently very much about protecting against the hoplite's fellow warrior-citizens in ranks behind him. It wasn't only (or mostly) meant to protect against the enemy. That's also why other forms of body armour such as scale armour or composite armour (= less able to protect against pressure) were not important for the forward ranks of the hoplites.

The "pressure" component of phalanx tactics was maximised with the oblique order when the breakthrough wing of the Battle of Leuctra was 50 ranks deep. (BTW, it was led by an elite group, the Sacred Band of Thebes. This is interesting if not funny with DADT in mind.) There can also be no doubt that the psychological effect of facing a formation many times as deep as yours was of great importance, too.

Iphicrates changed this by dropping the bronze cuirass. He preferred the lighter, composite body armour of textile and glue (linothorax), and apparently so also for the front ranks. This seemed to mostly rule out the pushing and to emphasize the stabbing with spears.
The next step was even longer spears and serious training - the Macedonian Phalanx.

In short: I believe that the move towards longer spears was about much more than mere out-ranging the enemy.
It was a radical shift away from a pushing & stabbing tactic to a stabbing tactic. It made extremely deep formations unnecessary and thus enabled very wide (and again relatively thin) battle lines.
This in turn enabled the Hellenic heavy infantry model to be effective on wide plains (Alexander's conquest of Persia) instead of only on the restricting terrain of Greece (where both flanks were secured against heavy infantry formations by hills if not mountains or the sea).

This was something that seems to be missing in many books and webpages about classical Greek warfare. The authors never seemed to connect the dots.
I cannot guarantee for the correctness of my interpretation, of course. It all just fits nicely together if you look at it from this angle.


edited 2017: I should add that some historians believe that the Greeks had largely given up wearing any torso armour prior to what's known as Iphicrates' reforms, and thus the switch to light torso armour (such as linothorax) may have been an uparmouring. That, of course, would take out half of the reasoning behind this blog post. There was still most likely a switch from phalanx warfare in which the opponents closed to within shield-on-shield range to one in which they fought at spear tip-on-shield range, though.

edit October 2017: Here is another interpretation, which assumes that the convex shield gave the hoplite the necessary breathing room in a push. This would coincide with my assertion of a move from push to stab with the introduction of pikes because Iphicrates' reformed hoplites and Macedonian phalangites did have too small shields (~60-64 cm diameter for phalangites) for this.

"The heretics would be correct in assuming that pushing by deep files was not survivable, but for one detail.  In my description of the hoplite shield, I put off discussing the single feature of its construction that appears to be unique - the oddly thickened side-walls.  As I noted, it appears to primarily add depth, not strength, when compared to other convex shields.  It is this depth that allows a man to survive the press of othismos, by protecting his torso from compression.  To do so, it would be held directly in front of the body with the top right half of the shield resting on the hoplite’s upper chest and the front of his left shoulder, the bottom on his left thigh.  Most of the men in files would have been standing upright and leaning forward.  Only the rear few ranks had enough freedom of movement to assume positions that are compatible with active pushing.  Shock waves of the combined weight of the file would be added to the pushing force in the rear rankers in the same manner that the mass of a battering ram is pushed towards a barrier."

edit 2017