German federal budget 2011 and German conscription about to end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - - - -

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


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


I warned you, really!


I Warned You, Really.


Russian arms imports

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

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

A summary is here and an interview summary is here.

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

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



Earlier high-tech military technology conflicts

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



A CDU politician on a rampage against civil liberties - again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sven Ortmann


Air-burst hand grenades

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

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

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

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

Next, I recalled the technical predecessors:

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

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


edit 2016: A video appeared in the meantime:

It's now called "SHGR07".


Camouflage is no end in itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About body scanners...



"Sgt. Giunta's fair fight"

By Robert H. Scales and Paul van Riper

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

- - - - -

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

- - - - -

Here are my proposals for fixing the problem:


Don't fight stupid, useless wars of choice.

- - - - -

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


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


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


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


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


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



Those dangerous bus drivers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sven Ortmann

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

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



Wish list

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

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

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

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

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

Sven Ortmann

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

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

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

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



The truck convoy security challenge, seen from the operational level

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

- - - - -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




The new Entente

Britain and France are improved their cooperation in national security matters with the signing of treaties. It's an odd piece of European cooperation (interesting commentary here).

Historically, Germany and France did cooperate closely to push forward European policy and unification. The grand strategy motivations were different, but it did obviously work out quite well - until the issue got overstretched with the common currency.

European unification seems to be at a saturation point with the Lisbon treaty, an ill-functioning common currency and with many new Eastern European members which have set back the European Union in regard to political diversity to the 60's.

The German-French cooperation seems to lose relevance on this background, unless we get some really bright ideas. The rather erratic character of France's president Sarkozy contrasts a lot with the Germany's passive conservative chancellor Merkel and adds to the forces against a great push forward.

- - - - -

The British-French cooperation might be interpreted as a kind of successor for the German-French cooperation, except that they seem to be focused on external affairs (the military) and their cooperation primarily looks like a bilateral cost-savings measure.

Their cooperation -if it turns out to work with little friction- could nevertheless become a factor in European politics in general.

The largely impractical and overly bureaucratic attempts of full European cooperation on defence  and of a common security policy might become overshadowed by the British-French example. The new entente might also influence the way how other European nations think about national security - less peacekeeping and conventional deterrence, more nuclear thinking, more naval and more expeditionary.

Sven Ortmann


How not to befriend a new great power

Excerpts From Washington's Contentious CISMOA Draft For India

EXCLUSIVE: No CISMOA? Here's What They're Pulling From The Indian C-130J

Either you want to be friends or you deeply distrust them and want their military dependent on your technicians - choose!

Sven Ortmann

Incarcerate warmongers!

The national elections in the U.S. are over, not all results are finalized yet - but a new season has already begun: The season of the warmongers. There's rarely a day without a new 'contribution' to the warmongering against Iran - political 'strategists', senators, pundits - the 2006 fashion of warmongering against Iran is back in force (and I will certainly not link to such crap!).

Let me show you how Germans would handle them:

§ 80 Vorbereitung eines Angriffskrieges

Wer einen Angriffskrieg (Artikel 26 Abs. 1 des Grundgesetzes), an dem die Bundesrepublik Deutschland beteiligt sein soll, vorbereitet und dadurch die Gefahr eines Krieges für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland herbeiführt, wird mit lebenslanger Freiheitsstrafe oder mit Freiheitsstrafe nicht unter zehn Jahren bestraft.

§ 80a Aufstacheln zum Angriffskrieg

Wer im räumlichen Geltungsbereich dieses Gesetzes öffentlich, in einer Versammlung oder durch Verbreiten von Schriften (§ 11 Abs. 3) zum Angriffskrieg (§ 80) aufstachelt, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe von drei Monaten bis zu fünf Jahren bestraft.

This was an excerpt from the German criminal code. It basically says that you go to jail for no less than ten years if you prepare a war of aggression and you go to jail for at the very least three months for spurring people for a war of aggression.

These paragraphs are extremely rarely used; they seem to work quite well.

A member of parliament would be stripped off its immunity by the parliament and be sent to court and then jail for one of these crimes, too.

Thugs belong into jail, and thugs who are guilty of promoting the second-worst crime ever invented by mankind certainly belong into jail for a long time - not in the headlines, or commentaries of national newspapers, not on national TV shows and certainly not into the legislative or even government.

Sven Ortmann


google maps + stupidity = bilateral border conflict


Nicaragua Raids Costa Rica, Blames Google Maps

Evil, evil corporate Google! ;-)


Four Lions interview

Four Lions released in U.S. on November 5th.


Fighting in built-up areas - tactical considerations

"Furthermore, in 1987 OA [operational analysis] demonstrated that the defender is at a systematic disadvantage in close country (be it woods or built-up areas). It seems that, amongst other things, in close country the defender is generally unable to mass the fire of his weapons, due to very short ranges available in relation to unit frontages. Given their relative protection, if only from view, the attackers can mass forces more safely than is normal. They can therefore isolate and attack small bodies of enemy relatively easily. The overall effect was described as 'counterintuitive'. [...] In FIBUA [fighting in built-up areas; urban combat] the attacker is expected to suffer high casualties.
By assumption, the defender will suffer fewer casualties. Conversely it seems that such expectations, formed from experience of high casualties in FIBUA, are based on ignorance of relative casualty rates. Attacking infantry generally have an advantage of 3.57 :1 in terms of attackers' to defenders' casualties in FIBUA.

Jim Storr, The Human Face of War, p. 103

Now let's think this through. No matter whether it's accurate or not, it offers the opportunity for an interesting thought experiment.

The background is the growth of world population, the increasing urbanization, the sprawl of settlements over the landscapes (a trend which has halted at a saturation point in Western countries) and the fact that much if not most historical warfare was about especially densely populated regions. Resource-rich regions with few inhabitants rarely attracted much organized violence.

The dispersed settlements offer much concealment and some cover - they could be (mis?)understood as a modern replacement for the open terrain trench lines of the World Wars. An assumed superiority of the offence over the defence (at least inside settlements, not so much for attacks from open ground into settlements) suggests that such terrain is actually a poor choice for a stubborn defence. We lack the infantry quantity to pull it off anyway, at least without an impressive mobilization.

This would still suit the exploitation of settlements as concealment for small picket teams which exercise control of the surrounding open terrain through surveillance and engage hostiles primarily with indirect fire support.

Army troops might be forced to defend stubbornly in close terrain, though: A heavy (armour or mechanized infantry) brigade which lost too many of its armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) and lacks the strength to fight its way back to a friendly rear area might be forced to set up a large hedgehog defence in built-up or woods terrain.

Its opponent would then be challenged to eliminate the encircled brigade's remains in order to prevent its relief and rebuilding.

Well, how should this be done? There are old (WW2) advices on how to eliminate a pocket. Besieging requires a comparable combat strength (a battalion can keep another battalion encircled), but the elimination requires a superiority of the attacker. This necessary superiority is often not at hand, and thus it becomes advisable to first split up the pockets into smaller pockets in order to be able to establish the required superiority at least over the smallest compartment.

The advisable general tactic is likely the employment of infantry with assault gun and mortar fire support.

At this point, the quote promotes a turn of tactics, away from the established ones:
The classic tactic would be to probe in order to find an opportunity, assign support and exploit the opportunity. Afterwards, a successful break-in would be reinforced and widened with reserves. It's  striving for one initial success which has to be reinforced till mission accomplishment (manoeuvre à posteriori, later known as "recon pull").

The advantageous loss ratio from the quote is built on conditions which would not be met for long with such a tactic: The superior massing of attackers can and would be countered with a counter-concentration by the defender. The attack is bound to drop into a 1:1 fight with the intuitive tactical disadvantages of the attacker still in effect and now ruling the outcome.

A different tactic which would build on the findings mentioned by Mr. Storr could regain the advantage offered by unusually good concealment: A quick shifting of attacks from one point to another. OODA fans might love this. The quick concentration, attack, partial disengagement, new concentration, attack sequence could override the enemy's ability to counter-concentrate. The superiority gained by local numerical superiority, surprise and shock could indeed lead to very favourable exchange ratios. The numerical superiority and shock are both linked to the unusual reliability of suppression inside settlements. Buildings which were not reduced to rubble by bombardment offer relatively few potential firing positions. The quantity of windows, doors, flat roofs and removed roof tiles is rather limited in comparison to the hundreds of plausible fighting positions on open ground with drainage channels and vegetation.

In the end, urban combat could turn out to be very, very intense and offensive. Many small platoon attacks quickly shifting in emphasis from one spot to another could coin the battle. 

The quick succession of many successful small-unit attacks could either lead to defeat of a pocket by attrition or it could serve to create a strength ratio which allows for the decisive, separating pushes or even an all-out concentric elimination attack.

A possible counter-tactic of the defender could be to revert to a picket line with strong  and quick reserves, but this would be self-defeating for a pocket defender. Pocket defenders need to maintain as much terrain as possible, for pockets become ever more terrible the more your force is being compressed. A picket line would easily yield to an unfocused attack.

The findings about the attacker advantage in FIBUA mentioned in Storr's book are interesting, but don't appear to be very general if they're really about the superior ability to achieve tactical surprise. It's an interesting thought experiment to think about is implications and proper exploitation.


Gays and the army

Some news from the American DADT front (DADT = Don't Ask Don't Tell, a policy which allows gays to serve in the military only if they keep their preferences a secret. Most NATO members allow openly gay troops.)

SAN DIEGO — The new commandant of the U.S. Marines Corps said Saturday that now is the wrong time to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays from openly serving in the military, as U.S. troops remain in the thick of war in Afghanistan.

"There's risk involved; I'm trying to determine how to measure that risk," Gen. James Amos said. "This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That's what the country pays its Marines to do."

Last month, the Pentagon was forced to lift its ban on openly serving gays for eight days after a federal judge in California ordered the military to do so. The Justice Department has appealed, and a federal appeals court granted a temporary stay of the injunction.

Amos said the policy's repeal may have unique consequences for the Marines, which is exempt from a Defense Department rule for troops to have private living quarters except at basic training or officer candidate schools. The Marines puts two people in each room to promote a sense of unity.

"There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women - and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men - laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers," he said. "I don't what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion, it's combat effectiveness."

First of all: I have no problem with gays. In fact, I consider them to be former competitors who dropped out of the competition. I'd have no problem if all good-looking male singles but me became gay tomorrow. I'd really be fine with that. (Emphasis on "male"!)

I have also no issues with gays in an air force or navy. I accept absolutely no argument against gays in air forces and navies.

The army (and a parallel army branded as a "marine corps") is different. I poked some fun at the DADT policy problems before, but I have to admit that it's really tricky with ground forces. I avoided the topic for a year, but Amos provided now the perfect provocation for a comment. He has hit the nail without the more often associated bigotry.

There's no good reason to prevent all-gay combat units. Gays proved to be effective warriors, soldiers and leaders in history. Alexander the Great was gay, Frederick the Great was most likely gay, Thebes' sacred band was gay, many Spartans were pretty much bisexuals - the list is long. In fact, it's longer than the list about females as effective warriors or soldiers. A segregation between heterosexuals and homosexuals would probably be unacceptable for political and civilian reasons, though.
There's no good reason to prevent wholly gay or mixed air force or navy units. There's one really important issue which makes mixed army units very risky, though:

The general said it - it's about cohesion.

Cohesion is something which civilian pundits usually ignore in discussions about the integration of gays (and women!) into army units. That's a serious mistake. It's almost all about cohesion. Forget the shiny electronics, forget rifles and bullets. Forget tanks, forget camouflage patterns - warfare is largely about what happens in our brains. Cohesion is one of the most important symptoms of what happens in our brains in wartime.

Cohesion is the footing of an army. A unit without good cohesion is brittle, it will break under pressure and be destroyed. A unit with good cohesion can stand and survive vastly superior attacking forces and does not disintegrate even if it's forced to pull off a difficult withdrawal.

German soldiers know cohesion through the keywords "kleine Kampfgemeinschaft" and "Kameradschaft". Cohesion has been a traditional strength of German forces thanks to a suitable personnel system. It's widely considered among experts to be one of the variables which can explain the military efficiency of the German army in both world wars. Cohesion is one of the most important factors for small unit performance, and even major battles are now largely accumulations of small unit engagements.

The U.S. forces are known to be restricted in regard to building cohesion by their early industrial age-like personnel system. They have extreme difficulties to create good unit cohesion because troops cannot serve in a stable team for long. 
The Marines fare best, for they established a USMC-wide ethos and esprit de corps.

The introduction of openly serving gays is - like the introduction of females into army units - an experiment. It can be successful and it can be a failure. "Successful" would likely mean no more improvement than a slightly enlarged recruitment base, while "failure" describes a loss of cohesion which can have disastrous consequences. We won't know the result before the next military crisis in warfare. We need at least a crisis comparable to the crisis of TF Smith in 1950 to know whether the experiment was successful.

There is a huge risk in such an experiment, and this risk comes on top of the huge risks around the uncertainty about modern conventional warfare. We didn't have a top league peer vs. peer conflict for 65 years, we don't know modern conventional warfare. The closest thing we know is 70's technology conventional warfare between very dissimilar powers.
Now on top the uncertainty about the effect of gays on unit cohesion. Repeat:

"There's risk involved; I'm trying to determine how to measure that risk"

Most comments on DADT which I ever bothered to read were either partisan or quite homophobic. The article about Amos finally pushed the real issue into the public.

I don't say gays in the army are a bad thing, nor the opposite. I'm not pro or contra DADT. I say there's a real professional issue, a risk which needs to be explored and understood, maybe managed.
It would be nice if we could have discussions about females and gays in armies based on such professional issues alone, without the other diatribes.



Man in disguise boards international flight


This 20-something year old Chinese is more competent than all those supposedly oh-so dangerous violent organized crime incompetents known as "terrorists". And he wasn't even smart enough to use gloves.

BTW, those very expensive airport security checks failed once again, as they apparently  (almost) always do in internal and investigative journalism tests, too.



Airborne AFVs

Almost a decade ago I looked closely at what would be an ideal airborne AFV (armoured fighting vehicle). The inspiration was the Russian BMD series of the VDV.

The classic employment of forces with such vehicles would be to land and then race to capture and defend some logistical hub for reinforcements (or a base) - such as a bridge (Arnhem scenario), airfields (Crete scenario) or a port.
They should also be capable as a theatre-wide reserve that simply gets dropped into a local land war crisis, to reinforce the tip of an offensive or to quickly block the escape (or advance) of hostile forces.

Russian airborne troops in combined arms attack exercise
Most Western airborne forces are far away from such capabilities. They lack armour support, motorised mobility and their artillery and mortar components are no match for a conventional brigades' fire support. They're typically just light infantry formations. Their utter lack of organic combined arms capability is seriously restricting their utility, but it's at least an "airborne on the cheap" approach.

A mechanised airborne force has many other advantages over a largely foot-mobile force, too: It can drop far from its objective(s) because of its high speed march capability. the ability to move quickly with some degree of protection also allows it to break out of encirclement or simply withdraw in face of overwhelming opposing forces.

- - - - -

Germany has no regular infantry brigade and uses its mountain and airborne infantry brigades as regular infantry instead. Their Wiesel vehicles are nothing but barely bulletproof weapons carriers.

U.S. airborne forces have been used as regular infantry or as low logistical footprint quick (air-lift) deployment force (such as in the opening days of Desert Shield '90) for two decades - much like the British and French ones. The Russian airborne forces serve as a national quick reaction force for the whole, incredibly huge Russia (and CIS!), but they have roots in a quite ambitious and aggressive concept.

- - - - -

There's such a thing as an international consensus that large-scale, Crete-style airborne operations are very, very unlikely in the future. There was a surprising quantity of combat jumps in the post-WW2 period, though. A recent example is the air-drop of commando companies in Sri Lanka's civil war.

Invasion of Crete. Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-0864 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA

That didn't deter me from looking at the equipment problem of large-scale offensive airborne ops when I was still more interested in hardware than in the "what to do" and "how to do it".

My basic conclusion at the time was that the risk of the air drop (about a tenth of the equipment can be expected to get lost in accidents and screw-ups and problems may reduce the properly landed force to any percentage!) was an important factor.
Such an air assault force had to be able to compensate for almost any loss of capabilities. Redundancy and versatility were required - no specialised vehicles would be acceptable.
The Russians probably thought the same when they gave the BMD-4 the BMP-3's weaponry of 100mm gun, 30mm autocannon and coaxial machine gun.

I was never a fan of this kind of armament, though. Instead, I would combine a French 81mm turret mortar (MCB 81) with a 12.7 mm coax machine gun. This would allow for direct  AND indirect high explosive (fragmentation) and red phosphorous (incendiary smoke + some illumination) fires and also for direct rapid fire against thinly armoured vehicles and soft targets.

AMX10-PAC with MCB 81 (81.4 mm gun-mortar)

The Russian approach seems to aim more against AFVs and doesn't meet an indirect fire requirement. The availability of portable high performance AT weapons lets me believe that no such emphasis on AFV vs AFV combat is necessary. Instead, it can be a capability of some or all dismount elements.

This dismount element could be a small (7) squad with very versatile training and equipment.

Such a light airborne AFV (similar to BMD) with substantial fire support capabilities could turn airborne infantry battalions into combined arms battalions. It wouldn't meet the current "mine resistant vehicle" fashion, but that wouldn't be a significant problem in the envisaged airborne mission profiles. The airborne troops can still trade their vehicles for mine-protected trucks if they're sent to a stupid, mine-infested war.

- - - - -

My more recent thoughts on operational art don't include such an airborne combined arms regiment. It looks like a non-essential luxury to me now (and I wasn't sure about its necessity back then).

I remember this concept as the one and only exception of my general, strong distaste for turreted mortars (= very expensive, bulky, high and heavy mortar installations in comparison to solutions such as CARDOM). This one time I weighed the versatility advantage of the turret heavier than its extra price tag.


edit 2010-12: http://www.sinodefence.com/army/armour/zlc2000.asp



Observation aircraft

Reconnaissance aircraft have always been less glamorous than fighters. They don't have much if any direct effect on the enemy, but rather serve as a kind of enabler to other forces.

The very first attempts of military aviation (with balloons) were aimed at observation. Air/air and air/ground combat came later.

The bombers of the First World War were quite fragile and unsafe aircraft which were only able to carry and drop rather modest bomb loads. Their pilot's only means of dropping these bombs accurately was flying low - low enough to expose the crew to effective rifle and machine gun fire from the ground.

Few armoured aircraft were developed for air/ground attacks before 1919, among them several German types (among them the very advanced metal fuselage J 10) and the British Sopwith Salamander. These emphasized the use of machine guns against ground targets, but the overall concept was a rather awkward one.

Junkers J 10
Artillery observation from a safe altitude, equipped with map and radio transmitter was much more useful than bombing and strafing runs. Aircraft were already able to serve as forward observer tools for the great might of the artillery arm and thus able to bring down extreme amounts of ammunition on spotted targets - much unlike the bombers.

This principle flourished in 1918 when the Entente powers had gained air superiority through vastly superior aircraft production and pilot training figures as well as through aggressive tactics.

It became the primary idea of air-ground cooperation of the 20's and 30's. A whole category of aircraft - army cooperation aircraft - was defined to accomplish such missions.

The Hawker Audax was a typical example in the inter-war years.

Hawker Audax
This category had some notable examples in the Second World War, such as the STOL aircraft Fi 156, the awkward-looking, unusually large Fw 189 "Uhu" (Eagle Owl).

Fw 189

These artillery spotters didn't meet the expectations in wartime, though. Efficiency demanded that they had to fly alone or with minimal escort and by 1940 they lacked the speed and climb rate needed to evade fighters. Improved army air defences such as 37 and 40 mm light anti-air artillery (AAA) were able to deny low altitudes (below 3,000 m) to these aircraft at least in the divisional rear areas.

They were useful, but apparently so primarily at the edge of friendly troops and in area with total air superiority. The L-series of U.S. observation (liaison) aircraft such as the Stinson L-5 was able to exploit such conditions late in the war, for example.

Being hampered in their potentially most influential role, many of the wartime army cooperation aircraft were used to transport officers, documents and wounded troops instead. Having someone with a radio in the sky, loitering over a division on the march can be very useful for coordination and security as well.

The whole concept came under pressure with the rise of helicopters in these secondary tasks during the Korean War. It wasn't before the Vietnam War (which largely lacked effective hostile fighters over South Vietnam) that the artillery observation planes rose to prominence again. They got a nicer name; forward air controllers (FAC). This time, they also served as guides for bombers and were thus equipped with unguided rockets for marking the target area visually.

O-2 Skymaster
The category progressed from the small O-1 Bird Dog (which was much like the WW2 L-series aircraft types) to the more capable O-2 Skymaster and finally the purpose-designed and very versatile OV-10 Bronco. The latter had a similar configuration as the Fw 189, albeit for very different reasons.

These aircraft were of great importance in Southeast Asia at that time. Meanwhile, they were not expected to be really relevant in Europe. Why? Well, they wouldn't have been survivable in World War 3. Sure, a very slow aircraft is difficult to hit for a supersonic aircraft, but it can be done. Crews of radar-guided anti-air guns would consider these aircraft as mere target practice, and an easy one!

These aircraft got subsequently little attention after the Vietnam War. Well, observation helicopters continued the encroachment into the realm of the observation aircraft. An example was and is the OH-58 Kiowa.

The whole category of a quite slow, persistent eye over the battlefield fell nevertheless way behind fighters and bombers in regard to attention - until 2003. The occupation wars began, there was no effective hostile air defence or even fighter aircraft arsenal and ground forces needed an eye in the sky to serve them yet again.

This time extreme endurance drone took over and became the new sexy craze in aviation technology. They got lasers instead of white phosphorous rockets for target designation, a thermal cameras ball instead of human eyeballs and a satellite data-link instead of a normal radio. The Predator drone was the early example, but again there was a wartime increase in weight, complexity, versatility and armament.

And yet again, people tend to forget that these fragile aircraft wouldn't be of any actual use in a real war. Instead, they would simply be shot down by a hostile military. The Georgians were taught this lesson in 2008 by Russia the hard way.

This begs the question: When do the last people understand that loitering over the head of your enemy is really only practical if your enemy is really, really incapable?