Lecture on electronic warfare history


Admitted, at first I decided to post this (hat tip Boing Boing) with a snarky comment like 'You know you read too much when you see such a presentation and learned nothing!'.

Well, somewhere in the second half I finally found a few new info bits, too.
It's really a good presentation, and not nearly as boring as its duration implies.

And yes, I also found some glitches... 8-)



Blogspot has a nice bug; with certain settings you can see all recent links of other blogs to your blog when you look at the preview version of an unpublished text. This made me curious about which other blogs are linking to mine. It turned out that they're quite a few, and here's the list of blogs that link to me permanently (in the side column, not just in some blog post):

Me thinks this list is quite interesting and surprising. The political spectrum varies from left to unpolitical to undefined to right. And when I say "right", then I mean the U.S. right wing, which would be called names if it was in Germany.

The preferred topics of these blogs vary just as much; hardware blogs, news blogs, thinker blogs and agitator blogs are mixed.

Sometimes I cannot even figure out why they link to me; sometimes simply because I cannot even read their language.

- - - - -

OK, this was another placeholder blog post without original thought. I promise, I'll improve.
These are the working titles for my existing text drafts:

"Camouflage concealment and deception progresses in the 20th century's German military"

"Barbarossa what ifs"

"On recruitment for software-based conflicts"

"Musings about conventional warfare on a Northeast Europe-like terrain"

"Public debt after a war with conscription"

"Some old aircraft"

"On the nature of non-battlefield electronic warfare / "cyber warfare""
"About the Watadas and Pfaffs in the world"

... and there's also a concept in my head about macroeconomic variables, military adventurism and priority-setting plus I'm still working on the RHS Giorgios Averoff and Finnish infantry tactics. The latter is only research, though. Damn that language barrier!



Barbarossa and three links

Today, 70 years ago, Unternehmen Barbarossa began; the invasion of the Soviet Union.

I actually prepared a topic on Barbarossa (without this date in mind), but hold it back till I've got less concerns about the ability of readers to misinterpret it (political correctness and all).

Being rather tired and exhausted, I'm not really in the mood for blogging.
Thus, I'll simply drop some good links:

"War in practice" , a review of the Boer Wars from a theoretical perspective (by someone who participated in the 2nd Boer War). It shows nicely the military though in the early 20th century, is surprisingly accurate in its assessments and it also confirms the tactical limits, as were later demonstrated in the First World War.

Argus As 292, an aerial photo reconnaissance drone of Germany, WW2 period. Photos here.
I looked a bit more about early remote control and autopilot drone developments, there are more than I indicated in an earlier post. It seems as if there was a huge deal of activity in the area around 1917, followed by rather anecdotal use in the inter-war period and then a new fashion during WW2. Developments happened in all industrialised major powers.

The War Nerd Surveys The Baltic Armies is about how NATO bullied (?) the Baltic members into creating armies not meant for their national defence, but as specialised auxiliary contingents for military adventures.

These links were meant as recommendations.



The Hs 123 and its odd success

(Finally, the promised Hs 123 blog post.)

The Henschel Hs 123 was one of the most interesting WW2 aircraft; superficially an anachronism and badly outdated, it proved to be an incredible pilot's airplane, surprisingly survivable, surprisingly long-lived, surprisingly effective - and both its important strengths and flaws weren't visible on spec sheets, ever.

The Henschel Hs 123 story has two roots;
(1) The metal works company Henschel, a newcomer to the aviation industry business, had proven its competence in aircraft design to the German aviation ministry by developing a training aircraft. This was standard procedure for new German aircraft developers in the 1933-1935 time frame and it's still a favourite for aviation design newcomers to date (just look at the many recent jet trainer designs originating in developing countries!)
(2) Ernst Udet, highest-scoring surviving German WWI fighter ace and acclaimed aerobatics pilot, became a proponent for dive attack tactics in Germany. He imported even a few Curtiss Hawk II biplanes (export version of Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk, a naval fighter with secondary light bomber capability).

XF11C-2 Goshawk, 1932

This led eventually to a dive bomber tender in Germany (1935), and Henschel participated with a traditional design not much unlike the Goshawk; the Hs 123.

This biplane, fixed landing gear aircraft appeared at about the same time as the first generation of German monoplane retractable landing gear fighters and looked obsolete immediately. It did nevertheless push all contenders out of the competition (including a monoplane) with its flight characteristics.
Its most modern characteristic was the use of  an all-metal structure and surface (Duraluminium, an aluminium alloy that first became famous for its use in large airships). Only the early A version still had some textile wing surfaces.

The final serial production standard evolved not until 1937, but in that year the Hs 123 has proven that it was able to compete with the modern Bf 109 fighter (in its contemporary version) in regard to climb rate; the power:weight ratio is the main input variable for climb rate, and the Hs 123 was using a powerful radial engine. It was also very strong in horizontal air combat manoeuvrability (turning radius).

Henschel Hs 123 V2 (2nd prototype)

One interesting thing about the Hs 123 is that it routinely carried a 130 litre external fuel tank. This could be jettisoned, but it being made of aluminium meant that this was expensive and thus only an emergency action. The flight radius of the Hs 123 was poor even with this fuel tank but this proved to be not much of a problem because the aircraft was capable of being flown and maintained on most primitive forward airfields (a field was deemed suitable for Hs 123 if you could drive over it with a car at 50 km/h). This proximity to the front line enabled many sorties per day during important battles and neutralised the range issue. The continued use of a drop tank does nevertheless prove that the Luftwaffe had understood this piece of equipment long before the 1940 Battle of Britain. Ultimately, the short-ranged Bf 109E fighters proved to be unsuitable in that important (yet still a bit overrated) air battle due to lack of range. It had no drop tank (until late in 1940).

The Hs 123 proved to be structurally deficient for a dive bomber, necessitating a structural reinforcement. This is somewhat odd, for the aircraft's structure also proved to be extremely robust and resilient to combat damages in the close air support role and during use on most primitive airfields.
Germany was involved in the Spanish civil war at the time of the Hs 123's early career and a squadron of these aircraft were sent to Spain. The success in the ground attack role (close air support; CAS) was visible immediately.
There's nothing in the specs that points at it; there was no special armour installed at the time, it had only the two standard machine guns and its 4 x 50 kg or 4 x 70 kg bomb armament was not outstanding in any way (except if compared to fighters).

The Hs 123 was still in service in late 1939, but only 40 aircraft were used in September 1939 over Poland. By that time, the Hs 123 were mostly dispersed in training units and it was long since regarded to be a close air support aircraft (a "Schlachtflieger"), not a dive bomber ("Sturzkampfflugzeug") for interdiction missions. Udet's preference for dive bombing had become the dominant view by 1939 because Udet had become responsible for the development and procurement of military aircraft in general. There was nevertheless a major general Wolfram von Richthofen, who preferred close air support and the Hs 123 over dive bomber interdiction messages with Ju 87 (at least since he had experienced the Hs 123's abilities over Spain). Ironically, this general was later most successful and much-decorated with an air force corps that was primarily in the business of using Ju 87 dive bombers to best effect over the Soviet Union.

Henschel Hs 123 A-1 (early series)

The Hs 123 demonstrated a strange ability over Spain and Poland; this was a combination of flying characteristics and acoustic oddity. The aircraft was slow, manoeuvrable and yet stable enough for extremely low level flight at only about 8-10 metres altitude (that's 30 ft). Its BMW 132A engine produced a terrifying sound (similar to machine gun fire) at 1,800 rpm (other sources claim the sound came from the propeller, but they agree on the rpm). The combination of both frequently led to panic among enemy ground forces.
This trick was probably only effective because these aircraft were a rarity, for neither the bombs nor the machine guns could be used during such acoustic-visual attack runs. The bombs would have destroyed the aircraft itself and the machine gun synchronisation was not safe at this rpm setting.

The Hs 123 was kept in service despite its obsolete appearance simply because it was so extremely successful as close air support aircraft. It participated in the Benelux and France campaigns, in the Balkan campaign and it was used over the Soviet Union and even Tunisia. Training aircraft were sent to front-line units again and even ten new Hs 123 were produced with spare parts.
The total strength at the end of August 1941 was 152 Hs 132, 99 had been lost so far. This strength dropped to 140 till end of 1941, and the Hs 123 was the last aircraft type that had to cease operations due to the extremely bad Russian winter weather. The Hs 123 was furthermore upgraded during 1942, adding some armour for the pilot.

Enemy fighters were apparently no significantly greater threat to Hs 123 pilots than friendly fire. Few Hs 123 were lost to fighters, and this was apparently a consequence of its ruggedness (there were few critical components that hits could take out and the structure was strong enough to tolerate several 20 mm HE hits), its low speed (the typically much faster fighters had very little time for actually firing at a Hs 123) and great agility (good for both dodging fire and making slowing down unacceptable for enemy monoplane fighters).

The extremely odd request for a renewed production of Hs 123 in 1942 or 1943 (sources vary on this) is a direct consequence of both the great utility of the Hs 123 and the lack of a superior alternative. It was denied, and the usually recounted reason is that the tools were already scrapped. In other words; a renewed production would have started slowly and at high fixed costs. By this time, close air support groups were converting to Fw 190F fighter-bombers (the version modified for CAS) which were in addition to their qualities as fighter-bombers also capable auxiliary fighters against enemy CAS and bomber aircraft

The front-line career of the Hs 123 ended in 1944 when its numbers were reduced to about a dozen. Many years of both peacetime and wartime service with up to eight sorties on certain days had finally worn down the inventory and surviving aircraft.
The last Spanish Hs 123 was scrapped in 1953 after an accident in 1952. It had been in service for 13 years, being one of the few pre-series aircraft (Hs 123A-0).
No Hs 123 has survived to date, but maybe we'll eventually find one in some Russian swamp, forest, lake or river, waiting for its recovery and restoration.

- - - - -

What does the example of the Hs 123 tell us today?

First of all, aircraft cannot be judged by spec sheet and outer concept alone.

 Odd recipes as well as pure chance may lead to great effectiveness.

It does also emphasize the lesson that acoustic effects can have significant battlefield effects.

It reminds us of the importance of low maintenance requirements and high sortie rates.

It also reminds us that the fashion of the decade is not always necessary for a great aircraft. The Hs 123 had neither retractable landing gear nor enclosed cockpit nor a monoplane configuration. These modern characteristics would even have reduced its effectiveness ( retractable landing gear = more accidents and more maintenance, enclosed cockpit = worse field of view, monoplane configuration = worse view to the ground).


Recommended source (German language): "Flugzeug Profile #42"


Die Anti-Terror-Lüge / The counter-terrorism lie


Among other info it brought forward this statistics graphic about the amount of German telecommunications surveillance actions:

It reads: 
(title: "Causes for telecommunication surveillance 2009")
drug trade
robbery / blackmailing
organised theft
drug possession
public order
handling of stolen goods
human trafficking
tax fraud
child pornography

This graph makes extremely obvious what Peter Schaar (federal government appointee for data privacy and freedom of information) said as well:

Terrorism is merely the justification de jour for additional state powers and less privacy protection. The previous boogey man was organised crime, about which you can't hear much any more since 2001. Child pornography is also a fashionable boogeyman, including a rather fictional child pornography industry.

Rule of thumb: No matter how 'good' the boogeyman, we need to stay calm and weigh the costs and benefits of actions such as reduced privacy or more generally loss of protective rights against the state.
The boogeyman is often merely a false motivation, a marketing trick that serves completely different purposes.



Argentinians still seem to like low level flight...


Finally a decent fly-by. The only better ones I've seen were with propeller aerobatics aircraft.



An answer to Gates

I'm not really in the business of answering to leaving foreign secretaries of defence, but other bloggers do it as well and Gates keeps spouting much nonsense at allies, so here's my take.

His superficial "the Europeans don't spend more on military power" whining was already answered by the following posts:

(Defence and Freedom, 2010/03)

(Defence and Freedom, 2009/05)


(Defence and Freedom 2008/02)

(Defence and Freedom 2008/02)

He didn't offer any new opinions in his departure speech, so I guess I can recycle old stuff as well. The ability to simply link to an old text is among the few benefits of a for-free blogger.


A plea for competent deliberations on political matters. A rip into ideology.

Years ago I arranged a meeting with a very established and respected German commenter on security policy (regrettably, he's since deceased). I had had previous contacts with him and expected a nice afternoon, exchanging lots of stories and acid-tongued bashing of failures in the realm of security policy and the Bundeswehr. My anticipations were correct.

My preparation for this meeting involved carrying a 1x 1 metre b/w print of the German army's organisational structure (down to battalion level) with me. I did put it on the table, expecting a nice discussion about the incredible failure that this structure was. Instead, he replied that he's not really competent in such things. He looked at it and didn't spot the obvious issues, such as no artillery (and at times even no mortars) being organic to certain combat brigades.

He was one of the top experts nation-wide in regard to competent critique of our ministry of defence's failures, but he wasn't qualified to spot serious flaws in a simple army organigram. His competence was in other areas.
This made me think about the civilian control, the competence of the German public on military affairs. How many people in important positions may lack the ability to spot at least major failures reliably?
What about our new minister of defence, who has no prior curriculum vitae entry about defence policy?

We've got about 80 million citizens in Germany, certainly several million of them have the education, intellect, health and age for being experts on defence policy, but how many of them are actually experts - and relevant ones? Any?

Can failures - not only in defence policy, but also in economic policy and other policies - be explained by sheer and systematic incompetence?

- - - - -

Sciences usually offer some rational models and methods for decision-making. Much area-specific knowledge has been accumulated in just about every area of interest.
To exploit these models, methods and experiences is feasible. It takes much time, effort and skill, but it's feasible.

The basic idea of representative democracy is that we as normal citizens cannot spend much time and effort and many of us lack the skill - thus we task representatives with doing that for us. These representatives are full-time employed, chosen, professional and supported by professional full-time staffs and advisers. They are supposed to accept the challenge, deliberate about it and to come up with a good answer. Decisions should be done on a case-to-case basis. No decision for a specific problem is applicable to another problem.

Instead, we got professional careerists with a classic principal - agent problem.
It's so utterly uncommon that professional politicians meet the requirements for skill, competence and diligence that even the media - the controlling instance - has become accustomed to not even expect skilful and systematic deliberations.

Instead, people have become accustomed to ideologies and fashions: dumbed-down sets of answers to problems. There's an issue with regulation in some industry? Follow your ideology. Military budget? Follow your ideology. Social issues? Ideology.

Ideology offers a simple one-size-fits-all answer to problems. You can become lazy and avoid deliberations as a politician, you can even make a political career while being incompetent and never serving your people. As a citizen, ideology gives you the feeling of being competent on just about everything. No need for high intellect, specific skills and knowledge. You have an answer for everything.

It's so enticing, so comfortable - and so wrong.
To follow an ideology is almost like flipping a coin; 50% probability of doing right. At most.

Is it surprising that our mature and complex societies run into problems that we cannot solve even after years? We're essentially flipping coins in our decision-making.

That's the optimistic interpretation, remember the "At most".
Ideology would be as good as flipping a coin if every problem had only two possible answers, but there's an endless set of answers. Let's look at a tax:
(1) Tax rate up?
(2) Tax rate down?
(m) Changes in tax base definition?
(n) Changes in exemptions?

A case-by-case deliberation with skill, intellect, experience, knowledge, model and method offers the best probability of picking the best set of tax rate, tax base and exemptions. Ideologies are usually binary; two orthogonally opposed maxims that are unable to aim well at a specific optimum. Ideologies don't have a 50% probability of being correct; their probability of being correct approaches zero.

- - - - -

The aforementioned author also warned me to never fall prey to the illusion of influence. Even after decades of work and publishing, you cannot make even a dent on the course of events as a commentator. You can only feel satisfied in the quality of your work.

Sadly, he was most likely correct. 
Nevertheless, I feel satisfied in at least making the attempt to add some more info and some more original thoughts to the public in regard to security policy.



Airless tires (again)

I do rarely begin to disagree with earlier blog posts of mine. This is such an example.

Back in 2008 I wrote about how the basic idea of the tweel (rubber honeycomb structure wheel without pneumatic functionality) had been transferred to military vehicle demonstrator ... as if it was news.

Well, it turned out to be an old story. I fell for the U.S. skill of pretending that something done in the U.S. is new when it was really old. Well, they did not explicitly state that it's new, but the source implied that it was based on new research and development, making me believe it was new.

An old copy of "Military Ordnance" March 1999 (Vol. 9 No.2), p. 13 proved otherwise.

The South Africans were quicker.

Even worse; my example of spring-cushioned tires in Germany during the First World War was likely not the first application of such a technology either. Those springs were apparently tried out back in the late 19th century until pneumatic rubber tires were found to be better (as long as natural rubber can be imported).


edit 2014 thanks to secretprojects forum :

edit 2019: Another blast from the past, already the 1930's:
It might be an American invention after all!



An example of outright dissonance in a security policy commentary

An excerpt from a Foreign Policy magazine website article:

The Arabs readied to strike -- but Israel did not wait. "We will suffer many losses, but we have no other choice," explained IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin. The next morning, on June 5, Israeli jets and tanks launched a surprise attack against Egypt, destroying 204 of its planes in the first half-hour. By the end of the first morning of fighting, the Israeli Air Force had destroyed 286 of Egypt's 420 combat aircraft, 13 air bases, and 23 radar stations and anti-aircraft sites. It was the most successful single operation in aerial military history.

But, as feared, other Arab forces attacked. Enemy planes struck Israeli cities along the narrow waist, including Hadera, Netanya, Kfar Saba, and the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv; and thousands of artillery shells fired from the West Bank pummeled greater Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. Ground forces, meanwhile, moved to encircle Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods as they did in 1948.

In six days, Israel repelled these incursions and established secure boundaries. It drove the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians, who had also opened fire, from the Golan Heights. Most significantly, Israel replaced the indefensible armistice lines by reuniting Jerusalem and capturing the West Bank from Jordan.
(my emphasis)

What do thee people to or with their brains? How does this work? Can it be avoided? How can someone sustain the cognitive dissonance of first describing in detail how something was done already and then proceed to assert it's impossible to do ... as if it was the most self-evident impossibility on earth.

How much gets the FP editor paid for being editor? Couldn't a taxi driver do the same job, possibly better? A working and awake person couldn't let such a contradiction in an article slip through, could it?

Proper and effective propaganda used to require a core of truth. Propaganda techniques seem to have advanced to a point where propaganda can float completely independent of truth and still be effective.

Propaganda is no good for policy. You better look at pro and contra with a rational, open mind. Propaganda and ideology are blinders.



Cold War naval strategies in NATO

Polaris missile launch
There are some naval strategies that I don't seem to get. The first one is the 'nuclear deterrence by SSBNs' strategy. I understand this began with modified nuclear attack submarine designs and short-ranged (1,000 nm) submarine ballistic missiles. That part made sense in its own sick way.
The part that I do not get is why it evolved to the later system with trident missiles, for even the Trident I missile had 7,400 km range and could easily have this increased by a few hundred kilometres. The confusing thing here is that 7,772 km is the distance between Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. and Moscow, Russia (then U.S.S.R.).

The expensive Trident I missiles could have been replaced by a cheaper surface launch design and the expensive nuclear-powered Ohio SSBNs could have been replaced with much cheaper conventional submersibles (no torpedoes, minimal Sonar, no noise cancelling, low depth hull, no nuclear reactor) in Lake Michigan.
Even Canada had no ability to interfere with whatever is hiding in Lake Michigan (average depth 85 m, maximum depth 281 m), much less the Warsaw Pact.
(edit: A treaty would have to be renegotiated or cancelled.)

Likewise, British and French SSB would have been quite safe in the Irish Sea or the Western Mediterranean. Soviet/Russian SSBs would have been much safer in the Caspian Sea than SSBNs in the Arctic  region.

Even as of today, naval authors write about a need to replace SSBNs with SSBNs as if that was perfectly self-evident. To me, their thinking appears to be on autopilot.

So this is the first thing I do not understand; why so much expense for producing and shielding large nuclear-powered submarines for high seas patrols if the same mission could be accomplished in inland waters at a much lower expense and with better reliability?

- - - - -

The second confusion is about the general emphasis on the naval realm while the (perceived) imbalance of land power was creating serious concerns.

I do get that the amphibious and carrier forces of the USN were more about the West-East conflict in the Third World than about actual preparations for WW3. They were of course also a left-over from the USN's structure in the late Pacific War and thus probably a testament of bureaucratic inertia, too.

This leaves the many rather convoy escort-oriented forces as primary naval WW3 preparation. European navies (such as the British, German and Dutch ones) were composed mostly of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates with a few area air defence (AAW) destroyers in between. They were capable of forming convoy escort flotillas. The Americans attempted to combine both into the Oliver Hazard Perry frigate class for mostly the same mission.

This was all a great expense, and it's obvious that their only crucial role in a supposedly quick and short WW3 would have been the escorting of military forces shipments on the high seas. That, of course, was a strange fit for a "quick and short WW3" assumption. The major reinforcements would have deployed either by land or by air (U.S. reserves with pre-positioned material in European depots), actual transoceanic shipment of army forces complete with their material would have required many weeks and would not have arrived in time for the expected most likely decisive battle in Central Europe.

There was in my opinion no reason why Germany or the Netherlands should have maintained escorts for such shipments, for these shipments would have arrived too late for their defence. It was certainly not desirable to hope for a liberation campaign, for this would mean that nuclear-armed forces would attack a second time through your country.

So what was the (cost efficient) purpose for the German Bremen class (F122 class) or the Dutch Kortenaer class on which it was based, for example? 

F 208, Bremen class ASW frigate

What exactly was the point of ASW-centric helicopter carriers with token anti-bomber components of Sea Harrier VTOL fighters?

This reminds me a bit of the German "Z-Plan" for a "balanced" navy for the 1940's. There's no plausible strategic concept driving the idea, but since you can build all those different things, why miss 'em? Just build everything. Who needs clear reasoning? Doesn't concentration on crucial efforts require self-discipline and a mental effort? Go the path of least resistance and just order all kinds of different toys for the boys!

Call me anti-naval, call me fixated on continental thinking; NATO's naval strategies of the late Cold War (70's and 80's) look very confused and stupid to me. They appear to have been invented by a bureaucratic autopilot.