Putin's way of aggression

Putin's approach to aggressions is an interesting one. It appears he has recognised the limitations of his freedom of action, found and began to exploit loopholes.

An all-out conventional invasion, 1914-style, is apparently out of question to him. Russia lacks the forces to pull this off on a grand scale, at least without exposing itself too much.
His exploits appear to range up to army corps size instead (South Ossetia 2008) - with all other power being held in the back, as a political equivalent to a "fleet in being". This restricts the freedom of action of other great powers. Small powers can probably not pull off the same risky games for they lack this component - even if they could easily muster forces equivalent to the ones employed actively.

Traditional Cold War deterrence rested on the fear that a too bold move might lead to World War III, and the demise of European civilisation. There were no aggressive moves done in Europe proper after the Berlin blockade; both blocs were content with keeping their own line*. Bold moves were largely restricted to Asia, with proxies and at times small numbers of opposing great power troops fighting against each other**.

There as a fear that some bold, yet incremental, moves could be dared in Europe - and it was difficult to define when exactly such incremental offenses should lead to mobilisation or war. A British satire (a "Yes, Prime Minister!" episode, see 7:04 minutes and after) explained this better than articles or books ever did. Also remember the metaphor of boiling frogs.

Putin appears to have thought of this incremental approach when he decided to send paramilitary troops without national insignias into the Crimea.

He did apparently also take into account that the Ukraine is not allied with any country.

Finally, the third ingredient; international law had been stretched somewhat prior to the move.

Putin did stretch his freedom of action in face of International Law proponents prior to the conflict with Georgia in 2008 by exposing 'peacekeeper' troops. Georgia proceeded to attack South Ossetia at some point and this included firing on peacekeepers. At that point Putin had a semi-plausible excuse for intervention. His intervention was not as blatant as the intervention of Kuwait 1990, for example. Him withdrawing after fait accompli avoided troubles as well.

The stretching of International Law for the invasion(s) of the Ukraine wasn't done by Putin himself. This damage was done by Western great powers which had a fit of arrogance and short-sightedly decided that rule of force suits them better than rule of law. Rule of law was supposedly a concept to be applied on other powers only.
Except that the "other powers" includes some great powers which evidently can behave arrogantly as well.

It would help if the same Western great powers reaffirmed the importance of international law in a non-hypocritical way. They could admit guilt, seek and accept a ruling about compensations and - most importantly - refrain from further violations. 
This won't happen, of course. Only losing aggressors have to show regret in this world.

Another approach to close the loopholes would be to expand the collective defence systems; offer an alliance of some kind to the Ukraine. This is most unlikely as well. It would lead to further conflict and might end up being much too expensive. The Ukraine is not too big to fail, after all. Nothing in there is really crucial to the West (for historical reasons), while much in there is crucial to Russia.

Finally, one could tune up the reaction to incremental moves and effectively turn incremental moves into too big moves thereby. This appears to be the preferred approach among Western great power governments.


*: The Greek Civil War already ended in 1949, being the last major attempt to keep Western countries in line.

**: Soviet and Western fighter pilots battled in a couple proxy wars.


An opportunity for disciplinary action

The Navy is preparing for another test of a new cruise missile defense system that can identify and destroy threats from beyond the radar horizon, Lockheed officials said.
The system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, uses a Standard Missile 6 and an airborne sensor to track and destroy approaching cruise missiles at much longer distances than existing technologies can.
“The NIFC-CA capability pushes out the engagement envelope that these ships have not had previously. You are pushing the engagement envelope beyond the radar horizon,” said Jim Sheridan, director of Aegis U.S. Navy programs at Lockheed Martin. “There’s an airborne sensor that’s involved. Once the missile leaves the ship you are actually firing it at something that the ship itself cannot see because the engagement takes place beyond the horizon.”

This is a most obvious application based on technologies which were experimental by 1944 (TBM-3W radar plane, Bat seeker, Wasserrfall missile), mature available by 1974 (E-2 radar plane AIM-54 seeker, RIM-67 missile), mainstream available by 1991 (AIM-120 seeker). The concept was an operational capability of the French navy by 2002 or so (E-2 & Aster 30 missile with seeker). The need for the concept was painfully obvious by 1982.
Effective naval area air defence close to a coastline is most questionable without this capability - and almost all naval actions were related to a nearby land mass.*

The navy with the (by a ridiculous factor!) biggest budget in the world is only now getting ready to make use of this obvious application.

I suppose this justifies a disciplinary action against the bureaucracy.
Delete ten flag officer slots, cut the staffs of all remaining flag officers by one officer slot (not their choice) and send two DDGs to a SINKEX without replacement. Maybe this kind of disciplinary action would teach the bureaucracy a powerful lesson about consequences of institutional failure.

I'm serious. It would likely strengthen the USN in the medium term already. Keep in mind bureaucrcies strive for size. You punish them best by cutting them. The lag between decades of failure and sudden punishment would not matter.


*: Commerce raiding is the one category with many exceptions to this rule.

P.S.: Reliable active radar seekers are expensive, of course. This made them less attractive, but autonomous terminal homing seekers with lock on after launch capability are a must-have for a large fraction of the area air defence missiles and the price is no excuse for a navy with a ridiculously lavish budget.
edit: A related Blog text is 2009-02 Fact Check: Military Hardware novelty
edit 2: Another, very related blog text: 2009-04 SAMs with active radar homing 


Parkinson's Law

Bad: Military forces are essentially armed bureaucracies. 
Those who served in a developed country's military can hardly doubt its bureaucratic nature.

Worse: These armed bureaucracies are similar to disaster response bureaucracies; they wait and prepare almost all the time, with (hopefully) few most unpleasant tests. Their quality (performance) is largely unobservable to the taxpayer most of the time.

Even worse: These armed bureaucracies are similar to intelligence agencies; they can cover up their failures and low quality through secrecy, even hide some of their spending behind secrecy.

I called military forces 'bureaucracies'  in earlier posts as well. It's important to understand their nature. It's my assertion that only this allows voters/taxpayers to understand the military and treat it accordingly.

Today's topic is Parkinson's Law, which describes the tendency of bureaucracies to grow without justification, and even so if the demand or output shrinks. It's not really a law or theory, of course. It's descriptive of a common phenomenon. The original publication of Parkinson's Law was in 1955, so it's not news by a long shot. It's the same as with many other texts on Defence and Freedom: The publication date here doesn't really matter; the same text could have been published years earlier or later just as well.

I strongly advise to read the original article (source) of Parkinson's Law (a more comfortable version is here), which saves me the effort of summarising it comprehensively.

Two conclusions from the phenomenon come to my mind first and foremost:

Military forces require a strong and stern oversight as well as disciplinary action from legitimated outsiders (civilian leadership), and said outsiders need to understand the bureaucracy's tendencies.

Creative destruction (destroying at least parts of a bureaucracy once in a while) may be a vastly underappreciated policy recipe for military forces, ministries of defence and bureaucracies in general.



If we were really focused on free mobile warfare ...

The Western approach to conventional warfare developed towards a quite linear delaying action with much firepower during the 70's and early 80's. The challenge was the (in part perceived, in part true) threat of multiple waves of numerically superior Warsaw Pact ground forces. To delay and decimate them while reinforcements (mobilised and strategically redeployed forces) arrive was in the focus, what to do once the reinforcements arrived was an afterthought.

The result was that albeit no defensible front-line could have been established, no deep penetrations by Warsaw pact forces (such as the "Operational manoeuvre groups" which could be called Panzerkorps) would be tolerated.
The threat was generally expected to come from a approx. 120° cone by divisional staffs.

The need to hold some kind of line to protect the rear targets (airbases, surface-to-air missile belt, Rhine bridges, depots, forming Reforger and mobilising units) did override considerations about how to operate (as a spearhead or whatever) between hostile forces.

The long-term impact of this distortion are still visible in Western military equipment, organisations, force structures and field manuals. No large-scale conventional ground warfare forced a different concept of warfare on our minds (which is a good thing!), except bashing Arabs.

This post shall highlight some of the results of this distortion, and long-time readers (and readers who dived through my archive) may recognise some pet peeves of mine.

(1) 120° cones and radar.
110°-120° happens to be the useful field of view of a electronic scanning array radar antennas unless you turn them mechanically as well. The rise of these antennas in 1970's development projects did not seem to be troublesome with the frontal paradigm in mind. The navies simply installed several such antennas on their ships for 360° coverage, while air forces and armies trusted their frontal paradigm.
early NATO SAM belt, from here
One consequence is that the famous Patriot surface-to-air missile didn't replace IHAWK during the 90's because it was in reasonable battery quantities only useful for establishing a line of air defences, and incapable of defending all-round satisfactorily. Clusters of Patriot and IHAWK batteries were formed in 1990's doctrines to compensate for this shortcoming. One of the big and recurring selling propositions of the (too expensive) MEADS program was its 360° improvement over Patriot systems.
Counter-artillery radars were similar; AN/TPQ-36, -37 and also Cobra were not specified for a mobile, penetrating spearhead in mind. They were specified with artillery duels along relatively static (on large scale maps) defence in mind. The numbers purchased did not suffice to compensate for this. Counter-mortar challenges in Afghanistan quickly showed that at least a 360° 24/7 surveillance alerting radar was necessary, and such technology was provided relatively quickly.
AN/TPQ-36 antenna
Even as of today, radars for all-round coverage in support of moving forces are almost non-existing. Some self-propelled anti-air gun systems are claimed to have such a capability, but only for low level air defence and we (the West) tend to get rid of these systems.

(2) Supplies and endurance
Fuel and ammunition supplies carried and efficiency of their use should be much greater if we were focused on mobile ops. Even relatively orderly advances such as 2002 in Iraq tend to permit resupply only about every 2nd day for a manoeuvre formation. A freely manoeuvring battlegroup would need to have rather four or five days worth of endurance. More movements than during WW2 precedents, some supply losses and a safety margin especially for artillery and tank gun (HE and HEAT) ammunition consumption are reasonable assumptions. A self-propelled howitzer may shoot 200 rounds in a day, for example - but it could easily be three times as much on some days, and the relation between the different shell types may differ from expectations. On the other hand, mobile ops tend to emphasize fuel consumption over ammunition consumption. 
So what's about the driving range of vehicles (particularly tracked ones), and how much fuel is carried by a battlegroup? Fuel trucks aren't particularly attractive or impressive during peacetime, and Western military forces expect to bolster their fuel transport capacity a lot by adding civilian trucks steered by reserve personnel. This leads to their systematic under-consideration in peacetime doctrine and practice.

(3) Security effort
The demands are much higher for 360° security on the move than for frontal security with little rear security in a relatively linear setting. The nature of the required security effort differs as well. More static tactics allow the use of quite long-lived observation posts, while more mobile tactics require a more armoured reconnaissance/light cavalry-like approach.

(4) Handling of prisoners and the wounded
Vanguard detachments of WW2 were often unable to handle prisoners. Officers and some specialists were kept, but lesser soldiers were often only disarmed and told to go to some prisoner rally point for food and administrative processing. A vanguard / spearhead force would have bled its typically already weak infantry even more during its advance if it had detached infantry to keep many prisoners under control.

After all, the result of surprising and overwhelming a battalion is not the latter's disappearance, but rather hundreds of prisoners of war. Units suffer ~80% casualties without breaking almost exclusively in exercises. In real combat, most would yield or break altogether after 20-30% casualties. You end up taking 80-90% of the hostiles prisoner if you do well - and then you're supposed to handle them.
So far I have still not seen any conclusive answer to this issue in field manuals or other sources. Nowadays the dominant view appears to be that you either slow down or you're satisfied by destroying major equipment (such as tanks), paying little attention to surviving hostile troops. The latter greatly exacerbates the security issues in a conflict against well-motivated hostiles, particularly for supply convoys.

(5) Scouting effort
German and Soviet armies were mostly composed of slow, only partially motorised forces during WW2. The few fully motorised ones stood out and their efforts were restricted to some areas. Modern forces are fully motorised. The modern meaning of "mobile warfare" thus includes that potentially all forces are moving quickly and much, almost at the same time. The scouting effort has to differ accordingly.
Back in WW2 it was enough to scout ahead of the axis of advance of one or two main efforts. Nowadays all manoeuvre formations may move much, and need recce results in advance. The limited scouting needs to be replaced by a theatre-wide recce effort. This change is certainly not visible in the share held by reconnaissance forces in modern armies, nor did recce become a theatre-level asset. Instead, modern brigades and divisions have organic dedicated recce units.

(6) Time management
It's quite common for leaders and combat troops to become near-useless temporarily after four days. The sleep discipline is usually insufficient. Yet even if sleep discipline was maintained and the point of collapse pushed to a week, how would the unit as a whole maintain mobile ops in parallel?
So far I haven't seen any bunks in military trucks (they're quite common along long-range heavy trucks in Europe, installed on top of the driver's cabin). Army forces' chains of command and staffs are rarely if ever set up for a shift-based approach. The 2nd in command is typically believed to be substantially less competent than the #1. They are no "A shift" and "B shift" leaders. The old and successful concept of having two crews per tracked armoured vehicle (to compensate for exhaustion) isn't mainstream now either.
Of course, all this would be no pressing problem if you still assumed that your forward-deployed force is going to be consumed by frontal combat within a few hours or days any way.

(7) Ranges
Artillery ranges are hugely important in linear combat. You don't want your artillery to be shot at by hostile artillery while they're beyond your reach. Yet what's the relevance of range if the primary use of your artillery is to provide fire support when your spearhead encounters hostiles?
Your artillery would hardly prefer to lag behind your 'tip of the spear' by 30 km while providing overwatch in a leap-frogging mode. It would strive to stay more close, maybe within 10 km. Special munitions with decreased warhead volume in favour of base bleed or rocket assistance functionalities for more range would be rather inefficient in such a context.

And said hostiles would not need to be engaged from afar, since you're moving towards them (and maybe stumbled into them). Sure, counterfire to protect march columns may be demanded, but I doubt anyone really believes that it's possible to protect a march column with counterfire against a substantial threat, nor is it sensible to allow occasional fires to stop your movement often. Which leads to #8:

(8) Protection of support vehicles in the manoeuvre forces
Fuel trucks, ammunition trucks, electronic whatever trucks, staff trucks, medical trucks - all these ought to be survivable in face of the hazards of mobile warfare between (instead of in front of) hostiles. This is about camouflage, light armour (against most fragmentation from >15 m and occasional bursts from normal machine guns) and the ability to leave a road that's under fire and proceed off-road or on unpaved roads (this is more about the ability to cross small ditches and residential or agricultural fences than about soft soil performance).
There's an old dream of an all-tracks, all-armoured mobile strike force. This has always been too expensive, too maintenance-demanding and too thirsty. Still, the unprotected trucks are hardly satisfactory either.

Humans get used to almost everything. We got used to the paradigms of the Cold War and were never forced to shake some of them off because we luckily had enough peace to avoid the necessary campaign lessons.



Exotic Ancient Weapons VI: Chu-ke-nu (repeating crossbow)


If anyone needs evidence that crossbows require less training than bows, the repeating crossbow provides it. You didn't even need to fumble with bolts in mid-battle.
This East Asian development had no parallel as a one-man portable weapon. The heavier versions had parallels in some repeating bolt-firing weapons for sieges and shipboard use in ancient Mediterranean history.

The simplicity and elegance of the design is almost astonishing. Accuracy and power were poor, though. It wasn't able to exploit torsion for greater power, as the expensive late medieval hand crank heavy crossbows did.

The value of a repeating crossbow was probably in the morale effect of hundreds of bolts fired within seconds by a few dozen men, and increased by poisoned tips.
I suppose the poison didn't need to be very deadly; humans had good reasons to fear even small wounds before the introduction of penicillin. A small wound with some kind of poison - even if it's only guaranteeing an inflammation - was something to fear, and causing fear is the morale effect of weapons.

The high volume of bolts fired may also have been useful against light cavalry, as the horses could panic after sustaining several wounds and the horsemen might want to avoid getting their horses wounded like that.

link: a description



K21 IFV (South Korea)

Westerners tend to be too Western-centric, looking mostly at what Europeans, North Americans, Israelis and to a lesser extent what the antagonists in Russia and mainland China produce as weapon systems.
There sure is more being written about the American taxpayer-rip off rackets (FCS, GCV) and the German IFV Puma than for example the South Korean K21 infantry fighting vehicle.

I wrote before about my scepticism about the IFV concept in general (1, 2), but this aside I'll have a look at the K21.

It sure does have a less unreasonable weapons layout and ammunition range than the Puma (which is really the limbo benchmark in this regard).

It goes against the trend and insists on amphibiousness - a characteristic which was given up during the 70's and 80's in many AFV programs because weight gains for additional protection, weapons and other equipment made amphibiousness impractical. The use of internal inflatable 'air bags'/pontoons for additional buoyancy may actually provide some extra protection: Rubber is a reactive material and quite weight-efficient as a defence against shaped charges' penetrating tips and the extra angling and spacing of the outer plate may add a lot to its protective value both against chemical and kinetic energy attacks. The system would need to use multiple isolated chambers, of course - or else a single AK bullet or sharp underwater obstacle could deflate one side. The safety of amphibious operation already requires such compartmentalization, though.

The quantity of mounted smoke dischargers is small as usually (I think too small), not reloadable from behind armour (a usual deficiency) and apparently not bulletproofed (this is going out of fashion, as bulletproofed discharger sets are becoming more common). They may also require extra attention when camouflage (nets, foliage) or add-on armour (ERA, NERA, cage) is applied, which wouldn't be so troublesome if they were mounted behind the turret, overshooting the turret (a still very rare location).

The front plate (trim vane) is apparently meant not only as bumper and helping critically during swimming (turned up), but also as spaced armour and probably of high hardness to help the poorly angled part of the front against 30mm shots.

The sights and sensors are probably a weak spot of this design, as known from so many others. Normal glass is not transparent to infrared wavelengths; that's why you can see with a thermal camera how much warmth escapes from a poorly insulated house through old-fashioned windows. You don't see the IR radiation that goes through windows, but rather the one emitted by the warmed-up windows. You need a special, rare kind of glass in front of a thermal (IR) sensor.
This in turn means that thermal sensors are natural magnets for bullets. You cannot use them much once they were shot out, so this is a major issue (comparable to the M1 Abrams deficiency revealed in Iraq; unprotected bore evacuators).
Such sights should not be vulnerable to bullets from many angles from beyond their own field of view. One of the K21's has a cover plate to protect it at times, but it's apparently still vulnerable from beyond its FOV when in use.

The primitive turret roof hatches are another weak spot. We've seen better designs for generations.

The official protection rating is strange. 30 mm APDS is hardly a relevant threat; the Russian 2A42 30 mm autocannon can fire more powerful APFSDS and both 23 mm AP-I and 67-85 mm HEAT warheads are much more common, much more troublesome threats. One shouldn't believe published figures, of course.
Quite notable is the use of a glass-fibre composite hull (first experiments with this during the 80's); this would no doubt be hyped up a lot as hyper modern leap-forward transformational if the K21 was American.

Some photos show external, possibly bulletproof, boxes instead of cage-like containers for rucksacks. This may be considered very important by the crews during weeks of campaigning, as unprotected individual items can easily be ruined by bullets and fragments.

Some components are identical to what the new South Korean MBT (K2) uses, which is a nice-to-have feature.

Remarkably, the dismount strength of nine men (of to me unknown size restrictions) is rather fine, albeit the presence of a missile armament may lead to a reduction to eight in practice (especially if the missiles are used as general direct fire support).

The most remarkable fact about the K21 is a different one, of course: It is a new tracked armoured fighting vehicle in production. That's rare in Western or Western-friendly countries nowadays.



OR text on DPICM

EDIT: Due to an embarrassing, but in my opinion not terminal, mistake I had to rework the figures after a few days. The emphasis was not on the originally incorrect figures, but on showing the approach to the problem, any way.

OR = operational research; the analytical approach on military effects
DPICM = dual purpose improved conventional munitions; "bomblets"

I've encountered a pattern of thought about artillery that's distinctly optimistic, almost Clancy-style. There's no OR study on this in my library (though there is one disclosed, for sure), so I'll improvise a quick&dirty OR mini-study on 227 mm DPICM vs. 155 mm HE to balance this optimism a bit:

A common claim is that MLRS (multiple rocket launcher system, MARS) batteries take out entire large areas in one fire mission. One claim I found repeatedly  was about the effects of a concentrated 24 MLRS launcher fire mission on a large area. The areas varied, but IIRC the smallest area claimed I ever encountered was 4 square kilometres (for such a quantity of launchers).

24 MLRS, each 12 M26 rockets, each 644 M77 DPICM HEAT-frag bomblets.
That's 185,472 bomblets. I looked up the dud rate quickly and it appears to vary from 2% to 23%, supposedly it is 5%. Let's subtract 5% thus:
176,198 bomblets.

Let's use a BMP vehicle as a notional target; length 7.14 m, width 3.2 m. The relevant target area is surely a bit smaller, more as 6.5 x 2.8 m: 18.2 square metres.

4 square kilometres equal 4 million square metres. 219,780 target areas would fit into this.

That's almost exactly 80% as many non-dud bomblets as target areas. Indirect hits don't matter much, for the small fragments are too weak to penetrate the bulletproof BMP (the frag effect is smaller than with defensive hand grenades).

Neither bomblets nor targets will be distributed evenly and regularly, though. Well-trained and disciplined mechanised troops would keep 50 metres spacing, while the bomblets would tend to bunch up and impact in a round-ish pattern. These patterns would overlap, of course. A BMP may remain unscathed even inside the pattern (if release wasn't too low for this), while others might be hit multiple times. Overall, we could expect that much less than 80% of notional targets would be hit. The percentage would drop accordingly if larger areas, longer-ranged rocket types or fewer launchers are claimed.

Let's assume in 4 sq km a third of the BMPs were hit; what would this mean? Some would have their driver knocked out, others their commander, others one or two infantrymen, others their engine, others their battery or other electrical components and a couple would probably burn out. Some might even explode because of missile or RPG munitions carried inside. A large quantity of externally mounted anti-tank guided missiles would become useless, as these are unprotected on a BMP (except with some upgrade packages).
The effects would largely be from the tiny, tiny shaped charge in the bomblet. These shaped charges are rated for about 70-100 mm penetration only and have a hollow cone in which during flight part of another bomblet is stored. This volume-saving design has been exploited for a simple countermeasure that ruins DPICM penetration; hedgehog-like rubber mats.* It's thus a very, very fragile mode of anti-tank attack.

M77 bomblet models
Now the comparison to HE shells. Obviously, a 155 mm HE shell direct hit is major trouble to any AFV, but even near misses are. See here once again for details. All those light AFVs rated as protected against artillery fragments are really only protected within constraints. A typical description is "minimum 15 metres". So we should not only count the target area for HE effect, but also an area around it. My guess is that the area relevant here is more like 300 sq metres.

A tactical equivalent of a 24 MLRS fire mission could be a four-round MRSI** fire mission of 24 self-propelled howitzers. That's 96 shells.

96 shells times 300 sq metres = 28,800 sq metres. Roughly a sixth of the MLRS mega-salvo.

Alternatively, they could keep firing for a minute, which would increase the fire mission of 24 modern self-propelled howitzers to 240 shells times 300 sq metres = 72,000 sq metres.

The problem for "team MLRS": The self-propelled howitzers may easily store enough ammunition for several such fire missions, the big Panzerhaubitze 2000 can even store 60 rounds. The MLRS batteries would scoot and reload, while the self-propelled howitzers could scoot, shoot, scoot, shoot, scoot, shoot ... the area it can cover with fires within an hour (nominally about 180 shells/hour) is bigger than a MLRS'. And the ammunition price per sq metre affected is much lower with HE (there's no unguided MLRS HE munition).

- - - - -

This isn't the only problem for MLRS awesomeness power fantasies: A single M26 rocket weighs 306 kg + cage, while a 155 mm HE shell + modular propellant and packaging comes at little more than 50 kg. This equals twice the AT-affected area per kilogram ammunition weight***. And ammunition supply is the supreme logistical problem in full blown European style wars (albeit alternating with diesel supply, depending on what the forces do at the time).
But weight isn't even the limiter here; it's volume. Only two to four MLRS sixpacks (about two tons each) can be carried on a heavy truck (nominal capacity 14 tons). Rockets use propellant inefficiently in comparison to howitzers (as do all recoilless systems), so they need a lot of (relatively low density) propellant. HE shells and modular propellant charges can be transported much more efficiently. Specialised tracked ammunition resupply vehicles can hold about 60-100 155 mm shells + propellant, and truckloads are similar. Comparison is a bit difficult because propellant modules are packaged and transported separately and published info is very scarce on this.

The fragmentation effect against soft targets is a different story and favours DPICM more unless the enemies are in fox holes. It's better to do this comparison with 155 mm HE vs. 155 mm DPICM, and the outcome is where the great preference for DPICM in the 70's and 80's was really coming from.

Maybe you'll hear some boasts about how rocket artillery as area weapon can take out / neutralize / whatever large areas. Remember then that such claims can actually be fact-checked easily with basic OR methods (=basic school math). And quite often, the boasts are just that; boasts, omitting the down sides.
There's a reason why artillery ammunition resupply is such a pain in the ass: You need much to cover a large area or to sustain suppressive fires for long. There's no "I win" button in any artillery system, and this includes the MLRS.

One more anecdote I've heard about the reliability of arty:
Some artillery fires demonstration during the Cold War, M110 howitzers (203 mm, twice as heavy shells as 155 mm) fired into an area of woodland. The shells were so big they were even visible in the air and huge fountains of dirt and dust emerged from the woodland area.  The spectators were most impressed by the awesome destructiveness and concluded that nobody could have survived such a bombardment. Just at that moment a group of deer ran out of the woodland - equally impressed and equally alive.


*: See here 2nd page, photo captioned "protection" for this effective low tech protection. The rubber inside the hollow charge disrupts the hollow charge principle of operation.
**: MRSI = multiple rounds simultaneous impact, in which the first round is fired in a high arc, while the last one is fired with more propellant at a low angle - impacts are within less seconds than the firing sequence and exploit the initial surprise effect better than normal fires would. MRSI is not available close to maximum range, though. Then again, it's very much possible below the 10 km minimum firing range of the MLRS.
***: With my assumptions about target, dud rate and effective indirect hit area.


[Deutsch] Glenn Greenwald im Interview „Die Bundesregierung stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre“


Wie bewerten Sie das Agieren der Bundesregierung in der NSA-Affäre?
Zuerst hat die deutsche Regierung nur so getan, als sei sie etwas verärgert. Da ging es auch erst mal „nur“ um das Ausspähen der deutschen Bevölkerung. Erst als die Kanzlerin persönlich betroffen war durch das Abhören ihres Handys, wurde der Ärger real. Das stört mich schon sehr. In Brasilien war das ähnlich. Da veröffentlichten wir auch erst Dokumente über das Ausspähen der Bevölkerung und dann über die Politik, und auch dort reagierte die Regierung erst, als sie selbst betroffen war. Jetzt, denke ich, will die Bundesregierung schon Schutz für die eigene Kommunikation und die der Bevölkerung, aber sie geht nicht viel Risiko ein, um diesen Schutz zu bekommen. Sie stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre der eigenen Bevölkerung. Aber man muss auch sagen, dass die deutsche Politik zumindest klare Worte gefunden hat, um die amerikanische Überwachung zu kritisieren. (...)
Der Tagesspiegel (2 Seite)



The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene


 The Washington Post

Survey result: Where Americans (from the U.S.) locate the Ukraine.
The average was 2,900 km off.
We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

It's about time to weep about mankind.
A similar survey in Germany would likely still be embarrassing, I would expect about 1/3 instead of 1/6 to get it right.

How can democracy work, how can politicians represent their constituents if said constituents are clueless?
There's still the approach of politicians representing by trying to get it right on their own, instead of trying to trying to decide according to majority preferences - the technocrat model. But how could - at the next election - the voters judge the technocrats (and new candidates) if they don't even know about the basics?

I've seen issues such as geography and policy knowledge pinned to schooling deficiencies, but I actually don't remember having learnt world maps and their meaning at school, ever. I was able to find all countries and name their capital at some point (often messed up the small Caribbean islands, though), but that was because I was bored in class, not because I was taught it. General knowledge needs to be picked up later. It is about paying attention to the outside world, instead of being consumed by private life fully.

The worker movement of the 19th century worked to politicise the workers by educating them. Clubs and publications with useful functions doubled as political education tools. It's confusing to me how modern "news" can be infotainment (pretending to be about information, but emphasizing entertainment value) and still fail to carry the content across sufficiently.

I am convinced: The historians in the 22nd century will consider our societies as ridden by many very obvious defects - unable to cope with challenges, and quite embarrassing.

edit 2014-05:



Uncertainty and reasons for intervention

Imagine you're in some Banana Republic and the Dictator offers you to play his version of Russian Roulette:
You get a revolver and are asked to aim at someone innocent in his country and pull the trigger. He says there are few bullets in the revolver, but you're sure at least one chamber is empty. You'll never justice there or at home if you kill somebody like this. In case you pull the trigger and there's no bullet fired, the person you aimed at would become multi-millionnaire in some meaningful currency; very rich. But you would have killed the person if you aimed, pulled the trigger and there was a bullet aligned with the barrel. Either way, you would need to pay a week's worth of income.

Would you aim, and pull the trigger?

Presumably you would not.

Now imagine a different situation. You're leader of your country and hear the news that ethnic cleansing and massacres are happening in some other country. You cannot know for sure. Such things happen, but disinformation happens as well.
Some people suggest you should intervene with your military, and you know you would get away with it if it turns out that there was no ethnic cleansing or massacres, but merely a small insurgency about to be quelled.*
You realise that if there's evil going on you could help the people much, but if you were misled your intervention would really be a war of aggression, harming a great many people.
Either way, the fiscal and human costs to your country would be substantial.

Would you intervene invade?

Presumably interventionists would,
because people simply almost never change their mind
no matter how painful a cognitive dissonance I create. ;)

In  dubio pro reo. Civilized countries employ this principle on the level of individuals. I think it is underappreciated on the level of countries. Too many wars have been started for manufactured reasons, and the costs of these wars have been horrible. Even supposedly very sophisticated countries**  are susceptible and can be enticed to make the mistake of going to war on feeble grounds. It's almost as if a jury of ten would only need six "guilty" votes to convict the defendant, or even only four if the chairman of the jury is in favour of a conviction.
This is stupid. Uncertainty, fallibility and special interests working to deceive should be more widely recognised as corrupting our decision-making in such cases, and we should be careful accordingly. 

*: With rural people fleeing from their villages when there's fighting (and returning after the war reporters left the scene) and the massacres are really insurgents killed by security forces, stripped of their weapons before the war reporters made their photos.
**: Including Germany.


Greaves are back

One of the joys of history in general and military history in particular is that feeling of 'I knew that already' when once again something truly old has a comeback in one form or another.

This time greaves

There are bigger moments like that as well, of course. Studying history is highly advisable. That is, unless your family life is too demanding for study. Then better get that one right at full steam ahead.



Daily Show's take on the torture report and the gang

(Videos from this source usually misbehave when embedded, so here's the link instead.)

The tools (archive footage, satire) available to Stewart are very suitable for exposing hypocrisy and denial of reality, and him getting a point across is definitively more entertaining than msot other way.
Today's news sources are really in the infotainment business, so a lowly blogger can lean back and just let infotainment get the point across, right?


[German] Urteil des EuGH zur Vorratsdatenspeicherungs-Richtlinie

Die Richtlinie 2006/24/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 15. März 2006 über die Vorratsspeicherung von Daten, die bei der Bereitstellung öffentlich zugänglicher elektronischer Kommunikationsdienste oder öffentlicher Kommuni-kationsnetze erzeugt oder verarbeitet werden, und zur Änderung der Richtlinie 2002/58/EG ist ungültig.

Die Ausrede, dass die EU es ja vorschreibt, ist jetzt dahin. Sie war ohnehin Unsinn, denn man hatte ja einst mit abgestimt als die Richtlinie verabschiedet wurde. Die deutsche Bundesregierung kann jetzt natürlich trotzdem weiter versuchen die Vorratsdatenspeicherung zu erzwingen, aber die Gründe des EuGH werden wohl auch beim BVerfG ziehen*. Vorratsdatenspeicherung kann man jetzt getrost als verfassungswidrig einstufen.

Und wer hat's gewollt? Wer hat's gepusht? Wer ist mitgelaufen?

Mal wieder nicht die längst marginalisierten offiziellen Extremisten, sondern die allzuhäufig nicht verfassungstreuen "Bürgerlichen". Noch kein einziges Gesetz von Neonazis oder Linksaußen-Sozis wurde für verfassungswidrig oder gar grundrechtemissachtend erkannt**, doch unseren Regierungen der "Mitte" geschieht das inzwischen in erschreckender Regelmäßigkeit.
Es ist an der Zeit, dass man auch diese Herren (und wenige Damen) als potentiell gefährlich und zu extremistischen Aktionen fähig ansieht. Bisher tut das ja vorwiegend die junge Generation, die sich mit "STASI 2.0" und "Zensursula" Memes Luft gemacht hat und personell die politische Opposition zu Überwachung, Zensur etc. stellt.


*: Insbesonderegilt dies im Hinblick auf ein BVerfG Urteil von 1983, das ein Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung einführte
**: Ganz klarer Vorteil; sie haben gar nicht die Macht, Bundesgesetze zu schreiben. 

[Fun] RPG - How Not To

allegedly the Ukrainian national Guard in action (edit: faked)
Reminds me of someone. Some guys are too dumb for everything.



Underrated (?) French infantry arms (and munitions)

Enough bashing of milporn for now. Here's some milporn for a change. ;)

French bashing is popular and the language barrier is powerful, and the French had some of the ugliest machine guns ever, for sure.
But the French also introduced post-WW2 some outstanding infantry arms, some of them quite unique in their concept. A couple of these became great export success stories, but let's face it: The French are not as interested or proficient in public marketing. Their speciality is in business-to-customer marketing, backed by their government's industry policy. They can easily produce some most interesting hardware and the anglophone part of the internet will take less notice than to a simple press release about some soon-cancelled-anyway American project.

So here are some noteworthy French infantry arms, and it's in the nature of the topic that most of them are not very recent designs.

MDF Polyvalent / Gr Poly Expl F1 / Gr Ma Expl F1

This is a combined rifle grenade/hand grenade (not unheard-of, but very uncommon). It's also a combined offensive/defensive hand grenade (a not so uncommon combination). It's also a combined impact or time fused grenade (rifle grenades are usually impact- and hand grenades usually time-fused).
The versatility led to a design with a slim body, instead of some spherical bodies known from by comparison primitive combined rifle/hand grenades. The cylindrical body is inferior in regard to the fragmentation pattern, but this shape is also the typical compromise for combined offensive/defensive hand grenades, as it allows for a simple fragmentation sleeve.
The combined impact/time fuse allows reliable fusing on soft ground during rifle grenade operation. The impact fuse may preclude the bouncing use in hand grenade use (no throwing against a wall to bounce it around a corner), but I'm not sure about this. see footnote

defensive hand grenade "MD", rifle grenade "MDF"
It is (or was) certainly the most versatile grenade design for infantry I know about.

The intertubes are largely devoid of data about it, so here you got the specs:

MDF1 (for ballistite cartridge) 470 g, 400 m range
MDF5.56 (bullet trap) 470 g, 300 m range
MDF 7.62 (stronger bullet trap) 520 g, 350 m range
MD (defensive hand grenade without fins) 340 g
M (offensive hand grenade without fins or fragmentation sleeve) 190 g

FLY-K / NR 8111 / NR8113 / TN 8111 / Jet-Shot / LGI Mle F1

normal commando mortar looks
There's but one way to build Hollywood-silent "silenced" firearms, and it doesn't include a silencer. Instead, you need to use the captive piston (or closed combustion chamber) technology which contains the expanded propellant gasses and doesn't let them escape. There are plenty such handguns and a couple commando mortars (and at least one underbarrel grenade launcher) with this principle. The principle does not allow for auxiliary charges, it's impractical for larger mortars which derive their utility in great part from the variable propellant.
The FLY-K (initially from from Belgium) was the first mortar with this principle of operation, which spawned copies at least in China and Georgia. It has been adopted first and foremost in France.

Its firing noise is negligible, it doesn't heat up its barrel, has no muzzle flash and emits no smoke.

The weapon itself is a simple spigot commando mortar; the interesting part is the round. The following graphic should explain its operation:

one version of the closed combustion chamber principle
Everything else is plain commando mortar stuff; frag, illum and smoke rounds are available. The idea was "sexy" enough to be revived with different designations, and quite recently a German company picked it up, actively trying to market it to the Bundeswehr. The design doesn't seem to grow old.

By the way; there was also a grapnel launcher, for commando and police special units, which excelled with its silent operation.


You do most likely know the American M72. It was a single-use ("disposable") bazooka with a weak yet useful warhead. It was rather useful against thinly armoured BTR, BMP and BMD vehicles than against T-64 and later main battle tanks, but its practical utility was in it projecting a blast grenade towards infantry anyway. It was always in competition with rifle grenades, and quite successful at that.
Now what if I tell you the French had their own weapon of this kind, which was actually reloadable a couple times and even superior in regard to light weight?
It's the SARPAC; the better, yet unknown M72.

Late SARPAC model; (1) HEAT round (2) HEAT-frag (3) Illum

Comparison of weights, including a 200 g estimate for the SARPAC round packaging/pouch (rounded):
1 shot: M72 2.36 kg, SARPAC 3 kg
2 shots:  M72 4.7 kg, SARPAC 4.3 kg
3 shots: M72 7.1 kg, SARPAC 5.6 kg
4 shots: M72 9.4 kg, SARPAC 6.5 kg
Now what's truly "lightweight"?

(The SARPAC rocket weighs almost exactly as much as the M72's with near-identical calibre and muzzle velocity, so the delivered warhead weight appears to be near-identical as well.)

Granted, the dual purpose round with fragmentation effect was the clearly preferable one, and it weighed 700 grams more. This would yield the break-even with the 4th instead of 2nd round - but that warhead was heavier and more useful than the M72 warheads.
And last but not least, SARPAC offered the versatility of an illuminating rocket (whether you need it or not).

Again little about SARPAC is to be found on the intertubes, so here are the specs:

launcher calibre 68 mm
length open 997 mm, folded 734 mm
weight empty 1.9 kg

HEAT round length fins folded 472 mm
weight 1.07 kg
muzzle velocity 150 m/sec
flight before arming about 10 m
effective range 150-200 m
RHA penetration 300 mm

HEAT-frag round weight round 1.8 kg
muzzle velocity 92 m/sec
flight before arming about  10 m
weight of fragmented body 0.83 kg
range 650 m

illuminating round weight 1.3 kg
diagonal range 700 m
candle power more than 180,000

The world seems to be in awe of the Swedish Carl Gustav recoilless rifle / strange bazooka overweight weapon. I never understood it because the spin ("rifled") is really only useful for the HE round and the only anti-tank round strong enough to penetrate a T-72 front reliably was the overcalibre HEAT round (which had to work around both the breech loading and the rifling), which seemingly didn't take off commercially. Still, the Swedes supplied a incrementally lightened gun versions and by now they also offer some high-tech rounds.

Other designs meant to fill the same niche in infantry armament provided better firepower/weight ratios, were commercial successes as well - and are largely unknown by comparison.

The French LRAC-F1 was one such weapon. Its calibre of 89 mm was modestly impressive to some contemporary main battle tanks, but the French had DARD 120 and later Apilas and Eryx against those (they were much more attentive to infantry AT capabilities than the Germans). The LRAC F1 was rather a general support weapon, a kind of portable direct fire infantry gun. Its most useful rounds were likely the smoke and dual purpose (HEAT-frag) rounds.


M2 Carl Gustav: Weapon weight 14.2 kg, HEAT round 2.6 kg, calibre: 84 mm
LRAC: Weapon weight with sight 8.2 kg, HEAT round 2.2 kg, calibre: 88.9 mm
Much newer (1991) M3 Carl Gustav, praised for its weight savings: "~ 10 kg"

This time the much more famous competitor didn't even try to claim to be "lightweight".

The French had a laudable interest in keeping the infantry equipped with something to defeat a main battle tank even if it only exposed the front armour. This led to a couple powerful, heavy and increasingly expensive munitions, leading to ERYX and ultimately the adoption of the Javelin missile. This interest was also a very poor environment for keeping the infantry supplied with a portable direct fire infantry gun kind of a bazooka. A projector for multi-kilogram grenades over hundreds of metres. Ultimately, the LRAC fell out of use in France.


The MO-120-RT-61 can be summarised as a towed single axle 120 mm mortar that's a bit heavier than most, but with the added benefit of being able to fire rifled rounds of unusually long range. These rounds improve the dispersion much and make this mortar more field howitzer-like to counter-mortar/counter-artillery radars, as there are no especially radar-reflective fins.
It's more like a mortar of old than most are today (mortars included heavy guns which fired only in the upper angle group of 45° to about 80° from about 1890 to about 1945).


There are few truly outstanding mortars, and this is one of them.* It's not "lightweight", but the weight difference is rarely important in this class. Such weapons are usually drawn by motor vehicles or mules, and moved with manpower only for short distances between vehicle and firing position.

Honourable mentions

One goes to the FAMAS assault rifle, which introduced some bullpup improvements. The French ruined the design over time by delivering a version for the newer SS109 bullet specification too late (and repeated the mistake with Picatinny rails) and by IIRC also botching the initial production quality.
The MAT-49 submachine gun design deserves to be mentioned as well. It was based on an Interwar Years design and is notable for having a forward-folding magazine.
As an extension to infantry, we could also remember the AMX-VCI armoured personnel carrier, a very early specimen which was considered for the first German post-WW2 APC/IFV; we bought a much worse unproven design instead. The AMX-VCI equipped with a 20 mm autocannon deserves much more attention as an early IFV than it gets, but then again I dislike the entire IFV concept anyway (1, 2).

Closing remarks

The images are greyscale for a reason: These weapons and munitions are all Cold War vintage. They're not really obsolete, though. The two bazooka-type weapons were no more ahead of the newest MBT's protection at their introduction than today. Their utility is unchanged. The LRAC would nowadays get new munitions (electronic timed HE, multispectral and medically safer smoke, Bunkerfaust, muzzle-loaded supercalibre tandem HEAT, heavier confined spaces versions of HEAT and DP rounds), though.
At least the mortars are still being actively marketed, and are still almost unique and in their kind top products.

Engineers usually come to similar solutions for a given challenge, and when they don't in regard to military hardware it's usually a design philosophy difference between NATO and Russian products that's catching the eye. But French developments are quite often very independent and bucking the trend as well. The MICA missile of their air force is one such example, but the uniqueness extends to infantry arms and ammunition as well.


*: I consider 2B9 Vasilek, MO-120-RT-61, Tampella M58 and  FLY-K as "truly outstanding mortars", though one might mention the CARDOM system as well.

Edited: I found a description of the MD which describes the Polyvalent fuze:
"The fuze is delivered set to 'Delay 5 s'. This is the setting for normal throwing where it may be expected that the grenade needs to roll behind cover or penetrate light camouflage or vegetation. For direct throwing without any obstacle the fuze is altered to the 'impact / delay' setting when it will detonate on impact. If it is desired to drop it from helicopters or from some considerable height the selector is set to impact."
Impact is also the standard setting for employment with the finned tail as a rifle grenade. A rifle grenade with time fuse  and no active impact fuse function can be used to shoot through foliage or closed windows.


When all you have is a hammer ...

... all problems look like nails to you.

I'm not impressed by Gates' display of intellect  a.k.a. his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Him about Putin:
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law.
How stupid or dishonest is a man who was secretary of defence during the occupation of Iraq and still writes this? "reverence for international law"?
Right now I want an arena, Gladiator-style, full of Iraqi women who lost their sons in the war of aggression against Iraq in 2002, and Mr. Gates in the centre. I'd donate the shoes. Heavy, steel-capped work shoes.

Quite to the contrary; what Mr. Gates bemoans is not that Putin is unlike Western politicians; he bemoans that Putin has become like Gates' own ilk.

Do a thought experiment: Think of U.S. foreign politicians, White House folks under GWB and foreign policy commentators. Now imagine what policies they would advocate if they were Russians.

There are somewhat more sensible accounts of why and how Putin came to behave like this, and they don't dismiss the legitimacy of Russian grievances as easily as Gates. They rather paint a picture in which Western hypocrisy and "containment" policy (if not encroachment) have provoked Russia to behave as it does now. The high energy commodity prices of the last decade have helped Russia economically and made it more stable, more powerful. Now it asserts the right to be just as aggressive and hypocritical as some Western powers.

We've got many people who think they're brilliant enough to do foreign policy or to give advice on it. And too many of them aren't that brilliant, but rather fool themselves. They aren't even smart enough to comprehend backlash. Too many of them are one-trick ponies, capable of thinking in but one direction: Confrontation.

- - - - -

For sure, the majority of countries and people want a rules-based foreign policy world if they made up their mind about foreign policy at all. Others - with much military potential on call - think that rules are for the weak. The weak shall obey the rules, while the powerful do what they want.
And amidst all the nonsense talk about an "unipolar" world with but one "superpower" [blatherblather] these people fooled themselves into believing that their own party is the only one which can break the rules and get away with it (officially). Too bad Russia proves that others - shielded by the very same nuclear arms threat and the very same UNSC veto power - can break the rules as well and get away with it (officially). Now they're crying foul and rally to reduce this other power to a weak power which has to obey the rules.

The NATO members had a unique opportunity to shape the world from a position of strength, to have the self-discipline and foresight to submit to rules as do the supposed weak powers. Instead, the steering wheel was given to warmongers in exactly the wrong countries and now we've got this mess with a hypocritical mixture of great and small powers, rule of force and rule of law.

We all pay the price by living in a world with unnecessary rivalries, hostilities, waste of resources and instability. At the very least we should punish the warmongers and make sure they won't be able to act as if they were wise experts on foreign policy any more.


*: Which seemingly are still able to inflict damage of a couple dozen times equal their pre-war GDP on great power aggressors.


Enforcement of Constitutional Court rulings

Constitutional courts can and do usually uphold democracy and civil rights against a head of state, as now superficially in the case of Turkey and its internet censorship.*
Autocratic minds know how to cope with this, of course.

One method is to rig the constitutional court by replacing or adding members with reliable partisans.

Another method is to do the same with the executive branch and media, so a ruling can be ignored or be implemented only superficially.

It's worrisome how few if any countries have implemented a countermeasure to this countermeasure. It's rarely within the powers of the court to call for special elections so the people have a chance to get rid of the autocrats. It's as far as I know unheard of that a constitutional court can assume command of police or other armed personnel of the state to enforce a ruling.

The problem is thus that the current dominant design for constitutional courts only works up to the point when the offenders are willing and capable to resist its authority. And this authority is usually only a moral one.

This defines a threshold between democracy and autocracy in my opinion. It's an autocracy once politicians have neutralised the restraining power of the judicial branch. Up to this point it's still a struggle to defend democracy, whereas afterwards it's a struggle to restore democracy.

I believe we should pay more attention to this threshold and build up more defences of democracy  to stop a move towards autocracy prior to the tipping point of a neutralised constitutional court.


*: The ruling allows 30 days for implementation, which basically allows the government to keep the censorship in place till the elections. The court is thus not really serious about it.