Tanks and obstacles

Swedish test video of 1951 comparing Swedish light tank, Panther, Sherman and Churchill. The video is pretty much a Sherman bash and Panther praise. This may explain why they never bothered to buy surplus Shermans and introduced Centurion tanks later.

(hat tip to Nigel Wells)
related: 2010-08 Mean maximum pressure paper

This short excerpt from a wartime propaganda movie shows the same traction problem with the M3 Lee/Grant (same suspension and tracks as many Sherman tanks).

Please note that many "modern" tracked AFVs and almost all wheeled AFVs have their hull extending forward of the front wheel, which causes additional problems during trench crossing or obstacle climbing attempts (example). Dozer blades don't help in such situations either.

German test with Leopard in woodland:
(mostly wet soils, trees with flat instead of deep root network)

Upgraded AMX-13 climbing 45°:

Funnies' troubles:

A rather brazen way to cross a trench:

These buggers were specified to be slim enough to pass between trees:

In the end, remember it's often first and foremost about the driver:

For Germans:
Antiker BW-Lehrfilm über Geländefahren mit LKW etc.



Happy Christmas [NSFW, Fun]



16 days

I remember having once read the claim that after VJ-day
(surrender of Japan in 1945), the entire world was at peace for 16 days.

16 days of world peace.

"World peace" is nowadays a distant, seemingly unrealistic ideal.
It's not something people would usually consider feasible any time soon. 

Yet maybe we already had it, once, for a few days.
Maybe it's not that unrealistic after all.




Conquest Is for Losers

More than a century has passed since Norman Angell, a British journalist and politician, published “The Great Illusion,” a treatise arguing that the age of conquest was or at least should be over. He didn’t predict an end to warfare, but he did argue that aggressive wars no longer made sense — that modern warfare impoverishes the victors as well as the vanquished.
He was right, but it’s apparently a hard lesson to absorb. Certainly Vladimir Putin never got the memo. And neither did our own neocons, whose acute case of Putin envy shows that they learned nothing from the Iraq debacle.
Paul Krugman, NYT Opinion pages

related: 2009-06  A decision model for justified war and a definition of victory


[Fun] The Greek riddle

The Greek riddle
(No political statement intended, only fun.)

Pay attention to Norway. :-)

(This comic style is known as "Poland balls".)



Shaping the deep memories of Russians and Ukrainians

Sometimes clients or log readers remark about how I write very concise; bare bones content without unnecessary elaborations. Or in the words of an old boss of mine "Not enough text!"

This is probably nowhere more obvious than in a comparison between this

William R. Polk, 15 December 2014
(more direct link not possible, scroll down there)

and a blog post I wrote about China's defining experiences five years ago:

The intent was similar, the style very different.

It's saving time, but it also shows that I write this blog with (among others) two assumptions:

(1) It's OK to merely point people at facts or ideas, for those who are or have become truly interested will look up more about it.
(2) Texts with the full reasoning, technical details or historical details would be too long and I cannot predict which part will not be understood or not known. It's best to address this in replies to comments.

Especially part 2 explains why my style here differs so very much from the professional writings of think tanks, for example. In my job it's fine to be concise in writing and to explain whatever still needs explanation in a meeting with the client. Here, it's in my opinion fine to be concise in writing and to explain whatever needs explanation (or justification) in the comments.

I CAN write long-ish dissertations, studies and the like, but I rarely get paid for it or are self-motivated to do it.



The 'Stummelwerfer' and 2B25

3" Stokes mortar in use
Back during the First World War the Englishman Stokes invented the very simple Stokes mortar, using a smoothbore barrel, a fixed firing pin, a simple baseplate, a small sight and a tripod leg mechanism. It was a fascinating departure from the reign of rifled firearms that began three generations earlier and was a largely minimized design. The German tactical equivalent was a much more elaborate design, which used recoil buffering even though recoil could be transferred into the soil easily instead.

The French company Brandt refined the Stokes mortar during the 20's and created with its modèle 1927 a design that was the grandfather of all modern medium (81.4 and 82 mm) mortars. The further refined modèle 27/31 was introduced or copied in almost all countries. The similarities were such that any "8 cm", "81 mm" or "81.4 mm"* mortar could exchange ammunitions during the Second World War, and the Russian 82 mm was able to use these medium mortar munitions as well.

It should have been obvious that simplicity and light weight was a key to success with mortars, but plenty mortar designers fiddled around with unnecessarily elaborate designs. This included the German 5 cm light mortar, which disappointed as an impractical and weak effect weapon. It wasn't only the cost, bulk and weight of the weapon that disappointed the German army; otherwise, it would have made much more use of French 60 mm and Soviet 50 mm mortar models derived from the 81.4 mm Mle 27/31. The effect did apparently not justify the effort and 50-60 mm mortars were later mostly used by Germans in rear area security forces which received 3rd rate equipment typically.

kurzer 8 cm Granatwerfer 34
The German solution to the problem was to cut short the 8 cm GrW 34 (a Mle 27/31-derived mortar) and to limit the use of auxiliary charges therein. A truly crew-portable mortar was created, and it used the same ammunition as the regular ones. What I've seen in the literature so far indicates that this mortar was often deployed for direct fire.
This approach wasn't continued past-WW2.

The light mortar category was continued with "commando mortars" of 51-60 mm calibre (no bipod, tiny baseplate) following the lead of a Japanese WW2 design in philosophy and 60 mm mortars with bipod and real baseplate following Brandt's Mle 27/31 and Mle 35.

A development from the 1980's and 1990's was the introduction of long barrelled mortars in 60 and 81.4 mm calibres for extended range, but a much more intriguing and much more radical innovation was introduced for the "commando mortar" category in the 1970's*: The Belgian 51 mm Jet-Shot mortar. Its most famous designation nowadays is "FLY-K", but others such as "NR8113A1", "TN8111" and similar cryptic designations that are useless for marketing purposes were known as well.
The very special thing about it was its ammunition; it pushes itself out of the mortar using an internal combustion - but it doesn't vent he propellant gasses. This eliminates a lot a of problems, such as muzzle flash, most of the firing noise (replaced by a 'click' sound) and the mortar doesn't heat up any more (not very relevant with "commando mortars"). The drawbacks are substantial as well; more expensive ammunition, no ability to use auxiliary charges, limited range and no compatibility with other weapons.

FLY-K principle of operation

France and the UAE adopted the system, and France calls it "Lance-grenade individuel Mle F1".
There were copies of this innovation; a Georgian model was called Delta 60 mm silent mortar (by Jane's) and a Chinese model was known as Norinco Jerboa 51 mm, for example.

Finally, back in 2011 the Russians came up with such a system as well, and the pushed the range and effect boundary by using a 82 mm calibre with up to 1,200 m range (approx. double of the FLY-K's): 2B25 developed by Burevestnik (2nd link here). Its weight is more than double that of the FLY-K; 15 kg, which is still "man-portable".

This is interesting, as it's on the one hand a technically fascinating grandson of the FLY-K and grand-grandson of the "Knee mortar", on the other hand it's the first to follow the 8 cm krz GrW 42 at least a little bit; medium calibre and short range (company-level range). It does lack ammunition commonality with regular 82 mm mortars, though - albeit its silent 82 mm ammunition may be usable in regular 82 mm mortars. It would be plain wrong to make such a crew-portable short range mortar compatible with regular munitions (except maybe without any auxiliary charges) because this would require a stronger barrel; the "silent" ammunition doesn't stress the barrel much because it contains the overpressure itself!

A look at the technology may explain why the FLY-K was no world-wide success like the Stokes-Brandt mortar pattern: Restricted to low pressures and thus short range, no ammunition commonality, little effect of HE.
It's nevertheless technically fascinating and this may have driven its limited success and certainly kept alive the long-lasting interest. The FLY-K weapon has been adopted by a German company a few years ago; the journal articles about it shamelessly omitted that it's such an old design.
The Russians have corrected at least one deficiency - the light warhead - and this may lead to more commercial success. They may have semi-corrected the compatibility issue as well, since in theory it's possible to design silent 82 mm rounds for use in regular 82 mm mortars. I wasn't able to learn about whether they achieved this.

The Russians had several other "silent (captive piston etc.) designs earlier; including a silent underbarrel grenade launcher and very compact assassination pistols. They also invested a lot in 9 mm and 12.7 mm subsonic sniper rifles, which defeat the sonic boom-dependent acoustic sniper detection systems that became somewhat famous, miniaturized and mature in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of occupation.

The "silent" 82 mm mortar (round) would defeat a multitude of means of detection as well:
(1) the hearing sense of hostile troops
(2) acoustic triangulation systems***
(3) flash-spotting by hostile troops
(4) flash-spotting by aerial or high vantage point sensors
All commando mortars have such a short range and low trajectory that detection by counter-mortar radars is most unlikely in warfare between armies.

Medium and heavy mortars may be in a survivability crisis, but the light and commando mortar categories sure have technically fascinating aspects. Their survivability concern is commercial; underbarrel and stand-alone 30-40 mm grenade launchers as well as electronics-assisted RPGs, Panzerfaust, bazooka and man-portable recoilless gun designs compete as satisfactory and often even superior substitutes. The "Armbrust" Panzerfaust even uses its own interpretation of a captive piston "silent" firing mechanism with no flash or smoke!****


*: All of these were actually 81.4 mm; only the Soviets differed slightly and the former Second World does till today, save for the new NATO members.
**: I wasn't able to track down its actual date of origin even though I paid attention to it for more than a decade, but it was no news back in 1985 any more.
***: Pioneered by the British artillery during the First World War.
****: With moderate commercial success, likely due to its poor weight-warhead size ratio. It has got much attention and keeps fascinating people since decades, just as the FLY-K. Guess which Belgian company purchased a production license for the Armbrust ...


[deutsch] "Niemand hat der CIA mehr geschadet als Dick Cheney…"

Empfehlenswerter (und kurzer) Artikel:

Zugegeben; die Folterstories diese Tage sind geschmacklos, aber da sollte man durch. Je übler die Präsentation, desto wirksamer ist hoffentlich die Impfung. Zuminest außerhalb der USA; denn dort ist Folter nicht zuletzt durch "24", Parteitreue und parteiische Medien bei etwa der Hälfte der Bevölkerung anerkannt.

Im Jahre 2000 wäre das noch unvorstellbar gewesen, und doch dauerte das Abschütteln der westlichen Zivilisation keine zwei Jahre, ausgelöst durch ein einziges Großereignis.
Deutschland wurde dereinst von 1919 bis 1933 mürbe gemacht, bis es schließlich in die absolutistische Diktatur abglitt und 1942 dann den westlichen Kulturkreis vorübergehend verließ und erst mit Gewalt zurückgezogen wurde.

Man sollte derartiges mehr oder weniger abruptes Abgleiten in 'dunklere' gesellschaftliche Zustände immer im hinterkopfhaben, wenn die eigene, noch vertrauenswürdige Gesellschaft im Begriff ist, Instrumente der Diktatur mit guter Absicht einzuführen. Dazu gehört insbesondere die Massenüberwachung der Bevölkerung.



NYT debunks "torture works" claims


To be fair; the NYT writers partially disregarded how intelligence works. 'They knew about it already' doesn't mean all that much. Much intelligence only becomes valuable once there's a confirmation from a different, independent source.

Sometimes the CIA lied by claiming that some info was discovered through enhanced interrogation torture.
It's not that clear-cut that enhanced interrogation torture results were useless when they confirmed what was already known discovered before.*


*: Example case: "Thwarting of ‘Second Wave’ Plot and Discovery of Al Ghurabaa Group"


"Dick Cheney Was Lying About Torture" (updated)

"It’s official: torture doesn’t work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden," as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11."
Politico, by Mark Fallon

The really bad thing about the whole abuse program and abuse propaganda is how quick and easy it was to bring down the ethics of a nation which believed to be the "good guy". This should be a warning to everybody who trusts his government with programs even only in the periphery of censorship, mass surveillance - or warmongering.


Excerpts from the report's published executive summary:
The Committee makes the following findings and conclusions:

#1: The CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.
#2: The CIA's justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.
#3: The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.
#4: The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.
#5: The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.
#6: The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.
#7: The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.
#8: The CIA's operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.
#9: The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA's Office of Inspector General.
#10: The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.
#11: The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.
#12: The CIA's management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout the program's duration, particularly so in 2002 and early 2003.
#13: Two contract psychologists devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.
#14: CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.
#15: The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA's claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced Interrogation techniques were inaccurate.
#16: The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques.
#17: The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious and significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systemic and individual management failures.
#18: The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques,criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.
#19: The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.
#20: The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States' standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.


Misguided attention on tanks' power

One of the enduring and interesting mysteries of the Blitzkrieg campaigns in 1939-1942 is the low raw power of the then-victorious German tanks. Their numerical inferiority was most obvious in 1941 and 1942, but their qualitative inferiority (on spec sheets) was most obvious in France 1940 already.

Their numbers were inferior by a ratio of 1.5, but the armament and protection was a whole league lesser:
20 mm and 37 mm guns were typical, with few 75 mm stub guns (no better penetration than 37 mm) on Pzkpfw IV. Some German "tanks" were mere tankettes with machine guns only.
Meanwhile the opposing calibres included some low-powered 37 mm guns and some 75 mm stub guns, but mostly fine 37, 40* and 47 mm guns equal to or better than the German (and Czech-designed) 37 mm guns.
German maximum armour plate thickness was about 13-30 mm; bulletproofed. The Allies had but for one model only tanks with 30-60 mm in use - the Char B-1bis, Somua S35 and Matilda II tanks were shell-proofed and almost impenetrable to the German tank guns.

Many factors were combined to make up for this inferiority; training, personnel organisation (spare crews), maintenance, quicker refuelling, command and control by radio, better operational plan, quicker command system, better recourse allocation, better vision for crew members (especially the tank commander), better cooperation with infantry and artillery etc.

The message of all this is largely incompatible with modern perceptions of tanks: Nowadays it's (especially among laymen, but also among procurement officials, industry representatives, junior and senior military personnel) about the quality of the tank, and often about it's raw power.**

There's the seemingly ever-lasting perception that a penetrable tank is a poor tank, that the troops only deserve the best stuff (and "best" meaning mostly the most obvious qualities), much talk about the triad of tank power (firepower/protection/mobility, in varying order), and at times concerns about the ability to penetrate even the best-protected surfaces of 'threat tanks'.

Much money is spent on such things accordingly, but intense and realistic training (including training beyond the four days sound barrier of sleep discipline) with its unsexy expenses for fuel, spare parts, munitions and possibly repairs and compensations (for damaged civilian infrastructure, fences etc.) rarely seems to be at the centre of demands.

Army "readiness" is of public concerns at times, but did you ever see an article comparing your country's expenses for training per tank battalion with others'?*** How many publications do you know which state the time required to change a tank powerpack, the maintenance breaks required on administrative marches or the durability of track segments in km?****

"The Blitzkrieg Legend" by Karl-Heinz Frieser (this is the English edition)


*: The British 2 pdr gun lacked a HE shell as far as I know, though.
**: There are exceptions, of course. Technical experts pay much attention to detail and some armies pay attention to special skills such as crossing light bridges or driving through woodland).
***: The Americans and to some degree other anglophone countries have the "hollow force" scare to keep operational expenses up, but that's a more general concern.
****: I know Hilmes' and Ogorkiewicz' books do cover such 'hidden' qualities, and that's it.


[Fun] Welcome to democracy!


(This is not an endorsement of military interventions!)


The Walking Dead and Jihad

What do "The Walking Dead" and Jihad have in common?
In my opinion it's the same as with emigrants: Those who are unsatisfied with their life (because they achieved little) just like the idea of giving this life up in exchange for another one; one without the known restrictions (even if they will be replaced by others). I'm sure this makes up a large part of the fascination of emigration, post-apocalyptic fiction, 'Jihad', the Légion étrangère and possibly even professional military service in general.
Let's add Pokémon, Avatar and all the other youth fiction about young people going on a journey without parents. Seriously!

Back to 'Jihad': A n unpublished statistical survey (FAZ article here) of those who left Germany for Syria  for religious motives in the last years ('Jihad') revealed that these people were a very varied group, but basically losers. Almost none of them made it past a very low income job, for example.

378 travellers were studied
89% males
322 believed to be Jihadists
125 of them were 21 to 25 years of age
Half (of the 378) were married
104 had children
61% were born in Germany
duration of life in German society was not correlated strongly
37% had German nationality only
24% had German and another (mostly Moroccan) nationality
14% were converts
249 (of 378) had committed crimes previously (including drugs)
only 18% were apparently motivated by propaganda
30% by friends, 23% by Salafist mosques
Another study claimed a while ago that 60 people from Germany had died in the Syrian civil war.

There are always people in a society who feel as losers unless the society is perfectly equal. We're not going to get rid of this fact of life. People wasting themselves in a foreign civil war is a fringe phenomenon and fringe problem of the society. We shouldn't make it mainstream by sending troops into such conflicts as well.



Dominant regional powers

Six years ago I identified Turkey as the country that's the most interesting geostrategically. In the meantime, history kept reinforcing my point (see this and this, too).

The Erdogan government is no doubt a rather activist/reformist government, but it could make much more of Turkey's regional position. It didn't intervene in Syria, for example (just barely). I don't claim that doing so would be a good idea, but their potential for exerting influence is no doubt much greater than their influence.

Other countries have dormant potential as well.

The Western attitude in geostrategic affairs seems to be quite simple:
(1) The USA determines which foreign government it likes and which it doesn't like, and tends to more or less bully those which it doesn't like.
(2) The allies of the USA pretend their interests are roughly aligned, but most of them aren't as enthusiastic about violence.
(3) Russia and China are considered as opposing regional powers which play the great power games under protection of their respective UNSC veto power.

I suppose this perception will or should be modified in the near future
The effectiveness of American and European long-range meddling is rather disappointing and might lead to the insight that regional instead of global dominance is really the way to go. The United States achieved only crap after spending a trillion or two on meddling in the Near/Mid East, for example. The picture in Afghanistan is hardly better The U.S.' influence in the Ukraine is obviously inferior to Russia's. Western effectiveness in the Caucasus region is below ridiculous (short of a war-like mobilization).

Turkey has the geostrategic option of becoming the dominant regional power, contesting against the Wahhabism influence from Saudi-Arabia. The anti-secular ideology of the ruling party doesn't exactly suggest such a move, though.
It's easy to draw (quite complicated) areas of potential dominant Turkish (Georgia, Azerbaidjan)  and dominant Russian (Armenia, Abchasia, South Ossetia) influence in the Caucasus region based on history. Turkey has on the other hand no chance to become an important player to the west or north of Istanbul*.

India has the geostrategic option of losing its fixation on the army with a dysfunctional state known as Pakistan and become the dominant Indian Ocean power. There are strong Indian wholesale trader networks in Africa already, so they could even strongly compete with the Chinese on East African soil for resources.

Brazil has the geostrategic option of becoming the dominant Southeast American and Southwest Atlantic power. It has a mild language barrier with the rest of Latin America and there are some resentments, but it's obviously developing better than for example Argentina and the Western countries have very little bases and no strong allies in the region. Argentina cannot maintain its historical counterweight role due to economic malaise and the inability to acquire Western allies as long as the Falklands/Malvinas dispute lingers on.

South Africa has the option of calling the shots in all of Southern Africa, but its government is not exercising this option. They didn't annex the (unrecognized) enclaves of Lesotho and Swaziland because the domestic problems are already overwhelming without such a move and they don't overthrow Mugabe's regime (though this would be forgiven by the rest of the world almost certainly).

Kenya has the option of dominating East Africa save for intercontinental business influences, and may have made its first steps with its participation in AMISOM (Uganda dominates AMISOM, but the resources of land-locked Uganda are already overstretched). It would need to grow its economy much more and overcome both Chinese and Indian influences, maybe aligning with one of both.

Indonesia has the option of leading (not dominating) Southeast Asia, but it would probably need to solve the Chinese territorial claims to achieve such a position. Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Vietnam are all very confident (and relevant) powers without interest in an Indonesian SE Asian position of leadership. Australia is gutting itself by playing the pet dog of  auxiliary forces provider for the White House, though.

So far it hasn't been proved beyond doubt that regional domination aspirations are much better than global ones:

Russia attempted to keep its economic chains of value added together by keeping much of the former Soviet Union territory in a Russia-dominated bloc. This was a substantial economic interest to back up and possibly justify great power games.

The USA dominated the Caribbean mostly for generations, but the economic relevance of this domination to the average American was modest at most. This may change in the future, as Venezuela with its disproportionally large oil reserves could enter a hugely important economic symbiosis with the United States ... if only the country and specifically its government hadn't been alienated by American dominance already. Future Venezuelan governments will likely seek to protect themselves against attack and to have a diversified customer list for oil (products) exports.

China's primary regional clients (PR Vietnam and PR Korea) both turned their back on China and have become annoyances to the regime in Beijing since.


P.S.: I proposed no dominant regional power for the EU because European politics are about cooperation and bartering rather than domination. Southern Europeans might think an element of extortion was added, but this perception goes both ways; in the end, the ones who 'pay' when support packages are formed aren't the Southern countries.

*: Even the Muslim Bosnians and Albanians are looking in the EU's direction.


Interventionism and why there are no true pacifist parties

Almost a quarter century ago the unsolved environmental pollution problems led to the founding of a new party in West Germany, the greens. Shortly thereafter, they turned into the primary and only pacifist party in Germany. The left and right wing had both led governing coalitions with liberals in the 1980's and were thus supporters of the then-ongoing Cold War arms race.

The greens pressured the established parties into creating more environmental protection legislation, but their pacifism stance was largely ineffectual.
The Cold War finally ended in 1989-1992, but the new conservative minister of defence wasn't particularly competent as his pre-pre-predecessor Wörner. He was a career politician who had been sent into the MoD office as a career dead-end. He turned creative, though - and the newly sovereign united Germany began a salami slice tactics-driven creeping movement towards interventionism.
The green's response to ever more military adventures was to cry foul. They decried the "militarized foreign policy" a lot during the 19990's.

The liberals had shed their left wing in the early 80's and Germans had become tired of conservative Chancellor Kohl, so the social democrats under Blair-like Schröder (part of right wing of his party) had the opportunity to return to power - this time with the greens. All the pundits, journalists, lobbyists and so on pressured the greens with doubts about whether they were fit for a governing coalition, and pressured them into proving this fitness (by behaving like establishment). The leading green politicians were thirsty for power and office, and the outcome was probably predictable.
The cabinet Schröder was formed on 27 October 1998. On 24 March 1999 Operation "Allied Force" began, the Kosovo Air War with German participation (Tornado ECR planes firing on Yugoslav troops). It took the greens less than five months for their fall of man: They had turned from a pacifist party decrying the militarisation of foreign policy to a war-supporting interventionist party. They even became radicals, as most converts. The support for the military adventure of idiocy in Afghanistan was stronger among green politicians than among others. Yesterday, they decided on a party assembly that they would support a military intervention against IS if there was a UN mandate.

One's background can coin one's interpretation of events a lot. My background includes economic studies, and thus I cannot resist interpreting these events like this:

The greens were never real anti-interventionists and thus no real pacifists. They were merely envious of other parties playing with toys the greens don't have. The military is a toy to politicians. At some point late in 1998 the greens understood they're now in power and the toy is now theirs, and suddenly it was a fine toy to play with. Parties who were in power and expect to return to power keep this attitude; they keep liking the toys of government, even if they temporarily decry their use by others.

The problem is once again a principal-agent problem. The people of Germany as a whole don't get to play with the toys of governments, and have little if any benefit from such great power games. Interventions aren't really in their interest. It's different to the agents of the people, the politicians. They get to play with the toy, and like it - at the expense of the people in the toy and most other people of Germany.

Today, the only counter-interventionism party of relevant size in Germany is the far left party; the sum of former East German "communists" and the former left wing of Schröder's SPD (the left wing deserted because of Schröder's social policies). It's all-but guaranteed that they will turn pro-intervention too once (if ever) they get to play with the toy.

The only permanent vaccination against interventionism are likely national-level, law-creating plebiscites. This form of direct democracy is the only one in which the principal makes no use of an agent and defeats the principal-agent problem by deciding himself, in his own best interest.*
There are no true anti-interventionism parties.**



*: All relevant German parties but the conservatives nowadays support such plebiscites. Now we can guess whether they will still do so when they get the opportunity to actually introduce them, for at that point they would cut into their own power. It's safe to talk about that when one is not in power or only junior coalition partner of the conservatives.  
**: In Germany.


NSM - a scenario

edit years later: I've been informed that it's not that clear a problem as I described it here. The RAM missile may approach from the side (not being launched at the target bearing), which allows for a larger target silhouette in the terminal approach anyway. The problem is that this requires a somewhat earlier launch for intercept than a direct shot. IR and UV Missile detection sensors of the ship itself would still be blind towards the sun. That in turn could cost the few seconds warning time that one would need for an indirect launch profile with RAM.

Imagine the following:
A destroyer with an armament of SM-2, ESSM, RAM missiles and one or two 76-127 mm guns is engaged by a strike aircraft carrying something like a NSM (Naval Strike Missile). The pilot times the terminal engagement for dawn time.* He also avoids the SM-2 missiles by flying high only as much as necessary and staying low (behind the horizon and thus quite invulnerable to semi active radar homing missiles such as SM-2**).

The NSM is programmed to follow waypoints on its approach to its target and approaches the target at dawn from the direction of the sun - exactly from the direction of the sun. This takes the frigates' non-radar sensors (especially infrared sensors such as Mirador) out of the fight, since they cannot detect the missile on the background of the sun. The same applies to the infrared/UV sensor of the Rolling Airframe Missile. Its passive radar homing ability is devalued by the fact that NSM itself uses no radar seeker.

The only organic defences of the frigate would thus be its radar technology and the munitions which can make do with radar support only (ESSM, guns, decoys).

The problem with this is that there are good reasons for why modern warships get non-radar sensors: Radar physics are tricky. At times they can detect a missile at 5 m altitude, but wouldn't detect it if it only flew at 10 m altitude. Radar physics are much more complicated than mere line of sight - and this is very troublesome against sea skimmers. That's why warship developers have agreed that sensor fusion - especially between radar and infrared horizon scanners - is the way to go.

Unlike radar-guided anti-ship missiles, NSM could devalue the sensor fusion of even modern warships, could neutralise the short range anti-missile defence system reputed to be the most surefire one in the world and on top of this it makes do without any treacherous radar seeker emissions.

And on top of this it's usable as a cruise missile against structures on land.

Count me as a NSM fan. I suppose it's one of the military hardware things which would have become standard or at least a famous benchmark real quick if the world was bad enough to offer it real combat opportunities to shine.


*: This should not be much of a challenge for a modern strike aircraft pilot. German torpedo bombers of 1942 did this already, with a five minute window. The ship targets were easily visible, the torpedo bombers weren't.

edit 2016: I think I published this late in 2015, not in 2014. Something may have gone wrong with this blog post.


Breaking the Tether of Fuel

I can't believe I've hardly ever linked to this classic article:

"Breaking the tether of fuel"
by Naval Research Advisory Committee Future Fuels Study Panel
Marine Corps Gazette / reprinted in Military Review Jan-Feb/2007

This is what makes it so great:
"The most telling characterization of fuel usage came from the Marine Corps 2003 Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Study. This study showed that almost 90 percent of the fuel used by MEF ground vehicles would accrue to tactical wheeled vehicles (TWVs), including HMMWVs, 7-ton trucks, and the logistics vehicle system. Moreover, the study showed conclusively that combat vehicles (e.g., M1A1 tanks, light armored vehicles, and assault amphibious vehicles), although fuel guzzlers individually, as a fleet consume a relatively minor fraction of the fuel."
This is a hugely important insight about mechanized forces logistics, and very much counter-intuitive. I've seen a great many articles, discussions and comments about AFVs get this wrong.

Their conclusion
"Consequently, TWVs became the primary target for fuel economizing."
was a classic Pareto analysis response. I do not like Pareto analysis because it's a simplistic tool (smart people don't need such tools, not-so-smart people fail with such tools when faced with exceptions). For example, the simplistic advice to pay attention to the few factors that cause 80% of the problems may be wrong if your predecessors have done this already and left room for improvement only among the factors causing 20% of the problems.
It's nevertheless a good idea to remember that it's the full motorization, not the attention-gathering AFVs, that causes about 90% of fuel consumption in ground manoeuvre forces (and almost 100% in an army overall !).



Germany: Eras, their challenges and achievements

Grand strategies - or what was identified as such - did tend to last for centuries, but this time may be gone. Or at least what future historians might identify as a Western grand strategy of our time isn't really an interesting topic. What's much more interesting is in my opinion the strategy level which covers decades, or one "generation".

It's interesting to look at the challenges and achievements of the different eras or generations instead of at grand strategies.

Let's take Germany as an example:

From the mid-18th century to the very early 19th century the grand theme in Germany was the implementation of enlightenment to overcome absolutism, the perverse extreme terminal stage of feudalism. This period ended with the forceful implementation by Imperial France, which exported its overthrow of the nobles-clerics-peasants caste society. There was no real grand strategy, just some kind of persisting background noise common to Central Europe. The challenge and achievement of this period was to fatally weaken the nobility's power.

Then there was a short period of counter-Napoleon liberation warfare including an awakening of the common folks in general, the challenge and achievement of this period was to get rid of de facto foreign rule.

Chancellor von Bismarck
(c) Bundesarchiv
A setback followed during which the old order was re-established - at least superficially. Yet the industrialisation had begun and huge structural changes accompanied the huge improvements in productivity. The investment in infrastructure was huge during this time, particularly in the railroad network.
The revolutions in the late 1840's sealed the fate of the old order. Nationalism was on the rise and respect for the small, non-national, states waned. Eventually, Bismarck harnessed the nationalism for the small German solution; a unified Germany under Prussian leadership, with Austria (and Switzerland, obviously) and the Habsburgian dynasty on the sidelines.
The challenges and achievements of this period were many, and astonishing:
* Industrialisation with structural change and huge infrastructure investments
* Final defeat of the old order and introduction of regular elections, secularism and even constitutions
* National awakening and late national unification, albeit incomplete.

The next period were all about industrialisation and workers: This was kick-started by French reparations after 1871, though the reparations proved to be a straw fire. Germany rose to being the prime industrial power of Europe during this period. The workers suffered though - socialism became the principal bottom-up counter-movement to the suffering of the workers. Yet Bismarck was still in power and this arch-conservative royalist reacted by introducing counter-socialist legislation: Both oppressive laws and social insurance legislation. The latter was meant to make life for workers less miserable, and it worked.
Yes, social insurances such as retirement pay and government-regulated health insurances are anti-socialist in their nature!
The new, relatively infantile, emperor Wilhelm II finally fired Bismarck and led Germany into an infantile era including much attention (and resources) paid to toys such as a useless battlefleet and net recipient colonies. The foreign policy became more immature and cocky as well, and less successful and respected.
So the challenges were the continued investment in infrastructure and factories, as well as giving the workers a somewhat acceptable share of the prosperity and security. These were also the (partial) achievements, but the wasteful behaviour during 1898-1911 showed already a substantial deviation from a good challenge-achievement match.

The 1912-1923 period was coined by a short, intense arms race (army-wise in reaction to France's army build-up steps and navy-wise as part of the general dreadnought race) followed by the First World War and its immediate aftermath with one crisis following another.
This was basically a period of waste. It wasted a generation of men, it wasted material resources, it wasted time, it wasted attention, it wasted research and it broke the society. Nothing of note was achieved that wouldn't have been achieved anyway and yes, this includes aviation R&D. 
The level of wastage in this period shows that the nation went full retard. Never go full retard!

The 1924-1932 period was a failed attempt to get the republic and the post-war economy right, followed by yet another full retard episode and a subsequent rebuilding of the country's remnants till the early to late 50's.

Chancellor Adenauer
East Germany followed a satellite trajectory till the 80's when it followed its inertia and finally crashed. West Germany followed a West integration and reconciliation strategy driven and implemented by the elderly Chancellor Adenauer. Domestic reforms didn't go much beyond economic reforms till the late 60's.

The next interesting episode was especially the Brandt chancellorship, followed by the early Schmidt chancellorship; social-democratic/liberal cabinets. The 'economic miracle' of the 50's and early 60's had created and distributed wealth. There was peace and stability. The old generation had finally got it right. A working republic, wealth for almost everybody, peace, stability. They had finally mastered their challenge and achieved what seemed the most important to their generation.
The younger generation (which had never been indoctrinated during the full retard era) took these achievements rather for granted and paid much more attention to the remaining failures of the society:
* inequality between men and women
* social oppression of certain behaviours
* pollution of air and water
* full retard personnel leftovers in key positions of the state and economy
* excessive and unnecessary authoritarian attitude of the state
Their challenges were of immaterial nature, and the young ("68") generation found little sympathy for its concerns, activism and perspective among the older generations. Some excessive activism and demands were present as well, in part nurtured by direct and indirect support from East Germany.
It's interesting to see how this generation largely succeeded over time - largely by demographic shift (they aged into positions of power). Their demands had become mainstream by the 80's and especially the environmental protection and society liberalisation efforts were successful, with conservatives giving up their last entrenched positions (pro-nuclear energy, conscription, old stance on homosexuals) post-2000, giving way to the change of mainstream attitudes

I suppose the current era's challenges have a common theme; to overcome the rigidities and mistakes of the past:
* rollback of the creep towards a surveillance state
* rollback of the creep towards military adventures
* rollback of large corporation rent-seeking through much tougher anti-trust legislation (and enforcement thereof) and moderation concerning new intellectual property rights
* return to balanced trade (possibly by leaving the Euro currency), which may also lead to a rollback of increased income inequality (because the trade surplus is largely a product of real wage stagnation caused by the labour unions' decline coupled with de facto fixed currency exchange rates inside the Euro currency area).
* maybe an advance of democracy towards federal plebiscites (all major parties but the conservatives claim to be in favour of it), possibly with huge changes in the political culture
* getting the German energy transition towards renewable energy (an accepted environmental protection, energy trade independence and slightly also a security challenge) right
* creeping adaptation to demographic change (instead of grand plans with the pretence of being a 'solution')
These are largely domestic challenges, at most intra-EU challenges. Russia and China don't challenge Germany and there's little to be gained in global politics and policies.
There is little reason to expect Germany to see and accept major challenges which involve much military power in the next 10-20 years. What little may be necessary (such as a protection of Eastern European allies) would rather be a detrimental distraction from the domestic challenges than a top tier challenge, and would be handled together with allies.



Who looked more like planning a strategic surprise attack?

This is a map from a declassified 1970's CIA document:

The scary story in NATO was about endless waves of reinforcements of Communist divisions which could grind down what little forces NATO had in Central Europe.

I suppose the graphic looks more scary from Moscow's perspective; the Warsaw Pact's deployments were far from typical deployments for strategic surprise attacks, but NATO's forward presence looked menacing.

The reasons for the different deployments were apparently the Soviet experience with forward-deployed forces back in summer of 1941 and the insistence of West Germany's government on a forward defence. Battles or withdrawals on German territory were to be avoided even in an all-conventional conflict. 

The terrain at the German-Czechoslovakian border (hilly if not mountainous woodland) and the fact that the Soviet occupation zone ("Eastern Germany") was supposed to be spared if possible as well made this demand a dubious if not silly one.