I implied a certain assumption back last month when I wrote what about critical room for improvement in U.S., German and UK land forces: The assumption that an armed services' performance and deterrence value depends greatly on getting certain cornerstones right, even if much of the rest of the building was weak.*
Or the other way around; forces are brittle if certain critical points are weak.

Such critical points in conventional warfare are good cohesion, enough discipline, a robust (near-)real-time communication system, effective anti-tank munitions, artillery that survives and achieves the necessary effects, a minimum of battlefield air defences that degrades air attacks to ones with bearable consequences, alternatingly thorough and quick decisionmaking and planning at headquarters, a reliable and high throughput logistical supply system, adequate doctrine for defensive and offensive actions, sufficient collection and exploitation of information/intelligence about  terrain and opposing forces.

The quality of rifles and many other typical military fanboi pet topics are of marginal importance by comparison.

The equipment and organisation weak spots are the easiest to rectify. This can be done in a few years.
It's by comparison hard to change a command system and slow to change a  doctrine (in peacetime). Sometimes you need to wait till an old generation of officers is gone before you can change those.
Hence my focus on hot fixes for equipment and organisation only in all three articles.

- - - - -
Let's revisit the "brittle" remark: Artillery that fails because for example only towed howitzers with at most about 30 km range were used (unable of shoot & scoot tactics) will crumble under a counter-artillery effort that's well done. There withers 60+% of a brigade's lethality. 120 mm mortars may have provided another 20% or so, but they, too can be expected to fail in face of such a counterfires effort. The brigade is then down to about 20% lethality, and easily defeated by properly executed attacks. Such brigade are a waste of budget since they are near-useless for deterrence and defence.

It's similar with AT munitions; one cannot execute mounted warfare if one lacks effective AT munitions, and it's utterly likely that 20+ years old ATGMs were countered by opposing forces' technology and tactics already. You may not face this problem when beating up Arabs, but better don't fool yourself about the prospects of such munitions in Europe.

A third and fourth very much stressed aspects were rapid deployment by road and battlefield air defences. Both concerns have the same origin; the first week of a conflict may be decisive for whether alliance members can be defended or not - and there's no reason to believe in air superiority during this first week. Land forces without proper battlefield air defences may be shattered by concentrated air attacks (such as 200+ tactical aircraft focusing on a single brigade for a day). This wouldn't happen to all such forces in the theatre at the same time (much of the Iraqi retreat in 1991 was unscathed by air power while other units were wiped out) and the targeted forces could alleviate much of the pressure by dispersion, concealment and camouflage, but this would temporarily disable them as manoeuvre forces. And this effect may happen to multiple brigades at once, even if air power would only be able to devastate one at a time. So battlefield air defences need to be able to reduce the effects of air attacks, in particular on moving convoys and artillery.

*: Meant as 'in principle'


  1. I think you forgot to mention EW, maybe due to lack of knowledge which many doesn't have. It's a realm of its own and largely unknown to the public, for a reason that is. When applied correctly it can shake the foundations of enemies "house" making it brittle in some places.

    1. Look, I didn't write about how to make the opposing force brittle; I wrote about how to avoid being brittle on your own.

      I didn't forget EW. I mentioned reliable communications and survivable arty, both is linked to EW. Active EW is not required to avoid brittleness.

    2. I might have been unclear or then I just missed the connection between comms and EW.

      What Madner said about passive air defence is really important but also situation dependent. I've heard from Saber Strike 15 that aircrafts with powerful western sensors were unable to detect Finnish mortar company. It wasn't LFX which might have made difference but nevertheless points out the need for passive protection.

      But yeah, good post. Wouldn't change anything nor can think of anything I'd add.

  2. Regarding air defence, there are 3 points to keep in mind.
    Active air defence is important to be kept alive. If the opponent can take one part away, it will fall one by one. It would be great if the corps could have as many different homing systems as possible.
    The second part is advance warning. Jet aircraft won't stay long in an area, and expensive drones are easy targets. The units would need reliable tactical information while under electronic warfare.
    This could be achieved by cheap drones creating optical links.

    Third is camouflage, the ground troops need to understand what aircraft can see.

    However this will be of little help if there is combat action. It might be prudent to have a air defence regiment that can provide much stronger points of air defence. It certainly would be for the opponent.

    1. It requires very expensive integrated air defences to create a robust umbrella of AD for force protection. What I meant was a different level of ambition; enough air defence to push aircraft higher up so their sensors are less effective (particularly at ID) and dumb munitions inaccurate. Often times this would push aircraft above clouds, which reduces sensor efficiency even more.

      About optical datalinks; I actually have an article 80% ready about the topic of disrupted radio comm.

  3. Yes, that is why I wrote corps level assets with primary aim of staying alive. The Russians Pantsir is sufficiently good for brigade level assets, it can follow the main forces and has both rockets and AA guns. Would prefer a higher caliber main gun to deal with drones, but it is a superior solution to western systems that are either or.

  4. Sven, you mean an infantry brigade when referring to towed arty or an armored brigade?

    1. The American medium ("Stryker") Brigade Combat Team has towed arty, too. It's typical of non-French air-deployable formations in general.