[Fun] This weather sucks


To be fair, the German air force security companies that I saw had a habit of jogging in the rain.


Fact checking


There's another problem, even for those who do fact-check: Context.

For example, Swedish rape statistics look outrageous, with insane growth of rape crimes in a short time.
This was repeatedly blamed on immigrants, though the blame should be laid at the feet of the Swedish parliament. They redefined "rape" so widely, that many activities which aren't even sexual harassment in most OECD countries are counted as a rape felony.

The outrage should rather be an outrage by man rights activists (since men are overwhelmingly being targeted by this legislation) rather than xenophobes.

The insane output of lies, distortions, hateful narratives et cetera on the internet, effectively adding hatemongering efforts in English countries to other countries through the English reading skills of the population,  has become and been recognised as a major challenge for freedom and peace within Western societies. The dangerous idiots were always among us, but their mode of operation and their communication have been expanded by technology.
Meanwhile, the establishments of Western democracies had such a long run that their failures piled up and their achievements have become self-evident and don't improve the establishment's reputations any more. Said establishments have also exhausted their range of abilities, being unable to muster the political effort for major reforms to address current perceived or real problems. This is particularly obvious in countries with very stable political leadership as in Germany; we had the same chancellor since 2005, and two of the three legislative terms since had a grand coalition of the two major parties. All this under the leadership of the conservatives who by default are not very keen to reform (else they wouldn't be conservatives). 

There is much to do, particularly by voters, but taking action on basis of counterfactual beliefs sure isn't the way to go.



Lightweight equipment

Much has been written about the infantryman's burden and the resulting tactical restrictions (and health problems) - including here.

I did a self-experiment over the last year or so: I attempted to compile - using open source intelligence only - a list of equipment that could fit budgets of most European states, serve the purpose (admittedly in the framework of my opinion of what needs be done) and is vastly more lightweight than the stuff in actual use.

The list of items both on my list and selected by the Bundeswehr didn't grow long:
  • LOWA mountain boots (not lightweight, but I didn't find as fantastic ones at lighter weight)
  • Panzerfaust 3-IT round (not lightweight at all, but its weight is excused by necessity)
  • Esbit solid fuel
  • flare gun (astonishingly I didn't find an as capable, yet more lightweight one than the old P2A1)
  • ID "dog tags" (you better not make them of anything other than a thin sheet of stainless steel, for aluminium alloys may melt and punching titanium alloy sheets might be more troublesome for marginal weight savings)
  • NYXUS Bird forward observer multi sensor
  • 5.56x45 mm calibre (with old-style not very heavy ball bullet)
  • ball pen (no kidding - it's more important than much else)
The list of problems is about as long; I didn't find really suitable items in the categories
  • short flak vest (with little overlap to some kind of frag belt)
  • multitool (with the right combination of tools - most multitools seem to be made for electricians)
  • backpack
  • "kleine Kampftasche" (large pouch attached on the belt in the rear) and pouches in general
  • cold weather gloves (I found a pair that is fine, but not rugged - on the other hand, I consider gloves as consumables anyway and there's not much weight-savings potential)
  • infantry hand/rifle grenade (I couldn't find an appropriate successor to the by now primitive Polyvalent MDF)
  • minimalistic NBC mask (not a full one, but one carried during a conflict when NBC attacks are possible, but most unlikely. It's meant to be fine for an hour and fold better and weigh less than a full one. Replacement by full NBC mask once NBC attacks become likely or confirmed.)*
The bags weren't found because I cannot tell if all items would fit in. No suitable flak vest was found because the fashion moved away from flak vests and I didn't find any vest that was short enough to complement a wide ballistic-rated carrier belt. The grenade and mask things weren't found because such concepts are simply not accepted widely.

I was also astonished that I couldn't find better night vision monoculars than the already quite aged PVS-14. It seems that development did hit a ceiling in this area and turned towards more performance** instead of towards lighter weight and less power consumption. Much of the PVS-14's weight and size seems to stem from the ruggedisation rather than from the night vision functionality anyway.

I noticed that in order to get lightweight equipment you seem to need to
  • not seek maximum performance (especially weapon range and protection, this also helps regarding costs)
  • use mostly less than 10 years old equipment (munition types are the oldest items on my list)
  • avoid wintertime

Wintertime is troublesome because of extra weight for extra insulation by clothes/sleeping bag/insulation mat. It may also disqualify fuel cells as main relief from battery weights (they don't work at less than -20°C), deep snow makes snowshoes and/or ski equipment necessary for much dismounted movement. Overall, essential individual winter equipment may easily weigh 5 kg more before adding a proper tent.
Summertime may also be somewhat more troublesome than spring or autumn because of how much more water you may need to carry.
_ _ _ _ _

Here are some of the lightweight items I settled on for the list

Rafael Spike SR - a standalone ATGM munition that needs no separate launcher, not even a bipod. Easy use. Weighs less than some unguided much shorter ranged munitions. It can be trusted against AFVs other than modern MBTs (especially in their frontal 60°).
under 10 kg

M4 Carl Gustaf - the 4th iteration finally is lightweight. The weight of rounds is light compared to bazooka-style weapons of comparable warhead weight and lesser range. The fire control accessory should be the Aimpoint FCS 12, the de facto successor to Simrad's IS 2000 sight. This sight weighs half as much as one round, so it's a great investment if you miss less often with it.
about 6.7 kg + FCS about 1.6  kg

Ultimax 100 Mk 8 (light) machinegun with its proprietary 100 rds drum and quick change barrel - a LMG doesn't get lighter, and the drum is fine if only every squad gets a tool to assist with reloading the drums. The proprietary drum weighs about 720 gram; three drums for 300 rds weigh 2,160 grams while ten 30 rds magazines for 300 rds would weigh minimum 3,500 grams. (The company's own marketing brochure is about older, less improved versions.)
4.9 kg without optical and night sights or a spare barrel + its pouch

ArmorSource LJD Aire (regular cut) - a helmet with NIJ level IIIA protection rating and full coverage at record light weight. It grows about twice as heavy with night vision adapter and night vision monoculars, of course.
850 grams without external accessories

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Large sleeping pad (can be reduced to little over one litre size)
570 grams

Mountain Hardware Hyperlamina Flame sleeping bag - synthetic filling that doesn't lose much effectiveness when damp, not suitable for deep frost without extra layers of insulation (straw, additional textile covers, tent).
1,110 grams

Esbit ultralight folding titanium stove The normal solid fuel folding stove weighs almost 100 grams. Individual solid fuel tablets weigh 4 grams. 
11 grams. This weight was no typo.

Esbit 750 ml Ultralight Titanium Cooking Pot The FireLite SUL-1100 is bigger and weighs 20 g less, but this one appears to be more practical and fits to the stove for certain.
106 grams

Esbit ultra lightweight titanium cutlery set 
42 grams

Sawyer MINI water filter - filters almost 100% of bacteria/protozoa issues out and is suitable for filtering water for storage in containers. This should reduce the need for water resupply or boiling of poorly filtered water.
57 grams

Surefire G2X-D Pro flashlight - lower output power setting for map reading, low power consumption due to LED technology. Military flashlights should NOT be attached to weapons.
125 grams with batteries

Getac V110 ruggedized notebook
1,980 grams

Nikon COOLPIX AW120 ruggedized digital camera with integral GPS and digital magnetic compass (for documentation purposes, not reconnaissance. It is discontinued already; the AW130 is the current successor model. Downside; temperature range ends at -10°C.)
213 grams

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10x26 binoculars (small, affordable and lightweight, but better than many old military binoculars. I mean this to be issued to every army NCO and officer, and to be handed over to soldiers on security duty. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use. Downside; temperature range ends at -20°C.)
297 grams without laser filter

Zeiss Victory 10x45 T* RF (high quality binoculars with laser rangefinder. For infantry platoon leaders. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use.)
995 grams with battery, but without laser filter

NYXUS Bird MR with tripod (forward observer sensor; thermal camera, laser rangefinder, digital magnetic compass & military GPS in one. One per infantry platoon or scout squad).
1,600 grams with battery

Redfield Rampage 20–60x60mm Spotting Scope with tripod (non-angular design, relatively cheap and lightweight. Needs laser filter in front of objective lens for military use. There are better ones, but the quality difference is less relevant than how widely such spotter scopes are used at all. Every infantry platoon should have one.)
1,055 grams without tripod or laser filter

Compare this with what your country uses instead. The items listed here will almost always be substantially more lightweight, often times at superior performance compared to the legacy equipment.

So it IS possible to reduce the soldier's load by much if you don't use old equipment and muster the self-discipline needed to be satisfied with 80-90% performance.

It was confirmed in this research that technological advances often were exploited for increased performance instead of first and foremost for decreased weight. It's no wonder that after hundreds of years of technical progress we still burden the infantry to the limit. Agility, speed and endurance are biological, not technical - and not considered as output (performance) of equipment worn. Those items which were developed for minimum weight were not used widely.

I think it's similar with motor vehicles; you COULD standardise and achieve great ranges (500 km off-road) if you really wanted to, but different trade-offs are preferred.


*: The ER 2000 comes close, but is still much too bulky. I think of a transparent plastic film hood with filter and a snorkel-like mouthpiece which includes the exit valve. A separate nose clip and the use of external dust goggles to prevent fogging of the hood in the field of view complete it. The dust goggles solution may not work with some flat face shapes (common among East Asians) because the plastic film would there be pressed on the eye. The filter size would be minimalistic for at most 1 hour duration at little physical effort (120 kg man + equipment, walking with occasional 50 m jogs).
**: Wide field of view installations, thermal vision, combined nightsight/thermal vision, night colour vision.


Air power as part of an anti-tank effort

Recently I wrote "Why do I imply a marginal role of air power in AT [anti-tank] efforts?". Here's the answer.

(1) Interdiction in the old style is very difficult to pull off at great depth, particularly against respectable air defences and air power opposition. The easiest way to do it would be to blow up a few railway bridges with cruise missiles. That's of little use if there's a large choice of possible routes for the forces to be interdicted, and of no use against the forces that surprised you with a strategic surprise attack on day one.

(2) Interdiction in the theatre of ground operations - essentially the air attack on march columns on roads - is very difficult if timely warning enables the march column to stop and hide under foliage and camouflage netting in time. Such a route might also be protected by air defences.
Timely warning is not difficult because threat aircraft would need to announce their presence by active radars in order to survive the threat posed by fighters and radio communications can be expected to be effective in the rear, so dissemination of the air threat warning is possible.

The need to hide does reduce the average convoy speed and effective road capacity, but depending on how many air threat warnings were given during a day and how long they last this effect might be smaller than the effect of near-permanent air attacks during daytime in 1944/45 which reduced most movements to hours of darkness.

(3) Respectable air defences could be overcome, but typically this would require a combined arms effort in the air - a strike package. These sophisticated arrangements of different aircraft types with different roles, location and timings have their roots in the early Second World War, but were developed to something resembling today's efforts only by the time of the Vietnam War.
it's typical of strike packages that only a certain share of the involved aircraft would actually engage the main targets on the ground (rule of thumb; no more than 40%), and the effort would require dozens of aircraft. This leads to but a few ground attack aircraft being over the target area, and most likely so with more clear skies than presence. Much if not most of the time the target ground vehicles could move undisturbed.
This may lead to a Stop & Go tactic of the bloc with the inferior fighter force: Vehicle convoys would be protected even with active radars and radar jammers while on the move, whereas in presence of an overwhelmingly capable strike package everyone on the ground would hide inside buildings (barns, garages) or under foliage (woodland) plus camouflage netting. Small vehicles might also simply be parked and covered with inconspicuous objects that hide the engine hood's warmth.

It's about time for a relief for the eyes:

(4) Close air support has quite the same issues, albeit the ground targets would receive slightly less warning time.

(5) Autonomous killer drone attacks are feasible, but so far almost exclusively man-in-the-loop munitions were deployed. Systems like German Taifun / TARES or the U.S. LOCAAS didn't become part of arsenals. Their range would be limited to less than 150 km anyway, and targets would move long distances between launch and arrival of the drone.

(6) Man-in-the-loop killer drones of the infamous Predator/Reaper recipe are effectively occupation warfare and assassination tools. Every such drone would be nothing but an easy practice target to all air defences with sufficient range and ceiling. The radio link (including by communication satellite) would also be jammed rather easily, and it's highly questionable whether the bandwidth demands of a single drone video stream would be justified by the tiny firepower of such a drone when there are literally hundreds of other platforms in need of the services of the very same satellite communication network.

(7) Long range sensors would fail against a prepared (aggressor) great power. There are radar jammers that defeat radar aircraft like Sentry (AWACS), Erieye, J-STARS and ASTOR, creating huge safe areas into which such radar planes cannot look reliably. Additionally, such radar aircraft would be the highest priority targets and face very long range air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. It may very well be that in a conflict about the Baltic states AWACS radar coverage could only be maintained over Germany, Denmark and the North Sea, but not over Eastern Poland or even the Baltic sates, much less the St. Petersburg area.
It would be quite irresponsible to launch risky strike packages at deep moving targets such as brigades on road march without even knowing about their location. Likewise, it would be most difficult for fighters on offensive combat air patrol to secure such strike packages without the benefit of support by AEW&C systems like AWACS. Their radars can only cover the ~ 110-160° front sector, and the fighters would need to make many turns very often in order to maintain all-round awareness of the air situation. Any pincer attack would be most devastating in regard to beyond visual range air combat tactics because evading missiles incoming from one direction might mean to run into missiles incoming from the opposite direction.

(8) Desert warfare has warped perceptions, and the Kosovo Air War did an incomplete job at repairing this damage. It's actually very, very difficult to find ground targets while flying at 15,000 ft or more - especially if it's a single seat strike fighter and the pilot also needs to pay attention to the air defence threat picture and the air combat threat picture. It would be much more likely to see such a pilot dump his few guided bombs on mere lorries or even false targets than on main battle tanks.
Conditions as in Kuwait and vicinity where pilots had the easiest possible job at detecting hostile ground vehicles are extremely unrepresentative for much of Eastern Europe. You get most close to this in Southern Russia and some parts of the Ukraine. But those are huge areas, and the ratio of strike fighters to area would be very different there than over tiny Kuwait.

(9) Air power that faces a strategic surprise attack may be in a much too poor shape for doing much about hostile tank forces for a long time. A cruise missile surprise salvo by bombers, warships and submarines could take out hundreds of highest quality combat aircraft in maintenance halls, aircraft bunkers and the tarmac of airbases. Other alliance air power would trickle in over weeks, but it would first need to ensure survival by a defensive campaign tactic if it stands no chance to defeat the threat air power by aggressive action. Such aggressive action would be hardly feasible in face of area air defences, safe for launching (air-launched) cruise missiles from safe standoff distances.

(10) I do not quite count aerial battlefield observation as 'air power' when I reject that air power would be very important for an anti-tank effort in a war between great powers in Europe. No do I play down the utility of air power against mechanised forces in for example the second month of a conflict. I do think that the former is about artillery striking with mere support by air, while the latter is unsatisfactory because early failure to cope with mechanised forces may be catastrophic and a (months) long war needs to be avoided due to its destructiveness.

This was written by a guy who wore the uniform of the German air force (Luftwaffe), so this is not army fanboy-ism.



Future light anti-tank defences (III)

earlier D&F articles on the subject:

It is fairly safe to assume that modern (mid-1990's and later) portable anti-tank equipment can cope with old main battle tanks - up to 1980's tanks that received no upgrades. Well-upgraded tanks from 1970's and later might pose a difficult challenge to portable anti-tank firepower, though. We may or may not see improvements in light anti-tank defences that provide an upper hand even against 2020's threats.
The fight against large groups of main battle tanks (tank company up to united tank battalion) would be very tough for infantry especially if the latter is dispersed for better control of large areas and better survivability. Large groups of tanks employed in the framework of a large combined arms effort would likely suffer minimal losses at hands of portable weapons under most circumstances.
The dismounted force facing large groups of tanks would thus do well to report, evade, hide, and to strike only under favourable circumstances (tank company not battle-ready, attack on lesser-protected vehicles, much support available and so on).

An infantryman's and indeed army soldier's most important asset against hostile tank forces might thus (still) be the knowledge about their capabilities and limitations, for this opens up paths for survival. Dismounted forces could nevertheless be very important (especially if they keep motorised vehicles nearby for high mobility) by providing reconnaissance (detecting, identifying, tracking and reporting the threat force) and weakening the opposing force bit by bit (eliminating some recovery tanks, bridgelayers, command vehicles, EW vehicles, air defence vehicles, supply lorries, IFVs, APCs in most of many small strikes).

The level of ferocity of such actions can be increased from the opposing forces' brigade resting area (maybe 200-400 km in front of our corps' logistical hub) towards areas of greatest importance (corps logistical hub, capital, important river obstacle, rear national border of invaded country). This can be done by successively increased levels of ambition not only of small units, but up to manoeuvre brigades.

A delaying effort may see highly mobile mounted forces engaging advancing mechanised opposing forces again and again with combined arms effects, (far) ambushes and deception to slow and wear them down. This would be particularly promising if the employed forces enjoy a mobility advantage over the mechanised threat. This may be achieved with wheeled vehicles vs. tracked vehicles in some areas, but also with equal vehicle mobility by adding counter-mobility efforts (blowing up bridges, minefields, fake minefields, ambush positions faked by radio deception, deception and diversion by noises, smoke walls triggering fear of ambushes et cetera).

Finally, the forces with great utility for rapid offensive action ("our" mechanised brigades held in reserve) could switch from a stand-off supporter role (providing MedEvac, area air defence* and artillery support) to an aggressive role in direct engagements. Their tank companies in particular could exploit the well-shaped battlefield (worn down, scared, exhausted, partially damaged opposing forces by now lacking crucial but originally rare support vehicles & superior situational awareness by defensive reconnaissance effort & superior air support this far "back") and strike, preferably still exploiting the benefits of surprise and crossfires.
Their equipment would not be light and could thus bring to bear superior levels of penetration, sensors and mobility in face of threats compared to any "light" effort.

This "heavy" effort would be the one that should strive to keep a penetration surplus over even the best-protected areas of even the best-protected opposing vehicles. This is where things like 130 mm tank guns belong to. Furthermore, attack helicopters (of which I would not recommend to procure and maintain many) might be effective and worthwhile in a well-shaped battlefield (though almost certainly not 'far forward').

- - - - -

This leaves several interesting questions:
  1. How could and should still kind of "light" forces engage the intruding mechanised threat in a delaying effort (instead of a dispersed harassing and incremental reduction effort)?
  2. How to defeat hostile mechanised forces - and in particular 2010's technology main battle tanks - when one is on the offensive (raiding or advancing for possession), and thus unable to exploit such gradual shaping of the battlefield to one's own advantage? Or in other words; how to counter the described defences?
  3. How best to make use of legacy equipment (and training)?
  4. Why do I imply a marginal role of air power in AT efforts?
  5. What motive behind this series did I hide so far?
- - - - -

I told you it's a big topic, even four parts do not suffice.


*: Assuming area air defence is organic or attached to manoeuvre brigades. This is standard exactly nowhere to date. It would be feasible, though.


Future light anti-tank defence (II)

I already wrote about future light (portable) anti-tank defences from the hardware-centric view, for a technical advance calls for adaption. Today I want to address the topic from the tactics angle. Warning; this is a looong blog post (and still cut short).

- - - - - -

As mentioned before, blowing up tanks or killing their entire crew isn't necessary. Often times missions can be accomplished through mobility kills or firepower kills.

One of the fairly easy tasks would be to defeat one or two tanks which support hostile infantry in an urban environment or on a forestry road. This would be easy because the tanks would be so few. One would need to limit one's exposure to them till their protective infantry was defeated, and then multiple hits scored on the tanks (preferably in salvos) would force their withdrawal or defeat them right away.
The real, hardly resistible strength of armoured forces can be found in their massed use. Dozens of tanks (or even only one company) together have such a concentration of firepower coupled with sensors, mobility and protection that an infantry platoon or even company would hardly be able to resist unless the terrain is very advantageous.

A possible approach in face of such opposition would be to avoid the armoured fist and strike at the soft underbelly of the beast: The dismounted force could hide till the tanks have advanced out of sight and then strike at the less hardened, less combat-capable supporting vehicles (including armoured personnel carriers) that follow. This was also one of the most successful anti-tank tactics of WW2. The tanks often passed through, but the following trucks were engaged. Tanks without supporting infantry, with little or no munition and fuel resupply will be defeated sooner or later. Deep penetrations by armoured spearheads require adequate security for the rather soft supporting forces.
But this requires thinking about AT defences on the larger tactical if not operational level. The platoons in contact would not experience how their effort eventually defeats the tank force. They would not consider their effort an anti-tank effort, though brigade and higher HQs would think of it this way.
Another possible approach is to attack when the opposing force isn't combat ready; tank companies need to spend much time on refuelling, maintenance and simply sleeping. They would risk artillery strikes if they did so very visible to hostile observers on open terrain, so there may be the option of attacking them through terrain with short lines of sight in their state of much-reduced readiness at their bivouac. It's difficult to provide security in such terrains without much personnel on picket and patrol duty, and exactly the right personnel for this (infantry and scouts) would hardly be available in a sufficient quantity. And if it was available and used like that it still couldn't rest, thus reducing the formation's abilities through exhaustion over time.
Again, a substantial security effort would be required to protect against this, just as regarding the soft underbelly approach.

Let's stay at the formation level (battalion and higher) for a while; a favourite of mine are area-specific mission tactics. To appoint a force to a defined area (with some overlap and arranged communication with  neighbour forces) and doctrine-defined levels of ambition would suffice as an order. The level of ambition would use steps ranging from a mere 'stay and survive in the area!' up to 'destroy all hostile elements in the area at any cost!'.
An infantry force with an order from the lower levels of ambition would -by this order- understand that it doesn't need to engage tanks unless the conditions are very advantageous. Such forces would -  if arrayed at sufficient depth (similar to certain 1970's and 1980's concepts like "Raumverteidigung")
wear down a tank force and its supporting elements and yield enough to stay relevant in the area. Armoured spearheads could penetrate such defended areas by paying an attrition toll and thus advance to their objective, but they would rather not eliminate the opposition. The infantry forces on such a mission wouldn't be brittle, but flexible under stress. A tank force going into bivouac in such a web of light forces would be very susceptible to swarming and attack pulses during its rest, particularly at night.

Another aspect of light AT defences is that when your firepower is limited you may want to focus it on the highest value targets. A tank column advancing through a bottleneck might see only its lead vehicles engaged, blocking the route (physically or by fear) temporarily. An armour battlegroup might see only is mineclearing tanks engaged prior to running into AT mine defences. Command, air defence, electronic warfare, forward artillery observer and recovery AFVs are rare, important and usually identifiable as well. Again, the forces in early contacts would not necessarily see the superior hostile tank force (or even only a single MBT) defeated, but they might lay the groundwork for its eventual defeat.

AT tactics have historically often been particularly successful when they followed one of two patterns (aside from employing extremely superior equipment or crews):
  1. Ambush situations
  2. Deception, confusion and surprise
About (1); an 1980's approach for this was to rapidly lay an AT minefield (scatterable mines ejected from an AFV or lorry), let the tank force run into it and then when after the first few minehits it was forced to stop hit them with artillery.** They might move to escape the artillery kill zone, but that would only lead to additional mine hits. MLRS/MARS was and is even able to scatter AT mines with rockets, so a tank force could have a minefield dropped onto itself or onto its escape routes.

Line of sight crossfire ambushes are utterly standard procedures for both tanks and ATGM units simply because fires from two directions (minimum 70° apart) allows at least some fires to become effective from outside the most protected forward 60° of main battle tanks. Ideally the two axis of attack would be 90-180° apart.
It is somewhat questionable whether such fires would be satisfactory at long ranges because this requires guided missiles, and guidances might be defeated by countermeasures. Short range AT munitions on the other hand (such as Panzerfaust 3-IT 600, which scores well at up to 600 m against stationary targets) would rarely be in position in the quantity desirable for effective salvoes. This is an arithmetic problem. A frontage of 3 km could be defended by ten ATGM launchers in two groups; they would be able of a ten round crossfire salvo. 10 Panzerfaust launchers (sights) on the other hand would suffice only for a frontage of about 400-600 m against moving targets. You would need many more of them than ten to cover 3 km frontage with a good salvo capability. It gets even much worse if the typical line of sight (or field of fire) in the area is as short as 50-100 m (a city, for example). Terrains with short lines of sight but many possible routes would thus rarely allow ambushes with large crossfire salvoes unless the opposing force has plenty infantry. This is nothing new and independent from what new MBT types enter service, but it's particularly troublesome if your portable AT hardware is weak and thus crossfire salvoes are especially important to you.
Every soldier hopes to be the ambusher instead of being ambushed or even only in a fair fight, but geography and arithmetic are sometimes harbingers of bad news.

(2) Deception, confusion and surprise
German forces used very elaborate, very mobile and often quite desperate tactics to defeat very hard-to-kill French tanks in 1940 and very hard-to-kill T-34 and KV tanks in 1941/1942. This often included feigned attacks (often only the sound and dust clouds of moving tanks of the weakest types), use of smoke, quick surprise attacks - anything but brute force. They had a superior ability in this (and actually scored much better kill ratios than the spec sheets of the tanks used would suggest) because of their superior radio communication and thus much quicker commands and much quicker reactions. Russian tank companies that were attacked from a flank or the rear often didn't react as a unit simply because the few tank commanders that noticed the attack at all (and maybe even its origin) had no means to communicate this other than maybe movement and fire (especially with tracer bullets).

Today's tanks all have radios, but it's still possible to recreate this situation by radio jamming. Both hand-emplaced expendable radio jammers (example: HEXJAM) in ambush situations and artillery-delivered radio jammer shells (example: VRS-546) can be used to make radio communication very hard in a fairly small area (few hundred metres radius). Drones might work as well, small rotorcraft drones could self-emplace themselves in a pattern just minutes before the tanks arrive and be activated remotely, then withdraw (for reuse) on autopilot with their remaining battery power.

The hostile tank force might use the confusion caused by radio jamming, smoke walls and noises to its own advantage because forces of both sides might be affected, of course. They would still be at a disadvantage if they are surprised by these means while their opponents are prepared and expecting, even calling for or deploying additional IR-obscuring smoke. Furthermore, any aggressive reaction drill by the surprised force might lead it straight into another ambush or mined areas.
Such troublesome and difficult tactics aren't new (as was mentioned before), but they greatly gain in importance if you have great difficulties penetrating hostile tanks (as did the German Heer often have from 1940 till 1942).
- - - - -

Portable short range AT weapons will face an additional difficulty that's been rather uncommon in the past: All-round 360° digital vision of the tank. An early 360° surveillance sensor was the Vectop system on late Merkava tanks.

This was still a rather manual system as far as I know, with crews looking at monitors only. Future tanks (including upgraded 1970's tanks) could make use of daylight and thermal cameras with 360° coverage with automatic and passive detection of muzzle fires, patterns (men, helmets etc.), missiles, unguided warheads in flight and so on. This could be used to avoid radiating with an active protection system radar at all times. The automatic surveillance could be much more able to detect threats and make a tank crew actually more aware of its surroundings than an infantry squad*** (classically it's very much the other way around). Acoustic sensors could detect rifle fire and even detect and classify shouted commands after filtering out the tank's own and other tanks' noises. An electronic support system could notice hostile radio usage in the vicinity, especially low output power intra-squad radios that cannot be detected and triangulates by dedicated electronic warfare vehicles at several kilometres distance. A LIDAR system could detect optics by their reflection characteristics (though with a certain false alarm problem) and double as fire control sensor for a hard kill active defence system that shoots down incoming warheads.

Such a possible reversal of situational awareness superiority would force much caution on any dismounted force in contact with hostile tanks. This might become more troublesome in itself than a poor chance of scoring a penetrating hit.
It's one more reason to favour pop-up salvo fires whenever possible. The dismounted squads may wait behind concealment with but one minimal signature (periscope) observer each, pop up, be detected simultaneously, shoot and disappear before the tank crew could react. An active protection system may be able to react in milliseconds, but the crew couldn't. The more time you give the tank crew to make use of its tools the worse for you. This was always true, but the more capable the tank crew's tools, the more important this becomes because the tolerance for sloppiness shrinks.

- - - - -

I cut this off at this point. Maybe I'll muster the energy for a part III with more musings about future dismounted AT tactics later.


**: Detection algorithms would still be stupid. They wouldn't as easily as humans notice suspicious details, such as open windows and doors, removed roof tiles, objects out of place et cetera.


Future light anti-tank defences - Historical background

(I should have written this before the piece on threat hardware, but I didn't realize soon enough how big the topic really is.)

During 15 to 17 May 1940, shortly after the decisive river crossing across the Meuse at Sedan, German and French troops fought at a tiny village called "Stonne". It was of great importance for the exploitation of the breakthrough. During these three days the village was captured and re-captured no less than 17 times.
It changed control so often in part because the German troops  had almost no means to defeat the Char B-1bis (one of the very first tanks that were shell-proof instead of merely bullet-proof) which had almost no vulnerability to the German 37 mm anti-tank guns. Meanwhile, the French proved unable to resist German infantry attacks once the tanks eventually were disabled.

The infantry, feeling defenceless against the heavy tanks, did what infantry in such cases does; they hid, using concealment. They hid in the stone houses, for example. It was no satisfying solution, but it's an important and quite universal answer to be used when threat tanks cannot be destroyed at the time. It often works much better than running away, for sure.

Most man-portable anti-tank weapons/munitions have a very short range. The famous Panzerfaust of the Second World War had only 30 to 60 m range, for example - this was the improvement over carrying a mine to the tank to attach on its armour plates!

Many tanks were destroyed with Panzerfaust munitions in urban fighting, but the greater usefulness of the munition laid elsewhere: It bolstered the morale of the otherwise quite defenceless infantry and it provided a repulsion effect. Opposing forces' tankers didn't dare to overrun infantry positions and kill the infantry in its foxholes with tracks any more. Instead, infantry attacked ahead of the tanks - and the attack would likely fail if this infantry was defeated. Attacks were slower and more vulnerable to indirect fires and infantry arms this way.

The idea that certain terrains are no good for tanks because infantry would easily get very close to them was born at that time. Previously tankers had little reason to fear closing with hostile infantry. This had actually been the job of the very first tanks; they were sent forward to the occupied enemy trenches because tankers could do so at much less risk than infantry alone.
In fact, this notion could be turned upside down - with tanks seeking areas with short lines of sight and avoiding open plains - if the more effective anti-tank defences are the long-ranged ones.

- - - - -

We Westerners have a fairly good confidence in the ability of portable weapons and munitions to stop any tank. RPG users around the world who faced high end tanks and survived do not share this perception. One Challenger 2 tank was rumoured to have survived 70 RPG hits in 2003.

Western anti-tank munitions weren't universally convincing either; Germany used the weak Panzerfaust 44 Lanze, which was very similar to the RPG-7. There was no better man-portable anti-tank weapon in use with the FRG's military until 1992 (the schwere Panzerfaust a.k.a. Carl Gustaf was merely crew-portable, had no substantially better penetration and was for much of its service time rather used for illumination than as AT weapon). The Lanze's about 375 mm RHA penetration was fine against T-54s, but largely insufficient since the 1970's at the latest.
The successor, Panzerfaust 3, arrived after a ridiculously long development time only in 1992, and was at that time already obsolete against Russian tanks with ERA add-on armour. Germany introduced the better Panzerfaust 3-IT munition years later, which is still considered worthwhile. Yet even this munition cannot really be considered as reliably effective against a modern tank in its frontal 60°. You better score multiple flanking hits on the hull even with such a heavy munition.
The crew-portable West German anti-tank guided missiles were unsatisfying as well. The Cobra and Mamba missiles were difficult to control, scored few hits on exercises and would likely have scored very few hits in wartime due to the influences of surprise, fear, smoke, distraction and stress. Their penetration wasn't really promising against the frontal armour of a T-64 or T-72 either. The successor Milan was much easier to control and its launcher was (and is) equipped with a night sight. It arrived in 1977 in German service - with many years of lag behind the T-64's introduction into the Soviet forces in Eastern Germany. The Soviets began to equip their tanks with reactive armour in the early 1980's, which despite an improved Milan version in the mid-80's kept German portable ATGM firepower unsatisfactory.* Only the tandem HEAT warhead of the early 1990's made Milan's penetration satisfactory.

Other nations had similarly poor stories of portable AT defences, including the U.S. Army with its disappointment with the near-useless M47 Dragon missile and the failure to procure a successor to the small calibre M72 LAW during the Cold War.

I personally don't trust the infrared seeker missiles like Javelin and Spike much against high end main battle tanks. I expect their guidance to fail too often due to countermeasures (such as quickly deployed infrared-obscuring smoke walls). They are fine against lesser armoured vehicles, of course.
Overflight top attack munitions such as NLAW and Bill are highly specialised and good for little but tank busting, still vulnerable to hard kill countermeasures and somewhat unreliable in their effect (best effect only with hits on a small portion of the turret roof area).

Summing it up, one could say that portable AT defences haven't really been satisfactory throughout much of the Cold War, and are probably not satisfactory even as of today. Dismounted forces with no heavy, vehicle-mounted AT weapons and munitions on hand, need to cope with tanks nevertheless. They need to adapt their tactics. HQs and doctrine need to be aware that (maybe) the infantry is very limited in its lethality against high end main battle tanks.
Much confidence in one's arsenal cold be obliterated by a few days of actual warfare against a high quality force.

Infantry and more generally portable anti-tank defences in history is a huge topic. This selection here was meant to provide the background to the other "Future light anti-tank defences" posts rather than to be exhaustive in its own right.


*: TOW wasn't all that great either, having had a much lower penetration in its base model than published. Both TOW and HOT missiles were used on vehicles only by the German forces.


COTS radios for small units and units

I wrote about digital, software-defined radios recently, and dared to look into their potential instead of being down-to-earth, concerned about programs to replace Cold War radio hardware (or lack of such programs).

The reports and even Youtube videos from warzones in Europe and Africa so far made me believe that a certain kind of radios is wildly popular among forces which don't have a bureaucracy which would set up a 40+ personnel program office to manage the projects of specifying, selecting, purchasing and introducing digital radios over a period of 10-20 years.
Such-arguably more nimble in procurement affairs- organisations tend to favour certain equipments. Toyota pickups (Hilux nowadays, Land Cruiser in days gone by), for example. AKM, PKM and RPG weapons, too. Their radios of choice appear to be commercial digital radios, and similar to the infamous Toyota pickups there appears to be a favoured brand; Motorola.

Examples of their current portfolio:

(Just some eye candy to make it more easy and pleasant for the eye.)

Such commercial radios tend to outperform old (1980's to 1990's) military radio models by far.

I'm not enough of a radio expert to accurately judge them without much hands-on testing*, but what I figured out so far about these radios is that they are
  • apparently very reliable at least in moderate and hot climates
  • at least somewhat rugged
  • featuring digital encryption at least as option (AES and other modes)
  • featuring integrated GPS
  • quite simple in their use
  • water resistant
  • conformal to some military specification standards
  • offering couple hours operation per battery
  • using modern batteries, not 1980's or 1970's batteries
  • easily purchased off the shelf, if need be through a straw man
  • offering voice and data transmission modes
  • available in hand-held and backpack/vehicle model ranges
  • especially the handhelds are quite small and lightweight compared to analogue radios
Possible weak spots in a military context (that came to my head) may be
  • likely not prepared to deal with intentional jamming
  • likely not prepared to make triangulation difficult
  • GPS limited to civilian mode GPS
  • not the same wide radio frequency range as with many true Mil Spec radios
  • vulnerable to intrusion if the POP25 feature cannot be disabled for good
  • issues with integration (particularly data transmission) with higher level radio networks**
Such commercial off the shelf (COTS) radios may be considered a '60-70%' solution' instead of the '80-90%' solution one should strive for in regular procurement, but they face off very favourably against analogue radius which could be called a '40% solution' by now, with their weight, size, obsolete encryption/voice distortion modes, lack of data transmission mode and very inefficient use of airwaves.***

Of course, no armed bureaucracy that's not getting butt-slapped in a hot conflict due to obsolete radios would simply purchase thousands of COTS radios right away to bridge the 5-15 years till an envisaged '90% solution' is in use with at least the combat and reconnaissance troops. That's not how one does this kind of business.**** Somehow the rule of law tolerated rapid procurement for 'urgent operational requirement' items, but an arbitrarily sluggish process must be observed under any other circumstances.

I would likely have more sympathy for this if rapid procurement was noticeably more often done wrong than procurement through super-exhaustive processes, but I fail to observe any such correlation. Maybe it's about time that the media expose and criticise absence of modern equipment more than mistakes done in the procurement of modern equipment. I don't see this coming in Germany, though. The one hot spot for journalists paying attention to military procurement projects enough to do more than rewording other journalist's writings are at the Spiegel, and the culture at this publication seems to be rather critical of the concept of a military as a whole than critical of it not doing its constitutional job efficiently.*****


*: In fact, I am amongst those who have difficulties understanding voice through analogue radios, and when under stress even sometimes through digital ones. Larynx microphones don't exactly help either
**:This is a big issue if not resolved, for this may severely hamper support fires. Analogue radios failing or requiring severely coded language for operational security (with all associated problems) may prove to be much worse, though.
***: They would likely get the more ambitious project cancelled because the interim solution would largely satisfy. The typical date for such a cancellation would be when procurement projects get raided to free funds for some prestigious big ticket procurement program for supersonic fighters, new frigates, new tanks and the like.
****: Digital radio allows many more parallel two-way voice comms than analogue radio in the same limited frequency range.
*****: The latter being my attitude.

[blog] Delayed post

I announced I would write about future dismounted AT tactics, but that draft grew wildly and out of control. It'll take some time to sort the thoughts and get the writing done in a readable way.

Turns out, the non-material aspect of the topic is much bigger than the material aspect, in part because I forgot to make the history section part I. Another reason is the wide range of different terrains and missions that call for different tactics - both popular ones and stuff that I make up.

The only reason why I pay so much attention to this fanboi-infested topic is that AFVs are a key requirement for rapid manoeuvre under most (European) circumstances are such a big deal, and the topic mingles that with the infantry side of the story. That's two legs of the infantry-artillery-tanks triad in one post, ranging from past to future. Maybe it was overambitious for the blog format.



Future light anti-tank defences

The Russian Armata main battle tank is the first to make use of a long-discussed concept (which was also used by the German "Puma" IFV); crew in hull, remotely controlled turret for the main gun - designed as such from scratch.*

One of the many "crew in hull MBT" ideas since the 1980's.

The long-known benefits of this include first and foremost a much-reduced surface area that has to be protected to the highest standard (because the crew capsule is really small). This allows for more protection at less weight of the same. The volume and mass gained can be used for more equipment, fuel, munition etc.

The primary disadvantage is that the tank commander cannot use the great vantage point on top of the turret to stick his head out for first hands experience of the environment.

It's not for certain how exactly Armata MBTs will store their main gun munition (and this may even change during development), but both turret bustle in the rear and hull position outside of the crew capsule are possible. So far the photos indicate that the turret bustle is too small:

This would lead to an armour distribution like this:
  • Maximum protection for crew capsule and munitions capsule behind the crew.
  • Intermediate protection for engine compartment in the rear (less reliable slat armour is visible)
  • Least protection for the turret, with most of its mission-critical components exposed on the outside anyway and at best lightly armoured.

A loss of firepower seems most acceptable, a loss of mobility somewhat acceptable and a catastrophic secondary explosion of munitions (the T-72 is notorious for this) or a loss of the crew least acceptable.

It's reasonable to believe that the Russians will exceed the protection levels known from today's tanks in regard to both the crew and munitions capsules. Meanwhile, it's also reasonable to expect the turret to be quite vulnerable, though the turret interior with the autoloader may at least be protected against the widespread 30 mm autocannons. The sensors and active protections suite may be vulnerable to armour-piercing bullets from normal rifles at ~100 m, though.

A tank built to survive the light (infantry) anti-tank defences and to defeat Western tanks at least if they are in the frontal 60° area does provoke a new iteration in the arms technology spiral, of course.
The consequences are fairly simple for Western MBTs; Rheinmetall's new 130 mm tank gun development is a fairly obvious answer.

It's much more difficult to cope with such a future adversary with portable equipment, though. The weight restriction also restricts the options.

I'm not going to delve into guidance and warheads right away; instead, this new concept of a MBT should provoke a rethinking of infantry anti-tank defence.
Traditionally the infantry (and other dismounted troops or troops with vehicles of less than 15 tons) attempted to kill the crew, or to blow off the tracks (with mines) to immobilise the tank. There's little reason to expect mine-resistant tracks on the Armata MBT (though these were developed long ago already). The crew and main gun munitions will be the most protected, so it's a questionable approach to go after them with the most weight-restricted means. This may be left to upgunned or new Western MBTs.

There are multiple kinds of how a tank may be "killed":
  1. "mobility kill" = it cannot move or steer any more
  2. "firepower kill" = it cannot shoot or aim (its main gun) any more
  3. "mission kill" = it cannot accomplish its mission (a consequence of "mobility kill" or "firepower kill")

Infantry could be satisfied with any kind of mission kill. It doesn't need to destroy tanks for good on its own; the infantry isn't the main killer on the battlefield; that's the artillery. The infantry's task in face of opposing forces tanks does not need to be more ambitious than to deny their passage without sacrificing too much of its own strength.

This leads to two different approaches for light anti-tank defences:
  • Going for a mobility kill to stop the tank for further destruction by heavier arms
  • Going for a firepower kill to force the tank crew to break contact (withdraw)
A mobility kill is feasible with high explosive effects on tracks and running gear. Choking the engine might be possible if oxygen can be displaced, but the effect would be short-lived because the air filter(s) would protect the engine against lasting damage.
Said "explosive effects" could be mines (including mobile mines, think of R/C toy cars) with 8+ kg TNT equivalent and warheads projected like shaped charges so far, but with maximised explosive force (no hollow cone). HESH/HEP penetration doesn't work well without spin, though - so it's no option for truly light AT defences (even if the other problems of this kind of warhead didn't exist). There was a single anti-tank guided missile with a HESH warhead and no spin; Malkara. Its warheads weighed no less than 26 kg in itself, meant to defeat 1950's and 1960's tanks.
Portable projectors for high explosive warheads are not going to penetrate the hull (likely not even the engine compartment except through its air ducts), but might be able to achieve mobility kills and even firepower kills. I have no access to relevant vulnerability test reports, though.

The other approach is about firepower kills, and focuses on the turret. The easiest way to defeat (not destroy) such a tank in battle would likely be to defeat its sensors. A coating on sensors that blocks thermal and radio frequency radiation but could not be removed by a simple wiper or high speed air or water stream would suffice for a while. A penetration of the exposed sensors (for which most likely few spares would be in storage) with mere bullets, shrapnel or fragments might ruin the entire high tech concept of the tank. The tank commander and gunner both depend on the turret's sensors, and sensors need to be on the surface by definition - vulnerable to effects that even a few millimetres of steel could have kept away.

- - - - -

The light (infantry) anti-tank defences of the future might thus look very different from what we've become used to since 1943 (recoilless guns, bazookas, Panzerfaust) and the late 50's (ATGMs).

This is still only slightly above brainstorming quality for want of access to information beyond publications, but feasible light anti-tank defences might include
  • early, non-line of sight warning (acoustic; so troops would not be surprised within the tanks' sensor range of approx. 5 km on open ground)
  • concealment against the tank's line of sight sensors (hiding before the tank could possibly detect you with its own sensors)
  • (mobile) mines for destruction of track integrity
  • flying multi-purpose high explosive warheads used against turret and running gear (bazooka, Panzerfaust, missile, drone)
  • munitions (from hand grenades in urban warfare to kamikaze drones) to coat and thus blind sensors
  • (already existing) AP bullets, especially for calibres more powerful than 7.62x51 mm
  • EMP grenades
  • blinding lasers
  • radio jamming (to break the inter-tank cooperation and prevent calls for support)
  • backed up by classic (Panzerfaust, ATGM) munitions, primarily meant to defeat less well-protected AFVs
- - - - -

Armed bureaucracies have a tendency to be sluggish - as do almost all organisations. I myself had a lag of a year before I came up with this article. No doubt the full-time professionals in the field had their thoughts sorted much quicker (likely even well before 2015) - but it's doubtful whether they - invested in the old ways - were able to embrace a paradigm change in light AT defences (that may be necessary). It's rather for certain that the accumulated lags till we field responses in quantity will amount to 5-15 years. Even the mere rewriting of infantry manuals would likely take several years. 

It took us about 5-10 years to react to new Soviet armour developments during the Cold War, we'll likely be slower in the decades to come because technology has become more intricate and the feeling of urgency is weaker with no serious expectation of WW3.
What will likely save us from a severe weak spot in our deterrence and defence are the sluggishness of the Russian bureaucracies and the still quite sad state of the Russian arms industries. It will likely take till 2025 or later for Armata MBTs to become operational in relevant quantities and then the troops will need years to learn how to make full use of its capabilities and how to deal with its teething troubles. This may be extended by a year or two if the Russian army doesn't spend much on their training at that time.

Such high tech tanks would still be highly vulnerable - though in a different way than the classic T-72s. They wouldn't blow up as often, but likely sit a lot at repair workshops, waiting for necessary and expensive spare parts that may never arrive.



P.S.: I'm preparing a second article on this, from the tactics perspective.

*: There were test vehicles with remotely controlled turrets on old conventional tank hulls such as U.S. M1 TTB, Jordanian Falcon turret on Challenger hull etc..

Most ceasefires are rackets

Ceasefire, armistice, truce - that's three words for the same thing. Or actually, for multiple things that most people believe are one thing.

The most naive idea about ceasefires is that they end the suffering and give politicians time to negotiate a peaceful solution for the conflict (case 1). This is hardly ever the reality. It does work occasionally when the violence is merely centrally controlled harassment (which the media of at least one side will call "terrorism"). I wrote "centrally controlled" because decentralised control or undisciplined personnel would undermine the ceasefire with unauthorised harassment actions.

There are many more motives for calling for (and agreeing to) a ceasefire, especially

(2) the intent to prepare better for later violence during the break
(3) the refusal to accept the favoured side's (possibly the own) defeat
(4) to prepare for decisive action without the unnecessary suffering from harassing fires.

Just look at the war in Syria. Did the West call for a ceasefire when the rebels attacked? No. It called for ceasefires when the rebels were in trouble due to bombardment and regime forces' advances region.
Feel free to look up further examples. I dare say you won't find an example for a great power government calling for a ceasefire while it (or its preferred war party/proxy) was winning.

Sometimes such ceasefires actually happen while one party advances because even then it fears increased foreign meddling (even military intervention) and caves to the threat, though only for a while. Militarily successful powers usually agree to a ceasefire when they reached the culmination point or some limited objective anyway. A ceasefire can be quite resource-saving if it begins just after you encircled your opponent. His foodstuff runs out and he's forbidden to try to break the siege (= the probability of foreign intervention on his behalf is slightly reduced if he violates the ceasefire first).

The worst thing about ceasefires is the same reason for why Western politicians call for ceasefires so often: It keeps one side from losing the war right away. Or in other words; ceasefires extend wars. Wars that could see one side 'win' in a few months become protracted and last years, with the duration of fighting, the loss of life and the loss of property much greater than if it had ended quickly.
This is hard to prove because we cannot observe alternative timelines, but the history of particularly civil wars of the last couple decades convinced me that case (3) is an evil one. It makes war worse, not less terrible. The cases (1) and (4) are noble ones. Case (2) is a cynical one, but may have a similar effect as case (4).

We have three words in English for this, but there are at least four different cases - and even worse, all three words are used for all four cases. It's no mystery why expectations and reality rarely meet when it comes to ceasefires.

The world would be a more peaceful, better world if at least once in a while we (and especially our foreign policy) would be more willing to accept that the war party we sympathise with is losing. Defeat in war is often times less terrible than war itself, especially if the defeat is quick and happens before the hate, propaganda and expectation for benefits from victory built up much.

- - - - -

Ceasefires are also of interest from a military theory point of view. They would typically not be within the authority of those who are tasked to lead the war effort in a theatre of war, so they are at least partially exogenous influences. The armed forces need be able to exploit the break well and quickly, and this is -as so much in war- to be measured relative to the opposing forces. Corps and higher commanding officers also need to know when and how to suggest and request a ceasefire to politicians, and might actually prepare for its exploitation in advance.

Ceasefires also happen at the local level, though only unofficially. Both forces may harass each other much with indirect fires and snipers to no end other than to harm each other. This kind of pointless suffering may be much-reduced if approximate parity in harassing capability can be achieved and thus the conditions for a local ceasefire be created. The communication of this ceasefire usually needs to be unofficial and secret, of course. Rarely will a third party such as an ambassador from a foreign country or the International Red Cross, be able to relay the messages.
An interesting facet is that even armed forces with a great inferiority in harassing capability might achieve such low level ceasefires if they move the harassing capability into unruly sectors till the sector falls silent. The other side's higher command might force a break of such local ceasefires if it realises what's happening (seemingly to its disadvantage), though.



Don't trust your government much, no matter how good it is

One of my themes in regard to civil liberties is that even IF you trust the present government, you better do NOT trust it with the power to spy on you, keep you arrested without judge's consent based on criminal laws et cetera. 

Democracy may have a hiccup and a future government may not be benevolent, it may instead try to establish an authoritarian regime - and then the people shouldn't be accustomed to an authoritarian regime's methods, nor should its tools be in place already.

Even worse; technology may drastically reduce the popular support required to sustain a dictatorship. Electronics-supported spying may be much more personnel-efficient than the old school surveillance state. The DDR collapsed when it ran out of men willing to defend the regime by shooting at the people. In a not-so distant future robots could massacre people at a political demonstration, with minimal popular support required.

Well, a some journalists have pointed out similar views and concerns since Trump's election.



A blogger's midlife crisis

There's a special kind of supervillain in the first season of the Netflix show "Jessica Jones"; a man who can dominate the will of other people, at least for a couple hours a time. His life is dull, since he gets everything he wants, which is plausible and tells us that the ability to control others like that is hardly a sensible wish.

The opposite, laying out assumptions, facts, reasoning, conclusions - only to achieve absolutely zero effect (in private, business or public affairs) all too-often -  is not exactly fulfilling either, of course. It's particularly frustrating if you can tell time and time again that even if someone has read your report, your article, or listened to your argument, he or she may still be 100% unaffected and stick to a different preferred answer without the slightest ability to support it with facts and reasoning the way you did.

Back when I was about 20 I looked at all the nonsense in the world and thought that the world could be improved if one would only cut through the nonsense with knowledge, logic and some inspiration.

Back when I was about 30 I amassed the confidence in knowledge, logic and inspiration to begin trying to disseminate it for real. Professionally and in matters of public interest publicly.

Now I understand that for decades I underestimated one huge and all-important ingredient; the ability to convince. Sadly, this ability is given to or found by people irrespective of the  quality of knowledge and reasoning. Some utter sociopaths, people with narcissistic personality disorder and lots of people who simply don't have the well-being of others (or even their entire society) in mind possess a greater ability to convince people than most genius researchers with great ideas.

So here's the update:
It takes a coincidence of philanthropy (or at least social leanings), knowledge, reasoning, some inspiration and the ability to convince others easily to improve the world by much. Well, this or another kind of huge luck.

Now it's abundantly clear to me why the human world is such a mess in so many places and perspectives. It may take a couple thousand more years till enough such coincidences have happened. And then there will likely still be some *#%$€=(! with the gift to convince and mess it up again.




Leaving NATO?

I've held this back for a long time, but thus also thought about it for a long time:

Let's say a great power in NATO turns fascist. Should Germany leave NATO and rely on the EU as its defensive alliance?

There's little doubt in my opinion that a fully neutral Germany would break NATO's backbone in Europe. There would be no West-East land connection for NATO logistics in Central Europe without Germany. A neutral area would stretch from the Baltic Sea to the Western Alps. Northern Italian ports would become the primary ports for moving Western European and North American troops into NE Europe, such as a Baltic or Poland defence scenario. There would be a bottleneck south of Austria, too. Balkan ports such as Thessaloniki would be a fine choice for defence of Romania, but be terribly distant from NE Europe.
Thus German neutrality would make a huge impact due to geography in itself. A defence of NE European NATO would suddenly not hinge on quick reinforcement (as I wrote in many posts before), but on what's already in the region. Reinforcements would arrive very late (most of them about 2 weeks later that with status quo) save for weak air-lifted forces. The only effective alternative to prepositioned forces would be prepositioned equipment (POMCUS-style).

Germany would not become truly neutral if it left NATO, of course; it would still be a member of the EU and thus remain allied with the same countries in NE Europe.

Now let's look at the pro and contra, in a short form:

Pro leaving NATO in the event of a fascist great power in NATO:

This essentially boils down to (save for ethical reasons) what I wrote before;
You may get into trouble if you are and stay allied with an aggressive power. A fascist great power would likely fit this description (though Fascist Spain wasn't aggressive).

Another reason for leaving is actually a permanent one, true regardless of the allies; Germany needs no allies. It's surrounded by friends, and even Russia is in no way a realistic threat to a neutral Germany. In fact, a case can be made that being allied increases the risk of war and thus of suffering for Germans.

There's also the thing about the EU; whatever assistance Germans want to give to Eastern Europeans could be given through EU membership. NATO is kind of superfluous for deterrence and defence in Europe against Eastern European and Mediterranean neighbours, at least from a level-headed German perspective.

Contra leaving NATO in the event of a fascist great power in NATO:

The main argument was laid out here before
Without NATO a bond between Europeans and North Americans (particularly the U.S.) would be cut, but this bond may be the only thing (certainly it is the most influential thing) that keeps the two continents from developing rivalry and antagonistic behaviour. The U.S. spies on many of its European allies as if they were hostile powers even with this kind of alliance in effect. There sure are many issues that drive a wedge between Europe and North America, and it's the alliance that keeps the bloc together.
Right now below 2% GDP military spending is plenty for deterrence and defence of Europe even without American support, but we would need to go past 3% GDP if we were to orient our deterrence and defence AGAINST the U.S., probably more if we began to play great power games AGAINST the U.S. in Asia and North Africa.
Germany dropping out of NATO would not cut this bond, but fracture it. It would also fail Kant's categorical imperative test; it would be unethical to leave it up to the other Europeans to keep that antagonism-preventing bond intact.

- - - - -

The idea of leaving NATO is impractical politically, of course. The far left in Germany would love such a move, but even the greens would most likely betray their own rhetoric of three decades (again) if such a move was really up for a vote. Social Democrats wouldn't see any reason to leave and Christian Democrats would make a most determined stand; after all, NATO member ship and the whole integration with the West was their idea, their (and the FRG's) grand strategy for 60+ years.

Furthermore, there's a network of "transatlantic" journalists, news media editors and think tanks that are resolutely pro-NATO, even pro-U.S.. It's a well-organised lobby and it would produce a storm of outrage if any non-green, non-deep red top politician even only uttered the idea of leaving NATO. A fascist great power in NATO would NOT change this. They would no doubt promote sitting this out.

- - - - -

Well, what to do in such a hypothetical event?

I suppose we should draw the lesson from history for real (not only drawing lessons from 12 particular years) and take note that we sure need to do the opposite of what was done in 1914:
We should publicly declare that we do not support or condone aggressive behaviour. 

No two-faced charade as in 2002/2003 when Chancellor Schröder weakly condemned the war of aggression against Iraq, but supported it indirectly.
Furthermore, we should call out all aggressive behaviour as a violation of North Atlantic Treaty obligations, publicly and strongly so. Everyone shall understand that the bad ally isn't the one who refuses to attack a sovereign country, but the one who does attack a sovereign country. The former is an obligation under the North Atlantic Treaty, the latter is a violation of the same.

In case that fascism settles and lasts for more than a few years in a NATO great power because democracy was defeated, we should cut our ties with it. This would even require leaving the EU if fascism takes hold in a European great power. We could invite all non-fascist EU members to a "EU 2.0" treaty afterwards.