Military professional training

I have obsessed about learning about history for more than two decades. There are downsides to it and there are upsides.
Some benefits that I came to recognise are that I don't mistake many news about petty things as news about hugely important things, another benefit is that I don't fall for terrible politicians easily (though it happened once when I paid attention to but a few of his policies) and finally, knowing history teaches about the dominance of path dependency in our world. Just about everything is a product of the past – and what path was taken years, decades or even centuries age has a lasting impact on the present and future.

History also shows us how things have changed; the military used to be the single biggest organisation in almost every European society only a couple decades ago, and accordingly it had the most demand for innovation in how to run and grow an organisation. Some management and personnel affairs tools of today have their roots in 19th and early 20th century military organisations' innovations. The civilian world became more innovative at the latest shortly after the Second World War, and the newer management tools have almost all been devised in large civilian corporations, civilian start up companies, universities or (these are the most stupid ones) business consulting companies.

Enough of the introduction – did you ever think about what training for the job as a soldier would look like if the very concept of a military was invented only recently? Would it look as it does or would it look very differently (which would mean that the current training orthodoxy is a product of learning AND especially path dependency).

I suppose if we had to start from scratch we would look for an analogy – such as the police – and adapt their professional training model. Police forces and the military have a lot of similarities, including the rank system and uniforms.
Police forces in Germany have a thorough education and training program. You need to study for years at a university of applied sciences to become a basic police(wo)man and, and then you typically spend some time at the Bereitschaftspolizei, which is a kind of mobile reserve of the police forces. You may encounter them patrolling at crime hotspots, but more typical uses are security at football matches, security at demonstrations and other missions that require lots of law enforcement manpower in one place.
Another path is that one may study law for even more years and enter the upper career group of the police (equivalent to officers).

Let's compare this to a typical Western military professional training.
First, you enter a basic training that typically turns you into a rifleman (at least if you join land forces), and it lasts typically two to four months. Then you are sent to many different courses or attend smaller courses First Aid et cetera) where you're stationed at. Noncommissioned officers and officers usually attend especially long (months) courses to become an NCO or officer, and senior officers may do so as well to be promoted past a certain NCO grade. Studying at a university of any kind is typically reserved for officers, and the timing and nature of such studies varies greatly. There are also military academies in some countries which unleash very young men as lieutenants onto the armed forces after months or few years of (para)military education. 
(The watered-down personnel system and requirements of the current Bundeswehr are so painful to think of that I won't describe them – in fact my description above is rather representative of careers in the early 1990's, things have gone downhill since.)

Overall, it can be said that only (soon-to-be) officers get a professional training with a broad theoretical base that's somewhat similar to what's typical in the civilian world.

NCOs and especially enlisted personnel on the other hand get hardly any professional training, and all of it is AFTER they entered the active forces.
Compare this to two years professional training (part time on the job, part time school) that you need to become a hair stylist in Germany, and two years worth of university studies to become an NCO equivalent in a bureaucracy!
_ _ _ _ _

At some point the armed services world-wide seem to have begun to lag behind equivalents in the civilian world in their ambitions for professional education and theoretical competency of the noncommissioned officers and especially the enlisted personnel.

I don't think that soldiering is so much easier than hair styling that there's little to no room for improvement. It's also rarely very different from civilian bureaucracy jobs

I suppose there were multiple reasons for why the armed services began to lag:
  • They didn't need to compete with civilian careers because of conscription. School graduates prefer a job with a respected and useful training over a similarly-paid job with a pointless training – the armed services simply grabbed personnel by threatening them with jail.
  • To be an enlisted soldier is no good for the long term due to poor pay. Theoretically enlisted soldiers could serve in physically demanding specialties until hey lost fitness due to injury or age and proceed to more cushy support specialties afterwards. There are enough of the latter that enlisted soldier could be a lifetime career. It's the poor pay that rules this out.
  • The armed services don't think that two years university of applied sciences training makes sense for enlisted personnel that typically enlists for two to four years due to their tunnel vision on active strength (which makes perfect sense if you think of them as a bureaucracy). It doesn't matter much to them that this personnel would continue to be reserve personnel for two more decades.
  • There were no wars between great powers in which one power benefited from a substantially lesser lag. There's not enough incentive to overcome inertia as long as the benefits of it are not demonstrated to good effect. Much of the private sector is in a fierce competition or at least able to compare profitability, and thus has much more incentives to improve itself.

I admit it may be disputed that they began to lag in modern times and that they lagged - save for professional warrior castes such as knights - since the invention of standing armies. I think they began to lag because in Germany the dual system of training for jobs  has begun to vastly exceed the training and education of enlisted troops at the very least. The terrible post-Cold War changes in the personnel system of the Bundeswehr (I don't mean the end of conscription here) also meant that reaching officer or NCO rank requires much less (if any) previous relevant education than to reach equivalent civilian positions.
The armed forces have improved the overall approach to professional education little post-WW2, while the civilian economy and civilian bureaucracies have greatly increased their expectations of candidates.

Well, what SHOULD professional military education look like today?

This depends greatly on how you sources your NCOs and officers. It's been a very successful model to let everyone begin as enlisted (wo)man, advance to junior NCO if suitable and then advance to either senior NCO or junior officer if suitable. Training models in which "gentlemen" get a quick intro about how to behave as officer* and then join the ranks as officer have been less successful.
The 'through the ranks' model on the other hand appears to have collapsed in all-volunteer forces where the smartest candidates can only be lured into military service by promising good pay from day one – and the inflexible bureaucracies and politicians have found but one way to do so; they handed out advanced ranks ("Neckermann Stuffz") – NCO and lieutenant – as entry positions. This is understandable for emergency room-experienced medical doctors, bridge engineers and the like – but it's idiotic rank inflation if applied as widely as nowadays in many Western armed services.

I think we should go back to the West German model of the Cold War era; you can advance to officer rank through the ranks, but many promising recruits enter the force knowing that while they're at the lowest rank, they are officially o track towards NCO or officer positions and will become NCO or officer unless they fuck up. We have the rank suffixes UA and OA (Unteroffiziersanwärter and Offiziersanwärter; NCO candidate and officer candidate) for this.
I don't think that basic military training has to happen at a university of applied sciences. It should rather take the German model for craftsman education and training as a model. Three days active service at a military unit per week, two days theoretical studies at a school per week. There's plenty theory to learn; safety rules, navigation, don't rape your comrade (sigh), driving theory, radio operation, friend or foe identification, reporting, supply system, hierarchy – armed services have hundreds of field and technical manuals full of theory, dozens of which are more or less relevant to every soldier. The practical part would follow the concept of trainees in major corporations; they would be sent to different units to do different things and learn about the organisation in general.
After two years of such studying we would have a well-rounded basic soldier, and the armed service would have enough test results and superior's reports to judge how best to allocate the (wo)man. This might include him or her being sent straight to NCO school, another year of theory and practical experiences.
Juniors NCOs who served well and showed promise for much more could be sent a university of applied sciences for three years. The outcome would be training for and promotion to senior NCO or lieutenant rank and a bachelor's degree in business/administration/logistics/psychology.
Enlisted personnel that did service well but didn't show enough promise for more should instead receive a proper job training that's respected in the civilian economy as well; car mechanic, aviation mechanic, gas turbine mechanic, heavy lorry driver, nurse and so on. Enlisted personnel of the active force should have an option to serve till retirement at enough pay to sustain a family of four if the spouse works half time on minimum wage.

Medical doctors could and should be hired differently. I suppose one should give soldiers who passes the basic two years training an opportunity to get a subsidised civilian university education as a general physician, emergency surgeon or oculist followed by a mandatory one year emergency room experience and then they could be reservists with several weeks active service per year till the age of 60. This should yield enough of them on active duty at any given time for the actual needs of the armed services.**
A parallel militia system could still make do with a 6 month basic training with standardised six month militia NCO and militia officer courses more akin to the current active forces personnel system. The reason for this is that quantity helps a lot and many young men could be motivated for such short reservist duties who could not be motivated to enter a military career. The compensation for the short training would be a severe limitation of missions they would be considered capable of. The militia level of competence would likely be comparable to air force security units' competence.

_ _ _ _ _

Well, that's just my opinion, man. Other opinions differ, and no doubt wildly so.

Nevertheless, I think I made it clear that the current professional training models in use appear to be obsolete remnants caused by path dependency and sustained by inertia in absence of exogenous shocks. They are NOT optimally designed to prepare young men and women for high effectiveness on the job as a soldier in an army or air force.


*: A little bit of exaggeration here.
**: The current medical branch of the German armed services is inflated and oversized beyond belief. Its personnel figures are worthless as an indicator for how much such personnel armed services actually need in peacetime.



Election platforms on the federal election in Germany

I compiled summaries of the election platforms of the relevant German parties for the federal elections 2017. The whole work was done in German language and can be accessed on the German language twin blog:

 S O


Link collection June/July 2017

"Based on my experience at JMRC and by talking to company commanders who come here to train, I believe  U.S. Army tactical proficiency at company level and below is lower than  many of our multinational partners due to a lack of emphasis on collective training and tactical proficiency at home station prior to training at combat - training  centers (CTCs)."
(from U.S.Army's own eArmor journal)

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The Russians are paying attention to non-radar detection of artillery firing positions and impacts. That's the old way to which there are few technical countermeasures.


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- - - - -

Old (1998) interview, still worth some attention:

Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser

Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
 (copied from here)

P.S. I found this in the list of my draft articles as a June 2017 link list. My apologies if I had published it in June before and accidentally reverted to draft. I truly cannot remember if I had published it or not.



Proposal for a (partial) nuclear disarmament treaty

... that eliminates the near-term possibility of mankind destroying civilisation through thermonuclear war.

As of today, only the United States of America and the Russian Federation possess enough nuclear munitions to ruin mankind. They couldn't wipe out mankind even if they tried, but they could crash civilisation world-wide.
  • The United Kingdom, French Republic, People's Republic of China, Republic of India, Pakistan and Israel possess enough thermonuclear munitions to ruin a single large country, though some of them couldn't do so beyond their region.
  • The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has few nuclear munitions, likely those are at most 30 kt TNTeq yield munitions.
  • The Republic of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Republic of South Africa once possessed nuclear warheads and gave them up peacefully.
There's a stark difference between the very large American and Russian arsenals and the obviously sufficient smaller arsenals, which provide nuclear deterrence at much lower cost and despite the consequences of failure of deterrence would be much less catastrophic. The two very large arsenals are remnants of the Cold War, and their very size makes certain cost-saving methods of nuclear deterrence impractical because the wealth in warheads would enable a disarming first strike. Smaller inventories would not be able to take out all ballistic missile submarines in the Great Lakes or Caspian Sea for want of power, and would thus make disarming first strikes practically impossible.

My proposal is thus to turn develop and pass a nuclear munitions limitation and cooperation treaty:

A uniform warhead design of relatively modest and variable yield would be developed and tested once (with UNGC approval) and all existing nuclear powers except North Korea would be limited to a certain quantity of warheads, preferably USA and Russia each 200 and all others at most 100, but no more than they have now. Only North Korea would be excluded from the entire treaty and be stuck with its even smaller arsenal.

A warhead of 100 kt TNTeq or more yield is what people commonly think of when they think of the great power's nuclear weapons. Most people would be surprised at how small the lethal radius of a 10-20 kt warhead is against troops in typical dispersion or how small the effects would be on a city. You can do your own calculations here if you doubt me on this.

The strategic deterrence could thus be achieved by a ~100 kt TNTeq warhead, which could have a variable yield, allowing for an alternative 5-10 kt yield for "tactical employment" at a short distance from friendly troops or to knock out air power on an international airport without massacring most people in a city right next to it.

The risks associated with handling and transportation (accidents) would be reduced by using a uranium 235-only pit for the first (implosion) stage. U-235 is somewhat less hellish than Pu-239.

The fallout could be limited by using a two-stage thermonuclear warhead design with 95% or more fusion share of output. The first stage might be boosted to reduce the fallout further. A doctrine of employment at altitude (with fireball not touching the ground) would also reduce the fallout while retaining if not improving the ability to destroy the target compared to a low altitude or ground level detonation.

Every warhead would be "locked" by a suitably long and real passcode, which would need to be stored at a distance and be part of the launch code (launch code = encrypted target coordinates and passcode). The codes would only be known at highest levels, but encrypted files would be stored at many lower commands, requiring the combination of any three such files to create one file with the real passcode list so a decapitation strike would be discouraged.

Said warhead would be suitable for many forms of delivery
  • free-falling bomb
  • cruise missile (air/sea/ground launch)
  • ballistic missile (air/sea/ground launch)
Finally, to further discourage an attempt at a disarming first strike, both a warhead storage container and a decoy container would be developed that could not possibly distinguished without opening (breaking a seal & raising an alarm system). Thus thousands of decoys could be stored along 100 real things in hundreds of locations and nobody would know which is which until an order to open the containers in war or crisis. No list would need to exist that enables to determine where the real warheads are. A disarming strike would need to be able to destroy hundreds of dispersed locations (mostly military bases) with less than 200 warheads - which would be impossible.

An exception may be the standoff between India and Pakistan: The unified warhead design might actually equal an increase in capabilities if Pakistan's and India's nuclear warheads are actually less monstrous than the proposed unified warhead. In this case the quantity could be reduced or these two countries could be exempt from the unified warhead design. The 'cleanliness' of the unified warhead design means that a simple kiloton rating comparison would not suffice in this case, though.

- - - - -

Russia and the United States could deploy each 100 warheads in conventionally-powered submarines*
  • in the Great Lakes (Trident IID-5 missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs) and 
  • in the Caspian Sea. (R-39RMU missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs).
Both would keep 100 warheads in dispersed storage containers for use in various delivery munitions, along with 1,000+ decoy containers.

The other nuclear powers (save for North Korea) would store essentially swap out their existing warhead inventories with the new 100 kt warheads and discourage first strikes as without the treaty. The UK and France would mount each one warhead on each one of their SLBMs, for example (France: 4 Triomphant SSBN with 16 SLBM each and UK: 4 Vanguard SSBN with 16 SLBM each, other warheads stored on land for free-falling bombs and in France's case also in ASMP-A).

The plutonium and uranium from disassembled nuclear munitions that wouldn't be needed to create the unified warheads would be diluted and be turned into nuclear fuel.

A proper surveillance and verification regime would be set up and executed by the IAEA.

- - - - -

The steps forward from the status quo would be
  • no threat of global civilisation-breaking thermonuclear war
  • much reduced expenses particularly in the U.S. and Russia
  • much reduced nuclear fallout in the event of thermonuclear war
  • reduced risks from accidents with nuclear munitions

Meanwhile, nuclear munitions would still
  • act as deterrence through their ability to destroy a society (for example by de facto destruction of all cities of any great power if the attacker has that long reach at all as of today)
  • act as a deterrence against attempts at "conventional-only" wars of aggression by retaining the ability to destroy entire formations of land forces as well as entire airbases
- - - - -

This kind of treaty would meet the NPT's requirement of working towards a nuclear disarmament. It would not eliminate nuclear arms entirely, but greatly reduce the damage possible in worst case thermonuclear wars. 

The time to  commence talks for (partial) nuclear disarmament is now. We should not wait till conflicts heat up to another Cold War for real and  one or two near-thermonuclear war crisis situations convince the politicians to work towards (partial) disarmament again, as happened in the 80's after the Able Archer 83 near-disaster.

A second step after this treaty could be to move towards total nuclear disarmament, but that's a MUCH larger leap because of the in my opinion well-justified (though not necessarily correct) fear that we NEED nuclear deterrence to keep the peace between the great powers.



P.S.: I know this is a distasteful topic; no pacifist wants to look like a proponent of nuclear arms, an the proposal would require a development, production and testing of a new warhead. Some might even argue that such a "cleaner" warhead would lower the threshold for its use (though a 100 kt TNTeq explosion is still terrible). Radical pacifists will think that partial disarmament is not orthodox enough. Yet some distasteful activities - such as sewage cleaning - simply have to be done for the society's good, and I think new proposals for a partial nuclear disarmament are overdue. The more such proposals pop up and the more public discourse there is on this topic the more politicians will sense that the time is ripe for getting rid of thousands of nuclear warheads - even if hundreds will remain.

*: It's possible to store the missiles in silos extending into the fin as shown in this speculative article. A row of 10 such silos in a long fin should be possible. The submarines need to be shock-hardened with a tough pressure hull and have robust radio message reception abilities, but they need no normal combat system or any silencing in those inland waters. The quick launch procedure could be done after surfacing. Submersibles (with some cheap long endurance air independent propulsion such as closed cycle diesel engines) are preferable to surface craft because of the possibility to track & identify surface craft with satellites. Cheap snorkeling could be used regularly, with all-AIP operation used in crisis or wartime. A slow cruise speed of about 4 kts and resting on the bottom of the sea for days or weeks would eliminate the wave patterns and other signatures that could be discernible by satellites.


One annoying NATO myth

I'll do my part fighting a stupid myth:

France never left NATO.
It merely withdrew its forces from NATO's command structure, period.

I've read this annoying myth about France supposedly having left NATO in 1966 (and returned in 2009) so often, I have really no excuse for not pushing against it here a decade earlier already.



Somaliland and Puntland

I meant to write about the two unrecognised states in Northern Somalia (that appear to be somewhat more functional than the recognised government of Somalia) for a while.

Or to be honest; I meant to do a proper literature research on them for a long time.
No, that's still not honest. To be REALLY honest; I learned only recently that there is not one but two kinda functional proto-states at the Horn of Africa.
It's a quite embarrassing state of affairs on my part, but not just for myself: It's also embarrassing for the news media in general. I'm not a news junkie, but I sure would be better informed if Northeast Africa would rank a little higher on the priority list of German or anglophone news media. 

Their low priority in regard to reporting seems to be proportional to their low priority in foreign policy and foreign aid. I keep having a hunch that we could have done a lot good if we had helped those proto-states instead of pretending that Somalia is still one country.

One example; the EU could have given them most favourable trade terms for copper and tin (the region really hasn't much else that could be exported). We could also have helped equip and supply the Puntland coast guard instead of doing those stupid Atalanta patrols ourselves. Maybe we could have had enough influence with both proto-states to avoid the stupid border conflict of 2016 and could have served as a respected arbiter?

Instead, countries like Saudi-Arabia and UAE have gained influence in the area. No doubt nothing bad will come from that, right?



Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons


It'll take some time for me to understand the international law consequences of this, and time will tell if and how courts rule concerning the (largely symbolic) storage of nuclear munitions in Germany.

I only found a draft version, not the final full text, so far. Article 1 says in there

1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.


Day and night

It sounds utterly trivial, but one should keep day and night in mind.

For example, I did an intellectual pastime about how to secure Iceland in times of crisis (a NATO member without permanent military presence). My default assumption is that a U.S. airborne brigade would need to be flown in from CONUS because European paras would not have airlift available and/or be needed in Northern Norway and Lithuania.

(This is where some people think "Yeah, science!" and I think "No, this should be general knowledge already!").

There's no need for non- far IR ("thermal") night vision until September there.

The ideal planning for crisis and wartime should thus probably plan with different forces in summertime and wintertime; U.S. airborne and Canadians in wintertime (Americans have above average night vision equipment, Canadians have above average cold weather preparation & they mostly understand each other's language) and South European airborne/para forces in summertime (using C-17s on otherwise empty return flights).

The cargo aircraft logistics may suggest to plan with Europeans year-round because Iceland is along the trip back to North America anyway, but I don't think there's much wisdom in sending troops who are accustomed to +25°C into a -5°C environment as a strategic quick reaction force. (Iceland has in its most important areas an oceanic climate and is warmed year-round by the North Atlantic current, so it's even in wintertime nowhere near as cold as the humid continental East European climate.)

That's something I did not think about when I wrote this. Though I suppose to maintain a single air-lift capable brigade with towed 155 mm howitzers for alliance (Iceland) defence in summertime might be an even more appropriate thing to do for Spain and Portugal, as their land forces would have the longest marches to Eastern Europe. They could even have this brigade in a 12 month cycle of 6-7 months training and 5-6 months real readiness for 48 hrs deployment to Iceland (at 90% personnel strength, 90% equipment readiness, with munitions for 3 days intense combat and terrain-appropriate camouflages).



Just a reminder about the North Atlantic Treaty

This is an excerpt from the treaty text:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all (...)

Article 6 

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
  1. on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  2. on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
The Article 5 part is unmodified from the original treaty, Article 6 is as modified by the accession protocol for the accession of Greece and Turkey. We can ignore the obsolete part about the "Algerian Departments of France". You can look those texts up here.

NATO is no Pacific alliance.
Hawaii could be nuked by North Korea, PRC or Russia and article 5 would not be relevant.
The same applies to any attack on Puerto Rico, U.S. or Canadian warships in the Pacific Ocean, Guam, New Caledonia or, as history has already shown, the Falklands.

This is of great importance!
There is no reason for Europeans to get involved in any Pacific arms race between the U.S./Japan/Taiwan/Australia on the one side and the PR China on the other side. 
The only European concerns about the PR China should be about the (still distant) scenario of a Sino-Russian alliance. This would then be first and foremost about air power, secondarily about land power (the capacity of transsiberian traffic lanes is still small) and arctic maritime sea lanes may be open now, but Russian arctic harbours are either small or well in range of land-based NATO tactical combat aviation. The PRC would find it difficult to sustain an army at war in Eastern Europe.
Chinese naval warfare against Europeans would likely be limited to few commerce raiders or commando actions such as blocking the Suez Canal with sunk ships. The only relevant Russian harbour for basing a Chinese expeditionary fleet is Murmansk. Again, it's well in range of NATO air and missile strikes and hardly useful as a main base for a PLAN expeditionary fleet. The distance between the PRC and Europe is simply too great for the PRC to be a major naval threat to Europeans.

There might be conflicts of interest about African resources between Europeans and Chinese, but such conflicts haven't even only reached the stage of great diplomatic efforts. A war in Africa would likely depend more on political allegiances, maritime (for Europeans: coastal) lines of communication and land-based air power than on modern battlefleets.

Long story short:
I don't see any need for Europeans to orient their naval forces for a fight against the PLAN, not even partially. There's no treaty obligation to fight in a Pacific War and there's nothing to be gained by joining any war in East Asia / the Pacific, ever.
There's little to no reason for the Chinese to go to war against European NATO (or EU) countries unless they go to war with China first.

I did make one assumption here that should be self-evident: Alliances serve a country's interests (security), not its ego. A violent clash of civilisations just for the sake of the clash in itself or a war just for the entertainment of people who want to see the world burn makes no sense.



Innovative infantry defence concepts

edit: It has come to my attention that several foreign readers have misunderstood this text. This is a text about theory, not about what was actual done. Some of the concepts were put into practice, others (the '75 to 90's ones) were not put into practice. Furthermore, there's no error in me writing about interlocking machine gun fires in 1915 when too few machineguns were available to do this everywhere. The concept was there, the equipment not yet.

A simple non-comprehensive list, meant for orientation if you want to look into the topic some more:

Innovative infantry defence concepts

(late 19th century till 1914 state of the art)
single shoulder-to-shoulder line in simple trench

interlocking machine gun fire with elaborate trenches, rifle fire is secondary

1916-1918 German elastic defence
forward trenches weak, if possible two better-manned rear trenches in up to several kilometres depth (out of range of most hostile field artillery)

elastic defence with weak VRV (FLOT), strong HKL (main line of resistance) at up to 10 km depth, some concerns about use of terrain and mines for AT purposes

Finnish motti tactics and first dominant use of ski troops in war

hedgehog defence (company strongpoints) on overstretched front-line (due to inability to man it in depth), if possible one continuous patrol trench at VRV (FLOT), dependence on indirect fire support for domination of gaps between strongpoints

early 1950's (1st West German Heer structure)
network of platoon strongpoints and squad or quasi fire team resistance nests in between

early 1960's (2nd West German Heer structure)
network of platoon strongpoints

1960's U.S. heliborne infantry
extreme mobility in permissive AD environment, allows for truly quick reaction forces to help troops in a crisis, but they were nothing special once on the ground
mid 1960's Austrian (later also German) Jagdkampf/Jagdkommandos
(similar terminology to offensive WW2 counter guerilla patrols, but different concept) reinforced infantry platoon-sized Jagdkommandos as forward, stay-behind or even infiltrated skirmishers
1968 till 1989 Austrian "Raumverteidigung" by infantry militia (Emil Spannocchi)
defence of key locations to slow down passage of invaders (very much related to Jagdkommandos)
(the Swiss were similar, but emphasised fortifications much more)

1975 "Non-battle" (Guy Brossolet)
infantry defends assigned areas, mechanised forces and attack helicopters as mobile reserves - the concept was meant to enable defence against superior mechanised Warsaw Pact forces
mid-1970's "Techno Kommandos" (Horst Afheld)
Small infantry platoons with high tech armament (supported by small squads with ATGMs or ManPADS) cover the entirety of the FRG as local defenders instead of a conventional army. Massively improved tooth:tail ratio compared to a mechanised army.
1980 guerilla-like Jäger (Franz Uhle-Wettler's concept)
Elusive infantry does not stubbornly hold terrain, but persists as a threat. Very little high tech, very cheap equipment. Largely meant to secure easily defended areas that mechanised forces cannot cover (woodland, settlements). High degree of autonomy, extreme tooth:tail ratio in favour of teeth.

1980's Simpkin's network of Uhle-Wettler's concept
expansion in depth of the concept in order to threaten entire regions (Uhle-Wettler was more concerned about how easily difficult terrain can be exploited for flanking movements in mobile warfare if not guarded, see Ardennes 1940)

1990's distributed operations
This concept of dispersed infantry small units morphed over time into a mere buzzword.

2004-today GWOT actual combat
Infantry small arms fires fix the enemy, non-organic supporting fires get tasked with destruction. Deliberate defences = fortified military camps (and platoon outposts) with protection against mortars and suicide bombers.

The trend was clearly towards more dispersion once artillery became to dominate the battlefield. Decisionmaking moved to platoon and squad level (battles as the sum of infantry platoon engagements).

Most concepts involved the incorporation of new technologies.

Most concepts included some mobile quick reaction/strike force or an emphasis on counterattacks (even if I didn't mention it here).


edit: There's a huge discussion on a translated, illustrated and commented version of this at
apparently. On Russian. I did not expect this.
An explanation to them: I wrote "quasi fire team" because there were no fire teams in the doctrine. There were merely fireteam-sized elements to be detached to those positions; a half or third of a squad.


Attack helicopter survivability

I do criticize the survivability of even gold-plated battlefield helicopters on a modern battlefield from time to time, and thus also their poor cost-efficiency.

What I consider relevant under this topic

Attack helicopters had simple origins ...
The title here is "Defence and freedom", and by "defence" I mean "defence", not "how to attack some country on a distant continent with few own casualties".
"defence" requires that the own nation or its defensive alliance are under attack. "under attack" means to me blockaded, bombarded or invaded by military or paramilitary forces.
Save for very, very few outright idiotic exceptions the only power that would possibly launch such an attack would be a power that has an idea for how to get away with it. How to "win", or in the case of a preventive war "how to lose less badly than by waiting to be attacked".
The bar is thus very high; only very capable military powers would attack a very capable alliance. Only powers which have nuclear munitions can dare to attack a nuclear-armed alliance.

The only possible attackers are thus powerful armed forces, backed by nuclear munitions. "Bothnians", a.k.a. Russians + Belorussians or at most Russians + PR Chinese + Belorussians fit the bill. No-one else does.

The threats

Russia has no perfect battlefield air defences, but they do almost certainly have the most powerful ones. The primary threat to a Western battlefield helicopter would be Russian fighters (MiG-29, Su-27 and derivatives) and the 2K22 Tunguska self-propelled (V)ShoRAD system.

The implausibly short published effective ceiling of Tunguska's missiles is almost certainly wrong in all but the most challenging scenarios, but I still don't have a good opinion of it because it's apparently radio command guided (though a beam riding guidance would be possible as well) and thus vulnerable to radio link jamming.

The 30 mm guns are more interesting; they can be considered to be very dangerous to any helicopter out to 3 or 4 km. No helicopter is armoured against this calibre and the combination of rate of fire, dispersion and helicopter's slowness makes hits very likely if the fire control got a proper lock on it.

Most man-portable air defence missiles appear to be mostly countered by infrared countermeasures. It's reasonable to expect that the most modern types of thermal seekers would be effective unless very elaborate IR countermeasures are employed, but the bigger challenge is another one anyway; such missiles are expensive, thus few - and helicopters that hover but a few metres above buildings or treelines could and would get away if engaged at any but rather short (under 2 km) distances with such missiles. Laser beamrider missiles are likely very effective against helicopters because very few countermeasures are effective against this guidance approach, but Russians and Chinese have no such ManPADS.

A substantial threat to helicopters are the low tech fully automatic and even bolt action weapons; machineguns, machinecannons, rifles. Overland powerlines are quite a threat, too.

Mines have been devised against helicopters as well. I remember a proposal for a barrage balloon "mine"; a balloon lifts up a kevlar cable and any helicopter flying into the cable would (supposedly) wind it up on its rotorhead and crash.
Here are some examples of anti.-helicopter mines, not all of them Russian or Chinese:
High survivability approaches
  • Battlefield helicopters are partially armoured. Armoured seats, armoured fuel lines and protected fuel tanks are common. Armoured windscreens are common on attack helicopters.
  • Some essential systems are redundant (the twin engine layout has become standard with battlefield helicopters, for example)
  • matte camouflage paints (sometimes with limited IR camo properties), flat windows to minimise glare
  • efforts to hide the hottest parts of the gas turbines from view of IR sensors, mixing of hot exhaust air with cool environmental air
  • The NOTAR system was never adopted for battlefield helicopters because it would be quickly rendered ineffective when perforated.
  • Rotor blades have (supposedly) been hardened enough to resist a 23 mm HEI hit.
  • infrared countermeasures have been employed
  • missile warners (UV and IR spectrum) have been employed
  • datalinks have been introduced so helicopter crews are more aware of threats
  • ManPADS have been carried by some helicopters as deterrent against other helicopters and maybe even fighters
  • laser scanners that provide collision warning regarding powerlines have been developed
Helicopters can often make a crash landing with all engines out (autorotation, crash protection seats), while very, very few battlefield helicopters have ejection seats.

The RAH-66 project was the most radical published project for helicopter survivability (we still don't know much about the spec ops helo that crashed in the UBL raid). The RAH-66 was meant to go beyond the then-typical IR stealth measures and it was an attempt to achieve a much-reduced radar cross section. It did not include the full suite of IR countermeasures (examples here), though. I never quite figured out the idea behind trying radar stealth in a helicopter, but maybe the low observability was expected to be much better and much more capable of delaying a lock-on by a Tunguska fire control radar than I thought. That would still leave the helicopter very vulnerable to horizon-scanning IR-based sensors, though.

... and they ended up in a gold plating dead end.*

What I think how an attack helicopter force could be optimised for survival in Eastern Europe

  • No use of emitting radar, not even millimetre wavelength radars
  • Mast-mounted infrared sensors capable of a quick horizon scan (panorama) with automatic detection of probable targets. This would allow a quick scan, with data being interpreted by machine and weapon systems operator while the pilot flies behind concealment and cover to a new vantage point.
  • Datalink (with AESA antennas) that allows for one helicopter to launch semi-active laser guided missiles, while another helicopter maintains the target designation after the launcher platform had to break contact. Same datalink would also allow sharing of target and threat info in general and triangulation of targets
  • Use of lock on after launch or at least very quick missiles against tanks.
  • A mast-mounted radar warning receiver with good direction finding
  • A data downlink (LINK 16) that informs the pilot about the air situation; any hostile fighters' location and movement within 300 km radius should be known to him. The air force wouldn't know about ALL such hostile fighters, of course.
  • VERY COMPREHENSIVE infrared countermeasures suite (DIRCM if possible)
  • 360° IR/UV missile approach warners that also warn about and categorise large muzzle flashes.
  • Radio command guidance and radio beam rider jamming.
  • Mast-mounted laser rangefinder/target designator should double as cable (powerline or tethered balloons) warning scanner.
  • Bulletproofing (level about as common today)
  • acoustic signature either minimised with Fenestron and blue edge rotor blades or mimicking lower value and lower threat helicopters (common utility helicopters) by using the same main rotor, tail rotor and engines
  • radar jammer module (optimised against Tunguska search radar to delay a lock-on and offer more safe time in line of sight)
  • access to aerial drone feeds that show the location of battlefield air defences and if possible the direction that Tunguska turrets are facing
  • laser warning receiver with direction finding (against laser rangefinders, laser target designators and laser beamriders that are already pointed at the helicopter)
  • sound sensors to detect (and possibly identify) hostile helicopters without line of sight (infrasound), also to detect and categorise gunfires
  • possibly large stub wings to increase the top speed (ability to avoid hostile helicopters)
Tactics and freedom of action

Such attack helicopters (all this effort would in no way be justified for utility helicopters) would hide on the ground (motionless, ideally with covers thrown over the turbines to hide the IR signature) whenever hostile fighters come too close (and too close is nowadays 100 km or so).

The threat of dedicated battlefield air defences would be minimised by avoiding line of sight most of the time. An attack helicopter would operate like an early Cold War submariner who rarely pierced the waves with a periscope, and only did so for a short duration. The helicopter would hide most of the time, change locations often and limit the time of LOS exposure to a few seconds that intelligence and operational research found to be safe enough.
Fire & forget infrared missiles that cannot be defeated by simple means would be defeated by concealing the helicopter behind an entire wall of flares and their smoke and thus breaking the lock-on.

The threat of improvised battlefield air defences (rifles up to IFV autocannons) would be minimised by staying at 2+ km horizontal distance, and preferably hovering above and amidst friendly ground forces. This in combination with ground-launched lock on after launch (and man in the loop) missiles and aerial drones means the gold-plated helicopter I'm writing about would be a substitute for two 3 ton lorries with rather cheap missiles and rather cheap aerial drones.

Only at night - when much less low end threats can see the helicopter - could attacks without protection by friendly ground forces be dared at moderate risk. Again, it would need to stay in placed where few threats can reach it. One example would be to hover over a large lake.

Stragglers, infiltrators and airborne forces that had landed days ago (and thus ran out of batteries) could be engaged from above, particularly if there is a suitable look-down chin IIR/+LRF sensor ball and an autocannon that can engage targets below (more like AH-64's gun than AH-1's, Tigre's or RAH-66's guns).

The threat of hostile attack helicopters would be countered by early (acoustic) warning and either withdrawal, luring the threat helicopter into an air defence trap or ambushing the threat helicopter with missiles and gun.

Some more problems**

There is extremely little that could be done for such a helicopter's survival if hostile land forces launched lock-on after launch missiles such as MICA VL with a good firing solution. The Russians do not appear to have such missiles in use as ShoRAD, but they are perfectly capable of developing and fielding such missiles within a few years.

Furthermore, battlefield helicopters require airspace deconfliction with high angle fires and drones in the area under current Western doctrines and regulations.They might get hit by friendly artillery otherwise, while observing deconfliction rules impedes their mobility.

And that's why I don't think that more than a handful attack helicopters make sense for alliance defence. The first few dozen force an aggressor to spend much more on battlefield air defences that are suitable against attack helicopters. Any more attack helicopters NEED gold plating to survive at least when used with great caution. The damage they can do to intact hostile peer forces is small compared to the damage they do to the funding of friendly non-battlefield helicopter forces. Moreover, we have substitutes by now.



*: I know it was supposed to be a scout and attack helicopter, but let's be honest; its base model would have had inferior sensor abilities to an updated Apache with Longbow radar and  the Comanche's firepower would have been on par with Cobra or Mangusta firepower. It was a light attack helicopter with low observability ambitions. A tempting, yet most gold-plated military helicopter ever.
**: There are more problems; fuel logistics, operating expenses et cetera, but this time I focused on survivability with some remarks on how this impairs lethality.