Russian manipulations


You're NOT a patriot if you get duped by agitators (or even foreign agents) to hate fellow citizens, period.

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[German] https://www.buzzfeed.com/de/karstenschmehl/falschmeldungen-facebook-2018-fakes-luegen-fake-news

Schon im Kalten Krieg hat man den damals sowjetischen Bemühungen zur Unterwanderung und Spaltung des Westens viel Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt. Die Annahmen, was die 'Russen' da alles bewirken könnten, waren teils schon sehr wundersam bzw. schwachsinnig. Als ob Studenten, hippies und Punks im Falle einer Krise zu Waffen greifen und Aufstände durchführen würden.
Real gelang dem KGB und der Stasi damals eher eine spionierende Infiltration, und eine recht subtile Infiltration einiger Parteien. Strauss' unerklärlicher Milliardenkredit an die DDR gehörte vielleicht zu den wichtigsten Erfolgen (aber da ist bis heute unklar, wieso der zustande kam, vielleicht war die Stasi dabei nicht mal relevant).

Die Russen scheinen erst so richtig Fahrt aufgenommen zu haben mit ihrer Unterwanderung und Spaltung, als sie aufhörten, Personenkreise wie Ingenieure, Offiziere, Politiker und Medien als Hauptziele zu betrachten und sich stattdessen darauf verlagerten, die dümmsten und leichtgläubigsten Menschen zu beeinflussen. Zudem scheinen maßgeschneiderte Botschaften viel besser zu funktionieren als primitive pseudomarxistische Ideologie und Erpressung.

Jahrelang verblieb ich bei den alten Ansichten, dass die 'Russen' in ihren subversiven Aktivitäten weitgehend ineffektiv sind, weil Routinegegenmaßnahmen die im Zaume halten und man ja wohl nur schwer so blöd sein kann, darauf reinzufallen.
Inzwischen geschieht mit mir das, was die Senioren schon immer gesagt haben; mit fortschreitendem Alter wird die Meinung über die Menschheit immer weniger rosig. Man bemerkt einfach zu viele Schwachköpfe und traut der Menschheit immer weniger zu. Dementsprechend schätze ich die Widerstandskraft gegenüber der Russenpropaganda heute auch deutlich niedriger ein als noch vor 2-3 Jahren.

Es ist einfach enttäuschend, wieviele Menschen in unserem Lande wenig wissen, wenig auf Plausibilität prüfen, viel glauben und insgesamt weitab vom wissenschaftlichen Ideal des vernunft- und beweisbasierten Strebens nach Wissen sind. Und vor allem; wieviele Menschen offenbar ein psychologisches Bedürfnis nach Feindbildern haben.


edit same day:

Comments are set to obligatory moderation, and moderating/unlocking may cause days of delay because of the Christmas time.


Christmas movie and versatility vs. specialisation

It was difficult to keep up with the weekly schedule after I discarded some unsatisfactory texts, thus I present you my favourite Christmas movie to beef this blog post up:

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A comment recently pointed out that my stance on warships (in favour of multi-role) differs from my stance on IFVs (criticising multi-role).
There were entire blogs and book author careers dedicated to apply one and the same idea over and over again to many different topics. I remember a mil blog where the author obsessed about "small and lightweight" in all military topics, for example.

I try to avoid this approach of setting up an ideological template and then to squeeze the whole world through this one template. I've been wary of those people in my own professional life who came to meetings with lots of general experiences and then just assumed that they know experience-based answers to problems without thinking about (or even only knowing) the specific case. They were blundering most of the time (and usually nobody called them out because they tended to be superiors in the hierarchy, or powerful/influential in some other way). Those people are usually utterly unaware of how much nonsense they spout, how much they waste everyone's time and how much damage they do.

Here's an example of how very different answers can be from one and the same person on seemingly almost the same subject:

Armoured fighting vehicles should in my opinion be rather specialised (combat, transportation, indirect fire support, standoff electronic warfare et cetera) when they're meant for use in a formation (battalion battlegroup, for example). This is where they can complement and support each other. A jack of all trades armoured fighting vehicle would be extremely expensive, extremely heavy (70+ tons) and most of its capabilities would be ineffective most of the time.

Meanwhile, the picture is completely different when we look at armoured reconnaissance, skirmishing, raiding on land (LRDG-style). These activities would be done with small units (2...4 vehicles) as manoeuvre elements, and these manoeuvre elements  might be separated by distances that make close cooperation of more than two such small units unlikely. The use of specialised vehicles causes a lack of capability (or at the very least lack of redundancy, and thus robustness) in such a case. Such small units' vehicles should have versatility prioritised over some other qualities, such as protection or ambition (air defence could be very short range instead of area air defence, for example).

I try to not be a template zealot who forces one way on all things. The extremism of pursuing such a template approach or of following an outright ideology is inconsistent with the lessons of (military) history. History shows the success and superiority of varied, tailored approaches, and the optimum changes as available technology and environment changes over time.


Comments are set to obligatory moderation, and moderating/unlocking may cause days of delay because of the Christmas time. 


Chinese efforts in Africa

I'm steadily amazed by how much attention the Chinese get for their efforts in Africa, and by how important they are perceived to be in Africa itself.

Here are some figures about their actual efforts:
"China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy, and Xi’s offer of more money comes after a pledge of another $60 billion at the previous summit in South Africa three years ago. Xi, addressing leaders at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, said the new $60 billion will include $15 billion of aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, a credit line of $20 billion, a $10 billion special fund for China-Africa development, and a $5 billion special fund for imports from Africa. Chinese companies will be encouraged to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent in the next three years, he said. (...) China loaned around $125 billion to the continent from 2000 to 2016, data from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies shows."

USD  170 billion over the course of at least 20 years.* Less than USD 9 billion per year. The German annual foreign aid budget is a little higher, and it's much more aid, not mostly lending.

Population density in Africa c. 2000
(c) The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

The difference may be a difference in perception (established aid streams being perceived as self-evident background noise), a difference in style (such as lots more high profile investments done with Chinese money, for example) or it's Western hysteria.

I suspect it's a combination of all three, and the stark difference to German foreign aid appears to be that German foreign aid is actually mostly foreign aid, while the Chinese are rather investing in economic and political relationships. They may do it with access to natural resources in mind, but it's safe to say that this isn't the only motivation.

Africa needs huge investments in infrastructure and education. The old colonial era transportation infrastructure was designed for export (such as rail lines to ports, but not parallel to coasts) and poorly suited for intra-African trade. It's also crumbling or has done so in many places. 

Maybe the largely basic needs-oriented German foreign aid style is not all that smart after all. A decade of projects to educate and assist farmers in some places falls well short of the effect that a Western African rail line a few hundred km inland and parallel to the coast, reaching from Dakar to Kano would have. A similar East African North-South railroad could boost intra-African trade and commerce as well.**

Maybe we Europeans should invest more in North Africa (could supply much solar power, but shouldn't supply more than ~20% of Europe's electrical power needs) and Atlantic Black Africa (railroads, durable paved highways). Such investments don't need to displace traditional foreign aid, and they don't need to be terribly selfish grand strategy policymaking either. It would certainly be within reach with our resources and the benefits*** to us could very well exceed the costs. The very low interest rates signal that there are too few opportunities for (private) investment in Europe itself - it may make sense to open up investment opportunities in Africa. Who knows - maybe Africa could even grab much manufacturing that would otherwise happen in South, Southeast or East Asia?

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Now what would be the relevance regarding defence and freedom?
I suppose it could bring us into conflict with China (though a hot conflict is extremely unlikely), but it could also thwart Chinese efforts to gain footholds in the South Atlantic. The Africans will be wary of loaning military bases to Europeans (except that France maintains a few old ones), and maybe we could -with more political influence and better relations- convince them to refuse Chinese military interests in Atlantic Black Africa.


*: Chinese companies also appear to get contracts for large construction projects that aren't being financed with Chinese money. The Chinese construction companies have cheaper engineers, bring their own workforce (very few people hired locally), and usually deliver the product on budget and on schedule. Such projects are of economic importance, but not really relevant to grand strategy.
**: We've wasted money on Greece's stupid little Cold War with Turkey and on Greek pensions and subsidies instead. 
***: These are difficult to calculate in advance, especially so in the case of non-toll highways.


Internet and opinions

I did comment again on a certain navy-themed blog and took another screenshot right away because I was sure the comment would be deleted - and not for lack of civility. I don't think my typo was to blame, either. (The first comment and right column are not context, they just indicate where I found this):

The quotes are real, not made up - and they're from one and the same blog post.

First, credit where credit is due: He's way above average Americans in actually acknowledging that European conventional military power is far from having trouble with wet paper bags.

Next, about the all-too common problem in there: The recitation of sentiments and prejudices instead of a pursuit of coherence or a show of any actual chain of reasoning. That's ordinary.
He doesn't deserve to be singled out for this content - I do it only because he provides such an easy example (he does often provide really obvious inconsistencies with his half-baked reasoning).

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Agreement or disagreement is rarely correlated with whether logical, well-informed reasoning comes to the same conclusion or not. My life experience indicates there are rather two very different reasons for when people have a high or poor opinion of a statement:
  1. Is the person who issued the statement powerful/influential or not? (Powerful or influential people get away with most blundering unless they have equivalent enemies.)
  2. Do you agree with the statement? The statement must be incorrect if you disagree!
The anonymity of the internet usually removes power from the equation, thus these translations are good rules of thumb in most of the internet:

"Your opinion is crap" actually means "I disagree"
"Your opinion is fine" actually means "I agree with you"

The application of feelings and prejudices on issues appears to dominate almost every time even when the author strives to establish and maintain an aura of logical reasoning. The public discussion of topics such as defence policy suffers a lot from this rampant inability to reason and the widespread preference for sticking to pre-existing preferences during a discussion or while reading an article.

You may now very well go ahead and think that these observations apply to me as well. I would probably be the last to notice.


BTW, he actually explained why he deleted the comment, in a comment of his own. He claimed a personal attack. The (quote-supported) remark "incomplete reasoning that's devoid of logic" was apparently counted as a personal attack?!? That's quite some safe space expectation there.
He also claimed he never deletes a comment only because it's in disagreement. Well, I documented such a case, so I call that a lie. Of course, he can lie there at will - it's his own place, after all.
Maybe you wonder why I picked this fight. He strikes me as a stark example of fake-rational commenting on military affairs, that's why. There's a pretension of being facts-driven, of elevating the debate, of reasoning towards conclusions - but the conclusions are nothing but simple thoughts driven by sentiments. A few facts are the mere decoration that's added to the sentiment, which gets presented as 'conclusion'. The reaction to those who call this out is arbitrary and driven by denial about the criticism's substance. I ignored some such blogs in the past, but those didn't have that many readers and I preferred to let them languish in obscurity.


Link drop Dec 2018


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I noticed this very late, but now I applaud them for doing the right thing.
It's important to have the bridge engineers in place to bridge Oder and/or Vistula if the need arises - and it's even more important than Russian military HQs understand this capability. It's important for deterrence.
I would have called on the German army to double its pontoon bridge capabilities if the British had really withdrawn theirs and moved it past the channel, where they'd be of marginal utility by comparison. The bridges across Oder and Vistula rivers can be destroyed in the first minutes of conflict, and reinforcements from Germany, France or the UK would be delayed if no pontoon bridges are in place early on. Such pontoon bridging engineers are in my opinion of greater importance for European deterrence against Russia than all F-22s combined.

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155 mm  Brutus would be a step up for airborne, infantry and Stryker brigades, but still fall short of being a high quality SPG (self-propelled gun) due to its lack of fragmentation and bullet proofing, little if any onboard munitions and using a 39cal barrel instead of a more modern (better range) 52cal barrel (the propellant chamber may be small as well). Still, it might make these brigades' artillery relevant for warfare against 1st and 2nd rate opposition.
105 mm Hawkeye (which isn't new; I wrote about it repeatedly) could meanwhile provide a mostly superior alternative to 120 mm mortars for conventional warfare (with mortars retained as secondary ordnance for outpost duties), or become the sole indirect fire asset of airborne brigades.
I don't expect them to do either, though: The U.S. Army has many programs, and does rarely actually solve major equipment issues. They have a habit of failing to introduce all-new assault rifles, MBTs, IFVs and attack helicopters. Their 1970's/early 1980's generation of such equipment was troubled with shortcomings, still hyped, and soldiers on because all replacement programs were cancelled. Only the USMC is even worse, they failed in their attempts to replace their amphibious APCs since the early 1970's.
Americans can do semi-satisfactory upgrade programs (up to replacing all original parts, as in M109A7), but they cannot manage all-new major combat system programs.

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0:02...1:24 - both answers were very good, and I'd like to add that they were terribly underrated. They should have worked on the latter point a bit more.
The press has a pro-establishment bias in many if not most Western countries because working as a relay for those in power (and commentator of what they said and did) is much easier, much quicker and much less work than to delve into issues, interview actual experts (not universal know-nothings a.k.a. pundits and 'leading' politicians) and assemble a thorough picture of an issue, complete with descriptions how analogue issues were addressed and possibly improved or solved in other countries.

I have great disdain for 'breaking news' reporting. We would be better off if all reporting followed a weekly schedule. Anything quicker than that should either be a super-urgent warning ("Tsunami incoming!"-style) or news about impending or actual start of war.

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They can agree it's in the four digits range, and thus unprecedented.
The irony is that the followers think that the rest of the world is lying to them.

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[Blog] I will have pre-scheduled blog posts on 22 and 29 December and may set the comments back on mandatory moderation to keep that extremely determined Mumbai escort marketing bot out.



Fixed and variable costs

Fixed and variable costs are concepts that every economist knows very well, and over time I found them to be extremely useful tools for thinking about many things.

It goes like this:
You buy a machine that costs 1 Million €. Now you produce items that cost 1 € each to make.
Let's assume you buy that machine and produce exactly one item, then you forget about the machine. Your total costs of producing that one item was 1,000,001 €. 1 Million € fixed costs and 1 € variable costs.
Let's now assume you did not stop producing after one item; you produce a million items instead. Your total costs was 2,000,000 €. 1 million € fixed costs and 1 million € variable costs. The costs were thus two € per piece; 1 € fixed costs and 1 € variable costs per item.
The variable costs depend on the quantity, while the fixed costs are what costs you have to be able to produce any quantity at all.*

Fixed costs are often sunk costs, too; they incur anyway, regardless of whether you produce anything. A factory may consider the costs of the building as fixed costs in its production, but the building was probably built last year regardless of whether you continue to produce in it or not. Sunk costs should never influence decision-making, period.

These actually very simple concepts are very powerful mental tools. I've observed people having very confused thoughts about issues where resources allocation was of great importance. They lacked the economist's tools to make sense. Economic decisions driven by 'feelings' alone are all-too often poor decisions.

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The fixed costs issue is pervading almost everything. Development costs and start of production costs are fixed, per copy costs are variable costs of a hardware program, for example.

One can also use the concept and transfer it. An interesting example in the military realm is about warships:

A warship needs a minimal crew for navigating and keeping it running. That's the fixed effort required for running a ship, regardless of what it's being used for.

The employment as a warship (excluding quite incapable patrol vessels) requires additional fixed effort, regardless of what specifically it's supposed to do: Extra communications gear, at least a multifunction radar, ESM, ECM, shock proofing, silencing, command centre, at least short range air defences, at least a 57 mm gun, at least basic anti-submarine hardware, propulsion power for higher speeds  - and the crew to make use of all this in at least a two-watch system.

HNLMS Tromp, a classic SARH missiles-armed AAW frigate
with obvious special AAW equipment ((c)Quistnix)
Why is this important? Let me show a hypothetical calculation:

Let's say the necessary basic equipment costs 100 coins.
The equipment needed to improve the ship to a dedicated air defence ship costs 50 units.
The equipment needed to improve the ship to a dedicated anti-submarine ship costs 50 units as well.

There are people arguing in favour of specialised ships. Let's look at that:

1 AAW ship costing 150 coins.
1 ASW ship costing 150 coins.
Meanwhile, one could have 1 general purpose (GP, AAW and ASW combined) ship for 200 coins with the same effectiveness in one package.** That's 1/3 less purchasing costs and even greater operating costs savings.

Now one could say all eggs in one basket is no good idea.

Well, let's look at a fleet of baskets to check this out:
We afford 10 AAW ships + 10 ASW ships OR 15 GP ships (purchasing costs each 3,000 coins).
The GP ships are 50% more capable. What do we have after 4 ships were lost in combat?

6 AAW + 10 ASW or 10 AAW + 6 ASW as extremely unfortunate scenarios, or evenly distributed attrition with 8 AAW + 8 ASW left. Meanwhile, the GP fleet is down from 15 to 11.
The GP fleet is still at least 37.5% more capable!

Let's say there are catastrophic losses; 10 ships sunk.
5 AAW + 5 ASW left. As are 5 GP ships. This is break even; GP ships and specialised ships have equal capability - but this requires 67.7% losses among the GP units! Instead, 10 ASW or 10 AAW ships could have been sunk, eliminating the ASW or AAW capability of the fleet. So why not think about the specialised approach as having the eggs in too many baskets?

"All eggs in one basket" was an irrational fear regarding GP warships in this hypothetical example. Feelings are a poor guide in resource allocation decisions.

HNLMS Kortenaer, a contemporary ASW frigate of the same navy
I write about this warship example because a warship is awfully expensive even if it has only basic equipment for self-defence against aerial threats including modern missiles, basic gun armament, mine avoidance sonar, SatCom, ESM (radar warning receivers, passive radio direction finders), seaworthiness, good endurance, crew quarters, redundant propulsion for well over 20 kts, helipad with related equipment, shock hardening, fire protection, boats and equipment for their recovery and so on. The huge basic ('fixed') cost leads to rather useless corvettes (which cannot afford much more than self defence***) and supports the case for GP warships over ASW or AAW warships.

The correct choice between specialised warships and general purpose warships isn't about personal preferences, or necessarily much about tactics. The correct decision-making method has to be dominated by the question how much of the costs is fixed for a basic, non-specialised and largely incapable warship capable of self-defence only. A resource allocation question should be answered with help of the appropriate economic tools.

Furthermore, the smaller the "extra" costs for either AAW or ASW capability become, the more likely is a GP ship the correct choice.****


(Some readers may have noticed that I deviated from the purely economic idea of fixed and variable costs, and transferred the concept to a different application. The analogy of "base+specialisation costs" is based on largely the same idea as the fixed+variable costs. The transfer of ideas to analogies is often useful - physics for example uses almost identical formula to describe a plethora of different waves. That's a tertiary point of the blog post; once you become educated with certain tools, you can be expected to make use of them, even transfer them to other areas.)

*: Not a textbook-grade definition.
**: Assuming no need for a larger hull and what higher order costs that causes. This simplifies the text. The moral of the story doesn't change if you assume 220 instead of 200 coins.
***: Hence they don't approach frigates in capability in anything but ship-to-ship missiles. Those can also be had even even much smaller (approx 1/10th the displacement of corvettes) fast attack craft. Corvettes are never high quality ASW or AAW ships. Corvettes are little but targets in a high end war.
****: This is why I wrote in the warship series in favour of GP warships (if warships at all). AAW better include AEW, and once you include (survivable) AEW you can largely do away with the expensive giant ship radars. The rise of surface to air missiles that need no illuminator radars eliminated their costs from the 'AAW extra expenses' list. An ASW ship can be an AAW ship simply by adding a console and a little more than a dozen VLS cells (which can even be retrofitted on superstructures!). The extra expenses for AAW capability (area air defence) have become tiny, so (near) future warships (escorts) should be GP warships.


"6th generation" fighters

The Brits and the French have shown their mockups for 6th gen fighters.

I never understood why the Americans didn't use a delta wing without any separate tail fins (fully tailless). It's the bare bones configuration, without any stabilisers that function as reflectors.
Nor did I understand why the F-35 was built as a single engine aircraft (though is suspect it's one of the drawbacks caused by the STOVL version). Two engine aircraft have multiple advantages, including the ability to control roll with thrust vectoring. The F-35 was never realistically going into the low (cost) end, a niche that's now reserved for the Gripen (NG) in the West.

I myself think a completely tailless design is the obvious choice from an aerodynamic and radar stealth point of view. Two engines and a limitation to an exportable size and price (rather a F/A-18E/F equivalent than a F-22 equivalent) seem obvious things to go for as well.

The really important things that I expect in "6th gen" combat aircraft are different, though:

(1) DIRCM, likely in dorsal and ventral position and likely retractable. 
Directional infrared countermeasures (lasers) that dazzle the IR sensors of incoming short and medium range missiles are very effective given enough output power and accuracy and could ruin IR-guided missiles' probability of hit. Radar-guided missiles can be messed with by many means, but smart IR-guided missiles are very difficult to defeat, as they reject decoys quite well and can even re-engage after missing.
The upper (dorsal) DIRCM 'turret' may also serve as satellite communication emitter, and both DIRCM turrets may serve as laser communication emitters for datalinks between friendly aircraft. The DIRCM may even be used as first choice IFF (identification friend or foe) interrogator (with normal radio interrogation as backup if there's no positive reply).
The lower (ventral) DIRCM 'turret' might be used to sweep the ground in search of skyward-looking optics (detecting them by characteristic reflections), which might make sense if the approximate origin of hostile surface-to-air missiles is known. The ventral DIRCM might also double as laser target designator. Overall, compact DIRCM in (strike) fighters may be one of the two new big things in air warfare.

The Russian 101KS-O DIRCM ...
... and points of installation (behind & below cockpit).

(2) Rear-looking smartly devised AESA radar
'Stealth' aircraft, ground-based standoff jammers, long range SAMs and long-range air-to-air missiles make the life of AEW&C aircraft such as the famous AWACS miserable and short in wartime. Our combat aircraft would not be able to lean much on AEW support, and certainly not when over hostile ground. 
Fighters should thus better have a good all-round situational awareness without AEW support. Passive sensors such as DAS are limited in effective range due to their resolution, and datalinking to enable multiple aircraft to join their radar data is very imperfect. You'd still need to have some allied fighter to look to the rear, and that quite impractical much of the time, particularly on strike missions over hostile ground.

The simple technical answer is to have 360° radar field of view with onboard radars. This sounds extremely expensive because high performance AESA radars such as APG-77 have only a field of view of about 110...120° because the antenna is fixed. That's too primitive. An angled AESA antenna (say, angled by 40°) that can be rotated 360° can turn a 100° field of view AESA antenna into a 40°+100°+40°=180° field of view AESA antenna (just not all 180° in a fraction of a second).* It's also possible to combine typical 1980's mechanical antenna steering with active electronic steering as for the European CAPTOR-E radar antenna. The latter approach fits better to non-rotation-symmetric radomes and antennas (those with far from circular shape)

Such a hemispherical field of view is half of a spherical field of view, so you can achieve the latter by adding a second (tail) radar. That's why having two engines (thus having space for an antenna radome behind and in between the nozzles) makes even more sense than we're used to.

Such a pair of radars with lots of quite automated modes (including jamming in their frequency ranges) would address many tactical challenges. The rear radar wouldn't even need to be as big as the front antenna; a quarter of the antenna modules (and thus sectional area) yields about a third of the range. That should be enough for most purposes.

Such 360° RF coverage could double as quite directional RF datalink emitters and receivers. It could also detect incoming low signature missiles in time for ECM or DIRCM efforts.

An important purpose of a rear radar would be the tracking of already detected aircraft (which requires somewhat less power than detecting). The rear radar could on its own track a target that a missile has been launched at, upload target info updates to the missile - all while the fighter itself is running away at supersonic speed.

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The disconcerting thing is that the Russians thought of ventral and dorsal DIRCM in their Su-57, and were pioneers regarding modern (strike) fighters with tail radar in the Su-34/-35 series. The Su-57 features a tail radar as well.

Another disconcerting thing is that the Franco-German concept for a new fighter shows off neither DIRCM nor a tail radar in its admittedly very basic published model:

Avionics have been huge drivers of combat capabilities in modern combat aircraft, and also huge drivers of their price.** I suppose it's important to reserve the volume, power supply capacity, cooling (or heat sink) capacity and surfaces for key avionics in future combat aircraft. An aircraft without such reserves could be uncompetitive by the time it becomes operational, quite as non-'stealth' aircraft cannot really be upgraded into 'stealth' aircraft.

Though there is one thing to remember; no matter how sophisticated fighter avionics become, such fighters will be irrelevant against small near-ground drones. A post-2025 high end "air war" might be de facto split into a mixed on-ground and near-ground drone war, conventional air war, ballistic missiles (defence) and and space war. We shouldn't focus resources on the conventional air war domain that we got used to.


*: This is an analogy to the smart use of rotating AESA antennas on modern warships. Some warships use a single AESA antenna or a two-sided rotating AESA antenna high up instead of using much bigger, heavier, larger and more expensive fixed AESA antennas. That's more economical and due to the higher vantage point it even pushes the radio horizon farther out despite lesser power.
**: Turbofans are obscenely expensive as well.


NATO's boundaries

I suppose all readers have noticed that some (U.S.) Americans complain about NATO not being of use, just a drag.
Well, much of the costs of the U.S. military in Europe actually stem from either learning from exercises or from supporting stupid small wars using infrastructure in Europe.
The current gentleman's agreement appears to be a give-and-take that Europeans provide bases for U.S. politicians' military adventure games and the U.S. remains in turn involved in deterrence and defence for Europe(an NATO).*

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Hawaii became a U.S. state in 1959, a decade after the original North Atlantic Treaty. It's not covered under the treaty.** The PR China could nuke Honolulu and the U.S.' NATO allies would not be obliged to do anything against the PRC under the North Atlantic Treaty.
Americans should maybe recognise that the alliance with European protects the continental United States; the Chinese may nuke Guam and launch missiles at Hawaii, but they surely wouldn't want to pull UK, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Norway and Germany into a hot conflict against them. Low information Americans may disrespect the military of those nations, but their combined air and sea power is easily large enough to be undesirable for Chinese war planners and strategymakers.
So right now NATO is a factor that (likely) has a limiting effect on how a Sino-American 21st century war would look like. The treaty might make such a hot conflict a lot less messy by being restricted geographically.

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Still, Americans may at some point wish to renegotiate the geographical limitations of NATO out of greed and obliviousness about the aforementioned effect. This could happen in the context of another accession treaty, that is when some country wants to join (Bosnia? Serbia? Finland? Ukraine?).

Europeans who do professionally think about the alliance or foreign policy strategy should be prepared for this, and make up their mind in time.
  1. Would we want to allow the Americans to drag us into a stupid Pacific (Cold) War?***
  2. How important is it to us to get some more country or countries into the boat?
  3. How important is the probable limiting effect that NATO has on a possible stupid Pacific War to us?
  4. Would we want to spend the extra resources on preparing for an air/sea war with extremely long logistics lines?
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Personally, I'd reject such an expansion of coverage.


*: I still suppose the biggest utility of NATO is that it kept the U.S. and EU from becoming antagonists over the many diverging interests and opinions, of course. The Europeans don't need the actually small American contributions to their deterrence and defence against Russia; most of the U.S. armed forces are irrelevant for Europe anyway, and almost all of the others would only come into effect long after a Russia could have overrun three European NATO members and possibly defeated the forces of a third one.
**: The original article 5 of the treaty was modified by the accession protocol for Greece and Turkey (in article 2) and still includes no Pacific islands.
***: Keeping in mind how needlessly aggressive and reckless their own behaviour is. Germany ought to have learned its lesson from standing by the side of an aggressive and reckless Austria-Hungary in 1914.


Link drop November 2018



This means nothing unless they get rid of the deconfliction requirement in between, though the potential consequences are huge. There's nothing keeping us from doing the same with modestly upgraded 1970's strike fighters, of course. The technology is not the inhibitor; the inhibitor is whether you want to give the FAC the command authority (not just ability to request) over artillery assets.


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-> Maritime transport -> World merchant fleet -> Ships built ...
Sort this table by gross tonnage built. It reveals a picture of what nations are shipbuilding nations and which basically revel in memories about shipbuilding. Think about this with a hypothetical Pacific arms race in mind. I suppose it would be about as fair as this race:

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It's war porn, alright. The impact pattern is also a clear reminder about how indirect fire support tends to have a greater dispersion in range than to the left and right.
The "MLRS" in the video is nonsense. "MLRS" is a specific and different type of "MRL" (multiple rocket launcher). "ISIS" is likely nonsense as well. ISIS territory did not extend to the vicinity of Latakia. The targets were much more likely FSA troops if the "Latakia" reference is at least approximately correct.

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I mentioned earlier that the USN is a land attack navy that only pretends to protect maritime trade. Now they make it public knowledge that they wouldn't even only secure their nation's military sealift ships.

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 WTF does Mauritania need a LST for? To order such a ship is insanely inane corruption. They could have been corrupt about orders for new railway equipment instead. That would at least have offered some actual benefits to the country.

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(At the time of this writing it's still unclear whether four or up to 22 F-22 were left behind.)

Look how flimsy the hangars were constructed in a hurricane-threatened area, especially relative to hardened aircraft shelters.

That's what happens when an armed service pays most attention to shiny prestige objects and it's also what happens if there's a hollow force syndrome; expenditures are allocated to maintain or expand what the leaders like the most (especially quality and quantity of platforms) instead of doing an all-round optimisation.

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A critique on "CNO" @ Navy Matters blog:

(you can disregard the comment in the middle, and please graciously ignore the typos, too)
 is not okay if the blog post says this

(He did indeed delete the first comment about that conflict and he deleted that above-documented (slightly typo-ridden) comment as well.)

That's contrarian argumentation for the sake of defending one's position, damn the facts. On top of that there's some unprovoked arrogant insult involved.
I've encountered such behaviour a couple times and it always makes me wonder whether my at times a bit combative approach to pushing back against some comments takes similar wrong turns at times. I don't remember doing anything equivalent to deleting a comment that points out a 100% 180° conflict between a post and a comment of mine.
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hated it

still do

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I was already wondering if and when they would try to lease Rabaul. This one is close.

What's next? Palau? It has an international airport with a 7,200 ft runway.

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Can you imagine that a song like this could be created nowadays? It feels as if the very sentiment is at odds with the Zeitgeist today. The same country has 'shithole' insults on Twitter instead, in addition to the Zamunda fantasies that were already known in the (later) 80's.

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They can now dive, too. We're lost. ;-)

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Funny side note; more than 11 years of mil blogging, and just a few days after Canada legalised marijuana some company offered me to send me a free leather gun holster for review. It was the first unsolicited hardware review offer. Hmmm....

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INF - I don't hold back this time

The Able Archer 83 exercise freaked out the Soviets. They seriously feared that NATO was intent on attacking the Warsaw Pact. The West did not expect this, and was slow to understand it. Eventually, U.S. president Reagan was briefed on how seriously scared the Soviets were, and how close this episode had brought the world to World War 3 and the ruin of civilizations. It was one of the three or four scariest and most dangerous moments during the Cold War.
Then Reagan's best characteristic kicked in; he learned the lesson and turned from a Cold Warrior with aggressive rhetoric into someone who had arms control (and partial disarmament) treaties negotiated and eventually signed them as well.*

Land-based missiles between 500 km and 5,500 km have thus been banned between Russia and the U.S. through the INF treaty in 1987. The European countries did not circumvent this, and so land-based missiles of such ranges are effectively non-existent in both NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries.

A 3,500 km missile can cover practically all of Europe and the Mid East from Russian territory.

3,500 km radius

The by now ancient Polaris SLBM had a length of less than 10 m in stored configuration and much more than 3,500 km range. Missiles of this kind could be transported and launched from 40 ft, 45 ft and 53 ft ISO containers. The missile could carry one heavy warhead or three warheads sufficient for hardened aircraft shelters (akin to SDB).
The cost per missile + launch container might be around € 2...3 million, including a conventional warhead capable of penetrating 2.5 m reinforced concrete (enough against many if not most hardened aircraft shelters) before explosion, and alternative proximity fuse for above-ground explosion.

500 such missiles would cost maybe EUR 2...4 billion including the missile and payload development.

Now what could Russia do with such a relatively cheap arsenal?

without such complications as chartering container ships - straight out of legitimate military bases.

The military, deterrence and defence world as we know it isn't all about nature's laws. It's a product of path dependency. An important part of this path is that MRBMs and IRBMs were practically outlawed in the 1st and 2nd world just prior to PGMs becoming utterly commonplace. 

The threat of a precision-guided medium range quasi-ballistic missile alpha strike to air power has a historical parallel; Maxim machineguns vs. sabre-wielding cavalry. The only way to survive this is to not be in sight. To get rid of the MRBM/IRBM ban equals uprooting the security architecture of an entire continent.

The lying moron tramples on this pillar of European security**

He's proven himself to be the security threat number one to all of the EU and European NATO.
He's almost certainly a Russian asset. He's certainly earning Guinness World Records for inanity, idiocy, ignorance and dumbassery in the by now extremely unlikely case that he's no Russian asset.


*: There were other examples of where he reversed course, for example after the Beirut barracks bombing and in regard to tax cuts. Republicans post-Clinton pretend to revere Reagan, but they refuse to follow his example.
**: For absolutely no gain fucking whatsoever. Even IF the Russians HAD some treaty-violating cruise missiles - so what?  Cruise missiles take hours to arrive at long distances, we could prepare and defend against that. What shackles have the U.S. thrown off by leaving the treaty through chapter XIV? NONE WHATSOEVER. The inefficient and sluggish Pentagon bureaucracy won't even have such missiles ready for at least a decade, unless they want to park naval cruise missile launchers onshore. Which would be idiotic, considering that they could simply store naval missiles in some old ship hulk for the very same practically non-existing benefits. There's no sensible scenario that calls for U.S. land-based MRBMs/IRBMs!

The lying moron's and the one-trick walrus' amount of idiocy goes well beyond my horizon of imagination. I have not in my entire life met a man with such a despicable idiotic brain, and this includes the crazies who loudly argue with themselves on park benches!

True conservatives dislike punks.


Sea Phoenix - or: "How long did Western navies bet on the wrong horse?"


Early shipborne missiles for air defence were quite simple and very much restricted in their capabilities. Some had great ranges, but all of them were rather well-suited for defence against bombers and relatively dumb large missiles (up to light fighter jet size) than for defence against sea skimming missiles or strike fighters flown with attention and skill.

Moreover, the guidance methods required many large antennas, but still limited the quantity of targets engaged in parallel so much that simple saturation attacks were useful for overwhelming them.
The various shortcomings led to the observation that electronic countermeasures (especially decoys and chaff) were actually more effective against missiles than the shipborne air defence missiles.

The obvious saturation attack challenge motivated the West - and the USN in particular - to adopt a modified semi-active radar homing scheme. Early SARH missiles had their target illuminated from launch to hit (or miss). The HAWK missile (homing all the way killer) even explained this in its name. Late 1970's and 1980's tech SARH missiles (examples SM-2 and Patriot) flew by autopilot and had their target illuminated by some radar only during the terminal phase. This allowed for a better trajectory (intercept course, and more close to ballistic), and it reduced the time the illumination radars had to illuminate for one (potential) kill. This helped to increase the theoretical kills during a saturation attack - if only said attack was flown at high-enough altitudes. There were few benefits against sea skimming missiles or strike fighters.

The USN in particular still went all-in on the concept of having giant expensive radars on cruisers and destroyers, air defence coordination rooms in cruisers and lock-on after launch SARH missiles (SM-2) as air defence. ECM and short range air defences were afterthoughts by comparison. The ECM sets were expensive, but the CIWS and short range SAMs (Sea Sparrow) weren't highly regarded.

Eventually, no war ever really tested this AEGIS system (which reached the kind of capability that was supposed in the mid-80's by the mid-90's only) and navy fanbois keep loving it regardless of their knowledge of its shortcomings. There was too much positive propaganda about it.

Still, nowadays it's understood that active radar missiles are the superior alternative. They solve the saturation attack challenge (in theory) by being completely independent from any illumination radar, and they can kill sea skimming missiles before the ship's sensors can see them if only some external sensor provides sufficient and timely target data tot he launching ship. These missiles' active radar seekers furthermore know the distance to their target (SARH only provides 2D directions), so they can calculate a much-superior intercept course in the terminal phase compared to SARH where the missile simply keeps pointing its nose at the return echo's direction. This improves the lethality against manoeuvring targets such as strike fighters. It's at last in theory even possible to re-engage a slow target that's been missed after turning around.

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Active radar homing missiles have become available in quantity with the AIM-120 AMRAAM in the early 90's. They are expensive and far from flawless, but it's fair to say that the Western navies overslept the development. AMRAAM arrived in 1991 after long development delays. To introduce an active radar homing missile (Aster) in the late 90's was a significant delay compared to what the air force did - particularly considering that air forces did not face such sea skimming or saturation threats in the same way. Their fighters could run away from overwhelming odds at almost Mach 2. A warship is a static target by comparison.

So Aster was introduced by the late 90's in Europe, SM-6 and Sea Ceptor were introduced in the 2010's and ESSM Block II may or may not arrive in operational service before the 2020's.
So the delay in adopting active radar homing as mainstay of naval air defence is about 6...22 years compare to air combat, right?


The latter missile (or rather system - missile and radar had to be seen in context) was available for shipboard use and very promising during the mid-1970's already!

naval Sea Phoenix installation; launcher and radar
The proposal required the installation of the F-14's radar in a shipboard version together with a launcher box for a dozen Phoenix missiles. This was far from optimised*, but obviously superior to the simple SARH (all the way) Sea Sparrow installations that became NATO standard instead. Some tests were done, and then the USN focused on AEGIS because it emphasised defence against the old school Soviet high-flying missiles instead of against state-of-the art sea skimmers.
Sure, Sea Sparrow was much cheaper, but it was also near-useless against any serious attack. The short range and dependency on SARH would have allowed for one or two kills in theory during an air attack, and the expectation value after taking into account all the fire control issues and probability of kill was rather below one.
Moreover, Sea Phoenix was likely a more capable** air defence proposal than the entire AEGIS system when facing multiple sea skimmers. A destroyer with two illuminator radar may or may not succeed to launch SM-2MR missiles against four incoming missiles before impact (likely rather two). A much smaller ship with much less expensive radar tech but a (rotating launcher) Sea Phoenix set could have fired at 6...12 targets instead.

In other words; there are strong indications that Western navies did bet on the wrong technology horse for 25+ years and are still trying to get out of the technological lock-in after about 45 years. Moreover, betting on the AEGIS/SPY-1/SM-2 horse led especially the USN onto a path towards buying very expensive, very large ships for air defence that provide little advantage over smaller ones if the opposing force is smart or at least matching what the Argentinians were capable of in 1982.***



BTW; Phoenix did cost about half a million dollars, about the same as a Standard ARM which was based on the SM-1 missile. Sea Phoenix may have been not terribly much more expensive than a SM-2 missile after all. It was several times as expensive as a (Sea) Sparrow or Aspide missile, though.

*: Normal 3D ship radar could have been used and the missiles' solid fuel rocket could have been modified for more initial thrust to better suit the surface-to-air role. 
**: Assuming that its radar seeker was appropriately modified to deal with sea skimmers).
***: Super Étendard strike fighter flew very low, climbed shortly to find target ship, approached it very low, launched Exocet missile and turned away without offering a target for a SARH engagement sequence. The Exocet missile flew as sea skimmer and was detected so late that SARH intercept (with the much-respected Sea Dart missile) didn't happen. ECM didn't happen in time either - the ship was hit by the only missile fired. An entire squadron of such pilots, planes and missiles would still be a great challenge for USN cruisers and destroyers today despite the introduction of VLS, ESSM and some conceptual improvements in ECM.


Baltic land forces - musings

The Baltic countries have tiny populations compared to Russia, and appear to be threatened by the heavy division equivalent that Russia has in the St. Petersburg area, as well as another heavy division equivalent that Russia has in 10...24 hrs road march distance and at least one light brigade equivalent worth of Russian air assault troops.
The terrain restricts movements much with woodland and very wet & soft soil conditions in many places as well as some rivers and lakes, but this applies much less in wintertime when almost all water close to the surface is frozen. The improved wintertime navigability of the terrain (save for deep snow conditions) offers attackers many more possible routes or advance than the small Baltic armed forces could cover with their allied tripwire compound battalions. Offensive manoeuvre would be almost guaranteed to succeed. The de facto absence of area air defences and the weakness of the merely symbolic air policing fighter flights allows freedom of manoeuvre for Russian air assaults.

One could in theory build up the Baltic military forces, militarise the countries and make them strong enough to resist whatever first wave the Russians could throw at them currently. This could be a fairly simple ten to twenty years effort mimicking the Israeli army. Allies would provide military aid (subsidies), domestic companies would tailor equipment and services to match the specific Baltic needs quickly, conscription could turn the majority of 18...45 year olds into soldiers and reservists. Partial mobilisation and movement (hiding) of high value targets would have to occur at a slight hint of possible invasion. A major mobilisation would meanwhile become unsustainable for more than a few weeks in peacetime because it would shut down the economy (Israelis already know this issue well).

Obviously, this doesn't happen. Even the otherwise military aid-giving Americans thought of "tripwire" multinational compound battalions as answer to the Baltic security challenge, not of any 'Baltic IDF' scheme. The entire approach would help little in the next couple years anyway.
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This leads to the obvious approach; the planners look at what little budget and manpower they have, look at what obsolete equipment they can get gifted by friendly nations and draw up miniature armies. Lithuania created three brigades (one even with high end SPGs), Latvia and Estonia each one brigade (Estonia buys SPGs). Mobilisation would add almost nothing but lightly armed forces, for they lack the heavy equipment stocks for a medium or heavy forces expansion.

This uninspired conventional approach is guaranteed to fail if tested in my opinion. They lack any effective or even reliable protection against fixed wing air attack and are horribly inferior to Russian artillery and tank forces. The idea of operating as combined arms brigades is bound to fail in face of the potential opposing forces that can mount a much more complete and much bigger combined arms effort. The force density would furthermore be so low that this approach is like locking only one of ten doors to your home.

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This begs the question
"What is the optimal military policy for the Baltic countries?"

The first thing to remember and internalise is that the Baltic countries are allied with other EU and NATO countries. They do not need to defend themselves alone, but on the other hand they will not receive much military support in the first weeks of war.

Their countries would be part of a larger strategic map; an invader would seek to occupy them, establish a link to Kaliningrad Oblast and then either proceed to position himself against a counteroffensive or first attempt to push Poland into neutrality by disarming its brigades and going after Warsaw.

To successfully secure the Baltics does not require a successful defence of the Baltics themselves; it requires a decisive sabotage of the aggressor's operational and strategic plans.

Less generally speaking; one doesn't need to keep invaders from roving through the land; it's enough if their leaders understand that they cannot achieve their objectives. The Baltic countries could achieve this in many ways:
  1. They can make the entire Baltics inhospitable for high value targets (forward air bases, area air defence units, forward rotary aviation airfields, tank repair workshops, forward headquarters, electronic warfare units).
  2. They can achieve a giant diversionary effect by binding at least interior ministry troops and army reserve infantry battalions in a security role.
  3. They can wreak havoc against targets in Russia by infiltrating and sabotaging even hundreds of kilometres deep against military road traffic, critical infrastructure, airports and airbases.
  4. They can provide superior situational awareness to allied manoeuvre forces by being everywhere and reporting from everywhere - as if there were thousands of long range scout teams in the theatre of war.
Forces that were custom-tailored to achieve this would provoke countermeasures to some degree, but they would also considerably raise the bar for operational war of aggression planning.

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Well, what would such forces look like?
There are historical precedents, and the answer is in my opinion a combination:
  • Jagdkampf (Germany, Austria)
  • Raumverteidigung (Austrian)
  • Long Range Desert Group (British Empire)
Jagdkampf is about a (reinforced) infantry platoon that pursues a mission 'behind enemy lines', mostly in a raiding and sabotaging, but also scouting fashion. It's extremely demanding regarding morale, cohesion and austere logistics.

Raumverteidigung is an operational-level concept that strives to make an invasion undesirable because it causes the invader more trouble than it benefits him. Austria was a possible terrain for flanking movements by the Warsaw Pact (akin to Belgium in both World Wars) and also threatened by NATO, which might want to force passage from, Germany to Italy for cut-off forces.
There were several such small unit infantry-centric concepts for survivable yet yielding low cost defence against the Warsaw Pact's tank and artillery strength in the 70's and 80's.

Raumverteidigung does not oppose a mechanised invading force first and foremost with mechanised forces, but with less fragile infantry forces that would resist for weeks.  They did still maintain some light mechanised mobile forces (they were necessary for opposing forces simulation anyway).

The Long Range Desert Group conducted long-range raids with unarmoured cars in the North African desert, collecting intelligence by observation and then striking especially airfields with sabotage raids (strike first, then gather intel proved to be the wrong order of events).

There's are two serious problems with any such rather infantry-centric approach:
Problem #1; snow.
Even the most stealthy and most elusive infantry leaves plenty traces of its own movement in snow. Snow also slows infantry down much of the time (except on skis). Small units can survive superior opposing forces only by evasion or stealth, so snow would compromise their survivability to some degree.
Problem #2; cold.
Infantry is more affected by very cold weather than mechanised forces are. Infantry has to seek shelter in buildings (or at least tents) during much of the time, whereas mechanised and even merely motorised forces have heated mobile interiors.

After weeks of deliberation I see but one solution to these problems: The stay behind militia needs to limit its movements to civilian movements while snow covers the landscape. This may be almost no movement if the invader implements a curfew. They could still be effective in some ways. They could gather information and transmit it by laser instead of by radio (to avoid triangulation), which would of course require satellites that could pick the signal up and reply with a robust signal.

The trivial answer to snow and especially snow+curfew is thus that the information gathering and violent resistance would need to happen from inside buildings. The most effective way to do so would be to use autonomous flying drones from within buildings.* Very small drones that fly at treetop height would not be traced to the building (military intelligence would still identify the origin sooner or later), but could execute pre-programmed reconnaissance and attack missions (warhead ~ approx. 40 mm HEDP) autonomously. They could be launched and recovered at night.

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Latvia and Lithuania might actually delay an invading mechanised force (NOT air assault force) by securing the Daugava river for a while. This requires to make the bridges unusable, keep observation posts on both sides of the river and harass and disrupt hostile bridge engineers' efforts. That's a good case for MRLs in the area (SPGs are inefficient**). 

Latvia and Estonia could set up cheap raiding forces that would infiltrate towards the St. Petersburg region, nearby Russian airbases and other high value targets (switchyards, telecom cables etc.). They would use various means and ways that would require a disproportionate security effort to defend against.

All three Baltic countries should focus most of their military spending on a kind of Raumverteidigung scheme. Jagdkampf specifically is platoon-centric and may not even be optimal.
One could instead create small militia infantry sections (3...10 personnel) instead, most of which would be rifleman-centric and capable of sneaky raids, harassing sniping and long range scout-like observation.
Others would focus on direct fire support (using M4 Carl Gustav), high angle fire support (commando mortar), providing SatCom and HF communication links, electronic warfare (especially jamming against arty and mortar fuses and common portable radios), tank hunting (using ERYX or Spike SR) and harassment of hostile low level aviation (using RBS 70 NG / Bolide missile).
All of them could be trained at handling some of a gazillion of allies-sponsored autonomous small treetop altitude reconnaissance and attack drones.

The mission of these militia forces would cover the aforementioned points 1, 2 and 4. The small size of the individual elements and the radio jamming would render the invader's indirect fire support inefficient. The leg-only mobility in battle would make mechanised counters largely inefficient in many terrains as well, as mechanised forces could not or would not dare to pursue into infantry-favouring terrains.

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Such forces would not achieve much on their own, but the Baltic countries do not stand on their own - and their fate would be a repeat of 1940 if they did, anyway.

There wouldn't be any brigades, and hardly any impressive heavy weapons to show off. Russian war planners would anticipate a quick passage at least to the Daugava, and they would likely come up with means and ways to cross it rapidly despite the defenders' efforts.
They would anticipate huge troubles for the later weeks due to guerilla and raiding activities, though. Air defences could not safely deploy forward, air power could not safely deploy forward, supply lines would be threatened by substantial harassment efforts, electronic warfare forces could not safely deploy forward. Huge quantities of security forces would be required to cordon off against and to hunt raiders. Even more security forces would be needed in the Baltic countries themselves, causing an infantry weakness among the manoeuvre forces without being able to properly secure a steady flow of supplies.

The rest of the deterrence and defence job would be a job for the allies, in particular Poland and Germany.

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I should mention: It's fashionable to think of "hybrid" aggressions nowadays.
Well, those are extremely simple to deal with if you have superior military power in your team. You cordon off the intruders, prepare and finally kill them. A hostile strategic surprise attack is a much greater challenge.



*: I understand that this looks both intellectually lazy (reliance on a sci-fi-ish technological answer to a problem) and impossible for the time being. One could instead bet on the invader being unable to fully exploit vulnerabilities in the first couple weeks of occupation, but I'm too uncomfortable with that bet.
**: SPGs have a higher fixed cost for the launch vehicle/system, but lower variable costs for the effect of munitions. SPGs are thus cost-efficient if you expect them to shoot much. I don't expect this in case of Baltic defence because SPGs would be high value targets that would be searched, found and destroyed fairly quickly.