North Macedonia joins


Its military will be an irrelevant addition, and it posed no threat.

We could (and should) let North Macedonia cut its military expenses to a minimum (such as an infantry regiment with COTS motor vehicles and nothing else) and let them invest in developing health, education and infrastructure for the good of their young and future generations.

Instead, I fear, the bureaucracy of NATO and the national bureaucracy will do business as usual and push for a switch to NATO standard munitions, NATO standard communication tech, maintain a somewhat balanced mini army with tanks and artillery (without the appropriate spares or munition stocks, of course). Some particularly stupid politicians will blather about "2%" sooner or later.

The most ridiculous thing will be the Russian protests about North Macedonia's accession, of course.



Deterrence and Strategic defence in context of strategic surprise attacks

Back in 2010 I wrote "On defensive power". The core idea of that blog post can be described with a simple two-power model:

Country A has 80 units power when attacking and 120 units power when defending.
Country B has 100 units power when attacking or defending.
This imbalance of power is stable, as neither country has a reason to expect being able to win a war. It's even more stable than a 100:100 power equality would be, for that would look more like a toss-up.

So I wrote about how spending on military power that's more useful for strategic defence (than for strategic offence) can stabilise peace.

Today I'd like to add a different thought on deterrence and strategic defence, I referred to this thought before as well and this time it's rather about saving useless expenses:

The former model had country A with "120 units of power when defending". This is a non-trivial statement, for that figure of military power in the case of strategic defence (defending a country or alliance when another power chose to start a war) may differ very much depending on the kind of initial attack.

The most challenging case for the defenders would be a strategic surprise attack. I wrote about this a couple times before. A strategic surprise attack can be expected to knock out many high value targets (HVT) on the first day if not the first two hours. Examples for such high value targets may be bridges (such as the Vistula and Oder bridges), but also long span railroad bridges that are impossible to repair on short notice, which makes rapid deployment of tracked vehicles to the battlefield challenging.

Expensive combat and AEW aircraft are other high value targets and most of them could easily be wrecked by an opening salvo.

Egyptian aircraft destroyed by Israeli strategic surprise attack, 1967. The reaction was the construction of hardened aircraft shelters, but those are useless against precision-guided bombs, even the rather light small diameter bomb (mere 129 kg).
High value targets are usually high value targets because of the important role they're expected to play in wartime and because few of them are affordable. High value targets are expensive - much more expensive than an aggressor's preparation to knock them out in a strategic surprise attack.

To spend much on dedicated military high value targets is thus wasteful unless they are well-secured against strategic surprise attacks. Germany could base its Typhoon combat aircraft in Canada, for example. They wouldn't be wrecked there by a non-nuclear surprise attack. Key vehicles of air defence batteries could be kept moving as a 'Flying Circus', moving from military base or exercise area to another every day. Oder and Vistula bridges could at the very least get protection by some soft kill defences to render the success of a missile attack less reliable to foreign war planners.

We could also de-emphasize high value targets in favour of other military preparations. A reduction of spending on air force high value targets by two billion Euros combined with an increase of spending on non-HVT military assets could very well increase the aforementioned figure of "Country A: (...) units of power when defending". This could save expenses AND improve deterrence at the same time.

Let's summarise it with the model:

Country A has 80 units power when attacking, 120 units power when defending unless in case of strategic surprise attack when it has only 90 units of power.
Country B has 100 units power when attacking or defending.

The necessity of paying attention to this issue should be obvious. It requires to think in terms of us getting caught by surprise attack. Feelings of sympathy for cool supersonic jets or air force generals' bias towards piloting are poor guidances for force design.



Shilka, the revolutionary nightmare

(I exhausted my supply into the recent link dump, so I had to dust off and tweak an old draft about hardware history to maintain the weekly schedule.)

The most influential move in Cold War air warfare was probably the introduction of the ZSU-23-4 'Shilka', as it changed air warfare from the late 60's to the late 80's in conjunction with the SA-6 "Gainful"/2K12 "Kub" battlefield area air defence missile.
I'll try to substantiate this claim, of course:

Soviet(-style) battlefield air defences were never particularly respected by German or later NATO air power until the introduction of the Shilka. The habit of Red Army troops to shoot at attacking aircraft with everything they got (that is, with all rifles) was meanwhile dangerous enough to largely prohibit ground attack mission profiles which required much air time below 300 metres altitude. The German WW2 battlefield air defences (mostly calibres 20 and 37 mm) were plenty and dangerous, but they didn't prevent punishing air strikes either (German troops used their machineguns, but rather rarely their rifles against aircraft).

ZSU-23-4 Shilka, three ZSU-57 in background
All this changed when there were finally plenty self-propelled anti-air guns (SPAAG) / Flakpanzer in service with a 3D radar and ballistics computer. The Soviets had introduced the Shilka with four 23 mm autocannons, search and fire control radar and fire control computer in the mid-60's and battlefield air defence potential made a huge leap forward. They did not upgrade their older twin 57 mm SPAAGs with at least a rangefinder radar to complement the Shilka with some longer effective range (nor did they produce their expensive twin 37 mm SPAAG design). Instead, the SA-6 was about to deal with anything flying too high for the Shilka, at least in theory (or even more theoretically, the SA-9).
Meanwhile, the new portable Redeye (American) and SA-7 (Soviet) man-portable missiles were easily countered with flares and evasive manoeuvres (including exploiting the sun) and didn't force much of a change in tactics themselves (the same applies to the SA-9).

The common air/ground mission profiles which gave strike aircraft a great bird's view on the battlefield, road or fixed target had become very dangerous, for the aircraft would typically be engaged by ZSU-23-4 or SA-6 at those altitudes.
The best choices for ground attack on a march column had been a combination of unguided rockets and cluster bombs, maybe even use of autocannons (the Hunter's four 30 mm cannons were particularly effective) - applied in a shallow dive. The Shilka still allowed for this, but only from a rather high altitude, with associated loss of accuracy and increase in dispersion. The attack with 'iron bombs' was similarly reduced in efficiency.
This could have been compensated for with an increased usage of guided munitions, of course; laser guided munitions, Walleye-like and Maverick-like munitions. 
The reinforcement of the Shilka with the SA-6 after a few years reduced this possibility to a niche approach.

The Yom Kippur War showed the dilemma: Fly high and the SA-6 may kill you. Fly low and the Shilka may kill you. Fly very low and you're not going to see much, nor have much time between detecting targets and passing them. Otherwise very useful munitions such as unguided rocket pods were of marginal value at very low level and bombs had to be adapted, too.
The Shilkas were more numerous and mobile than the SA-6 radars, so the latter became the target of choice to crack this team. But what was possible on the Sinai peninsula would not necessarily succeed in Central Europe, against the numbers and training of the Warsaw Pact.
The problem was simply that WW3 - if conventional - was expected to last but weeks before all might be lost (similar to the Yom Kippur War), and air power absorbed by taking out battlefield air defences first would not help much.

Up to the late 60's the North German plains were a dream for strike aircraft, as they provide much simpler terrain in which attacking columns could quite easily be found and engaged. Meanwhile, Central and South Germany are rather hilly with many woodland hilltops and strings of buildings adjacent to roads. Many roads are furthermore in woodland and thus visible only from two directions (fore, aft) and straight above.
The arrival of Shilka meant that suddenly the hilly terrain became more favourable, as the hills made radar-based air defence much more difficult. SA-6 threats could be countered by going very low level for a few seconds, and Shilka search radars had an effective early warning range shorter than the line of sight to the surrounding hills; often too little for the full engagement sequence.
This then more favourable terrain was still the less favourable terrain of the early 60's, though: Air power had greatly lost in efficiency due to the Shilka (ceteris paribus).

The respect for the area air defence missile threat such as the SA-6 was high enough for NATO to not follow the guided munitions path fully, but only partially. The new Jaguar and Tornado strike aircraft designed for the 1980's European theatre of operations made use of almost no guided ground attack munitions, for example.
Instead, very low level flight including the use of terrain following radar became the big fashion, despite the fact that look down/shoot down Doppler pulse radars and matching missiles had been introduced during the 1970's already. The dominant ground attack profile proved to be awfully susceptible to modern fighters, and even worse: Any fighter escorts were pressed into roughly the same profile and thus inherently disadvantaged against modern defending fighters.

Some attack capabilities from convenient altitudes were maintained, though: The Yom Kippur War had also showed that the semi-stationary SA-6 batteries could not support ground forces with their protective umbrella during fast-moving campaigns. Armoured spearheads exploiting a 'breakthrough' would typically still be vulnerable, and there were never enough missile batteries on either side to protect the rear areas well (airfields, bridges, depots). NATO, for example, maintained a kind of SAM belt from the Austrian/Swiss border to the North Sea, with many rear locations protected only by fighters or low level defences.

NATO did ultimately bet on the ability to take out or suppress the vital radars of area air defence batteries with its anti-radar missiles: An approach initially invented during WW2 and introduced for good during the Vietnam War.
This didn't help much against modern SPAAGs, though; laser rangefinders soon potentially gave SPAAGs the ability to defend against low level attackers without any use of a radar. The second generation of portable very short range air defence missiles (famous Stinger and others, amongst them the very countermeasures-defying laser beam rider missiles) added to this.
As a result, NATO air attack doctrine went back to the 15,000+ ft (more than 4,500 m) attack altitude and began to make use of many guided munitions. The technological advance and large production runs allowed for some very cost-efficient guided munitions, especially cheapened laser guidance or satellite navigation guidance kits. Sensors (imaging infrared optics and modern imaging radar) allow modern strike aircraft to attack just as well form this altitude as earlier strike fighters were able to do from much lower ones with 'Mk1 Eyeball' sensors.
Post-2000, the Stinger-type missile threat appears to be largely defeated by sophisticated technical and tactical countermeasures, but the laser beam riders and the autocannon threat (with laser rangefinder, computer and automatic target tracking sensor) keep the low altitudes dangerous when present.

Without Shilka and to a lesser extent its successor and relatively few Western counterparts all this wouldn't have happened.

1970's strike fighters could have flown at a convenient altitude for spotting targets, diving and temporarily flying very low when a missile battery threat was detected. The modern strikefighter of the 1980's might have utilized an underbelly autocannon pod to easily take out anything but main battle tanks from a convenient altitude (maybe 2,000 metres) while circling the target area. Unguided rockets, Maverick-like anti-tank missiles and wind-correcting cluster bombs with timed release might have reigned and we would never have seen submunition pods such as JP233 or MW-1. The typical strike fighter might also have had a much larger wing area like the F-16XL, because there would have been few terrain following mission profiles in low altitude dense air (which create problems for low wing loading aircraft and thus led to relatively small wings). Area air defence batteries could have been engaged by triangulating their position and attacking them low and close, since they wouldn't have been protected against this kind of attack by SPAAGs.

Air and sea warfare are so very much dominated by technology despite the importance of skill, numbers, support and weather that a single technological progress is able to change the entire picture. In the case of Shilka, this progress was actually announced two decades earlier, when the combination of SPAAG with fire control radar and fire control computer (a search radar was still unnecessary due to lower aircraft speed) was first feasible and envisaged. The nuke-crazy 50's may have delayed the inevitable revolution by a few years.
The result was that the face of modern air attack  was changed, as it had to adapt to the threat.*


*: Strangely, the loss in efficiency was not followed by a shift in budget priorities; NATO had already given up the idea of countering Warsaw Pact tank quantity in a symmetric arms race despite the German experiences from WW2 which indicated that this was feasible with enough good arms. The result was that Western great power militaries have become dependent on aerospace superiority.
P.S.: I link a lot to Wikipedia, but don't mistake this as a link to sources. The links are meant for those readers who cannot remember the specific thing at the moment. I cover a wide range of topics and do not expect the majority of my readers to have a matching range of interests and knowledge, so I make the texts easier by adding these links.


Link drop February 2019


What happens when an Austrian goes to war?
The British blame the Germans! ;-)

I tracked the developments in Syria in part through the very high quality ISW blog and its maps. I saw the daesh territory shrink to nothing. This rather geography-minded narrative was very different from the 'news' media narrative, where daesh losing ground was reported in a very fuzzy and debatable way. I get that maps didn't show the full truth, but their fake clarity apparently allowed for more accurate reporting.

Recently, I caught myself wondering how exactly could the U.S. troops possibly fight daesh to eradication in Syria (even with their Kurdish allies)? All it takes for daesh to survive is to evade into some non-Kurdish-controlled part of Syria.

The safest territories may be Turkish controlled ones, but even the Government's territories are probably quite safe for a clandestine presence. The government has bigger necessities than to hunt for some hiding daesh followers. Those are defeated and waiting for the next violent salafist brand to take over, just as daesh did from AQ.

Once again, the U.S. armed forces appear to be in a stupid war with maximalist (extremist, eliminationist) objectives that cannot be achieved and even complete success in the territories where they actually have freedom of movement would mean nothing: It wouldn't mean that the U.S. government or the people in the U.S. recognise this as a good time to withdraw, but it would also be no 'victory'.

The least stupid excuse for the continuation of the mission appears to be a combination of occasional manhunting against people who are no real threat to CONUS combined with "buying time" for some allies who presumably first need to fortify their position before they could be left alone.

And the U.S. media appears to be (on balance) a cheerleader for continued stupid war participation.

It's really Afghanistan all over again.

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As so often, Scandinavians and Netherlands lead, and Germany gets a good place. (This ranking is about perceptions only. One could read it as describing public trust in the integrity of their government.)

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What the fuck?

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Oldie, but Goodie:

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The video has some of the worst land artillery muzzle flashes I've ever seen. Those muzzle flashes dwarf 120 mm tank gun APFSDS muzzle flashes!

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This made me wonder which of these anonymising techniques were, are or will be used in warfare. They're probably much better-suited to guerrillas than to conventional armed forces, but there might be valuable lessons for low force density land warfare. I'm thinking of pre-seeded 'dead drops' (as they call it) a.k.a. hidden supply caches for armoured recce or long range scout-observers. The supply flow could happen whenever the conditions allow it, and withdrawal of supplies from caches by the recce troops could happen when needed, after an encrypted inquiry (and reply) about the location of a cache with the needed items. The primary problem with this would by how to move and hide the supplies at acceptable risk.

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Last week, Trump told reporters that he was disinterested in stopping a Saudi Arabian “investment of $110 billion into the United States,” despite tensions over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“I know [senators are] talking about different kinds of sanctions, but [Saudi Arabia is] spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs,” Trump said Thursday. “I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States.”
While Washington has several arms agreements with Riyadh, it is unclear where the $110 billion figure comes from, aside from a potential wish list of future deals.
Presently, Saudi Arabia has put forward approximately $14.5 billion in purchases in the form of letters of offer and acceptance or LOAs, a Pentagon official told CNN.
What’s more, the State Department has announced only six contracts worth a combined total of $4 billion since Trump’s visit last year  [S.O.: that was in May 2017, 17 months before the article was published!] to Saudi Arabia.
CNBC, already written in October '18 (red is my emphasis)

I told friends that the lying moron's 110 billion figure was the usual nonsensical lying-bragging B.S. shortly after it was floated in May 2017. (Aside from that B.S., purchasing something from a country isn't the same as investing there.) The media considered the 110 bn figure to be good infotainment and ran with it. Some gullible people did believe it. I suppose most people simply ignore such obvious B.S., but it should be challenged every single time.
An embarrassing detail: The lying moron may actually believe his own made-up nonsense instead of knowingly repeating yesteryear's lie.

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What the fuck part II ?

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For Americans: /anti-defamation-league-report-right-wing-extremists-2018-murders
Compare to evil Mooooslim murders in the U.S. during 2018: Zero, same as in 2017

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The old geezers are at fault!

Caveat; it's but one study, so this study means little so far. Scientific findings become very reliable only a while after they were published. Peer review usually only weeds out the rather obvious crap, even if done well. Scientific discussion usually takes time to weed out (often by failure to reproduce experimental results) errors.

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BROACH - I wrote about it before. I still didn't (re-)find the article about the American Tomahawk test with a similar tech, though.

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Someone recently commented here that Western media had run propaganda for so long that this kept some of us from recognising Russian propaganda as something extraordinary. My reply was that Western media typically has a narrative bias and typically doesn't spew outright propaganda. There's a substantial difference. Here's an example for how this works (for those who don't know the "Manufactured consent" book):

It's not intentional propaganda, and certainly not a centrally coordinated propaganda effort. There's not necessarily any lying involved. It's simply about presenting news with a certain angle, using a narrative, and giving the different voices different opportunities to reach your audience. The end result is a strong and lasting bias in favour of one side of an issue. 
Many incentives and disincentives furthermore lead to a pro-establishment bias. Many extremists from both right and left mistake this for the media being left or right wing, for they are farther on the extremes than the media's biased narratives are.
The attention on politicians who are in office suffices on its own to distort debates about major policy decisions. The media prefers to repeat the statements of known people over the statements of unknown people even if the latter are less partial and more informed and more qualified. This also explains the terrible overreliance on universal dilettante reporters instead of proper use of specialised reporters and specialised journalists who actually know much about the subject.

A British blogger-economist coined the term "mediamacro" for the anglophone media's misrepresentation of economics that appears to be rather driven by pro-establishment bias and attention to CEOs and financial sector 'analysts' rather than to actual academic experts on macroeconomics. (We had something similar here in Germany when the discussion about the common European currency area was almost perfectly devoid of the economic sciences' state of the art optimum currency area models.)
He accuses the BBC of such bias quite regularly, but there's no reason whatsoever to accuse them of propaganda.

There are hardly any reporters or even journalists who can be accused of intentional lying to the public. One among thousands is a fraud once in a while, but there's little reason to believe that reporters or even journalists systematically produce propaganda. I doubt even that Springer press authors are lying intentionally despite the Springer press' known systemic contractual bias on some topics (I'm not so sure about the Murdoch empire, where lots of the less well-known TV personalities appear to be biased rather for the money than because of their individual background).

A bias is a systemic issue that can only be reduced to some degree, for bias is human.
A propaganda campaign on the other hand is something that emphasises convincing or confusing people regardless of reality over both profit and delivery of actual information. Bits taken from reality are but a plausibility- and deniability-enhancing ingredient to propaganda. Propaganda can be beaten back.
Reporters and journalists meanwhile take bits of reality as a good to deliver. I accuse almost all of them of delivering biased infotainment rather than information and analysis, but that's a far cry from them being lying propagandists.

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Germany concludes a bilateral treaty with alliance-ish component with France.
It's been signed on January 22nd, and will almost certainly be ratified soon. I don't expect an official English version of the treaty text, but there surely is a French one somewhere.

Article 4(1) is the relevant part. It doesn't appear to be a bilateral alliance in its own right as it merely confirms already existing obligations. I'm a bit discouraged by article 4(3) because it elevates joint missions (stupid small wars) to a kind of goal. Article 6 may be partially unconstitutional in Germany, because policing is within the authority of the 16 states, not the federal government. So article 6 may be limited to intelligence services and the federal (rail, airport, border) police.

Overall, the treaty is mostly reaffirming what's already known and is very vague on almost all of what's new. It looks like a letter of intent that may lose much of its meaning with the next French president.

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The longest I ever wore a NBC mask felt like hours.
Guess why!

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some more WTF, not very on-topic
This reminded me of the story of Western allies pilots having a compass hidden in a button.

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It's but one of many websites describing Bombentorpedos.

The 1946 U.S. report on this and other German explosive ordnance:
file page 48, original document page 44

They were meant to be dropped like bombs during very low altitude level flight, to impact in front of a ship, to travel by kinetic energy under water for about 50...70 m until they hit the hull under water or pass below the hull. It would have been a more accurate (especially against fast-moving and agile targets such as destroyers) and much, much cheaper munition than aerial torpedoes. Aerial torpedo attacks around Europe were quite unlike the ones in the Pacific region; they were often done at night or dawn (thus up close), and the main targets were cargo and landing ships.
No Bombentorpedos were used in anger, for the development of a suitable fuse wasn't completed in time (a combination of a simple impact delay fuse and a regular aerial torpedo magnetic fuse should have worked IMO).  The Allies had a similar approach with some 5" rockets, which were able to enter the sea without instant explosion and without bouncing - and then they could struck the hull underwater to cause a small leak with a small explosion.

I mention this because it appears that hardly anyone appears to publicly write of this as a possible mode for anti-ship missiles. The Bombentorpedos had a far from optimal shape for achieving a high explosive mass fraction, but they still did have a decent one: The smallest Bombentorpedo was BT400. The claims about its filling vary, but the fraction was apparently very close to 50%, comparable to general purpose free-falling bombs. A Bombentorpedo didn't need thick walls, for fragmentation effect was of no use.
A typical modern "500 lbs class" anti-ship missile warhead of Bombentorpedo design could very well have about 100 kg of high quality explosive - easily enough to ruin a frigate with an underwater hit. Meanwhile, we know from experience that above-water hits with warheads of that size are often 'unsatisfactory' (see USS Stark and INS Hanit as well as the disappointing effect of many kamikaze and Hs 293 attacks with less than 300 kg explosives each back in WW2).

A missile that dives into the sea for an underwater hit would not have the option of re-engaging if it was duped into engaging decoys, of course. That's a simila rproblem as with hypersonic and quasiballistic anti-ship missiles

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WTF part IV and V:

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This was for Americans who laughed at the France/Italy piece. ;-)

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...and this for the British ;-)

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(Ignore the title, it's about the carburetor issue and its fix. You may like it if you liked the previous blog post.)

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