Recent scandals in the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehr has 184,000 active personnel. Some of them are bound to not meet expectations and requirements. A handful of extremists and nutjobs are to be expected in such a large personnel pool.

There are higher expectations regarding officers and NCOs Feldwebel or higher, but I understand the requirements for a Feldwebel career have been eroded by the 1990's already. Some bad apples may even make it to officer rank, though at the very least the professional (not limited time volunteer) officers should NOT be extremists or nutjobs, for the organisation has seen them in action for 12 years already. 

I don't blame anyone for having a decoration MP 40 in his room, either. Yes, that gun was introduced and used by the Wehrmacht (nazified German military 1935-1945). So was the MG42 as well, but we re-labelled it "MG3" and continue to use it to this day despite its obsolescence.* So was the P38 pistol as well, and we re-labelled it "P1" and used it well into the 1990's. And then there's the K98 - iconic rifle of the Wehrmacht (based on a very late 19th century design) and still in ceremonial use. Our federal government literally greets foreign dignitaries with soldiers handling the K98. A MP 40 is an ugly and tasteless decoration, but otherwise nothing bad in itself.

There IS a limit, though. Extremists and nutjobs that were recognised as such and not removed over years despite multiple officers knowing? THAT is a systemic issue. It's not necessarily a Bundeswehr-wide systemic issue, but it's unforgivable and should have severe consequences. A systemic issue means that the bureaucracy should be punished, not just individuals. The bureaucracy should be conditioned to fear to NOT intervene against nutjobs and extremists. I've read that the disbanding of a company was considered the ultimate humiliation. Oh boy, whoever claimed so has no concept of my creativity in such a regard. I would have dragged hundreds of senior officers to an event where they get to stand at attention for hours like recruits, and watch not just a final "Zapfenstreich" disbanding ceremony. They would watch a defilement of the unit. Scratch that, I would have the entire formation defiled and disbanded in shame. And I would let them know that this won't be the last such event if they ever dare to not do their job to minimum requirements.

Having mentioned this; I would not disband the KSK for its scandals. I would disband the KSK for having been a stupid concept and appalling waste of resources all along. That, too, deserves defilement to punish the bureaucracy.





*: Too heavy, very suboptimal rate of fire, no proper mounting for a night sight or magnifying sight, changing the hot barrel requires protective gloves. There were machinegun designs without these faults even before the MG 42 was invented.


Link drop August 2020

Chainmail is officially back in mainstream. ;-)

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Normally one should be careful with such things, but it's glaringly obvious that I would have been able to devise a better policy using only OSINT and a few hours of attention per week than this bunch of incompetents and their lying moron cult leader.

I have zero confidence that this bunch of morons would find appropriate, timely and smart answers to a dangerous international crisis. A thing no one needs to be careful about is the diagnosis that my zero confidence is shared by most governments in NATO, by India, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. I can't tell about Australia or the UK, for their prime ministers have already revealed themselves to be all-too similar.

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The best American anti-tank missile is the Javelin, which is a 1980's design known to Russians since the 1980's, introduced into service in the mid-1990's and I strongly suppose that it would be a terrible disappointment in a European war because of effective countermeasures. The similar (yet conceptually improved) Israeli Spike missile has a lot of sales successes. The German army still hopes to finally purchase relevant quantities of EuroSpike missiles to 'modernise' its anti-tank arsenal.

Now why is this infrared camera head-guided missile concept being treated as state-of-the-art? I strongly suspect because it's the best the Americans have for infantry AT work, and their PR dominates public perceptions on military technology.

Some possible countermeasures to such missiles are figuratively and literally nebulous; quick-deploying multispectral smoke. Here
is a gold-plated and quite threat-specific countermeasure. Maybe its existence is the kind of argument needed to overcome the risky belief and reliance on IIR-guided ATGMs.

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"Defund the Pentagon [by a mere 10%]: The conservative case"

"Defund the Pentagon [by a mere 10%]: The liberal case"

Context: The Pentagon budget was bloated by much more than inflation + 11% since the last Obama-administration budget.

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Math education for the win!

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It's surprising to me that they did not add an infrared camera sensor for (better) sensor fusion.
The enlarged range appears to be unnecessary, as shipborne air defences don't reach far if not supported by third party (such as AEW) targeting data. Anti-ship missiles have notorious targeting issues at long ranges because even the slow movement of ships (usually 10...15 m/s) allows for much movement and changes of the formation during the time of flight. The ASM-3's supersonic cruise speed reduces the time of flight, but a supersonic cruise requires a hefty price to pay. The missile needs to be much bigger, heavier, more expensive and is heated up by air friction due to the supersonic cruise.
The Russians developed at least one two-stage anti-ship missiles with a subsonic cruise stage and a supersonic terminal stage. This offers the supersonic speed advantages against defences without the costs of supersonic cruise.
I don't see much or any need for extremely long anti-ship missile ranges. 100 km sea skimming cruise is plenty, even assuming that 30 km or so are for course corrections and repeated approaches after falling for false targets.

A mix of supersonic and subsonic (which would tend to fly a few metres lower*) terminal approach speed and also different sensors makes sense in an arsenal because of uncertainty about what works best.

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By the way; I missed to announce the passing of a milestone. The blog has now over 10,000 comments (it's about 10,250).


*: Radar physics are tricky. It's not necessarily better to fly those few metres lower, but having the option is nice to have, especially if the missile has an X/Ku band  radio receiver.


Fragile ASW

Almost all of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) depends on lightweight torpedoes (LWT, typically 324 mm diameter in NATO) for the engagement of hostile submarines.


Their guidance is de facto standardised as using passive and active sonar.* Wake-homing, fibre-optic communication with a radio buoys or launcher and AFAIK also some electrostatic sensor might be used, but I've never seen these published for LWTs. The Swedish SLWT has a wire datalink to the platform.
Their warhead is always so small that mere blast does not suffice (especially at great depths), so the torpedo has to score a direct hit to penetrate with shaped charge effect.**

LWTs typically have a tiny endurance (battery-powered) and lesser top speed compared to heavyweight torpedoes. 

LWTs usually employ a search pattern (such as a downward spiral), and they need to be delivered to the proximity of the targeted submarine or else they would fail to pick it up with their sonar or be simply outrun by it. Emphasis on proximity, for their moblity and sensor really aren't all that powerful compared to similarly sophisticated heavyweight torpedoes.

Few other munitions are relevant for ASW. These are mostly heavyweight torpedoes (almost exclusively used by submarines), some rocket depth charge launchers (mostly on Soviet and Chinese design warships), naval mines (but CAPTOR is out of service) and bombs/missiles (for attacks on ports). No country appears to still have nuclear depth charges.
LWTs are really the indispensable mainstay (including as payload of anti-submarine missiles such as ASROC) munition of ASW.

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The title here is "Fragile ASW". I wrote before about the dependency of ASW on helicopters (availability, survivability) for delivering LWTs. This time I'd like to point out that LWTs (usually only one type is in service in a navy) are a critical link in ASW that renders a navy's ASW impotent if it fails.

LWTs CAN fail if they are outdated. They CAN fail due to soft kill countermeasures by the targeted submarine. They can be wasted (and not recovered) in wartime if the ASW platforms detect too many false contacts and the munition stocks particularly of the newest LWT generation are generally meagre. LWTs CAN fail if they are outrun by fast submarines (SSNs, a famous Cold War-era concern with the extremely fast Alfa SSN class). LWTs CAN fail due to hard kill countermeasures by the targeted submarine (typically anti-torpedo torpedoes, but decoy-mines are another possibility).

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It occurred to me that the seemingly obsolete approach of anti-submarine rocket launchers firing depth charges deserves a second look at least for coastal waters and non-nuclear (=much less than 30 kts top speed) submarines. 
Dumb depth charges fell out of favour because they take a long time to sink and then require a direct or extremely close hit, so it takes an excessive quantity to saturate the large no escape zone of the submarine. They remained in service the longest for shallow littoral water applications, especially in areas where stupid LWT torpedo sonars had the greatest difficulties. Such rocket launchers may also be used to deploy countermeasures to heavyweight torpedoes.

 (This is a fairly simple 1980's vintage ASW depth charge projector system.)

The sinking speed issue can be addressed with a rocket propulsion and maybe supercavitation along the lines of the famous Skhval torpedo. The high speed could be maintained till a pre-set depth to enable the use of semi-active sonar guidance afterwards.
The shaped charge warhead would need to be fairly powerful, driving up the size of the torpedo. The supercavitation concept of Skhval does literally get in the way of a shaped charge, further driving up the size (diameter, weight) requirement for the shaped charge. A tandem or triple warhead design may cope with this (saving on diameter, not so much on weight).

We could reduce the required quantity by giving each rocket a sensor and some steering ability*** to enable each munition to cover a larger footprint, but this would require a more modest sinking speed.

What remains is the question of how many such small anti-submarine rockets would be required in a salvo. This is largely an operational research (OR) question; the answer can be calculated. I strongly suppose that the quantity is bearable when the target is slow (and couldn't get much faster during an anti-submarine rocket engagement sequence). Shallow waters help, while small submarine sizes are detrimental.
Fast SSNs in deep waters would be least suitable targets.

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By the way, the latest Russian munition for their ASW rocket launchers is pretty close to what I wrote about here; unpowered underwater, but with sensor and steering.
Their effective depth is certainly much less than their published nominal (likely crush) depth.
Powered or unpowered doesn't make a difference at really shallow depths, of course. Rocket propulsion underwater would merely be a means to threaten slow-moving SSNs at greater depths.

OR has the last word, but I have a suspicion that we could use underwater rocket-depth bombs to complement LWTs and make our ASW a little less fragile in at least some environments.


*: This is not very low frequency active sonar and is thus subject to strong attenuation by anechoic tiles on submarines.
**: Some hit locations would still be ineffective and submarines may be able to cope with the leak caused by such a hit if they are at shallow depths.
***: Semi-active homing is a possibility. A buoys sends out strong acoustic waves, and the sinking munitions detect the echoes. This would only require simple, small and cheap microphone and computing technology in the munition.

edit August 2020:
I was apparently not far off. I found this in Jane's Air-Launched Weapons Issue 26 1997:
The USN participated in a NATO LCAW project, but withdrew. Lockheed kept marketing its concept nevertheless; an "ultra lightweight torpedo" 132 cm long, 27.7 kg, 5 kg shaped charge.
"Following a boosted airflight trajectory, the torpedo enters the water vertically and ignites its rocket motor for the attack phase. Search and tracking is carried out by radially and axially mounted sonar transducers. The ULWT is credited with an underwater speed of 40 kts and a high probability of successfully intercepting a submarine travelling at 8 kts (the speed specified for the NATO competition)."

The LCAW entry clarifies a lot more:
The LCAW was a provocateur, meant to force a possibel contact into reacting if it's a real submarine. It was a problem during the Cold War that ASW frigates didn't really have enough LWTs for all the false contacts they encoutner during a North Atlantic crossing.

I had previously ignored the (actually produced and introduced) A-200 because it was usually described as some special forces and anti-special forces hardware.

So essentially, think of a salvo of such tiny torpedoes (faster than A-200) being fired by a multiple rocket launcher in a pattern that creates a large no-escape zone for a submarine and you got what I thought of.



Optimism and Pessimism in the West

There's an interesting article in the Technology Review July 2020 (German edition) about perceptions in Germany and the U.S..
Polling shows that the share of Americans who are content with where their country is heading hasn't been greater than 50% since 2004 and has dropped to 20% this summer.
Meanwhile, 78% of Germans are confident that Germany will succeed in the future and only 16% are pessimistic. The German optimism has actually grown during the Corona crisis, and it was pointed out that the Germany government can still dish out extra billions to push what's believed to become technologies of the future amidst a near-global fiscal crisis.

My guess is that the 16% look like a circle in a Venn diagram with those people who think that voting for extreme right wingers is a just dandy idea. The far right has been shown to be fearful in many scientific studies. The fear of change and of 'others' is not exactly a signal of great courage, after all. In other words, far right wingers are fearful pussies, but I mentioned that a couple times already.
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The cultural influence of the United States with its fashion of apocalyptic movies, TV shows and 'dark' movies, comics et cetera doesn't seem to be powerful enough to coin German perceptions.

I can tell that there is cultural influence and political influence, but for about five years I haven't seen any big American motifs getting picked up in Germany other than by Neonazis. German Neonazis gratefully pick up whatever nonsense the American right wing distributes in the internet no questions asked, but other than that? I can't recall any American lead in anything other than IT buzzwordery ("SaaS", "Cloud" et cetera) that's basically just sales talk.

There has been very little discernible influence from most other regions as well, except maybe a little K-pop. 
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I am convinced that cultural affinity can make allying easier and cultural convergence can help fortify alliances. The latter is probably the reason for NATO's survival and unusual prominence.

More attention on the other European nations could help Europe to unify (how good or bad that would be is another topic). A parallel outlook or development can surely help countries to stay partners. The U.S. and Germany appear to go into opposite directions in some regards, and I'm sure we have a similar widening schism between Mediterranean and Central Europe/Northern Europe.

This could spell trouble in the (very) long term.
Governments are and will be trying to address completely different (perceived) major problems, failing to arrive at a consensus and thus failing to cooperate. A disunited West could fail to keep neutral countries from entering a Chinese (or later Indian) sphere of influence and so on.

And talking of the United States, a country in pessimistic (and frightened) mode might be enticed to spend even more insanely on the military and get trigger-happy when spooked again. An American-Sino war is a really really bad case possibility, and it could be sparked just as much by American fears of losing status as by Chinese jingoism and revanchism. I suppose that this possibility exists regardless of which party controls the White House.



Link drop July 2020

Half time of 2020!

We survived.
(That is, unless the zombie apocalypse has already begun.)

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I'm not aware of a single WW2 case of this being applied. I guess that the usual wind conditions are unsuitable for this. I do know of many cases when a successful application would have been decisive

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 This is a representative sample of a great website on the Ming Dynasty military.

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Mitch deserves a link as well. He covers just about everything about warfare on an Osprey book-like level of readability, illustration and ambition. Some day some corporation will ruin him with copyright claims.

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It's still a disappointing performance, but the countries of the EU look rather like functioning societies that can deal with a challenge in comparison to countries that gave power of governance  to lying right wing demagogues.

It's noteworthy that the Hungarian right wing de facto autocrat government did better than other right wing demagogue governments (U.S., UK, Poland, Brazil). They differ in general; they're actual populists (not mere demagogues who only do hatemongering and fearmongering to gain support that  exceeds plutocrats). They try to do popular policies including helping the poor. They're messing up left-right pandemic response performance comparisons whenever the authors don't notice this difference.

Now we have a cesspool of infections in the West. Blocking travel from there is the correct way to handle this.
They need to grow up and choose a different "leader" than a whining man-baby and lying moron.
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Door jammer.

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No fucking fighting!

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I mentioned that one of the blog post ideas is a commentary on Sun Tzu's "Art of War".
Now I'd like to call for feedback whether there's any interest in such an effort. I would interpret the sentences, link them to examples and clarify why and when the sentence made/makes sense. Feel invited to signal interest ("+" in comments) or disinterest ("-").

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[German] https://netzpolitik.org/2020/mit-diesem-gesetz-bekommen-alle-geheimdienste-staatstrojaner/



Who was the greatest general of all time?

Many generals and army-leading princes are standing tall in military history, but which one was the greatest of all?

I have two suspects, with a clear favourite for #1.

Many of the usual suspects such as Caesar, Hannibal, Frederick the Great, Prince Eugen, Alexander the Great, Napoleon don't make it to that very short list.

Some of them simply inherited a powerful war machine (Caesar, Frederick, Alexander in some regards Napoleon) and were the first ones to fully unleash it. Some illustrious names from WW2 fit that bill as well.
Severe shortcomings disqualify some such candidates (Frederick relied on the frontal oblique order infantry push tactic for too long, Hannibal failed in regard to sieges, and I am thoroughly unimpressed by Prince Eugen's tactics at Belgrade in 1717).

My two suspects are:

#2 Suvorov
He was the best general the czars ever had. He was a master of superior speed on the operational level (arriving ready for battle before expected) and on the tactical level. His tactics varied, but tended to avoid lengthy exchanges of fires. Suvorov also did much for the improvement of training.
His spell of 63 victories in battle without a defeat qualifies him for the very short list of suspects.

#1 Subutai
This Mongol general can claim to have fought the most varied opposition, most varied terrains, most enemies by quantity, the quickest-moving campaigns (even shaming Suvorov), caused the most devastation - and he routinely won, even with stark numerical inferiority. He wasn't born into nobility or even only into Genghis Khan's tribe. His incredible talent was spotted and he made an incredible career despite his suboptimal upbringing.

There's no point in even only trying to assess him on a moral level (from a Christian perspective he no doubt burns in hell), but as a leader of armies he is a strong contender for the #1 spot.
His many operational art innovations (including predating Napoleon by centuries on the coordination of multiple armies), varied tactics and decades of practically uninterrupted campaigning and battlefield successes (65 victories in battle, afaik without defeat) stand out in military history.*

I encourage you to read more about them, and to interpret that info in the context of their technology, society and political environment.


*: One could claim that Subutai inherited a superior military machine as well, but his forces were very similar to important opposing forces (such as the Cumans). They were also a lot less impressive after his death and weren't very different from the steppe armies that the Central Asian and East European steppes had produced for 1,500+ years before him. The Mongol bow was a bit better but otherwise Mongols weren't very dissimilar in forces quality to the steppe-dwelling Skythians from the time of Alexander the Great.


A rational case for keeping the expenses for military power very low (I)

There's practically no way how a country could have a net benefit from major military action nowadays.* Even successful aggressions such as the Crimea invasion or the invasion of Iraq tend to be costly affairs for years to come, with negligible benefits.
The only wars that appear to promise to be better than all peaceful alternatives appear to be (short) wars of independence, for people mostly value sovereignty very highly.

A possible exception could be a long-term preventative war in which a rising power gets stalled by a medium-sized war before it could unleash a more damaging large-sized war (or even "win" it).
Even such war scenarios still have to out-compete peaceful alternative policies to be the best course of action. Nazi Germany could have been stalled by a total trade embargo and an alliance of British Empire, France, Czechoslovakia and Poland before 1938, for example. The result would likely have been a triangle Cold War (Republics-Fascists-USSR). Much of the PR China's rise and its near-indispensability in global supply chains could have been avoided by refusing trade as well.

There's thus a conclusion that aggressive wars are hardly ever the best choice. We should avoid them altogether, for many people can be manipulating into supporting a bad aggressive war idea by warmongering propaganda (see Iraq invasion 2003).

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Thus only defensive wars make sense. This does naturally extend to collective defence of an alliance, so a country could and should come to aid of a non-aggressive ally under attack even if the specific conflict is no direct threat to its interests.

One should be careful about which country should get the promise of aid in case of aggression against it; aggressive countries should be excluded.

This means that in the end, all 'sensible' wars are defensive wars either on the national or on the alliance level (not necessarily on the tactical, operational or warfare strategy levels).

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How should a (politically) defensive war be waged? 

A complete "victory" that includes the elimination of the aggressor as a threat requires greater effort and incurs greater harm than a war that achieves a white peace (a peace or armistice that includes a return to the pre-war control of territory). One could even make a case that the optimum is to seek a minor defeat, but this is very difficult to realize politically (due to domestic politics). It would require politicians not only to recognize the optimum, but also to put the country before their career.

The difference between a white peace and unconditional surrender (or total elimination) of the aggressor does suffer from the very same problems as an aggressive war: It's to be avoided because it harms the own party more than it benefits it.

The way to go for an alliance under attack is to wage war with the objective of a white peace.

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This means that many capabilities that would be necessary for the achievement of extremist objectives are unnecessary. You don't need troops for occupation duty and you don't need to be able to project air and land power deep beyond the alliance's pre-war borders in spite of resistance.

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You need to be able to first frustrate an aggressor (the capability to do so should help to avoid the aggression through deterrence in the first place) and you need to be able to offer a face-saving exit (which means that maybe the aggressor should have some bargaining chips left to make the peace look more like a deal than a dictat). Furthermore, you need to either gain bargaining chips or to liberate all relevant invaded and occupied territories. Bargaining chips are much better, for they allow a return to peace through a negotiated exchange of bargaining chips. It's difficult to offer a face-saving exit if you liberated all invaded territory.

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Now that we have all this in mind let's state the obvious: Military spending is public consumption, not prosperity-driving public investment. We spend for a service, and this service is mostly the protection against foreign armed threats. Side benefits of military spending such as disaster response services, bad music, aerobatics teams, feelings of pride or dual utility R&D efforts justify but a negligible fraction of the military spending in major Western countries.
More military spending than necessary for deterrence does not yield substantial benefits and is thus wrong.

We can REDUCE (NOT increase) the needed military spending by being allied with other powers that provide a net benefit (most importantly, they should not be aggressive unless the alliance serves the purpose to eliminate them from the list of potential antagonist powers). To have allies means to have less potential enemies and the allied wartime strength becomes at least partially available for your cause. Repeat: Being allied does reduce the need for national military spending. Any exception tot his rule requires that either military spending is completely pointless (and thus to be avoided altogether without alliance due to futility or entering the alliance added so many potential enemies that it's a mistake to join.

It is wise to spend on military capability about as little as necessary for its primary purpose.
Smart alliance policy and military spending oriented towards deterrence and (in the event of war) achieving minor defeat or white peace are the way to go.


 (Part II will delve into a less abstract plane of the topic.)

*: This is an opinion. Anyone who disagrees shall be reminded that his or her disagreement is but an opinion as well, for we have no total costs:total benefits analysis of any violent conflict. The arts and science of mankind don't suffice to do such a complete appraisal. I formed my opinion based on the often very expensive, yet usually marginally beneficial conflicts of the past decades. The best case for the profitability of aggressions is in my opinion the (never provable) assertion that a war may have prevented another, worse war. The 1991 Gulf War and 1999 Bombing of Yugoslavia are candidates for such an assertion. Yet even such an assertion does not exclude that the same benefit could have been had cheaper through peaceful means.


Replacement instead of reform

The Minneapolis' city council's decision to replace the police department made the news in early June. I remember that I mentioned such a 'total water change' policy for terminally reform-resistant (armed) bureaucracies in the past.
It's a very interesting case and one of few experiments in this regard. It'll be interesting to see how it works out. A proper police education and training requires probably two years of full-time learning and a one-year (fully paid) trainee/internship period. The formal education and training of police and deputy recruits is ridiculously short (shorter than for barbers or other fairly simple trades where incompetence doesn't kill) in the U.S.. This short training forces a heavy emphasis on on-the-job training. This in turn empowers rotten bureaucracies to corrupt their poorly inoculated new hires right away.

I doubt that a bottom-up water change with thorough training is going to happen in the Minneapolis case, for it takes many years to take effect and a full water change might require more than a decade this way. They could alternatively hire professionals from elsewhere, but that approach would only work well for few cities at once, since the pool of good cops willing to move is way too small for a nearly nationwide police reform.
Military bureaucracies have the same problem, only much more extreme; they would rather not make use of foreign officers at all since this has become unfashionable after the Napoleonic Era.

The replacement of a rotten air force could make use of a naval air arm as replacing alternative, but this only helps if the latter isn't too rotten itself.
An army could be replaced by growing a militia, national guard or marines branch in parallel to grow up an army alternative over about two decades till the water change is complete.

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Recent private sector corporate successes at maintaining a high vitality / start up spirit for roughly a decade even in an organisation with thousands or ten thousands of employees are interesting cases for studies. It might be possible to distil some recipe to stay 'non-bureaucratic' for decades after a water change.

In the end, after any successful reforms it would take a stern, informed, well-intentioned and effective exogenous (civilian) leadership to keep the bureaucracy from becoming a self-licking ice cone again. It's the exogenous leadership and oversight that is responsible for keeping the bureaucracy on course towards the common good rather than towards its self-interest. 
It's inappropriate to expect the superhuman effort of consistent selflessness from bureaucrats. The group thinking and group egoism are all-too human and all-too reliable. 

This shall also be a reminder why generals and admirals are horrible ministers or defence in principle.

also related

BTW, the Camden police department disbanding did not exclude the old cops from applying for the new county-level organisation.



Link drop June 2020

February's "Disruptive technologies" text did not mention one potential tech: Hydrogen (fusion) warheads without a fission stage. "H-bombs" require the energy of a fission device (Uranium or Plutonium fission) for an intensive x-ray radiation burst that triggers the second (fusion) stage.
Nuclear warheads could be much simpler to produce and have less fallout without that first stage. One of the ideas for alternatives to this fission stage is to use incredibly highly energetic materials. And one idea for what materials could qualify is metallic hydrogen.
It passed way under my radar, but physicists actually have made progress and created metallic hydrogen a while ago.



I am not enough of a physics nerd to understand whether this is really a potentially practical alternative or what the (physical) effects of such a no-fission nuclear warhead would be. Still, there might actually be disruptive technologies in the nuclear warhead corner.

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Hence the discussion about the privacy design of the German tracking app. There's absolutely zero reason to trust ANY government with surveillance capabilities or surveillance authority.

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It's striking that there's this time around almost no talk of much public investment as a counter-'cyclical' economic stimulus. Economists do actually not know for sure whether the recovery from the corona-induced crisis will be a sharp V-shaped one or a more drawn-out one. We might not even have any full recovery (=no return to the old trend line of GDP growth), just as many Western countries had after the 2008 crisis.
Medical experts don't know whether the pandemic will force us to have at least mildly economy-depressing countermeasures for a few more weeks, months or up to two years.

This seems like excuses for not investing much in the future, but consider this; there's no substantial harm in setting up investment efforts, but then being unable to execute them because of continued troubles. There is considerable harm in the opposite scenario of needing such stimulus, but not having it.

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some personal notes:
The news are almost all-round horrible in 2020. Meanwhile, I have a very pleasant private life in 2020. There's a little feeling of guilt over this.

On another note, I expect to completely lose faith in median human intelligence by about 2030 and will then turn into a very, very cynical person. I should limit my exposure to morons to slow this process down. (This is not about commenters at D&F; it's a much more general issue.)

I have tried to come up with some real breakthrough military theory thinking or a concept for some 'magnum opus' on land or air warfare comparable to the 80 book pages equivalent series that I did on modern surface warships. It appears that you cannot force such a thing. Yet, I have recently toyed around with the idea of a military theory/military history commentary on Sun Tzu's "Art of War". This classic is very small and still interesting.



Deploying for attack and speed of advance

The point of delaying actions is to threaten the advancing hostile force enough to force it from a marching stance into a combat stance. The vehicles leave the road, deploy into combat formations, probe, use otherwise ignored routes to flank the defender and so on. All this takes a lot more time than to keep advancing along a road. The delaying force then retires before it gets involved in too much combat and ideally the next delaying force repeats the trick so the original one can prepare another such delay in its back.

source U.S. Army FM 3-90.2
(It's a too linear thinking version of a delaying action.)
The training (and technical communication & navigation capabilities) of the attacking force is hugely influential for how quickly it can deploy for battle (and revert to marching order). 

Another hugely important factor is whether the attacking force is armour-centric or infantry-centric. 
Armour can be very quick in such actions. Infantry-centric forces have a much greater difference between road march speed and battle movement speed. Infantry-centric forces may use their line of sight firepower (including from wheeled IFVs and missiles) together with direct fires to defeat defenders, but it should under most circumstances take much longer than for a competent armoured force.

An important difference between infantry-centric and tank-centric forces is how selective infantry has to be in regard to choice of routes. It has to exploit the microterrain for cover and concealment,  and any of their lightly protected armoured vehicles would have to do so (if capable) to a greater degree than tanks, too. The greater stealthiness requirement slows down infantry even more in addition to its lower nominal speed limit.

A delaying action should thus be much more effective against infantry-centric forces than against tank-centric forces. A tank force might be delayed for minutes when the very same delaying effort could delay an infantry-centric force by an hour. Moreover, the road march speed of an infantry-centric force (which typically lacks tracked vehicles) is usually higher than that of a tank-centric force.

A slowed (and more or less slowly weakened) brigade or battlegroup would often be a good target for indirect fires, a flank attack or even a pincer attack. Slowness is self-defeating in mobile warfare.

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I've seen people trying to justify brigade designs that lack main battle tanks or powerful infantry fighting vehicles by pointing out their (notional) ability to defeat tank brigades with missile firepower.
Well, that's nice to have.*
I still cannot see how an infantry-centric force could possibly advance quickly against a competent and intact hostile force of half its manpower size. Both infantry-centric and armour-centric brigades should be able to slow down an advancing infantry-centric brigade or two in most Eastern European terrains.

I don't trust in-service ATGMs. Formations without tanks would still be tactically slower and more vulnerable than formations without tanks even if ATGMs work as advertised. It's this slowness of infantry-centric land battle designs that disqualifies the fashionable no-tracks brigade types for mobile land warfare under many if not most conditions.**


*: Well, it's nice if you really think your enemy doesn't have the means to defeat your ATGM guidance after its operating principle has been public knowledge for 30+ years. And then you also need to trust the ATGM warhead.
**: There may be situations in which an all-wheeled battlegroup successfully executes a deep raid in modern chevauchée fashion. It would be essential to not face a powerful aerial threat and to avoid getting caught up in battle with strong hostile forces. Essentially, their reaction to a threat would need to be evasion, not deployment for battle. This would be an available course of action in some circumstances (only).


Specialised forces

I observed something peculiar about specialised forces in strategy gaming (such as WITP:AE) and history: They are very rarely where you need them, even if you try hard to bring them into the best position.

The Japanese torpedo cruisers Kitakami and Oi of WW2 are examples: They were capable of launching dozens of the most fearsome torpedoes of WW2 each. Their torpedo firepower could have defeated the Royal Navy's Home Fleet at Jutland. They did never launch such a salvo. In fact, they weren't even where they would have had the best odds to do so - at the Solomons.

The Italian ramming ship Affondatore was designed with one purpose in mind; sink a powerful warship by ramming. It was present at the battle at Lissa and there was a ship sunk by ramming, but Affondatore didn't ram any ship, ever.

The British battlecruisers of the Furious class were built with some crazy Baltic invasion scheme in mind - and never entered the Baltic.

The early battlecruisers were all about defeating armoured cruisers with superior primary artillery at long ranges - with dozens of battlecruisers, there was but one action ever where such a thing happened.

The French battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg were designed to sink German Deutschland class heavy cruisers, but they never faced any.

The Deutschland class itself was built for commerce raiding on the oceans. Fast enough to run away from battleships, strong enough to defeat cruisers. The entire class saw very few successful patrols and the only action against cruisers was followed by the scuttling of the Graf Spee itself.

Surcouf was a submarine with extraordinary gun armament - and never used for anything, really.

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These were examples from the naval realm.
There were also examples from land warfare. Leaving technical oddities aside, entire light (Jäger / infantry) divisions were raised by the Wehrmacht for combat at the Caucasus. That didn't happen.

Specialised artillery divisions were raised to lend extra artillery firepower to breakthrough operations, sieges or crisis areas. They were wasted as frontline divisions instead, overstretching their weak infantry component.

Mountain warfare and paratroops formations of WW2 mostly fought like infantry divisions, albeit often in swampy or woodland terrain.

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The one area where highly specialised assets appear to be mostly successful and even often employed according to their purpose seems to be air warfare. The extreme mobility of air power and by comparison static nature of its targets appears to be an important factor. It enables the mission planning to send the specialised assets to where and when they can serve their purpose.

Many specialised air power assets such as jamming aircraft or reconnaissance aircraft tend to be highly dependent on a technological advantage for their missions, though. Old reconnaissance aircraft that became too slow have failed in WW2. A reconnaissance aircraft that gets its imaging radar jammed would fail today. A jamming aircraft that fails to jam effectively is pointless.

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Specialisation appears to be less successful whenever it's directed against few hostile forces or for a relatively small area. Highly specialised minesweepers that faced hundreds of thousands of naval mines were a very successful asset in WW2, for example.

Long story short, I feel we should guard ourselves against the strong pursuit of highly specialised assets at least if they are meant to face a small quantity of threats. Versatile units tended to be more worthwhile and mostly better-suited for what actual action they saw, and I suppose this may continue.
We cannot avoid specialisation entirely, but I suspect we go too much for it if we don't deliberately  guard ourselves against an overemphasis on specialisation.



The West is naked, and everyone sees it

There's a torrent building up slowly but steadily: A torrent of articles that point out the failure of the West, its star industries and institutions, to rise to the pandemic challenge. There was an earlier wave of more or less humorous content on humour website about how the U.S. fails to rise to the challenge and save earth as it does in Hollywood movies all the time. Hollywood disaster movies usually have some scientist who doesn't get listened to until the disaster is happening, then he gets listened to, the president rises to the challenge, some genius idea, disaster defeated. Oh yes, and New York gets pummeled every time.
The Cassandra aspect and the NY pummeling were the only things that happened for real (that bis, only the bad aspects did happen).

But it's not only the U.S. that's failing grossly. The left wing-controlled Canada has failed to bend the curve of infections and is still in the linear growth phase as well (as of today). European countries fail with characteristic diversity of outcomes, and Russia fails, no matter how many shirtless photos its autocrat-in-chief has made.

I do suppose that the roots of failure are not merely about cultural issues with masks, though this added difficulty. Likewise, the loud but small minority of super egoists and anarchists who resist united action against the pandemic doesn't seem to be the driving failure to me, either.

My suspicion is rather that a strength of the West happens to be a weakness in this particular event: The Western focus on cooperation and consensus proves to be a weakness this time, as it has accustomed politicians and others to small steps rather than to decisive action. Now we do need decisive action, but our political leadership and public service are simply unsuitable for this.
This doesn't apply to the Americans and British, who famously rejected this style of policymaking. They fail for a different reason. They elected a clown, so they get a circus - it's that simple.

The real question in regard to defence is whether this show of weakness undermines our deterrence. I was pleasantly surprised by the American's ability to develop and quickly field MRAPs by the thousands in the 2000s despite their rotten procurement bureaucracy. The current crisis does now undermine this signal. Maybe the ventilator and mask production mobilization will at least signal an ability to respond with large-scale production within three months after the need becomes obvious.

The pandemic crisis also suggests that devastating economic and cultural warfare against the West may be as simple as manipulating some ordinary virus to create another pandemic or two.

The one upside that I see in this is a bit cynical; the Russians appear to fail even more badly (and cannot hide it any more). So basically the only somewhat capable potential threat to Europe in Europe is looking even worse (and badly hurt by the concurrent oil price collapse).

Still, it's a totally unsatisfactory picture in my opinion. Sadly, the rally-around-the-flag aspect and the loud noises of the moron faction diminish the chance for real, well-aimed improvements.


P.S.: I cautioned about what became a pandemic on February 1st and sounded full alarm on February 24th. This was without unusual access and without being in a job that would require me to care about public health. My dissatisfaction with the policies and their timing is rooted in part on my opinion that public knowledge suffices to do better than what the politicians did. The hesitation may have been an attempt to reduce the economic damage, but  the lack of early warning to the industries and lack of early prioritised orders for critical supplies indicates that the decision-making lag was really as long as it seems.


Link drop May 2020

A website dedicated to Soviet Armed Forces 1945-1091
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The question our executive branch politicians have to answer before the next elections is "Why didn't we have this by February already?!?".

The costs of the supplies are negligible, and all countries have enough unemployed people to provide the necessary labour.

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The U.S. had something similar in the Vietnam War era and I have long considered it a scandal that such tech (preferably coupled with a mobile ski jump ramp) isn't standard equipment in air forces. I suppose that's a result of the top bras' bias towards peacetime flying things.

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My question is: "How can a person possibly be so dumb to not see that this is an total moron? He is OBVIOUSLY dumber than an average 3rd grader. His knowledge on things has been displayed as irritatingly deficient again and again on utterly normal things to know. He didn't know that people died of the flu even though his grandfather did. "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated." after claiming to have a plan that gives better care to more people for less money.

How can an adult be so stupid? I used to think that the crazies who sit on park benches and loudly argue with themselves are the most dysfunctional people not yet locket up in psychiatric wards, but apparently that was wrong.

They gave the nuclear codes to this horse crap version of a brain!

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The Onion

Look at the date.

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"5 lessons from World War II for the coronavirus response"

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I lost an entire article in April. It was scheduled, then suddenly I had another article scheduled twice for the same date with the same headline. I deleted one of the two copies and next day I noticed that the unrelated scheduled article was gone. That's a never seen before (my me) hiccup of blogger. Luckily, I wasn't fully convinced of the lost article's quality and had delayed its publication since February.

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This shall be a reminder that I never sided with the ammosexuals even when I wrote about guns.

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[German] www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/corona-pandemie-populismus-toetet-kolumne-a-00000000-0002-0001-0000-000170435611
Er verwendet das Wort "Populismus" und meint "Demagogerie", aber ansonsten 99% Zustimmung von mir.

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Reminder about non-combat troops

The comments on the skirmisher topic reminded me of the widespread mistake of today: People are thinking about land warfare as a clash between combat troops. And I may have neglected to push attention towards when it's not.

Combat troops vs. combat troops is a mostly correct scenario only in slow-moving land warfare with defended positions and even then it's only true regarding direct fires.

Highly mobile (fluent) land warfare is in great part about tanks facing (and crushing or dispersing) non-combat troops. Remember; combat troops are a small minority in an army in the field. Well less than 25% of the personnel are combat troops, even less if you don't count recce, arty, mortar teams and the likes as combat troops. 
Even the combat troops are battle-ready only in a fraction of the time and against certain kinds of combat troops (an ATGM team is not of much use in a close fight with infantry, for example). They won't fare much better than non-combat troops when surprised while not battle-ready.

The 'combat troops vs. combat troops' paradigm is completely pointless in regard to elusive forces (skirmishers, guerillas). The U.S.armed forces had more non-combat troops KIA in Iraq than combat troops KIA for this reason (and because they employed non-combat troops as auxiliary security personnel / MP).

Light forces akin to skirmishers cannot only be employed to cause trouble to armoured spearheads. They can persist in the area (leave behind, kind of Jagdkampf* tactic) and then engage the many, many non-combat troops that have negligible to weak combat power. A skirmisher/Jagdkampf platoon doesn't need to measure its combat capability in terms of its ability to destroy MBTs head-on as tank companies do; it primarily has to look at how well it can entrap and annihilate a convoy of 30 non-combat vehicles.

This (and thus the skirmisher and Jagdkampf concepts) has extremely far-reaching consequences. The current force structures in Western land forces may be unbelievably brittle and ill-advised against an opposing force that adapts to exploit the Western infantry and dispersed combat weakness.**


*: I have not found an English summary of Jagdkampf. It's basically about a stealthy infantry platoon fighting in isolation, possibly even guerilla-like as leave-behind forces in the enemy's back. Jagdkampf and Stoßtrupp (infantry assault platoon) are the two dominant German infantry concepts, as opposed to the anglophone obsession with a "patrol".
Jagdkampf as it was in pre-2002 field manuals was a deeply flawed concept based on improbable assumptions. It could have been much better; there were plenty military theory contributions to this end in the 70's and 80's that were not as half-assed. I have not seen how the doctrine was adapted after the Afghanistan experience. The extinction of the German long range scout / LRRP establishment indicates to me that the Heer does not bet on dispersed small unit operations at all.

**: Similar concerns were already voiced by the early 1980's based on a mechanised warfare threat, see as example the booklet "Battlefield Central Europe" by Uhle-Wettler.


Military theory of skirmishing

(This is one of the topics a whole book could be written about, but I will try to shrink it to blog post size.)

Skirmishers are well documented since antiquity. Their contributions were likely overlooked by many contemporary authors because skirmishers had no high social standing. This is similar to how some authors pretended that medieval battles were just a class of a couple hundred or thousand knights each, when typically each knight represented a "lance" (a small group comprised by the knight and his followers).

a peltast (javelineer)
We have decent documentation of skirmishers from the actions of Iphicrates and Xenophon, though. Skirmishers of antiquity were often poor citizens who could not afford a heavy infantryman's kit or even slaves who followed their masters into battle and helped out with minimal kit.
The Roman Republic divided its citizens by their wealth (income) and the poorest ended up serving in skirmisher units; mostly slingers and javelineers. 
Skirmishers in antiquity were thus borne out of economic restriction and not necessarily always used for their effectiveness. Some such light troops / skirmishers were recruited as mercenaries, though (Balearic and Rhodian slingers or Cretan archers, for example). Such mercenaries were respected for their skill and apparently employed because of their cost efficiency. Moreover, Xenophon's expedition showed that light troops had a unique selling proposition: They were good at providing security, especially at climbing hills ahead and left and right of the army's march in order to avoid ambushes or harassing fires from them (compare Battle of Lake Trasimene).

The preferred Hellenic battle tactic before Philipp II was to set up two long phalanx lines and clash frontally with the enemy (with notable exception especially of the Battle of Leuctra with the famous oblique order that was later famously revived by Frederick II). The task of skirmishers was to harass and weaken with missiles. They used the lighter weight of their equipment for greater tactical mobility and thus the ability to avoid melee combat. Heavy skirmishers such as the later Roman Velites were also capable of decent performance in melee combat, but at most as addition to closed order tactics of the heavy infantry. Rarely did skirmishers compose the main effort in battle and as far as I know did there was but one well-documented battle in which skirmishers defeated a heavy infantry army without other arms doing the most of the job.
I have never found a mathematical way to express the dynamics of skirmishing in the Hellenic periods era in a useful way.

Parthian light (horse archer) cavalry practised a different kind of skirmishing. Their high value shock force (knight-like armoured lance cavalry) was best-used against hostile heavy infantry when it was not in good (closed) order. The light forces (light missile cavalry) thus attacked over and over again mainly to shape the battlefield for the shock forces. They injured, killed and despaired the enemy (Roman legionaries) to shape the battlefield for successful attacks by armoured lance cavalry.
I have not found a similar battlefield-shaping focus of skirmishing in Hellenic or Roman battles, though skirmishers always had the potential to entice an enemy into making an offensive move when it wouldn't prefer it otherwise.

Now fast forward to the 18th century and Napoleonic era. The skirmishers of this era were very different from antiquity. Moreover, the equipment of foot skirmishers of this era wasn't more lightweight than the equipment of line infantry. In fact, the Napoleonic era saw parts of the line infantry getting dispatched to serve as skirmishers. Skirmishing had become a tactic rather than an equipment issue.
The dominant factor behind the foot skirmishing of this era (and to some extent the Hussars' skirmishing) appears to have been the nature of closed order formations and the poor accuracy (and especially high dispersion) of most firearms.
Infantry in closed (linear) order (here grenadiers = relatively tall men)
The infantry of the era was employed in linear order (usually three ranks deep, but everything from two to six ranks were employed from late 17th century to Napoleonic era with three ranks being typical in the 2nd half of 18th century). This extreme discipline was rooted in an effort to maximise firepower with quick loading and firing when the blackpowder smoke of the previous salvo was gone. Such formations of hundreds of men in essentially 1.70 m by dozens of metres were easy targets even for inaccurate smoothbore muskets provided the shot wasn't from too far away (about 20% hit probability at about 230 m).
It was much harder to hit dispersed infantry at greater than about 60 m distance or so with the muskets of the time. The dominant skirmishing approach of the era in Europe was thus to have few men disperse and take shots at such easy targets. These dispersed troops would have less smoke problem themselves, but would need to be able to run to safety from hostile cavalry quickly.

French Napoleonic voltigeurs (skirmishers) in open order
The line formation could not really defend itself with full salvoes; to do so would achieve very little (maybe parity of kills), but it would wear out the flintstones of the muskets, foul the barrels of the muskets and disproportionally expend munitions (troops carried only about 40...60 cartridges into battle).* It would almost disable itself ahead of a clash with hostile line infantry. So this battlefield-shaping effect was avoided by employing  more limited countermeasures. The line infantry had small detachments step forward and fire a small salvo to discourage skirmishers. Sometimes a single peloton of the line would shoot a salvo. This did often not suffice, so the appropriate countermeasure was to meet skirmishers with skirmishers. This was already done in antiquity, of course. The fight skirmisher vs. skirmisher allowed for rifles to shine; their better (smaller) dispersion was of little consequence in a skirmisher attack on an infantry line, but highly prized in a fight between dispersed skirmishers.

This era allows for an interesting mathematical description of the mechanics of a skirmisher action, at least against an infantry line. A skirmisher vs. skirmisher action would lead to a Lanchester equation-ish description. Lanchester equations are not of much interest in regard to combat between skirmishers and line infantry because that kind of contact isn't about wiping either out.

The effective firepower (excluding the human factor) of the troops can be described as

effective firepower = qty of men x rate of fire x dispersion factor x target size (shortest edge matters most, so width for a single man but height for a line)

Now let's look at smoothbore musket skirmishers vs. infantry line (a Peloton). For skirmishers, it's like
effective firepower skirmishers = poor x normal x normal x good
Their effectiveness was exclusively from the target size, for they were fewer and the gun technology was identical to their opponents'.

For the infantry line (a Peloton) this reads as
effective firepower Peloton = very good x normal x normal x poor

I suppose it's not really necessary to replace the variables with figures - the abstract level is already informative. It suggests that there was little reason to expect skirmishers to kill more than they would be killed. The fact that the line infantry stood behind each other actually gave them a better ratio of shots fired to target area than the skirmishers had.
Source: Jean-Louis Vial of Nec Pluribus Impar
There were three important factors in favour of the skirmishers: They could often exploit cover (such as stone walls between fields) better than the line infantry (which had to prefer line order over exploitation of cover) and the line infantry should not react with its full potential munition expenditure for the reasons mentioned before. The third factor was that the line infantry could not sustain its effective firepower as they formed a smoke wall in front of themselves and thus increased their own effective shot dispersion.

Skirmishing on other days than battle days offered additional promise: Such skirmishing would typically be ambush salvoes, then the skirmishers would break contact. This worked in America, but not so much in Europe where the desertion-prone armies of the cabinet wars (prior to French Revolution) had to avoid woodland to keep desertion rates low.**

Rifled guns with their better dispersion (but much slower loading) were an obvious way of giving skirmishers not only an edge against other skirmishers, but also against infantry lines. Rifles had such a combination of "rate of fire x dispersion factor" that they could skirmish from an almost safe (against musket fire) distance and skill be effective. Rifles' accuracy also allowed for picking targets, so the riflemen could aim at high value targets (officers, some NCOs, gun crews and flag bearers), albeit this was frowned upon in Europe.

Mounted skirmishing was similar; its main purpose was to entice the enemy into wasting shots and fouling its guns. Hussars and other mounted skirmishers used carbines (smaller calibre, shorter barrel, mostly to exclusively smoothbore). They offered a larger target (+horse, almost no ability to exploit cover) and less firepower (shorter barrel firearm) than dismounted skirmishers did and their skirmishing was not highly regarded in mid-18th century Europe. The increase of the share of rifled carbines*** in the late 18th century has apparently not changed this much.


Skirmishing isn't much of a component in modern-day tactics field manuals for infantry or mechanised forces, but there is some potential.

One potential is about attrition of the opposing force by using small and stealthy/elusive teams to provide targeting information (and possibly battle damage assessment) for artillery and mortar fires.

Another potential is about delaying actions; small and stealthy/elusive teams might use disproportionate firepower (including calls for indirect fires, but also ATGMs, sniping, organic mortars), mines and other obstacles to force the opposing force into deploying and using combat tactical movements (exploiting terrain features for concealment, making use of smoke and so on rather than simply quickly driving along roads) to mitigate the threat. This leads to some attrition, but possibly more importantly it slows the opposing forces down.****

Swarming is another possibility. Swarms in the military sense are not simply loose groups or many small groups. Swarming is about pulsing attacks, similar to submarine wolfpack tactics. Many small elements unite in one effort by having the same target (a formation) and a narrow time window(s) for their (repeated) attack(s). I suppose this could be called skirmishing since it's about dispersed small elements taking on a formation of superior mass. Moreover, those small elements survive only if they avoid a too intense contact.
Such swarming can be combined with a lasting de facto encirclement (as opposed to the usually rather frontal approach of skirmishing against battle lines). A de facto encirclement puts the opposing force formation into a de facto moving pocket situation. It can move, but its external lines of communication are cut.

Finally, there's one element of skirmishing that's actually in at least some modern army doctrines. The U.S. Army with its formalised force-on-force training events at the National Training Centre***** emphasised counterreconnaissance a lot in the 90's and early 2000's. This was in part a lesson from their mock battles******, which had a defined duration of a reconnaissance phase before the main forces were supposed to enter action. This artificial rule elevated reconnaissance and thus counterreconnaissance to prominence. There were no dedicated counterreconnaissance units, so it was in part about reconnaissance forces fighting each other. That's a similar situation to 18th century and Napoleonic skirmishers battling between the two armies' infantry lines, of course.

additional related external links:


*: The fouling of the barrel was the main concern. An infantryman could have carried more than 60 cartridges and flintstones could quickly be exchanged with a screw mechanism after using up their durability of about 50 shots.
**: The more reliable (better pay, more comfortable job, less strict discipline, higher status) heavy cavalry provided security not only against hostiles, but also by guarding the own infantry against desertion as if the own infantry march column was a prisoner march column. They could not really do this in most woodland or swampland areas, of course.
***: Prussian example (Website in German)
****: An article that inspired me about this for decades: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a323568.pdf
*****: This changed during the Iraq occupation towards training for occupation and I have no idea how it developed since.
******: The term "counterreconnaissance" can already be found in a 1942 U.S. Army publication, though.