Ten options when facing a threat of specific geographic origin (I)


Today I shall present a model of how armed forces deal with a threat that has a geographic origin. In other words, a model that brings all of warfare into an abstract level and looks at it in a particular way. It's a framework of sorts for looking especially at inter-state war. Be warned; this is going to be long.

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Let's use a simple case, the case of a fictional European naval war around 1900. Two navies oppose each other, one is supposed to raid commerce and coastal settlements, the other is supposed to defend against this.

The point of origin of the threat is one particular naval base. The attacker's warships should leave that base, find targets on or at the European waters and the world's oceans, harm or capture them and return. Rinse repeat. We'll see there are stages at which the threat can be countered (or "options with which the threat can be countered") by the defending party:

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The first stage is to prevent the attacker's shipyards from building more warships. Air power was not yet capable of that in the scenario, but political and blockade measures to limit the availability of materials was possible. So this is the first stage of defence: Reduce the reinforcements and replenishment to the attacker's base of operations.

The second stage is to attack the base itself, or the attacker's fleet inside the base. This was doable at the time with a naval bombardment or small boats entering the port with explosive munitions.

The third stage is to intercept whatever attacker's forces leave their base of operations within a defined geographic area. This may be an offensive naval minefield, but it could also be an actual cordon of patrolling scout ships and a patrolling or sortieing battle fleet.

The fourth stage is to intercept gradually. It's a bit misleading to count is as fourth, for it could happen in front of the third stage, behind it (against ships that leaked through the cordon) or instead of the third stage. You may thus alternatively think of options instead of stages.

The fifth stage is to patrol the seas and hunt for commerce raiders with hunting groups far away from the attacker's base of operations.

The sixth stage is to protect maritime transportation with a convoying system, providing escorts to convoys.

The seventh stage is to secure certain important yet relatively small areas, for example at straits. This would not intercept the threat in general, just for a small area. Another facet of this stage is to provide coastal defences to coastal settlements.

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All of these stages were used in naval warfare, often times many of them in parallel and thus likely wasting resources by lack of focus. Some examples are

(1) Most naval blockades had this effect, also diplomatic efforts to reduce neutral countries' deliveries of essential raw materials.

(2) Battle of Port Arthur 1904, Attack on Mers el Kebir 1940, attack on Alexandria 1941, attack on Pearl Harbour 1941, attack on the Tirpitz 1943

(3) Offensive minefields were used much during WW2, and the NATO maintained an anti-Soviet submarines cordon North of Europe from Greenland to Iceland to United Kingdom (GIUK gap). The Entente also laid an enormous naval minefield barrier between Scotland and Norway in late WWI after already establishing one against submarines in the Strait of Dover. The German minefields between Estonia and Finland in 1942-1944 also fit.

(4) This fits to Royal navy actions in the Eastern Mediterranean 1940/1941, and also to the American submarine campaign against Japan in 1943-1945.

(5) This is exemplified by the Royal Navy hunting groups for German commerce raiders in 1914 and in 1939-1941. The anti-submarine hunting groups in the Bay of Biscay in 1944 do also fit.

(6) Convoys were widely used, examples were the Spanish Silver fleets of the 16th and 17th century and naval convoying in late WWI and WW2.

 (7) coastal defences all around the world, Soviet naval "bastions"

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There are actually at least two more stages (or options). They just don't quite fit into the scenario, but I shall add them as #8 and #9:

The eighth option is to shadow attacker's forces as they leave port and go on a patrol. This is mostly feasible during peacetime (today's SSNs trying to shadow SSBNs, "fishing boats" shadowing surface warships) and becomes important at the start of hostilities, but it also happened to the Bismarck during wartime when inferior but fast enough British cruisers attempted to keep track of its course till battleships or carriers could engage it. The attacker side can also use this, example being the German submarines shadowing a convoy as "Fühlunghalter" in wolfpack tactics.This could be re-interpreted as a possible action of a defender against an invasion fleet

The ninth option is to cause harm to infrastructure so the attacker's forces could not operate well. This would be possible by damaging or blocking canals, but also by going after replenishment ships in addition to countering the raiders themselves directly. This happened to German replenishment ships in 1940-1942, and also to German refuelling submarines in the Atlantic during WW2.

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The ninth option makes it obvious that all of this could just as well be applied to land warfare. Let's look at examples from the land domain:

(1) Allied air attacks on German armament industry in 1943-1945

(2) Artillery strikes on marshalling areas before frontline breakthrough operations. This was a huge thing in WW2 and often caused more casualties than the much shorter duration breakthrough operation itself.

(3) A static frontline with field fortifications, or a siege army besieging a fortress

(4) Counter-reconnaissance ambushes and patrols, mobile land warfare

(5) I mentioned an example of such defensive efforts here

(6) Protected land convoys in Indochina/Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Actually the Romans already lost legions in escort duty for food resupply convoys against the Parthians

(7) Security efforts at important bridges, at airbases, headquarters, mountain passes before they're part of a front line

(8) Mostly done by guerillas

(9) Scorched earth tactics including the burning of Moscow, destruction of rail lines, blowing up bridges or cratering of roads at bottlenecks with explosives during a withdrawal

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I mentioned that the model will be applicable to practically all warfare, so here are examples from the air war domain as well:

(1) Allied air attacks on German and Japanese aviation industry in WW2

(2) Air attacks on airbases; Battle of Britain, Pearl Harbour, Six Days War

(3) Kammhuber Line, British heavy anti-air artillery dispositions in Kent until the V1 attacks, NATO's SAM belt of the mid and late Cold War in Germany

Kammhuber line - German night air defences WW2

(4) combat air patrols

(5) OK, this one is not  a very good case for historical analogies because aircraft have little endurance and extensive patrolling is thus difficult. The Fernnachtjagd of WW2 comes to mind, though. German nightfighters without radar flew offensive combat air patrols over Southeast England around 1941 to shoot down returning British night bombers.This does thus not quite fit into #3 or #4, as they targeted returning bombers. It's not a perfect match because the activity was close to the base.

(6) Civilian aircraft were as far as I know never escorted by fighters, but convoying has very much been used to protect bombers and support aircraft, from escorted photo reconnaissance aircraft of WWI to bombers through most of WW2, Korean War, Vietnam War and Iraq Wars.

(7) Point air defences, such as for airports or capitals (Baghdad, Berlin in WW2 and Moscow in Cold War were extremely well-protected with rings of air defences)

Mosocw air defence rings as of 1965 per CIA

(8) Shadowing was used against American bombers in 1943/44 to help track the bomber fleets over Germany.

(9) Attack on support aircraft (tankers, electronic warfare, reconnaissance), energy/physical attack on satellites and their signals

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Let's now name the nine options with all three domains and much of history in mind:

  1. Economic attack
  2. Base strike
  3. Cordoning
  4. Mobile warfare
  5. Hunting patrols
  6. Convoying
  7. Secured zones
  8. Shadowing
  9. Infrastructure attack

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One final word before the summary lines: There is a 10th option. This option is to NOT counter the threat ("10. Enduring the problem"), but to endure it as the lesser evil compared to the effort of countering it. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is and always was an option. I mentioned an example here regarding the non-necessity of ASW for the Italian Navy.

One could also come to the conclusion that all the craze post-9/11 did hurt the West A LOT more than the attack itself. Maybe doing nothing in return would have been suboptimal, but the very thought of choosing to NOT do something might have been a helpful thought and kept the West from harming itself in a myriad of ways.

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These abstract nine options of countering a threat of specific geographic origin were thus shown to be very much applicable to the warfare domains of sea, air and land. They were observable through much of history.

Part II will cover some lessons that can be easily seen and drawn from this nine options/stages model.




Link dump April 2021





This is sadly believable to me, for it fits to how bureaucracies and especially LE bureaucracies appear to work all over the world. This case is but a minor extension on the ordinary. LE usually uses the mantle of a union speaker to manipulate public opinion.

It's telling that parties which supposedly mistrust bureaucracy (if not government as a whole) make an exception with those bureaucracies that can be used to bully people.

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[German] "Mogeln ist ansteckend"

[German] https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/anti-transparenz-bei-der-cdu-wenn-datenschutz-zur-ausrede-wird/27004512.html

[German] https://blog.fefe.de/?ts=9eb7ee5f




About unguided torpedoes (addendum)


I wrote about unguided torpedoes kinetics in 2013, and after a couple years it dawned on me that I had missed an explanation for the use of early torpedoes on capital ships.

Books about Pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought ships as well as armoured cruisers usually do not appreciate their torpedo armament as essential, I've even seen it called "useless" in subject-specialized books.

Those warships of the roughly 1890...1910 era did indeed have a torpedo armament that was unlike the torpedo armaments used later, or on light warships and boats. They used fixed underwater torpedo tubes, facing port, starboard, bow and possibly aft, though not always in all these directions. The torpedoes had an abysmal propulsion, light weight, small diameter, small warhead, contact fuse and an abysmal range.

They were typically only a few knots faster than the ship itself and ran for a few hundred metres only.

You can find data on such torpedoes here:


The archetype was the Whitehead torpedo, so let's look at the Royal Navy's model of the 1890's:

It had about 700 m range at 26.5 kts mobility and a 59 kg TNT equivalent warhead with impact fuse.

So why were they installed, and quite often so?

My opinion is that you can actually see by looking at for example the most iconic capital ship of that period in question:


HMS Dreadnought

Do you see the bow? It's no clipper bow by far, clearly not optimized for seaworthiness. It's a ramming bow, with a protrusion below the waterline like ancient Trieres had.

Now imagine one such ship trying to ram another (in case of the Dreadnought, such a scenario would be a night or foggy scenario, for it was meant to fight at long distances instead).

The targeted ship would typically be able to dodge such an attack unless it's already crippled. So during the dodging the two ships pass very closely past each other. THAT is when the port or starboard torpedoes could be used by both the attacker and defender. They would act as deterrent, even in small quantity and with a small warhead (which would not face much in terms of underwater protection against torpedoes in that period).

The forward-facing torpedo tube could be used to shoot at one possible dodging route of the targeted ship before the captain of the attacking ship steers to strike on an alternative other dodging route.

The rear-facing stern torpedo tube could be used by a ship running away from a dodging attempt, shooting at the pursuer as the pursuer cannot reach it with a torpedo.

Now why were torpedoes mounted below the waterline with all the complications this causes? Later era warships (1920's and later) installed torpedoes on the top deck, same as the torpedo boats of the 1890...1910 period.

The reason was probably that the top deck was simply too high. I have no data on this for the ship-mounted torpedoes, but some early aircraft-launched torpedoes (dropped from up to 30 m altitude) needed about 400 m to level to the correct depth. Let's assume a torpedo launched from a battleship would be stable on the preset depth after 200 m. That might very well be a longer distance than to the target during one missed ramming attempt. The correct depth was important for two reasons:

(1) too deep means no hit whatsoever, for the torpedoes of that time had contact fuses, not magnetic influence fuses

(2) too shallow means that the water pressure at the (small) hole in the hull would be rather small. The water would flow into the target ship much more slowly, and the sailors would have more time for easier countermeasures.

Torpedoes eventually gained much better mobility in the 1904-1910 timeframe, but they were very expensive munitions (kind of like really expensive missiles today; battery-electric torpedoes of the late 1930's were the first quite affordable torpedoes). The shipbuilding practices of the great powers did not adapt to this immediately, and they kept using the old underwater torpedo tube arrangements into the First World War.

A LOT more about unguided torpedoes (though not this above) can be found here:





Naval gunnery 1890 to 1945 and lessons drawn


Naval gunnery was in a dismal shape during the last decade of the 19th century. The old extremely smoke-producing blackpowder (not really a "powder" any more at that time) propellants had recently been replaced by smokeless propellants (such as the hazardous cordite in the Royal Navy) and breech-loaded guns were being adopted for good, but the gunnery and artillery ship design was in a horrible state of affairs.

Expected useful firing ranges were short (less than 4 km against ships), as optical range-finding was in its infancy and there was no central fire control yet. The coal-fired boilers produced terrible amounts of smoke and many guns were placed so low even on battleships that fairly normal rough seas made them temporarily unusable as waves crashed into them.

The typical armament of an armoured ship of the time consisted of two or four large calibre guns (8"...13.5" calibre), with a substantial secondary battery of  usually 4...6" calibre and soon some smaller guns specifically to shoot at the small (about 200 tons) and nimble torpedo boats.

There was a break in rate of fire between 6" guns and heavier guns because 6" has the heaviest shells that can be loaded by hand throughout a long battle by the non-roided men of the 1890...1945 period. The heavier guns used more machinery to load shell and propellant and this was slower, not faster (and still is, though it's faster than manual loading for the modern naval guns of up to 130 mm).

This huge drop in rate of fire from about 5...15 rpm for 5...6" guns to 1.5...3 rpm for most heavier guns was in part cushioned by the reality of long-range gunnery post-1910, but this rate of fire and the huge cost, size and mass increase past 6" calibre led to a curious situation at first:

Ever since the 1860's there were many warships with a primary artillery of few impressive big turret guns and many more smaller and somewhat hidden casemate guns up to 6". The public perceived the primary guns as the defining firepower. Those guns may have penetrated heavy armour protection on other ships, while the smaller guns did not. The reality was almost certainly known to most warship-commanding naval officers and naval gunnery officers: The secondary guns were the main armament and the big guns were for show and possibly useful in coastal bombardment, or as a deterrence.

The small guns fired so much more often that they were bound to score about tenfold as many hits at the then-relevant combat ranges. The heavy guns fired so rarely that corrections after observation of fall of shot by the gunner were obsolete by the time the heavy guns were ready to fire again.

Smaller than 8" shells were also less likely to be duds when they hit some unarmoured part of a ship where a very large calibre shell fuses often failed to trigger even as late as during the Second World War.

Royal Sovereign (1891) 13.5" twin barbette
A most egregious example was the Royal Sovereign class, which had four 13.5" guns in twin barbette mounts. Those were unarmoured to save mass high up on the ship, to improve rolling behaviour and general seakeeping. (The ships of this class still rolled badly when introduced.)

These 13.5" guns fired one broadside salvo every 135 seconds only, (0.44 rpm), as they could only be reloaded in fore-and-aft position. They might not have fired more than four or five shots per barrel in a battle, for the unprotected crew would likely have been cut down by fragmentation and even shrapnel (that was still a thing in navies at the time and has recently kind of returned with the 35 mm Millennium gun and its AHEAD munition) by many small calibre hits at that point. Meanwhile, the Royal Sovereign's protected 6" gun crews could have continued the fight with 25 or more rpm in total (port or starboard).

You may think that those 6" shells wouldn't do much damage, but most parts of any warship were unprotected or at most protected against fragments and shrapnel. Fires could be started (there was still much flammable material and even oil lamps in use) and the heat and smoke could render the burning ship combat ineffective (secondary fires could even doom it).

Most direct damage done - even by hits of the heaviest calibres -  would still usually be superficial, as the shells up to the First World War period usually used impact fuses without the delay required for explosions where they hurt the most (boiler rooms, turbine rooms, magazines deep inside the  hull). Secondary explosions were rather flash fires in turrets or where turrets and their munition hoists if not magazines were very close to the side of the hull. The extremely delicate boiler rooms with all their pressurized containers and pipes were so rarely harmed that even badly-hurt ships could make it to home port if not finished off by a magazine explosion or torpedo hit.

A bit more about rate of fires; by the Second World War, these had been improved to maximum slightly more than 3 rpm for (German) 15" guns, about 15 rpm for some (American) 6" guns, about 20 rpm for (American) 5" guns and also for 4" guns. Army 3" guns had reached about 30 rpm before 1900 already, but many early naval 3" mounts fell well short of such  rate of fire. The practical rates of fire on a warship in a gunfight were mostly MUCH slower.

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Let's pause with this military technology history wonkery and look at a still-relevant lesson:

The public was very much fascinated by and interested in its battlefleet (at least the middle and upper classes, especially in urban areas). Such huge armoured ships did cost a fortune each, and were a heavy fiscal burden even to the richest countries. Yet all this attention did not reveal the terrible flaws of the capital ships of the period, much less lead to civilian oversight pressure to work on those deficiencies. That push came largely from some high-ranking officers who especially in the Royal Navy thought the time was due to become an actual fighting force again. (The newcomer German navy had been in technology catchup and modernisation mode anyway and no such awakening experience.)

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Thus improvements were made after the Royal Sovereigns; later capital ship primary artillery always had properly-protected turrets (many gun crews in the 4"...6" gun range especially on cruisers remained inadequately protected even against fragmentation), and a long time after (after the First World War) the last navies adopted proper and high-enough mounted secondary artillery turrets instead of casemates. There were also experiments with really high-mounted casemates in the superstructure. 

The biggest change happened with regard to fire control and quantity of the primary artillery guns. The individual aiming was hopeless at long ranges, and thus fire control became centralized with gunners in turrets merely following orders about elevation and training as well as shooting the guns.

It was understood that simply giving more gunnery practise did not suffice; you needed to observe the fall of shot and correct accordingly. This required salvo fire and all guns aiming the same (or, if spaced much, at least using the same gun elevation). A mast top-located observer would see whether the water fountains were too far left, right, long or short and issue corrections. Eventually, the salvoes would straddle the target (shells impacting on or around the target) and the salvoes would continue without further corrections at highest possible rate of fire until the salvoes were observed to be off again or the target turned.

Mechanical fire control computing aids were introduced, communication devices were needed between fire control and turrets and optical rangefinders were introduced and improved until they could in theory measure distances to the horizon. Such (except the computers) was the art of gunnery by the First World War. This centralised aiming and firing depended so much on observation of the fall of salvoes that a rule of thumb began to dominate warship design; it took a salvo of at least six shots for a proper observation, and the guns better not be spaced very much (this led to a few capital ships with all primary artillery on the forecastle; Nelson, Rodney, Strasbourg, Dunkerque, Richelieu, Jean Bart). Some capital ships had 12 primary artillery guns and were able to shoot at two different targets with full fire control process simultaneously. This helped alleviate the issue of long spacing between turrets. Many dreadnoughts and super dreadnoughts were on the other hand unable to fire with a full 6 shell salvo in (nearly) all directions, although this had already been achieved with HMS Dreadnought (and the prototype battlecruiser HMS Invincible shortly after). They were thus rather a kind of ship of the line, optimised for broadsides only.

The so-called Pre-Dreadnought battleships with their mere two or four primary artillery guns were thus obsolete with the rise of centralised aiming and firing, and the appearance of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 is commonly considered to be the signal for this paradigm change. 

Finally, by about 1910 there was no reasonable doubt any more that the primary artillery was actually the main armament of battleships. The other guns turned into self-defence weapons until battleships were turned into heavy (anti-air) escorts by the rise of the aircraft carrier in 1942 (then the secondary or even tertiary guns in the 40 mm...133 mm range became the main weapons).

Now back to why large calibre gun rates of fire weren't THAT terrible during the World Wars as it seemed (despite shooting even more slowly in practice than nominally able to): The cycle of flight of shot, observing, reporting, calculating, transmitting directions to turrets, turrets training and elevating according to directions and finally firing a salvo together took longer than the reload even of a 16" gun. Practical rates of fire were even much worse than nominal ones. The Bismarck was capable of shooting its 38 cm (~15") guns in 18 second intervals. That should have sufficed for about 45 salvoes in its battle with HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales. It fired off 13 salvoes only.

The nominal rate of fire was really only important at short ranges that required no observation and corrections, such as night combat at ranges of less than 4 km. Such ranges also devalued armour very much; horizontal armour would not be tested and vertical (belt) armour would be more easily penetrated as it was meant to protect at a greater distance only. This quick fire superiority scenario of a short range night battle allowed the really quick-firing American 6" guns to shine in the Guadalcanal campaign. Even the Japanese battlecruisers were inadequately protected against 6" shells due to their narrow belt armour.

(Now keep in mind that a ship such as the HMS Royal Sovereign of the 1890's would have made full use of its rate of fire, for it would not have the shoot-observe-correct fire control cycle. It would have made full use of 2 rpm rate of fire if it had had such a rate of fire. Its 0.44 rpm broadside rate of fire was thus exactly as bad as it sounds. The 2 rpm of some First World War-era main guns was not as bad, as the fire control process slowed them to less than 2 rpm during most of the battle anyway.)

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Fast forward to the Second World War period: What was the peak of warship gun duel gunnery then?

The peak in daytime would have been like this: An aircraft or small and nimble escorting destroyers would lay a smoke concealment to blind the enemy fire controllers (see excellent collection of photos here). 

The own ship would use its radar and fire control computer for a first salvo or set of bracket salvoes, and a spotter (float)plane would issue the corrections by radio instead of the ship's own observers in mast tops. Top quality radars could even detect the impact slashes of big shells and shells had dyes of different colours so fire controllers could tell which salvo had been fired by which ship. Depth charge throwers ("K-guns") could be used to deceive enemy spotters to believe that the target was straddled when it was not (this was greatly complicated by the use of dyes and dependent on seeing the salvo being fired). It was also possible to group the artillery of one calibre into two or three groups that shoot at different elevations in order to quickly find the correct elevation by observing which impact group was more close to the target (bracket fire). Knowing the correct distance to the target and even the two ships' movement vectors accurately and doing all calculations correctly (including coriolis force correction) would not necessarily suffice to get the elevation right on first try: The temperature of the propellant, barrel temperature, air temperature, air humidity, how much the barrels were worn and wind also had an effect. A radar-only fire control without impact splash observation would have failed at medium and long ranges with the state of the art of even 1945.

Secondary artillery could use the same sophisticated fire control process as primary artillery.

The targeted ship would make evasive manoeuvres when straddled, degrading or resetting both the fire control process against itself and its own fire control process (if it has any and isn't completely blinded).

This combination of fire control and countermeasures rarely if ever happened in perfection. Smokelaying is tricky in windy conditions and some navies had good-enough radars only late in the war (Japan) or never (Italy). The battle in the Java Sea saw Japanese cruisers using the smoke+spotter plane combination, though. Radar-controlled fires were used as well, albeit sometimes with surprisingly bad results (the Bismarck was very poor at getting the elevation right, for example).

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An aircraft carrier as a mere support ship without any torpedo bomber or (dive) bomber could still have had decisive impact on a battlefleet engagements of the 1930's by providing smoke, spotters (replacing the more fair weather-dependent floatplanes and flying boats) and fighters to chase off or down enemy spotter planes. This begs the question why some navies (Germany, Italy and mostly also France) neglected the aircraft carrier so very much. It was already a decisive asset without high performance aircraft (Morse radios/wireless telegraphs were already tested in aircraft during the First World War).

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Yet again, I saw no trace of public pressure on navies to correct such a deficiency during the 1920's and 1930's. The naval discussion in Germany was about the expenditure for the Deutschland class (the later so-called pocket battleships*) until dictatorship took over and public discourse was muted. A similar excuse can be given for Italy, albeit as far as I know their dictatorship would have tolerated pro-carrier enthusiasm  while censoring negative critique. Their navy was barred from having aircraft in favour of their air force, so I suspect their naval top brass simply passed on a critical naval asset because it wouldn't have been fully theirs (the carrier aircraft would not have been navy-operated). I see no excuse whatsoever for France, which had a carrier arm that badly stagnated with the Béarn**.

So why were such severe shortcomings not corrected under public pressure in general? It wasn't just the dysfunctionality of dictatorships. The story of anti-air artillery during the 1920's and 1930's was a farce all around the world. The ridiculously poor quality and also ridiculously poor quantity of anti-air guns in that period was in stark contrast to the known threat of torpedo bombers of the Interwar Years. Their heavy and still very short ranged (low muzzle velocities) medium anti-air artillery was even too weak to protect their own spotter planes from enemy planes even only overhead themselves. Even ships such as heavy cruisers were often only equipped with four weak heavy anti-air guns and a couple machineguns. Moreover, several exercises thoroughly embarrassed navies, as they failed to hit the aerial target for extended times.

It's a general problem with (relatively) highly technicized armed forces in peacetime. Warfare against peer or better opposition may reveal their deficiencies, but most of the time armed services can hide their shortcomings behind the veil of secrecy.

It's a cautionary tale regarding how much top brass can be trusted by the public.


 In kind you want yet more video about naval gunfire control:

*: The Spanish España class deserves this title much, much more.

**: Which also had poor quality aircraft during the 1930's.  



Drone art of war


Drones are becoming smaller, lighter, cheaper for the same performance. They're also very likely to become smarter - smart enough that small, cheap, quantity-produced drones will exceed today's autonomy of killer drones and be able to identify and classify targets and make not only an attack decision, but also tailor an attack manoeuvre to the situation.

Drones will not only gain time to find targets by loitering, but also by simply sitting on vantage point from whence they can approach the next location or a target by ground or by air. There might even be drones that will use inland waters to hide.

What's going to be the art of war in an age of autonomous killer drones?

(1) A seemingly eternal rule in war is that no novelty is total. Never did one novelty become the only way of fighting.* Armies did not transform into all-machinegunner armies. Not all field army vehicles are tracked and armoured. Submarines did not become the only warships, Jules Verne's opinion didn't matter. Missiles did not replace aircraft fully. It's in my opinion a good call to expect autonomous war (killer) drones to co-exit with traditional forms of warfare.

(2) Specialised assets rise as a form of warfare becomes more sophisticated, but generalist assets prevail and in parallel. The benefits of specialization are huge, but limited and the uncertainty about the face of the next war makes versatility an important risk management approach.

(3) A look back at the early days of military aviation may help to anticipate how the flying autonomous drone armies will play out:

First, planes were used for observation and a little ground attack. Then the countermeasure of fighters appeared. Observers were armed for self-defence, and some evaded the fighter threat by flying very high. Bombers were armed as well, also armoured later, some also evaded to greater altitude or into the night and generally they received armour. Fighters responded by flying faster, higher, getting more armour, more firepower and sometimes sensors for night intercepts. Specialist aircraft appeared in WW2 for electronic warfare and pathfinding at night. Eventually, there were dedicated electronic reconnaissance aircraft, area search radar aircraft and tanker aircraft.

We might very well see reconnaissance drones that are semi-autonomous (radio link to user preferred, but able to scout autonomously until radio link is re-established) first, soon complemented by optionally autonomous killer drones of varying sizes.** Fighter drones with optimization for finding and killing other drones will appear, and the killer drone swarms will have to adapt with self-defence (not so easy for kamikaze drones, they can mostly counter by being cheaper than the fighters), better camouflage and concealment, more speed, agility and acceleration. 

Specialist drones may appear for radio relay function, electronic reconnaissance, electronic attack, maybe even entrapment (hunting other drones like spiders with webs). Picket (early warning) drones may also come into existence, forming a detection corridor and a screen around human troops. Confirmation drones may appear that hurry to inspect and confirm a suspected hostile contact with better sensors than kamikaze or even sniper drones have (or by going real close while being cheap). Command & control drones with superior AI may serve as forward commander to a swarm that's got no reliable radio comm to a HQ with humans.

There might even be civilian interaction drones that advise and guide civilians to safety, maybe even prisoners of war.

Drones may differentiate into high altitude drones (flying so high that no missile or gun can economically kill them), above-treetop altitude drones, below treetop drones and drones which can even enter buildings and do their job indoors.

USAF strike packages often had no more than 40% of their aircraft carrying munitions to strike the actual target. All else was support and escort. Drone swarms may in my opinion range from 10...90% support, and the difference would come from the task; a terrain control swarm would have few strike drones, whereas a main effort swarm meant to annihilate large forces in a small area might 'zerg' with huge quantities of strike drones either saturating or held in reserve.

(4) It would be nice if we would simply ban the use of autonomous killer drones like NBC weapon use became taboo, but so far the governments focus on what advantages drones offer to themselves. Loitering munitions with partial autonomy are blurring the transition to autonomous killer drones.

Armed bureaucracies have a great potential for conservatism and sluggishness and are not good with money. They have a high risk to resist de-humanisation of war out of selfishness and overestimation of human capabilities. They also have a high risk of focusing resources on basic types of drones (scout & strike), and becoming overmatched by an aggressor that invested in more sophisticated swarms. This may even happen after they understand the issue, as pre-war funding for a drone war is all but guaranteed to be too small given the establishment self-interest of other force structure components.

(5) Force structure and tech isn't everything. Concepts of operation matter greatly. 

Drone swarms could span the entire theatre of war or be segmented into multiple swarms. Either way, rules for interaction, cooperation, coordination and geographic limitations are necessary. Rules of engagement would be all-important.

You could also apply the concept of main effort, for example to gain supremacy in a geographic bottleneck, or at your capital, maybe at an important port or to gain dominating heights for heavy ground-based electronic warfare equipment to use. Too great concentrations of drones might be countered with area effects, especially EMP.

We know how to give orders to human troops, but the best technique for giving orders to more or less (semi-)autonomous drone swarms may be very different. I like to think that my own idea/concept about zones with different level of ambition (regarding tolerance of hostile presence) and different allocation of resources would work well.

(6) There will be drone war prophet celebrities that will develop and incessantly repeat catchy buzzwords and simplifying models. Some of them will be Americans, earn some good money with books and lack substance at closer inspection.

*: Firearms kind of achieved this, but it took many centuries and wasn't anything close to what some early firearms proponent of the 14th century AD might have envisioned.
**: Meaning general target drones, not those specialised on radio frequency emitters. Those already exist. 


Link drop March 2021


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I didn't even know that electric can openers are a thing. My can opener perfectly bites into all cans and opens them in about three seconds and it's a 50...70 years old piece of stamped and bent or cast iron alloy pieces with a bit of rust.

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Getting more powers, more toys, more possibilities is self-serving for law enforcement. Very few things are actually known to influence crime rates for sure. The up and down of crime rates is still mostly a mystery to researchers. Some seemingly unrelated things like long-term lead exposure of people appear to be much more influential regarding crime than policing, though.

Effective policing can depress crime rates only to some degree, and only some crimes (serial burglaries or serial robbers, for example) are understood to be highly susceptible to policing effects (not counting mere crime hotspot relocation). The best you can do for effective policing is likely not to give police such dystopian tech, but to enforce that it investigates a wide range of crimes properly and doesn't waste resources - neither on signalling nor on irrelevant stuff like bullying minorities, militarization or playing with toys.

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Long story short: The NSA created offensive cyberwar tools, the Chinese got them really quick and used them to cause harm to Western computer networks. Offensive cyberhacking is shooting ourselves into the foot and there's close to zero even only debatable evidence for significant upsides of it.

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Let's have a look at what OSInt (open source intelligence) and an ordinary calm, non-partisan and reasoning approach can deliver in regard to super-important things that seem to be the realm of specialised subject matter experts.

Back on February 1st, 2020 I published (and it was written a few days before):


The big issue isn't that this one kills many people. The flu kills many more in parallel. The big issue is that this one isn't understood yet and might actually be much worse than the flu. At least the mortality rate appears to be no more than a couple per cent so far.
A 'couple per cent' such as 3% could still kill more than both World Wars combined when the infectiousness allows it to overrun the world. That's why contagiousness is so important. Sick people being able to infect others without showing symptoms devalues many containment schemes, and to date it's still not known for certain how exactly the virus can be transmitted. There's a very small chance that it may be airborne.

I suppose the wealthy Western countries will be able to deal with it even though we don't have a culture of wearing face masks to protect others.

Poor countries on the other hand have much less capacity to deal with outbreaks, and might not get much aid if we need our resources for ourselves.

A while later on February 24th, 2020 I broke with the regular "Saturdays-only" blog posts to make an announcement.

The gloves and hand washing tips were the info given at the time, though missing the main transmission path of airborne particles. What I wrote about masks was OK given the available info, albeit masks eventually proved to be really, really important. Some super-specialized subject matter experts were (as it appears) more wrong on masks even months later.

So while the info given (or rather relayed) on countermeasures was ordinary and mediocre at best, the appraisal that this shit could become a really big mess was spot-on, and all this written in late January - weeks before most policymakers finally sprung into serious action outside of PRC, Taiwan and South Korea.

It's encouraging to me in a an already well-known way. I've seen before that my opinions on details change as I add more knowledge and thought on a subject over years, but the big picture appraisals are typically stable and withstand the test of time if tested at all. (And I don't want more of them tested!)

See the flying autonomous drone topic, for example. Around 2010 I was thinking that maybe shotguns should be a thing to defend troops against tiny bird-like or rat-like autonomous killer drones. I now don't really see much potential for troops self-defence against such drones except drones intercepting drones and troops trying to be in closed indoor spaces or behind protective netting. Later I focused on adapted remotely-controlled (and somewhat autonomous) weapon stations on all motor vehicles (except two-wheelers, of course) as a countermeasure to bigger multi-kg drones. The timely detection of  tiny camouflaged drones seems nearly hopeless even in daytime.

What didn't change is that I see a likely revolution at the introduction of autonomous 'killer' drones of such sizes. I'd prefer to be wrong about this, but OSInt plus a calm, non-partisan reasoning approach led me to expect this. More about that later

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"Der Anspruch auf rechtliches Gehör ist in Ermittlungsverfahren für die beschuldigten Personen von größter praktischer Bedeutung. Er ermöglicht es ihnen, sich gegen den Tatvorwurf zur Wehr zu setzen und auf die staatlichen Ermittlungen zu ihren Gunsten Einfluss zu nehmen. Insbesondere voreiligen, sich letztlich als unzutreffend erweisenden Vorwürfen – und das sind, aufs Ganze gesehen, die meisten – kann die Verteidigung effizient entgegentreten. Allerdings nur dann, wenn sie darüber informiert wird.

Vor diesem Hintergrund erschließt sich die Brisanz des geplanten § 95a StPO-E: Dieser sieht die Möglichkeit vor, im Rahmen eines Ermittlungsverfahrens Beschlagnahmen und die ihr vorausgehenden Durchsuchungen bei Dritten vor den hiervon betroffenen beschuldigten Personen entgegen den §§ 33 Abs. 3, 35 Abs. 2 StPO geheim zu halten, ggf. bis zum Abschluss der Ermittlungen."

Es wäre bei weitem nicht das erste verfassungswidrige Gesetz, das von den Konservativen betrieben und verabschiedet würde. Bei der bisherigen Häufiung von erwiesenermaßen (per BVerfG) verfassungswidrigen (Legislativ-)Bestrebungen von CDU/CSU wäre eigentlich mal eine Beobachtung durch den Verfassungsschutz wegen dringendem Verdacht auf Feindlichkeit gegenüber unserer verfassungsmäßigen freiheitlichen Grundordnung angebracht.




Sun Tzu: The Art of War (VIII): Variation in Tactics

I will use this easily accessible translation version
to comment on the Art of War, and I will pretend that Sun Tzu was indeed a historical person. 
This source website offers its own commentary (focused on ancient China) and is still freely available - unlike the previously-used source website.
My parts are in cursive as always.
Sun Tzu artist's impression from Qīnggōngdiàn Cánghuàběn
清宮殿藏畫本 / 清宫殿藏画本


Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces.


When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions.

In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.


There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.

This is still relevant, and much needless expense and suffering has been inflicted by unnecessary actions. Thousands of Germans died in 1871 because some a-hole general absolutely wanted to capture a besieged and neutralized fort long after the war was de facto won. The American Pacific War was extended and 15,000 men died needlessly in the stupid Battle of Peleliu. German cities were bombed long after WW2 had been decided - and the destruction actually impeded the ground forces' advances.

also, see /2011/03/elegance-in-warfare.html

The other part of this sentence is about the need for the forward commander to think by himself. Preferably, the commander should do what's necessary and use his remaining freedom of action to suit what he understands is his superior's intent. This intent is not necessarily the same as the last order given by him. The knowledge about the situation is changing often times, and the forward commander has to act accordingly - not stick to obsolete orders given with a very different set of information in mind. There are anecdotes about this, notably by Frederick II the Great and and Royal Navy (Fisher after Battle of the Dogger Bank). Basically, senior troops-leading officers were told for centuries that they were made officers because it was believed that they'd know when it's the time to not follow orders.


The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.

The polar opposite was quite often seen on the Eastern Front. A Soviet assault failed, the Soviet commander was pressured to succeed, a 2nd assault failed, 3rd, 4th, 5th, ...


The general who does not understand these, may be well acquainted with the configuration of the country, yet he will not be able to turn his knowledge to practical account.


So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of war of varying his plans, even though he be acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.


Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.


If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our schemes.


If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

A.k.a. "recon pull"; first see, then devise your action to suit the situation (and possibly exploit an opportunity). To be honest, my personal experience is that I'm unable to do so when I'm unprepared for the situation.


Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them; and make trouble for them, and keep them constantly engaged; hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given point.


The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
Back in the old days an army usually didn't need to do more than set up camp and position on a hill to deter attack because uphill melee fights were losing melee fights. Few armies were able to supply themselves with water on a hill (the Romans did dig wells in such situations), so opponents could usually simply wait till the hilltop army had to move.


There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

"cowardice" is rather meant as timidity according to the source website. 

Temper and honour superficially don't seem to be of much relevance in modern warfare any more, but timidity sure has. Then again, temper and honour provocation are exactly what UBL exploited to make the Americans -and to a lesser degree the Europeans - go batshit crazy and hurt themselves in a myriad of ways.


These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of war. 
It's weird that he doesn't mention lack of loyalty as a general's possible sin. That caused unfathomable harm both to the Western Roman and the Chinese empires and still plagues the developing world.


When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of meditation.

So this chapter is overall not yielding so many opportunities for me to comment. Much of it seems to be quite obvious to the modern reader.




Stupid partisans

I want to share the insights from a little social experiment of my own.

Liars and bullshitters piss me off, so I stopped the false politeness in face of their impoliteness* entirely. 

So I looked up evidence to refute their misinformation (lie), provided the link and then I proceeded with something like 

"That was a LIE. xy told a LIE. xy is a LIAR."

There were up to four or five such responses of mine to some particularly offensive liars at once. Some people seriously tell five falsifiable lies in eight lines and proceed to call you a retard.

The reactions were interesting.

Long story short; the reactions taught me to doubt that they were plain liars or bullshit artists. Their attempts to counter what I said/wrote lacked logic, relevance, and were often goalpost-moving.

My conclusion was that these people aren't simple liars or bullshit artists. They were stupid partisans.

The reaction was not like

"Oh, he brought arguments. Now I need to counter with arguments."

and it was not like

"Oh, he may have convinced some bystanders. Now I need to be convincing in my reply."

Their attempts to counter were very clearly like

"Oh, he hit me. Now I have to fling whatever shit back, hit him as well. Ugh, caveman, ugh!"

Even those who admitted to stand corrected on one point (of several) proceeded with just more lies (and non-arguments based on faulty thinking). It was obvious that they weren't intelligent enough to even only understand the evidence for their lying.

So how could discourse be won against stupid partisans, to push society onto a better path?

Frankly, I gave up on those who are already stupid partisans. I doubt that anyone ever fully recovers from that. We might push back hard against propaganda/indoctrination that turns stupid people into stupid partisans. That's not going to be easy (possible), for the indoctrination doesn't originate from a handful sources. Some 'zombie' lies lingered for forty years after being debunked over and over again after being obvious BS even when they were new. They showed how difficult it is to get rid of old poison, and new poison is certainly in the making at all times. It's no wonder that history is a string of failures, and progress is usually coming from few people pushing along anyway.

So on a positive note, let's help those few who drive progress!

Meanwhile, people with a large platform (such as TV personalities should be held to a high standard; they must not allow their audience to be lied to. I've observed that people who don't shy away from exposing liars get treated much more respectfully and not be lied to the face in interviews. See Jon Stewart's old interviews with known serial liars and propagandists, for example. Indoctrination of stupid people with bullshit cannot be prohibited, but there's no reason to leave doors wide open for it.


P.S.: You have not paid attention to how countries get into wars if you don't see how this blog post relates to  "Defence and Freedom".

*: Lying is impolite and offensive. Telling the truth is NEVER offensive (impolite maybe). Most of all the Americans have the terrible cultural defect that they consider it bad manners and prohibit to call out liars, while they tolerate lies if they like them. Look what this got them into. 'Karma is a bitch.'



Military punditry and think tanking


I was tempted to write a response to yet another navy fanboi pseudo-intellectual drivel that made the rounds on the internet, but I saw with great satisfaction that many comments already pointed out that playing fantasy navy with an imaginary doubled budget and magic asterisks is hardly impressive or worthwhile thought.

The time is overdue for a radical change (that totally won't come, so many terrible issues will persist).

The interested public should stop paying attention to the fanboyism and professional lobbyism / agitation (a.k.a. arms industry- or military-sponsored think thanks). I pushed this point for years, but it deserves repetition: The principal-agent model explains many woes. The colloquial equivalent that applies here of it is "It's hard to understand if your pay check depends on not understanding". There are so many people in the 'play' whose income or whose passion drives their opinions that most opinions are outright worthless because of such systemic bias.

Accordingly, ordinary punditry on military affairs uses a very restricted repertoire

  • always using status quo as starting point, which causes a path dependency bias*
  • uncritical acceptance of threat scenarios
  • pointing out new tech
  • criticizing popularly criticised failures (LCS, for example)
  • being smart AFTER the fact
  • usually one pet topic (obsession) per pundit

Very rarely do they make a case against the bureaucratic group self-interest of the armed bureaucracy

  • calls for less and smaller staffs, fewer flag rank officers, fewer privileges/prestige for flag rank officers
  • calls to disband established structures
  • rejection of pathos or delusional self-praise
  • calls for a smaller budget
  • pointing out that the emperor has no clothes**
  • calls for bloated establishment to be shrunk harshly (such as German military medical sector)
  • calls for old systems to be decommissioned (ships, aircraft, AFVs)
  • actual critique on specific named active duty flag officers***


Link drop February 2020


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www.openculture.com/free_certificate_courses (NOT spam; maybe there's something for you in there)

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 I considered to write a mil history post about the anomaly of Japanese warriors not using shields in an age of intense archery threats (Samurai body armour was very much like shields attached to the body). Then I learned that they did use some shields, after all:


Those looked rudimentary, though the pavise-like big shields for arquebusiers seem like a pretty good idea.

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Read this powerful account, please:


This is one of its links:


I have absolutely no doubt that the tonfa is more loose in Germany when opposed to left wing activists than with right wing activists. The exception may be large anti-nazi counterprotests.

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[German] www.der-postillon.com/2021/02/von-der-leyen.html







Lessons learned from the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict trickled into the public over the past two months or so, and the picture that formed is one in which electronic warfare (mostly sensing a.k.a. radio direction finding and data processing) and remotely-controlled drones were key assets for Azerbaijan to overcome the Armenian military defence of Nagorno-Karabagh in weeks. Armenia was very heavily armed (and armoured) by the metrics of the 1980's.



(hat tip to anonymous commenter)

and now a funny-sounding video:

The two apparently most important drone types (aside from decoys) were the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2, which served in an aerial artillery observer role akin to what was done with light manned aircraft in WW2 and the Israeli IAI Harop, which served as a loitering drone used to search, find and then kamikaze a high value target.

BTW, I believe that the original Harpy (predecessor of Harop) drone was somehow an offspring from a cancelled German kamikaze drone program of the 1980's. I don't accurately remember the designation of it (K-DAR? Kampfdrone Anti-Radar?), but by the looks of it the Israelis either developed something nearly identical-looking by form follows function or they just swapped out the electronics package, which they seem to do a lot when they adopt foreign airframes. 

We have a silly public debate about armed drones in Germany in which the government pretends that it's about Reaper-style observation drones getting munitions to drop, when the topic really should be about such kamikaze drones and especially about autonomous drones. So far the government doesn't introduce armed drones. I suppose the debate is silly because we shouldn't debate whether or not we should play the virtuous ones who don't have such dirty weapons. We should discuss how to keep Pandora's autonomous drones box closed just as NBC munitions have been kept in check pretty well for generations. Pandora's box of kamikaze drones and munitions-dropping drones was already opened in the Second World War and is most unlikely to get closed. I'm not even sure whether it would be a good thing to get rid of kamikaze drones or armed observation drones, for these are a lot more usable for small powers facing hostile air superiority than are manned observation air vehicles. To suppress arms that benefit the weak against the great powers does not look like a good cause to me.

Back to the lessons learned; the obvious counter to remotely controlled drones that need to transmit a video feed (high bandwidth!) or at least series of photos and to receive commands (very low bandwidth) to be of much use is to jam the radio link. Radio physics is tricky, but I still suppose that (radio) line of sight between emitter and receiver is de facto necessary. You can't do everything with the freaky short wave frequencies.

To jam this air-ground link from the ground may sometimes be possible (high mast in very flat terrain or jammer on mountains), but more regularly you'd want to have an airborne jamming emitter. The American way of Warfare would be to pick some huge Boeing or USD 100+ million combat aircraft, and equip it with powerful standoff jammers. 

The German army (or some suppliers, I'm not sure about this) pursued a different concept in the 1990's, and I meant to write about this on basis of an ancient journal article (Soldat und Technik 1/1997) for a very, very long time. The concept was meant to make use of the terribly troubled Brevel observation drone project's airframe and equip it with electronics and antennas to become an airborne RF jammer in at leat the 200...500 MHz band. It was called "Mücke" (midge). (Our principal ground-based jammers Hornisse and Hummel only covered the 1.5...30 MHz and 20...80 MHz frequencies in 1996).

The Mücke project / proposal is so elusive that even secretprojects.co.uk doesn't have a thread about it. It did look (in the article's illustration) 99% like KZO Brevel, just with two stick antennas.

Mücke didn't seem like a good idea at the time, and the German army instead invested in replacing the electronics in our bulletproof 6x6 RF jamming vehicles with something that did not belong into a museum. This was likely much cheaper. Mücke was (according to the article) not really meant to disrupt radio comm between hostile airborne vehicles and ground stations, but to jam general radio comms up to 100 km 'deep' (you know, as if there was some front-line), something that you cannot really do with land vehicle-mounted jammers (except freaky shortwave, which makes RF physics such a mess). The proposal to give every division only 12 drones was a stupid non-starter in face of opposing air defences and fighters.

Mücke would not need to loiter over hostile-controlled ground with the different mission of messing with the video upload of kamikaze and observation drones. The airborne RF jamming drone may finally have a good reason to exist.


A framework for national opinion-finding


The widespread inability to and disinterest in forming the own opinion based on facts has exasperated me for a long time. All humans are imperfect and incapable of perfect logic all the time, but there are avoidable and actually fairly obvious obstacles to good opinion-forming and thus to good decision-making.

Some of these obstacles are cultural and by my limited lifetime experience, they were not as prevalent in the late 20th century. Call me anti-American if you want, but many of the intelligence-trashing cultural obstacles appear to be most intensely applied and followed in the United States where a large fraction of the population is outright preferring to live in fantasyland. Their disdain for actual information and actual reasoning is appalling.

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So I'll lay out a format for how a nation could have a sensible and fair discussion based on known facts with unusually good conditions for reaching opinions based on good faith and known facts. It is in large extent optimised to counter the American bullshitting culture. This format would be very much suitable for a weekly primetime one-hour TV show on a major TV network.

The first thing you need to have is proper fact-checking and an offence database. The fact-checking needs to be reputable and quick. The hosts would choose the fact-checkers, and take responsibility for their choice. The conflicting parties would have no say in this choice.

Second, you need a clear, concise and published rule set that discourages the usual bullshitting culture moves:

  • bad faith arguments
  • hypocrisy
  • attempts to keep a discussion from reaching a conclusion as long as the own side doesn't seem likely to win
  • lies
  • "plausible deniability" cover for lies and other unethical behaviour (dogwhistles)
  • moving goalposts
  • logical fallacies 
  • irrelevant distractions and trivialities

The host selects a topic and gives two conflicting parties (not necessarily political parties; it would also be something like PETA vs. Association of not assholes) few weeks time to prepare and announce their small delegation. Both side begins with an argument-free opening statement of their conclusion and both sides begin with 100 points. The pro-change side begins by making their first (time-limited) argument, and announces how heavily it weighs this arguments in points (example: 10 points weight), but with a limit of maximum 20 points.

The fact checkers check the argument, and if they find bad faith, hypocrisy, lies, disinformation, dogwhistles, logical fallacies, irrelevant or trivialities, this is an instant defeat and they lose all those points (example: -10 points). In case the argument was fine, they don't lose any points but the other side does (example: -10 points). In case of the argument being found to be plain wrong (lies or wrong information, lacking in logical reasoning) they lose the points twice (example: -20 points).

Next, it's the other side's turn. There's a check if any side is at or below zero points after every such round, and if so, the part with less points is declared  to have lost the argument on the issue.

The following week, there will be a one-hour special prime time TV show providing all the real world facts about the issue that the winning side wants to be known to the public (and that can be stuffed into one hour of TV).

  • Lies get punished
  • Bad faith arguments get punished
  • Dogwhistling gets punished.
  • Logical fallacies get punished.
  • Distractions at topics when the other side deserves to score get punished.
  • Hypocrisy gets punished.
  • No moving goalposts or keeping the discussion open indefinitely because of the finite points pool.

And most importantly; any delegation found to have lied will be admonished for lying and be excluded from the show for one year. A liar will be branded a "liar" and banned from not only the TV show, but the entire network for lifetime for the second offence. Known serial liars won't be permitted into the delegation in the first place. Again, the host accepts responsibility for this and has to lay out evidence of serial lying for every proposed but then rejected delegate.

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There are imperfections such as that I found no accurate way for the points to reflect the actual importance of the argument. A party could "win" with 10 rather unimportant arguments while losing against four heavyweight arguments, for example. A way out would be to let the host allocate all or additional points to an argument, but this only moves the imperfection around. Likewise, the factcheckers could fail, and indeed would very likely fail on some very unusual topics. a 17th century factchecker would have gotten ethics of slavery wrong, a 1950's fact checker would have made rulings about gay stuff that would be appalling in the 21st century and so on. There's also a time problem; to give fact checkers much time becomes impractical, and they might be tricked with new lies if they have too little time. The debate that's being concentrated into a two-hour TV show should probably happen over several days' time with a non-disclosure condition until the broadcasting.

Still, a framework that discourages bullshitting culture and reduces it to some rule-tricking efforts that are but a fraction of the unregulated bullshitting would be a huge improvement. Such a framework could also be used in and by large institutions (large corporations, military bureaucracies) to support better decision-making while under attack by one or another bullshitting culture.

We won't have such a Saturday evening TV show. We do need to stem the tide of bullshitting culture, though. It's about time we do something, for the old-fashioned institutions fail against bullshitting culture.