The army air (non-)defence scandal

An interview is causing some waves, for it starts with the observation that German armed forces would have stood no chance to Azerbaijan's because of their inability to defend against drones. This may be an exaggeration*, but the issue is indeed severe, and I'm happy that the public takes note.

I've been on this for years; the lack of army air defence (let's neglect the two irrelevant bullshit pet projects and their miniscule procurement quantities) is a serious and fairly obvious flaw.










It's not just me, of course. Many former army air defence soldiers and also many fanbois have publicly regretted the demise of German army air defences. We should absolutely avoid nostalgia for the gone Gepard and Roland systems, though. Neither one would be of use today.

Cold War nostalgia: Self-propelled anti-air gun Gepard. Small, simple drones could easily defeat it unless it was upgraded so much that we could just as well buy a new vehicle. Small prop-driven kamikaze drones could simply shut down their engine and glide at bird speed to the target. This would defeat the 1970's doppler filter. Terrain-following killed drones could pop up and engage in fewer seconds than the reaction time of a Gepard. And then there's the issue of reduced radar cross section drones. Gepard is also quite useless against aircraft, which can accurately attack (with dumb bombs and rockets) from well above its effective ceiling. Even Stinger's greater ceiling was insufficient in mountainous Afghanistan. The Stinger myth claims many kills over Afghanistan's sky in the 80's, but the Soviets lost hardly any of the simplistic Su-25s.

My last link summed up what I consider advisable instead: Expensive area air defence missiles to force high cost aircraft (platforms) into cautious behaviour, cheaper missiles to hard kill the most dangerous munitions, some multi purpose firepower (such as against helicopters and high value ground targets) and last but not least thousands of remotely-controlled weapon stations on thousands of motor vehicles, rigged with the detection & identification gear needed to be effective even against below-treetop bird-sized drones.

I still hope we can avoid flying "fighter" drones for drone air-air combat, for those would need to be quite autonomous and that's a Pandora's box that mankind can hopefully kept shut.

Last but not least; the army air non-defence scandal is another good reason for German civilians to NOT respect the top brass and the BMVg, as it's one of their many gross failures to make proper use of public funds. We need some clean-up politician to head the BMVg, not career politicians who are expert at rising through the ranks of the internally rotten CDU only.

related (external links):





*: By the same logic the Wehrmacht stood no chance against the Red Army of 1941 because it had no good guns against the T-34 and KV tanks. Land warfare is much more than a mere comparison of hardware quantities and qualities.

P.S.:  I doubt that ANY army in NATO would be able to cope with the drone campaign used in the recent conflict. The only sliver of hope would be stand-off radio jamming, as even those army air defences that are in use would likely have failed just as much as Armenia's. Stand-off radio jamming is only going to be helpful until drones become autonomous hunter-killer systems, though.



  1. Why should your nightmare not come true if obvious gains can be made? Autonomous fighter drones fighting other drones and drones autonomously targeting enemies seem like obvious developments given the situation. An argument against autonomous targeting could be made by flooding the field with cheaper fake targets, but I have doubts ethical reasons will prevail. From the last decades of warfare, it seems, civilians do die in wars despite being unarmed, and often in larger numbers than armed participants. Furthermore, most humans do have inhibitions against killing each other, which some see as an impediment to military success and autonomous weapons would be a workaround. I see a possible case for less bloody warfare if autonomous systems help with non-lethal targeting with potentially lethal weapons and capturing enemies alive is turned into an advantage over killing them.

    1. Autonomous drones would re-industrialize war. Governments would begin to calculate how much they need to spend to "win". The extremely useful deterring effect of own casualties would disappear in simple minds such as the Neocons'.
      We would stumble into Neocon Middle East reworking fantasy times a ten.

      I very much prefer peace, thank you.

    2. I have a feeling that we are cross-talking a bit.
      Autonomous drones are being developed, so it's not "would", but "will". This industrialization of a greater part of warfare happens along with proliferation of mercenary corporations such as Turkey's SADAT. Both developments make casualties disappear from the statistics and goals like "7 countries in 5 years" seem feasible again. I have for this reason little doubt that the combination of drones and privatization is going to proliferate.

      Germany officially doesn't endorse the privatisation and must find a way to cope with the drones.
      Concerning drones, ethics are good for longterm gains, but ditching them allows short term gains, especially if their use makes a conflict short and one sided. At least in the uneven matchups of drone equipped forces against those lacking adequate means, it's unlikely that any current ethical considerations on drones will always play a role. So drones can help circumvent human inhibition to killing other humans, which is likely going to happen with lots of civilian casualties. I suspect as a means to put down protests, level dissident holdouts, possibly genocides and the already practiced targeted assassinations of leaders and other key figures. These are applications for which we should not develop and export the tools.

      I thought that reducing the lethal effect of potentially lethal tools in order to make prisoners might be an ethical development of drone warfare if more value can be extracted from not killing the enemy. Such value might be bargaining power, information extraction and a deterrence from overstepping boundaries that would make the drone operators tune their machines from less to more lethal application of force. It would be interesting to have your opinion on enforceable ethics in drone use.

      Where I think you are mistaken is the feasibility of peace. Very few human communities achieved societies without organized forms of violence against other groups.
      We have two bottlenecks in our male lineage Y-DNA, when we came out of Africa and when the early Neolithization spread, which was animal husbandry and some farming. The current interpretation is that it was due to conflict between patrilineal kin groups, which during these bottlenecks was probably mostly skirmishing. These were two genetically significant events which are marked by the rapid spread of populations with new inventions which thoroughly uprooted prior human communities. If you look at the data, we are currently living thru a third such event in Subsaharan Africa and in the native settled parts of South America. Europe for more than 2,000 years has been on a trajectory where patrilineal kin groups did play the least genetically detectable role in our conflicts. War is a conflict, but not every conflict is war, crime and discrimination are other forms of conflict that can have such genetic impact. I would for this reason argue that Europe is an outlier by having developed a very unique culture that most effectively tamed patrilineal kin group competition. The Nazis were arguably a short lived experiment to bring back such ideas and during the colonial conflicts Europe was neither free from such a mindset. Going by the historical data on this effect, it can create extremely rapid changes not seen during other times, so I do think warfare with a genetic component is a possibility for the 21st century and by narrowing on the security situation and the peace achieved in Europe, we overlook how conflict develops in other areas of the globe. This drone warfare shock is an example how a technological application can suddenly uproot old balances of power. I think there are more such shocks to come. How should one deal with the possibility of such events?

    3. >>>Autonomous drones would re-industrialize war. >>>Governments would begin to calculate how much they >>>need to spend to "win". The extremely useful deterring >>>effect of own casualties would disappear

      All of this could also be regarded as an advantage, especially for us, as we have an higher industrial capacity than many other countries. Therefore such an approach would strengthen us militarily and as the NATO overall combines most of the worlds industrial power this would end in a much stronger NATO. The detterende then comes from the ability to fight seriously and not beeing hindered by losses, which is the case at the moment.

    4. Don't fix it if it ain't broken.