A high end conventional land warfare doctrine (I)


I wrote before about the support group fractal, and I did so before writing this post because it provides an important quantitative foundation for this new series (evident in part II).


About 13 years ago I was thinking about how to replace the functions of the defended front-line that we saw during the world wars and the Korean War. I wrote about this issue here a couple times as well (see at bottom).

My first attempt to replace the front-line with a different concept replaced the front-line with a narrow (few dozen km) skirmishing corridor. This corridor would consist of few layers of areas assigned to individual platoons for surveillance and harassment (skirmishing). The stiff trench frontline of 1914/1915 had been replaced by an elastic defence by 1918 already, and this elastic defence that permitted an enemy advance by a few kilometres until the push reached a main line of (then stiff) resistance was already official German defence by the 1920's. I basically gave up on the stiff backbone, mechanised formations would instead manoeuvre against penetrations of the narrow skirmishing corridor. It's basically today's state of the doctrine in NATO plus this stability-giving narrow skirmishing corridor in the front. The all-mechanised forces seem too inefficient, too fragile, too quickly exhausted and too unreliable to me when they're not enjoying the functions of a front-line at all. It's like fencing without protection and parrying.

Infiltration and exfiltration through this narrow corridor were supposed to be observed, reported, costly and slowed-down by caution. The troops that would form this (movable) skirmishing corridor would be motorised infantry platoons, and these platoons ended up being conceptually so similar to the German-Austrian Jagdkommando/Jagdkampf concept that it seemed utterly non-original to me even though I had a different operational level* concept in mind. I called these "light skirmishers" and moved on to think about how skirmishing could be done with mechanised forces. I wrote about that here as well even before 2010, but more about that later.

My "light skirmisher" concept has long since been fused with the alternative non-nuclear, non-mechanised defence doctrines developed during the 1970's and early 1980's by Spanocchi, Simpkin and others. This means it's no more meant to be a narrow corridor manned by professional troops, but a few hundreds of kilometres wide skirmishing corridor manned by reservists. Again, they didn't seem all that original, but my intent was still a different one.

Imagine a militia in a country that's actually thinking of defending itself on its own soil, not just of defending its alliance away from home soil. Think Poland, Baltics, Romania (not so much Finland, its geography is too special). This militia would consist of territorially-specialised battalions of varying sizes (depending much on how many volunteers can be found in the region). The battalion would have little combat support, but a large quantity of light skirmisher platoons with a high degree of autonomy including quality long-range radios (beyond-the-horizon HF and satellite). This militia would serve as point security and river line surveillance forces until they become stay-behind forces that were bypassed by superior opposing forces. 

These stay-behind militia forces would not fight combat troops much, but they would harass support troops, raid forward bases (supply dumps, forward helicopter bases and so on), HQs, demolish bridges and so on. They might cause some direct damage and create a substantial diversion effect, but most of all they would maintain surveillance of the area and report changes to corps HQ. The last point alone would already shape the battlefield extremely in favour of the militia's side, as the invader would be at a grave disadvantage on the invaded soil.

A similar effect could be had with long range scouts / LRRP / Fernspäher beyond the friendly territory or in very low population density areas and in forward areas where they militia fails to maintain satisfactory surveillance. The surveillance of less stressful locations can even be used in a rotation so the Fernspäher specialists (NOT gold-plated special forces-ish B.S.**) aren't in the most stressful locations for weeks.

So this is the first basic way to divide the theatre of land warfare:

  1. "rear" areas (say, Western Poland)
  2. indigenous militia-monitored areas with more or less harassment of invaders (say, Northeastern/Eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia)
    • militia acting as security&surveillance forces
    • militia acting as guerilla&surveillance forces when bypassed by OPFOR
  3. "red" areas with Fernspäher surveillance at least at points of interest
  4. "red" areas with only satellite surveillance

Part II will cover the manoeuvre, heavy skirmishing and raiding forces and how the support groups particularly at brigade and corps level influence geographic deployment.






*:  For the purpose of this blog post think "thinking at the corps level".

**: No adventure vacation bullshit like helicopters, kayaks or parachuting. Movement by rather civilian-looking 4x4 vehicle to within few km of the objective, hiding the car, nighttime movement to establish observation and hiding posts, surveillance for days, then everything backwards. Most movement in car would be done together with a relatively combat-worthy armoured recce-ish unit that's infiltrating or exfiltrating itself. The surveillance teams would peel off from an infiltrating armoured recce convoy, later join an exfiltrating one. These surveillance teams would be active duty troops, but not special forces.



  1. What effect does the availability of cheap cameras have on your concept? Could camera surveillance with secure links, such as fibreoptic cables, and remote controlled weapons reduce the demand for people in surveillance and shift the militia towards fewer, more mobile, and better equipped forces?
    If you advocate a militia, is this a call for conscription in these countries? I express doubts that they can be absolutely relied upon to stop a Russian advance or possibly combined Russian and Chinese advance that some Chinese nationalists discuss for Europe. Does this mean Germany needs some form of militia as a backup in case the Eastern defence falters?

    In ancient warfare we discuss a concept of many skirmishers with a few heavies of a social elite. This develops into increasingly heavy formations such as the phalanx and back to mobile forms such the Late Roman empire's forces. Could one say we have a continuation of such fluctuations and what are the underlying causes?

    1. Observation can be done with such UGS (unattended ground sensors), albeit battery duration was an issue with gold-plated mil spec UGS.

      I'd never call for conscription except in extreme cases. Even Israel doesn't need conscription. They could get enough volunteers through economic incentives (such as priotisation for getting a decent apartment). The blog post explicitly mentions volunteers for the militia.

      Tactical skirmishing was the poor man's approach; suitable for those who could not afford good weapons and armour. I covered that in a dedicated post about skirmishing.

      The skirmishing in my concept is rooted in operational-level needs, mostly front line replacement, area surveillance to replace scouting and also diversion. A light skirmisher militia would still be economically advantageous, for personnel costs are small. I'll cover affordable infantry enhancement in a September article (maybe gets delayed to October).

    2. Thank you for clarifying that. How big would such a militia have to be if we take into account that countries east of Germany might succumb to a Russian advance? As a worst case possibility, can we assume that Russia isn't coming alone, but with China. The PR China laid down a deadline for unification with Taiwan, an event that can trigger a third world war. Russia would be better off neutral, but could join because of internal issues. So just in case the worst possibility happens.

    3. I suppose the six Northeastern regions of Poland suffice.
      That's 141,367 sq km and about 14.5 million people.
      Rule of thumb 1 militiaman per sq km + additional ones in urban areas.
      So 200k / about 1.5% of population in case of a very ambitious realisation.
      Procurement costs per militiaman approx. 3,000 € including munitions + few heavy weapons and very few dedicated vehicles. So capital costs approx. € 2 bn, about € 1...1.5 bn per decade to replace things.
      Additionally, mostly personnel and consumables expenses for 6-months volunteer training per man + fraction of that for additional NCO and officer training courses. This may add up to 10k...15k per militiaman, once every 15 years. So on average another € 300 M per year.

      I think all this would be very affordable, on par with a wing of F-16s.

      The quantity of invaders would not be much of a determinant for the required militia/light skirmishers strength. The terrain and ambition levels are the input variables.

    4. Is it not an irony that you take here ideas from Simpkin, as this author was an fan of attack helicopters in every form as no other military thinker?!

      >>>No adventure vacation bullshit like helicopters, kayaks or parachuting>>>

      This adventure vacation bullshit is vital for the kampfkraft, because exactly from this kind of activities the comradeship comes from which enables soldiers to perform much more effectively. Above all, more power results from the will to do more, and to generate this mindset, the will to do more and to fight you need exactly something like that. You will even need such "bullshit" for your militia. Because humans are not machines and not only materialistic systems.

      Also this "bullshit" does not cost much. Kayaks are quite cheap, and even parachuting is not expensive in comparison to other weapon systems. Such activities are not there for a military task, but for morale reasons and psychological reasons.

      Also the question remains how such an extreme defensive doctrine should function in the offensive if such an offensive becomes necessary and what you will do if your anticipated short war around the baltics against russia will not happen the way you anticipate it (a highly specialised scenario by the way) but a complete different war starts or the war developes completly different.

      IMO your military thinking is to much specialised and to much about one specific scenario and one specific enemy. And it is to defensive to say at least.

    5. Simpkin was but one of several military theorists who dabbled with a related concept. He built on Spanocchi IIRC, and Simpkin's main work was done at a time when multiple such concepts were promoted in parallel.

      Simmpkin was delusional about rotorcraft mechanisation, but his helicopter fandom was ordinary at the time. Others (such as Guy Brossolet) had much less ridiculous notions about helicopters long before Simpkin. Brossolet's approach was still nonsense created under impression of exaggerating experiment results, though.

    6. Thank you for your explanation.

      Your de facto limitanei / comitatenses approach is surley excellent within the framework of a high end conventional land warfare in Eastern Europe and against the Russian Federation as far as I can tell.

      Regardless of this, however, I would like to raise a few points of criticism. In my opinion, the doctrine described here is far too defensive. Since only Part I (primarily the Part Limitanei as i understand him) is available so far, this is of course only a guess on my part.

      The doctrine also appears to me to be too conventional and not geared enough to robot-borne warfare and not enought about unconventional warfare. I have read that you are explicitly interested in a doctrine of warfare before war becomes dominated primarily by robots, but there is also a broad transition period between these two poles. The warfare in this transition period, in my opinion, needs more than what you have described here so far. Also it lacks details about the unconventional part (like your suggested stay behind militias) and about information warfare, air-warfare etc.

      Of cause you explicitly wrote in the headline the term: land-warfare, but even a doctrine for land warfare today must, in my opinion, go far beyond the mere question of conventional warfare by ground units. I am missing a joint approach here, and the question of how other areas of warfare are integrated into this doctrine or how they interact with it.

      The doctrine also seems to me to be over-specialized. It is too focused on a very specific war space, a very specific scenario, a very specific enemy. It serves a kind of war that will most likely never take place.

      In conclusion, I find your remarks too general and insufficiently detailed. It is clear to me that in a blog and with limited texts this is actually not possible and your explanations are already very rich in content compared to the scope. Regardless of this, there is still a lack of depth.

      One overarching fundamental thought does not constitute a complete doctrine. So I'm really looking forward to the second part and hope for a kind of series in which the basic idea will be elaborated in more detail here.

    7. You can find loads of writings about over-land air war with the "Air Force" tag on the left.

      It boils down to
      - European air power may be largely wiped by strategic surprise attack with PGMs
      - NATO prefers to use too distant comfortable dedicated air bases instead of forward improvised airbases
      - moving air power into the theatre may take a while
      - then the DEAD campaign may take a while
      - CAS can be substituted by artillery if there's a communicating eye in the sky
      - battlefield interdiction day & night means the opposing forces move day & night, whereas battlefield interdiction only in daytime (cheaper) could restrict convoy movements to nighttime (less atttrition effect, but greater battlefiel shaping effect on the corps level)
      - swarms of small autonomous flying drones (multiple more or less specialised types) till doom us all if we don't prepare our defences against them

      About being too "conventional":
      Some invaders without national unit patches occupy in Narva? Thank god, Putin is an idiot after all. A comprehensive strategic surprise attack would have been a nightmare, but such silly trickle shit can easily be wiped. We kill them all, EASILY. We aren't the Ukraine.
      I don't give a shit about hybrid/unconventional/salami slicing aggressions because they are harmless to NATO/EU.

      The rest of what you wrote is very largely addressed in part II.

    8. >>>Some invaders without national unit patches occupy in Narva? Thank god, Putin is an idiot after all. A comprehensive strategic surprise attack would have been a nightmare, but such silly trickle shit can easily be wiped. We kill them all, EASILY. We aren't the Ukraine.>>>

      If you believe this seriously, that western eu tropps, especially german troops could and would KILL them all easily you are very far from reality.

      I agree with you that theoretically such an kind of warfare (hybrid) is useless IF you fight them seriously, but exact this we are not able to do because of social, cultural und political reasons. Such an kind of russian aggression would be unsolvable at the moment because of our politic and ROEs.

    9. Well, luckily your opinion doesn't matter.

    10. As does yours in the reality.

    11. Yeah, but I know that I don't need to be reminded of it.

  2. Brilliant, but as usual imo you do not regard the question of the culture sufficiently:


    1. Feel free to elaborate, for else I'll conclude that you're just an ad spammer.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. Part II

      This non-consideration of the culture and the cultural differences has the consequence that, in my opinion, your theories are very often just mind games far removed from any reality. This raises the question of the value of such mind games. Of course it is refreshing and entertaining to occupy your mind in this way, but what is the use of a theory without any reference to practical reality, what is the point of a theory that is absolutely not practicable?

      This even applies to the internal culture of an otherwise culturally homogeneous group of people. Here, with an approach like yours, there are inevitably internal resistances that doom any attempt to apply such a theory as you put it up here to failure.

      And since you classify the importance of culture as not so strong, you would then not even be able to recognize the reason for the failure but attribute it to selfishness, corruption, bureaucracy, etc., i.e. to materialistic factors. The overemphasis on materialistic factors over idealistic factors is also typical of current left-wing radicalism in Germany.

      Now you will, as usual, in your snotty manner, say something of straw man and lies and / or delete or manipulate the posts as you have otherwise done regularly in the past. It is not even said that I am right with my assumptions about culture, but you realy have a problem because you know that you are right and you do not only believe this, you believe instead that you know it for sure and therefore, in my opinion, you slide further and further into an echo chamber here in this blog.

    4. Well, I delete LIES, and "part I" started off with a LIE right away.
      Mind games like predicting a deletion won't protect against deletion. LIES have no forum here.

      I don't consider culture to be unimportant. I consider German culture to be easily up to the modest tasks that can be found in defence - and in fact more up to the task than Russian or Chinese culture.

      That's something you fail to take into account. Talking trash about German culture doesn't make your talk right, but even if it did - it wouldn't mean that the opposing forces are any better suited to warfare. All warfare is adversarial, and people who focus on talking trash about their own society to make themselves feel better sure aren't well-suited to predict relative combat performances.

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. How would this light skirmisher battalions and/or platoons look like? Weapons, gear, etc.

    1. Well, mostly infantry in civilian 4wd cars. No heavier weapons than typical for infantry (maximum 83 mm RCL, 81 mm mortar on pickups, .338 machineguns, portable PGMs/drones, demolition charges, mines triggered through cables).

      It's a trickier in winter time, as traces in the snow + invader-imposed curfew = stay-behind militia would be easily tracked and destroyed. The stay-behind militia would then mostly be limited to using the PGMs/drones and be much less destructive.

      Organisation-wise I was thinking of a support group (long-range communication, HQ with intel gathering, ESM, heavy support weapons) and varying quantities of platoons that most of the time are split up in 5-man observation teams.

    2. When i think of militia/guerrilha type forces i tend to think more on something more modest like Fernspäher. Small teams with small arms only and command detonated explosives, to maximize mobility, sneakiness and endurance (food and ammunition). At maximum 60mm commando mortar and spike sr atgm type weapons, basically weapons that are truly man portable. Focused more on recon with the occasioanal attack on targets of opportunity.
      In iraq and afghanistan, insurgent forces over the years started to rely more and more on ied's.
      Pls keep in mind that i'm no expert and never been in the army, so no pratical experience. Just an amateur with an interest in military science and history.So forgive me if i'm saying something stupid.

    3. Men moving on foot are terribly slow. We have gazillions of civilian 4wd cars around us. I see no issue with using such vehicles, and then you can also use heavier weapons up to 600 kg easily. The limit is the recoil of a 120 mm mortar, which is usually too much for firing from the flatbed of an ordinary pickup car.

      Real guerillas furthermore fight with a much too low intensity. They're fighting to outlast foreign troops, or to undermine political support of a regime. The light skirmishers would have to have significant effect in a first few weeks of invasion.
      Ramping up a harassment campaign with road mining, occasional harassment by mortars and occasional sniping or shooting with machineguns on passing vehicles wouldn't cut it.

    4. Ok i see now. Thx