Future naval commerce raiding


The concept of a helicopter-equipped disguised merchant raider seems plausible and doable to me, particularly if the merchant raiders were sent out before war broke out.

Such an auxiliary cruiser would not need a gun, and could easily hide helipad and helicopter hangar in a fake container stack.


The range could be ten thousands of nautical miles plus kerosene for hundreds of helicopter sorties, enough for a months of operations. The helicopter could do boarding and sinking of merchant ships in hundreds of nautical miles radius. It would arrive with little warning, might be able to jam the civilian radio channels and it could be mistaken for a friendly anti-commerce raider inspection team. To scout and strike, even take prizes with the helicopter instead of with the auxiliary cruiser itself would largely defeat ocean surveillance efforts at least outside of over the horizon radars' view. The auxiliary cruiser would look like just another ship running away from a reported boarding site.

It's not for certain that AIS (radio-based ship identification system, nowadays even read by satellites) would be of much help. Sympathetic nations could help the raiding nation by having AIS switched off on many neutral cargo ships, for example.


The direct damage done wouldn't be the biggest effect. Think about today's maritime trade. A German import of West African cocoa would have been a simple direct route of a general cargo ship from one West African port to a German port. Nowadays it's some container going on a travel, possibly with lots of detours and it might be unloaded in the Netherlands. The longer the trading distance, the more complicated the container logistics. A single container ship in the Indian Ocean could have containers from dozens of countries destined for dozens of countries at the same time.

I'm no expert on maritime law of war, but my understanding is* that a ship is fair game in war if it has cargo (other than food or medical supplies) of or for the enemy other than its imports of foodstuff or medical products. Just about every container freighter would fit that criterion nowadays. 

A handful of commerce raiding-auxiliary cruisers on the oceans would not compel the West to set up a convoying scheme. The most we could do would be to define main transportation lanes so whatever commerce raider is active would only be a threat in a much smaller portion of the oceans. The shipping companies might still revise the load of ships and seek to purify them of any warring party cargo. The disruption of our trade might be substantial and much greater than the almost negligible effort of equipping a dozen auxiliary cruisers (which could be well below €2 bn assuming that the ships have to be purchased and taking into account the costs of quality helicopters).



*: I'd be obliged to research this if I was working for a defence think tank, but this is just a one-man-show out of passion, and researching law ain't fun.


Future motivation for Anti-ship warfare / ASuW


The Russians were the dominant experts on anti-ship warfare in the 1970's to 1990's. The Soviet -era arsenal developed to defeat Western (mostly American) naval surface forces was built-up with carrier-killing in mind. The U.S. Navy developed a multi-layered defence with E-2 AEW, F-14 fighters (complemented by F/A-18) and AEGIS shipborne air defences. The Soviet approach was to use relatively large missiles with active radar and preferably supersonic speed, and they usually cruised high with a terminal dive attack. AEGIS was tailored against this (and as a consequence almost entirely useless against sea skimmer missiles, which the Soviets introduced later than the West).

Meanwhile, NATO countries had so little adversary naval surface power that their anti-ship equipment was sophisticated, but low priority. The peak was a low level attack with a synchronised anti-radar missile and anti-ship missile strike, followed up with dumb 'iron' bombs to sink the missile-damaged ship.

The Western approach would not work all that well against the USN's own defences; AEW and high-flying fighters would be able to engage low-flying aircraft at an advantage.

Western anti-ship missile ranges were typically unimpressive compared to Russian ones, save for one Tomahawk cruise missile derivative. They weren't designed under the assumption that the attack would face many capable fighters.

Nowadays we place more emphasis on missile stealth, aircraft stealth to radar may play a bigger (undisclosed) role in the tactics and at least the USN tries to gain anti-ship missile range, which leaves the shorter-ranged anti-radar missiles behind and indicates that anti-ship missile stealth may be considered a substitute to synchronisation with anti-radar missiles.

The Russians and also the Chinese (and Indians) kept developing not necessarily stealthy, but quite advanced anti-ship missiles; terminal phase supersonic sea skimmer missiles, smaller supersonic missiles, the very fast and good-ranged Yakhont and even medium range ballistic missiles with anti-ship guidance and purpose.

The West Taiwanese navy out-builds the American USN, as the latter has deteriorated to the point of having only stupid and excessively expensive combat ship designs ready for construction. The Americans will soon (2030's) be compelled to pay much more attention to engaging carrier strike fleets, and they would be ill-advised if they fully trusted their submarines with this.

Meanwhile, the Europeans might face a Fascist America even in this decade, with a then resulting need to find a way to absorb the  damage that could be done through financial economy, widespread use of auto-updating American software (which de facto has a backdoor for American "cyber" warfare) and thousands of cruise missiles. It also needs to find ways to deal with American carrier strike groups, up to a dozen carriers with then approx. 600...800 1st and 2nd rate combat aircraft on board.

This situation may overall lead to significant leaps ahead in doctrines and technology for the detection, identification and destruction of naval surface forces in the 2020's and 2030's.





An alternative "mass" or "Schwerpunkt" paradigm


Linear warfare with about equal strength along a front has proved inferior to an unequal distribution of forces with offensive use of the strongest section, an early notable example being the Battle of Leuctra with its oblique order and another Alexander the Great's use of shock cavalry attacks. The principle has long since become enshrined in Western military thought and theory, famously by Frederick the Great and Carl von Clausewitz.


We had a great drive towards dispersion in order to maintain enough survivability in face of the rapidly escalating deadliness of firepower. Concentrated strength -mass- could prevail against high end firepower only under cover of such powerful support that not one army in the world could muster. No army has the combination of air defence, electronic warfare, artillery counterfires and even C-RAM hard kill defences to mass for long without being punished badly by fires of a high end opposing force.


The almost inevitable rise of various autonomous battlefield drones (ground/air/both, small bird size to a ton of weight) could replace the most obvious and most common expression of mass; a tank company or battalion fighting as one and overpowering opposition in line-of-sight combat.

The principle may still hold true; equal distribution of drone swarms may very well be inferior to massed efforts, though EMP area attacks (and to a lesser degree locally focused RF jamming) might prove to be an antidote to force concentrations the way that tactical nuclear warheads were to armies of soldiers and motor vehicles.

There is another possible paradigm for mass, and I will write about it, but first, let's assume a scenario for drone war:

The drones are of varying sizes and different specialisations, autonomous but also able to make use of radio links, most drones are very stealthy, they can recharge batteries in action (photovoltaic or by processing organic matter) and some may even be able to hide in underground or indoors.

The drones operate as swarms, which includes enough cooperation and mobility to apply pulsing attacks; movement for temporary concentrations for saturation attacks.

These temporary geographic concentrations wouldn't really the mainstay of "massing" and "Schwerpunkt", though. Instead, the temporary local superiority would be achieved by an unsustainably high degree of support effort. This includes especially electronic warfare. I wrote about this ages ago, and I stills tick to it; support assets are too much exposed to attrition risks if used constantly. Instead, we should use them when and where they matter most (or to pick low-hanging fruits, which is a rather attritionist approach).

So imagine drone swarms facing each other, but due to some dynamics that favour defence (such as stealthiness of stationary drones) it's ineffective to try to let them be aggressive on a wide front simultaneously (unless you're superior to a point that makes finesse superfluous). Even physical massing of drones per se does not yield much success (regarding losses ratio) for such reasons and because of quick counter-concentration. 

Now imagine that our party has the electronic warfare means to gain a significant temporary local advantage (such as our drones still have limited cooperation through radio links, but theirs have jammed links). A local breakthrough would become possible, and the opposing force would have to react to this local crisis with rapid reserves, akin to Blitzkrieg front-line penetrations by mechanised forces requiring counterattacks by similarly fast troops.

The support assets for temporary local superiority would be very mobile and sufficiently stealthy on the cruise to enable a quick breakthrough or attack with limited objectives elsewhere, rinse and repeat. 

But it wouldn't be the physical mass or quantity of drones at the Schwerpunkt that would matter the most; it would be the activation of an unsustainable level of support. A temporary, unsustainable exhausting use of battery power of ten thousands of drones for a joint effort could also qualify as such a Schwerpunkt effort, in place of (EW) support.


In the end, massing forces such as a super-deep Theban pikeman/hoplite phalanx was only serving the purpose of achieving temporary local superiority on the attack. We don't really need a physical concentration to achieve this. A hoplite army could also have had an oblique order if it had placed exceptionally strong and well-armoured hoplites on one wing (they kinda did this on one wing each, which gave an indecisive asymmetric obliqueness- just imagine that but one side did it).

Great strength of great offensive efforts along a whole front are unsustainable or impossible, so the classic Schwerpunkt recipe is to accept weakness in many places, but mass in one place for offensive access through local temporary superiority. There are other ways how an effort can be unsustainable or impossible than just area density of forces. Notably, support efforts, exhausting of supplies (or battery power) would qualify as well.

So essentially I'm trying to convince you that the "mass" and "Schwerpunkt" ideas can be thought more widely. "massing" could also be interpreted as an unsustainable effort that enables offensive success.




P.S.: This goes way beyond the 'massing of fires' (without moving troops), which had become ordinary military theory by WWI. The divisional artillery has been the division commander's primary Schwerpunkt tool at that time, later augmented by the specialised anti-tank units that created a geographic AT concentration if needed. 

Consider this model to see why what I wrote goes beyond massing of fires: Three howitzers defend three parallel valleys, one each. The outer valley's howitzers can mass the fires into the central valley. That's massing of fires. Now what I'm talking about is more akin to each of these howitzers being allotted 50 rounds per ordinary day, with a local reserve of 100 rounds. And any one such howitzer would be authorised to suddenly expend 150 rds in one day, exhausting its supply (=its support's ability). No fires from the other valleys would be needed for this unsustainable effort. It's not the same concept as massing of fires.

This model shows how awfully trivial the thought actually is. As so often, what I write isn't all that terribly complicated. The question is rather whether anyone ever bothered to write it down. I would have mentioned it if I was aware of anyone having done so.



Link drop December 2021


Now to the final link drop of the year. It's been a weird year, but at least there was no new war in Europe (Armenia and Azerbaijan being south of Caucasus and thus Asian) and the war in the Ukraine didn't flare up (and I'd be surprised if it does during this winter).

I had a string of disappointments this summer and autumn, seemingly saving up good luck, for I finally had a major luck in private life (fully separated from blogging).

The plan is to return to the Saturdays-only schedule from now on. Reactions to comments can be much-delayed around Christmas time, as every year, this includes belated removal of spam.









The interesting thing about this is that it's mobile and doesn't require any expensive platform. Such satellite jammers should be feasible at fairly low cost as they only require trailers, antenna mechanism and a powerful emitter with little requirements regarding frequency agility or frequency stability. The big question mark is whether such emitters could survive for long close to hostile (air) forces.

- - - - -


I don't fully agree on some things, but the Russian Army did have (probably still has) a logistics problem in that many of its logistics vehicles are old and defective. Aggressors can boost technical readiness for invasion because they do know the time of invasion, though.

I suppose that both Russia and NATO powers need to make use of civilian logistics to supply munitions from depot to a Corps logistics point, and to bring fuel to such points as well. Military logistics vehicles may suffice in capacity to move the supplies from there to the manoeuvre forces. We'd need to establish a second Corps logistics hub farther forward (or anticipating a withdrawal: farther back) to cope with the demands of mobile warfare. The distance that the military logistics vehicles need to travel needs to be kept in a margin of tolerance.

The problem is that we have probably not enough preparation for getting the civilian logistics main supply route going. Many drivers are above military age or conscious objectors or so young that they have never been mustered and can become conscious objectors any time, for example. One should not assume that civilians are fine with such military transport jobs, especially with explosive and flammable supplies in wartime.

- - - - -


It would rather not work in the mid and far IR spectrum, I think. The operating principle is AFAIK the same as to how you can see through a bush when you are close to it, but not when you are far from it. So outside thermal sensors can partially see the mid/far IR emissions of the user inside behind the concealment and would show that on a screen.

- - - - -


I saw this first shown as an example of a really good camo, but most camo patterns look convincing if you use the right background, distance, light conditions, camera setting and possibly even photo editing. It would be interesting to have some kind of neutral institution that creates photos of the worn camouflage pattern under controlled and always identical conditions in a studio and then inserts it into a range of up to a hundred backgrounds. The photos could then be shown to the public. The visibility and the sympathy for the pattern could be rated on a 0...10 scale (sympathy included in an effort to separate it at least a bit from the judgment of effectiveness). The camo items would then be returned to sender or given away as lottery prizes. Instead, everyone who wants to sell some proprietary camo pattern or hype his favourite camo pattern can create photos or videos that make it look very effective. There may even be a place where UCP looks effective.

- - - - -


- - - - -



[German] spektrum.de/kolumne/grams-sprechstunde-wer-globuli-saet-wird-impfgegnerschaft-ernten/1953463

"Einstieg zum Ausstieg aus dem wissenschaftlichen Denken"

 [German] rnd.de/promis/dirk-steffens-zu-umgang-mit-corona-und-klimaleugnern-falsch-verblendeten-das-wort-zu-erteilen-J6YHUZ6RX5CH7KFA54AU4UEI54.html