A militia for the 2020's (V)

Defence and Freedom is different. Here you may find a five-part series about a fantasy force design that might be an answer to challenges, but the guns and things that go boom would be covered in the fifth part, not the first one, as a matter of principle.
So this is what I'm thinking of regarding weaponry and tools:
carbine / assault rifle
  • calibre 5.56 or 5.45 mm, cheap LED red dot sight (easier aiming, less shooting training), folding buttstock (to fit in cars), 905 nm laser with trigger in front grip, MOA better than 2, 30 rds magazines fed by stripper clips, preferably select fire and ambidextrous
  • carbine/assault rifle adapted for light machinegun role; requirements are 150 rds in 1 minute without trouble, bipod, MOA better than 2.5, may use bigger magazines in addition to 30 rds magazines 
all-in one hand grenade 
  • red phosphorous bursting type with added flash powder (flash bang functionality) to affect eyes, hearing and analogue night vision devices. This bursting grenade would provide multispectral smoke, be incendiary, highly uncomfortable in a useful radius and it would not be as hazardous to its user as a defensive hand grenade. I understand if someone would rather want a offensive/defensive hand grenade in addition, but I don't see a need for it - to have many smoke hand grenades for breaking contact is more promising to me given the aforementioned doctrine of hit and run.
light antitank weapon
  • Nammo M72EC. Its weight is bearable and it's easily powerful enough against BMP/BTR/BMD/MT-LB vehicles and its fuse design should defeat bar armour and also cope with the BMP's very much angled upper glacis.
anti-MBT weapon
  • The most suitable one is almost certainly the RPG-28*, which weighs just as much as other anti-MBT weapons,but utterly lacks finesse. Its brute force approach limits it to 300 m effective range, but it also allows for a very cheap price. A new NLAW would easily cost 10...20 times as much as an unlicensed RPG-28 copy.
  • The ideal mortar would be the 2B25 with its HE-PFF munition (PD fuse). The practical choice would rather be any 81.4 or 82 mm mortar, as those are readily available, even in many NATO countries' stocks. 60 mm mortars require the same effort for less effect and 120 mm mortars could not be easily lifted into a trunk.
heavy machinegun
  • Countries with inventories of 12.7 or 14.5 mm machineguns or cheap access to foreign  inventories of such guns could make use of those. The primary mode of employment should be an ambush from a tripod against vehicles, but a low swivel mount fixed on a pickup might also have its uses.
  • preferably a daytime-only launcher with Bolide missiles, but this may be more expensive (and is rather crew portable than man portable) than the more common infrared guided ManPADS. My preference for a laser beamrider design stems from doubts about the ability of infrared guidances to overcome the best countermeasures (especially DIRCM).
I would not add drones to the list, as surveillance should be feasible and reasonably safe if done by normal means. Drones might betray their users when they return. A really cheap kamikaze drone with a HEDP warhead might make sense once available, but there's a risk that it entices the militia troops into a risk-averse low intensity approach rather than setting up ambushes and conducting nighttime raids for more decisive effects. The controller station would also give its position away with RF emissions and would thus have to relocate ASAP.

Finally, the topic of night vision. Team leaders should have a handheld thermal imager monocular (Leupold LTO 2) to aid detection of camouflaged hostiles in day and night. The main night vision would be digital night vision goggles for everyone. Yes, digital night vision cannot achieve the same vision ranges as generation 3 devices, but it costs less than 10% as much and is not as easily broken by user mistakes or flashes. The militia would pick its fights, and it would pick them with support troops. Regular infantry needs to be capable of fighting well against battle-ready hostile infantry. Thus my approach of issuing gen 3 analogue night vision to regular infantry and digital night vision to everyone else in the theatre of war. The digital night vision combined with throwable LED NIR lightballs and weapon-installed invisible NIR lasers allows for firefights out to 60...100m distance depending on other light sources. That's a lot more than or at least as much as hostile support troops are capable of. The element of surprise would favour the militia, thus it would be very much superior during nighttime raids on the invader's support troops.
Heavy machineguns, mortars and ManPADS would be sued by special teams, and one anti-MBT weapon would be carried instead of two light anti-tank weapons when contact with MBTs is a reasonable expectation. This should be a fairly reliable expectation because moving MBTs are very noisy and raids would be prepared for with scouting.

The team leader in particular would have many additional tools such as a encrypted frequency-hopping handheld format radio, the hand grenades, throwable NIR LED lightballs, 8x22 binoculars, concertina wire cutter tool, lockpicking set, digital camera with 8x optical zoom, all demolition equipment, some extra medical supplies.

I did decide against a Minimi-style or universal machinegun because of commonality of training, commonality of munitions (no link belts required, rounds in stripper clips as with the assault rifle) and low expected physical fitness of reservists.


*: I believe the publicly mentioned penetration figures are nonsense. A little better than 800 mm RHAeq CE is a more realistic penetration power. It should still be able to penetrate T-64/-72/-80/-90 series tanks reliably on the flanks and sometimes from the frontal 60°. Hardly any man-portable anti-tank munition can be expected to penetrate as much, as the RPG-28 has a very large calibre. The much more expensive Eryx ATGM likely penetrates better.


A militia for the 2020's (IV)

The militia is in large part meant to function as a stay-behind force without support elements. The logistics thus need to be about using environmental resources, about using decentralised and quickly evacuated stocks.

First, the vehicles. The militia would not possess any permanently attached vehicles. It would use privately-owned vehicles on exercises and reimburse private costs for this and for travelling to and from training by lump sums. It would commandeer suitable (4x4 or AWD) cars upon mobilisation for war and use stored spray cans for a different matte paintjob. Some pickup vehicles would even be adapted as weapons carriers.

Second, food. This is simple; some foods are incredibly durable (white rice stored dry and cool can be stored for decades and requires no more than water to become edible, for example). Vitamin C supplements can be stored for a long time as well. The actually expensive army-style food packages are not required. So some food (enough for months) could be stored centrally and the militia members could bring along some own stocks as well. To have an autonomous food supply helps staying away from civilians, who are a security risk and could become collateral casualties if the militia is among them.

Third, munitions. I don't consider captured munitions to be very important, thus munitions need to be stored in large quantities and in a manner that permits a quick evacuation of the packaged munitions to hideouts known only to a few people each. Small arms cartridges and mortar bombs + fuses and auxiliary charges would add up to well over 80% of the munitions volume and mass. My preferred peacetime storage site for munitions (and weapons) is to simply store them inside or extremely close to police stations, other police buildings and maybe court buildings.

Fourth, fuels. The usage of civilian 4x4 and AWD cars leads to a mix of petrol and diesel fuels being necessary. The militia might not be able to get much fuel from normal fuel stations when civilians are in need as well, but it won't need much fuel. 100 litres of fuel in jerrycans per car would likely be enough in most settings, maybe 200 litres if deployed into an allied country's rural area.

Fifth, drinks. The tap water may become unavailable in wartime, so simple filtration and disinfection (preferably by boiling) of surface water or pumped water is the way to go. The necessary devices are cheap and small, but keeping a supply of drinking water in jerrycans (diesel, petrol and water having different colours and feel) would be a bit bulky and heavy. It could be stored in hideouts along with fuels.

Finally, battery power. Cars might be used to provide some battery power (a car battery has enough power for weeks of light in a basement hideout), but I'd like to point out the cheap approach of using photovoltaic recharging gear as known from trekking stores. Many tiny batteries may be non-rechargeable and would simply have to be in stock (civilian standard types), but batteries for radios and night vision should be rechargeable.

Personal equipment

I am in favour of using 
  • a low cut lightweight ballistic helmet with night vision googles mount and camo cover
  • a lightweight fragmentation protection vest above the belt (equivalent to only 16 layers kevlar)
  • a lightweight NBC hood
  • super cheap shooting glasses (ANSI Z87.1+ protection rating only)
The cheap and widespread availability of 30...40 mm underbarrel grenade launchers and other widely available fragments-producing weapons make this kind of fragmentation protection sensible.
  • a load-bearing belt for most of the personal gear (only very flat bags in front of belly)
  • a small 20 litre backpack that's not meant to be taken into a fight
Most of the load should be on the hips because this is the most efficient and bearable. Legs need to move much forwards and back, and hip loads don't burden the muscles of torso, arms or neck. It is much more tiresome to store mass anywhere else.
  • brownish camo pattern softshell jacket
  • brownish camo pattern trousers
  • brown gloves
  • brown balaclava (not synthetic)
  • brown lightweight boots
Other clothes including and additional cold weather layers would be private property.
Tents or tarps are not really necessary, as civilian structures and even burnt-out large vehicles can be used for weather protection. In the worst case the cars would be used to shelter from bad weather.
  • cushioning insulation mat
  • 4 seasons sleeping bag
would be very advisable, as this would turn rather secure urban basements and even small rural sheds into acceptable hideouts.

The most important piece of personal equipment would be the militia handbook, an all-in-one field manual booklet.
Everything else would be small things; militia ID card, soap, toothbrush, towel, tiny LED light, aluminium dishes, lightweight cutlery, large area map and simple compass, a tiny reusable water filter and some tiny typical hiking items.



A militia for the 2020's (III)


The Russian blunders in Ukraine have reinforced the old insight that training is extremely important, for troops get hardly anything done without enough training.

Training can be divided into

  • basic soldiering training,
  • individual specialisation training (technical, NCO, officers)
  • small unit training
  • unit training
  • formation training

This is ideally also the approximate chronological sequence.

I wrote before that the militia could do away with all levels above small units, so the unit and formation level training can be cut. 

Minimised diversity of equipment and simple to use technology can cut the training demands even further.

My concept is

  • basic service / basic training 3...6 months*
  • first refresher training one week in cold season (basic was in warm seasons), ideally aligned such that university studies can do it in their holiday time**
  • annual refresher training 14...16 days or alternatively multiple weekends per year
  • promising volunteers continue after the basic service with another 3...6 months in a leadership course***
  • non-promising volunteers and leadership course dropouts get offered to participate in a specialisation training (duration depends on the training)

The basic training / basic service would happen mostly outdoors; no permanent lecture halls, no permanent barracks. Five days of continuous activity in the field (outdoor and using some sheds) in a row followed by a weekend for catching up with washing clothes and warm showers.

This basic training would include a realistic physical fitness plan that not only gets (almost) everyone fit enough within two months without major injuries, but also teaches a low effort fitness sustainment schedule that maybe some of the attendees continue with in civilian life****. Long road marches with weighted backpacks are not purposeful. The loads during all training shall not exceed actual wartime loads, and the latter have to be limited to what low fitness reservists can bear with a week after being called up.

The basic training / basic service would as a matter of principle also include at least one swimming event in which the recruits swim first in swimming clothes and then in full gear. Any detected non-swimmers get tasked to address the issue and provide evidence before they can be accepted as qualified militia members.

The list of specialisations would be rather brief to keep everything simple

  • forward observer
  • ManPADS operator
  • signaller
  • mortar crew

The leadership course would be special because it prepares for the absolute key job in the militia. The team leader needs to have learned what gets cut from the basic training:

  • maintaining morale
  • maintaining and enforcing discipline
  • tactics
  • radio use
  • target identification
  • casevac
  • keeping situational picture beyond line of sight
  • highly accurate navigation without electronics
  • understanding opposing forces tactics and capabilities
  • reporting
  • (simple) demolitions and (simple) EOD
  • dealing with firearms malfunctions
  • lockpicking
  • (...)

A week or two near the end of the leadership course would be reserved to repeat train what the individuals are least skilled at. A small group could be formed for navigation exercises, while another small group focuses on identification and another one on communication and situational awareness, for example. 'One [training plan] fits all' is too inefficient.

Training facilities should be within a reasonable radius, up to one hour drive by car:

  • small arms shooting range (ring and various pop-up silhouette targets) for 30...300 m
  • hand grenade throw training (including from behind and into windows)
  • anti-tank shooting range (open field with an actual vehicle driving realistically, shot at with subcalibre training munitions) for up to 300 m shot distance

The training facilities can make do with unheated simple cushioned bunk bed (no bedding) halls that don't heat up too much in summertime. No shooting training is necessary in wintertime.

Additionally, the militia should have access to army laser-based training facilities at least for basic service and leadership course. The mortar specialisation course should also have access to an army indirect fires shooting range. 


The militia members could form a community (with closed or secret groups being forbidden) that keeps in touch outside of refresher trainings. This could include message groups (politics banned), hiking tours, barbecues, attending non-regulation courses together (first aid, exercises in allied country et cetera).




*: 6 months typically in frontier countries with conscription. 3 months is a decent basic training , 4 months is a minimum infantry training and 6 months is a decent infantry training (obviously not for all seasons or many special scenarios). 

**: In Germany this would be in late February, but it would still cut some days off preparations for tests.

***: The trainers would be retired army NCOs, so the regular army still doesn't get the opportunity to neglect the militia. 

****:  In my opinion 6x50 jumping jacks, 6x20 squats, 6x various curl bar exercises and 3x2 km runs (or frequent non-electric bicycling) are plenty per week. That's about 1.5...2 hours effort per week and only 3x some sweat.


edit: I edited the community part in and made some more minor changes while I was temporarily not aware that this part was already published. I'm still improving the later parts.



A militia for the 2020's (II)

The militia needs a fairly simple doctrine to keep the need for training beyond basic soldiering skills limited and thus affordable. The doctrine would still be separated into three phases:
Security phase
The militia would provide object security (bridges, depots, airports, airbases, high value civilian infrastructure nodes et cetera), support civil defence, support the police in efforts to control traffic (refugees, military convoys) while hostile ground forces are still far. The air defence component of the militia would not function as such during this phase to avoid friendly fire.

Battlefield phase
The regular army "high end" manoeuvre battlegroups would be in need of security elements and area surveillance as well as support for handling prisoners of war, casualty evacuation and handling civilians on the battlefield. The militia would provide this assistance, most notably spread out and establish numerous observation posts and mobile defensive reconnaissance teams that would detect and track hostile incursions from armoured reconnaissance platoons to entire battalion battlegroups. The militia would be quite elusive and risk-averse in this phase to preserve its strength. It would not be tasked to fight regular combat troops of an invading army much if at all.

Guerilla phase
The regular army may withdraw even when not under pressure. The militia does never withdraw. It's 100% a "stay behind" force.

The guerillas would provide two key contributions to alliance defence in this phase:
  1. Attrition on the "soft underbelly" of the invader's army, thus deteriorating its logistics.
  2. Diversionary effect; great many troops would be needed to provide security for the support of the invading army and for critical infrastructure.
Militia platoons would hide, scout, observe and seek to ambush and raid (NOT mere harassment fires) the invader's support forces. The guerilla would thus consider hostile support troops with at most bulletproofed vehicles their most formidable likely opposition, and they would be able to exploit the element of surprise very often. This has a strong influence on the equipment needs and training needs.
The air defence teams would strive to shoot down helicopters, and maybe besiege hostile forward airfields so much that they're useless in daytime.
The militia stay behind forces would also provide intelligence, such as battle damage assessment after long-range artillery fires or air strikes.

The infantry combat doctrine would emphasise small teams moving rather independently following a platoon-level ambush or raid plan. The teams would be small, nimble, stealthy and literally fit into a car. Firefights should be sudden, intense and brief. Hostile support troops may lack night vision tech, which would offer tactical opportunities to them militia that the regular army would not have in its peer vs. peer fight.
Guerilla teams would break contact after a brief firefight to avoid getting caught by mobile opposing forces. They could routinely set up ambushes along a pre-planned escape route (including alternative routes left and right) to inflict further damage on the enemy and to discourage dangerous pursuits.

I am not a fan of harassment fires or much emphasis on mine warfare. Both tends to lead to low intensity conflict. To snipe or to shoot a few bursts from a machinegun at long range, maybe detonate a mine or two is not satisfactory in a high intensity conflict where the militia would have to be effective in the first weeks and months. Such behaviour suits guerilla campaigns against foreign occupiers whom they just need to outlast to "win".

The greatest challenges (until the rise of autonomous drones that ruin all art of war as we know it) would be to keep a good morale and to avoid being hunted down by anti-guerilla hunting parties. The latter threat is actually part of the job description (diversionary effect), but it's fairly unlikely in the first months of war if the militia forces are very numerous in the theatre of war. The invader would face too many militia platoons to hunt them down individually with much effort each. It's more likely that the militia would restrict the invading army to main supply routes (major roads) which would be secured by convoy escorts and firebases.*

Some more doctrine details:
  • militia team of four = team leader, machinegunner, two grenadiers**
  • radio communications minimised (reporting unexpected appearance of threats, reporting deviation of plan, signalling a team breaks contact) with visual signals preferred
  • surprise hit and run with maximum one minute engagements
  • thorough scouting of hostile bases prior to raids
  • POWs taken to hidden POW holding rooms after separate interrogation by team leader (then eavesdropping on them in the holding room)
  • generally avoiding battle-ready MBTs unless multiple teams cooperate with all grenadiers carrying one anti-MBT weapon instead of the normal two LAWs
  • laying false tracks into ambush zones selective sabotage of infrastructure (ideally by removing critical parts that could later be used for repair)
  • teams separate themselves from civilians and make use of abandoned buildings leaving and entering hideouts preferably at night
  • constant visual search for aerial threats
  • disabling all civilian surveillance cameras in the area unless there's a permanent blackout anyway
  • removing road signs indicating settlements and direction to settlements
  • creating own fuel caches
  • disabling petrol stations
  • normally avoiding vicinity of hospitals
*: Firebases are an anti-guerilla concept in which platoon-sized fortified bases are scattered along a road or in a whole area. These bases each possess at least one artillery piece or at the very least heavy mortar. A Russian 122mm D-30 howitzer with 360° traverse + a 82 mm mortar for very close fires would be a fairly obvious option for the Russian army, for example. These firebases would have their fires directed by convoy escorts or patrols to give them a advantage over the guerillas. Air support would often take too long to become effective.
**: I would prefer five (adding a rifleman with a magnifying sight and more powerful cartridge), but four is all that can reliably fit into what cars will be available.


A militia for the 2020's (I)

The extreme increase in the costs of land warfare has been noted since the First World War when artillery consumed previously unheard-of amounts of munitions. Motorization and mechanisation added to the extreme costs. Motorization offered manpower savings especially in logistics, but mechanisation clearly increased the share of support personnel in an army.
The rise of transistors led to the introduction of radar-controlled air defences, battlefield radars, air defence missile and mass-produced anti-tank guided missiles. The first generation of ATGMs was still very cheap, but this ended with the 2nd generation (SACLOS) in the 1970's. Finally, the introduction of night vision goggles for common infantrymen and thermal sights for tanks (even two per tank; gunner and commander) led to electronics becoming a huge cost factor even for the steel beasts.
The great increase in the share of support personnel and the accompanying scarcity of actual combat troops with the corresponding lack of terrain control ability  was criticised repeatedly, but throughout the Cold War and post-Cold War period the promises of sophisticated gear and sophisticated force structures won almost all arguments.

The Ukraine War finally appears to show that we don't need the maximum possible to secure ourselves, and highly motivated light infantry appears to prove itself as effective at defending a country, even invaluable. 

This offers a chance to leap back to an old force structure as it was common before the age of blackpowder and during the 1930's and 1940's: A High/Low mix, in which sophisticated, expensively trained troops with expensive equipment and a large tactical repertoire comprise but a small part of the wartime strength. The vast majority of the defender's land forces would be less demanding; shorter and cheaper training, light equipment, high quality of equipment only for some critical functions (reliable secure radio communications, deterring hostile air power from flying low, scaring hostile main battle tank crews enough to make them less effective).

This way we could build an effective deterrence and defence with reasonable budgets.

I'll lay out a sketch of such a "light" force (this sounds better than "low end" or "budget" and is just as accurate). I choose the organisation of a militia (some countries would call it "national guard") that's separate from the active army. This separation is necessary, as an army in control of this militia would almost inevitably neglect it. Army bureaucracies favour peacetime strength over wartime strength - and thus systematically neglect reserves.

Such a militia would make sense in all of NATO and EU, albeit with some differences. The militias of frontier alliance members would be focused on their own terrain, with units knowing where exactly they would fight in times of war. The militias of more distant and safer countries would comprise a smaller share of the military age population and would be an important recruiting channel for the active army and air force in addition to the light land forces mission.

Personnel affairs

Personnel affairs and especially recruiting are the most important things about such a militia (2nd is training), and I shall lay these out first.

Frontier countries may use forced labour a.k.a. conscription, but this is not justifiable in other alliance members. You need to entice young men (and a few young women) into joining the militia, it has to be attractive:
  • the militia needs to be free from red tape
  • "no bullshit" on active duty such as pointless activities only meant to keep enlisted personnel busy
  • challenging training is more motivating, and will draw more recruits
  • basic training shall happen in comfortable seasons (April-October)
  • the pay has to be impressive-enough for 18 year olds: The pay from the basic service should afford a used car and equipping the first own apartment, it should pay for the start into adult life without parents.
  • no unsuitable cultural stuff; young men who choose this would not choose it for the privilege (which only serves to make the economics acceptable), they would choose it because of patriotism and a fascination with things military. The recruiting poster showing a man sprinting through the rain in full camo with rifle and helmet would appeal more to them than some rainbow colours-patterned recruitment video explaining that 'No, you don't need to cut your hair short for the militia and yes, makeup is fine as well.'
  • and finally, a special treat that might be incredibly powerful: All militia members gain a certain national privilege; they'll be exempt from unemployment insurance for life. What they pay into unemployment insurance and the co-pay of their employers will be handed back to them annually. They won't ever need an unemployment insurance, for they'll have a government job guarantee for 30 hrs/week at more than 100 % of minimum wage (maybe 150%) as their job safety net. They will feel the benefit of this "never unemployed" privilege until retirement, even after they passed military age (45 yrs).
Such a militia needs to be shielded against misuse by politicians. The only really secure shield that I can imagine is a constitutional article that limits the militia to national and allied territory and explicitly forbids it from moving beyond that with arms or uniforms, and even strips them of their combatant status beyond the alliance territory.

- - - - -

The mobilised strength depends on how many militia members actually show up fit for duty. It's reasonable to expect many to drop out due to health reasons. It's thus unrealistic to expect units or small units that were planned ahead of time. The units and small units would only exist as skeletons upon mobilisation and would need to be filled up with individuals. This means that a very limited quantity of job specialisations is highly advisable. "Keep it simple, stupid!" helps here as a maxim, as with most other things.

I do not see any reason for more than five military ranks in such a militia, and my later description of the organisation and doctrine will explain why. The five ranks can be summarised as
  • recruit (basic service incomplete)
  • enlisted (basic service complete) 
  • specialist (basic service complete + specialisation training)
  • team leader (basic service complete + leadership training)
  • platoon leader (team leaders choosing one of their own)
This can be further simplified by getting rid of ranks altogether and simply using a badge system in which someone achieving a qualification simply gets the corresponding badge. Thus a team leader of a ManPADS* team would have the badge for completion of basic service, a badge for completed leadership course and a badge for completing a ManPADS (simulator) training. Platoon leaders get a velcro badge handed at the meeting where the platoon leader is elected**. The position of platoon leader should rotate about weekly between team leader badgeholders during training periods.
The tactical doctrine will emphasise small unit actions, so the greatest sophistication would be a raid of one platoon with another platoon providing an anti-vehicle ambush along the withdrawal route to ease breaking contact with pursuers. This means that horizontal cooperation between platoon leaders who know each other is the maximum, no additional hierarchy above platoon level is really necessary.
Finally, a very distasteful issue: How would we be able to keep this from becoming a hotbed of brown sauce, especially in 'certain areas' where brown sauce is all-too common? I see little alternative to using an external agency to screen applicants and to check before all refresher trainings whether the militia members have become conspicuous in regard to extremism (either way). Anyone who has been identified as not or no more suitable would be kept out of the militia until actual defensive war.

*: man-portable air defence system, basically portable rockets that are dangerous to aircraft at up to almost 4,500 m altitude. 
**: I'm not kidding. This leader-by-election actually worked quite well among Western 18th century pirates.


Lessons from the Ukraine War (1-3)


The war so far shows the importance of morale to a degree rarely seen before because it's the attackers who are extremely inferior in morale. The importance of morale is known to anyone with at least cursory interest in army affairs, of course.  There's still a lesson in it to those who don't, and this includes most of the political leadership of the typical Western country.

I remember an anecdote about Patton (not knowing if it's 100° accurate) according to which he drove to the front in an open, marked car so everyone would see him moving forward, but he flew back to HQ in a light aircraft. He was very much informed by reading much about military history, and thus aware of the disastrous morale effect of fleeing leaders: Darius, Cleopatra et al. We also saw this effect recently in Kabul. I'm only aware of one exception  Frederick the Great's first battle where he fled after his cavalry failed, but his general then ordered a general infantry advance and won the battle.

Zelenskyi did not flee, nor did many mayors.The leadership didn't fold and the nation surprised itself by fighting for freedom and independence with determination.

This is an important lesson to Western politicians, most of whom lack the character strength and courage to come up with such behaviour by themselves because our system of selecting people for high office clearly doesn't take such qualities into account. The current scandal about politicians' behaviour during the recent flood disaster in Germany very much pulled down the clothes and exposed the character flaws of our leadership.


IFVs are failing AGAIN

This is yet another war in which Infantry Fighting Vehicles fail to shine.

So far the only successful significant applications of the IFV concept were against demoralised Arabs (specifically; Iraqis). Their tanks had no thermal imager sights, so of course IFVs were able to shoot anti-tank missiles at Iraqi tanks at night with impunity. Horse-mounted anti-tank missile teams could have done the same (the Western missile launchers had already thermal imagers at the time).

I do wonder whether there will ever be a serious debate about the Western infatuation with the IFV concept before it grossly fails us in a major war.









My recommendation

is to either give (almost) all or (almost) no wheeled vehicles STANAG 4569 level 3 protection or no protection at all (in poorly funded armies). It makes no sense to give light armour to combat troops only, for light armour will help them little and they're much more capable of self-defence than support troops.

Reconnaissance vehicles might be equipped with STANAG 4569 level 4 protection (at least regarding the bullet penetration, as the frag proofing is much less relevant to them). They might encounter some of the many old bulletproofed armoured vehicles that mount 14.5 mm guns.

Then add assault guns (or tanks). Those need (at least) STANAG 4569 level 6 protection on most surfaces and angles, at the very least for the crew/passenger area and for possibly present secondary explosion hazards (munitions other than small arms rounds and munitions mounted externally). At least tanks meant for more than assault gun tactics should be equipped with active protections systems (IR/UV missile and muzzle flash detectors that double as all-round vision cameras, quick reaction multispectral smoke+chaff, hard kill against incoming ammunitions up to 900 m/s). Whether the cost and weight increase of going for frontal 60° protection against large calibre APFSDS is worth it or not will be discussed in a later blog post that was already under preparation pre-war.

What we do NOT need

are vehicles with too little infantry dismount strength for the price (such as seven dismounts in a € 10M vehicle) leading to dismounted weakness in battle, little versatility of passenger compartment (bulky shock protection seats that limit the volume usable for supply transportation and stretcher casualty evacuation) and a huge secondary explosion & fire hazard (anti-tank munitions stored inside).

Moreover, autocannons have found to be superfluous additions to main battle tank armaments over and over again. The reasoning was always the same; practically everything can be dealt with by either cannon or machineguns. And yes, this includes helicopter threats; there was a guided 120 mm anti-helicopter round under development in the 1990's in Germany, and Soviet/Russian/Ukrainian tank gun-launched anti-tank missiles can be used against helicopters as well.

So if tanks don't need a 20...40 mm autocannon (and nowadays it's widely accepted that 30 mm is a much better IFV calibre than the other autocannon calibres), then why would a mounted/dismounted combined arms team need some? It doesn't face opposing forces that tanks don't encounter.

I see only one excuse

for battlefield autocannons; the use in remotely-controlled weapon stations for air defence against flying drones.

This might justify a 20 mm calibre autocannon, albeit I favour .338 magnum calibre machinegun, as it would allow for a universal RCWS that could be used on light vehicles as well***. It should not be considered to be an offensive mounted combat weapon, but to be a self-defence weapon. The difference is that you intentionally expose IFVs to battlefield threats to bring their firepower (nowadays including missiles) to bear, whereas you wouldn't do so for a self-defence firepower capability.




*: "IFV" = tanks with an autocannon turret and a couple infantrymen. I don't care whether Panzergrenadiere consider themselves infantry or not.

**: .338 Magnum calibres punch better through light armour than 7.62x51NATO does. So all vehicles hardened against no more than the latter become vulnerable again. .338 is quite compact, allowed for much more ready and stowed munition than 12.7x99mm/.50BMG and it's easier in terms of size, weight and recoil of the gun.



Some general tank lessons from the Ukraine War


I've seen too little info on Ukrainian tanks in action (or after action), but the Russian side sure doesn't seem to do well. In short, the technical condition of the tanks and the morale of their crews is bad, but most importantly, the Russians use de facto 1980's tanks (with some 90's thermal sensor + laser rangefinder tech on some MBTs, especially T-90s) against dominantly 1990's and early 2000's anti-tank munitions that were developed to defeat Soviet/Russian late 1980's main battle tanks.

The Soviet Union never took more than 15 years till its best tanks (then with tank units in Eastern Germany) were able to defeat the latest Western anti-tank munitions. The Russian Federation doesn't even defeat early 1990's threats that the Soviets learned about in the late 1980's. Even Javelin and NLAW could be defeated with an adaptation of early 1980's Drozd hard kill active protection system, but the Russians don't seem to use such a thing. Nor do they seem to use multispectral smoke much. I see no indication for missile approach warners (IR and UV sensors, a tech from 1990's aviation that could have trickled down to tanks / examples here and here) in use, either.

Could the Russians have upgraded their tank forces (at least MBTs) to a higher level and could they have coped with state of the art anti-tank munitions? Absolutely yes, albeit it would have been quite expensive.

Could the Russians have conducted the rapid and deep armoured spearhead thrusts for encirclements as they obviously intended? This is surprisingly unlikely.

There was little historical precedent for this extremely low ratio of land forces to area with defending nation having good morale. The current outcome appears to be that the Russians cannot protect the main roads and all kinds of non-.MBT vehicles behind the MBT+IFV spearhead get shot up by bypassed infantry. It would require time and many troops (with night vision) to sweep and secure certain roads over hundreds of km. Even a defending force with nothing but civilian 4wd car types + cheap AKM rifles + cheap RPG-18/-22/-26 light anti-tank weapons + Molotov cocktails can spell terrible trouble to invaders in such a situation. The invader is clearly at a severe disadvantage here. I'll certainly soon write some more about 10+ years old concept of mine that appear to be confirmed by the Ukraine conflict.

Another issue for the Russian encirclements is that such rapid, possibly even agile, movement of armoured forces is very demanding on force design (combined arms equipment), radio communications, logistics, training and endurance (troops start to fall asleep after four days unless there's good sleep discipline, even with "go" drugs).

The "training" requirement is the most troublesome, even for an army without endemic corruption that actually uses the training budget for training. Tracked armoured vehicles in particular make training much very expensive, likely unaffordable to the Russian army. It would be unaffordable for the Russian army (and probably any army) to keep a large share of the land forces equipped and trained for Blitzkrieg-style land warfare. Attempts to conduct such risky operations without meeting a long list of requirements leads to disaster, the Iranians already showed this early in the Gulf War.

Assault gun tactics to the rescue?

T-62 during 2nd Chechen War

The classic fallback should be to use combined arms at a lower, less demanding level; a tank platoon cooperating with a small infantry force (one to three platoons) on the attack. The Americans did this in 1944/45, Germany did this in 1942-1945 whenever it lacked the ability to conduct advanced operations, variations of the approach popped up post-WW2 repeatedly, including the fighting in the 2nd Chechen War (where a tank company was often rotating tanks between a resupply & resting area and a few overwatch firing positions).

The Russian army can fall back to this less demanding style, maybe some of the better tank crews can even be quite nimble and elusive at it; get target indicated by infantry, appear, shoot, disappear, move to other concealed position so the next appearance would be at a different place.

I wrote about assault gun tactics before, and pointed out that poor quality tanks are still suitable for such tactics. The Russians are lucky, as they have good high explosive rounds for their 125 mm tank guns. Assault gun tactics (particularly the nimble one just mentioned) can mitigate much of the anti-tank firepower of the Ukrainian land forces, both in open terrain and where there are concealment and cover. Assault guns only need to expose themselves briefly (if lines of sight are short) or can stay at a relatively safe distance (1+ km, enough to neutralise man-portable AT hardware such as NLAW). Brief exposure may be enough to survive even Javelin shots, and it surely helps much against the awfully slow-flying anti-tank missiles of Ukrainian production.

Concealment-negating loitering munitions (killer drones basically) would be the most appropriate technological counter.

The many Rosgvardia paramilitary troops who are ill-suited for combined arms conventional battle might sooner or later get certain main supply routes under control, while the army could create convoy escort units with its otherwise largely useless wheeled armoured vehicles, so convoys could be secured on other routes as well.

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The fallback option of using assault gun tactics should be noted by Western land forces as well, for our budgets are also excessively strained by training tracked armoured forces in the field to the level of competence required for Blitzkrieg-style operations. We clearly fail at maintaining the highly advisable combined arms mix; the Russian army has by far the best range of battlefield air defences in use, whereas the German Bundeswehr has almost negligible battlefield air defences, for example*.

An affordable land force design for Poland or Romania could include

  • few regular army brigades with 3:1 infantry/tank platoon mix, ShoRAD/VShoRAD air defences, 8x8 self-propelled 155 mm guns, no IFVs, no fashionable 8x8 AFVs
  • much more numerous active army+army reserves; infantry battalions for a limited repertoire of (sweep, security, defensive reconnaissance and anti-tank) missions
  • militia infantry battalions limited to the national territory, drawing trained NCOs and officers from the army reserves

This is a bit less optimistic and demanding than my prescription for reforming the Polish Land Forces  in 2016, but with similar themes.**

Such an approach could even serve as inspiration for well-funded land forces far from any NATO frontier, such as the British Army that's too small to maintain a satisfactory light/medium/heavy forces mix: Motorised (bulletproof wheeled vehicles) Battalion Battlegroups (built on an infantry battalion, 8...10 8x8 155 mm SPGs and CAMM+20 mm RCWS air defences mostly) could receive reinforcements by each one assault gun tactics-trained Challenger 2 tank company once those could be deployed and sustained.




https://news.usni.org/2021/02/10/early-experiments-are-proving-out-tank-free-marine-corps-concept (an attempt to make do without tanks, substituting for them with other expensive but more mobile means)



*: The German Heer basically has just 1980's tech 1990's production Stingers and normal calibre machineguns with very simple anti-air sights, now complemented by the 30 mm gun of the new Puma IFV, which helps against helicopters

**: Who would have become convinced if I had proposed to get rid of ambitious mechanised brigades altogether? Poland was economically on the rise then, and ambitious modernisation seemed to fit.


No, not everything needs to be bulletproofed


I saw some calls for all logistics vehicles to be bulletproofed.

Everyone, pay attention to the context!

The Russian army gets its tires shot and its soft-skinned logistics vehicles (and not just those) demolished while invading a country and facing the partially-armed working age population.

The Ukrainians have hardly any such problems with their logistics vehicles while defending their own territory.

The real lesson is that a dispersed and lightly armed militia with training at most up to small unit level can cause trouble to invaders*, and that's not news.



*: This and other events in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine supports a concept of mine, which I didn't fully explain in public yet. In short, it's similar to Spanocchi's Raumverteidigung; battalions that 

  • provide point defence/security for depots, airbases, airports, powerplants, bridges and such and provide counter-reconnaissance,
  • then when hostile ground forces arrive in their area en masse the battalion disperses to become the everywhere-present eyes of the army and
  • once it has stay-behind status it ambushes and raids support troops, helicopter forward bases and provides intelligence such as PGM targeting info and after a PGM strike battle damage assessment.



Towed artillery "battery" / future German artillery options


A towed artillery firing unit used to be organised as a battery and set up as either a battery or half battery. Half batteries made sense; they supported the infantry like a battery using half as many artillery pieces, so the battery could leap frog; one half was always emplaced with guns ready to shoot and often times one half was not ready because of movement.

Batteries were often emplaced as seen in the videos, even as a long line. This made command & control easier. You might need to correct the aim of at leat some guns of such a linear battery, for else they would not aim at the same point.

This is utterly obsolete, outdated behaviour and has been utterly obsolete and outdated for well over 20 years.

See, the biggest issues with setting up an artillery piece is to know your position precisely (satellite navigation or measuring the angles towards multiple landmarks) and to know your orientation precisely (finding north - using landmarks or stars is better than a mere compass and map). You cannot accurately shoot at a coordinate if you don't know where your gun is and what direction your barrel is pointing at.

This has become rather automated with the availability of satellite navigation since the 1990's, and it's since become state of the art to give such navigation ability not just to the battery or half-battery, but to each individual towed gun crew or self-propelled gun vehicle.

This permits to emplace the guns with a wide spacing of kilometres, distances where counterfires would not hit more than one gun and radio or cable communication is still easily possible within the entire battery.  Self-propelled guns might even be completely independent, having their own fire control (no more need for one or two fire direction centre vehicles per battery), navigation and presumably self-defence capability.

So you can protect a towed gun firing unit even when you don't have the time for field fortifications to protect the guns (the hydraulic recoiling system is quite vulnerable to fragments, and the tires sure are as well) or at very least the crews (which didn't have even only shallow trenches in the video).

What we see in the videos is a battery of 1960's guns (actually very good ones back then, but badly outranged and thus very restricted in their possibilities today) in a hasty firing position that's reminiscent of the 1700's to 1980's. This is a consequence of incompetence at the small unit and/or unit level. I mentioned that the use of landmarks and maps for position-finding and north-finding is doable without any electronics. It takes simple yet accurate mechanical tools (to determine horizontal angles between landmarks correctly) and good maps. Technically, artillery firing positions could already have had spacings of 300 m between individual guns in the 1920's.

Furthermore, it's possible to explosively excavate a foxhole on the quick (been around for a long time, can be improvised). Towed gun crews who had no time to dig for cover could prepare such foxhole excavator charges and set them off once they notice counterfires. Combine this with a DRFM jammer against radio frequency proximity fuses and the odds of survival are greatly increased even against MRSI counterattacks.

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By the way, the aforementioned advance in the state of art is a good reason to give up the concept of a "battery". Artillery firing vehicles should be self-propelled with a bulletproofed cabin and munition stowage, have a nearly 360° defensive gun (I would prefer a .338 machinegun) and be accompanied a second bulletproofed vehicle with the same armament (ideally a munitions resupply vehicle) for covering the dead angle in firing position (and especially if it's a 4x4 car also as advance guard during movement). This small unit should move, secure itself and navigate independently one the battlefield. It would receive firing missions by radio datalink and the "battery" turns into a artillery firepower unit (such as a company), which is merely an administrative construct with little relevance on the battlefield. The independently moving firing small units of two (maximum three; 8x8 SPG, 8x8 resupply and 4x4 scout car) vehicles each would also have to report by datalink where from where they have fired shots, so others don't drive into counterfires meant to hit another team.

A bit about hardware; we shouldn't spend big on getting stored Panzerhaubitze 2000 back into service in Germany. They are a pain in the a** to move long distances on road and guzzle much fuel.

The Rheinmetall/MAN 10x10 HX3 with 155 mm L/52 AGM turret seems much better-suited (capable of long range self-deployment by road) and could easily be accompanied by another HX2 or HX3 series resupply vehicle.

(sorry for the stupid audio, that's a stupid fashion from beyond the great pond)

In case that the AGM is so far commercially unsuccessful because its Panzerhaubitze 2000-derived autoloader doesn't convince: The Swedish Archer on MAN HX2 series 8x8 vehicle is another option (easily transferred to HX3). Both AGM and Archer vastly outperform the wheeled 155 mm SPG competition in terms of burst fire capability.


9 rpm, MRSI 4...6 rds depending on range, 360° traverse  (though over cab likely with some restrictions regarding elevation, maybe also propellant charge strength), shoot-on-the-move indirect fire capability, 60 rounds stored on 10x10 HX3 including 30 ready rounds in turret


9 rounds per minute, 21 rounds in 2.5 minutes (then reload needed), MRSI 4...6 rds depending on range, 170° traverse, 20 seconds into action & 20 seconds leaving site (according to brochure), 21 rounds stored on MAN HX2 (or HX3) 8x8 vehicle

now for comparison a famous non-autoloader 155 mm SPG on wheeled vehicle:

Caesar 2

6 rounds per minute, thus much weaker MRSI, 60° traverse, "less than" 60 seconds into action, "less than" 60 seconds leaving site, 36 rounds on 8x8 vehicle

 edit: I should have mentioned Zuzana 2 as well: 6 rpm, 16 rounds in 3 minutes, MRSI 2...4 rds depending on range, autoloader and (very slow) backup manual loading, 360° traverse, 40 rounds stored on 8x8 vehicle that could use a German engine. I don't know if the 360° traverse means 360° capable of shooting full charge in lower register. Videos show Zuzana 2 firing without even deploying its two hydraulic legs, but I don't know how much propellant was involved in such shots. The advantages over Caesar 2 are the better crew protection and the certainly (even with caveat) greater traverse.

Zuzana 2 is supposedly cheaper than Caesar and Archer. AGM would be a fully domestic product, so about half of the price paid would return to the government through taxes. Its price should thus by understood t o be half of its nominal price, whatever that would be (I guess 10+ M € for the turret unless it's a bulk order for 200+ pieces).