Wagner and SS


Hitler's NSDAP party had a paramilitary organisation for bullying, intimidating, 'security' at events and plain brawling against communists and social-democrats; it was called the SA.

This SA quickly became very important and very powerful in 1933, as among other things it gained power by providing personnel for the government's new auxiliary police force that did the dirt political stuff that the regular police wasn't reliable enough for.

Its leader became too ambitious* for Hitler and was eliminated in 1934, the SA was dissolved.

A much smaller violent party organisation rose to prominence instead. This SS had been a kind of bodyguards organisation at first. It took over much SA personnel and among other things the running of the KZs, which were at that time mostly holding political prisoners.

You didn't need to be well-versed in military matters to rise up the ranks in these organisations, most important for a career were

  • being loyal to superiors
  • being able to shout commands well
  • being ambitious
  • participating in social events with other 'leaders'
  • talking shit

Some men rose through the ranks because of personal connections to top leaders, in the SA this included wartime friends of the SA leader.

The military arm of the SS was founded soon after war broke out, in late 1939. It became a parallel organisation to the army.

There was another parallel German ground force in WW2; the air force (Luftwaffe) had initially a ground combat element in shape of paratroopers, which gained much attention and prestige in 1940 and 1941. It wasn't difficult to raise them as a good infantry force because the air force itself was created in 1933 with army officers.

The army bled white in the Russia campaign 1941...1943 while the air force wasted hundreds of thousands of infantry-suitable young conscripts in utterly inflated organisations such as pickets all over occupied France to observe the sky with eyes and microphones. Thus the Luftwaffe came under pressure to provide men for ground warfare. Its ambitious and blusterous boss Göring didn't intend to have hundreds of thousands of young men transferred from HIS air force to army. So he formed air force divisions for ground combat, with more or less ridiculous names (including a 'paratrooper tank division'). These divisions appeared a decade after the inheritance of skilled army personnel by the air force and they generally weren't average or better fighting forces. Their equipment was mostly 3rd rate (including many captured weapons with insecure munitions supply) anyway. Their leaders would have been fit for occupation security regiments, while their young conscripts should have been channelled through several months of retraining in and by the army before being sent to the front.


Back to the Waffen-SS; it was founded in late 1939, enjoyed no inheritance of thousands of highly skilled army officers and once in action on the Eastern Front in 1941/1942 it quickly gained a reputation for reckless and unnecessarily casualties-rich tactics. In short; it was led poorly.

This did improve eventually, but the continued quick expansion of the Waffen-SS to rival the army ever more and the concentration of talent in one 'elite' flagship division meant that the waning army critique of Waffen-SS casualty rates was probably more about the deteriorating army experiencing rising casualty rates itself in 1943...1945 than about the Waffen-SS becoming very good at tactics.

Brutality towards not only the enemy but also towards the own men was employed by the Waffen-SS (and the army itself was already brutal by today's standards including an outrageous casualty rate during training).

Neither the air force's dabbling in ground war nor the Waffen-SS' were rooted in rational optimisation of national warfare potential. These were political efforts, meant to elevate their leader, some inner circle crony. Neither army competitor was particularly skilled and both suffered excessive casualty rates (including the original paratroopers, who were ruined in the Crete invasion).

Fast forward to 2022, we see the Wagner PMC employing inept tactics and brutality in a ground war in order to elevate the political weight of their crony-in-command, Prigozhin. The organisation has a few former military officers, but isn't built on such 'competence'. Wagner PMC's behaviour  fits to the fact that the Russian Federation checked all the Fascism test checkboxes in the past years.




*: It didn't help him that he was a fat by the standards of the day, gay and in the focus of public disaffection with the new regime and its corruptness.



(Light) infantry today

Light infantry appears to have a strange fascination on military fanbois. It's almost the embodiment of playing soldier. No boring work in offices, no counting stuff for inventory list in a depot, no truck-driving, no car mechanic work, (almost)  no fiddling with 20 years-old electronics. Just camo uniform, guns, physical fitness, occasional exercises in fake villages and fake buildings, and of course - especially lately - weird vehicles. Snowmobiles, quads, 6-wheel ATVs - reminiscent of recreation almost.

such toys aren't really new

Light infantry was in high demand in Afghanistan because the supply lines were troublesome and there was simply no capacity to support mechanised forces, so it was about infantry, engineers, MRAPs with air support.

The Russo-Ukrainian War of failed Russian annexation expectations provided a reality check.
Sure, there are some videos of "special" forces using buggys or quads to infiltrate through the thin line of pickets and platoon dugouts that the Russians established to guard the frontline.

Almost all of the infantry had a very different experience, though. Mechanised infantry (riding in or on BMPs) is best to be reserved for mechanised actions, so other infantrymen should man the front-line.

Those infantrymen are also "light" infantrymen, and by all evidence that I saw they do not carry equipment like crazy, even bulletproof plate armour is very rarely used. They fight light (far from the overburdened mules known from Afghanistan patrols), 
but most often they do less glamorous and glorious things; they hide and more importantly, they build field fortifications and make them bearable to live in.
So digging, sawing, construction work, installing camouflage netting and observation duty in trenches appear to be about 80% of the skill set that infantry needs in this war.
Artillery and mortars cause about 80...90% of the casualties in such war scenarios. Some of the rest is caused by air power, accidents, tanks, dedicated anti-tank teams and snipers. The ordinary infantry man matters little as a fighter - tacticool gucci gear or no tacticool gucci gear. Mosin-Nagant rifle or HK416 matters for morale, but it matters little for physical results of a war.

Infantry is not much of a killing factor. To mobilise 300,000 men for infantry and to send them to the front-lines means more meat bags to keep the frontline from collapsing, but it means very little regarding how many casualties the other side will suffer.

Infantrymen are in modern conventional warfare similar to the pikemen of the 16th century field battle in Europe: They hardly ever harm anyone who didn't come close to them to attack them. The pikemen didn't do much of the killing; the musketeers, the arquebusiers and sometimes the artillerymen did that.

The supply of artillery munitions predicts how many casualties will be inflicted, albeit with diminishing returns.

The #1 quality of the regular infantryman is not "lethality" that Westerners like to obsess about (fanbois, industry and often even the armies or marine organisations). The #1 quality of the infantryman is to endure the threat of indirect fires and still accomplishing the mission of holding or (rarely) taking ground.

Modern non-mechanised infantry is 90% about Hodor and only 10% about Gimli.

Western armies should rediscover this old insight from the World Wars. The implications for resource allocation, training programs, TO&E and doctrine are huge.

P.S.: This does NOT mean that hard body armour is a good idea. Even most armoured vehicles don't reliably stop all fragments of a 152 mm HE shell at 50 m distance, but field fortifications do.
Furthermore, it's not enough to dig in. A platoon should have at least two well-built positions available, and the 'rear' one should be kept hidden. Fortified positions should become smaller down to pickets for four or five men 'far forward'. The idea has to be to have few exposed much so that many stand a better chance at hiding successfully. The field fortifications to be used to actually stop a well-executed determined push should not be known to the attackers before they come into line of sight contact.


Tactical psychology and the tip of the spear

Western entertainment businesses have warped many of their sourced quite a lot. I don't quite recognise the Grimm's fairy tales of my childhood in their American interpretations, for example.

Hercules is another example. I remember to have read a translation of ancient texts, and was shocked by this sociopath. In one battle he was about to murder a friend of his because said friend had dared to run in front of Hercules. Luckily, he quickly noticed and fell back voluntarily.

The Romans had a special medal for the legionary who was the first to reach the walls of a city or fortress to be stormed (corona muralis).

I remembered these anecdotes when I read the following description of what would go on in a 19th century assault:

"Even if the distance is short and the enemy only a moment away, it is again the instinct that takes over. We rush forward, but most of us will rush forward with caution in the back of their minds, allowing the rash to pass us and the daring to rush ahead. It is peculiar but absolutely true that the closer we get to the enemy the further we get from each other. Goodbye to the theory of surge. And if the head of the column is stopped those who are behind it will fall to the ground rather than push it forward."

The pre-800 BC Greek ethos and the Roman medals served the purpose of helping the leading men sustain the charge. Only one of many could possibly be honoured for being the very tip of the spear, but that didn't matter. The spear had to begin somewhere, and it doesn't move forward if its tip doesn't.





Tactical nukes


Russia doesn't use tactical nukes in Ukraine even though it gets humiliated and its regime and mythology are at existential risk.

How could anyone maintain the assumption that Russia would use tactical* nukes over land against NATO if there's ever a hot war between them?

How could anyone maintain the belief that tactical nukes for use over (on) land are potentially useful, for deterrence and/or for defence?

The nuclear powers promised to work towards nuclear disarmament in exchange for non-nuclear powers promising not to pursue having own nuclear weapons. They violated their obligation to pursue their own nuclear disarmament with one-sided reinterpretations of plain treaty language, supposedly turning the NPT into a one-sided treaty in which only the non-nuclear powers have obligations.

I say it's time to restart the anti-nuke movement and to push to get rid of tactical nuclear weapons. Anyone reasonable in the nuclear powers should be able to see that the loss of "tactical" nuclear weapons is easily acceptable.




*: I use for the purpose of this blog text the definition of "tactical nuclear weapon" that defines it as devices that include nuclear fission and produce an overall energy yield of less than 50 kt TNTeq.



The Ukrainian Armed Forces are the greatest threat to Western military bureaucracies in a long time


He's so close, yet the real insight eludes him.
The way Ukraine makes use of military equipment with briefly-trained men and reservists is the greatest threat to our 'standing army' bureaucracies since the end of the Cold War.
They hold the Russian Air Force at bay with almost nothing, neutralised the Black Sea Fleet without using a single ship or submarine to do so, their personnel needs only weeks to learn making good use of Western AFVs and artillery pieces.
They're showing that there's no need to have huge standing armies in which lots of enlisted men (and women) serve for more than two years, and many officers have careers beyond the rank of major.

The armed bureaucracy's self-interest is to be big, have much prestige in society, have much money to spend, play with toys. A proper reserve army's concept is to have equipment mostly stored away, much money spent on munitions in climate-controlled storage, brief training up to lieutenant rank, very few officers above lieutenant rank with great training, administrative stuff done with civilian skills. It's no fun for those who hold power in armed bureaucracies and ministries of defence.

The way Ukraine fights is an almost mortal danger to our armed bureaucracies. It disproves its supposedly self-evident myths. Myths that are integral, indispensable to pursuit of their self-interest.





"Dunning-Kruger effect" is the term for people basically being too stupid and incompetent to understand that they are too stupid and incompetent for an issue.

'He's a stupid man's idea of a smart man.' was said about a certain politician.

Combine these two things and you get the modern-day pundits (and more general: "comment-givers") who now diagnose the need for more military spending. They do so with an aura that spans a spectrum from "honest truth-teller" to "elder statesman".

They're idiots. That's the nice way to put it.

 And the media people who amplify such messages are too stupid to smell the horseshite.

The Russian Armed Forces are failing to subdue a country that hadn't even come close to spending at least 10 billion $ in a year from independence three decades ago till the all-out invasion of 2022.


NATO members had 1,096.6 billion $ military spending in 2020, 325.9 billion $ without the U.S. (which went insane long ago).


Russia's military spending never exceeded 88.4 billion $ in any year.


And the horseshite producers conclude that, obviously, we don't spend enough. NATO outnumbers Russian military personnel about 2:1 without counting the U.S.,  and outspends it by about 4:1 (not quite as dramatic when correcting by purchasing power parity, but still outspending).

We do spend too much - not too little - on the military.

There's practically no other direct threat to NATO than Russia, and it proved to be a sick man of Europe, utterly rotten and incapable. Their air force is ineffective, their army is shite, Russia of today combines all flaws known from past 200 years of Russian history while the only strength is the size of their dumb munition stocks and factories.

The realization that the only threat is impotent leads to the logical conclusion that previous threat estimates - and thus required military power assessments - need to be revised DOWN.

Some people may be concerned about the PRC, but that's no direct threat to any NATO territory*, and nobody seems to argue to pump arms, spares & munitions into Taiwan for real NOW. No, these horseshite spewers want more military in Europe, where it matters jack shit for Taiwan.

This is not fantasy football. It's about real public funds. Billions and billions of Euros that would be allocated to military power if the horseshite becomes mainstream. One billion Euros is equivalent to about 100 citizen lives not saved by preventative measures that cost. One billion Euros is equivalent to 100 human sacrifices on the altar of wankers feeling good about military power.

Horseshite is not "honest truth-telling" or "elder statesman wisdom". It's homicidal horseshite, it's quasi-genocidal.

Misallocating so much money has real-world opportunity costs. It's not fantasy money in a fantasy game.

The horseshite-spewers are ethically to be ranked well below bank robbers and rapists. Not only is horseshite more dangerous to the society; at least some bank robbers and rapists are aware of themselves being terrible, antisocial persons.

The European armed forces as a whole (and big ones such as the British or German ones) don't have an underfunding problem. They have an inefficiency problem. Billions and billions of Euros are being allocated to worthless crap that matters jack shit for deterrence and defence. Meanwhile, essentials such as large and properly cared-for munition and spare parts stocks are getting neglected.

It's the "hollow force" syndrome. The "hollow force" syndrome is not being caused by underfunding. It's caused by stubborn resistance to cutting fat and stubborn resistance to resizing according to budget. The generals and admirals prefer to keep units and platforms in service in hope of getting bigger budgets later again rather than to resize. It's a shared responsibility of minister of defence and generals/admirals.

They (MoD, admirals, generals) fail their nation by hollowing out the armed forces, NOT the legislators who appropriate budgets that don't fit to the legacy military size. The executive branch is supposed to follow the legislative ranch on this, not the other way around. Your waiter does not get to dictate how much you have to spend on dining.

We have huge fiscal challenges to cope with. The demographic changes in much of Europe (fertility well below 2.0) make long-term investments in infrastructure and real estate (rather than building cheaper, less durable stuff) advisable. Decarbonisation costs much. Chronic large budget deficits are unsustainable, as the rate of technological progress (and thus GDP growth) keeps slowing down. Generational budget distribution fights are raging under the radar.

There's never a good time to waste resources, and that's very evident today.

We need to improve the resources allocation in the armed forces (more spare parts, more munitions, more budget for exercises, less units that are irrelevant for deterrence and defence).

We do NOT need to spend vastly more on the military. In fact, we could cut our military spending by half without any loss of security or stability.





*: Guam and Hawaii are NOT covered by the North Atlantic treaty.



A minimum army weapons set for conventional war


I thought a bit about what's the minimum variety of weapons and vehicles for land war in Europe, as a thought exercise to create clarity, kind of cutting away the fat. The list follows, but be prepared to disagree violently. Keep in mind, this is a minimum list, not an optimum list. The thought exercise is about what do we really need?


  • minimum weapons list
  • justifications for the list
  • minimum radar support
  • minimum vehicle variety list


(1) offensive hand grenade*


(2) assault rifle with red dot sight (5.56x45 mm M855A1 EPR round, 14.5" barrel)

Why illustration with an M4? Because the mass production made it cheap.

(3) "automatic rifle" (assault rifle with thicker barrel and adjustable bipod for light machinegun role)

(4) HEDP rifle grenade* can hit & penetrate BMP target reliably @ 100 m, graze PDSQ & delay fusing  modes, off-centre nose spike, bullet trap
Most HEDP rifle grenades have a IMO too weak HEAT at 35 or 40 mm diameter.
Few bullet traps could stop an EPR round reliably, so no legacy type is fully satisfactory.

(5) short-range anti-MBT weapon* (RPG-28/RPG-30 combo as anti-APS solution)



(6) fibre-optic guided missile (5 km, tandem HEAT + preformed fragments warhead, MWIR seeker)


(7) Martlet LMM (dual use missile against slow&low air targets and BMP-class vehicles, HEDP warhead) with LML NG launcher


(8) RCWS with MG3 (installed on most vehicles in the field, effective against drones & loitering munitions)


(9) wheeled 155 mm SPG (either 52cal with limited traverse or four-legged 39 cal for all-round traverse, no autoloader, power ramming, modern positioning/northfinding & fire control)


(10) Tamir missile launcher (Iron Dome's SAM)




1. Defensive (with fragmentation sleeve) hand grenades are a hazard to the user in many situations, as their fragmentation effect has a larger danger radius than an offensive hand grenade's mere blast effect. Convertible hand grenades weigh more, are not significantly more useful in practice and the screw on/screw off of the frag sleeve is an opportunity for fussing around in combat stress.

2. A red dot sight is the easiest for quickly gaining marksman proficiency and is fine out to 300 m. It also avoids tunnel vision, as both eyes can stay open. Downside; no magnification means that the sight does not help with target ID. Section leaders need binoculars (minimum 8x21).

3. I expect 90% would expect some longer-ranged infantry weapons including "sniper" rifles and belt-fed machineguns as well. This is a doctrinal choice of mine. Break (line of sight) contact if you get shot at from beyond 300 m, for you have exposed yourself too much, period. Commonality with the assault rifle helps to cut down training requirements.

4. Rifle grenade are out of fashion in many countries and one might miss the greater effective anti-BMP range of a LAW (~200 m instead of ~100 m). The HEDP rifle grenade should rather be thought of as something that pierces as window (cracking it with a hard spike) at 30 m distance and explodes with delay fuse and frag effect in the room. It could defeat a BMP in street combat or in woodland combat, though.

5. A dedicated anti-MBT munition, it's very heavy at about 15 kg, only to be issued (and taken out of vehicles) more than one per section when the need is anticipated. It's necessary because the FOGM would not cover some close terrain such as woodland. RPG-28 has 125 mm tandem HEAT and RPG-30 features a 2nd decoy projectile to trigger hard kill APS so it misses the main shot.

6. Main anti-AFV asset, primarily meant for indirect support fires and launch based on 'bird's view' leads. It could also defeat moving targets and targets that are shielded from 155 mm fire by buildings. I choose fibreoptic guidance because I distrust the radio link of loitering munitions; effective jamming against them may appear any day.

7. Gets rid of BMP-class vehicles at a distance, keeps helos away, may intercept some drones, threatens high subsonic speed combat aircraft during their approach and thus keeps them above ~15,000 ft.

8. Installed on APCs and 8x8. Distributed anti-drone and anti-loitering munition weapon, provides security against infiltrators and stragglers, hardly relevant for infantry fire support. MG3 was chosen for NATO standard calibre and its nowadays uniquely high rate of fire from a single barrel. The bolt could be lightened to increase the RoF even more. The calibre also offers little vibration, small weight and compactness. The bullet type should ignite non-insensitive warheads.

9. Standard NATO calibre. Other calibres and barrel lengths could do the trick as well, of course. Targets mostly based on 'bird's view' operator calls for fires, pre-planned assault support fires (neutralising fires with HE, flank screening with multispectral smoke), calls for HE salvo on a point by infantry platoons and rarely on satellite-identified targets hidden from 'bird's view' sensors. It might also deliver old-fashioned propaganda leaflet munitions.

10. Expensive anti-platform missiles such as SL-AMRAAM, VL MICA, CAMM and IRIS-T SL are not included because I assume good air power support. The same reasoning excluded GUMLRS-class PGMs from the list. What's needed instead is thus a low cost interceptor missile against drones, loitering munitions and occasionally passing cruise missiles, glide bombs and GUMLRS-class PGMs.


Radar support: 

Especially #10 requires radar support. A 4x4-based radar could do the air surveillance for aircraft/munitions/drones including warning by radio of impacts about to happen. It would greatly help #7 to take on head-on and #6 to engage helicopters. #8 would also receive threat leads.

The Tamir missile launcher vehicle could use another radar  and possibly some gimballed sensor package to guide the missile to its target. Both radars should be GaN AESA radars, single antenna rotating in a rotation-symmetric housing with bulletproof backing.

Examples for small battlefield radars are here: www.iai.co.il/defense/land/land-defense-systems


compact 4x4 car (~Land Rover or G-Wagon, cabin proofed vs. PKM ball or steel core bullets @ 100 m, front axle well forward of driver and bottom plate as features for protection from mines and UXO, soft roof)

8x8 or 10x10 vehicle of 15...20 tons payload, only three versions in a brigade; advanced load handling (container & pallet), protected tanker (15,000+ litres) and recovery, protected cab with RCWS



APC (continuous bandtracks, RCWS, armour against hypothetical 14.5 mm APDS, ROSY smoke including overhead smoke projection, forward powerpack, rear ramp, a couple of available add-on kits such as a dozer blade and recovery winch, ten dismounts on folding seats, crew of driver & gunner, a lightweight anti-HEAT 360°x90° hard kill APS (Iron Fist IFLD, but with two rotating rotation-symmetric radar antennas instead of four fixed ones). Might be used for scouting with at most two dismounts, but 95% of missions would be transportation or assault&run. Weight fuelled without payload; approx. 20 30 tons.



P.S.: This was a minimum list, not an optimum list. Just a thought exercise. Maybe I should have made it much easier on the eye with graphics & a layout that's not stuck in the 90's, but I'm rather busy in private life.

*: Technically that's a munition, not a weapon.


edit: I should have mentioned WHY a minimum set of equipment is attractive, despite not being an optimal one. Our procurement bureaucracies are FUBAR. The more diverse the equipment they need to procure, the lesser the chance that they get the job done. Ruthless standardisation and reduction of variety would not just ease training and logistics; it would also be a workaround for FUBAR procurement.



Army luxuries


I meant to write a blog post outlining the essentials for a European army, focused on deterrence & defence in Europe. It first got unwieldy and then I realised that I was foolish; there are too many such necessities.

So instead, I'll try to write a not necessarily complete list of things that are almost certainly luxuries in European armies. Some of these luxuries are still nice to have, but luxuries and unlikely to justify the budgetary expenses nevertheless. I may later write a brief list of necessities that we don't have.


Rifle-proof body armour

Videographic evidence does not show much hard body armour in use in Ukraine, and it appears to be confirmed yet again that high explosive shells, not bullets, are the real killers by a large margin.



Attack helicopters

Attack helicopters have become a farce over Ukraine due to battlefield air defences that they cannot cope with. They're about as useful as a pickup with a mounted rocket launcher for too small (57...80 mm) rockets, for lobbing rockets into the general direction of villages or fields is their (and Su-25's) standard operating procedure there on both sides of the conflict.

The Western attack helicopter approach emphasises staying close to the ground, expose the platform very little and briefly, find targets with expensive sensors from there (treetop height) and engage them with quick and expensive missiles. This can be done MUCH more easily, with more persistence and for much less budget by a combination of land vehicles with mast-mounted sensors and missile launchers. Both 4x4 vehicles and trailers can be used for this, there's no need for expensive helicopters.

Attack helicopters are extremely dangerous to poorly-equipped insurgents (and survivable against them especially at night), but they have approximately no use for conventional deterrence & defence in Europe.

Heavy lift helicopters

There are 15 ton lorries, 'nuff said. Heavylift helicopters are obscenely expensive to buy and operate. Their occasional quick transport function does simply not justify their obscene costs.

Utility helicopters

Military utility helicopters play a small role over Ukraine. Their greatest usefulness appears to be evacuation of wounded personnel in extremely low altitude flight (thus mostly limited to good visibility conditions). Modern Western utility helicopters range from about USD 12 million to obscenely overpriced. I understand if existing moderate operating expenses utility helicopters are kept in service, but it makes no sense to buy those, even the 'cheapest' ones. European NATO has hundreds of civilian helicopters that can be commandeered and used for casualty evacuation at very low levels in good visibility conditions.

We don't need to spend gazillions on army rotary aviation; we need a reservist scheme for civilian helo pilots and aircraft mechanics.

Area air defences against manned combat aircraft

I argued in favour of such myself AND the Ukrainians depend very much on their S-300 and Buk systems, but I still rate these as unnecessary luxuries TO NATO land forces today.

NATO has so many fighters and so much capability to strike at airbases that it could gain and maintain air supremacy without such anti-platform area air defences. This picture changes a little if we ignore the Americans and assume that the Russians launch a war with a real strategic surprise (one they rebuilt their missile inventory), knocking out hundreds of European combat aircraft on the ground.

Anti-missile defences are a different story. Such defensive missiles (or gunfires) should be cheaper than the targeted munitions (per kill). Both the Israeli Iron Dome approach as well as autocannon-based (30 or 35 mm) approaches appear to be well-positioned to get many deserved orders for protecting rear area point targets against cruise missiles of any kind. Anti-missile defence is more tricky far 'forward', as radiating much with radars is too treacherous there. It provokes artillery fires or missile attacks.

Missiles that were designed to take on high-flying supersonic combat aircraft which feature countermeasures are too expensive for a fight against mere munitions, almost none of which feature countermeasures.

NATO could easily stomach the damage that was done by hundreds of Russian cruise missiles, especially when assuming that some of them would be intercepted by fighters. So even the necessity of anti-missile defences is debatable as long as Russia doesn't have something similar to GUMLRS (such as the Iranian BM-120) in large quantities.

Infantry fighting vehicles


Infantry fighting vehicles proved to be not survivable enough in face of anti-tank guided missiles. That may be rectified with hard kill active protection systems (adding even more expenses and maintenance needs), but the issue remains that the infantry needs protected offroad transport capacity a lot more than autocannon fires when tanks are already providing support. The IFV-mounted anti-tank guided missiles are a secondary explosion hazard if carried inside and generally not needed, as the dismounted teams can operate such missiles just as well.

Then again, I am on record as an opponent of the IFV concept.






MBT direct fire support (in slow-moving attacks)


https://twitter.com/UAWeapons/status/1564983903475175424?s=20&t=FZFQqz7j5s-YHZy8uC1YKg https://twitter.com/UAWeapons/status/1564983903475175424

The Ukrainians have at the very least occasionally used main battle tanks to provide indirect fires on point targets, with aim corrections based on observation by 'bird's view' drones. The Russians do it as well.

All horizontal targets can be hit by 155 mm howitzer indirect fires and vertical targets (such as building walls) can be hit by tank indirect fires (or by artillery that's close enough).

What fire support roles are left for tanks to fulfil? Suppressive fires with machineguns (could be had with other platforms than tanks, even unmanned ground vehicles) and direct fire support (on targets visible to the tank) that needs to be very quick (including against moving targets).

You don't need the hunter-killer "all in one" approach of the tank for direct fire support to infantry when you can set up the fire support for a not very hasty attack. Even infantry in surprise meeting engagements could be well-supported without tanks, as long as drones and loitering munitions don't get countered. This is more an important insight for those "mobile gun system"-ish direct fire support procurement programs than for legacy main battle tanks. It may still make sense to keep reservist main battle tank units with legacy systems for fire support.


Artillery or mortar autoloaders

Autoloaders can increase the rate of fire of howitzers (they cannot increase the rate of fire of mortars, as manual mortar loading is very quick). This comes at the price of technical complexity that provokes high purchase prices, technical failures, high maintenance needs, high operating costs and low readiness.

The Russo-Ukrainian War has shown that having enough artillery munitions, firing well over 100 rounds per day and gun for weeks if not months and small shot dispersion are more important than what NATO artillery and their suppliers publicly obsessed about; high burst rates of fire, with high MRSI* counts.

The really slow-firing M777 and some other towed howitzers and Caesar did well (as would have any 155 mm towed howitzer of the 70's and 80's). 

The ability of a 155 mm artillery piece to fire hundreds of shots in a day for weeks without needing depot-level maintenance is much more important than the burst rate of fire in the first minute or two of firing. Autoloaders are nice to have when they work, but appear to be unnecessary and inadvisable luxury for artillery guns.

Dedicated forward observer vehicles (unless they have a high mast)

Ebpv 90, an almost unarmed dedicated artillery observer vehicle

Dedicated forward observer vehicles without a high mast have no good perspective on the battlefield. They see too little compared to mast-mounted sensors and 'bird's view' drones. Tiny masts such as the one on the German 4x4 Fennek vehicle aren't satisfactory by comparison, either. The very minimum should be a tethered drone (example).

Mortars smaller than 120 mm calibre

Smaller mortars deliver less firepower for about the same personnel requirements and they require about the same logistics support for the same effect. Moreover, smaller calibres almost invariably offer less maximum range, but not much less minimum range. The safety distance (of impacts) to own troops is quite similar as well. Finally, 120 mm offers enough 'bang' to justify a good (proximity airburst) fuse.

Tracked self-propelled guns

Tracked self-propelled guns have much higher procurement and maintenance costs than wheeled SPGs, but they didn't seem to justify this extra effort requirement during the Russo-Ukrainian War. Their losses were on par with towed artillery pieces of the same calibre. The mud periods were the only times when tracked SPGs offered a real advantage over wheeled SPGs that really mattered. Yet driving in mud conditions is very straining for tracked SPGs as well and greatly increases fuel consumption, maintenance needs and wear. So wheeled SPGs being restricted to paved roads for a couple weeks per year seems tolerable given how much less they cost than tracked SPGs.
The tracked SPG's typical advantage of firing with 360° traverse of a turret didn't seem to matter much with modern position-finding and north-finding equipment. The SPGs were usually hiding in woodland or behind (or inside) buildings and move into a firing position when they receive a firing mission by radio (or SatCom). This renders the 360° turret traverse of M109-patterned SPGs unimportant at least in the front-line combat of the current war.

Multiple rocket launchers with unguided rockets

These classic MRLs were used much until they ran out of munitions, but their huge dispersion at distance, their long minimum firing distance and their (dispersion-driven) huge minimum safe distance of their fires to own troops have shown them to be the inferior artillery concept. 

The transition to wheeled multi missile launchers for guided munitions (and possibly short-range heavy warhead rockets along the lines of TOS-1) including air defence missiles and loitering munitions seems to be very advisable.

Heavy unguided anti-tank munitions

The likes of Panzerfaust 3 and RPG-29 were employed in quantity, but didn't appear to score many tank kills. This may be due to video documentation bias, of course. On the other hand, longer-ranged weapons usually exceeded the tank kill count of Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck in 1944/45 whenever both were available. It appears to be normal.

It is debatable whether the repelling (deterring) function of short-ranged AT weapons was super-important and super-effective, but it appears that a sufficient distribution of guided anti-tank missiles (or at least predicted line of sight missiles such as the 800 m range NLAW) and the use of loitering munitions and attack drones can substitute for burdening the infantry with 10...15 kg heavy dedicated anti-MBT munitions that still have only 200...600 m range.
The more lightweight anti-"tank" munitions on the other hand were useful and good enough for keeping BMPs at a distance, enabling the expensive anti-MBT missiles to be focused on actual MBTs when both MBTs and BMPs (IFVs) were present. Even a 67 mm calibre M72 LAW has plenty penetration to deal with a BMP. We could probably go even smaller than that.

Radar-guided anti-tank missiles

It appears that the Russians were indeed too inept to cope with the mid-90's thermal vision approach to anti-tank missile guidance, which keeps astonishing me. That approach has many advantages, so it's an unnecessary luxury to introduce radar-guided anti-tank missiles.

Battlefield surveillance / artillery radars

Such radars pick up movements of personnel and (at greater distances) vehicles. This provides some intelligence on where the enemy is and how active he is, but it can also be used to choose coordinates for artillery fires. The approach is not very long-ranged unless you have a high vantage point (hills or a high building) for the radar.

Mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAP)

These vehicles are very fuel-intensive relative to their usable payload, especially when compared to 8x8 logistic vehicles with protected cabs. Their protection is useful at times, but MRAPs are designed for on-road operation and too often fail on unpaved roads in mud season and offroad. Being de factor road-bound on a battlefield is a risk in its own right.
It makes sense to give wheeled vehicles fragmentation protection, but the protected cabs of 9...15 ton logistics vehicles are much more sensible than the offspring of occupation wars, the MRAPs. This was totally anticipated by just about everyone, of course.

Dedicated counter-artillery radars

There are some in use, but the losses of towed artillery are similar to the losses of protected self-propelled artillery. Counter-artillery radars do not appear to do the job as advertised, or else the towed artillery would have been slaughtered (as it is slower to leave its firing position). In fact, even the short-ranged 105 mm guns proved to be very survivable. 

'Bird's view' drones and often times high vantage point (hill, roof, mast) sensors can pick up artillery firing signatures (flash, smoke) fairly easily at long ranges, around the clock. They are justified for other reasons already, so if they can do the job of spotting artillery (even and especially when it does shoot & scoot), then the case for a dedicated tool becomes very weak.

Dedicated counter-artillery radar may make little sense any more, but some counter-artillery radar modes in multi-purpose radars do make sense, as they would force the enemy artillery into the shoot & scoot behaviour that reduces artillery fire intensity. The "scoot" (movement) part of that tactic also exposes them more to bird's view (drone) observation. Such a 'counter-artillery radar mode' by-product of a battlefield air defence radar may also assist 'bird's view' operators with leads on where to look for targets with high zoom.

It may also make sense to keep rocket/artillery/mortar alerting functions in some multi-purpose radars. This function does not permit to determine the origin of the munitions accurately, but it permits prediction of where it's going to impact. This can be used to alert troops in the danger area seconds before impacts, reducing surprise and giving them a chance to seek cover if not move away. 

I limited this statement to dedicated counter-artillery radars because counter-mortar is a different story. Counter-mortar radars are much smaller, lighter, cheaper, less demanding regarding vehicles and power supply and the OSINT data on mortars does not allow the conclusion that they proved to be very survivable even in face of countering radars. Furthermore, mortar firing signatures (flash, smoke) can be hidden from 'bird's view' sight much more easily than artillery firing signatures.

Radio communications jamming

It appears that triangulation and listening to human-to-human radio traffic is much more valuable than jamming, which also degrades how well your own forces can use the radio frequencies for communication. Other radio frequency jammers than comm jammers have proved to be very useful, though that may be transitory. The useful jammers include jammers that counter the radio datalink of loitering munitions and 'bird's view' drones (if the latter can be jammed, which seems unlikely in the near future).

Headquarter tent & container cities, "fuel farms"

You can't have these within range of guided surface-to-surface missiles. The Russians are soon going to use Iranian GUMLRS (colloquially "HIMARS") missile equivalents. To defend against such missiles becomes too unreliable once the missiles use terminal phase evasive manoeuvres.



Big field hospitals

Same story with hospitals (and indeed all red cross markings): The Russian military does not respect the red cross, so it's too dangerous to use  field hospital container & tent cities, and it's even debatable whether we should forego camouflage in favour of using the red cross on white background at all.

Field camps

Field camps are obvious bollocks from wars of occupation against poorly-equipped insurgents. Troops close to a wartime frontline should be housed in civilian buildings, in a dispersed fashion.

Divisional headquarters

It's a war of brigades, and those appear to be rather small (typical of countries with Warsaw Pact traditions). Divisional command made sense when the divisional artillery was able to cover the division's entire frontage with fires and served as the division commander's agile centre of gravity weapon. Nowadays the field telephone and radio nets as well as the command authorities allow for quick support fires beyond a division, the division commander's centralised control over artillery makes little sense at a time when the guy looking at the drone video feed is in a much better position to decide whether and what artillery strike is appropriate.

Long-serving (longer than 2 years) enlisted personnel

The mobilised Ukrainian troops do very well with limited resources. Even ad hoc formed infantry battalions manned by reservists served well even in the very first days and weeks. It is inappropriate to keep enlisted personnel in the services for long just to give superiors more experience in leading. We should instead recruit more volunteers for brief basic military service and improve the military education of the leaders.

Compulsory basic military service

Ukraine defends well against Russia with little resources despite having a mobilised personnel strength of apparently less than one million or slightly more than one million. European NATO alone has about two million men under arms (about half of them in Turkey). We don't need compulsory basic military service for deterrence & defence, albeit I understand that the Baltics would want to make the most of their small populations for their own security and prefer to have troops at home rather than at distant allies.**




*: Multiple round simultaneous impact. Several shots with different propellant strengths and different elevation angles all impact at the target within a few seconds. The longer the range and the higher the burst rate of fire, the higher the maximum MRSI count can be. How many shells fit into a MRSI attack depends on the distance as well.

**: I'm opposed to "tripwire" forces and thus to the four multinational composite (thus poor cohesion, much friction) brigades in the Baltics and Poland.  I'd prefer to have a NATO land warfare training centre in Poland where the U.S. prepositions one brigade set of hardware and always 3 to 4 national NATO brigades are present for exercises, with spares and a NATO standardised munitions depot complex nearby.

P.S.: You're mistaken if you think that my frequent mention of bird's view drones indicates that i think that they are revolutionary. The principle was used in the early 19th century with balloons, WWI with tethered balloons and aircraft, WW2/Korea/Vietnam with forward observer aircraft and later also with scout helicopters. The real step forward is not the use of multicopters with electric motors; it's that the optronics have become great in the past 20 years. The high resolution, strong zoom and digital data compression enabling video transmission by radio are the real steps forward.