Russian vulnerabilities (I): Air defences


The Russian air defences face a double problem; they are stretched thin and they don't get sufficient support by the flying air force, especially not by AEW aircraft (colloquially a.k.a. AWACS).

Being stretched thin means that there is no redundancy; a radar forced to shut down out of caution by an incoming anti-radar missile means that there's a temporary gap in the area air defences. It also means that the area air defences have insufficient coverage of the front line against very low-flying targets. Cruise missiles can slip through such gaps, and mission planning of cruise missile missions based on passive electronic warfare (triangulating and identifying radar signals plus satellite data) can almost ensure a safe passage of high quality cruise missiles such as Storm Shadow.

A-50 'Mainstay' AEW aircraft (c) mil.ru Sergey Lutsenko, Timofey Nikishin

The lack of coverage by airborne radars (A-50 Mainstay AEW aircraft were few, had questionable readiness and were decimated during the war. Fighters cannot easily maintain a good coverage with look down radar searches because their radars are built in for forward search only), even though MiG-31 and Su-35 have (on paper) impressive radars.

This means that modern cruise missiles can slip through and are most unlikely to be intercepted behind the frontline as well. It's thus not unreasonable for NATO to trust very low-flying cruise missiles for strike missions on stationary and semi-stationary (rarely moving) targets, including ships in port.

The Russian air force's deficiencies extend to the defence against cheap cruise missiles (Shaheed-136 has become the embodiment of these after it was introduced to the Russo-Ukrainian War by the Russians themselves). The costs of such cheap cruise missiles appear to range form the price of an ordinary new car to the price of a cheap family home. This is less than the costs of area air defence missiles, which range from cheap family home price to small new mansion price. The Israeli Tamir missile appears to be the only exception, combing a Porsche's price with a low end area air defence footprint.

Future small cruise missiles may be able to do what was envisaged in a West German combat drone program of the late 1980's already; patrol along roads, find and identify vehicles, engage high-enough value vehicles autonomously. This would add considerable battlefield interdiction ability (against mobile/moving targets).

As a conclusion, cheap cruise missiles are also worthwhile, even if some or many get intercepted. Targets at ranges greater than 1,000 km can be hit by cheap cruise missiles. The warhead is usually rather small and their cruise speed is rather low (or very low), so the target categories for cheap cruise missiles should for now be stationary and semi-stationary targets that can be defeated by a warhead no bigger than 50 kg and require no high impact speed. V-1-styled cheap cruise missiles (pulse jets engines are super simple and cheap) could strike at short ranges (less than 500 km) with much bigger warheads, but impact only at about Mach 0.5 speed. Hardened aircraft shelters would thus largely be ruled out, but Russia doesn't have many of those anyway. Autonomous cheap cruise missiles might have a suppressive battlefield interdiction effect.

All kinds of quasi-ballistic missiles appear to penetrate Russian (area) air defences at acceptable success rates. This means that (quasi)ballistic missiles are promising means of attack against time-critical targets such as aircraft on a tarmac, large radars, headquarters or ships that are just briefly in port. They may also be the most promising choice for very heavily defended point targets such as the pillars of an important bridge. A 'hypersonic'-ish behaviour of terminal manoeuvring from a near-vertical to a more horizontal approach for a pillar hit from the side might be advantageous for this, but many suspended bridges can be cut with a expanding rod warhead cutting steel cables as well.

The poor performance of Russian air defences also requires them to be sited quite far back, as they cannot defend themselves well-enough against small quasi-ballistic missiles such as GUMLRS (colloquially a.k.a. as "HIMARS"). GUMLRS-ER has about 150 km range, so Russian area air defences will either be unable to protect forces at the front or will be limited to ambushes (no radar/radio emissions until briefly before firing to avoid getting found & hit) or will permanently be deployed forward at a high attrition rate. This gives NATO some hopes that the post-Cold War approach of bombing with precision munitions from too high for short range air defences would work against Russia.

Finally, there's still the sophisticated and expensive capability of strike packages, an invention of mid-World War Two that got refined to almost its modern version over Vietnam in the early 70's. There's little reason to believe that the Russian air force could resist such strike packages for long, if at all. The quality displayed by its flying and land-based forces is so low that the Russian air force is probably not even on par with the French one overall. Strike packages can be considered cost-inefficient, though. They're furthermore merely a 'pulsing' capability. There would be strike aircraft over Russian ground  for some hours of the day, but not for most hours. Ordinary high frequency radio transmissions would suffice to alert Russian forces on the ground to hide rather than move on roads when such a strike package is nearby. So in the end, all that effort for strike packages is redundant to the abilities of cheap cruise missiles, cruise missiles and quasi-ballistic missiles (in the high value point target-busting role, not in regard to quickness).

I should mention that some if not most problems of the Russian Air Defence appear to be the result of poor training and poor maintenance.

What should Russia do to make its air defences fit?

  • improvement of training
  • improvement of maintenance, especially through large stocks of spare parts
  • introduce in quantity cheap area air defence means against cheap cruise missiles and drones, ideally Tamir-like and capable of taking on some quasi-ballistic missiles (such as GUMLRS-ER) as well
  • create a survivable (!) AEW platform, preferably a supercruise aircraft with decimetric AESA radars (possibly one rotating AESA antenna front and aft each for twice hemispheric coverage)
  • rely on battlefield air defences that can be hidden easily (and require no on-board radar)(example)
  • create area air defences specialised on ambushing (to protect the land force sin the field) rather than built for near-permanent observation of the sky
  • increased use of passive radars or multistatic radars with cheap emitters
  • plentiful use of believable decoy emitters and fake radio transmissions to make it hard to identify gaps in the air defences
  • localized on/off jamming of satellite navigation (GPS, Galileo, Beidou, even the own Glonass) to force the use of more expensive navigation and targeting electronics in cheap cruise missiles
  • use many cheap jammers to deny aerial and satellite radar reconnaissance
  • use lasers to dazzle photo and thermal imagery reconnaissance satellites
  • have long-range surface-to-air missiles to keep NATO AEW, tanker, standoff jammer, ELINT and air/ground radar reconnaissance aircraft at a long distance
  • minimise the need for radio communication by the air defences

I doubt that Russia can do most of these within the next 15 years - before autonomous drones become dominant almost for certain. Cheaper forms of air defence, some passive radars, more and better decoys, distributed cheap jammers (untypical for Russia, but feasible especially with Chinese input) and laser satellite dazzling appear to me as the most probable measures till the mid-2030's. A series production of the Su-57 won't make much of a difference regardless of the quality of the aircraft type and its missiles.

NATO may decide whether it's going to trust its ability to strike with stealth aircraft through gaps, to wear down air defences in a DEAD (destruction of enemy air defences) campaign or punch through defences with strike packages. The Cold War-style confidence in terrain following flight of manned strike aircraft appears to be the most risky and least favoured approach.

Alternatively, we could skip all those expenses for F-35's, dedicated anti-radar aircraft ('Wild Weasel'/ECR) and anti-radar missiles. We could use long-range container-launched cruise missiles (turbojet, 3000 km x 500 kg warhead), container-launched quasi-ballistic missiles (solid fuel rocket single stage, 1000 km x 250 kg warhead), long-ranged cheap cruise missiles (piston engine, 3000 km x 50 kg warhead) and cheap cruise missiles (pulse jet, 500 km x 500 kg warhead) and combine this with (survivable!) passive electronic warfare assets + proper mission planning (separate planning teams for hasty and for deliberate strike planning). This would cover our deep strike needs pretty well.











P.S.:  The question remains how to do battlefield interdiction against vehicles on roads. Their movement maybe dispersed rather than in convoys, and it's near-impossible to render a road network unusable for offroad-capable motor vehicles.

The Ukrainian approach is to engage motor vehicles at up to 20 km depth with drones. This poses a persistent threat. Strike packages cannot persist like that. Aerial sensors (or sensors on very high vantage points such as mountains) could enable land-based fires (dumb HE, DPICM, 'smart' artillery munitions, drones) within their effective surveillance range (including ability to sufficiently ID targets as military targets). That would likely not be much farther than 20 km because the longer-ranged SAR/GMTI radars can be jammed and deceived cheaply. So how do we impede hostile ground forces & supply movements beyond attacking (semi)stationary targets? Can't we do anything about dispersed lorry movements 500...20 km forward of our troops? We used to have battlefield interdiction aircraft for this in Western Europe (Tornado IDS, Jaguar).



Mobilisation Part IV: Industry


I studied warfare for a very long time, and it's self-evident to me how much of an industrial effort both world wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were. I looked at tables showing how many rifles, pistols, light field guns, light howitzers, heavy howitzers, lorries, cars, tanks of various types were produced in 1942, 1943, 1944 for the German armed forces. The weapons counted by the thousands, munitions counted by the millions. I know of the ammunition crisis 1915 in UK, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia - and how Russia suffered from being unable to produce enough artillery for the war effort during the First World War. I know how very much the hands of the Italian military were tied in 1940-1943 because of insufficient of access to natural resources (coal, iron ore, oil). I know about the insanely high cargo shipbuilding rates of 1942-1945. I know about the huge arms imports of Iraq during the 80's, including the purchase of many millions of old Warsaw Pact artillery shells and rockets.

I look at the Russo-Ukrainian War and it's been utterly obvious since about May 2022 that it turned into a war in which industrial output could prove to be decisive.

By comparison, the typical Western politician in power at the national level has a very different background. The legislative types think mostly in terms of budgets (money) and the executive branch types may -if they are low-ranking enough- think in terms of procurement processes. PEACETIME procurement processes. And then there are the (expletives) in the EU politics who come up with nonsense like buying only European (something that the Czech president exposed by telling the public that he could get 800k shells from abroad right away).

These types don't think in terms of mobilising the economy for war as it happened during the world wars. Their idea of buying artillery shells is to create a budget, run a tender, give a contract to an established armsmaker which then promises to deliver the required quantity within the next four years or so.

World War-ish mobilisation of industry for war looks different. Factories were repurposed*, priority purchases of different machinery were executed, previously not employed people (women) were hired, trained and became proficient workers.

The Russo-Ukrainian War entered its current phase 25 months ago. Germany could have launched a munitions production program by May 2022 that would have reached a production level of monthly a million 105, 120, 122, 125, 152 and 155 mm high explosive ammunitions plus propellants and packaging by summer of 2023. This is not disputable. The technology involved is fairly simple, Chinese lint export stop, months of curing time for certain energetic materials - nothing could have held us back more than one year from reaching such a high output.

We could have flooded Ukraine so much with artillery and tank gun munitions that we would have been forced to shift production towards rockets and mortar munitions away from howitzer munitions, as howitzer barrel and howitzer barrel liner production might actually not have been expanded quick enough to match such a munitions program.

The problem here is not just a Ukrainian problem; our politicians and bureaucrats would almost certainly have failed if we needed the munitions for our own defence.

We should be better prepared. It's near-impossible to ensure that every new legislator, cabinet member or their aides get educated in the realities of industrial warfare.

It might be possible to exploit the current near-awareness of the legislators to create a mobilisation law, though. A mobilisation law that reduces the challenge to a mere executive or legislative decision, similar to how we already cast certain emergency procedures for the event of Warsaw Pact attack into law long ago.

We could have a law that can easily be activated by a cabinet decision (with obligatory legislative review and possible cancellation). This law could prioritise the production of goods and services for the military (and civil defence and repair of catastrophic damage to infrastructure) along the value added chain. A factory might be ordered (not asked) to produce munitions, it would issue an order for new machinery and the producer of the machinery would be forced to prioritise this order, a force majeure on all its other contracts that thus get delayed. These factories could also get priority access to labour (how to get that done would be much more tricky due to liberties). The normal paperwork needed to expend a factory would be waived entirely, save for precautions for hazards (particularly with energetic materials). Everything would be built right away, paperwork would be done after the fact if at all.

We could have adapted such a law for the rapid production of FFP3 masks, air sanitizers and vaccines during the Covid crisis, so such a law on the books could have value well beyond the military realm.


Most of all, such a law would be CHEAP. It would cost almost nothing. It would make our deterrence against Russia and China much more credible, though. They would understand that we would be able to quickly harness our industrial power and proficiency for a war effort, that we could repair damage quickly.



*: All-new factories were also built, but they usually take longer to run up to high output than already existing factories. It's better to repurpose and expand a factory with existing backoffice than to build an all-new one.



The Russian tactical nuclear threat card was spent


I believe that the ability to end a RUS-NATO war with a RUS threat of using 'tactical' nukes against attempts of reconquest (and against airbases) is an essential requirement for Russia to dare attack any NATO member for real. They could not win in a conventional war.
Exactly this nuclear threat has been eroded by the inflationary bluffing with nukes since 2022.*

Thus IMO Russia wouldn't dare now to attack NATO anytime soon even if a fairy gave them back all troops and material they spent against Ukraine and all of Ukraine surrendered, handing over all its equipment.




*: Reputation can be built up, but it can also be spent. Russia spent its 'nuclear threats credibility'. I understand that there are weak-minded pussies in positions of importance in the West as well and there's a bit of a 'Putin's 5th cohort' in power in Hungary and Slovakia, but an all-out stop of hostilities in a Russo-NATO or Russo-EU war just because Russia threatens with tactical nukes seems to be a ridiculous notion to me.



Mobilisation Part III: Personnel


Major wars usually show the very same thing; insufficient (quantity) training of reserve leaders pre-war leads to too short training of leaders in wartime. Well-known examples include the American Civil War, First World War, Second World War and the current Russo-Ukrainian War. The result is amateurish military actions leading to avoidable casualties, failures in offence and failures in defence against skilful attacks.

It takes as a (very rough) rule of thumb

  • three months for a decent basic training to turn a civilian into a soldier,
  • (I say) about three more months for a specialisation training (this can differ very much and many soldiers need no specialisation training),
  • about six months for a good a good junior non-commissioned officer course (graduation rate well below 100%),
  • some experience as leader and six months to turn a good junior non-commissioned officer into a senior non-commissioned officer or junior officer in yet another course (these two courses should both have graduation rates not much higher than 2/3).

So to create a reserves-grade senior NCO (assistant platoon leader or kind of chief of staff of a company leader) or junior officer (platoon leader) takes about two years in peacetime conditions IF and only if the ambitions are kept modest. Historically, the U.S. Army produced "90 day wonders" junior officers during WW2, almost all of which predictably didn't shine. To create junior officers with section leader competence takes around a year in peacetime conditions.

Wartime training is more serious, more urgent, more streamlined, more motivated and rather devoid of vacations. It can thus be much quicker, but often times it's also less versatile. A tank commander trained during a desert war for desert warfare would not be taught about fighting in hilly terrain with woodland and swamps, for example. Furthermore, the duration of peacetime training courses may be inflated because the armed service is too bureaucratic, adding too much nonsense training, is lacking training resources (such as access to simulators or live shooting ranges) or lacking self-discipline in defining the course.

- - - - -

The armed bureaucracies, politicians and journalists have a suboptimal obsession with peacetime military strength. I don't care whether the current Bundeswehr personnel strength is 177k or 183k; tell me the mobilised strength, damnit! The last time I read that figure it was at 690k (according to my memory), and that was ages ago. Nowadays it's likely below 300k with almost no properly-equipped reserve combat formations.

This focus on peacetime strength befits a military that doesn't fight with more than one finger - stuff like the farce in Afghanistan, for example. A military with a constitutional mission to defend the nation should be built for mobilised (wartime) strength instead.

There are multiple metrics for that. We could look at strength on day 1, on day 4, on day 14 or strength after one year of warfare, for example. We could furthermore look at these dates once with the assumption of a surprise war and another time with the assumption that the war risk was recognised long in advance and there was a two-year buildup of military power.

I'm in favour of paying attention to German military strength on day 14 of mobilisation, both with and without two-year reactionary buildup. The simple reason for this is that the geographic proximity of Germany to the NATO members under threat of invasion positions Germany naturally as a first weeks responder. The Spanish, British and North Americans could consider themselves as naturally inclined to bring most of their troops into action after (much) more than two weeks.

This leads to an emphasis on personnel and material reserves. Strength on day four would be about active forces strength, but strength on day 14 is about mobilised strength. The peacetime strength should thus be but a means to credibly create that day 14 strength (and to prepare for a two-year buildup).

We should also consider the "day 14 " strength after a two-year force buildup.

The enlisted personnel can be trained quickly (in about half a year as mentioned above), especially if you have enough leadership personnel to conduct the training.

A two-year buildup would give just barely enough time for creating many satisfactory junior leaders. This would require a diversion of suitably qualified leaders from the active army to employment as trainers, which runs counter to the generals' and politicians' primitive desire to enlarge peacetime combat strength in times of crisis. Germany can downgrade its "day 1" and "day 4" strengths like this, but directly exposed countries of the alliance such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania would probably not dare to do so.

So far I wrote about the generation of trained personnel. There's also the issue of wartime attrition, which matters a lot if the war is protracted. Regrettably, wars are notoriously difficult to end, so a protracted war should not be ruled out.

Land troops within about 30 km of hostile land forces suffer the highest rate of attrition, but it's not just the attrition by death or crippling that matters. Psychological attrition is just as bad, and remarkably predictable. Combat troops reach a zenith of combat effectiveness after les than 100 days of combat, but soon after 100 days of combat they become near-useless. The failures of particularly proven veteran troops in battle are legion in military history. Napoleon's Old Guard failed at Waterloo, British desert soldiers with experience since 1940/41 often failed to attack successfully in Tunisia and Italy in '43. Experienced German infantry (and officers!) failed towards the ends of both world wars.

Rotation of troops should be self-evident, but even with a lavish rotation scheme and a defensive strategy you'll need a 100% turnover of personnel in combat troops within a year if you want to avoid a collapse of combat effectiveness for psychological reasons. I suppose we should at very least be prepared for one such full water change in the combat arms and generally all troops meant for within 20 km distance to hostile ground forces. This creates a justified but uncommonly high expectation for personnel reserve creation during peacetime.

There's also the issue that combat troops junior leaders can be expected to suffer higher attrition rates than enlisted combat troops, at least if they lead in the German way.

This is all without taking into account the creation of additional formations, as it always happens in large wars (ACW, WWI, WW2, Iraq-Iran War, Russo-Ukrainian War examples). The creation of new formations always dilutes the quality of the overall armed forces and was often driven well past the optimum. All-too often the creation of additional formation was pushed for at the expense of fully reconstituting depleted existing formations that have a proven and working skeleton cadre left.

And then there's the issue of middle-level leadership. I have a low opinion of how much senior (above brigade command) leadership (or rather management) we would need at war, so middle-level is much more interesting. Company leaders (captains / Hauptmann) should have at least some platoon leadership experience as officers, so a total time in service of about 30 months is a reasonable minimum for them. The exceptions are very easy jobs (such as being leader of a clothing depot or a railway repair unit) and very tricky jobs (example company leadership in electronic warfare or armoured reconnaissance) and jobs that are very similar to civilian jobs (medical, road logistics).

The training of a large quantity of junior leaders and larger quantity of reserve enlisted men has the nice side effect that you need company leaders and battalion commanders for this, of course. So that training program gives experience-gathering opportunities for mid-level leadership personnel.

It's often said that it's the personnel that matters most. People should pay more attention to the fact that it's the WARTIME personnel that matters most, NOT the peacetime personnel. War after war military historians recorded the same issue that certain jobs in an army require long training and experience, but had to be done by quickly trained and not very experienced men. 

We need guns and munitions and vehicles and electronics, but we also need to be credible regarding personnel. Even deep munitions stocks and thousands of reserve combat vehicles would not be of much value if we lack the personnel to make good use of them. The long-serving peacetime army concept cannot provide the required quantity of junior leaders. We should have many volunteers serving for six to 36 months. That would enable a powerful mobilisation (though not without equipment stocks) and it would be a fine basis for a roughly two-year race of training & producing to counter an aggressive power's race to become ready for successful aggression.





A Ukrainian merchant raider


Warships are peculiar; you do not need to commission them in a port. Prize ships were commissioned as warships at sea during both World Wars.

This means that the Ukraine could take possession of a merchant ship (ideally a small container ship), load and equip it at sea, commission it as a Ukrainian warship and start raiding Russian maritime trade in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean and maybe even the Pacific Ocean.

German WW1 merchant raider "Wolf"
(first raider with aircraft onboard, 451 days patrol)

Some additional fuel tanks, some containers and a helicopter for a boarding team of at least four (two for bridge and two for placing demolition charges with anti-tampering devices) would suffice. Most light turbine-powered helicopters (including almost all civilian ones) would be satisfactory. The helicopter would enable the merchant raider to be 30...100 nm away from the action and thus quite safe. Ships could also successfully be engaged with unguided rockets (bigger than 80 mm calibre) if and once counter-boarding measures are applied.

Things such as fancy sensors for the helicopter or a radio jammer would be unnecessary. The 'military' equipment could consist of civilian pistols and carbines and rather simple demolitions equipment (linear shaped charges would be extremely effective). The costs could be quite marginal if an old ship was used.

One could equip such a merchant raider much more lavishly, including recoverable high performance drones, multiple helicopters capable of dropping depth charges (torpedo-like effect of sinking a ship) with doorgunners and the like. There's no used one on the market, but imagine the propaganda value of using a black-silver Bell 222 as boarding helicopter.


The West would not even be implicated by providing the ship, providing weapons, providing non-public maritime intelligence. It wouldn't even need to resupply the merchant raider, which could easily begin the patrol with a year's worth of food and could occasionally siphon fuel from a prize ship before sinking it. Theoretically, Ukraine would even be legally able to keep prize ships as bounties and sell them off for profit (which is much more environmentally friendly than sinking, especially with oil tankers). It might also occasionally keep a prize ship to create yet another merchant raider. New crew members could be taken in just outside territorial waters (3 nm off the coast) using cheap boats.

I am not 100% sure, but it might even be possible in international law for Ukraine to issue letters of marque to privateers, but I suppose few people would risk a reservation on the GRU's assassination list by becoming anti-Russia privateers.

The decrepit Russian navy and satellite fleet would have great difficulty to find, track and engage such merchant raiders if they stay far-enough away from Russian coasts and if Russia doesn't receive substantial intelligence aid by the Chinese. They would likely eventually catch a raider or two, but that would not mitigate the damage done much.

The difficulties that Russia would have with such Ukrainian merchant raiders would create a giant embarrassment in addition to the economic damage.








Mobilisation Part II: "Escalatory"


This word has been used a lot recently, typically by people who oppose aiding Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian aggression.

The fear of escalation guides the thoroughly idiotic American National Security advisor, for example. 

To appease or to paralyse out of fear in face of aggressors is a path of failure: It prevents downsides to the aggressor, who can attack and steal from the weak without costs exceeding the (perceived) benefits. The costs of economic sanctions are near-irrelevant to an aggressive leader who thinks in centuries-spanning nationalistic-imperialist mission or who believes in some messianic world revolution. Economic sanctions reduce the capabilities of an aggressor, but rather not his/her aggressive intent. To deter aggression requires the risk of catastrophic defeat of the aggressor and to stop aggressions requires a war effort (backed by provision or production of military goods; conversion to war economy if it's a major war).

Fear of escalation paralyses counteraction against aggressors. It may (and will) get in the way of countering a build-up of military power out of fears that 'arms racing' is escalatory.

Thus we need to master the political dimension for a successful counter to preparation or execution of an aggression. Any plan to counteract aggressors with a defensive military build-up needs to address the political dimension decisively.

The most important part of a mobilisation plan may thus be to wrestle the narrative control away from the "non-escalatory" and "appeasement" idiots, preferably years in advance of the activation of the mobilisation.

Politicians are ill-suited to do this, for they have proved to be utterly disinterested in defence when there's no immediate need for military action. People who think of four- or five-year cycles are ill-suited to maintain a narrative (even embed it in culture) over decades unless the entire country is aware of the necessity (Israel, South Korea, Finland).

We need non-politician agents to create and maintain the narrative on how to react to a likely aggressor's military strength (build-up). This narrative needs to be pro deterrence, contra appeasement and contra fearful pussies.

Back to how to execute this; the narrative (if not the national culture) should be a narrative of vigilance as well as proudly and self-confidently standing fast against aggressors. This is needed both while aggressors prepare their aggression and if that fails, when they execute their aggression. The narrative should be that harm stems from failure to stop aggressors, not from calling their (usually nuclear) bluff. The weakness of an aggressive regime (loyalty issues, economic weaknesses, dearth of potent allies) should be emphasised rather than the aggressive regime's self-image of strength, manliness and success. The framing of public discussions is important. Incentives and disincentives are important; nobody should benefit from being a saboteur of national resolve to stand fast against aggressors. Those who do it should be sanctioned by the society - the need to do this needs to be part of the culture. Nobody should be rewarded for a primitive "I'm pro-peace" stance if the price for peace is that a country has to submit to an aggressor.



P.S.: For clarification: We should treat any aggression committed by U.S., UK, France, Israel just as harshly as aggressions committed by Russia or China. The casual and habitual violations of article 1 North Atlantic Treaty by the U.S. should not be tolerated!



Mobilisation Part I: The need to counter arms buildups


The French were keen to reconquer Alsace-Lothringia after 1871. They conscripted to the maximum (about 75% of young men were deemed fit and pressed into service), trained many officers, introduced the revolutionary Soixante-Quinze field gun and produced it in the thousands before WWI. Germany enjoyed a larger population base and kept the peace with a less extreme conscription (a bit over 50%). The defensive outlook of Germany in 1871-1913 was based on the consensus that German borders were satisfactory with no need for expansion. The alliance situation did put the gargantuan Russian army on the side of Germany's opposition, though. The German armies repeatedly called for additional funding for additional army corps, but the parliament (of the then supposedly oh-so militaristic German nation) refused such expansions for many years about two years before WW1. Eventually, Germany was short of a couple army corps in 1914 to win in France and the First World War became not only unnecessarily bloody, but also a disaster that cracked (amongst others) the German society. The ability to expand the armed forces more rapidly before WWI would have helped much; it would have kept costs (and loss of productivity) low during the many peaceful decades that preceded the First World War in Central Europe and it would have delivered that critical extra punch when the war happened.

The run-up to the Second World War was longer. Italy's Fascist government was considered a prime threat to peace in Europe around 1930, but the Soviet Union was at that time already much-increasing its arms production output based on new factories, some of which were built with American help. Germany turned Fascist in early 1933 and began a rearmament program based on a 100,000 troops army of men who were almost all qualified for immediate promotion (plus a small navy) and reintroduced conscription in 1935. Hostilities began around 1936-1938 with the Italian aggressions against Albania, Abbessinia (Ethiopia), the Japanese attack on China and German occupation of today's Czech Republic. The Second World War officially broke out in late 1939 and by end of 1941 the world was on fire for real. Again, several countries would have fared better if they had better prepared for a rapid expansion of their armed forces, especially their army. They had about two to twelve years time for this expansion, depending on country and political situation.

These are two examples of very high stakes conflicts with a prior period of a few years in which countries needed to prepare for (defensive) war in face of preparations for war by aggressive powers. Maybe such an ability would even have deterred the historical aggressor?

This series of blog posts will cover the scenario of a peaceful country (or alliance) reacting to aggressive intent and the potential aggressors' military build-up.





"Evolving" transitory tech: FPV drones & electronic warfare


Back in the 1930's the Nazi government of Germany sent troops and vehicles to assist Franco's Nationalist-Fascist coup (later civil war) effort in Spain.

The only tanks available for employment (testing) in Spain were Pzkpfw I, bulletproof tankettes with two normal calibre machineguns. They did of course encounter bulletproofed vehicles of Soviet manufacture and even their steel core bullets proved to be useless against those. Germany got ahead of that problem by using 20 mm autocannons in the successor and later 37 mm cannons (and 75 mm stub guns) in the last pre-WW2 tank models.

The tech that was employed in Spain was hinting at the future, but it wasn't the future. Most of it was outdated two years later already.

I suppose the "This is the future of war!" claims based on what's happening in Ukraine will prove to be just as durable.

Let's look at a most striking example; the FPV (first person view) remote-controlled kamikaze quadcopter with a 1980's shaped charge that's a terrible threat to almost any tank in existence today. These proved to be more practical than Nammo's experiment with a multicopter that has a downwards-firing bazooka. For all I know (unconfirmed info) the rule of thumb is that you need ten of these for one hit, and in regard to anti-tank warfare they are very often employed against already immobilised or even abandoned tanks. Success story videos on Youtube have a "survivor bias".

These remote-controlled drones need a radio line of sight to transmit the steering commands and much more bandwidth to transmit a video feed from the drone to the operator. The onboard radio is tiny and weak and has no directional antenna. An airborne larger drone could jam this signal easily, but the ground forces under attack lacked a line of sight to the operator's radio and were thus hardly able to jam the video feed.

You can observe that the video feed of such kamikaze drone attacks often interrupts briefly before impact. All early such videos had this degradation and eventual loss of the video feed (example).


At that time the self-defending ground forces were able to employ a jammer to jam the steering command transmissions, for the attacking drone was in the defender's field of view. Two approaches were used; directional jamming with a directional antenna (examples) and semi-spherical/omnidirectional jamming (example). The latter was usually automated, while the former usually took the shape of a jamming 'rifle' pointed at the drone. The directional approach transmits more energy into the drone's antenna, which allows for a longer range (or weaker emitter). The omnidirectional approach did not require knowledge about the drone's whereabouts; a detection of the video feed signal would trigger a jamming of the steering commands datalink.

The jammed frequencies were often the typical frequencies used by commercial DJI drones; 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Some jammers were only built to jam the older 2.4 GHz range (jamming up to 3 GHz) and were useless against 5.8 GHz signals, leading some people to conclude that the self-protection jammers seen on tanks a second before impact of the kamikaze drone were useless. Predictably, there was and is a race of measures and countermeasures in Ukraine; different frequencies are now used (2.4 and 5.8 GHz are widely considered useless by now due to the jamming), often as modification of commercial drones by tinkerers.

The attackers attempted to solve the connection loss issue by using high vantage points or a radio repeater on a bigger drone. Nowadays many attack videos don't show the typical degradation and loss of the video feed any more.

The defending ground force have a line of sight to the repeater as well, so jamming the video feed (downlink) rather than mostly the steering signal (uplink) is feasible if an airborne repeater is used that has the attack target in line of sight. In fact, the defenders might triangulate the repeater (or detect it by radar) and jam it directly (with directional antenna and strong jammer) in an area defence effort rather than to rely on a short range omnidirectional self-protection jammers on vehicles, at trenches or in backpacks.

The self-protection jammers can be valuable, of course. A self-protection jammer can jam the drone if it's ahead of it in the measures-countermeasures race. The defenders' problem is that this doesn't necessarily help. A drone can be independent of its radio link entirely in the final attack phase; it can be "locked-on" the target at a safe distance (safe from omnidirectional self-protection jammers) and then execute its terminal approach to hit. this is 1970's technology, already seen in the AGM-65A "Maverick" missile. It's not much of a challenge for an average young electrical engineer or a programmer, as the pattern recognition algorithms are easily available. You just need a bit more computing power in the drone than for normal flying and you need to crack DJI's proprietary steering software if you want to use DJI drones.

Maybe the radio jamming efforts will escalate to the point that all drones above treetop altitude will be detected and submitted to strong directional RF jamming efforts. Maybe the entire battlefield will be jammed broadband by so many cheap & small emitters that you cannot triangulate and kill them by artillery.

That will still not protect from drones, as aforementioned pattern recognition tech long since advanced to the point that drones could find, identify, decide to attack and attack ground targets on their own, without any radio link. And maybe they even do so from multiple directions, with a couple of linked drones splitting up after 'locking on' themselves. Or they communicate by means that would not be jammed as long as they fly in a very close formation (acoustic, by light or by radio frequencies with very high atmospheric attenuation).

Maybe you think a typical hard kill active protection system for tanks would protect against drones? It might, but such systems could easily be saturated by an attack of more than six drones within few seconds and they usually only intercept the incoming munition at a few metres distance. Hard kill APS were designed with anti-tank guided missiles and RPGs in mind. An anti-ATGM solution from the 1980's combined a radar with machineguns to shoot down the missile. Almost all other systems are meant to be able to stop a RPG shot at very short distances, and thus their intercept of the munition is at very short distances.

That's a problem, for an airborne drone does not need to come close to hit, penetrate and potentially destroy a tank. The evidence for this is the smart artillery munition that fires with EFP warheads at tanks. You can easily see the distance involved.

A drone could calculate a distance estimation based on how quickly the target becomes bigger in the vide (knowing the own speed by inertial sensor) and fuse a EFP for lethal effect from a safe distance without any potentially jammable rangefinding procedure.

So what next? Dazzle the drone with laser? It might not even use an optical sensor. Maybe burn or perforate the drone with a laser or gun?


I wrote about autonomous attack drones years ago (of course no original thought of mine). I wrote about the remotely controlled weapon station for anti-drone defence (with possibly a little utility against ATGMs as well) years ago. I also wrote about the hard kill APS with RPG and ATGM in mind years ago. These two hard kill defences were very obvious choices to me, but are just barely in existence outside of Israel.

All that electronic warfare with jamming and radio wizardry to counter jamming are extremely important right now, but they are not the "future of land warfare". There will be jamming, but you will need hard kill defences. The electronic warfare defences of Ukraine 2022 and 2023 will look like a T-26's merely bulletproof armour in 1941; of little use, and definitely not the future.





Do the British carriers make sense?

The article

"Floating mausoleums to political vanity: Our two new aircraft carriers cost almost £8 billion to build but, with the Middle East on fire, they're languishing in Portsmouth. We'd be better off selling them, says DAVID PATRIKARAKOS"


creates a bit of a stir.

Some online responses claim that it's error-ridden while agreeing somewhat. 

I would certainly have edited the part about the missile threat to carriers; the anti-ship cruise missile threat appears to be in check IF the attacked ship or a well-positioned escort is on alert. The old and neglected Moskva probably didn't even have effective combat systems and no proper damage control preparations when it was struck by two missiles.

I would point at the "ballistic" anti-ship missile threat instead; the British carriers (and the American ones!) may be kept out of the range of Houthi ballistic anti-ship missiles because they pose too much of a risk. The British escorts are likely less well-equipped to deal with that threat than the American ones, at least that's what I read from the success of American-made SAMs against ballistic missiles and the development of a new generation of Aster missiles (the British escorts' SAM) to improve anti-ballistic missile ability.

I picked the British carriers as examples for the cost of carrier aviation relative to land-based airpower about 15 years ago. The high costs were never a secret or news.

Nor was the issue of the British not really buying enough F-35 for two carriers to make sense any insider knowledge:

There's not really much new about the naval vs. land-based aviation argument.

The American carriers are instruments for land attack against countries that cannot effectively defend themselves against it, and it's been that way since late 1943. Most other carriers showed marginal utility since then.

Land-based aviation has come such a way that bombing Afghanistan from Diego Suarez and Kuwait was more practical than bombing over Afghanistan using carrier-based aircraft. Midair refuelling is the key, and navies try to ignore it because midair-refueling using converted (plentiful) airliners extends the airpower-dominated maritime areas so much that surface fleets make very little sense in a peer war. They need to be either awfully far away from hostile land or enjoy land-based assistance by fighters (which usually means that the carrier isn't needed as a base in the scenario).

Personally, I think that CROWSNEST (having an airborne early warning helicopter) was the brightest part of the British carrier investment effort of the past 20 years (albeit it's apparently technically not terribly great). Rotary AEW assets coupled with lock-on after launch surface to air missiles can substitute for carrier fighters in the defensive role, and likely cope much better with surprise saturation attacks than carrier fighters could. Admirals would prefer to have the fighters as additional defence layer (and their radars as additional sensors), but admirals are not known for being good at allocation of scarce resources (budget) for very good reasons.

A small carrier with affordable combat aircraft (Harrier II with APG-83 and modern air-to-air missiles) might nevertheless make much sense in some scenarios, but only so if ambition and costs are kept small. A few such 15,000 tons carriers with enough aircraft for three on station and three on 5-minute readiness as interceptors could make quite a difference as escort carrier between Japan and Hawaii. The Americans have no need for these, as they could improvise with land-based AEW and their amphibious carriers, of course.

So what's a single French carrier good for? Launching a few airborne missiles throughout four decades of service? That could be substituted for by a chartered small cargo ship and some containerised cruise missiles.

What are two British carriers with effectively one air wing good for? The British delude themselves into thinking they can do American-style land attack in every year (the French cannot when their carrier is in the shipyard for maintenance). That's it. Again, buying some standard (not capsuled for submarine use) surface-launched cruise missiles to be launched from some otherwise non-combat ships (volume and deck area on frigates and destroyers is too scarce) would yield about the same land attack capability, especially paired with midair-refuelled land-based combat aircraft being in range (within thousands of kilometres and if necessary overflight rights).

Other (online) commentary I saw recently called for a British focus on the naval realm, at the expense of the land forces. But what could be achieved in the naval realm? Russia has a crap navy and China has a navy on the far side of the globe that could very largely be neutralised by land-based aviation. So what's to be gained by adding a couple more British warships? Prettier naval parades for more tourism? Navy enthusiasts being happy? (Navy enthusiasts always want more, though. They're never happy!)

Here are musings about what could/should have been done for security in Europe instead, spending-wise:


That would have been much less "sexy" than aircraft carriers that could fit tennis courts inside.














The victim card was played too brazenly

It appears that playing the victim card to get a carte blanche to commit offences yourself doesn't work so well for Israel any more. They're so much used to it that they don't seem to be able to follow a different approach, though.

The death toll of the October 7th attacks by Hamas appears to be roughly 1/3 combatants (I'm not sure whether this includes deaths among those who were taken prisoner by Hamas fighters and other Gaza Strip inhabitants).


This compares very unfavourably (for Israel) to the ratio of civilian to non-combatant deaths in Gaza Strip by the counteroffensive.


Moreover, Israel keeps producing evidence that its armed forces are intentionally destroying the real estate in Gaza Strip, including all universities.


The demolitions were actual demolitions, by a long shot not all damage done during combat. Many already swept buildings were destroyed by demolition charges, which is hardly ever justifiable.


The conflict in the levante is a conflict of counterviolence to counterviolence. Any claim that a particular action is a response to an original aggression is laughable. The people who started the conflict were already disposed of by biology. There's little point in trying to figure out who is more at guilt than the other in such a cycle of counterviolence. Words don't matter much, either - actions matter. Israel is killing way more civilians, and has been doing so for decades already. It couldn't have come this far without playing the victim card so effectively for so long, and it won't get much farther if that doesn't work any more.

Israel should stop being drunk on its perceived power and mind the fate of the crusader states: They didn't collapse because the Arabs beat them in battle; they dwindled away when the overseas allies lost interest in supporting them. Their overseas allies lost interest in supporting them because they lost confidence in that crusades were a worthy cause.





A Personal Defence Weapon


Personal Defence Weapons (PDWs) are weapons meant for soldiers who do not have shooting at the enemy with small arms as an important part of their job description. Support troops, tank crews, helicopter pilots and even infantry platoon leaders qualify.

Early examples of de facto PDWs were the revolvers or pistols used by officers and the relatively weak M1 "carbines" of the U.S. Army in WW2.

Germany used UZI submachineguns for that purpose during the Cold War and introduced the dedicated PDW "MP7" with its tiny bullet since. The pistols in use with the Bundeswehr are not really de facto PDWs; their primary utility is in being guns with ball cartridges for escorting men outside of barracks who carry war small arms with useless blank cartridges. This way nobody shoots a gun with deadly munition while thinking it's loaded with blanks and there's still protection against people with pitchforks overwhelming and robbing an entire infantry platoon on a foot march.

PDWs are not really meant to be used against hostile troops even in wartime. They would only be used to shoot in anger under extreme circumstances. Most likely, the user would stand no chance due to morale, (lacking) combat training, lacking night vision and/or circumstances anyway.

PDWs do serve purposes, though. They make the user feel armed (and thus respected as a soldier) and they may be used to control prisoners of war or to scare away civilians who interfere with military operations.

PDWs do thus not need to be very powerful or high end. NATO was famously looking for PDWs that can penetrate a certain bulletproof vest concept (titanium plate + aramid layers) at a useful distance. this ruled out submachine and probably served no other purpose.

The cheapest way to create a PDW would be to build some super-cheap submachinegun such as a modern Sterling submachinegun. It would fail to be perceived as a respectable military weapon nowadays, though - and thus fail the morale job of the PDW.

In practice you could use just about any assault rifle or battle rifle (G3, FAL) to equip non-infantry and non-dismounted scout troops, but those would be quite cumbersome practically all the time they are carried. Thus they would not be carried for almost all the time.

I pondered about the concept of a PDW long before I started this blog in 2007, and just in case I ever need a blog post and can't come up with any decent topic I'll write down my currently favoured concept for a PDW (unless the armed forces have enough old assault rifles / carbines in their stocks):

It shall be

  1. lightweight
  2. cheap
  3. not cumbersome
  4. respectable
  5. with good ergonomics
  6. fully sable in all seasons
  7. built for their users (who don't get much small arms training)

  • 5.56x45, 5.45x39 or 5.8x42 mm calibre (depending on standard calibre in use with the armed force)
    • reason: lightweight cartridge, small recoil, penetrated soft body armour, flat trajectory makes aiming relatively easy out to 200 m at least
  • chrome-lined barrel of about 28 cm (about 11") length
    • reason: That's long enough for the purpose with 5.56x45 mm at least, especially with a high pressure cartridge such as EPR
    • chrome lining more to preserve the weapon during 50+ years of use than to enable more shots fired
  • barrel should be of lightweight construction ("pencil" barrel, outer diameter ~ 16 mm (0.625") and does not need to be armourer-level exchangeable
    • few practice shots per year on average, as most PDWs would be stored for mobilization, not be in use by active duty troops
  • assumed munition loadout: 20 rounds in loaded magazine (wartime only), twice 30 rounds in pouches, maybe another 20 rounds in stripper clips in a pouch
    • infantrymen would carry much more munitions, support personnel would certainly not carry more on the body most of the time! Cartridges in stripper clips are a very lightweight reserve just in case the more readily usable cartridges in magazines were spent very quickly.
    • 20 rds magazine loaded becuase this protrudes less than 30 rds magazine; less bulky
  • an effective (but preferably short) flash hider
    • the shortness of the barrel makes the muzzle flash worse, so a basic flash hider such as A2 is unsatisfactory
  • handguard around the barrel with M-LOK interface on top and bottom
    • just in case upgrades (or iron sights) are later deemed advisable, more lightweight than NATO rails
  • forward hand grip in front of magazine well
    • improving ergonomics of shooting at marginal additional weight
    • least protruding solution
    • example picture; shaping should be integral with magazine well rather than an aftermarket solution, of course
  • short stroke gas operated system
    • no direct impingement to reduce need for cleaning, quite lightweight
  • closed bolt operation
    • necessary for sufficiently small dispersion out to respectable 200 m
  • bolt catch; bolt remains in sprung position after last cartridge
    • so the user immediately notices when the magazine is empty
    • so the user doesn't need to repeat manually after changing the magazine
  • larger tolerances than with infantry & scout assault rifles
    • for reliability when dirty and lower costs, leading to a MOA (dispersion) of 2 or 2.5 (2.5 for air force and navy personnel other than guards)
    • this should also reduce production costs
  • suitable design and oil for reliable operation at -30°...+50°C operation at any humidity and the use of manually repeating weapon should be possible down to -40°C
    • four seasons lubricant and four seasons cleaning oil
  • no touching of metal parts necessary for combat use
    • in case it's freezing cold and the user has no or only thin gloves
  • good (nowadays ordinary) ease & quickness of assembly, cleaning and disassembly
    • better odds of good-enough care even if the NCOs fail to enforce it
  • for aiming just a cheap AAA battery-powered red dot sight on a NATO rail, flip switch for on/off (explanation later)
    • red dot sight because this requires the least training and is the easiest to use under stress, a really cheap one suffices
    • red dot suffices for effective range of 200 m due to flat bullet trajectory with this cartridge & barrel combination
    • AAA instead of AA battery for less weight and bulk
  • red dot size 2.5 MOA
    • suitable for 200 m
    • large and thus easy enough to see for close fights
    • 2.5 MOA happens to be close to the dispersion MOA value of the gun
  • sight line protected against smoke from hot barrel and possibly evaporating weapon oil
  • trigger group with fire select trigger (single shot and either burst or full auto, depending on the armed service's preference - I would go for a 3...5 rds burst)
    • mostly meant to make it easier for already terribly stressed users in close combat defence situation
  • safety lever and all other interfaces in ambidextrous design
    • ergonomics for right handers and left handers
    • this includes symmetrical grip shapes
  • ejection of spent cases can be changed between left and right by unit armourer, ideally without requiring spare parts
    • ergonomics for right handers and left handers
  • comfortable resting location for the index finger to promote safe behaviour (again ambidextrous)
  • all interfaces and trigger guard designed with possible use of winter gloves in mind 
  • a short buffer spring
    • so unlike with AR-15 design you may use fully folding shoulder stocks
  • a fully top-folding stock, unfolding it should switch the sight light on and folding should switch it off
    • example (for a shotgun) here. I understand this is not exactly top ergonomic, but it doubles as mechanically protective cover for the red dot sight
    • minimizes the folded length (shorter than telescopic stock)
    • narrower than side-folding stock
    • it discourages the shooting while folded unlike the ergonomically similarly bad underfolding stocks, as it would obstruct the sight and would be very visible on top
  • the stock would be angled when unfolded
    • so the sight line is directly above the barrel and no bulky carry handle on top would be needed to raise the sight line as with a straight stock
    • happens to reduce the silhouette when shooting aimed shots over a cover compared to straight stock weapons with their sights mounted high over the barrel
  • no use of a sling, but multiple carrying solutions; the most relevant one would be a cushioned carrying on the back parallel to the spine with magazine well facing outwards (with a quick release interface!), ideally with other things (counterweights) worn on the other side of the spine such that you could even sit comfortably in a (vehicle) seat with the PDW on the back
  • cleaning kit either stored in the primary hand grip or stored in the carrying interface
  • no such thing as a forward assist
    • marginal utility
    • understood to be unnecessary in all rifle families but one
  • compatible with all cartridges of the calibre at least with unit armourer-level adjustment of the gas operation
  • steel parts gunmetal-finished, all other parts in a brown matte unicolour camouflage
  • steel magazines
    • cheap and durable
    • I understand this is an exception from the rule to not need to touch metal in freezing temperatures
    • unit-level armourer should be able to measure & replace magazine springs that were worn out
  • availability of easy-to-use dry zeroing device on the small unit level
    • important for maintaining zero and thus trust in the guns

Sadly, I do lack both the artistic talent and graphics software skills to illustrate such a PDW concept.

In the end, such a PDW would be more expensive than mass-produced assault rifles unless it is mass-produced itself as well. There's good reason why a PDW would be mass-produced; the vast majority of military personnel are neither infantry nor dismounted scouts. Those are a minority even in an infantry brigade.

One problem remains; non-combat and non-scout troops don't have much night fighting ability. Their NCOs may use flare guns for illumination and there may be some lights (essentially state of art of early WW2), but the expensive, fragile and scarce 3rd generation night vision devices and the thermal vision devices (which discharge batteries quickly) would be limited to infantry and scouts. The typical PDW user small unit is thus* at an even more pronounced disadvantage against infantry at night than at day. One could use cheap digital night vision with some illumination, but would that really be in stock for reservists throughout the 'lifetime' of a PDW (which could be 60 years)? Electronics don't last as long as guns, even when stored properly and separately from batteries.

And then there are other challenges for non-combat troops who need to defend themselves against infantry or scouts. In the end, nothing much more successful than a modest 'always carry' PDW with basic night vision will prevail due to the expenses involved.



*: With PDW or an assault rifle like G36 or HK 416 doesn't matter - it's almost entirely about the night vision, training, mindset, organisation and the other weapons.