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.