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.



  1. Simply: If you don't intend to wage a World War, you don't mobilize like for one. Generally and in esp. as a German, you should be very very cautious about demanding one. It's not exactly a game where the "3rd time is the charm" applies.

    1. Quite the opposite. If you don't INTEND to wage a world war, you should very much be capable of doing so. Because otherwise the world war will still come, you'll just end up losing. Si vis pacem para bellum. Especially as a German, this should be obvious.
      And your're also wrong on the last point: In today's context, it is exactly a game where the "3rd time is the charm" applies.

  2. Russia has used or inherited, at least in some extent, the Soviet practices of getting their military industrial complex to ramp up and preparing civilian/peace time industries to get ready to shift production in case of war, at least to some extent, a part to use labor for useful needs even if it will hurt the economy on the long run... so with iranian and North Korean deliveries (and Chinese) their are still in the game for many months and even have a clear advantage. It's quite clear that the industrial output cannot do anything, even if it is big in theory, if not prepared and with a leadership ready to use it at all costs.
    Meanwhile in Europe many the local MICs are still in the ''peace dividend'' times in terms of production (even if there is some plans starting) and in some case it's nearly a form of handcraft looking a the forms of production and man-hour involved. Any form of future mobilization for a defensive matter should start with the industry even before the planifications related to reservists/human resources for pure military matters, for sure.

  3. The US is behind oceans with no nearby danger. If they were as military prepared as Europe, I wouldn't wonder, but I don't understand current European politics. I consider it possible that part of our political elite sees nothing wrong with Russian domination and would undermine attempts at preparedness and deterrence. Even in the German population, there's a very wrong image of Russia and much admiration for Putin.

  4. The problem is in financing. Any country can can create credit, for free, to fund the immediate creation of an ammunition production or an arms factory. Current governments in the EU and the US are too afraid of their bankers to do that.

    In the case of the US, every President who ever dared to create credit w/o Wall St. buying bonds (and getting the massive, tax-free dividends) always ends up getting shot in the head.

    It's an issue.

    1. To create money for funding of government is correctly considered a slippery slope into high inflation.
      There are better ways, and the expenses for production of 5,000 120 mm mortar & 10 million 82...155 mm munitions within two years would only make a minor dent in the German budget.
      It would be less than 20 billion Euros over two years. German military spending was around 50 billion Euros in 2022 and the total federal budget (not including social insurances' own revenues) about 450 billion Euros.

      Financing would be a question of intent only.