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Defence and Freedom

This is a blog about the defence of freedom and sovereignty both against internal as well as external threats. It's written in English, but the author is a German. Art of war, economy, technology and (military) history are the most important inspirations

Updated: 2018-02-25T08:59:55.803+01:00


How to Fix the Belgian Armed Forces


.Belgium as a NATO member Belgium has a little more than 11 million people and a GDP a little over EUR 400 bn. Public debt is above 100% GDP. Yet the government appears to intend to buy 34 F-35 Lightning II. This would cost USD 6.53 bn, plus likely EUR 1.5...3 bn additional expenses to modernise airbase facilities and other related costs. That's the equivalent of Germany buying 250 (when looking at population size) or 270 F-35 - a very major fiscal effort (much bigger than the annual military budget). To abstain from this effort would reduce the public debt by 2...3 per cent of GDP.My stance is that membership in a large alliance does NOT mean that you need to pay more to be a "good" ally and actually helper to some of the most aggressive alliance members. The purpose is to enable small powers to achieve deterrence and defence in the first place to maintain peace and sovereignty and secondarily it makes security and defence cheaper. A simple model shows this; two countries are border on each other and a third, larger and threatening country. Going alone they would need to maintain armed forces to deter an attack by the bigger neighbour on their own, and deter by being able to inflict punishing damage on both neighbours at once if they attack. An alliance between the two smaller countries enables them to not consider each other as a threat any more, and to spend roughly half as much as without the alliance, for they would stand together against aggression by their larger neighbour.It's a simple, reasonable and rational principle - and utterly covered up by the nonsense that politicians spew about how smaller allies should spend much on their military (to be a useful auxiliary forces pool for stupid small wars) because they are in an alliance.This idea of an alliance combined with Belgium's high public debt and a certain fragility of the nation* leads to my conclusion that the armed forces of Belgium should provide a relevant contribution to collective security at low cost. The Belgian armed forcesThe Belgian military (Dutch: Defensie; French: La Défense) has land, air, marine and medical components, notionally unified in to one armed service. Active personnel is around 30,000 and there's hardly any reserve personnel. The annual military budget is about € 4 bn, that's a little less than 1% GDP.Belgium has a short coastline with rather small ports, and its navy has been very small for a long time. Its air force had its best time in the 80's when it was equipped with lots of then still new F-16s. Its army had forward-stationed elements in Germany during the Cold War, and everyone seemed to consider them a weak spot in the string of divisions that guarded NATO in Central Europe during the Cold War. Today it's essentially a cluster of infantry battalions with traditional names, lacking artillery and tanks. The entire land component is incapable of true combined arms warfare.Belgium is specialThere are two things special about Belgium:It's home to NATO administrative/political headquarters and NATO's strategic level HQ, SHAPE.It's fairly close to Lithuania and wheeled vehicles could self-deploy to it in two days (technically). The wide rivers Rhine, Oder and Vistula would need to be crossed.**There are thus two fairly self-evident missions for Belgium's armed forces:To provide security for NATO HQsTo provide some quick reaction forces for NATO's deterrence and defence in the Northeast.I suppose the latter should rather be land forces than some gold-plated strike fighters, for the latter could just as easily be deployed from the UK or Spain. Half an hour or one hour of additional ferry flight time makes much less a difference than one or multiple additional days of road marches.My recipeAbout sea power; no navy, but a coast guard with paramilitary status and at least two mine hunting-capable boats. Those should be faster than the current minehunters (15 kts) to be useful for policing and better for SAR. The two active frigates are nearing the end of their lives anyway.About air power; no miniature air force and certainly[...]

Modern warships (VIII) - links to previous naval-themed blog posts at D&F


.Some of these explained tech, thoughts and conclusions that were not covered in detail in the previous parts. These are most, but not all, of the "navy" tagged blog posts at D&F.'d have stopped here if the Mayans had been correct.[...]

Modern warships (VII) - conclusion; the two paths


.After more than 24,000 words it's time to come to the conclusions on a higher level, the level of force planning in general. I will try to avoid "fantasy fleet" writing, and I am aware that warships of frigate or destroyer size tend to be kept in service of the original user for about three decades regardless of their military utility in many of the later years.Any whole (active) force conversion to a whole new concept would thus take about 35...40 years during peacetime, including the development and construction time for the first new paradigm warships.Well, here are my two solutions to the challenges and requirements from the previous parts of this series:The dedicated warship,rethought to exploit the naval technologies of todayThe need for a strong helicopter component and the need for many standardised VLS cells have been obvious in the previous articles. Both needs are a continuation of conventional warship designs. A convoy with but two warships as escorts might need many more helicopters than any ASW frigate may hold,  and the addition of AShM and (more) anti-submarine missiles into the VLS battery might require much more VLS cells than usual (even though ESSM may be quadpacked). So even these two conventional attributes may require much more deck area, volume and mass than any existing frigate provides for them (and together more than any destroyer has).The closest real-world analogy and near-predecessor in concept:Italian helicopter cruiser Vittorio Veneto (7,500 t, 9 helicopters, area air defence,ASROC missiles, extremely powerful short range air defences)A requirement is in my opinion the operation of multiple surface drones in addition to at least two towed surface decoys. The surface drones need to be recovered, replenished and maintained and all of them should fit into or onto the warship during severe weather.Provisions for two speedboats to be recovered over the stern would not suffice. A more radical approach - a well deck - might be required.The face of the ideal dedicated GP warship for the 2020's and 2030's might thus be more similar to that of a LPD than a frigate's. The size could still be kept to about 6,000-8,000 tons (much smaller than actual LPDs). The hangars would suffice for four to eight AW101 while the well deck would suffice for at least two towed decoys and six lifeboats/decoys that might even be equipped as pickets for sea skimmer detection. The forecastle would look longer than a LPD's shape, providing deck area for a 60-90 cell VLS and a main gun. This dedicated GP warship would not need to be very fast; 17...20 kts transoceanic cruise speed and 24...27 kts top speed may suffice, and it should be able to quickly turn its stern to an incoming missile, for a hit (even repeated hits) there would be the least catastrophic. A 17...19 kts cruise speed would allow for near-continuous towed LFASS operation, while faster-moving convoys would require sprints followed by slower sonar operation times at 17...19 kts or less.Chinese Yuzhao class LPD (seen from the most favourable angle)San Antonio class LPD, showing the well deckThis is not quite a "mothership" idea because the word "mothership" suggests a certain imbalance: A mothership is the platform that provide endurance and range, while the smaller platforms that operate from it provide the real (and especially most offensive) combat power. An aircraft carrier is a mothership, an amphibious warfare ship would even fit - this concept is rather about towed and free-moving decoys (the latter possibly also serving as pickets) and the by now very conventional operation of helicopters. This is far from for example having a large docking ship as mothership (or rather fleet replenishment ship) to multiple coastal corvettes.A pair of such dedicated warships should be capable of escorting a convoy on a transoceanic route out of range of hostile land-based strike fighters. Land-based air power and coastal forces would be required to assist in some areas due to the increased threat levels [...]

Modern warships (VI) - other topics


This part is about several smaller topics that are not as much driving the general design and idea of warships. Most of them are 'back office' kind of things that should be mentioned.Ballistic missile defenceBMD is an exception on this page; it's not back office at all, but instead a hype - and has been a hype for a long time. The days of SDI are over, but conventional ballistic missiles had the West's attention since they were used as propaganda munitions in 1991.There are several ways of mitigating the ballistic missile threat that are essentially preventive or soft kill defences; they seek to avoid that the missile aims at the (correct) ship and most of them are being used anyway in order to avoid being targeted by ordinary cruise missiles. It appears to be fairly easy to defeat the sensors of a ballistic missile even if it was aimed right at the convoy; it may have nothing but a radar that's looking down at the convoy, no sensor fusion - and it has mere seconds to choose what to attack for the one and only approach. There's no turning around after being fooled by some chaff or decoy.The hard kill methods can be separated into two distinct categories;missiles with dedicated seeker and warhead for exo- or upper-atmospheric employment. These missiles may potentially deal with really long range ballistic missiles that were aimed at targets a long way behind the warship. Such missiles are hardly suitable to defeat aircraft or cruise missiles because of their specialisation for the conditions of the upper atmosphere (hardly any air to heat up an infrared sensor's window even at thousands of kph speed, little use for rudders in the thin atmosphere). These missiles may play a role against the satellites in very low orbits (all satellites are very short-lived in such orbits and thus need to be cheap, but the relative proximity to the ground makes less sophisticated sensors viable than with most satellites).And then there are also missiles that may deal with ballistic missiles in the lower atmosphere as if they were hypersonic missiles coming from above.Lance short range ballistic missile as seen by imaging infrared sensorI am not aware of any aircraft- or shipborne ballistic missile designed to engage ships at sea. The only ballistic missiles capable of hitting a moving ship at sea appear to be the Chinese DF-21D which got a lot of press a few years ago because the USN worries that it might not be able to bomb China at will with its carriers if the Chinese have effective land-based long range ship-killing capability in them. Another example was the Soviet R-27K which was cancelled decades ago.The purpose of convoy defence at sea doesn't require exoatmospheric intercept missile, and the same type of missile (SM-6) as for long range area air defence could be used for other BMD purposes.I should also mention that the terminal approach speed of a missile is mostly dependent on the range of the missile; the longer-ranged ones are moving faster on their descent. Hence there are sometimes descriptions such as "can intercept ballistic missiles of up to 500 km range" given for area air defence missiles. A "BMD-capable" missile isn't necessarily able to stop all kinds of ballistic missiles, even if it can stop the short-ranged ones.You also need a proper radar for the fire control if not the early warning.Security in portsMany great powers suffered severe losses of warships in port during the Second World War. The Americans were hit hard in Pearl Harbour, the Germans were hit hard in Brest, Tromsø and various German ports, The Italians were hit hard particularly in Tarent, the British were hit hard in Alexandria and Scapa Flow, the Russians were hit hard at Leningrad. The Italian and Russian capital ship losses in port even exceeded their losses of capital ships at sea, while the German losses of capital ships were about 50/50 in port and at sea. The security and safety at port is thus an important issue as proven by military history.Classic port securit[...]

Modern warships (V) - land attack


I don't care about naval land attack capabilities.

Land attack by sea is not about deterrence or defence. 

NATO powers could use naval cruise missiles, but hardly anything of interest should be farther than 500 km from friendly territories, and thus there's no reason why we couldn't use land-based missiles instead. If need be, we could use air-launched cruise missiles, even dropped from transport aircraft.

Cruise missile diplomacy is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations article 1,  the North Atlantic Treaty article 1, Briand-Kellogg Pact article 1 and Revised General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes that are in effect and thus have the force of law in all countries that ratified them (or had their legal predecessor ratify them).
Small wars are a waste of resources and almost all of them are also violations of the aforementioned international treaties.

Substantial naval cruise missile land attack capabilities are important only to despicable acts; cruise missile diplomacy, offensive small wars and strategic surprise attacks.

Naval cruise and (conventional) ballistic missiles of greater than 500 km range should be banned in my opinion. There's no legitimate justification for their existence. Nuclear-tipped ICBMs and SLBMs should be handled differently, as part of nuclear disarmament or move towards minimal deterrence regimes.

The only land attack mission of a navy that may be worthwhile and legitimate is to raid pirate havens, for that's how competent navies deal with pirates. See Pompey the Great. Pompey and his fleet wiped piracy off the Med in weeks (after months of preparations), primarily by going after their bases. The current crop of navies pretends that patrolling against pirates (=job creation scheme) is the way to go. No, it's not. You do intelligence, then you raid the pirate haven, blow up all boats, blow up the leader's villa and return home. This requires no more than some infantry (whether marines or regular infantry doesn't matter), some offboard motor-driven RIBHs (rigid hull "inflatable" boats)  and a small chartered cargo ship.

A reconquest of islands occupied by an aggressor should be avoidable by using embargos and blockades against the aggressor instead.

No warship needs to be set up for land attack.

A little land attack capability may be for free as AShM and guns may shoot at land targets as well, but that should have no priority.


Modern warships (IV) - ASuW


.Land-based and carrier aircraft can attack naval surface targets much more easily, at much less risk and all this while being able to identify targets at a longer distance than surface warships themselves can do. Fast attack craft with missiles are thus an anachronism, and anti-surface warfare capabilities have become an afterthought for the design of warships.Land-based strike fighters could reach a ship anywhere in the North Atlanticwith an anti-ship missile if supported by tanker aircraft.The last naval warfare campaign in which surface craft were important was the naval blockade of the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil rebels. They used mere patrol boats to intercept blockade-running boats used by the rebels to import supplies from nearby India.Other than this the unimportant Battle of Latakia in 1973 between Syrian and Israeli missile-armed fast attack crafts was the most recent relevant sea battle. Air power could easily have substituted for either party, but the air forces were busy apparently.The first serious people understood in the First World War that air power could wipe navies from the surface of the sea within its effective range. Some bombs used and the first aircraft-dropped torpedoes had been developed, and even some guided weapons had been tested.300 kg guided anti-ship glider, to be dropped from airships (1917)Aircraft can synchronise attacks from multiple preferred angles with a well-timed application of anti-radar practically any anti-ship missile type (all of them are or could be adapted for air/sea use). They can do so while being a very fast and difficult-to-hit target, particularly at distances greater than about 40 nm. They can also provide standoff jamming and chase away or destroy AEW support.ScenariosThere are few legitimate scenarios in which frigates and destroyers might need to do ASuW in absence of any air support other than naval helicopters. Some of those are:Passing through a strait and encountering Q ships or small boats / wing in ground effect craftEngaging an auxiliary cruiser on an ocean after being attack with missiles, possibly from its helicopter(s)Ship battle after failure of either side's air power to sink the warshipsSurprise sea battle at the beginning of a conflictA sea battle including at least one poorly equipped navy (imagine a Western navy would escort humanitarian transports to a Biafra-like conflict zones and getting engaged by a desperate Third World navy that wouldn't be destroyed before it opened fire itself)   Non-scenarios Still, I don't think the Taiwanese navy should for example equip warships to deter or sink a Chinese invasion fleet. It would be much more cost-efficient and thus much more effective to invest in land-based missile batteries instead. (Of course, their navy likes having toys at sea and thus they even have utterly pointless fast attack craft).The extremely fashionable "Iranian speedboat threat" hype that appeared in 2002 during van Riper's use of simulated speedboats is ridiculous in my opinion. You won't have any trouble with Iranian speedboats if you don't attack Iran, and any powerful hostile country would be capable of much worse. The security of Kuwaiti and Saudi oil exports in the Persian Gulf is their problem. They can invest in a pipeline or two to the Red Sea for a few billion dollars. There's no reason why Western navies should prepare for war against Iran, and hardly any other scenario than another Gulf War/Blockade attempt for going that close to hostile shores in anything but a war of aggression. The last time the West escorted tankers against Iran was in support of Iraq waging its war of aggression against Iran - and Iranian oil exports were not protected, so it was at best a hypocritical Western campaign in support of an aggression.As a rule of thumb NATO forces do not need to get close enough to hostile shores to fear speedboats in a defensive war. Such things might only h[...]

Modern warships (III) - AAW


.(This is more a like book chapter than a mere blog post; about 8,700 words ~ 20 book pages.)Intro Anti-air warfare (AAW) is mostly about protecting ships from threats in the air, rather rarely about helping fighters in an air superiority mission or protecting coastal objects such as ports from aerial threats. (I will write about ballistic missile defence separately.)Air defences on land have a mixed reputation for their ability to provide area air defences. Combat aircraft regularly entered the defence zones of area air defences and got away with it. This was usually either due to their exploitation of terrain features such as hills and mountains (which aren't available at sea) or due to sophisticated countermeasures against the area air defences, especially jamming and missile attack on active radars.(Western) Naval area air defences seem to command more respect regarding defence against aircraft, possibly because they had few opportunities to reveal shortcomings (such as in the case of HMS Sheffield). Another reason may be that navies have a self-interest in pretending that their surface warships are properly protected against air strikes; to admit the opposite would put the funding for surface warships at risk.The typical aerial threat of the Second World War was a manned aircraft, but the first guided munitions were already in use by 1943, and the British air defence of 1944 was in large part occupied with protecting against V-1 cruise missiles. This foreshadowed the later importance of missiles.The focus of warships' air defences has moved from defeating missile launch platforms (aircraft) to defeating missiles decades ago. It's being assumed that the latter would rarely dare to come into range except at very low altitude. This focus on missiles was mostly about classic anti-ship missiles. The threat posed by anti-radar missiles and swarms of hundreds of cheap & slow drones doesn't seem to have attracted as much attention.French Rafale strike fighter with an AM39 Exocet ant-ship missileI will try to give a near-comprehensive overview over modern and very near future naval AAW and offer some conclusions.Surviving the aerial threats The survivability of ships at sea in face of aerial threats can be enhanced by many ways:avoiding being found by opposing forcesavoiding being identifiedshooting at aerial platformsshooting at missiles at long ranges (area air defence)shooting at missiles at short ranges (self defence only)defeating the incoming missiles' sensor and decisionmaking (jamming, concealment and decoys)surviving after being hitTo avoid being found is nice as long as it works, but sooner or later some convoys would be found by hostiles.To avoid identification means to keep the threat aircraft far enough away that it cannot gain informative infrared imagery and one would also need to jam their radar. Radars can create decent resolution imagery in a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode. 1980's tech was capable of creating good enough imagery to tell a cargo ship apart from a frigate, but modern SAR could enable the identification of a ship class. It's technically fairly easy to jam this, though this may require treacherous emissions for extended periods.examples of SAR imageryI saw much better resolution imagery for SAR used on landscapes.To shoot at aerial platforms is de facto all about area air defence and quite similar to shooting at missiles, save for ballistic missiles and other multi Mach fast threats that may require different fusing and warhead concepts than the intercept of ordinary missiles and aircraft. The important difference between an aircraft and a missile target is that the aircraft may have much better countermeasures against your missiles because its much greater value justifies the effort. Anti-ship missiles will rather not have serious radar jamming abilities, but most modern strike fighters do and even obsolet[...]

Link dump February 2018 (II)


Some previewers are still taking time to tell me if/what errors are in some of the other parts of the warship series, so let's spend the waiting time differently:

William Hartung,

Simple; organisation. Only those who experienced
at the very least basic appear to be able to understand
how the setting changes the behaviour and even the
expectations of people. Well, unless too many of the
NCOs are duds, of course.
This macroeconomic trend is in my opinion among the biggest issues of the early 21st century.
I'm pretty sure that cheaper IT is but one of the top 10 causes. Germany had an outright shock with a huge drop in %GDP labour income when Schröder's neoliberal "Agenda 2010" reforms took effect after a decade of employer-side propaganda about national competitiveness.
_ _ _ _ _

I'm not going to comment on the German politics of the month. It proved wise to not waste attention and blog space when a Jamaica coalition was discussed, and I will wait till there's really a coalition.


edit later on: Congratulations, transparencymarketresearch, you clearly understand how to illustrate the market for active protection systems for tanks in 2017. I'd trust your expertise right away, NOT.

Link drop February 2018


Let's distract a bit from waiting for part III of the warship series.
(a forum thread with an amazing wealth of details about early remotely controlled vehicles and PGMs)
(from 2015, but relevant to the warship series)

allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">
This kind of layout doesn't appear to be effective against any top attack (diving or overflying), but the system is quite impressive, and supposedly doesn't emit in the RF spectrum.

A French link:

Some German links:,nsbiograms100.html


Modern warships (II) - ASW


.Military technology influences warship layouts dominantly. This has been obvious since the first warships got a ramming bow. It became even more obvious with guns, and later aviation. Technology is much more influential in the air and at sea than on land (warfare). Thus I'll approach the topic of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mostly from the technological angle.The submarine threatFirst, submarines and anti-submarine warfare. The short version of this story is that submarines have nowadays a monopoly on heavyweight torpedoes which can destroy frigates and destroyers with one hit, but scoring such a hit on a moving and somewhat silent or target is difficult when the torpedo is launched at long distances. Other munitions of submarines include sub-launched anti-ship missiles (rather rare), sub-launched anti-submarine missiles (lightweight torpedo-tipped, even more rare), naval mines (very rare because munition storage is scarce and previous), land attack cruise missiles (common among American, British, Russian and Israeli submarines) and submarines may be equipped with short range air defence missiles. This would be an easily kept secret, but such efforts have been known since the 70's and the utility is obvious in light of the extreme importance of ASW helicopters.(c) Naval GraphicsSubmarine survivabilityThe survivability of submarines rests on their stealth, which makes them an ideal naval platform for underdog naval powers that would see their surface fleet destroyed on short notice.Stealth depends on being silent and on not reflecting much acoustic energy when in practical range of active sonars. The latter can be achieved by small size, by minimising the silhouette by pointing bow or aft at the emitter and by using anechoic tiles that absorb much of the acoustic energy and reflect little. The latter have a tendency of developing defects that create noise when the sub is moving and are reported as being not so good at dampening the low frequency (3 kHz and lower) acoustic waves.Modern submarines can be considered extremely silent, even nuclear-powered ones. Warships cannot be expected to detect modern submarines at useful minimum distances when relying on passive sonars alone. Anechoic tiles and long ranges of munitions have on the other hand made old style active sonars unsatisfactory.Low frequency active sonars can often achieve good detection ranges and can tell wrecks and natural objects apart from submarines by noticing the latter's movements and comparing sensor data with pre-war undersea maps. They're present in some rather new ASW frigates and few other units.Submarine detection & contact confirmation There are thus four approaches for the detection of modern submarines to be considered:low frequency active sonars (LFAS)lots of sonar-equipped drones swarming the sea and detecting subs when they get closefixed wing aircraft relying on sonobuoys helicopters with a unique dipping sonar capability in addition to sonobuoys(1) faces extreme opposition by Greenpeace etc. due to the alleged damage done to maritime mammals, but militarily speaking the main disadvantage is that the emitter gives away its position (or at least bearing) with its noise. The smallest LFAS is a dipping sonar for helicopters, and a LFAS exists for surface ships ">300 tons", so LFAS can be employed by de facto all ocean-going units.example (part) of a variable depth (towed) LFASSTowed LFAS appear to be limited in terms of maximum cruise speed (~17 kts) and maximum sea state (~ sea state 6). (2) is unproven and in my opinion not practical at high seas. It may be relevant for coastal waters, but convoys at sea would want to cruise at 15...25 kts, and I doubt that many small drones could achieve the necessary endurance to accompany a convoy at such cruise speeds.[...]

Modern warships (I) - Introduction


.Naval technology and warfare is far from my speciality or focus (I do rather consider land warfare art of war to be my focus), but I still want to write near-universal article series on modern warships.Keep in mind my focus is on deterrence and defence; the preservation of peace and the minimisation of harm done by warfare if peace was not preserved. For this reason I will not show myself concerned about naval topics such as how to operate with carrier groups in range of Chinese land-based tactical missiles and air power. Security of Persian Gulf exports is the problem of the exporters in my opinion; they could build additional pipelines or afford a ridiculously more expensive naval security solution themselves. I'm furthermore not concerned about how best  to destroy SSBNs (submarines with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles) simply because any such effort could provoke the employment of their missiles before they were lost to hostile action.An important and in my opinion extremely neglected point I want to make about naval affairs is that a great deal of military missions that need to be accomplished at sea can be accomplished without warships by dominantly land-based power such as land-based air power (including naval helicopters), missile units, OTH radars, orbital satellite operations, boats, land-launched drones for mine countermeasures and land-controlled naval surface drones. Warships are usually less cost-efficient than those land-based and coastal units.The West furthermore lacks the shipbuilding capacity to arms race at sea against the PRC (South Korea would likely abstain from providing the West with output of its shipyards, as this would put South Korea itself at great risk).My conclusion from this is that the West should make much more use of land-based and coastal assets and reserve its dedicated warships for high seas actions such as securing the most important transoceanic maritime trade lanes (main convoy routes) and more rarely some distant naval blockades. This should be rested on cost-efficient platforms as well and at least the Americans and Japanese should configure their navies for this with the superior shipyard capacity of the PR China in mind.There's a widespread notion that one should have offshore patrol vessels or helicopter corvettes for easy tasks such as UN trade embargo enforcement, as doing these missions with frigates and destroyers would be too expensive.I disagree. OPVs and corvettes are an expensive misallocation of resources in a shooting war because of their poor equipment with sensors, munitions and aviation component. The costs of building, modernising and operating frigates and destroyers are sunk costs anyway because these expenses are deemed necessary to deter or fight wars; sunk costs should never have any influence on decisionmaking. Corvettes with their combat power barely above fast attack craft levels are not the way to go. Nor are oversized OPVs such as the mis-labeled F125.I will address many topics on modern (surface) warships - essentially what would commonly be called frigates, destroyers and cruisers (FFG, DDG, CG) - in the next posts. There will be rather few links in the texts, but the final part of the series will include a list of links especially to what I wrote before on naval topics. Those linked blog posts have many of the explanations that I'll omit in the series itself.Feel free to read my magnus opum on blue water surface warfare. Be advised; it's long. Some of the conclusions are only very late in the series. You may wonder what I'm working towards in some part or another - well, that's in a later one.updated:Part II (ASW) : 31 January 2018Part III (AAW) : 13 February 2018Part IV (ASuW) : 16 February 2018Part V (land attack) : 18 February 2018Part VI (other topics) :19 February 20[...]

An open letter to fellow pacifists


Hello folks,

I understand all those campaigns against military small arms, even for small arms export bans, have a little bit of hope that this might curb wars in the background. I also understand that the overtly offered argument against such small arms  is that they are the killer #1 in many of those messy little wars in the Third World, especially in Africa.

Folks, the idea that without small arms = less killing doesn't work. Axes, clubs, steel bars, machetes knifes and even stones are always available in the necessary quantities when humans want to massacre each other. We saw that in Rwanda and Burundi. In Biafra there wasn't even a need for much active killing - hunger did much of the killing.

One should use one's fights wisely, spend political capital that's available wisely. The campaigns against small arms may be good for generating donations, but they won't affect the outcome of wars.

Here's another, much more promising and easier target: Autonomous killer drones/missiles that are either recoverable/reusable or have an endurance of greater than three hours* (excluding underwater munitions).

There are no such things in service yet, which makes it relatively easy to get those banned. A ban on small arms export would merely provoke a few poor countries to discover small arms manufacture and export as a profitable market niche.

Autonomous killer drones on land and in the air are freaky enough and have so much Sci Fi background that mobilising support for a ban would be guaranteed to generate much support. Moreover, such drones could overthrow the current peace-preserving military (im)balances and lead to wars because powers that are kept in check today might see an opportunity to "win" in a war.

There's hardly any success to show after 15+ years of campaigning against small arms. It's all-too obvious that even the Arms Trade Treaty won't affect the small arms supply in Africa noticeably.

Let's campaign against autonomous killer drones instead! Western popular culture is already de facto allied, and this Pandora's box is still closed. Let's weld its lock closed (as much as a treaty can do so)!


*: The definition has to exclude ordinary fire-and-forget missiles or a ban would be unrealistic.

[temporary] Update on the warship series


The article series on warships is about 80-90% done, most of the remaining delay will be the wait time for previews. I let some people look at the articles in order to avoid substantial errors in the released version. The series stands at 18 k words so far, which is equivalent to 45 book pages text.

The 'wrap it up' conclusions part still has to be written.

edit: I wrote that one, too. It's not planned to be previewed, unlike most other parts of the series.


[temporary] low ops


I'm writing on a series of mostly long posts that summarize info, thoughts and conclusions on warships. This takes a lot of time (finding all those pictures and links is the worst about it), so there won't be much other writing in a while.

The good news is I finally repaired the spellchecker on my browser, so there will be fewer embarrassing typos in the future.


"Hybrid" Russian invasions


.There has been much talk and many articles about "hybrid" approaches of Russia to warfare. Cyber, invading army in incomplete uniforms, attempts to manipulate right wingers with fake news, attempts to manipulate social media with fake comments and upvotes et cetera.A very widespread conclusion from this is that if Russia made a move against NATO, it woudl do so with a hybrid approach that mattered - not just some 'Since 6 o'clock we're returning fire." false flag nonsense as the nazi stunt in '39 that would be relevant but for the most gullible part of the domestic audience.As a consequence, questions are being asked such as what NATO would do if Russian army troops crossed the Estonian borders posing as Russians living in Estonia.I have argued against this a couple times, but this time I'll argue against it more elaborately.First, let's ward ourselves against falling for the nonsense that what the Russians did in the Ukraine was anything new, imaginative or unusual. allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">So it wasn't really new, imaginative or unusual.It was a move designed to achive multiple things- calm the more gullible part of the domestic audience- give foreign sympathizers a way to not think or Russia as an aggressor first and foremost- delay Western reactions TO A CRISIS IN A NON-ALLIED COUNTRYThere we have the key difference between such theatre in the Ukraine and in Estonia. The bar for Western military reactions was incredibly much higher in the case of the Ukraine. It's extremely dubious if any Western military would have been sent to assist the Ukraine even if Russia had formally declared war on the Ukraine with a stated war goal of 100% annexation.A NATO member on the other hand is an altogethehr different thing. To neglect the duty to help an ally-by-treaty that's under attack would destroy the standing of any great power. It would even destroy the deterrence value of a nuclear arsenal. Most of Eastern Europe would likely surrender to Russia, seeking favorable terms if nto an alliance in which servitude as allies is the payment for continued sovereiugnty.There's no way NATO would not at the very least react with a non-violent counterconcentration of military power in Poland and Germany (likely Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Norway and Denmark as well) if Russian fake secessionists appeared in the Baltics.Those who expect a similar playbook as in the Crimea and Donetzk basin are making the typical mistake of extrapolation. They neglect to think about the reasons for the observed behaviour, and whether such reasons would exist in a future scenario as well. The intelligence put into making such an extrapolation can be provided by the computer chip of a microwave oven.- - - - -It's easily debatable whether the aimed escalations that I project in scenarios of Russian aggression would really be dared. Meanwhile, I also assume that certain escalations would be avoided (I think they would keep Belarus neutral in a Baltic conflict). Escalations are tricky and depend on judgment that cannot be predicted.What can be predicted is that any fake secessionists as first stage of invasion would utterly fail to make any difference in favour of Russia. Fake secessionists might provide some propaganda value well before an invasion - but adding a fake secessionist uprising as a first stage only wastes the element of surprise and time. The Russian military is not entirely ignorant of Suvorov - a rapid coup de main for fait accompli is MUCH more plausible than them wasting days.related:/2009/03/irregular-elements-in-regular-warfare.htmlS [...]

[Fun] reverse card




Link drop Jan 2018, part II


."Previous research has shown that when confronted with a factual statement that appears to go against an ideologically held belief, a percentage of people tested will move their position away from the factual information – a so-called “backfire effect.” This notion was rapidly incorporated into the skeptical narrative, because it seems to confirm our perception that it is very difficult to change people’s minds. However, more recent research suggests that the backfire effect may not exist, or at least is exceedingly rare." mentioned this effect in some blog post years ago, jsut cannot find it. Apparently, I did not use the term. My experience fits better with the notion that the effect is commonplace than with the notion that it isn't - at least regarding things that people find comfort in believing.Did I prove my point? ;-)- - - - -I don't get it. It worked fine before!- - - - - - - - -An old one, but back then I wasn't in the mood becoming all rational cassandra again. Errorism is petty compared to this: - - - -In case you didn't notice; the French state of emergency ended a while ago after two years - it was replaced by one of those primitive reaction 'law and order'ish laws that pop up after terrorism and then stick for no good reason whatsoever. Germany has such leftovers from the 70's on the law books. when one mourns the decline of liberal democracy in Europe, don't just look at Poland, Hungary or maybe Spain.S[...]

quick note on retracted articles


I retracted a few articles over the last ten years. Today I pulled one titled "Interceptors vs. wonder weapon fighters" from 2009. I have felt for a long time that I didn't properly take into account the kinetic and potential energy difficulties and effects of datalink networks on the tactic I mentioned.

I also pulled (long time ago) one about a RAND study (the study was widely criticised), one about downsides of high speed in ships (faulty data), a couple blog posts that were meant to be temporary all along and a few that were about the blog itself. I have a couple drafts of which I don't know if they were never publsihed or rather reverted from published to draft.

It happens once in a while that I pull articles, but if you ever miss a blog post of mine there's still the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive. I can't do anything about its long term memory.


Link drop January 2018


. doesn't give me a good feeling. On the other hand, there was more than a decade delay between Rambo in Afghanistan and Americans wanting to go there. may have mentioned this before.This wake reduction is not only of interest for fuel savings. Navies might be interested in it to reduce vulnerability to wake-homing torpedoes and saterllite/aerial radars that can detect ships going more than about 5 kts by spotting their wakes. of this as mounted on a 4x4 car, moved every 2-4 minutes by 500+ m. And this thing is visibly (see antenna) not even close tot he state of the art! low frequency towed active sonar system for FAC-sized naval units. What's the excuse for "AAW" frigates and destroyers to nto be general purpose units again? ago I did (IIRC) doubt that low frequency active sonar would be available for ASW helicopters (or did I only doubt it would be available with sonobuoys?). Well, I was ignorant of this thing, obviously. So costs and survivabilikty against (potetnial) submarine air defences are the two main problems left with ASW helos then. AFAIK. reasonable concept, might be even better if they turned it into a palletised solution - but I've yet tio read about any MULTI/PLS/EPLS/DROPS equivalent in Russian use. mentioned in comments that NOSTRADAMUS might be relevant against the hypothertical cruise missile surprise salvo. This was what I meant: allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="270" src="" width="480"> reminds me of the coloured and sugared water that was handed out in German air force barracks to meals.First time I saw "Jägermeister" flavor as a drink. Quite a disappointment; it was rather based on the dessert than the beverage._______________________and for germanophone people:!5467835/Nichts Neues im Westen. man sich auch so denken. sollte Politik und insbesondere Demokratie nicht funktionieren!S[...]

Happy New Year


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At least no war was started in 2017* and the only NATO country that descended into dictatorship was Turkey. My expectations for 2017 were worse on both counts.


*: Unless you count the conflict between the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurds as a (new) war.

A different perspective on military combat aviation


.There's a card game for children in which one vehicle, animal or whatever trumps another; it's called Trumpf cards. You win a small victory against the other player if you have the faster, heavier, better motorised or bigger thing on your card, and you choose what metric of the card you want to play.It's an utterly infantile way of comparing different items - seemingly objective metrics.Discussions about combat aircraft have a very similar impression on me; they're about range, g limits or turn rates, payload, radars, stealth. Those people who appear to be more knowledgeable do quite the same, just at greater level of detail. They also tend to neglect the importance of fleet efficiency; there's no point in comparing aircraft 1-on-1 if you have the choice between 100 F-15s and 200 F-16s at a given budget.I'll present a different was of looking at combat aviation, and I'll use the extreme and interesting case of West Germany in the 1970's as the example.Back in the early 70's we had two kinds of combat aircraft (F-104G Starfighter and G.91), later reinforced by a third kind (Sparrow missile-less F-4F Phantom II).Now that I've mentioned you can actually pretty much forget about the hardware itself already. What was the mission?The constitutional mission was defence, but the actual primary mission was to help avoid World War 3 by deterring the Warsaw Pact.Well, how do you deter the Warsaw Pact?Two ways are possible: To impress them with your ability to fight a nuclear war after having been attacked, and to impress them with your ability to fight a non-nuclear war after having been attacked.The first West German minister of defence was apparently focused on nuclear warfare. He opted for the F-104G, an aircraft that was good for little but photo recce, lobbing nuclear bombs at targets and surprise kills in ground radar-assisted sneak attacks on enemy aircraft. Many hundred nuclear-capable Starfighters were available to lob nukes on Warsaw Pact mechanised forces, airbases and bridges.West German F-104GThe G.91 was a budget solution of little importance; a little subsonic fighter-bomber for close air support. It was numerous, but not really prominent in the air war concept of the 70's.Later on the F-4F Phantom II joined the club, but it was a VERY different aircraft. Bigger, better range, two man crew, much more effort required for purchase and operation per aircraft. The one saving grace was that it had a much more impressive conventional warload than either Starfighter and G.91, none of which exceeded WW2 propeller fighter-bombers' conventional ground attack capabilities. The F-4F carried approx. twice the bombload of a typical medium WW2 bomber when used as a fighter-bomber, but much of its employment would have been in fighter and photo recce roles instead.The range and payload combination enabled the Phantom IIs to reach even Oder bridges from West German airbases, albeit this was at best at the limit of their practical abilities.Still, this skill was important because of one fundamental consideration: The West German (FRG) government claimed to represent all Germans and did not recognize East Germany as anything but a Soviet-occupied part of the Federal Republic of Germany. War plans that required us or allies to nuke East Germany or even only Warsaw Pact ground forces that invaded West Germany were unacceptable in the event of actual WW3. Thus anyone who considered deterrence no safe bet would naturally be worried about the harm done to the own nat[...]

Comment on European investments in air power


.I wrote before about reasons to be skeptical of air power (platforms) in land warfare, and this time I'll explore one particular problem in greater detail.A casual look at aerial imagery of Fliegerhorst Nörvenich (a Typhoon air base of the German air force) shows roughly two dozen hardened aircraft shelters and several other usual locations where one might suspect Typhoons. The main maintenance hangar of such an airbase usually has 1-4 aircraft at all times, for example. Or, well, that's how remember it.So there's a total of about 30 very likely locations for Typhoon aircraft for a nominal strength of about 35 Typhoons. The Luftwaffe has a total of six tactical air wings (equipped with either Typhoons or Tornado), and I suppose there are a total of 200-230 very likely locations for the Typhoon and Tornado aircraft in peacetime, particularly at nighttime and on weekends. We can add roughly 20 more for hangars of the aviation industry where aircraft are for major maintenance and upgrades.Air defence units' radar vehicle storage locations and other super high value target locations would easily add up to 50 more locations of great interest.Now let's think about the cruise missile threat: Cruise missiles launched from ships (could be containerised in 40 ft ISO containers on cargo ships) have enough reliability and accuracy that one might expect about 80-90% of the locations hit with effect (including through hardened shelters - those things are not really hardened against direct hits of dedicated munitions) if each two missiles were ordered to be launched for every location.  allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="270" src="" width="480">That's less than 500 cruise missiles. The average price of a cruise missile in quantity production doesn't vary very much with size or range because the electronics and engine are the cost drivers. American cruise missiles cost anywhere between USD 0.5 and 1.6 million depending on type, order size and year. It's a safe bet that four cruise missile with 40 ft ISO launch container would cost less than USD 8 million. Let's set the likely lower prices of Russian cruise missiles aside for a moment; the capability to launch 500 cruise missiles would cost well less than USD 300 million, including chartering a couple small container ships and manning them for a couple months.That's less than the price of three Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft.That salvo of 500 cruise missiles could - if surprise is achieved - take out well over 100 Typhoon and Tornado tactical aircraft, with Typhoons priced around USD 100 million.So essentially a proper aggressor who would seek strategic surprise and be prepared to exploit such a surprise effect could knock out maybe half, maybe three fourths of the Luftwaffe at the price of way less than 5% of its Typhoon inventory. And piling up more aircraft is no viable strategy to counter this, nor is better hardening of shelters a reasonable strategy.On the one hand the hardened shelter approach that became so dominant after the 1967 Six Days War has been devalued by conventional cruise missiles (and likely also conventional ballistic missiles, but those are rare). There's no real alternative in use during peacetime, even though saturation fo airbases with dozens of additional sabotage- and somewhat blast/fragmentation-protected shelters would be possible. allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" f[...]

That stupid Little Cold War


.So Erdogan visits neighbouring NATO ally Greece as first Turkish president in decades and they end up refreshing the Aegean islands sovereignty dispute in front of the cameras.This is about the dumbest thing possible in the region. Greece has well-known economic and fiscal issues and had to reduce its military spending dramatically.Turkey experienced a 15-year catch-up economic boom, but certain parts of the economy seem to be in a bubble and the government's turn towards authoritarian rule and away from rule of law has begun dragging the economy down.A revival of the utterly nonsensical Little Cold War about to whom the or certain Aegean islands belong may become extremely wasteful.related: strongly propose to avoid such wasteful nonsense by giving a strong signal clarifying the situation:The islands are internationally recognized as Greek, and Greece is a EU member, and in case of invasion would be defended and if need be liberated by Greek's EU allies.Lisbon Treaty Article 42:7. If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.Pro-Europeans, step forward and do something!The Turkish politicians are aggressively loudmouthing and offensive against the German government and society anyway and the refugee issue has IMO to be dealt with through strategic demotivation (instead of by plugging one route after another), so there shouldn't be any real obstacle to clarifying the situation this way. Some Turkish politicians will spin and smoke, but that's what they do anyway.Greece should after this clarification of the situation further reduce its military spending well below 2% GDP, avoiding the 'hollow forces' syndrome and being relaxed about Turkey.further related:[...]

Cooperation & solidarity vs. politics of aversions


.Back in the 80's there was much talk about the competition between capitalism/democracy and planning economy/single party dictatorship. During the 90's many people believed the thesis that Western liberalism had won for good.I suppose this idea of Western liberalism is largely misunderstood. Its divisions are so extremely divergent since the 80's and have so very hostile partisanship divide between their followers that by now we could proclaim a new system competition within the Western world, in addition to the harassment by the relatively unimaginative authoritarian oligarchy with great power mindset in Russia.The divide in the West isn't really about progressives and conservatives; few people truly deserve either label all-round anyway. The divide is different.Germany's current society was built on a foundation of "us". "We" act together to solve our problems and challenges. Cooperation/togetherness and solidarity are the basic building blocks for this. Not everyone adheres to this foundation, but I suppose about 60-80% of Germans do.The competing concept was revived in the 80's by Reaganism/Thatcherism, and became ever more extreme and rabid, but also ever more dishonest in the U.S. during the 90's and especially the Obama years:It's a world view of "me, me, me!", in which one doesn't want a dime of one's taxes spent on helping 'brown people'. The central motivation in such politics is not to solve problems together, but to marginalize if not outright subjugate and hurt 'others' - brown people mostly, but also political enemies.One group after another was declared to be 'takers', 'enemies', 'them', 'foreign'. Over time, this affected African-Americans, Hispanics (the supportive Cubans mostly excluded), Asians, Europeans, 'Leftists', more or less all government agencies, lesbians, gays, transgender, unemployed people, single mothers, women who had an abortion, medical personnel and consultants associated with abortions, journalists (up to the few actual news people on Fox News), Jews (though they are usually not targeted by those in high positions), Puerto Ricans and even Hawaiians.The opposing political forces became more adversarial and hateful as well as the political culture deteriorated badly since the mid-90's with politicians obviously putting party before country most of the time.This adversarial concept for politics solved few problems (though it did sometimes cut back errors made by the political opponent). Today, the U.S. has an unsustainable fiscal situation, unsustainably low savings rate, unsustainably low investment rate including public infrastructure investments, excessive spending on healthcare and 'security'/'defense', cannot solve pressing problems such as obesity rates/environmental issues/drugs/gun crimes/minority poverty rates and is rapidly losing most long-time friends in the world.Still, there are plenty people who think that Germany needs exactly that kind of thinking.It's obvious to me that switching to such an altogether different perspective on how to run a society would cause great transition harm to Germany even if the perspective as such was leading to superior policies.For this reason there's a system competition between the U.S., Hungary, Poland and to a lesser extent the UK* (as well as minority political parties) on the one side and the cooperation- and solidarity-minded Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavian countries (as well as no doub[...]