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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: 2018-04-21T09:46:03.977+02:00


Ultralight portable equipment


.I have a weakness for minimalism, elegance. That's probably why my primary interest in military hardware these days is about the potential of ultralight equipment.Many standard individual military equipment pieces is shockingly heavy. We don't even have to look at weapons, munitions or armour to find such shockingly heavy equipment: Things such as flashlights, jackets, entrenching tools and compasses often feel like lead-lined.Fascinating dedication and interesting ultralight hardware solutions can be found in the ultralight backpacking/trekking community and their specialist stores.They do put their pants on one leg at a time, though. Ultralight weight often comes with a price premium or (more troublesome) with poor durability.I've come to terms with both. The costs would add up to less than 2,000 € per infantryman or scout, which is completely tolerable. The poor durability seems to be tolerable as well if one adapts the ways one uses the hardware:The ultralight equipment should be in storage in the barracks and be used on one or two key exercises per year or in times of serious crisis. The ordinary equipment could be the more durable and clearly heavier equipment.There are even ultralight firearms (not quite in trekking stores, at least not in Europe), such as a roughly 2 kg 5.56 mm NATO/407mm ultralight rifle loosely based on the AR-15 pattern and a roughly 4 kg 5.56 mm NATO/389mm (ultra)light machinegun.I would expect the former to get real hot real quick, but that isn't much of a problem if you agree with my opinion that infantry should break contact within two (at most four) minutes of being detected by opposing forces (to dodge indirect fires). About two 30 rds mags would normally be spent in such an encounter, and three mags expended should be uncommon. This leads to a requirement that 60 rds/2 minutes should be within a tolerable dispersion and zero shift (such as enough to still hit a helmet-sized target at 200 m 90% of the time in otherwise optimum conditions) and 90 rds/2 minutes should not lead to relevant damage. The UL machinegun would have to rather consume 200/300 rds in that time while meeting expectations and avoiding relevant damage. The guns' durability until an armourer has to become involved would be acceptable as low as 1,000 rds for rifles and 3,000 rds for machineguns if really almost nothing fails (a few jams excluded) before those thresholds. Again, the training hardware could be heavier (same ergonomics and accessories, though) in order to achieve a better durability.It takes some dedication (and for those not inclined to favour minimalism also a portion of self-discipline), but there appears to be a third path alternative to the current overloaded, partially armoured and partially digitised infantry on the one hand and exoskeleton-centric science fiction of fully armour plated and heavily armed infantry on the other hand: The agile ultralight infantrymen/scouts.I really wish we would test this 3rd way alongside the current and mainstream prototype equipment.S[...]

Comment on the recent cruise missile diplomacy


The cruise missile strike was conducted by the three nuclear powers in NATO. Its influence on the 24 hrs news cycle is huge, while its influence on the future history of Syria will likely be limited to some people killed and some buildings demolished.
It looks like mindless great power gaming to me - and a most uninspired one, utterly lacking a strategy towards a desirable or at least acceptable outcome. The West didn't and almost certainly won't "win" in Syria - it merely participated in extinguishing the self-consuming daesh strawfire.

Regular readers know it, but I'll still repeat:
Such cruise missile diplomacy is illegal under article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty and other treaties that were signed, ratified and are in effect.

It's thus illegal in the United States as well. Article VI of the United States constitution says so.

The pro-war/pro-great power gaming folks assert that this isn't so because the president is commander of the armed forces and a mere federal law supposedly cannot limit his orders to the military, but those people cannot explain why the president then isn't allowed to murder just about every foreigner for no reason. After all, murder is but outlawed by a mere law.
Well, maybe they think POTUS can legally murder 6.7 billion people, but the 95% non-sociopaths of mankind surely agree that something would be utterly evil and wrong in that interpretation of the U.S. constitution.

I am in disgust of the reactions of those politicians of non-involved countries who welcome or even only tolerate such aggressive behaviour by allies. Such behaviour is 90% of what Germany did that led to the First World War; it tolerated aggression by an ally.

Maybe one or two horrible wars later mankind stands a chance of understanding that such aggressive, violent foreign policy is wrong regardless of faux or real legal excuses. Hopefully, some future generations will scratch their heads in confusion and disgust about the widespread toleration of killing by executive policy decision in peacetime.
We were at that point back in 1944 already. It's too bad that Western civilisation relapsed.


Two dominant battleship designs and the real sunset of battleships


.There was a dominant design for battleships in the mid-18th century; the so-called seventy-four gun or 3rd rate ship-of-the-line. This ship was apparently an ideal compromise between firepower and sailing characteristics for great naval battles.The even bigger 1st and 2nd rate ships of the line were superior in firepower and staying power (their thick wooden hulls were able to withstand a frigate's cannon shots at relevant ranges) which was most desirable as it led to a greater concentration of power in the line of battleships (the spacing between two ships of the line had to be about the same for any design, so a more powerful ship created a greater concentration of mass and was thus superior in raw power). On the other hand, their poor handling characteristics due to larger size and higher hull structures made them less efficient ships of the line, though.A 74 was not as versatile as a frigate, but still very suitable for being sent on cruises and missions alone - which was hardly ever done with 1st and 2nd rate ships of the line.The different 74 classes differed from each other, but there was an understanding that they were at a golden middle and a huge quantity was built by the great powers. There were 107 such ships of the Téméraire class alone.It took one and a half century for another similarly dominant design to emerge after a bewildering variety of experiments - the pre-dreadnought, pioneered by HMS Majestic.These steel warships used a main battery turret fore and one aft of the superstructure (often twin turrets with 11" or 12" guns), lots of secondary and tertiary artillery casemate guns, triple expansion steam engines, masts only for observation and signalling and a ramming-capable bow design. They were eventually superseded by the Dreadnought generation of battleships (all big gun battleships) which vastly improved the primary artillery firepower and reduced the other artillery to anti-torpedo boat defences.This dominant design lasted for a mere decade, but almost all great powers followed it with some variations. Again, there was general global consensus about how to design a good battleship. One can appreciate how much the Majestic class led to standardisation by looking at the variety among earlier battleships and the similarity of the Majestic-mirroring pre-dreadnoughts.Well, what were such ships good for?A 74 was capable of frigate cruise missions, though rather expensive in operation for this. An important wartime mission besides fleet-in-being was the blockade of ports. Back in the day before there were effective coastal defence craft a squadron of such ships could blockade a port with a close blockade - anchor in sight of the port. Escape was practical at night, rower-equipped or very fast (or lateen-rigged) ships only.This close blockade approach had become much less practical by the mid-19th century (long after 74s lost relevance): Armoured and steam-powered coastal defence craft were able to engage such a blockade force at will, and could inflict intolerable damage. Still, one could claim that a slightly less close blockade with battleships that had steam engines themselves for survival in dead calm was possible. The ironclad battleships weren't that terribly vulnerable to coastal defence gunships in the 70's and 80's anyway (hence a short-lived fashion in favour of ramming).The very early (propelled) torpedoes had little capability. They had to be employed very close up and thus didn't change the general picture decisively, as battleships were able to sustain a blockade at least in daytime against the opposition of torpedo boats.Yet something had changed by the late pre-dreadnought era just before the dreadnoughts arrived: Torpedo-armed submarines such as the Holland class became operational.The presence of such submarines made it much too dangerous to maintain a close blockade in daylight; even cruising around in the port's vicinity would sooner or later lead to one or multiple torpedo hits as the battleship would inevitably come too clos[...]

Recruitment and retention in the Bundeswehr


There has been a lot of dissent to and even protest against the personnel policies of the Bundeswehr. The recruitment appears to aim at young people who don't want to leave their comfort zone and don't want any martial-ish job. Retention policies appear to focus on on-base luxuries in the era von der Leyen (=minister of defence) while lots and lots of problems that are most detrimental for retention are unsolved.And then there's the issue that "retention" is almost a misnomer in regard to the Bundeswehr; the career models are still mostly about young people joining as "Soldat auf Zeit" (soldier for a fixed time period), with NCOs and officers maybe becoming career soldiers until retirement afterwards.Here are my thoughts on the personnel system. I held them (mostly) back for a really, really long time because I actually haven't  had an insider experience in a long time.In general:Recruitment for air force and navy security unit personnel and army should be through a militia-ish system. Every German gets the invitation to join the militia for half a year and earn a really good pay there (easily squeezed between school and university, or a temporary gap filler after job training when the employer didn't keep the trainee employed). These six months would give a general military education and basic infantry skills to everyone. This pool of trained reservists would greatly accelerate a military expansion if there's a two-year arms race or even a war in the future. The training would be designed to be militarily worthwhile and individually attractive. It would typically begin in summertime a month after the end of the school year, and end early enough to allow them to join university at the following summer semester with a vacation before and after the militia service.Some of those who do this would volunteer for another short period for reserve NCO training while others would join the regular army (which then doesn't need to bother with basic training and automatically has an "everyone a rifleman" ethos).The recruitment for this militia should follow the "masculine" attraction of the job; it's better for their recruitment videos to show stuff blowing up and camouflaged bivouacs in snowy woodland than a daycare centre on the base.The number one priority should be that the armed services are fit enough that their personnel is proud to serve in them.Soldiers should not serve on a base where almost nothing is newer than their own age. No cheating about readiness - be ready! De facto 100% of nominal equipment strength should be achieved and maintained. Obsolete equipment is tolerable only for an at most three years long period when the successor hardware gets phased in. Red tape needs to be limited, and superiors who obsess about protecting themselves from consequences of mishaps need to be removed. Officers and NCOs who were promoted beyond their ability need to be demoted. Disaffected personnel that really wants out should be allowed to leave (with some financial disadvantages).Recruitment for medical services should be cut severely. The military should not have any physicians other than general practitioners and surgeons with focus on trauma patients. The military could use conscription to get other needed specialists in times of war.Job security after the military service is important; so far you better jump the ship soon enough, or you might end up being unemployed without a decent pension later in your life. So anyone who leaves the armed services after 20 years of service should have a job guarantee with at least 90% of the last military service monthly income in the civilian bureaucracy.Army:Some physically demanding jobs should be done at age 20-35, and the limits of acceptable ages are 18-38 for these jobs. These physically demanding jobs (infantry, scouts, many engineer jobs) make up less than one quarter of all army personnel, and likely less than half of the army personnel ever had or will have the physique potential to be good at t[...]

The Russian "long game"


An unsolicited advice:

Apply Occam's Razor when someone asserts that Putin's Russia plays the long game to hegemony (or anything else).
Couldn't it be that this someone sees slowness, interprets it as a symptom of systematic and steady progress towards a long-term goal - but in reality that slowness is nothing but the symptom of resources too limited for any grand goals?


[Blog] Unpopular things, the big picture and blog (in)activity


.I have  habit of telling unpopular things, such as telling warship fans that most warships are unnecessary, telling combat aviation fans that ground/ground missiles should be used more and air/ground attack is unreliable, or telling army fans that we actually have plenty land forces compared to the few threats, and the issue is rather in quality than in quantity or budgeting. I tell military-loving folks that all small and offensive wars are bollocks, war doesn't work and military spending should rather be slashed than increased.It appears that I sought and found a niche that guarantees a failure in any attempt to reach a large audience; "unconventional" conclusions and opinions that hardly anyone shares among those people who frequent military blogs.On top of that I mastered the skill of alienating many longtime readers by offering contradictions in comments or private correspondence.Well, this isn't a commercial blog, so I got that one excuse at least.Still, the obvious and seemingly unavoidable failure to bring much of a message across for want of a large audience is having an impact on my motivation. I've had my very motivating military theory-heavy times at the blog years ago, and hardware-centric writing was never particularly motivating.Right now I don't have a single topic to write about on my mind that I didn't think of months or years ago already (and thus obviously delayed and avoided again and again).The grand picture is one of government establishments and public opinion finally shifting back to collective defence from stupid wars of de facto occupation. This pivot won't be done in any economically or time-efficient way, but it's happening and I suppose it will suffice to deter any great power attack on NATO and EU members for at least a decade to come.Turkey - a geostrategically very important country - is drifting away from the West and the Russians are back in the stupid great power game of messing up the Mid East, but this won't really change the daily lives of Europeans.Comically inept and other psychologically compromised or simply authoritarian politicians pop up and disappear after a couple years or decades. We've seen that before as well.Germany will sometime in my lifetime return to a government with an intention to reform the country to reduce well-known problems instead of being ruled by a coalition intent on almost nothing but maintaining its power and most other aspects of the status quo. NATO thought of itself as some liberal / free world alliance in the 90's, but now it's back to being a partially dirty and uncomfortable bloc as it already was in the 60's and 70's.We Europeans shouldn't pay much attention to what happens in the Far East, except that all involved parties should think of us as readily available honest brokers should the need for one arise. The British appear to be somewhat tainted by the idea that they need to think of the PR China as a threat due to lacking a language barrier with the Americans and having strong links to the Australians, Maybe sometime in a few decades I will be a grumpy old man who annoys people by pointing out that I was correct on certain conclusions all along (I would certainly not point out my mistakes - hardly anyone does, so why would I?).So lange Rede, kurzer Sinn (long talk, little meaning): I intend to keep blogging, but I will likely write much less ever since 2009. I expect maybe 100-150 posts for this year, and lots of those will be low effort blog posts.You have my promise that if I ever end blogging I will write a farewell if I still can, and not simply disappear as did all-too many mil bloggers that I more or less followed in the past decade.S[...]

Personal Defence Weapons


I do see I didn't write much lately, and in an expression of continued laziness I'd still like to give readers at least something:
A hint at a somewhat embarrassing hardware-centric website I did once create and maintain until I got tired of the hosting fee. It's all about personal defence weapons and was several times praised for offering a useful overview. It's still -unmodifiable and almost forever (the internet does not forgive!)- in the wayback machine of the Internet Archive:

It was created in a 1990's html editor software, and looks that way.

One of the most frustrating things in creating and maintaining the website was the inflation and seemingly endless quantity of extremely short-barrelled 5.56x45 mm weapons that was incompatible with the goal of comprehensiveness. I did totally not know about and thus also did not include handguns that used the .30 carbine calibre. They should have been mentioned.

Easter egg; I am really, really not creative in creating banners. ;-)

Anyway, feel free to visit that mirror above if you like to have a nostalgic look back at the pre-youtube internet and the time when I was still hardware-centric! :-)


Arms racing; escalatory or de-escalatory?


Weeks ago I made a case for an intermediate legal situation between true peace and mobilisation. The idea was that deterrence (which is assumed to preserve the peace) is more effective if a potential aggressor doesn't expect major time lag advantages from moving first.
Alternatively, we could look at it as a cost-saving measure; you don't need to have all the military expenses to counter what a threat has AND it can build up in strength over two years of arms racing if you can credibly expect to be effective at counter-arms-racing in those two years. That capability means you only need to deter against what capabilities the threat has plus what it can build up in six months of arms racing.

It's a bit odd for a German to write about this and on this side of the aisle because our news media, historians and politicians appear to have a consensus that arms racing is not deescalatory, but escalatory. 

That may very well be true (which means we should find ways to change this), but arms racing and being prepared to arms-race are as different as are warfare and deterrence. The ability to grow much military power during a short arms race may (should) discourage any plans of aggressions that would be built on the assumption of creating an advantage through a superior arms-racing effort.

On the other hand, the possibility of for example a 30% growth in military power during a mere two years peacetime might be perceived as threatening and provoking higher military expenses by another power. This could be mitigated if only countries known to be rather defensive (not meddling, bombing and invading on distant continents all the time) establish this enhanced arms-racing capability.

I'm not irritated in the slightest that this turns out to be an argument against participation in stupid small wars (= all small wars).


P.S.: I understand that I made up "arms racing" as a verb. I found no better alternative to express the concept.

Iceland security


I meant to write a normal-sized blog post about this for a while, but I'm simply not very motivated to blog these days.

So have a look at these,,,

keep the previous post on OTH radars in mind and stuff like this
and this

and have your own thoughts about whether we (NATO) maybe neglecting the Northern flank's security these days and what should be done instead.


Why should we have a military?


."What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"Madeline Albright, 1992  Yes, what's the point of a military?I suppose to answer this properly you need to go back to the question of what's the point of having a government.The Western view since the the enlightenment is that government serves the people. We, the people, by majority agree to do things together for our own good - we are a community.There were other reasons for governments in the past. Some motivations wereto seek security in greater do things together in order to be able to exploit organise an effort of many to worship some deities.The enlightenment view  - as documented in the philosophical construct of the contrat social - has been the dominant in Western circles on the surface. Another rationale ("To do things together in order to be able to exploit others.") has been more of an undercurrent, particularly in countries that had a rather dysfunctional political culture or a dictatorial regime at the time."to seek security in greater numbers" became rather the motivation behind supranational alliances than behind individual governments.The hawkish party (which is not necessarily congruent with a political party) tends to emphasise "to seek security in greater numbers" as a key purpose of government. This is particularly evident in the utterly ignorant nonsense that government is merely meant to provide security against criminals and foreigners. And I call this utterly ignorant because it is - the function of providing rule of law regarding properties is completely essential to any wealth, for example. There would be no private property and hardly any functional markets without enforcement of rules regarding property and trade.So the hawkish party espouses that security is what government about (not social security, of course). The problem with this is that their actions betray them. They behave according to another paradigm - "to do things together in order to be able to exploit others" at any opportunity given, though with a minor variation nowadays: They're not so much proponents of exploiting as of harming, dictating and at times eliminating others. This variation is but a cosmetic one, though. Nowadays exploitation isn't about taking away more wealth than is effort required to take it. Exploitation is nowadays at best about exploiting the capacity of others top take a beating in order to make oneself more comfortable psychologically. Many "problems" that can supposedly be addressed with aggressive military power are not material problems to the hawkish party. Defiant loudmouths and people with a very much different culture seem to be outright favourite targets to the hawkish party.To princes of old government served their own and their dynasty's well-being, to modern 'hawkish party' partisans it appears to serve to alleviate their psychological stress.My line - as repeated again and again on this blog -  is a very different one, one rooted in economic theory. I follow the notion of government by and for the people. Government action for the people must not do more harm to the people than good - which leads to a simple (though only theoretical) criterion for judging government action: The net benefit (benefit minus costs) should be maximised.To conquer in order to exploit is simply not profitable any more, and thus cannot be considered a subset of government by and for the people. The benefits that government can bestow on the people with military power are mostly keeping peace (sparing the people the damages of war) and in worst case restoring the peace at minimised costs. Deterrence and defence.There's sometimes a little benefit to be gained by the entertainment factor - parades, fascinating videos of war (remember the 19[...]

[Fun] Playing Risk


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OTH coverage for Europe


Typical over-the-horizon radars use many spaced antennas and achieve thousands of km range, but at the price of several hundred km minimum range. The Australian and American ones are apparently looking into certain directions, while the French have deployed an experimental one for 360° surveillance (and research). It's a skywave OTH radar.*

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I cannot tell how much of a technical success NOSTRADAMUS is, so this blog post is all built on the assumption that it's a thorough technical success and thus justifies its expenses.

It's nice of the French to build such a radar, but it appears to be unable to detect and track much or anything over France or its coastal regions. It's furthermore questionable how reliable detection and tracking are close to its maximum range. It's certainly dependent on atmospheric conditions.

An overlapping OTH line operated by NATO might make a lot of sense. Two more NOSTRADAMUSesque radars would likely suffice; one on Iceland and one in Southern continental Greece or in Southern Croatia.

The three OTH radars could operate in coordination, avoiding interference.

Such a radar coverage in the HF band might prove very troublesome to Russian war planners particularly in surprise air attack scenarios, and thus add a lot to European deterrence.


*: Surface wave OTH radars have a very disadvantageous limitation; they cannot detect aircraft at high altitudes (they're still good for tracking maritime traffic).

Luftwaffe: F-35 or Typhoon for air/ground?


.There's an ongoing debate about how to equip the Luftwaffe (German air force) for the air-to-ground mission.The German Eurofighter/Typhoon has very limited A2G capabilities, and those are very recent additions that don't affect most planes.  a more practical A/G load for a Typhoon would be 4 guided bombsThe old Tornados are mostly limited to SEAD and recce, with very limited and mostly very old-fashioned general ground attack capabilities and they're getting really old.The most-mentioned alternatives areTyphoons properly equipped for A2G (this may be upgraded existing airframes or new airframes or a mix or upgrading old ones and buying new ones dedicated for A2A) andF-35A.The ministry appears to favour Typhoons, the head of the Luftwaffe publicly favours the F-35A.My superficial comment on this is that it's utterly wrong to favour either in public. You need to exploit alternatives for a price-reducing competition. Anything but such behaviour is either malign (trying to gift money to for-profit businesses) or incompetent._ _ _ _ _I have a very different comment on this on a  level more removed from such superficial news:Let's face a fact: The Luftwaffe would love to have many gold-plated A/G aircraft, and it would be guaranteed to neglect stockpiling PGMs for all those gold-plated A/G aircraft. To do what Luftwaffe leadership or ministry of defence would do is all but guaranteed to be inefficient. Efficiency is not their primary criterion for what they favour AT ALL."Red" area air defences and fighters would make A/G missions without standoff munitions very risky and thus rather unlikely in the first days if not weeks of conflict. Yet to launch some cruise missile doesn't require a high end strike fighter. You may even make do with transport aircraft if the missile is long-ranged enough. The F-35 would not change this much; I expect it to be used in recce up close, but not without punishing losses. A/G up close is unlikely in the first week even above 15,000 ft - unless there are some mechanised raids that went well beyond the protection of area air defence umbrella and fighter cover. Allies will likely have enough F-35A to exploit what favourable opportunities for up close A2G exist in the first 1-2 weeks.Germany is fairly close to potential war zones (NE Poland, Baltics) and should in my opinion focus on what defence requires in the first few weeks. This means rather fighters, very good area air defences, DEAD (destruction of enemy air defences) and SRBMs (ballistic missiles of less than 500 km range, accurate to few metres). So far we have fighters (dozens of 100% mission ready Eurofighter Typhoon, dozens more usable ones in a in less than perfect state of repair).There's something else the Luftwaffe could do to greatly bolster deterrence & defence: Provide more and better infrastructure in the right places.approx. range of Iskander SRBMsThink about it; where would hundreds of Rafales, F-35, F-22 and Typhoons be based in the event of conflict?Western states of Germany, France, Benelux, Austria, Italy? Those places are awfully far away from NE Poland, and even much farther from Estonia. There's not even close to enough (expensive) tanker capacity for 3 sorties/day from such distant bases.We need bases in the Eastern German states and in the Czech Republic; as close as it gets without entering the range of Iskander missiles based in Kaliningrad Oblast (Russia could have hundreds more such missiles in there within 1-3 years).To build air base infrastructure and to maintain it is not glorious, it's not fun, it's not satisfying - which is why it is almost certain to be neglected. Find me one Luftwaffe general or Luftwaffe fanboi who would like to see this done. Their all-natural aversion[...]

The case for a second level between war and peace


Germany knows three states of alarm as a nation; plain peace, crisis (mobilisation) and war. I will argue in favour of a fourth state here.

There are two reasons for the need for a fourth state of alarm:
  1. There were brief but intense arms racing periods prior to both world wars (1912-1914, 1938-1939 and 1939-1941 for USSR, Japan and USA), and many other world wars.
  2. Peacetime ways of procuring weapons and munitions are so clumsy one has to think in years, not months.
One might argue that -especially in the age of nuclear munitions- a counter-arms racing might increase instead of reduce the probability of war and that nuclear munitions make attempts to limit the damage done by an eventual war futile.

Still, there may be situations in the future when the government concludes that counter-armsracing is a good idea. The problem here is that we would be largely incapable of it due to problem #2.

A relatively simple and extremely cheap fix that could greatly help to  deter an arms race in the first place is to introduce a fourth state of alarm that deals with problem #2.

We could add to the constitution a fourth 'long duration crisis' state of alarm in which the executive branch would be able to command military procurement/services and civil defence procurement/services contracts onto businesses, said businesses would have their equity capital and labour compensation levels frozen (decrease of equity capital would be compensated by the government, increases would be taken by the government, no payments other than wages to shareholders) and all military/civil defence contracts would have total priority over all other contracts (to those it would be similar to force majeure cases).

These provisions would make it believable that we would indeed be good at arms-racing, despite many industry order books being so stuffed that they have no free capacity for months or years to come.

The costs would be a couple thousand work days for politicians and civilian staff members as well as the negligible cost of publication. It would be an almost free boost to deterrence.


To lead is exhausting


.One thing I remember well from experience is that to lead is exhausting. It's even more exhausting than to be among the most alert, most active folks who just follow.You have to do most things everyone else has to do, but you need more and constant awareness of your people, you need more awareness of your surroundings (terrain, neighbours, opponents, you get less and shorter breaks, you have to think ahead for a much longer time span, all the minor fuckups including false alarms come to your attention and on top of that you still have superiors to deal with.The more stupid and inept your men are, the worse it is unless you lower your expectations and dumb most things down.A long, long time ago as an adolescent I watched a movie and saw anofficer riding a horse with ordinary soldiers marching in lockstep behind. I thought something along the lines of "what a douche".I was so wrong. That officer needed that horse.One of the better parts of the book "Infantry attacks" was the description of how exhausting the job of a lieutenant was even far away from opposition. The horse was an utter necessity for moving between superiors and the own men.I myself never had a terribly long exercise without stubbornly taking some sleep, but every once in a while I read reports about how officers often become ineffective after four days of exertions for want of sleep discipline.I mentioned this before, and if I remember correctly my stance was always to enforce that sleep discipline.Maybe I was wrong and it's sometimes impossible or even insufficient to enforce sleep discipline. Maybe something is fundamentally wrong with the division of labour, with how burdened leaders - especially the better ones - are. You may burn out even if you get enough sleep, and cognitive processes may be badly impaired by exertion without anyone noticing (especially in a hierarchical organisation where you're "not encouraged" to loudly question the wisdom of orders).I've come more and more to the point of view that leadership at unit and small unit level should be divided into the external perspective and the internal perspective: One leader deals with the own men and the other (senior) one deals with everything around them. A most thorough application of this (much more radical than the ordinary CO + senior NCO pairing) may have promise, might be worth some tests.An alternative way to address the problem would be to let 2nd i command guys do the heavy lifting in the easier times, and prepare him especially for this. A 1st in command could then take over for most stressful phases while still fresh.The way we do things is heavily path-dependent and not necessarily optimal. It's similar to the quasi-evolutionary approach of leaning artificial intelligence: AI can learn to do a task, but usually repeated learning processes are very much unlike each other and often end up at different end results - and not necessarily the optimal result. That's because the outcome is path-dependent.S[...]

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 some 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 [...]

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 helicopt[...]

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 pa[...]

Modern warships (V) - land attack


.I don't care about naval land attack capabilities.Land attack by the 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.S[...]

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 b[...]

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 diffe[...]

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. forum thread with an amazing wealth of details about early remotely controlled vehicles and PGMs) 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. French link: 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 d[...]