K21 IFV (South Korea)

Westerners tend to be too Western-centric, looking mostly at what Europeans, North Americans, Israelis and to a lesser extent what the antagonists in Russia and mainland China produce as weapon systems.
There sure is more being written about the American taxpayer-rip off rackets (FCS, GCV) and the German IFV Puma than for example the South Korean K21 infantry fighting vehicle.

I wrote before about my scepticism about the IFV concept in general, but this aside I'll have a look at the K21.

It sure does have a less unreasonable weapons layout and ammunition range than the Puma (which is really the limbo benchmark in this regard).

It goes against the trend and insists on amphibiousness - a characteristic which was given up during the 70's and 80's in many AFV programs because weight gains for additional protection, weapons and other equipment made amphibiousness impractical. The use of internal inflatable 'air bags'/pontoons for additional buoyancy may actually provide some extra protection: Rubber is a reactive material and quite weight-efficient as a defence against shaped charges' penetrating tips and the extra angling and spacing of the outer plate may add a lot to its protective value both against chemical and kinetic energy attacks. The system would need to use multiple isolated chambers, of course - or else a single AK bullet or sharp underwater obstacle could deflate one side. The safety of amphibious operation already requires such compartmentalization, though.

The quantity of mounted smoke dischargers is small as usually (I think too small), not reloadable from behind armour (a usual deficiency) and apparently not bulletproofed (this is going out of fashion, as bulletproofed discharger sets are becoming more common). They may also require extra attention when camouflage (nets, foliage) or add-on armour (ERA, NERA, cage) is applied, which wouldn't be so troublesome if they were mounted behind the turret, overshooting the turret (a still very rare location).

The front plate (trim vane) is apparently meant not only as bumper and helping critically during swimming (turned up), but also as spaced armour and probably of high hardness to help the poorly angled part of the front against 30mm shots.

The sights and sensors are probably a weak spot of this design, as known from so many others. Normal glass is not transparent to infrared wavelengths; that's why you can see with a thermal camera how much warmth escapes from a poorly insulated house through old-fashioned windows. You don't see the IR radiation that goes through windows, but rather the one emitted by the warmed-up windows. You need a special, rare kind of glass in front of a thermal (IR) sensor.
This in turn means that thermal sensors are natural magnets for bullets. You cannot use them much once they were shot out, so this is a major issue (comparable to the M1 Abrams deficiency revealed in Iraq; unprotected bore evacuators).
Such sights should not be vulnerable to bullets from many angles from beyond their own field of view. One of the K21's has a cover plate to protect it at times, but it's apparently still vulnerable from beyond its FOV when in use.

The primitive turret roof hatches are another weak spot. We've seen better designs for generations.

The official protection rating is strange. 30 mm APDS is hardly a relevant threat; the Russian 2A42 30 mm autocannon can fire more powerful APFSDS and both 23 mm AP-I and 82 mm HEAT are much more common, much more troublesome threats. One shouldn't believe published figures, of course.
Quite notable is the use of a glass-fibre composite hull (first experiments with this during the 80's); this would no doubt be hyped up a lot as hyper modern leap-forward transformational if the K21 was American.

Some photos show external, possibly bulletproof, boxes instead of cage-like containers for rucksacks. This may be considered very important by the crews during weeks of campaigning, as unprotected individual items can easily be ruined by bullets and fragments.

Some components are identical to what the new South Korean MBT (K2) uses, which is a nice-to-have feature.

Remarkably, the dismount strength of nine men (of to me unknown size restrictions) is rather fine, albeit the presence of a missile armament may lead to a reduction to eight in practice (especially if the missiles are used as general direct fire support).

The most remarkable fact about the K21 is a different one, of course: It is a new tracked armoured fighting vehicle in production. That's rare in Western or Western-friendly countries nowadays.



OR text on DPICM

EDIT: Due to an embarrassing, but in my opinion not terminal, mistake I had to rework the figures after a few days. The emphasis was not on the originally incorrect figures, but on showing the approach to the problem, any way.

OR = operational research; the analytical approach on military effects
DPICM = dual purpose improved conventional munitions; "bomblets"

I've encountered a pattern of thought about artillery that's distinctly optimistic, almost Clancy-style. There's no OR stud on this in my library (though there is one disclosed, for sure), so I'll improvise a quick&dirty OR mini-study on 227 mm DPICM vs. 155 mm HE to balance this optimism a bit:

A common claim is that MLRS (multiple rocket launcher system, MARS) batteries take out entire large areas in one fire mission. One claim I found repeatedly  was about the effects of a concentrated 24 MLRS launcher fire mission on a large area. The areas varied, but IIRC the smallest area claimed I ever encountered was 4 square kilometres (for such a quantity of launchers).

24 MLRS, each 12 M26 rockets, each 644 M77 DPICM HEAT-frag bomblets.
That's 185,472 bomblets. I looked up the dud rate quickly and it appears to vary from 2% to 23%, supposedly it is 5%. Let's subtract 5% thus:
176,198 bomblets.

Let's use a BMP vehicle as a notional target; length 7.14 m, width 3.2 m. The relevant target area is surely a bit smaller, more as 6.5 x 2.8 m: 18.2 square metres.

4 square kilometres equal 4 million square metres. 219,780 target areas would fit into this.

That's almost exactly 80% as many non-dud bomblets as target areas. Indirect hits don't matter much, for the small fragments are too weak to penetrate the bulletproof BMP (the frag effect is smaller than with defensive hand grenades).

Neither bomblets nor targets will be distributed evenly and regularly, though. Well-trained and disciplined mechanised troops would keep 50 metres spacing, while the bomblets would tend to bunch up and impact in a round-ish pattern. These patterns would overlap, of course. A BMP may remain unscathed even inside the pattern (if release wasn't too low for this), while others might be hit multiple times. Overall, we could expect that much less than 80% of notional targets would be hit. The percentage would drop accordingly if larger areas, longer-ranged rocket types or fewer launchers are claimed.

Let's assume in 4 sq km a third of the BMPs were hit; what would this mean? Some would have their driver knocked out, others their commander, others one or two infantrymen, others their engine, others their battery or other electrical components and a couple would probably burn out. Some might even explode because of missile or RPG munitions carried inside. A large quantity of externally mounted anti-tank guided missiles would become useless, as these are unprotected on a BMP (except with some upgrade packages).
The effects would largely be from the tiny, tiny shaped charge in the bomblet. These shaped charges are rated for about 70-100 mm penetration only and have a hollow cone in which during flight part of another bomblet is stored. This volume-saving design has been exploited for a simple countermeasure that ruins DPICM penetration; hedgehog-like rubber mats.* It's thus a very, very fragile mode of anti-tank attack.

M77 bomblet models
Now the comparison to HE shells. Obviously, a 155 mm HE shell direct hit is major trouble to any AFV, but even near misses are. See here once again for details. All those light AFVs rated as protected against artillery fragments are really only protected within constraints. A typical description is "minimum 15 metres". So we should not only count the target area for HE effect, but also an area around it. My guess is that the area relevant here is more like 300 sq metres.

A tactical equivalent of a 24 MLRS fire mission could be a four-round MRSI** fire mission of 24 self-propelled howitzers. That's 96 shells.

96 shells times 300 sq metres = 28,800 sq metres. Roughly a sixth of the MLRS mega-salvo.

Alternatively, they could keep firing for a minute, which would increase the fire mission of 24 modern self-propelled howitzers to 240 shells times 300 sq metres = 72,000 sq metres.

The problem for "team MLRS": The self-propelled howitzers may easily store enough ammunition for several such fire missions, the big Panzerhaubitze 2000 can even store 60 rounds. The MLRS batteries would scoot and reload, while the self-propelled howitzers could scoot, shoot, scoot, shoot, scoot, shoot ... the area it can cover with fires within an hour (nominally about 180 shells/hour) is bigger than a MLRS'. And the ammunition price per sq metre affected is much lower with HE (there's no unguided MLRS HE munition).

- - - - -

This isn't the only problem for MLRS awesomeness power fantasies: A single M26 rocket weighs 306 kg + cage, while a 155 mm HE shell + modular propellant and packaging comes at little more than 50 kg. This equals twice the AT-affected area per kilogram ammunition weight***. And ammunition supply is the supreme logistical problem in full blown European style wars (albeit alternating with diesel supply, depending on what the forces do at the time).
But weight isn't even the limiter here; it's volume. Only two to four MLRS sixpacks (about two tons each) can be carried on a heavy truck (nominal capacity 14 tons). Rockets use propellant inefficiently in comparison to howitzers (as do all recoilless systems), so they need a lot of (relatively low density) propellant. HE shells and modular propellant charges can be transported much more efficiently. Specialised tracked ammunition resupply vehicles can hold about 60-100 155 mm shells + propellant, and truckloads are similar. Comparison is a bit difficult because propellant modules are packaged and transported separately and published info is very scarce on this.

The fragmentation effect against soft targets is a different story and favours DPICM more unless the enemies are in fox holes. It's better to do this comparison with 155 mm HE vs. 155 mm DPICM, and the outcome is where the great preference for DPICM in the 70's and 80's was really coming from.

Maybe you'll hear some boasts about how rocket artillery as area weapon can take out / neutralize / whatever large areas. Remember then that such claims can actually be fact-checked easily with basic OR methods (=basic school math). And quite often, the boasts are just that; boasts, omitting the down sides.
There's a reason why artillery ammunition resupply is such a pain in the ass: You need much to cover a large area or to sustain suppressive fires for long. There's no "I win" button in any artillery system, and this includes the MLRS.

One more anecdote I've heard about the reliability of arty:
Some artillery fires demonstration during the Cold War, M110 howitzers (203 mm, twice as heavy shells as 155 mm) fired into an area of woodland. The shells were so big they were even visible in the air and huge fountains of dirt and dust emerged from the woodland area.  The spectators were most impressed by the awesome destructiveness and concluded that nobody could have survived such a bombardment. Just at that moment a group of deer ran out of the woodland - equally impressed and equally alive.


*: See here 2nd page, photo captioned "protection" for this effective low tech protection. The rubber inside the hollow charge disrupts the hollow charge principle of operation.
**: MRSI = multiple rounds simultaneous impact, in which the first round is fired in a high arc, while the last one is fired with more propellant at a low angle - impacts are within less seconds than the firing sequence and exploit the initial surprise effect better than normal fires would. MRSI is not available close to maximum range, though. Then again, it's very much possible below the 10 km minimum firing range of the MLRS.
***: With my assumptions about target, dud rate and effective indirect hit area.


[Deutsch] Glenn Greenwald im Interview „Die Bundesregierung stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre“


Wie bewerten Sie das Agieren der Bundesregierung in der NSA-Affäre?
Zuerst hat die deutsche Regierung nur so getan, als sei sie etwas verärgert. Da ging es auch erst mal „nur“ um das Ausspähen der deutschen Bevölkerung. Erst als die Kanzlerin persönlich betroffen war durch das Abhören ihres Handys, wurde der Ärger real. Das stört mich schon sehr. In Brasilien war das ähnlich. Da veröffentlichten wir auch erst Dokumente über das Ausspähen der Bevölkerung und dann über die Politik, und auch dort reagierte die Regierung erst, als sie selbst betroffen war. Jetzt, denke ich, will die Bundesregierung schon Schutz für die eigene Kommunikation und die der Bevölkerung, aber sie geht nicht viel Risiko ein, um diesen Schutz zu bekommen. Sie stellt die Beziehungen zu den USA über die Privatsphäre der eigenen Bevölkerung. Aber man muss auch sagen, dass die deutsche Politik zumindest klare Worte gefunden hat, um die amerikanische Überwachung zu kritisieren. (...)
Der Tagesspiegel (2 Seite)



The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene


 The Washington Post

Survey result: Where Americans (from the U.S.) locate the Ukraine.
The average was 2,900 km off.
We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

It's about time to weep about mankind.
A similar survey in Germany would likely still be embarrassing, I would expect about 1/3 instead of 1/6 to get it right.

How can democracy work, how can politicians represent their constituents if said constituents are clueless?
There's still the approach of politicians representing by trying to get it right on their own, instead of trying to trying to decide according to majority preferences - the technocrat model. But how could - at the next election - the voters judge the technocrats (and new candidates) if they don't even know about the basics?

I've seen issues such as geography and policy knowledge pinned to schooling deficiencies, but I actually don't remember having learnt world maps and their meaning at school, ever. I was able to find all countries and name their capital at some point (often messed up the small Caribbean islands, though), but that was because I was bored in class, not because I was taught it. General knowledge needs to be picked up later. It is about paying attention to the outside world, instead of being consumed by private life fully.

The worker movement of the 19th century worked to politicise the workers by educating them. Clubs and publications with useful functions doubled as political education tools. It's confusing to me how modern "news" can be infotainment (pretending to be about information, but emphasizing entertainment value) and still fail to carry the content across sufficiently.

I am convinced: The historians in the 22nd century will consider our societies as ridden by many very obvious defects - unable to cope with challenges, and quite embarrassing.



Uncertainty and reasons for intervention

Imagine you're in some Banana Republic and the Dictator offers you to play his version of Russian Roulette:
You get a revolver and are asked to aim at someone innocent in his country and pull the trigger. He says there are few bullets in the revolver, but you're sure at least one chamber is empty. You'll never justice there or at home if you kill somebody like this. In case you pull the trigger and there's no bullet fired, the person you aimed at would become multi-millionnaire in some meaningful currency; very rich. But you would have killed the person if you aimed, pulled the trigger and there was a bullet aligned with the barrel. Either way, you would need to pay a week's worth of income.

Would you aim, and pull the trigger?

Presumably you would not.

Now imagine a different situation. You're leader of your country and hear the news that ethnic cleansing and massacres are happening in some other country. You cannot know for sure. Such things happen, but disinformation happens as well.
Some people suggest you should intervene with your military, and you know you would get away with it if it turns out that there was no ethnic cleansing or massacres, but merely a small insurgency about to be quelled.*
You realise that if there's evil going on you could help the people much, but if you were misled your intervention would really be a war of aggression, harming a great many people.
Either way, the fiscal and human costs to your country would be substantial.

Would you intervene invade?

Presumably interventionists would,
because people simply almost never change their mind
no matter how painful a cognitive dissonance I create. ;)

In  dubio pro reo. Civilized countries employ this principle on the level of individuals. I think it is underappreciated on the level of countries. Too many wars have been started for manufactured reasons, and the costs of these wars have been horrible. Even supposedly very sophisticated countries**  are susceptible and can be enticed to make the mistake of going to war on feeble grounds. It's almost as if a jury of ten would only need six "guilty" votes to convict the defendant, or even only four if the chairman of the jury is in favour of a conviction.
This is stupid. Uncertainty, fallibility and special interests working to deceive should be more widely recognised as corrupting our decision-making in such cases, and we should be careful accordingly. 

*: With rural people fleeing from their villages when there's fighting (and returning after the war reporters left the scene) and the massacres are really insurgents killed by security forces, stripped of their weapons before the war reporters made their photos.
**: Including Germany.


Greaves are back

One of the joys of history in general and military history in particular is that feeling of 'I knew that already' when once again something truly old has a comeback in one form or another.

This time greaves

There are bigger moments like that as well, of course. Studying history is highly advisable. That is, unless your family life is too demanding for study. Then better get that one right at full steam ahead.



Daily Show's take on the torture report and the gang

(Videos from this source usually misbehave when embedded, so here's the link instead.)

The tools (archive footage, satire) available to Stewart are very suitable for exposing hypocrisy and denial of reality, and him getting a point across is definitively more entertaining than msot other way.
Today's news sources are really in the infotainment business, so a lowly blogger can lean back and just let infotainment get the point across, right?


[German] Urteil des EuGH zur Vorratsdatenspeicherungs-Richtlinie

Die Richtlinie 2006/24/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 15. März 2006 über die Vorratsspeicherung von Daten, die bei der Bereitstellung öffentlich zugänglicher elektronischer Kommunikationsdienste oder öffentlicher Kommuni-kationsnetze erzeugt oder verarbeitet werden, und zur Änderung der Richtlinie 2002/58/EG ist ungültig.

Die Ausrede, dass die EU es ja vorschreibt, ist jetzt dahin. Sie war ohnehin Unsinn, denn man hatte ja einst mit abgestimt als die Richtlinie verabschiedet wurde. Die deutsche Bundesregierung kann jetzt natürlich trotzdem weiter versuchen die Vorratsdatenspeicherung zu erzwingen, aber die Gründe des EuGH werden wohl auch beim BVerfG ziehen*. Vorratsdatenspeicherung kann man jetzt getrost als verfassungswidrig einstufen.

Und wer hat's gewollt? Wer hat's gepusht? Wer ist mitgelaufen?

Mal wieder nicht die längst marginalisierten offiziellen Extremisten, sondern die allzuhäufig nicht verfassungstreuen "Bürgerlichen". Noch kein einziges Gesetz von Neonazis oder Linksaußen-Sozis wurde für verfassungswidrig oder gar grundrechtemissachtend erkannt**, doch unseren Regierungen der "Mitte" geschieht das inzwischen in erschreckender Regelmäßigkeit.
Es ist an der Zeit, dass man auch diese Herren (und wenige Damen) als potentiell gefährlich und zu extremistischen Aktionen fähig ansieht. Bisher tut das ja vorwiegend die junge Generation, die sich mit "STASI 2.0" und "Zensursula" Memes Luft gemacht hat und personell die politische Opposition zu Überwachung, Zensur etc. stellt.


*: Insbesonderegilt dies im Hinblick auf ein BVerfG Urteil von 1983, das ein Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung einführte
**: Ganz klarer Vorteil; sie haben gar nicht die Macht, Bundesgesetze zu schreiben. 

[Fun] RPG - How Not To

allegedly the Ukrainian national Guard in action (edit: faked)
Reminds me of someone. Some guys are too dumb for everything.