2017/11/23

Recruitment videos

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I'm in the mood for some videos, particularly funny ones:











Something serious for a change:



That's enough seriousness already!




S O
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2017/11/18

Link drop November 2017

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"Saudi Arabia’s Incompetence Would Be Comical If It Weren’t Killing So Many People"
https://theintercept.com/2017/11/17/saudi-arabia-incompetence-iran-rivalry/

"Navy grounds two aviators behind penis skydrawing"
https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/11/17/navy-grounds-two-aviators-behind-penis-skydrawing/
This reminds me of remarks about how 18 year olds are allowed to kill and die in war in the U.S., but not allowed to drink alcohol. There's an inordinate amount of immature crap in a normal military, and almost all of it is harmless IIRC.

"Over-friendly, or sexual harassment? It depends partly on whom you ask"
https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/11/daily-chart-14
This is about liberty; both society norms and laws can reduce the freedom of action, which equals a loss of some freedom. It's interesting how laid-back Germany is, though some people would probably call that chauvinistic (females in Germany are more laid-back as well according to the poll, though).
I suppose looking at boobs and other female curves is hard-coded male (non-gay) behaviour and a line between sexual harassment and things that one has to accept as a price for being alive has to be drawn someplace before that's getting people in trouble. We should probably draw that line even before sexually charged compliments, for the very same words are very different in their perception depending on how attractive the speaker is.

"Level IV Armor, and the Future of Small Arms: Brief Thoughts 001"
http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/11/16/level-iv-armor-future-small-arms-brief-thoughts-001/
Disasters like this happen when firearms fans think about infantry combat. Infantry combat is NOT all about infantry killing each other. In fact, there's lots of evidence that infantry repels infantry to some degree, and almost all killing (80+ %) is done by other arms in modern conventional warfare.
Infantry that's optimised to resist opposing infantry's bullets while penetrating opposing infantry's armour plates won't make much sense until exoskeletons become practical and affordable en masse.


"What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Fight For  Information’?"
http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/eARMOR/content/issues/2017/Summer/pdf/3Palisca17.pdf
Just an example of U.S. professional military journals trying to foster thought about doctrine even on a published platform. The majority of military theory writing before 1914 was likely written in German with a gazillion of Prussian, German and Austro-Hungarian military journal editions, books and widely circulated memos. It appears that the effort put into getting military doctrine right is nowadays much smaller. This is horrifying because even after all that effort the officers of the 1900's still erred badly and mostly blundered into the First World War.


A new training centre in Germany for training in settlements of different types, including sewers. It's still missing a lot of clutter, especially furnitures, balconies and fences.


Multi-mode radar with 360° field of view and on-the-move operation in a small package. The concept justified high hopes (except that "low cost" was a ridiculous claim coming from Northrop Grumman), but it's been years since and there's still no series production. A brigade designed on a blank sheet would certainly have something like this, but path dependencies and other reasons make sure NATO armies don't have many nice things like that. Personally, I wonder if the Swedish SAAB Giraffe 1X could be adapted for on-the-move operation. It should be possible.

"HISTINT: Unearthing declassified Soviet military journals in CIA archives"
https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/2017/07/28/histint-unearthing-declassified-soviet-military-journals-cia-archives/


S O
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2017/11/13

Sad!

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People sometimes ask me why I'm interested in U.S. politics.
The answer is always about the same; they start too many bad things there that eventually spill over the Atlantic Ocean and become Europeans' problems, too.

To pay attention provides early warning.

S O
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2017/11/10

2017/11/09

German nuclear participation

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There's occasionally a minor debate about whether the Americans should withdraw their about 20 nuclear bombs from Germany. This is more than a debate about the storage location for a handful of nukes; it's a debate about German nuclear participation.

So what's "nuclear participation"?

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty limits which ratifying countries may be nuclear powers and it does also prohibit transfer of control over nukes to non-nuclear powers.
The Cold War arrangement in NATO was the the Americans would hand over nuclear warheads (for example for ballistic Honest John, Lance, Sergeant & Pershing missiles as well as free-fall nuclear bombs) to allied non-nuclear powers such as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). This made a lot of sense because in the event of WW3 the NNPT wouldn't matter any more and the Central European front(ier) was divided by nationality of forces. There would have been impractical friction and lags if an American rocket battery or strike fighter wing would have been designated to support a German army corps with battlefield nukes.

Bundeswehr Honest John SRBM with launcher vehicle

What was the (West)German motivation?

The basic law (constitution) of West Germany pretended that the West German government represented all of Germany and East Germany was no state, but a mere Soviet-occupied zone. The FRG government thus strived to represent the interests of East Germans as well. American and British plans to blow up all of East Germany with nukes were not in the best interest of East Germans.
Nor was it in the best interest of West Germans that French, British and Americans planned to blow West Germany up with battlefield nukes in defensive land battles.

To participate in the nuclear warhead delivery chain of events meant to be able to abort it. To provide alternatives to nuclear strikes (such as a strong army and the otherwise rather inexplicable Tornado IDS interdiction role) did help to avoid some nuclear strikes on German soil in the event of WW3.

(From this point of view it might irritate that the Bundeswehr wasn't located in Northern Germany only, opposing East Germany and the Soviet armies there. There are four explanations for the actual locations; 
(1) a conscript army is much more sustainable if the conscripts serve all over the country. Southern Germany would have been pissed if all its conscripts had to serve 100-900 km far from their homes while Northern Germans would serve never farther than 500 km from their homes.
(2) the federal nature of the FRG meant that the Southern German politicians had much influence on this affair, and military bases were considered a good way to help the economy especially in rural areas
(3) the Bundeswehr provided the backbone to all allied forces in West Germany through its territorial (mobilised) army logistical and security forces
(4) the locations of the British and American forces were path dependent on the original occupation zones; Bundeswehr forces were squeezed in between
(5) the early Heer (pre-mid-60's)was quite fragile with training and spare parts issues in particular. It would have been unacceptable to have the entire northern half of the FRG guarded by the Heer alone
(6) the Belgians and Dutch preferred to have their forces not far away in Southern Germany, but in Northern or in the Central FRG.)

It wasn't the only point of view anyway; the early West German minister of defence (insert expression of disgust here) Strauß was all-in on throwing around nukes. He apparently focused on deterrence, not on mitigating how very much devastating WW3 would be to us. This was one of his few reasonable stances, actually.

- - - - -


The original motivation for the German nuclear participation is gone. If WW3 or WW4 still happens in Europe, it would likely begin and have its most extreme effects in Eastern Europe. Germany might still be affected (airbases, airports, Oder river bridges, ports), but not by NATO's nukes. As of now it's fairly unlikely that NATO would nuke locations in Eastern European NATO members even if they were overrun by Russian forces.

I strongly suppose nobody is seriously contemplating to seize the handful of American nukes (B61 bombs) stored in Germany. 


So what's the continued nuclear participation of Germany good for?

I suppose there's no "pro" side here, save for nebulous "transatlantic" ideology.

related:


S O
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2017/11/03

Square or triangular - my two Euro cents

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Yesterday I wrote that I have very little if anything to add to that old debate, so this is a sorry excuse of "very little to add":


Nowadays battalion battlegroups are important as elements of manoeuvre. This begs the question what would a formation of four such battlegroups and one separate support group (with its own security effort) be? It would be rather too big for a brigade and too small for a (Western style) division.

The triangular or square issue may also be overridden by a completely different consideration.
Think of a brigade/division defined as the forces that operate in an area where the brigade/division support assets can cover entirely. Think of for example one area air defence missile battery, or one anti-J-STARS/ASTOR radar jammer, one field hospital with a radius of acceptable MEDEVAC/CASEVAC delays, or in an extreme case of motorcycle messengers as backup for jammed radio comms. There are support assets and they may be effective in a radius of for example 40 km.
Furthermore, a certain quantity of battalion battlegroups are a given and a certain area of conflict is given (such as Northeast & Eastern Poland + Lithuania for NATO deterrence/defence) as well.
With these fixated variables you might end up needing 20 divisional/brigade support assets of one kind to cover the region, and have only 43 battalion battlegroups of what's determined as ideal battlegroup size before.
The average would be 2.15, not three or four. The entire triangular or square structure debate would be moot in such a situation unless one is convinced that two support nodes per division and four BGs is the answer in such a case. But what if a different threat scenario leads to 15 support and 45 maneouvre elements?

These figures were arbitrary, but they show that once you look at a higher level and the resources constraints, you might end up with a whole different picture than a mere tactical debate about perfect fantasy formations would yield.

One might instead arrive at a doctrine in which the support nodes are kind of predetermined by the areas, and the manoeuvre elements would fluidly shift between benefiting form one node and then from another one.

This mirrors what I wrote about dedicated reconnaissance assets and how they shouldn't be organic, but rather defined by the theatre size and under theatre command.

Back in 2014 I wrote
An unusually blunt way of reinforcing the point of this text: "The demand for area reconnaissance is exogenous and independent of the strength and quantity of manoeuvre combat formations in the area." Think about this, for its consequences are huge!
Indeed, they are huge once you remember that reconnaissance is but one form of support to manoeuvre elements, and the principle may apply (to some degree) to other forms of support as well!

So in other words I'm moving in circles and merely applying an old idea of mine on a different issue. And that's why I have the feeling to not have anything substantially new to offer here.
Or maybe I have a lot to offer, it all depends on how good the old idea (or observation) actually was. I certainly didn't do much research on the voluminous triangular/square debate, so I could hardly debate someone who researched and wrote a master's thesis on the subject.



S O

P.S.: Clarification; battalion battlegroups are not perfect. Regular companies or mixed ad hoc companies may often be sent on independent missions. There's just not nearly as much combined arms integration in such independently manoeuvring units. They would typically not have organic indirect fire support better than light mortars and very little of engineers' capabilities, for example. On a theatre map it makes sense to pay attention to battalion battlegroups, and ignore whatever unit and small unit ad hoc elements of maneoeuvre these battlegroups dispatch temporarily.
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2017/11/02

The square structure issue

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There's a rare and very interesting category of books on military affairs that appears to be provoked by defeat in war: Veterans who write about the war with the intent to preserve knowledge for a future generation. German WW2 officers - mostly officers who served in higher HQs (such as Middeldorff) - and American Vietnam vet NCOs wrote such books.

These books are unique in touching on aspects that the entertainment books for enthusiasts, research books for historians and official military professional training literature do not cover.

I'll quote one excerpt here that's most interesting. It deals with mechanised infantry / Panzergrenadiere and is from "Die Panzergrenadiere" (1961) written by later Bundeswehr general Dr. F.M. von Senger und Etterlin, a low level aristocrat born into a family with hundreds of years of military tradition.
(German original from page 99 first, BE translation follows)

"Die 3 Grundprobleme

Mechanisierung bedeutet Einsatzmöglichkeit aller Waffen zum Kampf vom Fahrzeug. Mechanisierung bedeutet aber nicht die Aufgabe der Befähigung zu allen Kampfarten im Fußeinsatz. Die harmonische Vereinigung beider Fähigkeiten ist das Ziel der Entwicklung. Dabei ist klar, daß die Kampfweise mit Fahrzeugen  von der Kampfweise zu Fuß erheblich verschieden ist. Jene ist der Kampfweise der Kampfpanzerverbände sehr ähnlich und wickelt sich in der Hauptsache in enger Zusammenarbeit mit diesen ab. Jede Überlegung zur zweckmäßigen Gliederung der Panzergrenadiere wird daher auf die geltenden Grundsätze für die Gliederung von Kampfpanzerverbänden zurückzugreifen haben. Dabei tauchen im wesentlichen drei Hauptprobleme auf.
Einmal bedingt der mechanisierte Kampf erfahrungsgemäß grundsätzlich die Viergliederung, während sich für den Fußkampf die Dreigleiderung bewährt hat. Der Panzerkampf spielt sich zangen- und schachbrettartig ab, zur Raumausnutzung müssen die Verbände auf das ganze Gefechtsfeld verteilt sein und die Ausscheidung von Reserven spielt nicht dieselbe Rolle wie im Fußkampf oder in der Abwehr.
Zum zweiten ist der mechanisierte Kampf vornehmlich Angriffskampf. Das organisatorische Element der schweren Schnellfeuerwaffen in Gestalt von sMG-Einheiten wird hier nicht benötigt. Zudem ist es möglich, die Schützenpanzer mit einer großen Zahl von sMG als Bordwaffen auszustatten. Besondere sMG-Einheiten für den Kampf vom Fahrzeug sind deshalb überflüssig.
Beide Probelme heben sich jedoch gegenseitig auf, indem unter grundsätzlicher Beibehaltung der Viergliederung für den mechanisierten Kampf der vierten Einheit eine Zwitterrolle zugeteilt wird. Beim Übergang zum Fußkampf kann sie nämlich als sMG-Einheit zur Unterstützung der übrigen drei Einheiten auftreten.
Das dritte Problem liegt darin, daß die Gliederung und Ausrüstung zu Fuß kämpfender Infanterie gewöhnlich verhältnismäßig starr zu sein hat, während der mechanisierte Kampf vermöge der Ausstattung mit Panzerfahrzeugen eine weniger starre Gliederung erlaubt. So müssen für den Fußkampf jeder schweren Infanteriewaffe von vorneherein eine gewiße Anzahl Träger oder Munitionsschützen zugeordnet werden. Das Verhältnis der schweren Waffen zu Normaleinheiten muß ebenso bereits kriegsgliederungsmäßig festgelegt werden. Die Mechanisierung erlaubt es jedoch demgegenüber, z.B. schwere Waffen und Munition durch die Fahrzeuge bis in die Stellung bringen zu lassen. Der Munitionsnachschub ist sehr erleichtert, die Gepäckfrage kein Problem."
("The 3 basic problems
Mechanisation means the ability to use all weapons from the vehicle. Mechanisation does not mean to give up the ability to fight in all modes when dismounted. The harmonic fusion of both abilities is the aim of the development. It's obvious that mounted combat and dismounted combat differ very substantially. The former is very similar to the way of combat of main battle tanks and mostly happens in close cooperation with these.
All reasonings about the purposeful structure of mechanised infantry thus has to be based on the structure of main battle tank formations. Thus three main problems appear:
First, according to experiences mechanised combat does in principle lead to a square organisation, while the triangular organisation has proven itself for dismounted combat. Tank combat happens with pincers and chessboard-like, the formations need to be dispersed across the entire battlefield to exploit the space and to create reserves does not play the same role as in dismounted combat or on the defence.
Second, mechanised combat is primarily offensive combat. The organisational element of heavy support weapons such as heavy machinegun units is not needed for this.Its furthermore possible to equip infantry fighting vehicles with a large quantity of machineguns as vehicle weapons. Dedicated HMG units for mounted combat are thus dispensable.
Both problems neutralise each other if one keeps the square structure for mechanised combat and assigns a hybrid role to the fourth unit. It can act as HMG unit in support of the other three units after a transition to dismounted combat.
The third problem is that the structure and equipment of dismounted troops has to be rather fixated, while mechanised combat allows for a more flexible structure thanks to the equipment with armoured vehicles. All heavy weapons require a certain quantity of porters or munitions gunners in dismounted combat. The relationship between heavy weapons  to normal units has to be fixated in the wartime TO&E. The mechanisation meanwhile allows to move heavy weapons into the firing positions with the vehicles. The resupply with munitions is much easier, and the baggage issue no problem.")
There's a lot of obsolete things in this text, but the quality and obvious intent is remarkable compared to both the professional literature (which hardly ever explains anything and tends to simply present doctrine) and the entertainment literature (which would have neglected the "why?"as well, and the authors would usually not notice such issues at all).

I'll summarise the obviously obsolete things quickly to avoid disinformation;
- modern infantry battalions do not make use of HMG units
- modern mechanised infantry hardly ever uses its weapons while mounted
- modern IFVs hardly ever have multiple machineguns

The chapter still motivates me to write about the triangular/square structure debate after all.
There was a nice article by one of the usual suspects in one of the American journals - sadly I cannot find it again. Essentially, it made the case that a square structure offers much more tactical flexibility.
With a triangular structure you can distribute between left wing, right wing and reserves as follows:
1-1-1 / 2-1-0 / 1-2-0
With a square structure you can do
2-1-1 / 2-2-0 / 1-2-1 / 1-1-2 / 3-1-0 / 1-3-0
(v.Senger-Etterlin counted a triangular structure with a fourth heavy weapons support unit as still triangular, for only the manoeuvre elements are counted, not support elements.)

Much has been debated and written about this for over a hundred years, and I have little if anything to add. What I do want to comment on the issue is that there's a systemic bias in favour of the (nowadays dominant) triangular structure that may have caused us to deviate from a possibly superior square structure.
This bias is that even if you have a square structure based on experiences and reasoning, you may still end up with a triangular structure after a round of cuts. I already wrote that cuts are not necessarily done in a way that optimises efficiency or effectiveness. German mechanised infantry battalions even lost their heavy weapons (mortar) company years ago, leaving them with nothing in between 40 mm grenades and 155 mm divisional artillery in terms of high angle fires and even no brigade-organic high angle fires above 40 mm.

Neither any high ranking officer jobs nor any headquarters need be cut when battalions are changed from square to triangular structure in a round of cuts. Divisional and even army organisational structure charts still look the same, with identical quantities of battalions, for nothing changes at the formation level. It's only units (and possibly small units) that are cut if you reduce from four to three companies.


It's difficult if not impossible for an individual to make a case that the seemingly collective wisdom of professionals has lead to a wrong result based on pro and contra points only. Yet it's a fairly powerful tool to identify suspected inefficiencies based on looking at biases. Theories of bureaucracies can help in this, and this blog post showed another way.


S O

P.S.: In case you consider blogging; blogging doesn't need to be super time-consuming. I wrote this blog post in 70 minutes after occasionally thinking about the two main topics covered. Originally, I meant to describe more categories of mil literature, but that may become a different topic sometime.
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2017/10/28

Smedley Butler: "War is a Racket"

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"War is a racket" by Major General Smedley D. Butler is an antiwar classic by a highly decorated U.S. Marine Cops officer. There's still a USMC base in Japan named for this officer.

One quote of this remarkable officer sums his experience up, but isn't from his "War is a racket" text itself:

MG Smedley D. Butler, USMC, 1920's
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
The horrors of war, the unjustified profits of the war industry, the suffering at home, mutilated soldiers and especially his experience in many needless and corrupt small wars convinced MG Butler that war is a racket and evil. I read his book several times, and it's obviously applicable to our time as well as to the early and late 20th century.

He judged by his personal experience of his lifetime - the "Great War" and many small interventions against sovereign nations in Latin America.

He wrote "War is a racket" in 1935, in hindsight probably one of the worst times ever if you want to have lasting impact and fame for an anti-war work . The axis powers didn't allow peace for long any more (he warned only about Italy in his book) and showed that there are two kinds of war; those you can avoid and those you cannot avoid without submission.

This distinction is very important if we try to apply lessons learned from history for a better future.
Patriotism is a good thing if used to mobilize for unavoidable wars, and it's evil if it gets exploited to reinforce support for needless wars.
Furthermore, the arguments of pacifists should not be dismissed completely, but considered for each and every war in detail - they apply to some wars and not so much to others.

Not only the understanding of patriotism should be influenced by past experiences - the whole approach to war needs to be checked. Are our societies really prepared to repel attempts to lure us into needless small or major wars in the future? Or will we fall prey to such attempts as the British did in 2003, when their head of government was able to participate in a war that the majority of the British didn't even want and that turned into a disaster?



P.S.: It's worth repeating.
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2017/10/27

The truth is never offensive

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"It's weird because America is the kind of place where someone can get more offended at you calling them a racist than at the fact that they are racist. And that's become like a new thing that I stumbled across. How dare you call me a racist? How dare you be a racist? And that's the world that Donald Trump is in. People try to trap you into being afraid of saying what the person is doing as opposed to them acknowledging the world that they're living in"

I noticed this in American-dominated internet forums as well. So moderator thinks I was offensive by calling someone a liar? Does Moderator pretend that the exposed lie in itself wasn't offensive? The truth is never offensive where I live.

This twisting of (quasi)political discourse may be an important ingredient in at least one path towards destruction of a liberal society, destruction of democracy. It may be the path that leads to policy based on fake news.

S O
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2017/10/23

Brutes in warfare

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This is another attempt to draw on military history to provide insights for military theory.


Every now and then - often spaced by centuries - some "new" way of doing war proves disastrously superior, often creating empires or destroying existing ones. Not all such innovations (or revivals of long-known ways) have been coined by superior finesse. Sometimes the secret of success is rather that a brutish, savage approach to warfare proves superior to cautious, limited if not ritualised forms of warfare.

One such example was the success of probably the greatest warlord of all times*, Shaka Zulu. The paradigm that he faced emphasised javelins and long spears. The changed this by emphasising bigger shield and shorter spear, waiting for the javelin hail to end and then charging to a merciless melée. There was no mercy for the defeated; they either joined him or died, which enabled him to grow his army through victories.

Alexander the Great's** extremism in warfare came as a shock to existing realms and his savage treatment of Tyre ensured that hardly any other walled settlement dared to resist him later. His heavy cavalry charges aimed to slay the opposing king instead of defeating his army came as quite a shock, too.

There are more examples, but covering the whole facet of the history of war would go towards a history Ph.d. so, here's instead my suspicion:

There may be a systemic possibility that a new paradigm appears once warfare becomes too ritualised, too focused on avoiding close-up brutality, too focused on limiting the devastating effects of warfare. This new paradigm may change power balances and destroy realms.

The obvious question for a concerned observer is thus whether we might be in such a vulnerable, probably doomed paradigm.

The potential is certainly present if the entire pattern holds true:
  1. the dominance of cabinet wars with minor mobilisation. As a militarist he was unsurpassed, even
  2. the refusal to use nukes***
  3. the casualty aversion
  4. the idea that support fires can do the job before one is overrun by a more aggressively manoeuvering opponent****

Humans are used to expect a continuation of the past, not a repeat of sudden changes that occurred in the distant past. It's all-natural to not expect dictatorships that lasted for generations to suddenly disintegrate, to not expect a financial market boom to end tomorrow - or to expect a paradigm change in warfare that's not a mere jump forward on the road that's been taken for generations.


S O

*: That's no compliment. The guy turned nuts. He's also one of the greatest militarists in history, along with Lycurgus of Sparta.
**: What a fag. ;-)
***: And this was no criticism.
****: There are no support fires if there are no sufficient radio comms. How would a 90% indoctrinated infantry & 10% radio jammers army fare in East-Central Europe against a 15% combat troops & 85% support troops army?
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