Supply flow demands and logistics lorry versatility

I addressed this before, but this time I'll try to make my point in greater detail:
“Truck transport, which supports delivery of material resources, supplies of lubricants (POL), ammunition, etc., comes in companies for regiments and in material-technical support battalions for brigades and divisions (RMO and BMO). Each company (or platoon) answers for conveyance of a concrete item. For example, the first company of a BMO (or platoon of an RMO) transports ammunition, and the fifth, equipped with tankers, transports fuel.”

This was not an uncommon approach historically, and even today such specialisations are still visible on military logistical vehicles everywhere, though not necessary in order of battle. I think it's a wrong way of doing business.

I'm not in the mood to search through logistics field manuals, so I'll quote Dunnigan on the reason why this is so wrong:
Divisional daily supply requirements*
U.S. infantry division

Offense Defense Pursuit
Ammo 2,500 3,500 410
Fuel 1,210 671 1,496
Food 51 49 50
Spares 55 50 44

We can see a basic supply flow capacity requirement for
about 700 tons fuel/day
+ about 500 tons ammunition/day
+ about 100 tons other supplies/day.

In addition to this a supply flow capacity for about 3,000 tons ammunition/day or 800 tons fuel/day should be satisfied. This would be possible with about 200 heavy lorries.**

A 8x8 lorry such as MAN 15 t mil gl MULTI (a 1990's design) has a payload of 15 metric tons (not really that much in difficult terrain, of course) and can use MULTI racks (~DROPS for British, ~PLS for Americans). The racks can be ammunition racks (especially for 120 mm tank or 155 mm artillery ammunition) as well as fuel tank racks with about 8.5 tons diesel fuel each:

(I ignore the existence of 14,000 litres fuel tank racks because the extra 3,000 tons ammunition/day requirement is the bigger headache anyway and more fuellers equals quicker refuelling.)

100 of these lorries would suffice** for the peak fuel demand, and 200 (or with less than 15 tons fitting on a rack maybe about 300) for the peak ammunition supply demand.

So by having at least some of your logistics capable of a quick change between ammunition and fuel supply you may reduce your need for heavy lorries by about 15 % assuming that the bulk supply transportation is being done by heavy, not medium, lorries:***

About 130-150 heavy 8x8 lorries to meet basic supply flow requirement.
100 MULTI and 100 flat rack or 200 MULTI heavy 8x8 lorries to meet peak supply flow requirements.
Alternatively, the latter could be met under the same circumstances with about 60 dedicated 8x8 fuel lorries and about 200 MULTI and flat rack heavy 8x8 lorries.

You can save those 60 dedicated fuel lorries by increasing the versatility in the Tables of Organization and Equipment (one company in dual role with.MULTI lorries). Alternatively, you could still have those 60 extra lorries and thus have about 17% extra capacity reserves (and thus more reliability of resupply) into the supply flow system.*****

This extra in reserves and the gain in versatility might weigh heavily if the supply movements are disrupted and lorry attrition becomes a relevant factor. There's no reason to fully trust the supply demand expectations anyway, so having about 17% more capacity would be reassuring.

Some readers might think the peacetime inventory of military logistical trucks won't cut it anyway, they would only carry and accompany the troops, whereas the hauling from depot, harbour, airport or railhead to  the brigade in the field would need be done by civilian trucks anyway. Yet even under this assumption, the extra role versatility would matter, for a brigade commander might want to build carried stocks of diesel fuel in expectation of the next two days, and afterwards might want to build up carried stocks of ammunition.

Now the sad part of the story: As far as I know the Bundeswehr has still purchased only troops testing-scale quantities of fuel tank racks. This is one of the nowadays typical miniature army procurement programs that afflict non-sexy programs (such as army air defences, mortar systems, guided artillery rockets, MULTI racks in general etc.) in today's Bundeswehr and point at a structural problem the (quasi-)political leadership should be held responsible for.


*: This was quoted from the 4th book edition of 2003, the 1st was published in 1982. The data still shows the principle.
**: I assume one trip back and forth per day and have little reserves for lorries not in working order. All lorry figures could be multiplied with a factor to meet different expectations; the general reasoning would not differ.
***: This should be the way to go, to cut down the need for vehicle and driver quantity.  15 metric tons payload is actually not much compared with civilian lorries.
****: It should also be possible to pause the resupply with food for several days in a row, considering how many rations can be carried in motor vehicles. This saves but four lorries per division, though. The bigger saving would be in reduced hassle with the distribution of the food during mobile warfare.

I did treat Dunnigan's "tons" as metric tons here, but again, what kind of "ton" he meant doesn't affect my case here. 

10 cubic metres of diesel fuel = about 0.85 metric tons of diesel fuel.

In case you're interested in military lorries, trailers, containers and engineer machines, you might do well to periodically look up whether any "Jane's Military Vehicles and Logistics" yearbook is available on ebay. I got my 2004/2005 edition years ago for a price of 20 €.

It should be noted that flatbed lorries inherently have the dual-use versatility; fuel drums or ammunition pallets can both be loaded. Fuel drums aren't the way how 'we do business' any more because handling and refuelling are awkward and slow. Fuel bladders / fuel pillows / flexible fuel tanks are slow to load and fixate, but some models are designed so a tank can self-refuel with them by creating the necessary internal pressure by driving onto the fuel bladder. I'm not making this up! Still, handling is 'awkward'. 


The Development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Germany (1914 – 1918)

It's about overdue to link to this very interesting article about military technology history:

Gunther Sollinger
Scientific Journal of Riga Technical University, 2010

As mentioned several times before (such as here):
Drones are no novelty at all.



Hughes H-1 PR

Howard Hughes had one of the most gracious aircraft ever created for the purpose of speed records: The Hughes H-1. It was capable of long-range flights with cruise speeds in excess of 500 kph - in 1935.

Hughes H-1 (credit D Ramey Logan)
This was faster than the top speed of the Bf 109B and C versions which were the among the very fastest fighters of 1937 and 1938 (Bf 109 first flight was in 1935 as well).

(click for video)
In fact, the H-1 with its actually rather weak engine (700 hp radial; speed record versions of the Bf 109 used special short-lived engines about twice as powerful) would have been very survivable by virtue of its speed well into 1940. Typical photo reconnaissance aircraft of 1940 had top speeds in the range of 450-550 kph and depended on clouds for survival if intercepted by fighters.
It's difficult to tell whether an up-engined version would have been much faster, since I don't know about control, flutter, compression and other issues of the H-1 at speeds 600 kph and higher.

It's often written that Hughes failed to sell the H-1 to the USAAC as a fighter plane. It was no fighter anyway; just consider the poor field of view of the pilot! Yet it could have been a most graceful and successful short and long range unarmed photo reconnaissance aircraft, comparable to later dedicated Spitfire PR versions in this role.

Just imagine what a boon for aviation enthusiasts this would have been; a career of the probably most aesthetic aircraft ever* as an unarmed photo reconnaissance plane, including surviving originals on flight shows today.
We should probably add this counter-factual to the list of USAAC mistakes.


The Romanians actually produced a little-known fighter and fighter-bomber of remarkably similar appearance (and good success) later on, though it was less efficient in regard to power and speed: The IAR 80 and 81.

*: Certainly in side views; the wings were a bit dull and give the pre-bubble canopy Spitfire look an edge at some other angles.


Army structure debates

Did you notice how debates and essays about army structures in the past years have centred around some patterns for deployment into interventions? It's either x brigades* deployed, y brigades recovering representing some deployment (occupation) cycle or the focus is on rapid intervention with the brigade being tailored towards air lift suitability.
Other motives are powerful in the background, as saving officer slots and HQs from cuts, but they are always there when budgets aren't unrestricted. The historical anomaly is as far as I can tell the focus on interventions - and this didn't go away after the 2014 Crimea crisis at all. 

A quick reaction force for Eastern Europe to be garrisoned in Germany, Benelux, France or Italy ought to be very road-mobile, not air-mobile. Air-mobile forces make sense only for the U.S. because of its crazy large (and expensive) military airlift capacity. They could actually deploy a couple weak brigades before heavy ones would arrive by ship. Other countries could air-lift so little, they would need that capacity to deploy (or refuel) their air forces. And their air forces have no incentive to prefer army needs over their own ones.

Here's another way to look at army structures: Plan for the big thing, not for the quick and short thing. Expectations for a quick end of a military conflict have proved illusory all-too often already. Only fools and people ignorant of military history expect to prevail in a military conflict within weeks or months. There are such exceptions and anecdotes of successful coup de mains, but it would be irresponsible to deter with a focus on this kind of scenario only.

What's needed for a big (100 brigades or more) and long (~2 years) military conflict?
Mass. And almost all of this mass has to be ready within months - neither weeks and nor years; months.You need a fine force early on, to avoid being defeated by a strategic surprise coup de main and then you need to move your mass into the scenario, preferably quicker than the opposition.

You would need the capability to mobilize. Now what do you mobilize? Reserves. You cannot train reserve brigades from a bunch of civilians to a brigade read to go within months.
Where do reserves come from? Training on active duty. What else other than reserve formations requires reserves personnel? Replacement for attrition, to be integrated into deployed forces while they're held in reserve for a few days or weeks.


A common feature of army structure debates and essays is the assumption that authors toying with fictional Orders of Battle may disregard the issue of reserve manpower pool generation.

This is dangerous in my opinion. The military bureaucracy serves its own ends in such debates, and this has to be corrected by political and public oversight as much as possible. A systemic neglect of an important aspect such as the deterrence of a long (more than two months) conventional conflict by those outsiders does warp the outcome into something even uglier than what the bureaucracy wishes for its own good.

2009-04 Modern-time Landwehr for Germany
2012-12 TO&E debates


*: All talk about brigades here is because "brigades" requires no further elaboration. Personally, I would look at lower levels much more.


That Pew poll on NATO, Germany, ...

By Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Jacob Poushter

I'll just assume that this poll is a quite accurate representation of public opinions. It's difficult to tell whether it is, and I have read expressions of doubts already.

- - - - -

The poll held two surprises for me, maybe because I don't remember its predecessors' results:

I didn't know I'm this close to German public opinion in several aspects. Maybe that's because the published opinion is considerably more "pro-Atlantisch".
There were plenty indications for a growing divide between public and published opinion on a wide range of topics, though.

The other surprise was how few of the answers indicate the kind of seemingly self-evident support for meeting collective security obligations - in all countries.
Italy, sure.*
U.S. maybe - faithfulness to international treaties isn't exactly a cornerstone of their culture.
Yet 34-58 % across NATO is far above the percentage you get for any kind of nonsense (such as 'lizard people rule the world') in polls. It's substantial.
I wouldn't have guessed more than 10-20%, though the exact choice of words in the different languages may have made a huge difference.

I was planning to write a bit more about NATO anyway, particularly about how irrational membership in it appears to be for some members (Canada, Spain or Belgium for example) given the current situation. Now I'm a bit more motivated.

Maybe I should ponder some more about the role of nuclear deterrence in Europe post-1990 as well. There may be a stronger 'Small conflicts are not worth the slightest risk of WW3!' component in it than I believed. I did note some hysterical-sounding newspaper online comments and other hints along those lines since 2014 anyway.

2008-04 Alliances and guarantee of independence


*: Italians cannot complain about this cheap shot - Germans are entitled to it, period.


Interior lines in Syria

It appears as if both the Assad regime and Daesh possess the military-geographic advantage of interior lines in the Syrian Civil War.
Such an advantage usually allows a warring party to move its mobile reserves around and strike at several places in succession, while enjoying local superiority.

That's what we read about Daesh, but I cannot quite recall much equivalent offensive action on the operational level of war by the Assad regime. This is curious; it might point at Assad having a long-term strategy that's not built on a string of local successes at all - even though on the simplistic maps lots of opportunities seem to be enticing.
Another interpretation would be that the Assad regime is lacking the capacity to strike with mobile reserves - either because they have no mobile reserves, because they don't dare to commit them due to defensive reserve needs or because the morale of the forces is insufficient for offensive actions far away from a specific region.
The latter may be the most true; there were plenty reports about how the Syrian army disintegrated and was largely replaced by centrally funded Loyalist militias. Such improvised militias are notoriously incapable of long-distance operations. The fighters of militias usually stay with their families overnight.

On the other hand, the strong foreign support for the Assad regime (Russia, Iran) and the substantial foreign hostility especially against Daesh (bombing campaign by the U.S. and Persian Gulf dictatorship air forces) as well as the stupidity of Daesh in regard to adding opponents needlessly (attacking Iraq, alienating supporters and neutrals with destruction of cultural and archaeological artefacts including mosques) point at a possibly long-term strategy with intentionally little offensive action (and thus attention of unfriendly foreign powers) by the Assad regime's forces (including Hezbollah, which appears to have suffered badly).

It would be quite interesting to learn the actual strategies and capabilities of the warring parties in Syria instead of the event-based news stories. One could assess the civil war there and its ramifications much better. Foreign policy about Syria without such an understanding is blind meddling.