2013/10/31

Protection of liberty - a question of attitude

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The seemingly never-ending NSA spying scandal* and German political establishment's reaction to it are again displaying a specific and troubling attitude:

Our politicians (and not only they) appear to have developed a tolerance for the instruments of oppression as long as they trust the people who control them. As long as these people are some of their kind, as long as they feel affinity to them.
I assert that all politicians holding federal office or Bundestag seats in Germany (or did so during 2013) would readily agree that a tyrant's domestic intelligence service helping the oppression of the people is evil.
Yet I also assert with great confidence that the majority of the very same group can be talked into supporting many vital components and assumptions of such an intelligence service today, here, nominally under Bundestag oversight.

The authors of the (West) German constitution followed a different approach: They were more sceptical about the good nature of politicians and top bureaucrats (guess why) and wrote a constitution which distrusted them as well. Our politicians don't distrust themselves or their own demographic like that.

And it shows.
The FDP (liberal party) - good for very little other than having a minister in the cabinet who blocked domestic surveillance and spying bills et cetera -  was for the first time thrown out of the federal parliament in September's Bundestag election. And the old pro-surveillance, pro-spying bureaucrats and ideologues came back and are pushing for more surveillance, spying, data-gathering.
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Make no mistake: This spying stuff isn't about errorists, even though pointing at evil errorists is still a fashionable and sadly effective PR schtick. These are the very same folks who loudly claimed that the very same kind of more police powers, more intelligence agency powers are needed to fight organised crime (and then rarely used the new powers which they received on organised crime). Sometimes people just yawned when organised crime or errorism was used as bogeymen. They didn't despair, for they had their alternative bogeyman "child pornography". They assumed quite correctly that almost nobody would dare to call their bullocks out, since there were enough fired-up people who would pounce on any such critique in the name of defending children or something.
Errorists are only yet another bogeyman.

reasons for phone surveillance in Germany 2009:
Errorism and child pornography ranked last,
drug trade first (source)
These people want surveillance, they want more power than the police actually needs, they want the tools of tyranny. And it's other peoples' job and in all peoples' best interest to push back and keep the tools of tyranny away.

The problem is that we can't keep them away if people don't take the scenario of dangerous idiots in positions of power seriously any more. Politicians trust themselves, and seemingly cannot imagine that their own group would turn ugly sometime and misuse the tools of tyranny for tyranny.

The people who lived through much darker times had no difficulty imagining such a scenario, they distrusted politicians and they did set up an system of government which distrusted politicians to some degree and did not empower them to flip the country over into a tyranny, having all necessary tools and ideas in place already.

I agree with them. 
We should not install the laws, hardware, procedures or attitude vital to a tyranny, especially not in a chase after bogeymen. Our politicians need to learn more history, need to wisen up and stop pretending there's no need to put a leash on the beast because they're still in control of it.

related (foreign blog): Die Anti-Terror Lüge

S O

*: Didn't write much about it, as obviously others already do so. I am flabbergasted how one aspect of the scandal never appears to be mentioned anywhere, ever. I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, to mention it (and me seeing it). Still, I'll write about that particular aspect sooner or later.
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2013/10/30

Encirclements in theory

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Something bugged me about encirclements for a really long time. Outcomes and circumstances were so very different that different encirclements didn't seemt odeserve to be called alike.

Here's how I divide the generic "encirclement" into four distinct natures of encirclements

(1) Cannae
The prototype encirclement save for sieges. It greatly inspired von Schlieffen (who became obsessed about Cannae and encirclement) and was thus the inspiration for the German military theory focus on victory through annihilating encirclement.
Hannibal won in Cannae by holding the line (in part with delaying tactics, yielding some ground) in the centre and winning with cavalry on the flanks. The cavalry pursued the defeated hostile cavalry shortly, then proceeded to attack the enemy's rear. The smaller Carthagian army of mercenaries and South Italian rebels defeated the much larger and still intact Roman consular army. All Romans but those left behind in the fortified camp and some cavalrymen were lost.
The "cavalry on flanks" think became the norm again during the age of blackpowder.

The nature of this kind of encirclement is that the defender (encircled forces) are cut off from their logistical hub (camp), become dispirited, lack central command and control for a break-out through the overstretched attacker's perimeter and resupply during the battle is actually quite unimportant. The defeat is thus centrally about causing despair; the opponent is being broken morally.

(2) Blitzkrieg schematic
Enemy lines are being penetrated, some enemies are being encircled and cut off, and said cut-off force is very dependent on near-constant resupply with ammunitions for its combat power. Furthermore, the encircled force was typically inferior in movement speed and the encircling attackers often proceeded to push deeper into the largely undefended rear, thus widening the perimeter. Finally, the entire action is only successful if the encircled force is too weak to break out or even simply cut off the encircler's resupply lines.

The description of the encircled force in this kind of encirclement hints that we probably should not expect this to be relevant for modern mechanised force vs. mechanised force campaigns.

(3) Czechoslovakia '38 / Poland '39 (strategic level)
The kind-of "encircled" forces have their supply depots and even their industry and political centre with them.

The advantage of the encircling force is that this situation leads to a long front line which can only be defended with rather stretched forces and is thus difficult to defend.
There is also an advantage for the encircled force, though: It has the advantage of inner lines (a concept dating to Jomini IIRC), which means it can move its reserves more quickly from one fight to another.
Also, resupply is without special problems for both; that's a large difference to case (2).

(4) Disappointing encirclements
There are two such cases, one being abortive caste or city sieges and the other long-drawn, partially successful or ultimately failed encirclements in mobile warfare (Stalingrad, Demjansk, Falaise, moving pockets).

The characteristic of these encirclements is that the encircled force doesn't break quickly (especially not its morale) despite no or clearly insufficient resupply. Again resupply may be simple for the attacker.
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The different natures of the beast aren't visible if one calls them all the same. Encirclement has greatly varying utility, depending on enemy troops and terrain mostly. A military thinker should be aware of the differences and not be lured into mixing them up only because there's but one or two (encirclement, siege) words for four different things.


S O
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Air power influence on land campaigns and land battles.

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I wrote some about this topic for years, but this time I'll attempt a concise summary. It's just opinion, of course.

It is easy to find folks who believe air power rules over land campaigns and land battles, Brimstone missiles could eradicate entire hordes of tanks, air power provides all-seeing eyes etc. OK; I'm exaggerating a bit.


"Air power" symbol picture (CGI)
Here are my theses:

(1) Air power affects ground campaigns discontinuously
Common practice in face of hostile defences is to assemble strike packages; the most elaborate ones comprise fighters, bombers, tankers, AEW, anti-radar and anti-radio communication components. These components work together to overcome the opposition and accomplish their mission.
There are two drawbacks; these strike packages aren't on station all the time (a husbanding of resources analogous to a Schwerpunkt) and the share of assets actually interfering with hostile ground forces other than air defences may be low, such as 40% for example.

(2) Air power is scarce
Even assuming no hostile fighters and no hostile air defences, friendly air power would not provide continuous support for multiple formations or units in contact at the same time. Some German field manuals advise even battalion leaders that divisional artillery support may be unavailable in combat, being focused on some different (Schwerpunkt or crisis) effort. The same would be true - and even more so - for the theatre-level asset of fixed wing air power. Both the Vietnam War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last couple years have seen comparably lavish air power support even for mere platoons. 
A platoon leader in a war between great powers cannot expect arrival of air support within 20-30 minutes; he could probably not even expect artillery or mortar support, or any non-organic, non-attached support at all.

(3) It's difficult to predict contacts and engagements
Air power can and needs to prepare for activity spikes in advance, but this 'in advance' represents a time lag and is largely unavoidable. Few combat aircraft could be diverted from one mission to another and arrive within minutes. This causes geographical and temporal mismatches between air power support need and availability.

(4) Air power on deep attack is unreliable
Air attacks without assistance from more persistent observers on the ground have a hard time spotting and identifying targets. This was prominently demonstrated in 1999 and 2001. 

(5) Modern combat aircraft tend to carry few ground attack munitions
Multi-role combat aircraft are fashionable, and they carry a lot: Fuel tanks, air combat missiles, targeting pods, often anti-radar missiles or jammers. And ground attack munitions. The latter become even fewer when tanker aircraft or close bases are very scarce.

(6) Range issues
The combat radius of a modern combat aircraft is rather disappointing even on hi-hi-hi flight profiles. There's little gain over WW2 in this regard. At the same time, modern combat aircraft are very demanding in regard to base services; maintenance, fuel, ammunition, flight safety and also seemingly simple things such as brake chute repackaging.
Austere bases on motorways are feasible, but they would cause a huge drop in sortie rates within days, and dispersed basing may be entirely unsupportable.
This means sortie rates may disappoint and efficiency may be reduced a lot by long distances between battlefield and operational air base.

(7) The true air supremacy is a tank on the runway
Air power may experience a huge drop in effectiveness during theatre-level crisis situations because forward air bases would be forced to evacuate in face of advancing hostile armoured recce and vanguard elements.

(8) Air power may be unable to harvest much benefit from superiority and destruction campaigns
A superior air force (or alliance thereof) may seek to destroy at least vital components of integrated air defences, it/they may attempt to decimate battlefield air defences and it/they may seek to eradicate fighter opposition. All these activities demand great resources for days if not weeks - resources not used to influence the land campaign directly. Such efforts may also be ultimately fruitless, and the superior air power may be forced to maintain caution throughout the campaign, devote much of itself to suppression efforts (see strike packages mentioned before). The Serbs had some clever tacticians in 1999 and achieved this effect even with clearly obsolete or largely non-operational equipment.
Episodes such as the Great SCUD Hunt of 1991 add to this issue with suppression efforts.

(9) 'We' may be partially technologically inferior sometime
The MiG-29 was a huge shock to NATO when East German aircraft were tested and their pilots interviewed. The IRST, the helmet sight, the jamming-resistance of the radar, the agility and the performance of the R-73 (AA-11) missile were unknown or badly underestimated during the 80's. Obviously, others can develop quality military equipment as well.
'We' are having development projects measurable in decades, and production runs measurable in decades as well (save for the F-22). This means we leave huge temporal windows of opportunity for aggressors; years or even a decade of having inferior air power technology for important missions.
'We' are also very much dependent on few key technologies. A hostile fighter with the equipment to defeat the tiny radar of an AMRAAM missile and the jammable infrared seeker of our typical short range air-to-air missiles would defeat almost all Western air combat capability. Both is feasible and actually to be expected of PAK-FA.

(10) Air power may be allocated for strategic air warfare
Even aircraft can only be at one place at a time, and aircraft on a mission against hostiles' domestic political and economic targets are rather unlikely to help a tank company that's stuck in woodland because infantry blocks a forestry road.

(11) Terrain is still an issue with air power
The prophecies of urban-centric future wars have been heard for decades, but air power is badly restricted in urban battle scenarios. The most relevant urban air power support in recent occupation wars was the availability of attack helicopters overhead, comparable with police helicopters but with weapons of war mounted. This won't be available if the opposing forces are part of an actual army. Even the defeat of infra-red guided missiles and an altitude which protects against 7.62 mm and RPG weapons wouldn't help in face of laser beam rider missiles. Even anti-tank missiles can be very dangerous to attack helicopters. RPGs are merely the short ranged poor man's equivalent.
Also, woodland. Foliage penetrating radars are still not standard, and probably won't become standard any time soon. You cannot identify targets through foliage anyway.

(12) Munitions. Run. Out.
Combat aircraft are prestigious objects. The whole readiness and stocks thing isn't nearly as visible and often neglected. Air power would run out of some modern munitions within weeks during a large-scale air war and other modern munitions would be depleted soon thereafter or disappoint. "Dumb" munitions would come back after weeks and air power efficiency would drop steeply. 
The more profound effect would happen earlier; rationing. Within few weeks, air power would become more restricted in its effect because sometimes targets would be rejected, reserving munitions for higher value targets. The "Hellfire hit on a pickup" scenario from Afghanistan would become rare.

(13) Clever reactions to air power diminish much of its power
It was relatively simple to call all coalition air power to the Battle of Khafji in 1991. It's a coordination nightmare if entire logistical battalions or even only entire tank battalions move dispersedly in packets of only three vehicles each.

(14) Overambitious air power may actually have hurt itself
Air power was capable of limiting road and rail movements to the night during 1944-1945. This may not happen again since night attack capability negated night movement's survivability advantage. Instead, movements may be restricted by whether strike packages have been spotted or not. This leads to very different adaptive behaviour and thus possibly to a much lesser troop and supply movement suppression effect.

(15) Dependence on circumstances
Air power will probably never again be that effective against supply services as when 6,000+ Allied combat aircraft faced an army which counted its in-theatre trucks in the mere thousands and was heavily dependent on railroad services. Nowadays NATO may muster a thousand or more combat in a theatre of war, but might face an enemy having the choice of hundreds of thousands of civilian trucks for the logistical effort.
Air power interdiction efforts may be very much dependent on geographical bottlenecks in the future, as bottlenecks limit the flow of vehicles and air power can make a noticeable dent on this already limited flow. A campaign of attrition against logistical vehicle inventories is likely going to be a fool's errand even in most of the Third World.
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There are of course plenty counter-examples which make air power look near-god-like. A few B-2 bomber sorties could have demolished an entire Russian division on a valley road during the South Ossetia War, for example. And the road as well.
I don't feel the urge to write much about these examples because that's what others do. So this blog post doesn't call for re-allocation of budgets from air power to ground power as much as it's meant to push back against a perceived pro-air power bias.


S O
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2013/10/29

Infantry "AT" weapons

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It is probably by now widely known that anti-tank missiles were used to shoot at Argentinian bunkers at Port Stanley in '82, Hezbollah used anti-tank guided missiles to shoot at buildings occupied by Israeli troops during the 2006 Lebanon war, American troops have used TOW and Javelin anti-tank missiles against buildings et cetera.
This re-purposing extends to unguided anti-tank weapons; the utility of RPG-7s in occasional shots at helicopters and as near-universal anti-infantry weapon are well-known. M72s were almost never fired at tanks either, but plenty were expended at infantry.

World War 2's Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck series were produced as follows (rounded to thousands):

1943: 350,000 and 173,000 rounds
1944: 5,662,000 and 1,806,000 rounds
1945: 3,314,000 and 120,000 rounds (up to February '45 only)
Most were expended, but almost none of them against tanks.

Now what the infantry really needed was apparently a means to project a hand grenade or a small demolition charge beyond throwing distance. It receiving shaped charge projectors instead and used them as hand grenade and demolition charge projector equivalents. The employment of the munitions against tanks was a rare occasion (several thousand tanks were still destroyed with these munitions).

Peacetime procurement kept focusing on the shaped charge warhead's penetration performance nevertheless.
Post-1990 plenty high explosive and wall-penetrating warheads for bazookas and Panzerfaust-type weapons have been developed and delivered for Western armies. After all, the tank armies of the Warsaw Pact finally lost their fascination - about a decade after they lost their pact. The Soviets Russians are even declared fans of using thermobaric warheads on anti-tank guided missiles and have this warhead on offer for about every ATGM design of theirs. Which is strange, as thermobaric munitions are said to be weather-dependent in their effect.



Infantry anti-tank weapons have also a hard time keeping up with their notional prey. The German Cold War Panzerfaust munitions badly lagged behind Soviet/Russian developments, for example (very late response to T-72, which then was already obsolete in face of ERA tiles and the anti-ERA warhead type matured later than active protection systems). 
The passive and active protection of main battle tanks and several other armoured vehicle types appears to de-value the majority of infantry anti-tank weapons and munitions. This is to be expected, after all said vehicles' crews are also facing weapons and munitions of much greater weight and bulk and the vehicle suppliers need to be able to justify their contracts even in face of these more capable threats. So-called infantry AT weapons are widely useful against infantry opposition, but usually useful or even reliable against modern tanks under favourable conditions only.
 
We should stop calling infantry weapons and munitions "anti-tank" or "AT". Let's prepare the appropriate mindset: These weapons and munitions project fragmentation, blast, illumination and smoke warheads and very rarely shaped charge warheads. They're about warhead projection, not much about tanks.
We don't call military barbed wire (S-Draht) "anti-tank" either, even though it's relevant as obstacle and can entangle so badly as to stop a tank.

S O
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2013/10/28

[Fun] Be grateful, damnit!

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related: look up the FAZ article (German)
"Republikaner: Europa sollte dankbar für die Überwachung sein"
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Common Security and Defence Policy (Europe)

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Most discussions about the CSDP are about the pseudo-"Security" part, that is the intervention union. No EU member is under real threat of air attack, naval blockade or invasion, so military bureaucracies all over Europe have been looking into the intervention business in a tragic attempt to 'justify' their budgets and in order to have some at least semi-plausible pressing reason for gold plate procurement and emergency procurement budgets.
(There are different perspectives and interpretations for this, of course.)

What I'm thinking of when I hear or read about the CSDP is something different; it's the under-publication of the fact that the Lisbon treaty is amongst other things an alliance treaty with a much more binding choice of words than the NATO treaty. In other words; I'd like to see the Lisbon Treaty empowered, for its mere black/white contrast on paper is irrelevant in itself. It's the people's beliefs and expectations which matter.
After all, the North Atlantic Treaty is in its actual text no alliance; it's more a "When one gets attacked the others may think about how to help, oh - and here are some more words which the bigger members will ignore routinely."* kind of treaty. It's the allegiance of people to this treaty which empowers it.

And that's what the Lisbon Treaty's alliance function deserves.

So instead of talking how to organise an intervention union or how to pointlessly fusion military bureaucracies with different languages into one we should at the very least have some concerted effort to get the idea of the EU as an alliance into people's brains. 
This could be a more useful and important defence policy action in the long term than the stillborn intervention union dreams.

S O

P.S.: Yes, I understand this issue isn't being highlighted more because of special sensitivities in previously neutral EU members.

*: See article 5, "such actions as it deems necessary" and compare it with "shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power" from the Lisbon Treaty.
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2013/10/25

One million page views

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Blogger counted 1,008,213 visitors since I moved this blog here,
Statcounter counted 1,000,086 page views since installed on Jan 23st, 2008
and Flagcounter counted 992,871 visitors since installed on June 21st, 2009.
They all have different ways of counting, starting points and results, but it's clear that Defence and Freedom has reached the one million page views mark.

This blog was created in late May 2007 (and moved to this place after a few months). Initially, I merely wanted to write about a couple topics which grew to a list of dozens, and then the whole thing got a life of its own.
Attention was gathered by 2008, and the niche was apparently carved out real quick, as page views didn't keep growing much.

Monthly Statcounter stats for Defence and Freedom since beginning of 2008

Some more statistics about Defence and Freedom:
Published comments: 4,963 (including mine)
Posts: 1,260 (including unpublished drafts)
That's on average one post every second day (approx.) for six and almost a half years!

Some of the all-time popular blog posts are popular for ridiculous reasons: The one about drilling gun barrels was linked in a South Korean forum and keeps being visited again and again. The blog post about Gaius Mucius Scaevola is often visited straight from google, apparently by people searching for him and not looking for a milblog at all. Luckily, the blog post probably has what these people are looking for.
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I saw many mil blogs appearing, some rising and many dying. Quite often there wasn't even a decent "goodbye" post - they just ceased to publish as if something had happened to the author (which indeed happened in at least two cases). I kept posting for more than six years, albeit at wildly varying monthly rates. There are usually even scheduled blog posts during my vacations.

Content-wise, this blog developed along the four main themes laid out in this blog post. I updated the blog subtitle accordingly a while ago:
 
This is blog about the defence against external threats and about the defence of civil liberties. Most topics are about the art of war, military history or military technology.

Comments were always activated, and thankfully the long-time trolls finally gave up their trolling after about two years of blocking their BS.
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It's about time to make confessions:
(1) I'm a lazy book author, and my book draft is still not complete. I would only need a week to complete it to a state which I'd dare show a publisher IF I wasn't lazy. There are a few annoying content issues, too; some gaps which still need to be filled. The problem is I didn't develop satisfactory content for all planned chapters yet.
(2) The drop in page views per month or quarter post-2011 was in part because of a drop in blog posts per month or quarter and in part because of a drop in average quality of the blog posts.

The best fifth (in my opinion) of the blog posts of 2012/2013 were more often about refining what was written earlier or about looking at it from another angle than about 'new' ideas. The reason may be that I simply don't find much inspiration in military history and military technology any more. I have reached a kind of saturation point about military history and technology. Rarely do I still  find any source with something that's news to me. Indian and Black African pre-modern military history are the biggest blind spots left and that's likely only going to be interesting once modern India becomes more interesting to Central Europe.


Some more about the initially mentioned niche: Quite obviously, I occupy more than one niche:
(1) A German milblogger writing in English, giving a (not representative!) German perspective to people who cannot read German.
(2) A milblogger who's also a moderate pacifist (= non-interventionist, but interested in defence). Plenty people assert that they're serious, mature and wouldn't lightly cheer for war. Yet when the professional warmongers drum up for the next militarised great power game or hype up the next phony threat, all too often the very same people play along with great enthusiasm. I'm quite uncooperative in this regard and that's very very rare amongst milbloggers.
(3) Military theory. Almost nobody is publishing military theory thoughts in blogs, and even less do so without it being part of their job. Attempts to advance military theory is quite stymied among people in uniform (and at times outright embarrassing), so I still feel the bar is low enough for me to contribute.


I can't tell how this blog will go on in the future.
I suppose months with 30+ posts (34 in Jan 2011) won't happen any more, though. About five heavy lifting blog texts with much substance are the maximum per month. The "fun" or otherwise simple blog posts can easily range from five to 20 in a month without becoming exhausting.
I'm sure I wouldn't quit or let the blog fall asleep for more than a month as long as I could do a goodbye post. That would be bad manners in my opinion.


Last but not least: Thanks for the attention. 
You have no idea how many hours or 'work' you visitors provoked with it.

S O
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2013/10/21

"Warmonger psychology" or "If warmongers were smart and educated in economic theory"

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I am no psychologist (I promised myself to read more on the very interesting cognitive psychology), but I have a suspicion that warmongers have a desire for war, military bullying and general boasting of national strength that is not related to common cost/benefit thinking.

They just like the idea of national military strength and of using this strength. It appears to give them satisfaction in itself. This would also explain why and how they can consider even disastrous conflicts "successful": They gave them satisfaction. Everything else appear to be a mere pretence.

I don't think countries should spend billions or go to war just to satisfy this population share's desire for it. Maybe a modified Flottenverein model could be a solution: Whoever wants more military spending than required for national and collective defence should join the 'club of offensive military sponsors' and pay club fees.
But unlike the Deutscher Flottenverein, these fees would not be used to lobby the government for more military spending: The club would instead pay for the additional, unnecessary spending which serves only the warmongers' taste.


Now if smart and economic theory-educated warmongers would come to this blog and comment, they could put a lot of argument pressure on me with my cost/benefit approach: Warmongers' desires for offensive military capability and actions is in econ theory a "preference".
Preferences are a kind of dark matter to economists; it would take god-like mind reading skills to learn about them directly. That's why economists need to retreat in many, many cases (more than they actually do) to a position of "We don't have enough information for a calculation, so the best approximation to the ideal is to let preferences show themselves in a vote".

A warmonger could attack my writings like this (but no smart or educated enough ones come to face me, so I play devil's advocate here). My next line of defence against their warmongering would then be to point at the votes/polls which oppose war and huge military budgets and an examination of the votes/polls which do support it.
And that's where we're at political science and psychology research, for there are plenty ways how a vote can be manipulated to not reveal the best interest of the voters (or the population as a whole).

This is the real area of activity of warmongers; they don't calculate cost/benefit, for it never seems to support their case anyway. Instead, they try to manipulate populations into supporting their agenda, so they can satisfy their antisocial desire.

And this is where societies need to meet, counter and resist them as long as possible. This resistance fades in strength as memory of failures dwindles and inexperienced people replace experienced people, so warmongers will eventually succeed in some countries, but we could at the very least lengthen the intervals at which they succeed.

It's an ever-lasting conflict with a particular kind of dangerous idiots.


S O
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2013/10/16

Opportunity costs and decision-making

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"On Violence" has linked to my text about the lifesaving argument, and this (together with a recent bout in the comments) gave me the final push to write a bit more in general about the importance of opportunity costs in correct decisionmaking.

Imagine you're a collector of nicely decorated coffee cups. You have an annual budget of 1,000 bucks for this hobby. You meet sellers on fairs and a total of 10,000 cups are on offer, with prices ranging from 0.05 bucks to 50 bucks per piece. Curiously, you like all cups on offer the exact same.
Which cups do you buy?
Educated guess: I suppose you buy the cheapest cups till your budget is exhausted. You would be stupid if you spent money on some expensive ones while there are exactly as beautiful cups still on offer at a lower price.

This is a very widely usable insight, and one usually utterly neglected. I admit it's tough to use in practice because of imperfect information, but one should at the very least not violate this principle of buying the most cost-efficient stuff first after being alerted.
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The Military spending and the lifesaving argument blog post applied this rather basic economics thing on the saving of lives: Save as many as possible with a given budget (maximised effect for a given budget), which means save the lives first which cost the least to save.

Another application relevant to this blog is about benevolent interventionism: In theory, an intervention in a civil war or (believed) genocide may save foreigner's lives. Is this a good idea?
It depends (and not only whether one's expectation of success is good enough).
Let's say a government expects no own troops to be killed and the fiscal expenses per foreign life saved are guesstimated at 1,000 bucks per soul.
The aforementioned principle means that you better not intervene unless you exhausted all methods of saving lives at a lower price tag than 1,000 bucks per soul. Immunisation programs, information campaigns, free condoms, subsidised drugs, subsidised water filtration sets, work safety campaigns etc.
This makes military fanboi interventionists weep, of course. That's because their real interest isn't on the lifesaving part, but on the blow up, maim, kill and boast part of the intervention.

Yet another application; egoistic interventions with economic interests. Does it make sense to spend ten billion bucks more per year on expeditionary military forces? There is the possibility that their existence and/or employment makes purchased resources cheaper (outright robbing is out of fashion), after all.
Let's ignore the difference between a benefit to an oil company shareholder and a benefit to the guy buying gasoline at a gas station for now. Shall the expeditionary forces be beefed up and sustained?

Well, it first needs to outperform all other capital investment options that are left to justify itself.
One such option would be to reduce the government debt instead, and we know the interest rates for this: A few per cent. The current interest rates are extraordinarily low, but typical nominal interest rate for German federal bonds during the 90's were around 7 % p.a., ~ 5 % p.a. real interest rate (without the inflation).
The ten billion bucks would need to yield an economic benefit of 500 million bucks a year to beat this alternative. Next year again. and again. And again. Till eternity (there's financial math to make this more handy). And next year's 10 billion bucks would need to do the same. And the 10 billion the year thereafter as well. Et cetera.
Are federal bonds a strong or a weak alternative? It depends on how well-governed the country is. Federal bonds would be a weak alternative if the country is well-run, and a very strong one if it's poorly run. The existence of a narrowly observed deficit limit would de-couple this and one would need to look at available alternatives directly.
Which is what a government should do anyway. It is actually quite easy to find options for spending public funds for higher benefit returns than 4%. After all, taxes often incur secondary effects (administration costs, distortions) well beyond 10% and are still being levied. Research has yielded up to about 30% such extra costs for especially poorly mutated tax laws, but 10-15% is a fine rule of thumb. So after spending ten billions p.a. for a decade, you better get 10 billions economic benefit out of it p.a..
That is, if you have an all-robotic military. Otherwise there would be troops which could increase economic output directly if they worked as civilians, this effect would be an additional approx. 10 billion p.a.. This is known as opportunity costs as well.
Even more: Four to six billion bucks of that economic activity would become government revenues. And these would create even more benefits. Et cetera. 
Interventionists really don't stand a chance once you crunch the numbers unless you buy into wild guesses about alleged and never proven benefits.


I doubt that the people who agitate for military interventions in economic self-interest have crunched the numbers or taken into account the actual poor success of such interventions during the 20th century.
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We can use the "artistic" approach of resource allocation and just guess what's a good use for money based on our feelings. Some people are convinced that a certain budget would be fine without even thinking about opportunity costs or total budgets.
The result of such guessing would almost inevitably be utter wastefulness. It would be as handing the government's finances over to a six year old boy. Pet projects everywhere, but also people dying for want of a 10 cent screw or a 20 cent pill.

The competent way of allocating resources requires that you make an effort to expect the cost/benefit ratios somewhat accurately. You should then proceed to pay for the most cost-efficient options first. True "must-have" things can have an infinite value assigned in this method. The budget caps the allocation of resources at some point, and everything not afforded up to that point is simply wrong.


S O
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2013/10/15

Expendable jammers, EW in general

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I meant to write about this electronic warfare topic for a long time, but now I suppose it's just as fine to just push readers towards looking it up:

HEXJAM
There are - and have been for a long time - expendable radio jammers which are very small (artillery grenade or 'much less than backpack' small) and relatively cheap. These jammers can be used to knock out radio comm in a radius of several hundred metres. Emplacement is typically by hand or howitzer.
Imagine a late 80's scenario for example: An armoured battalion battlegroup advances along a road in a South German landscape (woodland hills left and right, with only unpaved forestry roads - and a paved road in the valley where there are also buildings between the agricultural areas). The defenders activate several radio jammers near the company-sized vanguard and a tank platoon lying in a flanking ambush opens fire. Valuable seconds of return fire lag are gained and doom the vanguard.
The effect would have been complimentary in a similar way as the combination of HE/DPICM and scattered mines would be; the targets would be very much restricted in their ability to cope with the challenge.

Another example: An infantry platoon is meant to raid a picket and take prisoners and radio sets for intel. A few expendable jammers are used to isolate the picket and to keep it from calling for help.

Even some experienced and longtime-serving officers don't happen to know about this and EW is in general still a black box to many. This may be part of the reason for the excessive reliance on radio comm and electronics these days.
 

So here are a few links, just in case you're interested in peeking at the stuff a bit:

About the hand-emplaced HEXJAM
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/docs/960800-kornuta.htm

Russian 3RB30 (couldn't find worse link, obviously)
http://gespenst.egloos.com/5300756

About artillery-delivered SAMEL 90, Bulgarian version of Russian 2RB30
http://www.samel90.com/files/products_military/file_16_en.pdf



Electronic warfare in general:

For German, Austrian and Swiss readers:
http://www.bmlv.gv.at/truppendienst/td_liefertasch.shtml
(Band 17A; boring, but acceptable)

EW101
http://www.amazon.com/Ew-101-Electronic-Warfare-Library/dp/1580531695/

EW102
http://www.amazon.com/EW-102-Second-Electronic-Warfare/dp/1580536867/

EW103
http://www.amazon.com/Tactical-Battlefield-communications-Electronic-Warfare/dp/1596933879/


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2013/10/14

Definition of 'shock'

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Would the real definition of "shock" in a military (not medical-military) context please stand up?

shock

[shok]   noun
1. a sudden and violent blow or impact; collision.
2. a sudden or violent disturbance or commotion: the shock of battle.
3. a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities: The burglary was a shock to her sense of security. The book provided a shock, nothing more.
4. the cause of such a disturbance: The rebuke came as a shock.
5. Pathology . a collapse of circulatory function, caused by severe injury, blood loss, or disease, and characterized by pallor, sweating, weak pulse, and very low blood pressure. Compare anaphylactic shock, cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock.
6. the physiological effect produced by the passage of an electric current through the body.
7. shocks, Informal. shock absorbers, especially in the suspension of an automobile.
(dictionary.com)

So far I have found three interpretations of (and uses for) the word "shock" in a military context:

(1) An attack with the potential to dislodge defenders or to break a defending formation. Example melee attack in close order (musketeers with bayonets, typical late Republican Roman legionary, tanks, armoured horsemen with lances, Stoßtruppen)

(2) An attack / action which overwhelms the defending system's or troops' ability to cope with the stress (does not need to include the loss of ground). This is often associated with the words 'surprise' or 'saturation'.

(3) A dangerous attack which shatters the hostile leaders' perception of the situation (such as by sinking a capital ship or two).
_____________

I suppose (2) is the most interesting version for a theorist. (1) appears to be the most widespread use. (3) - only saw this used once, but it's not uninteresting.

The problem is of course that these are three distinct meanings, and calling them all the same is no good idea. I suppose I'm not alone in wasting hours trying to find some authoritative definition of "shock" in military-related literature.

(2) would probably be better described as "saturation", if this hadn't such a bias for quantity. Maybe "threshold attack"?


S O
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2013/10/12

East European military technology

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Some reports about Russian arms industries are quite dismissive, and indeed, the ambitions of the political leadership appear to go beyond the competences shown by the Russian arms industry so far.

They may still lag in a couple of areas, have a reliability problem in systems such as the Bulava missile and are generally selling what mostly looks like refurbished versions of 1980's equipment.
Still, they have a couple specific strengths, and these should be respected.
The Western arms industries aren't exactly exemplary either with their excessive gold plating and living off "cost plus" development contracts more than off actual production, much less production for export.

One of the strengths of the Russian, Ukrainian and coincidentally also the Finnish arms industries is that they develop their stuff for cold temperatures, too.
Germany discovered the significance of this in 1941/42, when lubricants in German machineguns froze them into repeating rifles, tank gearboxes became inoperative and many other kinds of technical problems appeared at -20°C to -40°C.

The new and quite interesting (and cheap) Ukrainian anti-tank missile system "Korsar" or "Corsar" (105 mm calibre, laser beam rider, impressive "behind ERA" penetration claims) is an example for a system developed for low temperatures:
"Korsar" ATGM: laser beam rider, 105 mm tandem HEAT, man-portable
The missile can be launched at temperatures ranging from minus 40 to plus 60 degrees Celsius, whereas U.S. and Israeli systems are not designed to operate at temperatures lower than minus 20 degrees Celsius. (...) The anti-tank missile system costs only about $130,000, and missiles - $20,000, which is three or four times cheaper than their foreign analogues.

Civilian hardware has similar problems. Stories about Lada Niva 4x4 cars driving through snow in Arctic temperatures when import cars are dead already are widespread.

This chart shows the problem with mobile phones:
click on it for larger size, source

You don't learn about this relative problem during great power games in the Mid East.

Russian-equipped military forces could - if this low temperature issue is widespread enough - easily shatter Western military forces during winter time, which is an unacceptable scenario for the national security of the Easternmost NATO members.
But our attention is on great power games in the Mid East, of course. And of course the Russian arms industries are crumbling, produce obsolete products which are to be judged by the quality of exported monkey models and their missiles fly in circles anyway.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

Edit: Another example - look at this Finnish machinegun's trigger guard. Looks funny and crude, doesn't it?
It's meant to allow use of the weapon with thick mittens.
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Sicherheitspolitik oder mehr?

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Security policy or more?

The accuracy of language is important, and even slight changes in how people call something may create a completely different narrative and change the support an idea receives profoundly.
That's why sometimes political advisors test different names in order to determine how to call a political proposal or program in a way that mobilises the most support or the most aversion.

I contend that the inflated use of the word "Sicherheitspolitik" = (national) security policy is such a manipulative word.

The word implies that the policy is about providing security, which is no doubt an easily justified and important function of a government.

The actual use of the word nowadays isn't about providing security, though: That's what the old word "Verteidigungspolitik" = defence policy was and is about.

So all the talk about Sicherheitspolitik is misleading at best, clearly manipulative and I actually think an outright lie. The difference between Sicherheitspolitik and Verteidigungspolitik is not about any activities which create security for us. In fact, plenty activities included provoke hostility and thus reduce our security.

The confusion is noticeable. I've seen written works arguing for intervention capabilities and mistakenly believing these would increase our nation's national security. We should return to a greater clarity of language in order to achieve a greater clarity of the thinking.
It makes no sense to throw the intervention stuff into the same basket as the actual defence stuff, as it clearly serves different purposes (if any legitimate ones at all) even though some tools are dual use tools.
Let's be honest and call it Interventionspolitik - intervention policy.

This won't happen, of course.The interventionists couldn't make the case for the budgets they want if they couldn't siphon legitimacy from actual defence policy. They enter the debate with the unfair advantage of having manipulated the narrative in their favour.


S O
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2013/10/10

In Soviet Russia ...

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Camouflage extremists
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[Deutsch] Kein Koalitionsvertrag ohne JA zum Volksentscheid

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Für Interessierte:

(About an ongoing petition for direct democracy on the federal level in Germany.)
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Industrial warfare and elusive enemies

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I'd like to elaborate on and generalise something I wrote earlier:

- - - - -
"Overpower for victory, reduction of enemies as a mere finisher

The German military forces were ultimately defeated (depending on how to determine it they had effectively lost sometime between late '41 and mid-'43). Yet, the German military had more (and more powerful) combat aircraft, tanks, AAA and more troops and field artillery pieces in in early winter of 1944/45 than in 1939/40!* It had sustained huge losses for years, but it did NOT shrink materially. Its material reduction was NOT the key to Allied victory!"
- - - - -

The usual idea of industrialised warfare is about the sheer quantities produced, such as the insane-looking ship, tank and combat aircraft output of the Second World War.

My view is actually a bit different; I emphasize that industrial warfare allowed for a great increase in quantity of the arsenals up until a collapse. Germany experienced this collapse in early 1945 and Japan in summer of 1945 (earlier in regard to ships). The war did turn against both in the time frame of late '41 till summer '43 and mid-'42 till late '42, respectively. The exact turning points are up for debate; I personally like to point at the never replaced severe losses of motor vehicles in fall '41 as the turning point for Germany.

I suppose the relative capabilities on the battlefield forced withdrawals, and this included especially the availability of young men for combat units. The absolute capabilities were irrelevant in comparison to the relative capabilities.

The idea that superior industrial output gives one's troops an advantage is very wide-spread, the fact that vastly superior output could help to overpower opposition that grows stronger as well is not so wide-spread.
____________________

There's more to it, and it points at the military value of elusiveness beyond survivability:

Somehow the victorious powers appear to have quickly revived in '50 the WW2 approach of overpowering the enemy with production even while he grows stronger. 

The industrial overpowering recipe never seemed to work so well on elusive opponents such as guerrillas, though. They can withdraw without losing much.
For comparison: The classic withdrawal of an inferior conventional military unit means to sacrifice ground and likely being unable to re-occupy it afterwards. Elusive forces have no such restriction; they withdraw in a situation of relative combat inferiority, and later they simply return and re-occupy the ground (physically and politically).

Finally, the icing on the cake: The answer to such elusive hostile forces may be to REDUCE one's relative combat superiority in order to entice them into accepting decisive combat. This, of course, was mentioned by me in another shape years ago already.

S O
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2013/10/09

Unconventional weapons and deterrence

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Hat tip to "Dayuhan", ripped from a forum:
CW haven't deterred the Israelis from attacking Syria whenever they like, and they won't deter an American attack. They didn't deter the Syrians from rebelling. On the evidence of Syria, the track record of CW as a deterrent is pretty poor.
Indeed. Chemical warfare Armageddon scenarios didn't deter the Second World War either. The People's Republic of China even dared to intervene in the Korean War, opposing multiple nuclear powers in the process.

Maybe it is exactly the tabooing of chemical weapons which made them an ineffective deterrent (albeit CW usage was expected for WW2 in the 30's and WW2 still happened)?

Maybe nuclear weapons will sooner or later fail to deter war and nuclear powers will sooner or later fight each other on proxy terrain or on oceans because they won't think nukes would be used in such conflicts?


I hope to never learn the answer (and still hope for a long life, of course). Potential proxy conflicts should be taken seriously, as conflicts in need of defusing before the s**t hits the fan.

S O
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2013/10/05

Revisiting the ACRA

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Finally, a visitor magnet again: Hardware-centric milporn.

Maybe you (the reader / visitor) remember the almost one-of-a-kind Shillelagh missile. The designation was probably meant to drive Soviet spies crazy, but it kind of works on me, too.

The concept was to use a very large calibre stub gun in a tank turret which could both launch a rather low velocity large calibre shell and a long-ranged anti-tank guided missile with a large calibre shaped charge.

The concept had some support in the United States which experimented with it on main battle tanks (M-60A2) and on light tanks (M551 Sheridan).

The missile was a kind of white elephant, since it wasn't used on any other platforms unlike the rather versatile TOW missile. Its range was disappointing and its penetration apparently very much below potential.
The M81E1 gun proved to be a corrosion nightmare (at least in Vietnam) and there were issues with the cartridge design. Finally, the recoil impulse was troublesome not the least for the fire control electronics. The gun was very lightweight and short itself, though.
_____________

The key problem of this concept was the same as with all anti-tank missiles of the era; operations research showed a distinct advantage of tank guns over missiles up to about 2,000 metres distance. The missile accuracy was an advantage beyond 2,000 metres, but the shorter time of flight and higher rate of fire was a key advantage of the gun below that range.
Most terrains in Central Europe justified the expectation that most combat would happen at the same ranges as known from WW2; usually below 2,000 metres, possibly a majority at less than 500 metres. Experiences from Israel's conflicts pointed at relatively short effective lines of sight even in rather open terrain because of intended and unintended dust and smoke effects.

The title here is "Revisiting the ACRA", not "Revisiting the M81" for a reason. Unknown to many who know about the M81 and the Shilellagh, the French pursued a vastly superior concept at about the same time: ACRA.

French AMX-30 test vehicle with 142 mm ACRA gun
ACRA used a much superior muzzle velocity and its missile had a much lower time of flight, extending the superiority of the missile approach over the gun approach to well below 2,000 metres. This 142 mm gun was not without troubles either (reliability), and the missile approach was still very expensive.

 


APFSDS projectiles gave conventional guns an improvement in time of flight, ease of aiming and armour penetration which made gun/missile launcher combos unnecessary. The Russians introduced some missiles for long-range fire with normal long-barrelled guns, and the Israelis did so as well, but overall the ammunition of choice against heavy armour is APFSDS.
_____________

So why revisit this seeming dead-end? 
Simple: Stuff happened, and it did so for three decades.
The high/hyper velocity missile approach - mating a APFSDS-like long rod penetrator with a missile flying as fast as a APFSDS projectile and guided by an inertial navigation autopilot - could be applied to this kind of combo gun.

Combustible cartridges have long since proved their concept in the German 120 mm tank gun design, so one problem of M81 is solved now. A Mach 6 missile with long rod penetrator is about 1.2 to 1.5 metres long and happens to have a similar calibre as ACRA and M81. The length is a huge problem, of course: Current APFSDS cartridges are 'only' about 0.8 metres long. The use of CKEM-like missiles in a tank turrent would require a dedicated internal layout and ammunition storage in the turret bustle. Reloading would likely be restricted to a certain gun elevation as it was in old large calibre naval guns. ACRA's missile ammunition was 1.22 metres long as well, though.

Still, the combination of a APFSDS-like missile and a versatile squash head shell in a 140-155 mm rifled gun would be interesting. One advantage over MBTs such as Leopard 2A6 would be the negligible restrictions for turret movements in restrictive terrain with the same long rod penetrator power. You could easily traverse the turret even on woodland roads and on not very wide streets. The extremely long 120 mm L/55 guns (1.3 metres longer than the original Leo2 gun) are probably well past the optimum compromise.
A squash head (HESH, HEP) shell of such a large calibre would demolish almost all obstacles and many buildings in one shot and be terminally effective against armoured fighting vehicles within its effective range (which would be less than 1,000 metres against moving targets because of the modest muzzle velocity of both stub guns and the HESH concept each). A HESH / HEP warhead of such a calibre would possess such a quantity of plastics explosives that penetration isn't required to mess up a MBT: The shock itself would all but guarantee a mission kill even in hit locations which would be harmless with APFSDS.
The British army liked demolition guns of 165 mm calibre on dedicated combat engineer vehicles.  A combo gun would give about the same 'blow up' capability to regular MBTs.


This blog post should be seen in context to my other pet idea, the medium calibre (~76 mm) rapid fire gun option. A tank battalion with many such 76 mm / 30+ rpm guns would mostly lack raw power of 120 mm guns. A mix of 76 mm / 30+ rpm guns with 140+ mm stub guns on the company level would as a whole possess both specialisation advantages and much greater versatility than a 120 mm-only  MBT force.


S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: Obviously, a disadvantage of the concept would be the inability of ripple fire, which is otherwise a possibility with HVM. That's a trade-off. To launch a HVM with a gun adds initial velocity and allows for a delayed ignition of the missile ('cold launch'), potentially avoiding that it blocks the line of sight with hot gasses (if launch elevation is high). A stub gun is also much less prone to being damaged than exposed missile launchers and a cold launch may be less hazardous to exposed sensors and possibly crew heads or dismounted personnel than a launch from a normal missile launcher. It's still not good for a higher rate of fire than to be expected from comparable APFSDS gun ammunition. HVMs are powerful, so a 135-152 mm tank gun's APFSDS would be the equivalent.

edit again: I forgot to link to a related earlier blog post, Low signature propellants
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2013/10/04

Remote control Sturmgewehr 44

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I usually dump links about noteworthy small arms-related things at Steve of the Firearm Blog instead of blogging about the stuff myself, but this time he blogged about something I cannot resist but repeat:

A Syrian rebel (probably more than one) has a remote controlled Sturmgewehr 44, and they probably have thousands of these assault rifles (which already made an appearance in Lebanon three decades ago).

It's a reminder how old, even first generation, equipment can sometimes keep its utility for many decades. The Sturmgewehr 44 would still be quite useful as a standard infantry rifle even as of today, albeit it isn't very accurate and the bullet is rather heavy. After all, it's not much inferior to an AKM if produced under peacetime conditions. The effective range was 200 metres, and modern infantry would prefer 300 metres, though.


By the way; the "Sturm" in Sturmgewehr is one of two Nazi mid- to late-WW2  propaganda things, where they attempted to make something more respectable by renaming it.
Infantry was renamed into Grenadiere (grenadiers) which were a bit better paid, slightly special infantrymen in the 18th century. This still survives in the German Panzergrenadiere (mechanised infantry).
The word "Sturm" (storm, assault) was similarly slapped onto many things, from casemate gun infantry tanks (assault guns) to automatic carbines and an early grenade pistol. The original word used for the early versions in the Sturmgewehr 44 development history were named either Maschinenpistole (submachine gun, for irrational political purposes) or Maschinenkarabiner. What we know today as Sturmgewehr category was back in the late 30's a Maschinenkarabiner - a much better designation for the category.
I'd really like to hear "Maschinenkarabiner" more often.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: The Sturmgewehr 44 and the earlier designs in its lineage weren't the first of their kind at all. That was a a Vollmer design of the late 30's instead: The first assault rifle.
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