2016/06/30

Georgia reportedly ends conscription


The Guardian

I suspect that they merely ended the mandatory basic military service and could still use conscription to mobilise. 
It's still an interesting move. The unfree labour aspect of a mandatory basic military service reduces the fiscal costs of defence and deterrence and Georgia has much demand for both, after all.

Kaliningrad Oblast and NATO forward deployment

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This map shows simple 90 and 500 km radii around (Russian) Kaliningrad city:

500 km is the likely range of Iskander-M, and 90 km is the longest range of an unguided rocket of the Smerch multiple rocket launcher.

The 90 km radius merely shows that if moved eastward, it could easily cover the narrow connection between Poland and Lithuania.
The 500 km circle on the other hand shows that almost all of Poland would be in range for a surprise salvo or generally for busting air bases (specifically runway/taxiway bottlenecks, hangars, air defence emplacements, control tower, fuel storage and nearby ammunition depot buildings).

It's thus sensible to think of Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic as likely airbases for a NATO counter-concentration effort. Tanker aircraft based in West Germany, Austria and even farther away would be needed to bring to bear such distant air power. On the other hand, Russian area air defences have nominal ranges up to 400 km, and I doubt NATO would routinely send tanker aircraft into even only nominal opposing forces air defences' range. Refuelling shortly after taking off and climbing to cruise altitude and a possible emergency refuelling after much fuel-guzzling afterburner use (for evasion or air combat) would probably all tanker support that combat aviation could expect.

Ground forces could be deployed further forward, but the growth in range of quite smallish artillery rockets these days probably makes anything more close to the Russian or Belarusian border than Warsaw largely unacceptable as well. A maximum readiness brigade could be based in the Polish far Northeast corner with an appropriate barracks architecture, though.

By the way; I don't think that Berlin being very close to Iskander's range matters much, and NATO's European HQ is even west of this map.


I looked at the issue of Iskander range and Kaliningrad Oblast mostly because I was curious about whether NATO troops may be forward based in Poland instead of Germany. The window of opportunity for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Germany is gone for the time being, due to Putin's aggressive foreign policy. The only scenario for such a withdrawal (be it advantageous or not doesn't matter right now) would be if it was decided that the troops need to be based farther forward for justifying the extra operating costs incurring from being based in a foreign country.
The graphic above makes a compelling case for not expecting any such push forward of air power at least. I guesstimate that the difference between a 500 km and a 1,000 km march isn't going to justify the huge expenses of all-new military bases either (unless the old barracks and airbases were in a very bad shape, requiring huge infrastructure investments anyway).

I suppose NATO should either set up (ground forces) bases directly in Lithuania or no new ones at all. The much more likely course of action is a very half-hearted, watered-down deployment of a few symbolic battalions in different places, including easily cut-off Estonia.
Meanwhile, NATO air power could make use of some reactivated Cold War airbases in East Germany and the Czech Republic, but I haven't seen a study about how many of those would still be available (= were not dismantled or built up for commercial purposes) at all.

Then again, NATO forces were based stupidly far forward during the 60's, 70's and 80's - maybe planners and politicians just don't care about them being in range.

S O
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2016/06/29

The U.S. Army combat brigades' usefulness for European NATO

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I'm sometimes annoyed by accusations of anti-Americanism because such labels are stupid in themselves, but today I'll resist the desire to stay away from the mess. I'll rip the U.S.Army for its macro TO&E, and all readers should know that I do so because I think the widespread perceptions are way off. The Italian, Portuguese, German, Greek, Canadian and most other NATO armies have similar shortcomings, but (save for the German one) I never see others asserting the contrary concerning those other armies.

I wrote "macro TO&E". This means I'll take into account brigade organisation down to battalion level, the most important anti-tank (AT) munitions, the most important armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) types and primary artillery types as present in those structures. There will be no taking into account of other details such as doctrine, dismount quantity, training, ammunition et cetera to keep this manageable. It's a blog post, not a paid fifty grand worth study, after all.

- - - - -

First, a quick overview. For the purpose of simplicity I will take the mostly current wikipedia entries as basis. Feel free to criticise if I take into account errors from Wikipedia, and feel free to feel stupid if you want to criticise me right away for using Wikipedia*:


The U.S. Army combat formations are mostly of one of three basic types of brigades:

17 Armored Brigade Combat Teams (tank or mechanised brigades)
8 Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (protected lorries with little armament)
20 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (para, airborne, mountain)



Armored BCT Stryker BCT Infantry BCT
Primary AFV
Abrams MBT,
Bradley IFV
only 10 Stryker MGS
None really
Major artillery
M109 Paladin
M777
M777
Major AT
120 mm gun, Javelin
Javelin, few TOW2, very few 105 mm gun
Javelin, few TOW2
(primarily) dismounted combat battalions
n/a
3
(Stryker vehicles)
3
(primarily) mounted combat battalions
3
(mixed MBT/IFV)
n/a
n/a

M1 Abrams MBT and M2 Bradley IFV are first class AFVs with shortcomings, the handful Stryker MGS are almost negligible in capability and relevance while almost all other Stryker family vehicles are support or transportation vehicles.

Stryker 8x8 vehicle, infantry squad carrier version
M109 Paladin is a much-modernised self-propelled gun (155 mm L/39) which can achieve competitive ranges with practically unavailable exotic munitions only.

M777 is a classic 1930's-style howitzer** with the performance of 1970's designs and an unusually high price because of expensive materials for a low weight (it can be lifted by H-60 series helicopters). It is unsuitable for very responsive fires (slow turning beyond the narrow traverse) and as a system not survivable in face of counterfires (average range + too slow at leaving fire positions, thus unable to shoot & scoot).

the manually loaded, manually turned M777
The 120 mm L/44 gun of the M1 Abrams is among the top tank guns in the world thanks to ammunition modernisations, but it's still questionable whether it could penetrate the newest MBTs head-on (except in tiny ballistic window areas).**
Javelin depends on both an unreliable guidance principle (easily countered by IR jammers and multispectral smoke) and shaped charge warhead (questionable effectiveness against well-protected areas of a tank). Its speed is low enough to enable (so far rarely deployed) hard kill countermeasures. Javelin is more than 20 years old, and the Russians thus no doubt long since countered it (probably the Chinese too).
TOW is a serious AT weapon only with the TOW-2B top attack munition which approaches a target horizontally and then explodes its shaped charge/EFP warhead downwards. Its guidance, trajectory, dependence on uninterrupted line of sight, seriously slow speed make it an AT munition one shouldn't depend on.
- - - - -

The typical remark about the U.S.Army in context of conventional warfare (that I get aware of) asserts that it's by default a mighty force.

Well, the Armored BCTs are mighty (though far from perfect), but they wouldn't arrive early. All those tracked vehicles would be deployed by sea and rail as much as possible. A final 500-1,000 km road march to the area of operations would last additional days including the necessary maintenance afterwards. A single active Armored BCT (3rd ABCT) is based in Germany.

The Stryker BCTs have no real concept of combat for conventional warfare. They cannot fight mounted against a First World force, and their ability to resist a First World mounted combat force in tank-friendly terrains is most questionable. Even defensive missions in terrain that suits their infantry well (which would counteract their dependence on long range sensors) would be in peril because the artillery would fail, and there are hardly any powerful short range AT munitions. Stryker BCTs can road-march towards their fate pretty well, though. A single of these brigades is based in Germany.

The Infantry BCTs are even less powerful, though not by much. They can be deployed by air, though it's questionable how close to the warzone they would be deployed by air, and whether they would get sufficient air transport capacity at all (competing with the air force's own needs to deploy combat aviation to the theatre of crisis or war).

All three brigade types may or may not receive support from divisional artillery (especially MLRS), which may or may not reduce artillery shortcomings in the latter two brigade types. Likewise, army aviation with Apache helicopters adds to the anti-tank capability (unless it doesn't due to battlefield air defences and other countermeasures). On the other hand, battlefield air defences are almost non-existent in the U.S.Army; Stinger missiles are practically all they have.

So American brigade types would either be late to arrive or poorly configured for conventional warfare / fighting against a great power's army. They could arrive in impressive numbers within several months, but the U.S.Army's contribution in the first two weeks of a Baltic defence scenario would likely be smaller than the Polish army's. And the first week or two may be all that matter at all.

- - - - -

I implied these assessments many times already.  The aforementioned diagnosis is the reason why I insist so much on the role of the German army in European collective deterrence and defence: We are the only large NATO member close enough to Northeast Poland to matter much with early reinforcements. That's why I think we should have a rapid deployable army corps (not a mere battalion!) meant for this Northeast alliance defence role, capable of intervening in force within days (not weeks).

The Americans tend to have a high opinion of themselves and their military, and many people adopt this opinion without checking the facts themselves. Fact is in my opinion that with all of their excessive spending they actually produce very little capability that could intervene quickly in the Baltic region or only Poland. They're much better at beating up Third World regular forces after months of preparations.

European armed services cannot and do not need to compete with the mass or global reach of the American military, but they could and should excel at rapidity of deployment within the continent. Even a single well-configured Czech or Hungarian brigade could prove more decisive to the defence of Lithuania than all of the U.S.Army, for example. A hundred fighting men are worth much more in a battle than a thousand men elsewhere, and a hundred fighting men with real artillery support are worth much more than a hundred men with only theoretical artillery support.

I don't see the key to Europe's collective defence in higher (or in much) military spending. Instead, I see it in an appropriate orientation of enough forces at rapidly effective defence. Two corps worth of first week ground forces are what we need for defence, not an increase in the quantity of already available extremely slow brigades and divisions.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: I've kept an eye on and off their structure for two decades. Wikipedia is my first choice because it's so easily accessible and readable to most people.
**: The conceptual differences are in the incorporation of a muzzle velocity measuring radar and more propellant charge graduations. The ability to fire at more than 45° elevation was uncommon, but not unknown in the 30's already. 
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2016/06/23

Russian Military Capabilities (presentation video)

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I mentioned that report before, here they summarise it as a presentation.
Sorry, but I don't know when this presentation was held, but no earlier than October 2015.

S O
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2016/06/22

Improvised organisation

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The case of the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi offers opportunities for most interesting historical vignettes.
Its remoteness, rapidity of events and decentralised violence posed huge problems.

Eventually, a rapid offensive of Tutsi forces ended the Hutu-driven genocide, while late-arriving French and Belgian intervention forces did much less. They did provide reliable security for Western reporters, though - and thus got the majority of Western news reports. They were eventually able to pretend that Western intervention alone ended the massacres.

One of the interesting questions from Rwanda is about how intervention forces could and should have been organised.
Mercenaries or typical expeditions with a logistics/liaison advance party would have become effective too slowly. Anything but deployment by air would have been too slow. Support forces were largely unnecessary.

My (old) idea on this is that hundreds of autonomous, cooperating platoons may have been quick enough. They could have arrived with light armament and bicycles at airports (after an airborne company would have overrun that airport). Then they would have followed orders to disarm people (including machetes and clubs)*, arrest leaders and occupy radio stations (and turn pro-violence propaganda around). They would have relied on support by nearby other platoons if in trouble or otherwise too weak for their mission).
This would have been an extreme form of Auftragstaktik with a very flat hierarchy and it would have been akin to warband tactics. It would be beyond our capability for political, cultural and doctrinal (indoctrination) reasons, of course.


I suppose every more thorough and more conventional approach would have taken effect slower.


Germany's Bundeswehr displayed a certain degree of willingness to improvise when during the 1997 "Operation Libelle" German Panzergrenadiere (mechanised infantry) were employed as heliborne force during an evacuation action in Albania. The Bundeswehr appears to have recoiled at the thought of future improvisations and for the last about ten years it appears to have adopted a rather American-style thoroughness and clumsiness. I cannot recount how often I saw info on procurement and training being tailored for (specialised on) the ISAF mission with marginal if any usefulness in other missions. It's been very, very often.

It's very fortunate that the Rwandan genocide was extremely unusual. Maybe we are lucky and don't need the capability to master such a challenge at all.

S O

*: A most troublesome aspect is that they couldn't have told the dfifference between the "good" guys with weapons and the "bad guys" with weapons, and enforcing a general disarmament would have provoked desperate resistance by "good guy" RPF forces. A possible solution would have been a cooperation witht he RPF, including a division of the country in a (Northern) part to be saved by RPF and a (Southern) part to be saved by foreign intervention.
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2016/06/15

Daesh

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Two days ago approximately 1,300 people died in the United States to a single cause, and accurate numbers aren't available yet.

The cause was tobacco. Same thing yesterday. And today. And tomorrow. And so on.

Meanwhile, everybody who makes it into TV nowadays seems to lose his or her mind about Daesh, a.k.a. IS / ISIL / ISIS because some U.S.-born man with a huge internal conflict has committed a mass murder and apparently chose Daesh, the terror group du jour, as his label.

This fits to a generally excessive attention on that group, which is a losing civil war party in Syria and Iraq and a weak civil war party in Libya.


It appears that my excessive reading of history and military history doesn't allow me more than one perspective on Daesh:

Daesh is doomed by its own arrogance and strategic idiocy.

Nobody but Asian steppe people, Napoleon and Nazis were equally proficient as Daesh in regard to making enemies. The Asian steppe people got away with this most of the time due to their mobility. Napoleon and the nazis showed what happens if you cannot simply run away after inviting almost the entire rest of the world to hate you.
Daesh is doomed, and neither Europe nor any American country needs to lift but a little finger to seal Daesh's fate. The continued intervention may accelerate Daesh's ultimate failure as a wannabe state, and that's about it.

All that background in history and military history reading completely obscures the more common perspective to me, in which Daesh is supposedly a grave threat.

Sorry, I totally cannot see this. It's a ludicrous idea in the context of what mankind remembers about organised violence. Maybe Daesh can cause 20-200 deaths per year (average) in NATO or EU countries for two or three  years, which would put them somewhere low into the top 100 of mortality factors. Daesh simply has shown no potential to become a real major problem. It sure is entertaining enough to be perceived as one, though.

S O
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2016/06/08

Russia's limits of action

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Occasionally the notion of ritualised Western warfare pops up in discussions, contrasted by a supposedly less restricted Russian way of war.

I see little evidence for this, and in fact it sounds to me like the ages-old theme of criticising the own society for becoming weak, limp, unprepared against external threats. Many people just love to delve in such opinions, which are usually only loosely rooted in reality.

Russia has been doing different foreign policy under Putin, but it still participated in what could be called "rituals": It's participating in many UN peacekeeping missions (though only at military observer strengths) and calls its own troops in troubled areas such as South Ossetia, Abchasia, Transnistria "peacekeepers", and used this ritual / farce to delay a disadvantageous conclusion of conflicts (particularly in South Ossetia).

Russia is also participating in arms export games, such as offering S-300 air defence systems to Iran as a counter to Israeli and U.S. pressures and threats, but then delaying the delivery as a means to pressure Iran itself.

Its coalition-building is largely below the radar of Western observers except very few professionals, but Russia has a very close military integration with Belarus and lots of permanent coalition- and alliance-building efforts in the CIS.

Russia doesn't shy away from exploiting calls for ceasefires as a means to interrupt advances of hostile powers in a far away conflict, similar as to how the West just loves the idea of imposing a ceasefire on Assad whenever Assad is making progress (we saw this exploitation of ceasefires as a delay of undesired conflict solutions on the battlefield at least since the war in Bosnia). Nor is the West more above rejecting such ceasefires when its favoured conflict party is making progress.

Some Western powers (particularly the U.S., UK and France) are notorious for violating the Charter of the United Nations and treaties at will whenever their head of government (or head of state in France) really wants it. There's little evidence that they're truly bound by "rituals" or conventions.


Overall, I see no merit in considering Russia as less bound by rituals than the West or in trying to interpret its actions in this framework. I greatly prefer to consider Putin's foreign policies as driven by a quest for Restoration of the Russian Empire within the freedom of action offered by commodity prices and foreign powers.
Western countries are in no comparable quest (not counting Turkey as Western here), and thus the Russian behaviour looks more daring, aggressive and also quite alien to us in the West.

S O
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2016/06/06

VTAS and Agile

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At the end of the Cold War both Germanys were allowed to re-unite, and the East German military was absorbed by the West German military. Some surprises were handed over in that year, among them the first MiG-29s for NATO, complete with its unexpectedly jamming-resistant radar and a deadly combination of a helmet-mounted sight and a very agile dogfight missile, the R-73 (NATO code AA-11 "Archer").
This was a major shock, for with this combination of helmet (to tell the missile where to look at to find a target, movable infrared seeker in the missile (to enable it to look left, right or up - where Western dogfight missiles couldn't search for targets) and rocket engine thrust vectoring (to make the missile agile enough to reliably catch 9g agile fighters despite their evasion attempts, at least until the rocket burns out) the MiG-29 represented a very different approach to within visual range (WVR) air combat than the West had pursued, and this approach was found to be superior. On top of that, the MiG-29 itself was manoeuvring about as well as the best Western fighters.

The West had relied much more on aircraft performance and on its lead in beyond visual range missiles. The AIM-120 "AMRAAM" was entering service at that time.

The West had been proud of the F-16's agility, even the French praised the Mirage 2000's agility, which was in some regards superior and in others inferior to the F-16's. Much research of the 1980's was aimed at even more agile aircraft, with lots of control surfaces - and the Europeans had settled on Delta-Canard fighters as their next generation of fighters mostly for considerations about agility.



The Americans settled instead on more expensive ATF fighters (eventually F-22 Raptor") that - while manoeuvrable due to up-down thrust vector control - were primarily meant to achieve surprise through radar stealth, beyond visual range tactical dominance by supercruise and lethality through the AMRAAM. European Delta-Canards promised to be much-loved by pilots for classic dogfighting, but the F-22 promised to be much-loved by pilots because they feel confident to survive a conflict and be dominant in those.

Unlike the Russians we seemingly never had the idea to move the offensive agility from the platform into the munition. Except we* did.

Back around 1970 the United States already had a helmet sight, similar to the Russians. It fell probably out of use because the Sidewinder's seeker didn't allow to exploit the potential of such an approach and the radars became better at helping the Sidewinder to lock on.


The United States also had two programs for R-73-like missiles going on- AIM-82 and AIM-95. The AIM-95 had a weird method of mounting (in tubes), but other than that it was most convincing with movable all-aspect IR seeker and thrust vector control.

 
AIM-95 Agile
This missile was very expensive, but no doubt would have been worth the expense.

Now it's very much possible to blame the AIM-95's demise on politicians, but in my general distrust to authority and in light of world-wide research insights on bureaucratic behaviour I think it's very much possible that the failure to get WVR right by ourselves in the 1970's and 1980's was driven by an overemphasis on platforms and by the pilot's perspective. After all, air forces promote pilots (especially fighter pilots) well above proportion to general ranks compared to officers on other career paths.
It may have been a case of principal-agent problem with the agent's preferences leading into a wrong way. A little push here or there was likely enough to derail the West from the superior approach to WVR air combat. Instead, we looked at platform agility (without decisively beating the Soviets on it).
_ _ _ _ _

This is eerily similar to how navies emphasize platforms (ships). The Royal Navy had largely ineffective submarines for decades, but was proud about the subs' performance and low noise. Too bad their torpedoes were utter crap, even the guided one that took decades too long to almost mature.

The U.S.Navy was first obsessed about nuclear propulsion and missiles, recognising late that those missile armaments would be easily overwhelmed and nuclear propulsion was unaffordable and of little use for surface ships. Later it obsessed about the marvel of the AEGIS combat system, but overslept the initial feasibility of active radar homing air defence missiles by two decades.

Or the ASROC rocket that carries a lightweight torpedo by several nautical miles quickly. It turned out that European navies knew that ASROC was a poor design. ASROC flew a ballistic, uncorrected trajectory and by the time the lightweight torpedo arrived on the sea's surface a 30 kts fast submarine could easily have dodged to a quite faraway place - at least compared to the small effective engagement radius of the Mk 46 lightweight torpedo. The Europeans thus designed very different and seemingly less efficient and more clumsy designs such as Malafon and the Australian-designed Ikara. Those were guided by radio, allowing for corrections of the torpedo delivery based on the latest sonar data. The USN was proud of its Spruance ASW destroyers, but the actual ASW munitions delivery was at best mediocre for decades with rather poorly equipped helicopters and the simple ASROC rockets.

Nowadays the United States Navy is waking up to the fact that its ship-to-ship missile armament hasn't been improved much since the 1970's. It's still the Harpoon missile, whereas Russia has a wide range of anti-ship missiles, ranging from a Harpoon equivalent to a subsonic missile that launches a supersonic second stage for the terminal attack phase, a supersonic missile in Harpoon's size class and supersonic missiles much or much, much bigger than Harpoon.

It was similar with the early air forces. Precision guided munitions for air attacks on ships were experimented with during the First World War already. Guided torpedoes - and thus the general idea of guiding a munition into the target - were already known in the 1890's!**
Now what was the aviator's idea of bombing accurately if machinegun fires from the ground made flying very low too risky? Dive attack, of course. A pilot's answer to the problem that required a suitably modified platform. An electric engineer's answer was rather a guided munition, of course. Guided bombs proved to be more accurate than dive bombing by an order of magnitude by 1943 already (also less demanding on the aircraft design, less demanding on pilot training, allowing for lighter and thus ceteris paribus both faster and more agile aircraft).
_ _ _ _ _

This is but a short blog text and I merely provided anecdotes, but it might be worthwhile to guard against a possible institutional bias of armed bureaucracies that's in favour of platform performance and users' answers to problems. Sometimes -though not always- the better answers may lie in better munitions.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: Mostly the United States, but there were some efforts for example an agile seeker in Germany et cetera.
**: Apology for not knowing about those when I wrote the page from the previous link. 

edit August 2016: I suppose I should mention that the British had a very, very similar project as the AIM-82 and AIM-95 projects; Taildog / SRAAM.
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,178.0/all.html
http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/uk-complex-weapons/advanced-short-range-air-air-missile-asraam/ 
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Key & Peele - Al Qaeda Meeting

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2016/06/05

ASW and defended corridors

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The few dozen ASW (anti-submarine warfare) destroyers and frigates in European navies are not going to suffice to protect European overseas shipping against a blockade or disruption campaign that uses many submarines. The U.S.Navy has more ASW warships (and SSNs), but any claims that it could defend American maritime trade against a fleet of SSIs (conventional submarines with air-independent propulsion) is laughable. They are worse prepared for that job than in 1941.
The ratio of escorts to cargo ships, ports and routes is simply too bad. Many if not most ASW ships would furthermore be needed as escorts in naval actions (same as the USN's problem in 1942) and many if not most would likely be revealed as ineffective once put to the test of a real war.
ASW aircraft, the handful of SSNs and the handful of (slow) SSIs aren't going to change the general picture of insufficient resources IF there was a major challenge by undersea forces.

I wrote back in 2009 about the (in my opinion actual) European naval power needs, and concluded that an offensive strategy to securing maritime trade would be successful and wise economically. I stick to this opinion, but it's interesting to think about what would at least be feasible (affordable) as a defensive and effective European (ASW) effort.

Well, the ratios are undeniably bad, so one needs to work on those. A reduction of routes would help greatly, and a reduced emphasis on the expensive and slowly built ASW warships. Navies L_O_V_E ASW frigates et cetera because navies are focused on hulls, on officer career opportunities, on prestigious things to show off*. They are by their nature not much interested in what air forces can contribute to ASW, in fixed installations, in land-based assets, in mines et cetera. There were interesting American efforts during the Cold War such as SOSUS and CAPTOR, but I'd like to assert that particularly the European navies have become even more focused on their pet interests (hulls, officer slots, prestigious things...) than before they suffered from the "peace dividend".

Naturally, that's where room for improvement should be searched first: All that stuff that navies don't like all that much, maybe even fear instinctively.


So, how about this?

Defended corridors could be established** with***
(1) anchored floating radar decoys
(2) area surveillance sonars (multistatic very low frequency active sonars, both operated by tug ships and semi-stationary like SOSUS)
(3) land-based ASW helicopters with dipping sonar and lightweight torpedoes that verify possible contacts and if need be engage them
(4) land-based anti-submarine missiles (~ASW-SOW "Sea Lance", with in-flight impact point update), on call by the ASW helicopters and possibly used to deploy lightweight torpedoes in patterns to prevent the sub's escape by sprint
(5) mine countermeasures assets that create and recreate/maintain safe lanes close to harbours
(6) unmanned submersible inspection drones that verify possible contacts even if helicopters 
(7) acoustic decoys employed by boats (to make over-the-horizon attacks with sub-launched missiles too inefficient)

I don't even suggest to use frigates for this because their sonar wouldn't offer anything on top of this and the same applies to their onboard helicopters.

The civilian ships moving through these corridors would at the very least possess a towed radar and sonar decoy, and torpedo fuze-triggering decoys against wakehoming torpedoes. They would also deploy chaff and multispectral clouds if they spot incoming missiles or get alerted at such a threat by radio.

Such defended corridors could be established as follows:

Rotterdam-London (Royal Netherlands Navy)
London-Le Havre (Royal Navy)
Le Havre-Bordeaux (French Marine Nationale)
Bordeaux-Lissabon (Armada Española)
Lissabon-Gibraltar (Marinha Portuguesa)

This would be akin to the different sectors defended by the different national contingents in Central Europe during the Cold War (both in regard to land forces and area air defences). 
I'm not proposing a German-run corridor because a Hamburg-Rotterdam corridor would be rather long and expensive compared to the modest role of German North Sea ports compared to the huge port at Rotterdam (Hamburg has only about 1/3 the cargo throughput of Rotterdam) and Germany needs to provide more pressing defence efforts than ASW due to its relative vicinity to the Eastern NATO and EU frontier.

The Mediterranean could be sealed off at the Bosporus (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri/Turkish naval forces effort) and at Gibraltar (Royal Navy and/or Armada Española effort), with the same or similar technologies as used in the defended corridors.
SSIs and SSNs could track their unfriendly counterparts in peacetime or times of crisis, ready to pounce once war breaks out.
_ _ _ _ _

Navies are not interested in much of this, of course. They want ships, officer career opportunities, prestigious objects etc. The current Western naval strategies are reliant on land-based offensive efforts against bases (good choice), tracking, maritime surveillance, some mine countermeasures and otherwise the Western navies are all about "interventions": Things such as a battalion of marines or two to be landed in some Third World country, some disaster relief, some naval blockades for embargo enforcement, some launching of ship/land cruise missiles and naval aviation. There's no real concept to secure maritime trade directly, unless one has a ridiculous amount of confidence in the (implausible) ability to seal off the GIUK gap.


related


S O

*: Just look at how often they talk and write about "showing the flag", a usually perfectly benefit-free exercise.
**: Effective width (unless restrained by land masses) equal to 2.5 times the realistic fibre-optic torpedo guidance range.
***: Protection against armed merchantmen would additionally require a surveillance, tracking, identification and boarding capability. This could be done with over-the-horizon radar (surveillance, tracking) and helicopters (ID and boarding) or alternatively many fishing boats with a few marines onboard each substituting for the helicopters.

P.S.: I know that this is mostly a clarification of what I wrote in September 2015. The assignment of corridors to the countries is an in my opinion intriguing addition, though.
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2016/06/02

Camera surveillance

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A network of CCTV cameras that surveils all public spaces in a city is creepy to most people, even though in practice the video quality and technical ability to make use of the videos are still rudimentary. The prospect of high resolution video coupled with facial recognition software combining into a surveillance network that tracks everyone everywhere except in private homes is way past of what most people would accept as proportional to crimefighting demands. 

The installation of automated license plate scanners on police cars is similarly creepy, even though the policemen in the car can in theory read the license plates with their own eyes already.

As a rule of thumb, the less opportunities and chances criminals have to escape the police or to escape a general surveillance, the less opportunities and chances political dissenters have to do so once political dissent was turned into a crime.

The rate of return for crimefighting is dropping badly with ever greater surveillance since few if any arrests will be added by additional surveillance. Meanwhile, adding ever more surveillance may reach a point where a collapse of democracy and liberty - even if only for a minority - may be perpetual since the government would only need a tiny popular support to recruit enough enforcers of its rule based on highly automated surveillance that no-one can escape any more.


Initiatives for more surveillance powers, hardware and personnel tended to originate in the respective bureaucracies that correctly expected a growth in personnel, powers, budget from success with such initiatives.

This may change radically in the future, when a conjunction of consumer technologies may provide the basics for a surveillance state that could be switched on in a day.

Here's an example:

Electric cars with autonomous driving combine the cameras (for awareness of the environment as needed for autonomous driving), the computing power and the power supply (batteries) required to act as semi-stationary surveillance camera systems. Communication over mobile phone networks for software updates, emergency calls et cetera is about to be implemented in almost all cars soon, thus such semi-stationary surveillance camera systems could -whenever parked in the open- report not only indexed license plates, but also indexed faces (facial recognition) - on top of reporting the movement profile, location and identity of the users.

The brave new world of electromobility and self-driving cars could provide an authoritarian government with the ability to turn millions of cars into surveillance devices by an overnight software update. They would only need to add a ban on covering up faces (easily enforced by detecting covered-up faces through the surveillance network) and the surveillance would be complete on and close to roads and streets.

This is not meant as a conspiracy theory; I do not assert that this is or will be done, or that any such plans exist in free countries. It's rather a piece of technological impact assessment. 

The scenario above will likely be feasible before a public debate about it and about possible precautions against it would be begun, much less completed.

The defence of freedom and liberty at home is not only a perpetual pushing back against bureaucratic excesses and a whack-a-mole against dangerous idiots; nowadays it also needs to include technological impact assessment and legal-technical precautions.


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