2017/08/16

"Majority of terrorists who have attacked America are not Muslim, new study finds"

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independent.co.uk, Mythili Sampathkumar

"Right-wing extremists, often white supremacists, were responsible for 115 incidents within the same period. Events like Robert Dear’s killing of three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood women's health clinic in December 2015 for offering abortion services would fall into this category.  In terms of police action, 76 per cent of the Islamist incidents were thwarted versus just 35 per cent of the right-wing extremist incidents.  Sting operations were used in nearly half of the Islamist-related incidents, a rate four times higher than police operations on right and left-wing extremist acts."

Keep in mind "sting operations" are under criticism because they may provoke people into becoming terrorists who wouldnot have done anything like that without such motivation by the FBI. The statistic may thus be inflated by "sting" ops.

"More people died in the Islamist incidents, a total of 90 due to mass shootings like the one in Fort Hood, Texas in 2009. However, around 33 per cent of right-wing extremist incidents involved deaths versus 13 per cent of Islamist terror acts. They also caused 79 deaths."

The notion that Islamic jihad ideology terrorism is much more lethal is actually widespread, and efvidently wrong. The attention paid (most of the time, not these few days) is also out of proportion regarding the lethality.

"The evidence appears to belie Donald Trump’s rhetoric, however.  The report said that Mr Trump’s “fixation” on “radical Islamic terrorism” is “irrational”."

It is, and that's important. Such evidence reveals who has the capacity to understand the real world & its problems and potentially devise and enact solutions to problems, or exploit opportunities for progress - and who's easily mislead by prejudice, feelings and/or ideology. It's a marker for the difference between a politician who may be of great use to his people (who these people are is another issue) and a politician who's no better than the figurative drunk ranting uncle at the family barbecue.
Ideally, we get to observe politicians in positions of little power (such as sub-national legislatures, as mayors et cetera) where we can weed out the bad ones, then they gain additional experience and exposure as national-level politicians where we can weed out even more so we have a certain pool to choose from for the highest national-level and supranational offices of great power. Populists who propel entirely untested "charismatic" politicians and their followers into highest offices lack this multi-level vetting, just as do 'shooting stars' in established parties who rise too quickly due to help of some top politicians.
The aforementioned vetting by the public is far from perfect, but still better than nothing.

Even reformist / populist parties should march through the political instances slowly - there's hardly ever a crisis so bad that a slow (~4-8 years) advance would be too slow. In fact, they may have the most thorough success if they are particulalry slow (~10-20 years) as were the greens in Germany, who achieved participation in a national-level cabinet for the first (and so far only) time after almost two decades. By then their original environmental protection focus had affected the policies of other parties; they had achieved most of their original aims without being in power.
They also had some extremely questionable personalities and political viewpoints in their early years, which they now regret. This went as far as tolerance for pedophiles. In hindsight, them advancing to national level power in the early 80's would not have been a good thing. They had not weeded out their misfits. The AfD (new right wing party) of today was even overwhelmed by its misfits - now the vast majority of Germans seems to be glad that the AfD missed capturing national parliament seats months after its foundation.

S O

*: Such as the former German minister of defence von Guttenberg, who shouldn't have made it past a town council level of responsibility.
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2017/08/15

2017/08/13

[Fun] Now drive backwards!

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video
(It would actually not matter all that much because such T-72/-80/-90 tanks
have a walking pace-like maximum reverse speed).

In case your browser cannot show the video; link.
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2017/08/09

Blogger issues

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Weird things are happening with new comments now (the list of comments awaiting moderation is empty even though I receive e-mail notification of a new comment), so don't think too much about it if your comment doesn't appear quickly or at all.

S O
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2017/08/07

Morale, endurance and the budget

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Lightweight equipment isn't enough to keep dismounted combat troops from becoming too exhausted for their missions. Let's think about other factors;
  • selection and allocation of suitable recruits*
  • physical fitness
  • cohesion (including good enlisted-NCO relations)
  • sufficient (hot) food and water supply
  • prior training in enduring stress, exhaustion and adverse conditions *
  • sleep discipline*
  • good leadership
  • companion/mascot animals (especially dogs)*
  • comfortable clothing
  • protection from elements (suitable clothes, tent, use of buildings)
  • personal hygiene
  • replacement boots & clothes
  • uplifting moments
  • good CASEVAC and medical care
  • ideally daily communication with family (digital text messages as minimum)
Such things are relatively affordable and can thus be mastered by poor budget forces even though some high budget armed services fail at providing such favourable circumstances.
Military history shows that endurance under great stress is a hugely important determinant for battlefield success. Armies tend to become better at preparing troops for combat during wartime, and usually they pay more attention to the factors listed above than before war, unless they feel forced to cut training down in order to fill the ranks.

Such non-combat background issues are likely even more important than other pivotal questions such as:
  • Can we penetrate their tanks head-on? Can they do it?
  • Can we maintain our radio comms in face of their ECM? Can they do it?
  • Are our radio comms secure? Are theirs secure?
  • Who has air superiority? 
  • Do we need to ration fuel and munitions? Do they?
  • Do we have sufficient night vision? Do they?
  • Do we know where we are and where we are heading?
Overall, I think there clearly are diminishing returns from investment in land power quality. Improvements beyond getting the two lists above right will yield little additional benefits.**

A good approach for sufficient deterrence and defence on a tight budget would thus be to get such essentials right and keep ambitions in check for almost everything else. This would be a kind of Schwerpunkt applied on budgeting; get right what needs to be right, be frugal on luxuries.

S O

*: These are the points at which the German Heer fails as far as I know, but I am not an active soldier and really only have an outsider's vantage point these days.
**: Plus effective artillery support, but I'd exclude air superiority and be satisfied with a good air defence instead.
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2017/08/06

A proposal for infantry modernisation

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I wrote a summary post on soldier (infantry) modernisation programs back in 2009. Such programs range from simply new clothes, helmet, guns and night vision equipment up to super-ambitious 'electronic infantryman' approaches with helmet-mounted display, camera on the rifle, lots of wearable computer tech if not even exoskeletons.

The components are usually not ready for introduction at the same time, so whatever hardware finds its way from development into service does so in a trickling fashion. The procurement agencies have fancy buzzwords ("increment" and so on) for this, as if it was perfectly compatible with the ambition of having one big modernisation program.



That's actually something I'd like to see changed; I don't want to see "one big modernisation program", regardless of how many phases, increments, cycles et cetera it has.
I would like to see the different programs of allies competing in troops testing with realistic and at most partially scripted mock battles. I'd also like to see a competing infantry modernisation program in the same major nation as one of those 'electronic infantryman' programs - and they, too, should compete. I'd like to see - in troops testing mock battles - the concept of agile lightweight-equipped infantry tested against the concept of 'electronic infantry'. Agility and mobility versus more communication, more night vision, more digital maps.
These mock battles should include scenarios with heavy ECM influences.

It's striking that while program managers pay lip service to lightweight products, no infantry modernisation program (the 2009 list is outdated, obviously) appears to focus on reducing the weight of equipment and NOT considering those weight savings as potential for additional equipment.

There's very little insight to be gained by yet another 'electronic infantryman' program, but much insight could be gained by pitting those against a properly lightened load infantry for a change. Besides, the lightened load equipment would be hugely relevant to non-infantry troops as well (while with conventional programs that's mostly limited to clothing), and they comprise well over 2/3 of a deployed army!

S O
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A doomsday timeline

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There's one old (German, 1985)  book on late Cold War issues - especially nuclear war - that impressed and no doubt also influenced me much. For German readers; ISBN-3-922508-33-2. It appears to be a translation of a Scientific American publication.

The most interesting page of it is about the timeline of a hypothetical Soviet nuclear attack on the U.S.. This surprise first strike scenario includes submarine-launched missiles launched from not far off the East Coast and a huge ICBM strike. It's interesting because the timeline shows how illusory the idea of an immediate retaliation (before ICBM silos were hit) was, and how very much the nuclear deterrence rested on the ability to command and execute a second strike well after that first strike.

long exposure photo of an ICBM test

I referred to this timeline several times in discussions over the past and now that I rediscovered the book in my way too big private library I will reproduce it here. Next time I refer to the timeline I can simply drop a link to this.


first few seconds:
coordinated launch of hundreds of ICBMs from Soviet silos as well as 4 to 5 SLBMs from a SSBN off the coast

after 2 minutes:
first transmission of attack warnings by satellite-based infrared sensors and early warning radar chain

after 2 to 7 minutes:
period available (5 minutes) for decisionmaking and ordering of a non-disrupted "launch under attack"
after 7 minutes:
exoatmospheric explosions of 4 to 5 SLBM warheads over the North American continent (about one Megaton TNTeq each at abut 480 km altitude); likely damage in U.S. landline and radio communication devices by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) created by the exoatmospheric explosions

after 8 minutes:
latest possible time for arrival of the order for retaliation attacks in command centers in order to complete the launch procedures in time before x-ray radiation becomes too intense for launching missiles

after 8 1/2 to 21 minutes:
launches of additional SLBMs (then still too inaccurate to defeat ICBM silos, launches delayed to maintain surprise)

after 10 minutes:
last possible moment for launching ICBMs to avoid damages by intense x-ray radiation during flight at high altitudes

after 12 minutes:
first probable confirmation of the ICBM attack by BMEWS radar

after 12 to 15 minutes:
available period to make the decision for a retaliation strike after confirmation by BMEWS radar (x-ray issues may not be avoided any more, ICBM counterattack may fail partially or entirely)

after 14 to 27 minutes:
explosions of thermonuclear warheads of SLBM missiles above ICBM silos to suppress them with x-ray radiation (waves of explosions with one minute spacing)

after 15 to 21 minutes:
required period to relay the launch orders through emergency communications

after 21 minutes:
last possible time for the retaliation launch orders to complete launches prior to thermonuclear explosions of ICBM warheads close to the ground

after 24 minutes:
last possible time to avoid damages by thermonuclear explosions during the boost phase

after 25 to 30 minutes:
first thermonuclear explosions of ICBM warheads at U.S. ICBM silos

One can see the concerns about detection delays, suppression of communications, damages to ICBMs by x-ray radiation and damages to ICBMs by nearby thermonuclear explosions. Launches from the 31st to the 50th minute would furthermore face the problem that the (few?) surviving and 100% functioning missiles would need to rise through the dust and debris clouds of those explosions.

The attackers would have their own set of problems, mostly with reliability, dispersion and the difficulty to place multiple warheads on one target without the first explosion and its effects causing harm to the later strikes on the same target. One missile per silo would yield an unsatisfactory probability of silo destruction due to the reliability and dispersion issue.

The whole scenario did not include a first strike on the SLBM force or nuclear warheads in relatively dispersed storage. The easily-destroyed strategic bomber force was ignored as well (think of it as easy prey for SLBMs).

In the end, the wargames and operational research showed that both an immediate retaliation was unrealistic AND a satisfactory disarmament in a first strike was unrealistic. This may have kept the peace in the 70's and 80's.

The issues of the scenario did no doubt change in the meantime. The sensors used were changed, and more importantly SLBMs could have been upgraded with satellite navigation (GPS, GLONASS), so the entire attack could be completed within 8-9 minutes with an all-SLBM strike. The Cold War ended just in time before this became a practical possibility.


S O
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2017/08/04

"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens"

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There's an old (2014) study about the alignment of actual policy with the desires of interest groups in the United States, and I meant to write something smart about it for years. Sadly, I found no particularly smart comment in face of so much obviousness.

Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, 2014


Essentially, voting doesn't matter there. Money, affinity fraud, socio-ethnic group identity (old white rich men) and networks appear to be in power constantly.

It's sad that the attempts to break this system pushed hardly competent and benevolent champions for change to the better into high office. To elect a self-proclaimed billionnaire known for selfishness strikes me as the most stupid possible attempt at ending this gilded age.


S O
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2017/08/03

2,000 blog posts

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This blog has reached 2,000 blog posts, and I'll use this figure for some celebration after sleeping over the 10 year anniversary in May, 2017. (Nobody reminded me! -.- )



I'm still on my mission:
  1. Promote peace.
  2. Push back against the encroaching of authoritarian features in Western societies, especially Germany.
  3. Warn about mediocrity and complacency, an unsatisfactory state of affairs in regard to Western military forces armed bureaucracies.
  4. Share interesting or amusing stuff
... though I admit I somewhat neglected #2 and #4 recently.


By the way, as part of #1 I guest-blogged once more:

ASPI - The Strategist blog


S O
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Split trail howitzer carriages and hyped weapons in general

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I have pointed out that split trail howitzer carriages have a responsiveness problem beyond their (no more than 62°) traverse. They lack the unlimited 360° traverse because of their carriage. The split trail carriage was a huge improvement over the box trail when introduced in the Déport gun, but it's no good if you need to respond to a call for fires outside of the ~60° traverse. A well-drilled team takes about two minutes to lift up an otherwise well-designed split trail carriage tail and turn it around for a fire mission beyond the previous traverse. For comparison; a self-propelled howitzer with a 360° traverse turret may execute a 3 round fire mission on the target and redeploy by hundreds of metres in those two minutes.
There have been platforms used (in times long gone) to give box trail carriage guns a 360° traverse, for example the Arbel platform. The British 25 pdr gun of WW2 fame was such an example. This solution isn't a good one either. The platform adds a lot of weight, slows down deployment and redeployment and mobile platforms of this kind do not transfer the recoil force into the ground. That's still being done by the tail of the carriage, typically some spade.

And this is one more problem if you need to turn around your gun like that. Look at 1:25 of this video:


You can see how the spades are not fully embedded in the soft soil until after the first shot. Thus either you have to accept several seconds additional delay between 1st and 2nd shot (which ruins the surprise effect on the target and makes HE fires much less effective) or you have to shoot a charge without a shell arriving at the target, only to produce enough recoil force to set the gun. This adds additional seconds to the two minutes mentioned above.

Let me explain why this is so important; I wrote in several of my articles on infantry tactics and survivability that infantry should move or even break contact within 2 (at most 4) minutes of being detected by opposing forces. The reason is that opposing forces' indirect fires may arrive after such a short delay. Very competent readio-networked artillery with SPGs, electronic fire coordination, not too far away, minimal if any deconfliction requirements and can deliver a devastating multiple round multiple firing position simultaneous (within seconds) impact fire mission that quickly. The state of the art squeezes infantry into such tight limits; two, at most four minutes to pull off what they ought to do, then move or die. Poor quality armies may take 10 or 15 minutes to do the same, but one shouldn't orient yourself against such opposition; they won't dare to attack NATO anyway.
Now imagine our arty has an additional, unnecessary delay of two minutes on many fire missions. This may easily halve the quantity of elusive infantry platoons that they can catch. It wouldn't matter against cumbersome and poorly led infantry, but again, arty officers who intend to prepare against those only would have pursued the wrong career.

It needs be mentioned that split trail guns also take painfully much time to redeploy compared to self-propelled guns, making them much less suitable for shoot & scoot high survivability drills (= unsuitable, sitting duck targets).

Few modern armies still use many such towed, split trail carriage howitzers. They're mostly in use as helicopter-portable light guns for airborne forces, as artillery ordnance for reserve forces or in the U.S.Army. The U.S. Army failed to develop or accept a proper and already developed self-propelled gun for its 'medium' ("Stryker") brigades, and is still stuck with these towed howitzers. They even want to increase the range of the M777 (which has the barrel length and range of 1970's howitzers of its calibre), that's how much they're invested in the M777's basic design.

WW2-style howitzer with split trail (and a gunshield)
German WW2 experiences led to requirements for howitzers
with 360° traverse and about 70° maximum elevation.
Only the increase of maximum elevation became a
dominant design choice post-WW2 save for the
Soviet 122 mm D-30 and a Swedish howitzer.
I consider this an example of how hyping and overhyping weapon systems and military procurement programs can badly hurt an armed service. The M777 was hyped for years because it was new, it was American, and it was made with expensive alloys to cut down weight (supposedly to allow UH-60 helicopters to lift it, which is hardly ever done). It did not deserve any praise. The weight reduction served no real purpose to its current users but inflated costs. The dispersion is not extraordinary good compared to other modern howitzers, the attached muzzle velocity radar is nothing extraordinary for new arty guns either and the range is stuck in the 1970's. Still, there was about a decade of hype for this gun.

This hype has blinded the public; hardly ever do I read any harsh criticism of the obsolete towed split trail approach. Sure, the Taliban and other "light infantry, motorcycle & technicals" opposing forces were not able to overmatch the M777, but they would have failed to overmatch a WW2 howitzer as well. A modern conventional land power ('peer enemy') such as the Russian army could do so easily, especially in mobile warfare. They don't even need to be able to operate counter-artillery radars; old school flash spotting and sound ranging still work and they even develop new devices for it, and the M777's relatively poor range makes it more susceptile to this than the longer-ranged 52cal 155 mm SPGs are.



The organic artillery of the light and medium brigade combat teams of the U.S.Army and of the USMC is poor, and the hype blinded the nation to it so the weakness lasts. Higher level support artillery (MLRS) doesn't compensate for this; the U.S. did not sign the cluster munitions ban, but it's still getting rid of its ICM/DPICM munitions. There are no unguided HE rockets for MLRS.


A nation should avoid hyping military hardware, period. It serves no other purpose than entertainment, and that should NEVER be a purpose of the military. Hyping military hardware risks to cover up its weaknesses and thus inhibits actions that would mitigate or eliminate such weaknesses. This appears to be true regardless of insider experts understanding the true deficits.

S O
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2017/08/02

North Korea and a pacifism litmus test

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I consider myself a moderate pacifist, which means deterrence and defence - national or collective - is fine, though wastefulness in it is to be avoided. Wars of aggression and military adventures are not fine at all.

This doesn't seem all that pacifistic to radical pacifists, but it's already a far cry from most people who get involved in publishing blogs, journal articles, studies or books on war, "security policy" and military affairs in general.

The often months-long propaganda barrage that builds up political support for wars of aggression or major military adventures is a fine litmus test to see who's a true pacifist - moderate or not - and who's not. Many people who claim to be against war end up being fine with war if only it hits some vilified country or leader.
I suppose we would see just another such litmus test now and in the next months if only the Trump administration wasn't so incompetent and ineffective at communicating beyond a narrow base of pro-Trump extremists. That bunch would rather stumble into a war of aggression with less preparations than even a Neocon clique.

On the one hand this is regrettable, for the masks are not taken away from everyone, but on the other hand I'm really glad that no war prepared and launched by the West seems to be in the making.

I don't consider the crisis around North Korea as a prelude to a real war anyway; it's rather a build-up of tensions where Trump thinks he can bully someone else, and eventually he will likely seek a "deal" that he can communicate to his base (via Twitter, of course) as a successful "solution", regardless of how much the fine print will actually benefit NK.
The risk is in what happens if he doesn't get a deal to speak of, nor can make one up for a change.

The future is unpredictable, but when it comes to conflicts and arrogant, stupid leaders it may get very uncomfortable. This time without the slightest upside.

S O
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2017/07/31

Military professional training

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I have obsessed about learning about history for more than two decades. There are downsides to it and there are upsides.
Some benefits that I came to recognise are that I don't mistake many news about petty things as news about hugely important things, another benefit is that I don't fall for terrible politicians easily (though it happened once when I paid attention to but a few of his policies) and finally, knowing history teaches about the dominance of path dependency in our world. Just about everything is a product of the past – and what path was taken years, decades or even centuries age has a lasting impact on the present and future.

History also shows us how things have changed; the military used to be the single biggest organisation in almost every European society only a couple decades ago, and accordingly it had the most demand for innovation in how to run and grow an organisation. Some management and personnel affairs tools of today have their roots in 19th and early 20th century military organisations' innovations. The civilian world became more innovative at the latest shortly after the Second World War, and the newer management tools have almost all been devised in large civilian corporations, civilian start up companies, universities or (these are the most stupid ones) business consulting companies.


Enough of the introduction – did you ever think about what training for the job as a soldier would look like if the very concept of a military was invented only recently? Would it look as it does or would it look very differently (which would mean that the current training orthodoxy is a product of learning AND especially path dependency).

I suppose if we had to start from scratch we would look for an analogy – such as the police – and adapt their professional training model. Police forces and the military have a lot of similarities, including the rank system and uniforms.
Police forces in Germany have a thorough education and training program. You need to study for years at a university of applied sciences to become a basic police(wo)man and, and then you typically spend some time at the Bereitschaftspolizei, which is a kind of mobile reserve of the police forces. You may encounter them patrolling at crime hotspots, but more typical uses are security at football matches, security at demonstrations and other missions that require lots of law enforcement manpower in one place.
Another path is that one may study law for even more years and enter the upper career group of the police (equivalent to officers).

Let's compare this to a typical Western military professional training.
First, you enter a basic training that typically turns you into a rifleman (at least if you join land forces), and it lasts typically two to four months. Then you are sent to many different courses or attend smaller courses First Aid et cetera) where you're stationed at. Noncommissioned officers and officers usually attend especially long (months) courses to become an NCO or officer, and senior officers may do so as well to be promoted past a certain NCO grade. Studying at a university of any kind is typically reserved for officers, and the timing and nature of such studies varies greatly. There are also military academies in some countries which unleash very young men as lieutenants onto the armed forces after months or few years of (para)military education. 
(The watered-down personnel system and requirements of the current Bundeswehr are so painful to think of that I won't describe them – in fact my description above is rather representative of careers in the early 1990's, things have gone downhill since.)

Overall, it can be said that only (soon-to-be) officers get a professional training with a broad theoretical base that's somewhat similar to what's typical in the civilian world.

NCOs and especially enlisted personnel on the other hand get hardly any professional training, and all of it is AFTER they entered the active forces.
Compare this to two years professional training (part time on the job, part time school) that you need to become a hair stylist in Germany, and two years worth of university studies to become an NCO equivalent in a bureaucracy!
_ _ _ _ _

At some point the armed services world-wide seem to have begun to lag behind equivalents in the civilian world in their ambitions for professional education and theoretical competency of the noncommissioned officers and especially the enlisted personnel.

I don't think that soldiering is so much easier than hair styling that there's little to no room for improvement. It's also rarely very different from civilian bureaucracy jobs

I suppose there were multiple reasons for why the armed services began to lag:
  • They didn't need to compete with civilian careers because of conscription. School graduates prefer a job with a respected and useful training over a similarly-paid job with a pointless training – the armed services simply grabbed personnel by threatening them with jail.
  • To be an enlisted soldier is no good for the long term due to poor pay. Theoretically enlisted soldiers could serve in physically demanding specialties until hey lost fitness due to injury or age and proceed to more cushy support specialties afterwards. There are enough of the latter that enlisted soldier could be a lifetime career. It's the poor pay that rules this out.
  • The armed services don't think that two years university of applied sciences training makes sense for enlisted personnel that typically enlists for two to four years due to their tunnel vision on active strength (which makes perfect sense if you think of them as a bureaucracy). It doesn't matter much to them that this personnel would continue to be reserve personnel for two more decades.
  • There were no wars between great powers in which one power benefited from a substantially lesser lag. There's not enough incentive to overcome inertia as long as the benefits of it are not demonstrated to good effect. Much of the private sector is in a fierce competition or at least able to compare profitability, and thus has much more incentives to improve itself.

I admit it may be disputed that they began to lag in modern times and that they lagged - save for professional warrior castes such as knights - since the invention of standing armies. I think they began to lag because in Germany the dual system of training for jobs  has begun to vastly exceed the training and education of enlisted troops at the very least. The terrible post-Cold War changes in the personnel system of the Bundeswehr (I don't mean the end of conscription here) also meant that reaching officer or NCO rank requires much less (if any) previous relevant education than to reach equivalent civilian positions.
The armed forces have improved the overall approach to professional education little post-WW2, while the civilian economy and civilian bureaucracies have greatly increased their expectations of candidates.

Well, what SHOULD professional military education look like today?

This depends greatly on how you sources your NCOs and officers. It's been a very successful model to let everyone begin as enlisted (wo)man, advance to junior NCO if suitable and then advance to either senior NCO or junior officer if suitable. Training models in which "gentlemen" get a quick intro about how to behave as officer* and then join the ranks as officer have been less successful.
The 'through the ranks' model on the other hand appears to have collapsed in all-volunteer forces where the smartest candidates can only be lured into military service by promising good pay from day one – and the inflexible bureaucracies and politicians have found but one way to do so; they handed out advanced ranks ("Neckermann Stuffz") – NCO and lieutenant – as entry positions. This is understandable for emergency room-experienced medical doctors, bridge engineers and the like – but it's idiotic rank inflation if applied as widely as nowadays in many Western armed services.

I think we should go back to the West German model of the Cold War era; you can advance to officer rank through the ranks, but many promising recruits enter the force knowing that while they're at the lowest rank, they are officially o track towards NCO or officer positions and will become NCO or officer unless they fuck up. We have the rank suffixes UA and OA (Unteroffiziersanwärter and Offiziersanwärter; NCO candidate and officer candidate) for this.
I don't think that basic military training has to happen at a university of applied sciences. It should rather take the German model for craftsman education and training as a model. Three days active service at a military unit per week, two days theoretical studies at a school per week. There's plenty theory to learn; safety rules, navigation, don't rape your comrade (sigh), driving theory, radio operation, friend or foe identification, reporting, supply system, hierarchy – armed services have hundreds of field and technical manuals full of theory, dozens of which are more or less relevant to every soldier. The practical part would follow the concept of trainees in major corporations; they would be sent to different units to do different things and learn about the organisation in general.
After two years of such studying we would have a well-rounded basic soldier, and the armed service would have enough test results and superior's reports to judge how best to allocate the (wo)man. This might include him or her being sent straight to NCO school, another year of theory and practical experiences.
Juniors NCOs who served well and showed promise for much more could be sent a university of applied sciences for three years. The outcome would be training for and promotion to senior NCO or lieutenant rank and a bachelor's degree in business/administration/logistics/psychology.
Enlisted personnel that did service well but didn't show enough promise for more should instead receive a proper job training that's respected in the civilian economy as well; car mechanic, aviation mechanic, gas turbine mechanic, heavy lorry driver, nurse and so on. Enlisted personnel of the active force should have an option to serve till retirement at enough pay to sustain a family of four if the spouse works half time on minimum wage.

Medical doctors could and should be hired differently. I suppose one should give soldiers who passes the basic two years training an opportunity to get a subsidised civilian university education as a general physician, emergency surgeon or oculist followed by a mandatory one year emergency room experience and then they could be reservists with several weeks active service per year till the age of 60. This should yield enough of them on active duty at any given time for the actual needs of the armed services.**
A parallel militia system could still make do with a 6 month basic training with standardised six month militia NCO and militia officer courses more akin to the current active forces personnel system. The reason for this is that quantity helps a lot and many young men could be motivated for such short reservist duties who could not be motivated to enter a military career. The compensation for the short training would be a severe limitation of missions they would be considered capable of. The militia level of competence would likely be comparable to air force security units' competence.

_ _ _ _ _

Well, that's just my opinion, man. Other opinions differ, and no doubt wildly so.

Nevertheless, I think I made it clear that the current professional training models in use appear to be obsolete remnants caused by path dependency and sustained by inertia in absence of exogenous shocks. They are NOT optimally designed to prepare young men and women for high effectiveness on the job as a soldier in an army or air force.

S O

*: A little bit of exaggeration here.
**: The current medical branch of the German armed services is inflated and oversized beyond belief. Its personnel figures are worthless as an indicator for how much such personnel armed services actually need in peacetime.

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2017/07/17

Election platforms on the federal election in Germany

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I compiled summaries of the election platforms of the relevant German parties for the federal elections 2017. The whole work was done in German language and can be accessed on the German language twin blog:


 S O
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2017/07/16

Link collection June/July 2017

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"Based on my experience at JMRC and by talking to company commanders who come here to train, I believe  U.S. Army tactical proficiency at company level and below is lower than  many of our multinational partners due to a lack of emphasis on collective training and tactical proficiency at home station prior to training at combat - training  centers (CTCs)."
(from U.S.Army's own eArmor journal)

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The Russians are paying attention to non-radar detection of artillery firing positions and impacts. That's the old way to which there are few technical countermeasures.

http://defence-blog.com/army/russian-state-owned-media-unveils-new-penicillin-counter-battery-system.html

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- - - - -

Old (1998) interview, still worth some attention:

Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser

Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
 (copied from here)


P.S. I found this in the list of my draft articles as a June 2017 link list. My apologies if I had published it in June before and accidentally reverted to draft. I truly cannot remember if I had published it or not.

S O
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2017/07/15

Proposal for a (partial) nuclear disarmament treaty

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... that eliminates the near-term possibility of mankind destroying civilisation through thermonuclear war.

As of today, only the United States of America and the Russian Federation possess enough nuclear munitions to ruin mankind. They couldn't wipe out mankind even if they tried, but they could crash civilisation world-wide.
  • The United Kingdom, French Republic, People's Republic of China, Republic of India, Pakistan and Israel possess enough thermonuclear munitions to ruin a single large country, though some of them couldn't do so beyond their region.
  • The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has few nuclear munitions, likely those are at most 30 kt TNTeq yield munitions.
  • The Republic of Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Republic of South Africa once possessed nuclear warheads and gave them up peacefully.
There's a stark difference between the very large American and Russian arsenals and the obviously sufficient smaller arsenals, which provide nuclear deterrence at much lower cost and despite the consequences of failure of deterrence would be much less catastrophic. The two very large arsenals are remnants of the Cold War, and their very size makes certain cost-saving methods of nuclear deterrence impractical because the wealth in warheads would enable a disarming first strike. Smaller inventories would not be able to take out all ballistic missile submarines in the Great Lakes or Caspian Sea for want of power, and would thus make disarming first strikes practically impossible.


My proposal is thus to turn develop and pass a nuclear munitions limitation and cooperation treaty:

A uniform warhead design of relatively modest and variable yield would be developed and tested once (with UNGC approval) and all existing nuclear powers except North Korea would be limited to a certain quantity of warheads, preferably USA and Russia each 200 and all others at most 100, but no more than they have now. Only North Korea would be excluded from the entire treaty and be stuck with its even smaller arsenal.

A warhead of 100 kt TNTeq or more yield is what people commonly think of when they think of the great power's nuclear weapons. Most people would be surprised at how small the lethal radius of a 10-20 kt warhead is against troops in typical dispersion or how small the effects would be on a city. You can do your own calculations here if you doubt me on this.

The strategic deterrence could thus be achieved by a ~100 kt TNTeq warhead, which could have a variable yield, allowing for an alternative 5-10 kt yield for "tactical employment" at a short distance from friendly troops or to knock out air power on an international airport without massacring most people in a city right next to it.

The risks associated with handling and transportation (accidents) would be reduced by using a uranium 235-only pit for the first (implosion) stage. U-235 is somewhat less hellish than Pu-239.

The fallout could be limited by using a two-stage thermonuclear warhead design with 95% or more fusion share of output. The first stage might be boosted to reduce the fallout further. A doctrine of employment at altitude (with fireball not touching the ground) would also reduce the fallout while retaining if not improving the ability to destroy the target compared to a low altitude or ground level detonation.

Every warhead would be "locked" by a suitably long and real passcode, which would need to be stored at a distance and be part of the launch code (launch code = encrypted target coordinates and passcode). The codes would only be known at highest levels, but encrypted files would be stored at many lower commands, requiring the combination of any three such files to create one file with the real passcode list so a decapitation strike would be discouraged.

Said warhead would be suitable for many forms of delivery
  • free-falling bomb
  • cruise missile (air/sea/ground launch)
  • ballistic missile (air/sea/ground launch)
Finally, to further discourage an attempt at a disarming first strike, both a warhead storage container and a decoy container would be developed that could not possibly distinguished without opening (breaking a seal & raising an alarm system). Thus thousands of decoys could be stored along 100 real things in hundreds of locations and nobody would know which is which until an order to open the containers in war or crisis. No list would need to exist that enables to determine where the real warheads are. A disarming strike would need to be able to destroy hundreds of dispersed locations (mostly military bases) with less than 200 warheads - which would be impossible.

An exception may be the standoff between India and Pakistan: The unified warhead design might actually equal an increase in capabilities if Pakistan's and India's nuclear warheads are actually less monstrous than the proposed unified warhead. In this case the quantity could be reduced or these two countries could be exempt from the unified warhead design. The 'cleanliness' of the unified warhead design means that a simple kiloton rating comparison would not suffice in this case, though.

- - - - -

Russia and the United States could deploy each 100 warheads in conventionally-powered submarines*
  • in the Great Lakes (Trident IID-5 missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs) and 
  • in the Caspian Sea. (R-39RMU missile with one warhead + 7 decoy MIRVs).
Both would keep 100 warheads in dispersed storage containers for use in various delivery munitions, along with 1,000+ decoy containers.

The other nuclear powers (save for North Korea) would store essentially swap out their existing warhead inventories with the new 100 kt warheads and discourage first strikes as without the treaty. The UK and France would mount each one warhead on each one of their SLBMs, for example (France: 4 Triomphant SSBN with 16 SLBM each and UK: 4 Vanguard SSBN with 16 SLBM each, other warheads stored on land for free-falling bombs and in France's case also in ASMP-A).

The plutonium and uranium from disassembled nuclear munitions that wouldn't be needed to create the unified warheads would be diluted and be turned into nuclear fuel.

A proper surveillance and verification regime would be set up and executed by the IAEA.

- - - - -

The steps forward from the status quo would be
  • no threat of global civilisation-breaking thermonuclear war
  • much reduced expenses particularly in the U.S. and Russia
  • much reduced nuclear fallout in the event of thermonuclear war
  • reduced risks from accidents with nuclear munitions

Meanwhile, nuclear munitions would still
  • act as deterrence through their ability to destroy a society (for example by de facto destruction of all cities of any great power if the attacker has that long reach at all as of today)
  • act as a deterrence against attempts at "conventional-only" wars of aggression by retaining the ability to destroy entire formations of land forces as well as entire airbases
- - - - -


This kind of treaty would meet the NPT's requirement of working towards a nuclear disarmament. It would not eliminate nuclear arms entirely, but greatly reduce the damage possible in worst case thermonuclear wars. 

The time to  commence talks for (partial) nuclear disarmament is now. We should not wait till conflicts heat up to another Cold War for real and  one or two near-thermonuclear war crisis situations convince the politicians to work towards (partial) disarmament again, as happened in the 80's after the Able Archer 83 near-disaster.

A second step after this treaty could be to move towards total nuclear disarmament, but that's a MUCH larger leap because of the in my opinion well-justified (though not necessarily correct) fear that we NEED nuclear deterrence to keep the peace between the great powers.

related:


S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: I know this is a distasteful topic; no pacifist wants to look like a proponent of nuclear arms, an the proposal would require a development, production and testing of a new warhead. Some might even argue that such a "cleaner" warhead would lower the threshold for its use (though a 100 kt TNTeq explosion is still terrible). Radical pacifists will think that partial disarmament is not orthodox enough. Yet some distasteful activities - such as sewage cleaning - simply have to be done for the society's good, and I think new proposals for a partial nuclear disarmament are overdue. The more such proposals pop up and the more public discourse there is on this topic the more politicians will sense that the time is ripe for getting rid of thousands of nuclear warheads - even if hundreds will remain.

*: It's possible to store the missiles in silos extending into the fin as shown in this speculative article. A row of 10 such silos in a long fin should be possible. The submarines need to be shock-hardened with a tough pressure hull and have robust radio message reception abilities, but they need no normal combat system or any silencing in those inland waters. The quick launch procedure could be done after surfacing. Submersibles (with some cheap long endurance air independent propulsion such as closed cycle diesel engines) are preferable to surface craft because of the possibility to track & identify surface craft with satellites. Cheap snorkeling could be used regularly, with all-AIP operation used in crisis or wartime. A slow cruise speed of about 4 kts and resting on the bottom of the sea for days or weeks would eliminate the wave patterns and other signatures that could be discernible by satellites.
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2017/07/12

One annoying NATO myth

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I'll do my part fighting a stupid myth:

France never left NATO.
It merely withdrew its forces from NATO's command structure, period.



I've read this annoying myth about France supposedly having left NATO in 1966 (and returned in 2009) so often, I have really no excuse for not pushing against it here a decade earlier already.


S O
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2017/07/11

Somaliland and Puntland

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I meant to write about the two unrecognised states in Northern Somalia (that appear to be somewhat more functional than the recognised government of Somalia) for a while.



Or to be honest; I meant to do a proper literature research on them for a long time.
No, that's still not honest. To be REALLY honest; I learned only recently that there is not one but two kinda functional proto-states at the Horn of Africa.
It's a quite embarrassing state of affairs on my part, but not just for myself: It's also embarrassing for the news media in general. I'm not a news junkie, but I sure would be better informed if Northeast Africa would rank a little higher on the priority list of German or anglophone news media. 

Their low priority in regard to reporting seems to be proportional to their low priority in foreign policy and foreign aid. I keep having a hunch that we could have done a lot good if we had helped those proto-states instead of pretending that Somalia is still one country.

One example; the EU could have given them most favourable trade terms for copper and tin (the region really hasn't much else that could be exported). We could also have helped equip and supply the Puntland coast guard instead of doing those stupid Atalanta patrols ourselves. Maybe we could have had enough influence with both proto-states to avoid the stupid border conflict of 2016 and could have served as a respected arbiter?

Instead, countries like Saudi-Arabia and UAE have gained influence in the area. No doubt nothing bad will come from that, right?

S O
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2017/07/09

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

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It'll take some time for me to understand the international law consequences of this, and time will tell if and how courts rule concerning the (largely symbolic) storage of nuclear munitions in Germany.

I only found a draft version, not the final full text, so far. Article 1 says in there

1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:
(...)
(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.


S O
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Day and night

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It sounds utterly trivial, but one should keep day and night in mind.

For example, I did an intellectual pastime about how to secure Iceland in times of crisis (a NATO member without permanent military presence). My default assumption is that a U.S. airborne brigade would need to be flown in from CONUS because European paras would not have airlift available and/or be needed in Northern Norway and Lithuania.

(This is where some people think "Yeah, science!" and I think "No, this should be general knowledge already!").

There's no need for non- far IR ("thermal") night vision until September there.

The ideal planning for crisis and wartime should thus probably plan with different forces in summertime and wintertime; U.S. airborne and Canadians in wintertime (Americans have above average night vision equipment, Canadians have above average cold weather preparation & they mostly understand each other's language) and South European airborne/para forces in summertime (using C-17s on otherwise empty return flights).

The cargo aircraft logistics may suggest to plan with Europeans year-round because Iceland is along the trip back to North America anyway, but I don't think there's much wisdom in sending troops who are accustomed to +25°C into a -5°C environment as a strategic quick reaction force. (Iceland has in its most important areas an oceanic climate and is warmed year-round by the North Atlantic current, so it's even in wintertime nowhere near as cold as the humid continental East European climate.)

That's something I did not think about when I wrote this. Though I suppose to maintain a single air-lift capable brigade with towed 155 mm howitzers for alliance (Iceland) defence in summertime might be an even more appropriate thing to do for Spain and Portugal, as their land forces would have the longest marches to Eastern Europe. They could even have this brigade in a 12 month cycle of 6-7 months training and 5-6 months real readiness for 48 hrs deployment to Iceland (at 90% personnel strength, 90% equipment readiness, with munitions for 3 days intense combat and terrain-appropriate camouflages).

S O
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2017/07/08

Just a reminder about the North Atlantic Treaty

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This is an excerpt from the treaty text:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all (...)

Article 6 

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
  1. on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  2. on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
The Article 5 part is unmodified from the original treaty, Article 6 is as modified by the accession protocol for the accession of Greece and Turkey. We can ignore the obsolete part about the "Algerian Departments of France". You can look those texts up here.


NATO is no Pacific alliance.
Hawaii could be nuked by North Korea, PRC or Russia and article 5 would not be relevant.
The same applies to any attack on Puerto Rico, U.S. or Canadian warships in the Pacific Ocean, Guam, New Caledonia or, as history has already shown, the Falklands.

This is of great importance!
There is no reason for Europeans to get involved in any Pacific arms race between the U.S./Japan/Taiwan/Australia on the one side and the PR China on the other side. 
The only European concerns about the PR China should be about the (still distant) scenario of a Sino-Russian alliance. This would then be first and foremost about air power, secondarily about land power (the capacity of transsiberian traffic lanes is still small) and arctic maritime sea lanes may be open now, but Russian arctic harbours are either small or well in range of land-based NATO tactical combat aviation. The PRC would find it difficult to sustain an army at war in Eastern Europe.
Chinese naval warfare against Europeans would likely be limited to few commerce raiders or commando actions such as blocking the Suez Canal with sunk ships. The only relevant Russian harbour for basing a Chinese expeditionary fleet is Murmansk. Again, it's well in range of NATO air and missile strikes and hardly useful as a main base for a PLAN expeditionary fleet. The distance between the PRC and Europe is simply too great for the PRC to be a major naval threat to Europeans.

There might be conflicts of interest about African resources between Europeans and Chinese, but such conflicts haven't even only reached the stage of great diplomatic efforts. A war in Africa would likely depend more on political allegiances, maritime (for Europeans: coastal) lines of communication and land-based air power than on modern battlefleets.

Long story short:
I don't see any need for Europeans to orient their naval forces for a fight against the PLAN, not even partially. There's no treaty obligation to fight in a Pacific War and there's nothing to be gained by joining any war in East Asia / the Pacific, ever.
There's little to no reason for the Chinese to go to war against European NATO (or EU) countries unless they go to war with China first.

I did make one assumption here that should be self-evident: Alliances serve a country's interests (security), not its ego. A violent clash of civilisations just for the sake of the clash in itself or a war just for the entertainment of people who want to see the world burn makes no sense.

S O
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2017/07/05

Innovative infantry defence concepts

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edit: It has come to my attention that several foreign readers have misunderstood this text. This is a text about theory, not about what was actual done. Some of the concepts were put into practice, others (the '75 to 90's ones) were not put into practice. Furthermore, there's no error in me writing about interlocking machine gun fires in 1915 when too few machineguns were available to do this everywhere. The concept was there, the equipment not yet.

A simple non-comprehensive list, meant for orientation if you want to look into the topic some more:

Innovative infantry defence concepts

(late 19th century till 1914 state of the art)
single shoulder-to-shoulder line in simple trench

1915
interlocking machine gun fire with elaborate trenches, rifle fire is secondary

1916-1918 German elastic defence
forward trenches weak, if possible two better-manned rear trenches in up to several kilometres depth (out of range of most hostile field artillery)

1920's
elastic defence with weak VRV (FLOT), strong HKL (main line of resistance) at up to 10 km depth, some concerns about use of terrain and mines for AT purposes

1939/1940
Finnish motti tactics and first dominant use of ski troops in war

1941
hedgehog defence (company strongpoints) on overstretched front-line (due to inability to man it in depth), if possible one continuous patrol trench at VRV (FLOT), dependence on indirect fire support for domination of gaps between strongpoints

early 1950's (1st West German Heer structure)
network of platoon strongpoints and squad or quasi fire team resistance nests in between

early 1960's (2nd West German Heer structure)
network of platoon strongpoints

1960's U.S. heliborne infantry
extreme mobility in permissive AD environment, allows for truly quick reaction forces to help troops in a crisis, but they were nothing special once on the ground
mid 1960's Austrian (later also German) Jagdkampf/Jagdkommandos
(similar terminology to offensive WW2 counter guerilla patrols, but different concept) reinforced infantry platoon-sized Jagdkommandos as forward, stay-behind or even infiltrated skirmishers
1968 till 1989 Austrian "Raumverteidigung" by infantry militia (Emil Spannocchi)
defence of key locations to slow down passage of invaders (very much related to Jagdkommandos)
(the Swiss were similar, but emphasised fortifications much more)

1975 "Non-battle" (Guy Brossolet)
infantry defends assigned areas, mechanised forces and attack helicopters as mobile reserves - the concept was meant to enable defence against superior mechanised Warsaw Pact forces
mid-1970's "Techno Kommandos" (Horst Afheld)
Small infantry platoons with high tech armament (supported by small squads with ATGMs or ManPADS) cover the entirety of the FRG as local defenders instead of a conventional army. Massively improved tooth:tail ratio compared to a mechanised army.
1980 guerilla-like Jäger (Franz Uhle-Wettler's concept)
Elusive infantry does not stubbornly hold terrain, but persists as a threat. Very little high tech, very cheap equipment. Largely meant to secure easily defended areas that mechanised forces cannot cover (woodland, settlements). High degree of autonomy, extreme tooth:tail ratio in favour of teeth.

1980's Simpkin's network of Uhle-Wettler's concept
expansion in depth of the concept in order to threaten entire regions (Uhle-Wettler was more concerned about how easily difficult terrain can be exploited for flanking movements in mobile warfare if not guarded, see Ardennes 1940)

1990's distributed operations
This concept of dispersed infantry small units morphed over time into a mere buzzword.

2004-today GWOT actual combat
Infantry small arms fires fix the enemy, non-organic supporting fires get tasked with destruction. Deliberate defences = fortified military camps (and platoon outposts) with protection against mortars and suicide bombers.

The trend was clearly towards more dispersion once artillery became to dominate the battlefield. Decisionmaking moved to platoon and squad level (battles as the sum of infantry platoon engagements).

Most concepts involved the incorporation of new technologies.

Most concepts included some mobile quick reaction/strike force or an emphasis on counterattacks (even if I didn't mention it here).

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

edit: There's a huge discussion on a translated, illustrated and commented version of this at
rostislavddd.livejournal.com/291387.html
apparently. On Russian. I did not expect this.
An explanation to them: I wrote "quasi fire team" because there were no fire teams in the doctrine. There were merely fireteam-sized elements to be detached to those positions; a half or third of a squad.
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