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Surprise and deception in war (Carl von Clausewitz expanded)

Posted by picard578 on September 17, 2018

This is an expansion of Chapters 9 (Surprise) and 10 (Deception) of Clausewitz’s Book 3 of “On War”.

3.9. Surprise

Surprise is a key factor in war, for without it there is little possibility of achieving superiority at the key point. Other than being a tool for superiority, it is also useful by itself due to its psychological impact. Successful surprise causes confusion and breakdown of the opponent’s command and psychological structures. Surprise itself can be tactical, operational, strategic, political or even grand strategic, but regardless of the level it is based on two key factors: speed and secrecy. Both require great energy and serious character. While in theory surprise makes it easy to achieve decisive successes, in practice there are always factors such as friction and chance which may reduce its impact. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Friction In War – Carl von Clausewitz Expanded

Posted by picard578 on September 9, 2018

Here I took observations of Carl von Clausewitz on friction (just reading through his book “On War”), and expanded on them.

War is simple, but the simplest thing is hardest. Various acters and factors in war produce other acters and factors, and also with their interaction produce friction. There are many things that cannot be predicted; things that should not happen but do; things that should have happened but did not. While each circumstance by itself may be too small to even consider, together they add up. Each level of authority adds another layer of friction, and confusion and dangers of war only increase probability of it happening. Most effects of friction cannot be predicted; effects of weather, disease, confusion, mechanical failures; they all cause friction of some kind. Organization itself causes friction: differing doctrines and culture can cause friction when operating with allies. Because of these various types of friction, any undertaking in war is like moving in a fog or a deep mud. Further, each war is full of individual characteristics and events which change its nature; one of primary qualities of a general is recognizing that friction. Read the rest of this entry »

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Byzantine military doctrine in modern practice

Posted by picard578 on August 17, 2018

While I originally wrote this for sci-fi setting I am working on, general principles are usable in modern world as well.


Laigin culture sees war as a necessary evil – but as the saying goes, “if you have to do something, you have no excuse for not doing it to the best of your ability”, and the Empire is constantly at war, surrounded by enemies. Typically there are two or three wars going on at the same time, even if most of those are minor, and difference between war and peace is merely a matter of planet’s location within the Empire. This has caused tensions between parallel condemnation of war in theory and rather militaristic ideology and structure in practice, which is resolved by the doctrine of “just war”. At its basic, this doctrine dictates that wars of conquest are unjust, while wars of defense or reconquest of lost territories are just wars and thus require no further justification. Warfare permeates all aspects of society, from culture to education, with civil defense being a mandatory class subject even from the primary school. War is waged for defense or to recover the lost territories – territories not willingly given away are always considered to belong to the Empire “by right”, regardless of the actual situation on the terrain, or how much time had passed since the loss. Defence of the state is the ultimate goal, on all levels and in all aspects of the policy. Therefore, there is no concept of “holy war” – defensive war is automatically just by virtue of defending the state and its people. But while no sin is incurred by participating in a just war, war is not religious but rather civic obligation, and cannot be used for absolution of sins. War is only waged for purpose of defending the state or its interests abroad, such as its allies. If goals can be achieved without fighting a war, they are achieved so and casualties are minimized where possible; but military is always kept prepared for war. Overall approach can be summed up as “do everything possible to raise, equip and train the best possible army and navy, and then do everything possible to use them as little as possible”. Prepare for war to avoid war.

The main aim in war is to win without having to fight a decisive battle, especially since the Empire is at best at equal footing with its enemies, and more often disadvantaged in terms of numbers and resources. Decisive battle is avoided because even in victory it may cause an unacceptable loss of resources, and in loss it is typically catastrophic. Victory is achieved through combination of delaying tactics and exploitation of enemy weaknesses, landscape and diplomacy. Generally, aim is not to destroy the enemy, but to reach a state of equilibrium – for a destroyed opponent leaves a power vacuum which will be filled by another power, or by lawless elements, whereas a weakened opponent can be negotiated with. Today’s enemy may be tomorrow’s ally, and large number of weaker enemies is better than smaller number of powerful enemies, as they can be played off against each other. Enemies are transient; only the Empire lasts forever. Hence, warfare is typically defensive, especially since enemies tend to be diverse and numerous. Hit and run raids are preferred approach, but pitched battles can and will be fought as well if no other recourse is practical. Scouting is crucial, and is typically done by light ships. Initiative is pursued, leading to typically agressive posture. Enemies will be mislead with false information, and allies sought that can attack the enemy from a different direction. Most useful allies are those closest to the enemy, as they know how to fight the enemy best. Internal conflicts may be decided by duel by champion, typically a sword fight, in order to avoid the possibility of devastating civil wars. COIN is avoided, and proxies liberally used.

Deception is likewise used, and is separated into concealment/camouflage, imitation/mimicry, simulation, disinformation and feints. The goal is to mislead the enemy with regards to Laigin political / grand-strategic, strategic, operational and tactical objectives and approaches. Surprise is the basis of military approach on all levels.

This approach is especially advantageous because each enemy is systematically studied, and local forces are trained to respond to enemy’s specific approach to war. Knowledge about enemies – their history, culture, politics etc. – is also incorporated into strategy manuals which provide political and military leaders with guidance on dealing with enemies and neighbours in general. Constant practice, interpretation and corrections ensure that manuals are always up-to-date. Military readiness is maintained, not only to fight the war once started but also to prevent the war from being fought at all.

Morale is recognized as being one of most important factors in success, and special emphasis is placed on intangible factors – morale itself, unit cohesiveness, tradition, interaction and links between active military and general populace. Officer competence is likewise recognised as a key, and incompetent officers are demoted or transferred to whatever position they are actually capable of serving at. Diplomacy and warfare go hand in hand, with diplomacy being used to achieve war goals and vice versa. Subversion is likewise understood to be the cheapest path to victory.


In offensive operations, goal is to cause maximum damage to enemy’s economy and material infrastructure – destruction of fortifications, orbital and urban installations, and severing of trade routes. This is typically employed in goal of persuading the enemy to accept a course of action most favourable for the Empire.

Heavy elements of the fleet are concentrated against key points. These points are selected to reduce enemy’s ability and will to fight. The objective is not to destroy the enemy, but as already noted, to make him more amenable to working with – instead of against – the Empire. As such, typical targets are orbital and system defense installations, while planets themselves are rarely if ever attacked.

At the same time, fast elements of the fleet – “cruiser” ships such as battlecruisers and light cruisers – are used to scout ahead of the main battle force, interdict enemy merchant and cargo traffic, and take out less-defended crucial points such as observation posts, and command centers where possible. Due to being more mobile, these elements can be more easily concentrated and deployed against any single threat. At times, half the cruiser fleet may be concentrated against a single target while still not compromising the security of the Empire thanks to existence of heavy elements. Light elements are regularly employed in hit-and-run raids as well as in attacks against important targets (focal points). In both cases, heavy fleet might be used to draw enemy attention elsewhere.

Allies will also be called upon, especially if they are in position to catch the enemy in the rear. Nomadic allies are particularly important as they are fast, mobile and also good source of information about enemy movements. When campaigning farther from Laigin territory, local allies will be contacted to provide information on the area and geopolitical situation, as well as help with scouting and intelligence gathering.

Offensive approach is also used for defensive purposes, launching pre-emptive attacks into enemy territory, and also by launching counter-invasions of the enemy territory. Offensive operations for the recovery of lost territory are also seen as inherently defensive.

When in enemy territory, and typically in friendly territory as well, fleet is organized in divisions. Frigate groups are deployed in groups along the perimeter of the fleet, acting as scouts and advanced warning screen. Main body is in the center of frigate dispositions. Some frigates are detached for independent scouting duty, using their greater speed and small sensory signature to range far ahead of the main force.

On ground, fire support missions can be called in by platoon leaders and up. Oftentimes, a platoon “on point” will be assigned a private pair of close air support aircraft. Specialized infantry units are equipped with jump packs, allowing them to scout ahead of tanks, while tanks provide direct fire support. Same approach is used by regular infantry in cities. When attacking defended positions, heavy artillery support will be called in, typically in the form of a creeping barrage. First step however is heavy scouting to identify enemy defensive positions, strongpoints and weak spots.

Units prefer to have a three-to-one local advantage in attack. In infantry, this means attacking element, fire support element and flanking element. In navy, there may be two flanking elements (side and top/bottom). Attacks, both ground and space, are carried out in waves. First wave will reach designated limit line, stop and reorganize; second wave will pass the first wave and keep advancing until it reaches its own limit line, at which point first wave, now fresh and reorganized, will launch its own attack. Laigin specialty are night attacks, which are slightly more difficult to organize but can be frighteningly effective, particularly against underequipped or technologically backwards enemies. These are typically done just before the dawn.

Infiltration tactics are heavily utilized in all situations. During fleet advance, detached frigate groups are deployed behind the enemy lines on a seek-and-destroy campaign against enemy logistical and civilian cargo ships, disrupting enemy’s logistics and economy. With time, such attacks can cause the enemy to redeploy more and more ships to guard convoys, weakening his front lines. Assaults against space stations and even planets are preceded by deployment of special forces to shut down or disrupt enemy defences from inside. On ground, special forces are deployed behind the enemy lines, identifying and possibly eliminating crucial targets. Assaults against static defensive lines are preceded by short but massive artillery bombardment against enemy defences and support structures (C4ISR, logistics, communication lines). Armoured units advance under cover of artillery fire, breaching the weakest points of enemy defences and then spreading out in the enemy rear area to cut off any support and reinforcements while infantry eliminates enemy front-line units. Breakthrough (in space or on ground) is reinforced by reserve forces with the aim of destroying enemy reserves, communications and supply depots.

Initial attack is made by several independent formations, with each operation designed to divert the enemy attention and prevent him from figuring out the real objective. Each formation has its own set of objectives, to be completed at formation’s discretion according to local conditions. Main objective of the attack is assigned to whichever unit is in best position to fulfill it. Alternatively, false attacks may be launched at points removed from the objective to draw out enemy reinforcements. Oftentimes, the goal of the attack – be it armoured or fleet attack – is simply to penetrate as deep behind the enemy lines as possible and cause as much damage to support structures as possible. If objective of the attack is particularly important and defended, several formations will combine before launching the attack.

When attacking enemy systems, frigate groups will attempt to destroy hyperspace sensors and comm buoys of several systems, along a broad area, to mask approach of the main force. This prevents the enemy from determining exact target of the attack until the moment of the attack. If possible, extraplanetary sensors in systems themselves will be neutralized as well. Approach to target world is preferably made from the opposite side of planet’s star to mask fleet’s signature. In several cases commanders even utilized hyperspace storms to mask fleet’s hyperspace signature, losing some ships in exchange for complete surprise. Fleet itself may approach the system formed in several battlegroups and from multiple directions, preventing the enemy from easily estimating the size of the force, and combine into one force just before combat contact. Some warships may even be equipped with false hull to disguise them as support ships.

Ground attacks use similar principles. Large forces will be simulated with dummy guns, tanks etc. while actual force may be dozens or hundreds of miles away, hidden by multispectral camouflage netting. Radio traffic will be likewise simulated. Troops are moved in secret, dug in and camouflaged.


Defense is seen as a primary duty of the military. Normal day-to-day operations of the Navy consist mostly of counter-attacks and raiding into enemy territories for purposes of destabilizing enemy posture and gathering information, as well as intercepting enemy raids against outposts and unfortified worlds (i.e. worlds without planetary shields). For border security Navy is aided by a number of secret listening and sensory posts outside of Empire’s borders. These scan hyperspace for any signatures and listen in communications, sending regular reports back to the Empire. Listening posts are reinforced by light scout ships. Any indication of an attack – unusual activity on border, massing of ships, listening post falling silent – prompts the Royal Navy to send a scouting force of frigates to check what has happened. At the same time, a cruiser force – consisting of battlecruisers, light cruisers and frigates – is assembled near the border to check the enemy incursion before the enemy crosses the border. Heavy force of battleships, heavy cruisers and destroyers is meanwhile assembled in the rear area, acting as a strategic reserve.

Once enemy force and likely route had been ascertained from reports provided by observation posts and scouting forces, battlecruiser force shadows it until battleship force gets into position to intercept. Once battleship force gets into position, battlecruiser force closes in and brings the enemy force out of hyperspace, keeping it in place until battleship force can perform the interception. If enemy force is slow enough, only light scouting units are used to shadow it until battleship and battlecruiser forces can perform simultaneous interception. Ideally, interception happens before the enemy crosses the border. If enemy fleet is small enough, and battleship force will not make it in time, battlecruiser force makes the interception on its own.

If enemy fleet is too powerful to be destroyed without heavy casualties, or interception could not be made in time, request for assistance from deeper sectors will be made. In such a case, enemy will be allowed to lay siege to border worlds in order to buy time for the fleets to gather, and will be continually shadowed by the battlecruiser force. If enemy force is a regular force from an established state – as opposed to e.g. nomadic group – cruiser portion of the fleet will launch counter-raids, possibly forcing the enemy to return in order to defend their own territory. Once fleets had gathered, an all-out assault may be made against the enemy fleet, and possibly enemy territory as well. If enemy fleet is still too powerful, attack will be made directly against enemy territory. If needed, fleets may be called in from all over the Empire, and if some fleets may not make it in time, they will be detailed to attack enemy territory instead. Since Laigin ships tend to be somewhat faster than enemy counterparts, any division of enemy force opens it up to possibility of defeat in detail. Attacks against planets typically require ground forces except in rare cases where no planetary shields are present. These forces require supplies, meaning that no direct fleet engagement is required except in rare cases when enemy brings truly overwhelming force to bear. Supplies are brought in by cargo ships, which are vulnerable to interception by light fleet forces. Enemy army supplies are similarly attacked, and any groundside supplies either moved to defended depots or destroyed outright. Once worn down, ground forces and if possible in-system starship presence is destroyed in a series of ambushes.

Fortified planets – by definition equipped with planetary shields – are used to slow down enemy fleet, and as bases to resupply and repair starships. This makes them too valuable and too dangerous to ignore. An industrial world can, if left untouched, shift balance of power by producing starships ready to deploy into enemy’s rear. This plays against nomadic and mobility-based forces, forcing them to besiege well-defended strongholds. Enemy mobility can also be reduced by placing interceptor forces at hyperspace lanes/highways, forcing the enemy to either fight through them or else accept the penalty of reduced movement speed. Since Laigin Empire is in area with comparatively high star density, hyperspace highways are narrow and far between, significantly limiting Asquilahs’ offensive options. Aside for fortified planets, the Empire maintains a number of secret naval bases and outposts – generally in close orbits around highly active stars which help mask them from enemy sensors. These are used for resupply, maintenance and all other fleet’s logistical needs so as to ensure continued operation against superior enemy forces, effecting a “fleet in being”.

Mobile forces discussed above are concentrated at strategically important locations, particularly near hyperspace streams/lanes – specifically near “crossroads” – and are deployed against major incursions. Pirate raids and similar minor threats are handled by local planetary forces. Importance of hyperspace lanes means that they are heavily protected by listening posts, observation posts and military outposts – which ironically results in invaders often avoiding hyperspace lanes, making them harder to locate but also much slower.

This defence is reinforced by the existence of a string of dependencies, vassal states and suzerainties. These client states act as a buffer zone, intercepting smaller invasions and providing warning of larger attacks. In turn, Laigin Empire provides them with military support and other forms of aid as required, as well as establishing trade relationships. On areas of border where client states are present, same system of defense is used as outlined in previous paragraphs, but with respect to client’s border as opposed to imperial territorial border – albeit fleets are still stationed within the Empire itself. Exact specifics are however dependant on agreements and may be subject to change. Where such buffer states are not present, attempts are made to establish diplomatic relations to whatever entities are present and possibly establish them as allies – be it states, corporations or even smuggling organizations. If alliances cannot be established, various factions are played against each other.

Enemies are varied – pirates, slavers, nomadic tribes, tribal federations and formalized countries. Of those, tribal federations are particularly dangerous, especially when ideologically or religiously motivated, but most of them break apart quickly under strain of internal politics or due to military failures. Even so, they are capable of causing massive damage if allowed to roam unchecked. Tribes are dealth with by signing mutual defense treaties and giving subsidies, while any tribal invasions are punished by punitive expeditions where possible. Enemy commanders may be bribed. Anyone negotiating with enemies or assisting them is dealt with swiftly and decisively, as much as possible.

While pirates are a danger, privateers as well as other mercenaries may be contracted by planetary or provincial governors to bolster defences in times of need. This is also done by the central military as outlaws often know tricks and hyperspace shortcuts that professional military may be unaware of.

On ground as well, first line of defense are patrols and listening/observation posts. Any likely landing sites and choke points are covered by artillery and machine guns. Various obstacles are employed, from minefields to barbed wire and stakes. About a third of the force is kept as a mobile reserve to reinforce the defensive line and counter any breakthroughs. For any ground unit, digging defensive works is the first thing to be done after a stop call has been made. For brief stops, only shallow pits and trenches are dug out; the longer the stay, the more elaborate its defences. On hilly terrain, larger units will make two defensive lines, one on front slope and another on reverse slope.


In both aspects of warfare, intelligence gathering is crucial. Intelligence gathering is divided into strategic and tactical. Strategic intelligence includes the information on enemy culture, mentality, doctrine, political structure, economic structure, etc. It is used to inform long-term decision-making. Tactical intelligence includes information on current force structure, disposition etc., and is crucial for winning battles. Diplomatic contacts, from other states to nomadic peoples, are a crucial source of information. Other sources of information are sensory and listening posts, scouting ships and unmanned probes, as well as various contacts and unofficial channels (mercenaries, privateers, pirates, criminal underground…). Spies, patrols, reconnaissance and probing attacks are all used for intelligence gathering purposes.

When making strategic decisions, Laigin Empire has inbuilt 10th man rule: if nine people all look at the same information and arrive at the same conclusion, it is a duty of 10th man to disagree. The 10th man has to find, compile and present all evidence, as well as possible arguments, that prove the remaining nine wrong, no matter how improbable or impossible his arguments seem. He must never stop until all possible avenues have been checked. Preparations are then made for worst case scenario. This way, group-think and conformity – so common in social animals – are avoided. In more complex situations, whole groups may be given the “tenth man” role. All Military Intelligence organizations have Control Units whose entire purpose is precisely that: producing range of explanations and assessments for events which avoid relying on a single concept. They actively criticize products coming from analysis and production divisions and write opinion papers contrary to these departments’ assessments. These memos go directly to Director of Military Intelligence and all other major decision makers. They also write and distribute papers examining the possibility of a sudden and negative change in security environment (including political, economic etc. spheres).


As noted before, diplomacy is absolutely crucial. Diplomatic contacts are maintained with all states – friends, neutrals and enemies – whenever possible. Regular contact is considered a basis for successful negotiations, and diplomatic contact is maintained even during the war – when guns speak, diplomats must shout. This also pertains to nomadic peoples. Problem with nomads is that, due to geographical distance and lack of communications infrastructure, regular contact is hard to impossible. Further, they tend to be decentralized, meaning that negotiations with one group do not affect relations with any other group. This is not true only if a powerful leader manages to unite various groups, but aside from presenting a major threat, such alliances are short-lived.

The Bureau of Foreign Relations studies the weaknesses, strengths and personalities of all neighbouring states, cultures, peoples and leaders. It also keeps tabs on centres of power and influential individuals and families, including possible ways of influencing them. Consequently, tools and approaches such as psychological analysis are highly important. As with military intelligence, these are used to inform long-term decision-making.

Normally, diplomacy is used to maintain balance of power. Much like other empires, Laigin Empire may incite attacks on a neighbour if said neighbour starts growing too powerful. Other than Asquilah Empire, most empires do not wage wars of conquest, but rather for control over trade routes, for influence and to maintain balance of power. This makes wars frequent but limited in scope, as the goal of the war never is outright destruction of the enemy, but rather “merely” achieving favourable position and maintaining balance of power. Two empires that had waged a war decades, years or even just days before, may help each other against a more powerful third party. The “resource” fought over in such wars is oftentimes nothing physical – not even trade routes – but rather political and diplomatic influence in an area.

Against new or powerful enemies, diplomacy and negotiations will be used to gather intelligence, buy time to optimize strategies, and to break down enemy’s own operational tempo with frequent truces and negotiations. Diplomacy is also used to recruit allies – including former enemies – against the new threat. Subversion is the cheapest path to victory, and nomads in particular are open to being recruited.

There is a special Office of the Barbarians which deals solely with gathering military intelligence and disseminating it to officers in the field. The Office gathers intelligence from Military Intelligence agencies as well as diplomatic corps, analyzes it and then sends results to appropriate agencies or military commanders. Unlike MI agencies, the Office is subordinated directly to the government executive.

Military itself is often used to help in civic role, with public works and similar, both at home and abroad.


Rome at War AD 293-696

Byzantium at War AD 600-1453

Heraclius and the Evolution of Byzantine Strategy

The Strategy of Heraclius

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Sci-Fi Military Proposal Part 1: Doctrine

Posted by picard578 on December 2, 2017

Note: in keeping with Tolkien’s influences for Numenor and Gondor, I based most characteristics predominantly on those of 18th-19th century British as well as medieval Byzantine empires, but adjusting it for modern technology. For the latter I used two books about Byzantine Empire, particularly the book of Edward Luttak. I suggest everyone to read those books unless they already haven’t – Byzantine military art and grand strategy are in many aspects superior to most if not all modern countries, and if it weren’t for the Fourth Crusade, it is impossible to say for how long it would have survived – far longer than it historically did is for certain. It did indeed earn its nickname of “The Empire that would not die”, and between Roman Kingdom, Republic, and two eras of the Empire (the Roman and Byzantine era), it lasted for 2.200 years despite several massive disasters. Interesting fact I had noticed is that, while Republic and Principate-era Roman Empire used unit basis of 6 to 10 (10 men in decuria, 100 men in centuria, 600 in cohort, 6.000 in legion, later to be changed to 8, 80, 480 and 4.800), Byzantine-era military apparently shifted to a base-3 organizational system. I believe the reason for this to be the shift from attrition „meat grinder“ tactics of the Republic and Principate to maneuver tactics of the Byzantium. In fact, it seems that Dominate army might have started the shift to maneuver organization, reducing number of cohorts in a legion – and even if that was not actually the case administratively, fact remains that portions of legions (vexilliones) were often used in place of whole legions, thus de facto achieving the same effect. Late Roman legion of Dominate period thus often had 1.000 to 3.000 men.

So questions I want to ask is:
1) how effective would the approaches outlined be for an actual sci-fi empire (say, in Homeworld 2 or Mass Effect universe)?
2) how effective would they be for a modern First World country (disregarding obvious sci-fi elements)?
3) how would outlined military perform in conventional warfare, and how in insurgent warfare?

Keep in mind, despite the influences this is still intended to be sci-fi interstellar military, and not an actual medieval military.

The books mentioned in the first paragraph are Edward Luttwak – The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire and John Haldon – Essential Histories – Byzantium at War Read the rest of this entry »

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EU Army against democracy

Posted by picard578 on November 18, 2017

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Armoured vehicle utilization

Posted by picard578 on June 16, 2017

Armoured vehicles mentioned here are outlined in this link:

Heavy tanks’ primary purpose is to punch holes in enemy defences. Secondary role is that of a direct fire support for infantry. They are primarily intended for frontal attacks against defensive positions, urban combat and other situations where protection takes precendence over mobility. During defense, they are primarily deployed in mobile frontline groups, supporting fortified strongpoints and eliminating enemy combat units. Heavy tanks also lead any counterattack once the enemy has lost their momentum. Because of this, main targets for heavy tanks are enemy fortifications and armoured vehicles.

Medium tanks are maneuver units, carrying out flanking maneuvers against the enemy that has been tied up by heavy armour. If an opportunity presents itself, they will move along with light tanks past the enemy lines, attacking enemy support and logistics elements. Their primary purpose however is tactical as opposed to operational maneuver, due to their larger size and heavier weight. They also form armoured reserve when on the defense, ready to counter any enemy breakthrough. Unlike heavy tanks, which are primarily breakthrough tanks, medium tanks are expected to primarily act against the enemy armour in maneuver battle.

Light tanks are not supposed to engage enemy combat units at all. They are scouts and raiders, moving ahead of heavier units to warn them of potential ambushes. If opportunity presents, light tanks will slip past the enemy lines to wreak havoc with enemy support and logistics elements, robbing the enemy frontline units of their mobility. This same employment is also used in defensive operations. If necessary, light tanks may act as tank destroyers, using their superior mobility to outmaneuver and destroy enemy main battle tanks. This however is not their primary usage, and should be avoided. Light tanks may take on the role of heavy and medium tanks if terrain does not permit employment of heavier vehicles.

During march, light tanks would undertake scouting duties. Heavy tanks would bring up the front and the rear, and medium tanks would protect the flanks. In breakthroughts, heavy tanks would support the attack at breakthrough points. Once breakthrough has been achieved, medium tanks would roll up the flank of the enemy frontline units, while light tanks would pass into the enemy rear areas and neutralize enemy logistical and C4ISR support. In airborne assaults, light tanks would be dropped in with the infantry. Once air fields had been secured, medium and heavy tanks would be deployed.

Primary purpose of assault guns is direct fire support of infantry, as well as destruction of enemy defences, particularly those that survived indirect-fire bombardment. Because of this, they sacrifice mobility in favour of firepower and protection, mounting both more powerful gun and heavier armour than the tanks they are based on. Secondary role is that of tank destroyers in defensive employment. When utilized in armoured division, tank destroyer versions follow tanks and secure any gained territory from enemy armoured counterattack. Assault guns however keep with the tanks and help dispose of the static positions. A portion of assault guns may stay behind with tank destroyers, allowing their powerful high explosive projectiles to be utilized against enemy infantry units.

Tracked APCs are intended primarily for infantry transport, allowing infantry to follow tanks and deploy when necessary. For this reason, there are three weight classes of APCs, each based on the chassis of one tank type. Heavy APC variant is intended primarily for urban combat, having heavy protection as well as capability for both direct and indirect fire support of the troops it deployed. Medium and light APC variants are intended for maneuver warfare, following their respective tank types. IFV variants of APCs improve on their infantry support capabilities, allowing tanks to focus on tasks other than infantry fire support. Tank destroyer variants of APCs are expected to provide last-ditch protection from enemy armoured attacks. Wheeled APCs fulfill same tasks, but are intended for urban warfare.

Air defense vehicles are expected to provide layered air defense to divisions on the attack. For this reason there is a great variety of weapons employed, allowing effective engagement of aerial targets at all relevant ranges. Being based on a tank chassis allows it to follow armoured units through all types of terrain that are passable to tanks. Air defense tasks include engagement and destruction of enemy fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, as well as destruction of munitions dropped by enemy aircraft.

Flamethrower tank is intended for destruction of enemy strongpoints and bunkers, primarily in close-range urban combat where liquid flamethrowers can be useful. If necessary, it can also be used for clearing away plant growth that impedes combat operations.

Mortar carriers are intended for indirect fire support of infantry engaged in combat. Compared to howitzers which fire heavy, relatively thick-skinned shell at comparatively shallow angle, mortar carriers fire high-content HE shell with thin walls at steep angle. This makes them an excellent choice for defense against massed infantry attacks, as well as destroying unprotected equipment, ammunition and fuel stashes etc. Relatively low recoil should allow even mortars based on tanks far higher elevation. Light mortar carrier in particular would be good indirect fire support weapon due to nearly unlimited elevation; this is paid for by its increased vulnerability to small arms fire and artillery bombardment.

Self-propelled howitzers are intended for indirect fire support. Unlike mortars, howitzers cannot be utilized when the enemy is very close – direct-fire role excepted – and are far less useful than mortars in difficult terrain. However, they have heavier and sturdier shell at higher velocities compared to mortars. This allows howitzers advantage in range as well as greater effectiveness against enemy fortified positions. Large-calibre artillery in particular would be effective against heavy fortifications, and thus concentrated under divisional command, while smaller-calibre artillery would be attacked to maneuver elements.

MLRS systems are intended primarily for area supression fire missions, when it is imperative to launch large number of rounds in short span of time. If combined with guided missile rounds, they could be utilized even for point destruction missions. Their advantage compared to conventional artillery is longer range, allowing them to remain safe from most enemy surface weapons. However, size of rockets means that far larger supply chain is required for the same number of projectiles to be transported. Larger-calibre MLRS should have the capability to fire rockets with armour-penetrating warheads, thus allowing for destruction of enemy fortifications.

Armoured car is intended primarily to provide infantry with a light armoured vehicle optimized for urban operations. Since such cars would be (comparatively) low-value targets, they can be used for scouting and screening of higher-value tragets in both urban and country environment.

Gun truck is intended to give infantry versatile fire support capable of engaging a wide variety of targets. Basic version mounting machine guns or anti-aircraft gun would allow for anti-aircraft defense, as well as direct fire against enemy infantry and soft-skinned vehicles. Relatively low price and good situational awareness would make it excellent for convoy protection.

Reconnaissance vehicle would act as a control center for a reconnaissance section. It would be equipped with UAVs, as well as working alongside foot-mobile and motor-bike scouts, in addition to its own extensive sensory systems. Datalink connections would allow transfer of information in close to real time. As a result, its presence would significantly improve situational awareness. Some vehicles should be assigned directly to command, with others operating independently and transferring data to all units in certain range. Such vehicles would move alongside light armoured formations in particular, allowing them to avoid enemy strongpoints and armoured units, as well as informing units behind of the enemy situation and movements.

Combat units will be supported by armoured logistical vehicles. This is especially important in counterinsurgency / guerilla warfare where there is no front line, making supply units vulnerable to attack. It would also be important in conventional warfare, particularly urban combat which presents similar problems to logistical units as counterinsurgency does, exposing them to direct attacks. Another utilization for such units would be escorting maneuver units in combat zone, allowing far better mobility and thus freedom of maneuver. Light tanks in particular would benefit from this due to their task of penetrating deep behind the enemy lines. Mobility-wise, armed combat engineering vehicle would be useful in destroying barricades in cases of urban combat, while bridge carrier and amphibious rig vehicles would allow crossing of obstacles such as rivers and (smaller) lakes. Combat engineering tractor would provide generalist support for light tank units deep behind enemy lines.

Some support vehicles, such as armoured ladder carrier and water cannon vehicle would be utilized almost exclusively for urban combat. Another such vehicle is ammunition trailer, which would likely limit mobility over the open country, but would prove invaluable in urban warfare for increasing tank’s supply of machine gun ammo. Armoured bulldozer would also be heavily utilized in urban warfare for removing barricades, and would see some utilization in open country for digging tank pits. It would be used for a wide variety of tasks in general, such as earthworks, digging moats (or filling them in), mounting digging sand barriers, building fortifications, rescuing stuck, damaged or overturned armoured vehicles, clearing landmines, IEDs and explosives, clearing terrain obstacles and demolishing structures. These tasks are also filled by combat engineering tractor, but at greater cost.

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Defining stealth

Posted by picard578 on March 1, 2017


Word “stealth” has lately become a catchword used to define the weapon – mostly aircraft – as “superior”, with little or no thought as to what the term actually means. Stealth fighters, stealth bombers, stealth ships… even stealth tanks, the craze is in full swing. But how much do these weapons deserve the label? What is stealth? Is merely having low radar cross section enough – as commonly held – to define the weapon as “stealth”? Is USAF stuck on denial that no military advantage lasts forever, or even on denial that it never understood the true meaning of stealth? Every successful use of stealth aircraft had seen them acting as a support of, and being supported by, an array of nonstealthy aircraft – AWACS, standoff jammers etc. Yet USAF is now aiming for an all-stealth tactical fighter force, even though it will make the force less flexible and arguably less capable as well. How stealthy these aircraft really are, and what are their vulnerabilities? Read the rest of this entry »

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Strategic bombing – from Douhet to drones

Posted by picard578 on October 7, 2012


Gulio Douhet and bomber mafia

Italian general Gulio Douhet was, along with UK politician Stanley Baldwin (who said that “bomber will always get through”), German general Walther Wever, US general Billy Mitchell and UK marshal Hugh Trenchard, one of main advocates of idea that strategic bombing can win war.

Ideas were as following:

  1. war can be won entirely by destruction of enemy military and industrial capability from air
  2. fighters cannot effectively counter bombers – vastness of skies made defense impossible
  3. strategic bombardment can force enemy to surrender by breaking civilain morale

While point #2 was correct until World War 2 (bombers had speed advantage over fighters and lack of means of detection other than visual observation meant that fighters will be unable to scramble in time), introduction in radar and improvements in fighter performance meant that, by 1945, bombers:

  1. could be spotted from long before reaching targets
  2. were slower, lower flying and less heavily armed than fighters

enabling fighters to effectively counter bombers. While fighters, and especially anti-air artillery, did not manage to stop bombers from coming throught, they inflicted unsustainable casualties on bomber formations until escort fighters became avaliable.

Advances in missiles, both AAMs and SAMs, however, made large, heavy, non-maneuverable bombers even easier targets; with each missile being able to destroy bomber in one hit, and heavy bombers lacking maneuverability to evade missiles, any area covered with fighters or SAMs would be closed to them.

Moreover, strategic bombardment failed to break enemy’s will to fight in all instances of its use, thus negating a major point of proponents of the theory. It’s proponents – specifically Gulio Douhet – tended to ignore Close Air Support mission as “useless, superfluous and harmful”.

However, World War II decisively proved him wrong. Despite intense strategic bombardment by both Axis and Western Allies, and heavy civilian casualties, strategic bombardment failed to force enemy to surrender. Same situation repeated itself in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. In all of these conflicts, strategic bombardment did exactly opposite – it galvanized people in resistance against agressor; and every war in which strategic bombardment was used, was lenghtened due to it.

Walther Weawever, on the other hand, believed that heavy bombers can:

  1. destroy enemy air force by bombing its bases and aircraft factories
  2. prevent movement of large enemy forces by destroying railways and roads
  3. support operations of army formations
  4. support naval operations by participating in naval battles and attacking enemy naval bases
  5. paralayze enemy armed forces by stoppong production in armaments factories

Heavy bombers, however, proved inadequate for most of these missions.

“Industrial Web Theory” also came into being. Idea was that industrialized nations had certain points that were vulnerable to attack, and that these points could cripple entire industry. Unlike Mitchell, Douhet believed that attacks on enemy air force are futile.

One of main reasons why strategic bombing was, and is, popular, is that it provides justification for independent air forces in age of joint military operations. For the same reason, CAS mission is hated by USAF despite its effectiveness, because it makes them feel like part of Army artillery.

History of strategic bombing

World War I


While tactical bombing from aircraft was carried out from early in the war, the first ever aerial bombardment of civilians was carried out on January 19, 1915 – two German Zeppelins dropped 24 fifty-kilogram incendinaries in Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, Kings Lynn and the surrounding villages, killing four people. Public and media reaction was, however, out of proportion.

But main use of airpower was in scouting, and preventing enemy scouting, which led to development of fighter aircraft. Also, UK Royal Navy’s fighter aircraft were used to prevent German Zeppelin bombardments.

Decision to take offensive against German Zeppelin facilities led to development of first British strategic bomber, Handley Page 0/100.

German Zeppelin bombardment, meanwhile, killed 500 people through 1915 and 1916, forcing RAF to allocate 17 000 officers and men to home air defense. While Zeppelins were initially thought of as invincible – they were almost as fast as aircraft, carried a greater bomb load and multiple machine guns, and had great range and endurance; while it was not easy to ignite hydrogen using standard bullets – and had great pschologycal impact (although their strategical impact was unimportant), development of incideary ammo led to the loss of SL.11, ending Army’s interest in strategic bombardment of Britain for a while. German Navy (Kasierliche Marine), however, continued raids.

12-Zeppelin raid was launched on 23-24 September 1916, in which two Zeppelins were lost. 11-Zeppelin raid was launched on 1. October 1916., although only one arrived to targets due to bad weather and was destroyed.

In 27-28 November raid, by unknown number of Zeppelins, two were lost.

In 1917, new Zeppelins were introduced, with increased operating altitude. First raid by these Zeppelins was in 16-17 March, when none of Zeppelins reached targets, as happened to next raid on 23-24 May. Two days later, raid by Gotha bombers was halted by clouds.

In 16-17 June raid, two out of six Zeppelins reached England, and one was destroyed when it was forced to drop to 4 000 meters due to engine and compass problems.

All later raids through 1917 were ineffective. In 1918, there were four raids, with one Zeppelin lost.


Strategic bombing in World War One never had a chance to either prove or disprove Douhet’s theory, due to small scope of bombardment. However, interesting to note are high casualty rates among Zeppelins carrying out bombardment, in spite of original assumptions, and technological advancements which rendered pre-war assumptions invalid, such as incidientary ammo. Same story will repeat itself in World War II.

World War II

Allied campaign

First use of air power in World War II was by Germany. While German generals believed Douhet, they also saw value of precision bombing of tactical targets via dive bombers. These bombers proved important part of Blitzkrieg. Yet, Germany performed strategic bombing from early in the war – such as destruction of Warshaw.

In following Battle of Britain, Douhet’s ideas were to be put on a thorough test after Hitler switched targets to be attacked from military – airfields, radar station, depots – to targeting of the civilian poplation centres. That was a classic Douhet-esque move, aimed at winning a war by breaking civilian morale.

One part of Douhet’s theory was immediately proven wrong by fact of German attack alone – entire UKs heavy bomber fleet did not prevent Germany from bombing British islands. Nor did British retaliation make them withdraw attacks.

However, by switching targets from military to civilian ones, Hitler had allowed by-then badly mauled RAF time to regroup and lick its wounds. Meanwhile, RAFs bombing of German cities – made in retaliation to German bombing – did not stop German attacks on UK cities. Moreover, RAF was forced to change strategy to indiscriminate, and ineffective, night bombing after unescorted day bombing raids failed to come through. Thus came to rest second part of Douhet’s theory.

As matter of fact, there is evidence that Churchill used accidental bombing of London on the night of August 24 to launch counter raid on Berlin; next day Hitler ordered Luftwaffe to switch to bombing cities – which cost it victory in the Battle of Britain.

USAAC also started daylight bombing from heavy bombers, but this time attemoting to destroy Germany’s industrial might. They believed that heavily-armored, heavily-armed B17 will be able to escort itself to and from the target; however, Luftwaffe used light bombs and rockets to bring down unescorted bombers, and no amount of armor proved adequate.

Priorities were described as following:

  • submarine pens and construction yards
  • German fighter aircraft production plants
  • rail network in France and Germany
  • Germany’s fuel supply
  • generalized targets in Germany’s war industry

Aim was to weaken or destroy Germany’s military, industrial and economic system as well as will of German people to fight.

First target were ball bearing plants. However, bombing was halted until early 1944 after losses of 10-35 % per sortie through 1943. It also failed to have any effect – not only there is no evidence that attacks had any lasting effect on ball-bearing industry, but Germany also had large surplus of ball bearings, plus supply from Sweden and Switzerland. Only thing it did was to provide Luftwaffe with opportunity for turkey hunt. Only between 10 and 35 % bombs fell within 5 miles radius of target during each raid; moreover, only 66 % of aircraft actually attacked targets.

Attacking submarine pens also proved useless, since pens were protected by 6 to 8 meters of steel-reinforced concrete. Albert Speer also dispersed submarine production facilities and moved assembly to invulnerable factories, which made further attacks useless.

Attacking rail system at France also failed to stop flow of supplies due to imprecision of bombing and great number of rails avaliable. It was nearly stopped, however, by P-47s and other fighters flying bombing missions, destroying vehicles and lines of communication in precision attacks, slowing German economy.

Attack on Ploesti oil fields had cost Allies half the aircraft. Yet despite oil industry’s importance and vulnerability, it was fourth on the list, and attacks only recommenced in 1944, where oil production was already droppong due to Russian pressure.

Attack on fighter aircraft industry, meanwhile, had opposite effect – Germany increased its fighter production, from 8 295 in 1939 and 15 596 in 1942 to 39 807 aircraft in 1944. However, bombing was success in a sense that bombers drew German fighters where they could be shot down by superior numbers of Allied fighter aircraft – it was P51 that won air superiority over Europe. In fact, by D-Day, Luftwaffe could only launch 200 sorties a day, as opposed to 15 000 sorties a day for Allies. Heavy bombers, meanwhile, failed to destroy German fortifications at Omaha beach. Meanwhile, 1500 P-47s badly mauled 23 German divisions, delaying them for as much as six weeks – whereas original travel time predicted was 3 days; in short, P-47s in CAS role saved invasion from becoming disaster.

All attacks against manufacturing industry had same effect: while production would suffer temporary setback after the raid, it would recover in matter of few weeks. While German industry suffered badly during latter 1944, there is no evidence that bombing was the cause; Soviet pressure, lack of raw resources and many other factors were making for its collapse. Galbraight’s report also indicates that strategic bombing actually helped to streamline, rather than injure, war production, forcing them to bypass usual bureocratic obstacles.

Moreover, RAFs indiscriminate attacks on German cities had the same effect as German attacks on British cities – instead of breaking enemy’s will to fight, they strenghtened it. In Germany, 570 000 people were killed by bombings – yet despite all this, German will remained strong, and German military and overall economic production rose until August 1944 – whereas in beginning of 1940, monthly production figure for Me-109 was 125, it reached peak with monthly production of 2 500 by autumn of 1944 – after year and half of massive bombardment of production plants. If Germany had been producing 2 500 fighters and dive bombers per month since 1939, it could have well won the Battle for Britain.

Heavy bombers only proved effective once they started being used in direct attacks on German military units – that is, Close Air Support. But that is not what heavy bombers are made to do, and is opposite of Douhet’s theories. Not only did bomber loss rate drop by 75%, but they also succeded in disrupting communications – particularly road and rail network.

Strategic bombing, however, was effective in two ways: first, it drew out Luftwaffe and enabled its destruction by Allied fighters. Second way was actually German blunder: instead of producing fighters and training pilots, Germany had more than 55 000 anti-aircraft guns, which used up 20 percent of all ammunition produced, to almost no effect.

Strategic bombing campaign also caused great deal of losses amongst Allied air crews: RAF lost 1404 four-engine bombers through 1942, around 300% of its heavy bomber strength at any point of time during that year. During “Battle of Berlin” between August 1943 and March 1944, RAF bomber command lost its entire fleet every three months – between January 1943 and March 1944, losses totalled 5881 bombers with almost 29 500 airmen (all losses were over Axis-controlled terriroty). In three to four years of bombing, between 1942 and 1945, RAF bomber command suffered over 70 000 casualties and made absolutely no impression on German war production.

On island of Pantelleria and Pelagian atoll, near Sicily, 5 600 tons of bombs dropped by bombers failed to “convince” Italians to surrender.

On US side, half of US’ WW2 budget went to air power, and 65% of that went to multi-engined bombers. Strategic bombing failed to affect German war production, and as result, from March 1944 onwards, 65% of bomber sorties were directed against German positions as opposed to war production. While fighters suffered loss rate of 1,1% at most, bomber loss rate was around 4,5%, with 6 to 10 crew members lost per aircraft, as opposed to 1 crew member lost in fighter.

Out of eight strategic bombing campaigns – against ball bearing, aircraft, steel, armored vehicle production, electrical power, truck production, fuel production and submarine pens – all except oil production campaign were deemed unsuccessfull by USSBS. However, dire German fuel shortages can be attributed to Soviet capture of Ploesti oil fields, although oil fields are vulnerable to bombardment.

Pacific War also proved the same; US indiscriminate bombing of population centres failed to force Japanese surrender, and even atomic bombs – opposite to general opinion – were ineffective. Despite “precise bombing” campaign, B29 force destroyed none of designated high-priority targets, but firestorms created by napalm bombs killed 120 000 people in Tokyo alone, and all 68 major cities, except Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were burned to the floor by incidientary bombs. Yet Japanese did not accept US terms of surrender, and even after usage of atomic bombs, they surrendered only after US accepted their single term; namely, that Hirohito remains Emperor.

Moreover, Japanese have been trying to surrender since defeat at Midway, since they knew they could not win after that setback. Peace feelers continued through ’42, ’43 and ’44, yet US continued to demand unconditional surrender and that Hirohito be tried for his crimes, and possibly executed – neither of which happened anyway, but US knew these terms were unacceptable to the Japanese. Despite general opinion that atomic bombs ended the war in the Pacific, truth is different – they lenghtened it; main purpose of bombs was to scare Soviet Union.

Axis campaign

From 1930s onwards, Axis airpower spending was focused on bombers. In Germany, Col. Gen. Ernst Udest was only opponent of strategic bombing, and was responsible for development of Stuka, which received only 2% of spending – and fact that Udest was close friend of Hermann Goering was probably only thing keeping Stuka from being cancelled – as soon as Udest died in 1943, Stuka’s procurement ended.

Until 1943, production of bombers was 5 bombers for one Stuka – which translated into 25 crewmen for bombers for every two crewmen for Stukas (on average, heavy bombers had 5 crewmen per aircraft while Stukas had two) and 25:1 cost ratio. Out of 114 000 aircraft produced by Germany in World War II, 25 000 were bombers, and only 4 900 Stukas; only 1 000 bombers less would have resulted in doubling number of Stukas, and cancellation in bomber procurement could have resulted in 125 000 more fighters, dive bombers and/or tanks – although crew requirements for last would have reduced the number substantially.

During attack on countries of Benelux, Luftwaffe lost 67 bombers and 16 Stukas. Stukas, meanwhile, excelled in Close Air Support, allowing Wehrmacht to easily cross Meuse river by using pontoon bridges, which British bombers failed to eliminate. During battle of Dunkirk, RAF lost 60 fighters shot down and 117 damaged; Luftwaffe lost 240 aircraft, most of them multi-engined strategic bombers. Per-aircraft, average loss was 0,5 crewmen for fighters, and 0,8 – 0,85 for strategic bombers. While Luftwaffe managed to destroy 6 destroyers and 230 lesser ships, most of casualties were inflicted by dive bombers.

In Battle of Britain, Luftwaffe had 1 109 fighters (809 Me-109s), 316 Stukas and 1134 strategic bombers against 741 fighters (279 Spitfires) on British side.

During first phase of battle, Stukas managed to sink one of every three British ships using English Channel; within three weeks, British ships were forced to abandon the Channel.

During second phase, Luftwaffe strategic bombers started bombing RAF fighter bases in hopes of achieving air superiority. They failed, loosing 621 bombers (45 % initial strength) and 88 Stukas (21 % of initial strength). Moreover, Stukas flew sorties at three times bomber’s rate.

After these crushing losses, Germany switched to night attacks, fuelling British desire for revenge – and their war production.

On Eastern Front, Me-109s shot 179 Soviet strategic bombers they tried to use as early retaliation. Despite that, and despite heavy fuel shortages, Luftwaffe continued to use strategic bombers in campaigns of terror, increasing Soviet morale as well as worsening fuel shortages that were hampering its missions. Other than that, strategic bombardment achieved nothing.

Worse part was that only 300 Stukas were avaliable to cover entire 2 200 mile (3 500 kilometer) front, missing many opportunities for turkey shoot against disorganized Soviet units. Given great successes of Stukas against tactical targets (most successfull Stuka commander had 518 tank kills, second most successfull over 300), as well as possibility of usage of Stukas against Soviet lines of communication, bomber production probably cost Germany any possibility of success on the Eastern Front. In 1941, Luftwaffe had lost 1 798 bombers from beginning number of 1 339, while Stuka losses were 366 from beginning number of 456. That also translates into ~7 000 crewmen lost in heavy bombers for ~180 in Stukas. On a per sortie rate, bomber losses were 500% greater.

It also took one Stuka to sink Soviet battleship Marat – whose 25 million USD cost equalled the cost of entire Stuka production run. Meanwhile, in a similar situation, British sent 299 heavy bomber attacks against Gneiseau, Scharnhost and Prinz Eugen, loosing 43 bombers and 247 airmen; later, they lost 60 aircraft, mostly bombers, and 345 airmen trying to sink ships while they were escaping – out of 150 Me-109s providing cover, 17 fighters and 11 airmen were lost.

Despite all this, Stuka production was cancelled in 1943, with last Stuka being produced in July 1944. Meanwhile, a well-concieved A10-esque follow-on, Hs-129B, equipped with armored cockpit, two widely spaced engines and a 30 mm cannon, was never produced. Cannon itself held enough rounds for 18 tank-killing attacks, compared to 6 for Stuka. Russians, meanwhile, produced 36 000 of Sthrumovik IL-2 CAS aircraft, which allowed them to win first Battle of Kursk (at Prokhorovka, where I don’t know of any CAS aircraft participating, Germans permanently lost 7 AFVs and destroyed 134 Soviet AFVs).

Germany also produced specialized revenge weapons – V1, which was slow and easy to shoot down, and V2, which, while it could not be shot down, was imprecise). 6 000 V2s were produced and 3 000 were successfully launched; for the 6 000 V2s, 48 000 tanks or 24 000 fighters (and Stukas) could have been procured.

Impact of strategic bombing on economy of country undertaking it

(from John Fahey’s paper)

On example of Great Britain, we will analyze impact of strategic bombing campaign on a country using strategic bombing on the enemy.

Britain has expended 2,75 billion GBP on strategic bombing, or 2 911 GBP for every sortie flown, that is, 5 914 GBP per every civillian killed in the bombing.

For purposes of its air offensive during World War II, Great Britain increased domestic production from 893 aircraft in 1935 to 26 461 aircraft in 1944, whereas total mass of aircraft produced increased 11 times.

Moreover, in order to conduct war Britain had to recruit and train over million men and women to serve in RAF, 100 000 to 150 000 of which were required to operate Bomber Command, and uknown number in roles connected to Bomber Command. Moreover, large aircraft and numerous aircrews both required large bases to operate; bombs which were to be dropped on enemy cities also had to be manufactured, and fuel had to be imported. In February 1944, Sir Archibad Sinclair told the House of Commons that the Bomber Command received largest share of resources dedicated to war.

UKs post-war economy was in shambles, with UK being in as large danger of collapse as Germany was. Between 1939 and 1945, Britain lost 7 billion GBP of its wealth; during that period, total British government spending had amounted to 28.7 billion GBP of which 22.8 billion GBP (79.4 percent) was spent on defence, and at least 2,78 billion GBP on Bomber Command; British Government expenditure outside defense was 5,94 billion GBP.

Also, factories and airfields built for strategic bombers were single use assets.


Three years after World War II, fighter production was down from 2 000 per month to 11 per month. Meanwhile, force was approved that would consist from 112 heavy bomber groups – 10 000 heavy bombers; in 1947 that went down to 75 heavy bomber groups and 25 light bomber/fighter groups (latter ones grouped “light” two-engined bombers with fighters). Assuming 50/50 division, only 12 percent of force structure would have been fighters (situation is even worse today – at planned structure of 187 F22s and 2443 “F”35s, only 7% of USAF stealth aircraft would be fighters).

Heavy bombers were also used in quasi-cose support by attacking enemy troops. But their imprecision, low numbers and even lower sortie rate meant that they could not perform it successfully. Moreover, entire B29 force (eventually brought up to 150 aircraft) flew less than 1 000 sorties in three years. At average, USAF flew 13 CAS sorties a day during entire war.

After B29s were withdrawn from CAS, they were used in classic Douhet daydream – bombing civilian populace in effort to force enemy to surrender. In three years, they caused two million civilian deaths; yet North Korea did not surrender. North Korean mlitary production and military operations were unaffected. Following winter, 900 000 Chinese intervened, routing UN forces. Heavy bombers threw 4 000 bombs, achieveing 33 hits, to no meaningful effect.

In May 1952, Fighter Command shut down 90% of North Korean power plants. Meanwhile, North Korea received 500 MiG-15s, which failed to win air superiority against (performance-wise equal) F86s – of which 90 were in theatre. Later, they built up to 1300 MiGs, which failed to defeat 200 F86s. Bombers, meanwhile, suffered 10% loss rate, as opposed to Air Force wide 0,2% loss rate.


After Korean War, bombers again came to dominate Air Force funding. Most “fighters” developed were actually nuclear bombers; F111, tri-role (air to air, interdiction and CAS), tri-service fighter bomber turned out to be 35 000 kg nuclear bomber – which it actually was all along. It failed in everything. All of these (F4, F105, F111) were used in strategic bombing of North Vietnamese cities, where 1 “fighter” + 1 tanker = 1 strategic bomber equation was in effect.

Three times more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam than on Germany; US had complete air superiority. Yet, it lost the war. Bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong, as usual, only served to strenghten morale of North Vietnamese, and their will to win. USAF managed to destroy three unimportant bridges after five years of strikes and loss of 100 USAF and USN fighter-bombers (which were bombers first, fighters second). Strategic bombing also failed to stop the flow of supplies to insurgents in the South; total of 1737 combat aircraft were lost.

In South, B52s equipped with Hope Spot system were semi-successfully used in quasi-close support; however, they failed due to their size, vulnerability and low sortie rate. Bombing of Hanoi also failed to give US leverage in peace negotiations. On the other hand, 1944-designed A4 close support propeller aircraft were successfully used in Close Air Support, both at night and at day – they were slow, maneuverable and highly survivable.

First Gulf War

In operation Desert Storm, all strategic bomber was carried out by fighters and light bombers (F117), while heavy bombers carried out quasi-close air support. Strike fighters, using precision weapons – which were far less effective than claimed – still did heavy damage. 3 to 15 times more bombs than necessary was dropped at each target – without real success, although objective of preserving Kuwait’s oil for use by United States and its allies was a success. Kuwait, however, was liberated mostly by ground forces and destruction of Iraqi armor and artillery was mainly carried out by only aircraft USAF generals universally hate – A10.

It also failed to push Iraqi populace into removing Saddam Hussein, and failed to destroy Iraq’s Republician Guard – 60% of which escaped while Air Force was busy destroying facilities and killing civilians. While 39 days of strategic bombardment knocked out electric power and civilian communications, it had little effect on military activities.

F117 was a minor player in the war – it flew 1 300 sorties (3% of total), making 2 000 laser bomb attacks, most of which failed to knock out targets attacked. Strategic bombers (B29 and F16) failed to achieve significant effect against dug-in Republician Guard. A10s meanwhile mauled Iraqi Guard units sent to attack Khafji, while strategic bombardment ended after two weeks due to targeting blunder killing 300 civilians; militarily, it made no difference. In short, it was hated CAS mission that yielded results, not strategic bombing.


During Operation Allied Force, NATO aircraft flew 38 004 sorties, including 10 484 strike sorties. During sorties, 23 614 air munitions were released, for a total of 6 303 tons. 35 per cent of munition pieces were precision-guided. NATO also lost two aircraft – less than expected piecetime training losses – with one more being damaged and written off (some data put number of sorties flown at 36 000).

However, effects were not what were expected. Only three of 80 radar missile batteries were destroyed; Serbia suffered 387 military and 1 400 civilian casualties.

JNA also fired 845 radar-guided SAMs, accounting for three kills – one F16 and one F117 shot down, and another F117 mission-killed. Results of bombing campaign, meanwhile, were minimal.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

During Obama’s presidency, drone strikes went up from 5 a year during Bush regime, to 90 per year. In 2002, there were 167 drones in US inventory. In August 2010, United States had some 7 000 drones; in 2012, number is 7 500, while there are 10 800 manned aircraft. 161 of them are bombers.

As a Cathecism of Catholic Church says about use of force:

“The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain… All other means of putting an end to it [confl ict] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; There must be serious prospects of success [of the use of force]… and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”

Some other religions, to my knowledge, have similar views about use of violence – Islam in particular, and possibly Hinduism as well, while Buddhism forbids killing (interesting to note about Christianity and Judaism is that, in Old Testament, there are 10 Commandments. Sixth Commandment is often mistranslated as “Do not kill”, whereas correct translation would be “Do not murder”. In short, killing is acceptable, but only in self-defense, and only when all other options have been exhausted – everything else is murder; Christianity also encourages passive resistance against oppression (Mahatma Ghandi, anyone?), but that is outside of scope of this analysis).

Strategic bombing, including “precision strikes” by drones, fails at every single criterion. Drones are even worse, however, in a sense that they dehumanize war – drone operators are basically playing war games, except in these war games, real people are getting killed (the effect is called “Playstation mentality”). Moreover, they are out of harm’s way – which may be viewed as a good thing, but in reality is not; as public at home becomes increasingly less aware of real cost of war, war becomes less and less of a last resort. Drones may save lives of aviators, but they are likely to increase casualties in the long run.

Aside from being morally wrong, it is also illegal, as United States often extend bombing into Pakistan. It is also imprecise as any other bombing – and while it may be able to hit vehicles and relatively small areas relatively precisely (at least when compared to WW2 bombers), drones cannot reliably ID individual targets, particularly when targets are people who do not use uniform or vehicles. Moreover, drone strikes are, for all intents and purposes, assasinations – which was banned by Ronald Reagan under Executive Order 12333, issued on December 4, 1981.

From 2001 to 2003, as many as 3 600 civilians were killed in drone strikes. In 2005 – 2008, number was approximately 3 200 civilians. For every militant killed, as many as 50 civilians die. Drones are also known to target civilians who come to help victims of opening strikes.

In Pakistan, over 2 800 of the 3 000 people killed in 2005 – 2012 drone strikes were civilians; only 170 were militants.

Also, Obama has developed a creative way to count civilian casualties. All military-age men killed in a drone strike zone are considered to be combatants, “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Thus official US sources certainly severely underestimate civilian deaths.

And while drone strikes did short-term damage to Al Quaeda, long-term effects are same in all other applications of strategic bombing: strenghtening enemy’s will to fight, and, in this case, bringing more recruits to his cause. Which, having in view US’ dependance on continuous small wars, may have been exactly what US leadership wants. Also, above mentioned problem of decreasing awareness of costs of war at home also helps MICs cause of continuing wars. In similar way that representative democracy creates “democratic deficit”, by removing people away from decision making by layers of bureocracy, usage of drones creates “reality deficit”.

Moreover, drones are everything except safe, from every possible standpoint. Militarily, drones can be hacked; crash rates are also high, even when noone is shooting at them. Drones can also “go rogue” – that is, control is lost. In September 2009, USAF had to shoot down its own drone when it went rogue and threatened to leave Afghanistan with full payload of missiles. In 2008, there was incident when drone used by Irish peacekeepers in Chad decided to go home to Ireland after communications loss. It didn’t make it.

With regards to hacking, insurgents were already able to hack into drones’ live video feed.

Second Gulf War

Before Second Gulf War, USAF advertised that 40-day air campaign will topple regime without ground invasion; they settled for 10 days; during first two, only 1 500 precision bombs were delivered, out of 10 000 planned.

Both Air Force and Navy failed to assasinate Saddam Hussein, and General Tommy Franks launched an invasion which toppled regime in 21 days.


In Libya, Obama has violated aforementioned resolution signed by Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, which forbids assasination, by targeting Moamer Quadaffi. Moreover, entire war was declared on illegitimate grounds.

Again, it has been proven that air power alone cannot achieve goals.

Libya was attacked not only because of its oil, but because Gadaffi attampted to refuse Dollar and Euro, and implement single African currency and EU-esque alliance of African states.

Civilians in Tripoli have died in large numbers due to bombardment, to no effect. Again, air power was only effective in air-to-ground assignments when used in direct support of troops on the ground. Right now, Libya is in transition towards constitutional corporatistic demoncracy; and that is result of Libyan rebels’ ground campaign, not EU’s and US’s strategic bombardment.

Conclusion: usefulness and consequences of bombing

Strategic bombing – any kind of it, but especially terror bombing carried out from World War II until today (drones!) – has neglible military impact. However, it helps motivate civilian populace to fight harder and longer against enemy carrying out bombing.

Precision bombing, itself, is overrated. Guidance systems can be jammed or disrupted by weather or by enemy; intelligence also must be avaliable beforehand to ensure that bombs hit right targets, and ones which enemy values most. And even when nothing of that happends, precision weapons’ precision is never up to the advertised level.

Moreover, precision weapons are expensive, and expended rapidly – in one (admittedly extreme) case, a F16 and B2 used several 500-pound (230 kg) bombs, several cluster munitions and sixteen 2000-pound (910 kg) bombs to destroy Toyota pick up truck with 15 suspected militants.

Also, even in modern times precision bombing from high altitude requires directions from ground to be effective – directions which may not be avaliable due to possible jamming, lack of communications capacity and so on.

Bombing on its own was never effective; it must be used in support of and concurrently with ground offensive. Bombing on its own cannot ensure fulfillment of either military and especially not fulfillment of political goals. War by precision firepower can easily become killing without purpose. It is important to always keep in mind nature of war as fulfillment of political goals by military means, as defined by von Clausewitz; in that sense, anything that does not further that goal is a waste of time and resources; and strategic bombing has never proven to be anything else. It can be used, however, to remove threat from SAMs before invasion, so as to allow other aircraft to carry out CAS mission.

More disturbingly, myth of “precision bombing” introduced idea of clinical, clean war, slowly removing concept of war as a last resort. Censorship ensures that consequences of bombs missing their targets are not shown; noone feels much compassion for a block of concrete shown on IR camera.

“Paralysis” or “Shock and Awe” theory claims that superior firepower can shock enemy to an extent that he will become incapable of retaliation. It is continuation of basic Douhet logic – and it failed, again.

Modern day USAF

While some will say that USAF has learned its lessons, it hasn’t. F15A, F15C and F22A are only dedicated fighters in US arsenal – and all of them made large sacrifices to BVR altar, while F22A was subsequently turned into faux-multirole aircraft. F15E and F16 are turned into bombers, although they do keep good air-to-air capability. F35, on the other hand, is pure bomber/ground attack aircraft, with capability to carry AAMs thrown in purely so as to allow USAF generals and PR staff to say “well, it CAN fight other aircraft”. It can fight, but it won’t win without good numerical edge – which is a problem, considering that F35 is second most expensive “fighter” out there, after F22.

Appendice: Myth of a nuclear deterrence

From Ward Wilson’s text

Nuclear deterrence works on a threat to devastate enemy’s cities. However, history shows that destroying cities rarely affects outcome of the war; attacks on civilians are not only indecisive, but counterproductive.

Argument holds that no exchange between nuclear-capable states is likely since loss of multiple cities is unacceptable price; and usage of even few nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-capable state would force it to immediately surrender.

Most of it is based on bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, evidence shows that Japanese have been trying to surrender since Battle of Midway in 1942.

Thus, main aspect of nuclear deterrence is not threat of destroying enemy’s cities, but rather threat of destroying enemy’s conventional forces with tactical nuclear missiles. However, possibility of nuclear attacks against cities exists in later stages of conflict. Yet, nuclear deterrence assumes that civillian lives matter to the politicians, and that they are influenced by deaths of noncombatants. There is, however, little evidence for that – as seen from above. All predictions of strategic bombing ending the war or hastening the end of the war have been proven wrong.

Evidence that destroying cities does not force enemy to surrender can be traced from Ancient and Middle Ages. Genghis Khan, during his campaign in the Central Asian empire of Khwarazm in 1220, made a practice of destroying cities and slaughtering their inhabitants. Yet none surrendered. During the Thirty Year War, slaughters were regular occurence, and the city of Magdeburg was destroyed in 1631 and its inhabitants slaughtered. War continued like nothing happened.

Despite burning of Atlanta in 1864 and capture of Southern capital of Richmond, Virginia, in 1865, US Civil War continued until armies of generals Robert Lee and Joseph Jonhston were defeated.

During siege of Alesia, both Gauls and Romans rather sentenced Gaulish civilians to death rather than to allow their own supplies be exhausted on non-combatants.

During World War II, 50 to 70 million people died – at least 47 million were civilians. During Thirty Years War, 20 percet of civilians in Germany lost their lives. Yet war went on. In the Paraguayan War, 58% of civilians in Paraguay were killed in five years; war went on.

Extermination attacks, meanwhile, are not credible, simply because there was single extermination attack against enemy in 3 000 years of warfare – Roman war against Carthage. Yet it only came after a series of massively harmful wars – in one of them, Second Punic War, Romans had lost 5 % of their population (France, which had lost 4,2 % of its population in First World War, is talked about as having been “bled white” and “lost entire generation”).

As can be seen, strategic bombing – both nuclear and non-nuclear – works on a threat to civilians; same as terrorism, and is accurately described as “terror bombing”. However, terrorism is ineffective when aimed towards civilian population (indeed, it only increases its will to fight, which US corporatists have masterfully used on 9/11 to shape public opinion). Terrorist groups were effective 7% of the time – economic sanctions, 34%. Moreover, all successful terrorist groups were not actual terrorist groups, but rather guerilla fighters – in short, they ignored civilian targets and focused on military ones.

As for nuclear deterrence being responsible for peace for last 67 years – that is false. Large wars are always followed by periods of relative peace, and these last 67 years were anything except peaceful; there only wasn’t a world-wide conflict.

Moreover, chemical weapons developed during and after World War I could be as deadly as nuclear weapons – yet they did not prevent World War II, and were not used in World War II with exception of Japanese usage – and even then, Japanese used them exclusively against enemies that could not use chemical weapons against them. While Germany had developed and sotockpiled chemical weapons, these were not used due to fear of Allied retaliation in kind. No historical books credit peace maintained from 1918 to 1925 to chemical weapons.

US nuclear monopoly for four years after World War 2 did not translate into greater diplomatic influence either, and nuclear weapons did not help either Soviets or US win any wars.

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