More dire predictions following US sale of Javelin missiles to Ukraine

Michael Kimmage for War on the Rocks in connection with the American decision to provide anti-tank missiles to Ukraine:

Both sides interpret their own actions as defensive. The greater the need to defend from the other’s aggression, the more an expansion of military assets makes sense — hence, the provision of “defensive lethal weapons.” Hence, Russia, chooses to …Continue reading

Proxy wars seem to be a thing again

Sébastien Roblin for War of the Rocks in connection with the American decision to provide Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine:

Michael Kofman, an analyst with extensive knowledge of Russian military affairs, was skeptical that a “few missiles” would be of any serious military benefit in a New York Times column in August. He wrote that the Javelin is “expensive and impractical” for Ukraine, especially compared to using the same money to purchase a larger number of new Ukrainian ATGMs.

Kofman also warned that if Javelin missiles result in dead Russians, Moscow could “signal back” with dead Americans. One obvious avenue for retaliation would be providing weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Earlier in 2017, the military and State Department claimed they had evidence Russian agents were providing small arms to the Taliban. This could theoretically be stepped up to heavier weapons.

Introducing summary posts – and a military scenario

As an experiment, I am introducing summary posts to the site.
These are longer posts that I will update from time to time.

I have felt a need for such reference posts where some basic concepts are explained. These can serve as a kind of “declaration of assumptions” for the blog, and they can be a quick way for casual readers to get an overview.

The first summary post is available already and tackles the question of How would a war between Russia and the West play out?

Maybe former Soviet republics don’t like to be Russia’s “sphere of interest”

Mikhail Barabanov in Moscow Defense Brief:

Russia holds the Zapad drills along its western borders once every four years; the previous such event took place in 2013. This year, however, the reaction from some of Russia’s neighbors to the west has been nothing short of hysterical.
[…]
For all the Western concerns, the scenario of the main phase of the drills was purely defensive, and focused on defending an allied state (Belarus) from hostile actions and then a direct invasion by the West. In that sense, the scenario was fully in line with the Putin administration’s perception of the domestic and external threats facing Russia. The exercise was a fairly typical reflection of how Russia believes it should act in the former Soviet republics to protect its “sphere of interests” from any encroachment by foreigners. It did not imply any major military operations beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union. As with the famous “Gerasimov Doctrine” (which reflects Russian views of how the West operates, but which Western commentators choose to interpret as Russia’s own preferred course of action), the [Zapad] 2017 drills were not a simulation of a Russian act of aggression. Rather, they reflected the growing concern in the Russian military-political leadership about increasingly blatant Western meddling in former Soviet republics.

Gee, I wonder what caused the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to become so hysterical.

Norway buys K9 Thunder howitzers from South Korea

Norway has bought the K9 Thunder 155mm self-propelled howitzer, reports the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency. The contract includes 24 new howitzers and an unspecified number of K10 designated ammunition resupply vehicles. In addition to this there is an option for the purchase of another 24 howitzers. The initial cost is 1.8 billion NOK, and that will grow to 3.2 billion NOK if Norway uses its option for additional vehicles.

The K9 Thunder is a South Korean made vehicle with a shooting range up to about 40 kilometers. It weighs 47 tons and has a maximum speed of 65 km/h. It is operated by a crew of five persons.

Norway will be the third European country to buy the K9 Thunder, after Finland and Estonia announced their decisions to buy it earlier this year. Poland also has howitzers based on the K9 chassis but they have been refitted with other equipment and are called the AHS Krab.

The deliveries of the artillery vehicles will begin in 2019, and the delivery will be completed in 2021. Six of the vehicles will be used at the Army’s school in Rena, and 18 will be part of Brigade Nord and stationed in Setermoen.

At present Norway has 56 American made M109A3GN self-propelled howitzers. They were originally bought in 1969-1970 as M109G and later upgraded in Germany to the M109A3GN standard. Of these 14 are in actual use by the Army, and 42 are in storage.

Use of rape as a weapon is the (disgusting) norm in civil war

Patrick Burke for War is Boring:

But not every civil war results in mass rape. In fact, only 64 percent of the 91 civil wars between 1980 and 2012 featured wide-scale or systematic rape, according to data from Harvard Kennedy School associate professor Dara Kay Cohen’s recent book Rape During Civil War.

Surprising use of the word “only”. I would have thought the number to be much lower. This is a truly disgusting figure.

The study finds that mass rape is a weapon of terror in a civil war, but that there may also be a socializing aspect among the groups that perpetrate the raping. This is especially true if the soldiers are recruited by force.

Highly resourced rebel groups are also more likely to perpetrate rape than poorly resourced groups. This may be because highly resourced groups do not rely on support from the local population, and because a carte blanche to exploit the chaos of war for personal enrichment attracts the worst of people.

Surprisingly, neither ethnic aspects in a conflict nor the level of gender inequality in the country seems to have a correlation with the persistence of rape.

Russia’s aircraft carrier begins three year modernization

A contract has finally been signed regarding the modernization of Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, reports TASS. The work is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018 and to last for three years.

Originally the modernization should have started in September, but due to a lack of finances the work could not begin at that time. Now the ambitions for the modernization have been lowered, and finances for the maintenance have been provided with the 2018-2027 defense program.

Franz-Stefan Gady made a good roundup of the expected modernization and the status of Admiral Kuznetsov in The Diplomat back in October.

More on Germany’s trouble to keep equipment moving

Sébastien Roblin for The National Interest in a piece called Germany Does Not Have One Working Submarine:

One unfortunate consequence is that the submarine crews are completely unable to gain badly needed operational experience. Only by mid-2018 will three German submarines be operational, followed by possibly a fourth that November.

But the kicker is that the Deutsche Marine would not be able to deploy its full submarine force even if all six were in operational condition. According to Bartels, there are only three trained crews available to man the six Type 212As.

Indeed, the German military, which transitioned to being a purely volunteer force in 2011, has struggled to fill its ranks […]

Low readiness rates afflict other branches of the Germany military as well. For example, Germany is currently expanding and upgrading its fleet of Leopard 2 tanks. However, according to NTV, out of 244 Leopard 2 tanks already in service, only ninety-six are combat-ready, while eighty-nine are awaiting spare parts, seven are devoted to R&D and fifty-three are under maintenance or receiving upgrades. Of fourteen new A400M transport planes, sometimes none are in operational condition; one broke down in February 2017 while transporting Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. In 2015, it was revealed that out of ninety-three Tornado strike jets officially in service, only thirty were combat ready.

Meanwhile some are still speculating how Germany could possibly spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Good article about what a war with Russia would look like

In connection with Zapad 2017, Russia said that the exercise was about training defensive maneuvers. BILD has an article that claims otherwise:

However, BILD recently spoke to two leading analysts from a western intelligence service who revealed that Zapad 2017 was neither an “anti-terror exercise” nor “purely defensive”, but a “dry run” for a “full-scale conventional war against NATO in Europe”.

I don’t think this should come as any surprise. In fact, from a Russian point of view an offensive move is the only approach that makes sense in case of a war. So it is fully meaningful that they would train how to turn a defensive action into an offensive.

The rest of the article is a good account of how such a war may pan out, and how Russia could use their weapons. It is well worth the read for this alone.

The most interesting part, though, I think was this bit explaining what could lead to a war in the first place:

One of the sources explained to BILD what a trigger for such events could be. “I am always asked, is this an offensive or a defensive operation? The answer is, it is an escalation operation”. So-called “coloured revolutions”, for example in Belarus or other post-Soviet states, could lead to the war that was trained in Zapad 2017. “Such a revolution, which would of course be ‘a plot by the CIA’, according to them, could get Russia involved. If the US or another NATO country then gets involved, this could be the starting point for the scenario they trained for in September”.

I think that’s exactly right. Only I’d add that a color revolution in Russia itself is also a real possibility that could be extremely dangerous.

Three random things that aren’t too important for U.S. military

Forward Observer has made a list of three things that the U.S. military needs to fight in NATO-aligned Europe. The list is:

  1. Installation of GPS navigation in those Blackhawk helicopters that don’t have it already.

  2. Better cold weather gear and boots.

  3. An ADR safety certification of cars and trucks laden with hazardous materials.

They could have picked anything, and this is what they found it worthwhile to put on the list? Might as well have called the article “Three random things we heard about this week”.

Update: Turns out that this list is actually from Defense One. Here the list is elaborated and put into context:

After 15 years of fighting in the comparatively uncontested deserts of the Middle East, everything from tactics to the physical environment offers new challenges and chances to learn, they said. They also listed a few items that they say U.S. forces need to fight a war in Europe.

This angle makes a big difference for me. The list contains three things that of course need to be solved, and that are good examples of lessons learned by specific units returning from Europe. But it also makes it clear that the range of new things to learn is much longer.

I might add, though, that two of the three things on the list aren’t necessarily crucial for fighting in Europe but more related to moving things around in a regulated peace time traffic environment. In case of a war with Russia there is a good chance that GPS doesn’t work, so Blackhawks should be able to navigate without it. And ADR safety certifications aren’t that important for actual fighting either.