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.

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.

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.

Sweden establishes new regiment on Gotland

The Swedish government has decided to form a new regiment on Gotland. From the beginning the regiment will count 350 soldiers but that number is expected to grow successively, reports svt.se. The headquarters for the new regiment will be in Visby. This is the first establishment of a new regiment in Sweden since World War II.

The decision is effective from 2018, which is just over two weeks away. However, many of the soldiers are already present on the island. Since the last regiment on Gotland was closed in 2005 there have been different subunits on the island, and the new regiment is largely an attempt to streamline the leadership.

It is hard to overstate the strategic importance of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. For both surveillance and as a possible launching position for missiles Gotland is perfectly situated just 150 kilometers off the coast of Latvia. With one of Sweden’s new Patriot batteries (or an equivalent American one) positioned on the Island it is possible to control the airspace over much of the Baltic Sea. An invasion of Gotland would therefore be an obvious move by Russia in case of a war.

Estonia receives Javelin anti-tank missiles

Estonia has received the first delivery of Javelin Block 1 missiles. Javelin is a man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that is produced by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. That announces the Estonian Ministry of Defense. The missiles will replace the old MILAN system in both the army and the voluntary Estonian Defense League.

Last year Estonia received pre-owned missiles of the Javelin Block 0 type from the U.S. Army. The Block 1 missiles that have been received this time are brand new from the factory.

In 2014 Estonia signed the deal to purchase the Javelin system from USA for the sum of $55 million. However, $33 million of that is payed by the US government as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.

US approves sales of Guidable MLRS and air-to-air missiles to Poland

The American Defense Security Cooperation Agency has approved the sale of the HIMARS rocket system to Poland from Lockheed Martin. This will give Poland a potent ground-to-ground missile system capable of hitting targets at ranges up to 300 kilometers. Poland intends to equip three divisions with the high-precision missiles which will be installed on Polish Jelcz vehicles.

The sale of 150 additional AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM medium range air-to-air missiles for Poland’s F-16 fighters was also approved. Poland had expressed a desire to buy the improved AIM-120D, but apparently USA was not willing to provide this missile that so far only has been exported to Australia.

Russia has an inflatable regiment

Robert Beckhusen for War is Boring:

This tradition of inflatable dummy tanks and phony ballistic missiles — imitasiia or imitation — is still alive and well in Russia thanks to the 45th Separate Engineer-Camouflage Regiment based in Vladimir Oblast east of Moscow.

The unit has a variety of blow-up tanks, missile launchers, armored personnel carriers and other weapons. While these tactics are hardly new in Russia or elsewhere, Russia recently finishing reforming the 45th Regiment, nicknamed the “Inflator Regiment” in June 2017. In fact, the unit descends from the 45th Engineer and Sapper Regiment, which served during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

It’s also worth noting that the reformation was just in time for the Zapad 2017 exercises in September 2017, the largest Russian military exercise since the Cold War. The 45th took part in Zapad.

The pictures are priceless.

Less than half of Germany’s tanks are working

German tanks are in a terrible condition, according to Janes:

German media reported on 16 November that only 95 of the 244 Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) in service with the Bundeswehr are operationally ready. A further 53 vehicles – thought to be Leopard 2A6Ms – are being converted to the new Leopard 2A6M+ standard, and 86 are in a state of disrepair without any spare parts. The German report states that “the unavailability of the required replacement parts would be detrimental”.

Apparently the German system cannot handle the increased exercise intensity that has developed over the last few years. And that has led to concerns as to how long the German logistics system could function in case of a real conflict.

Janes mentions that there was a similar predicament in August when German forces in Mali suffered from a lack of spare parts. I might add the ridiculous lack of spare parts that left all of Germany’s submarines inoperative. Germany needs to fix this quickly.

Russia completes transformation to Iskander in Kaliningrad

Russia has completed the transformation to the Iskander-M missile system in Kaliningrad, according to Russian defense blog bmpd. That happened when the 152nd Missile Brigade officially received the modern missile at a ceremony last Monday to replace the old Tochka-U missiles (NATO name SS-21 Scarab).

Russia is modernizing its fleet of tactical ballistic missiles at a pace of about two brigades per year, and the Ministry of Defense has announced that the process will be completed in 2020. In fact, 11 brigades already have the Iskander-M missile and only one still uses the Tochka-U (the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk). However, Russia is not only replacing old equipment but also forming new brigades, most lately in June when a missile brigade was established in the Eastern Military District.

So while Russia has 12 brigades with tactical ballistic missiles today, that number may increase to 17 over the next three years. Of course one of those brigades could also be placed in Kaliningrad.

Finland is planning mega-exercise in 2020

Finland is planning to hold an Aurora style exercise in 2020 with participation from Sweden, United States and others. Aurora was a Swedish exercise that was held in September and involved 19,000 troops.

Finnish defense minister Jussi Niinisto explained that the exercise will gather conscripts, reservists, and soldiers to practice. “If there’s a crisis, it will be good for us to practice receiving help,” said Niinisto according to Reuters.

The announcement of the exercise comes in the midst of an increased debate in Finland about the country’s relationship with NATO. The planned exercise in receiving foreign forces on Finnish soil shows that Finland sees NATO as an important strategic partner, but for the time being there is not much reason to believe that Finland will become an official member of the alliance.