Winter warfare is loosing its peculiar charm

Charlsy Panzino for Army Times

Researchers are working on a way for soldiers to generate heat in cold environments instead of piling on multiple bulky layers to their uniforms.

By applying a silver nanowire coating to the uniforms, troops could theoretically dial up the heat to keep themselves comfortable, according to researchers at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts.

The silver nanowires form an electrically conductive network that when hooked up to a low-power battery can heat up polyester and polypropylene, research bioengineer Paola D’Angelo told Army Times.

Danish admiral says submarines are flagrant waste of money

The Defense Commission of the Danish parliament yesterday conducted a hearing on the question of whether Denmark should reintroduce submarines and sea mines in the naval arsenal. Both were phased out in 2005 but especially the importance of submarines has been a question of intense debate ever since.

Rear admiral Nils Wang, commandant of the Danish Defence College, made some headlines in local newspapers with a statement from the hearing that an investment in submarines would be “a flagrant waste of money”. Wang’s argument was that a military conflict in the Baltic area would encompass a Russian invasion of the Baltic states and a subsequent Russian defensive posture in the Eastern part of the Baltic basin. Denmark would thus find itself in a position where the navy must play the offensive role in a mission to escort troops to the Baltic states under the support of allied forces counting several carrier strike groups located in the North Sea. In this scenario Wang primarily sees a need for area air defense, land attack strike missiles, a range of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets, and mine counter measures (MCM). However, Wang does not see a role for submarines in this scenario as, supposedly, they do not give any particular advantage in ASW in littoral areas.

Commodore Ulrich Reineke of the German Navy begged to disagree with his Danish colleague, saying that Germany finds submarines crucial for ASW and Read more

Aren’t American soldiers supposed to protect the Constitution?

Mackenzie Wolf in Air Force Times:

Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, ministers to thousands of men and women serving in the Air Force. He contends that Christians serving in the military “serve Satan” if they support other service member’s rights to practice their own faiths.

In a blog published on BarbWire.com, Hernandez wrote: “Counterfeit Christians in the armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home — which means they have no accountability for their souls.

“Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions — because the language in the Constitution permits — are grossly in error, and deceived,” he wrote.

What a jackass.

U.S. Navy needs better procedures for driving a ship

Paul Lobo nails it in The Maritime Executive in a piece called Collisions Show That “Navy Way” is the Wrong Course:

In addition, there are far too many personnel on Navy ships, which is not only costly, but can be distracting when cruising at 25 knots. Consider that a modern 1,200-foot commercial container ship operates with only about 20 seafarers aboard, and the ship owners are talking about unmanned ships as we speak. A destroyer like the USS McCain has 281 men and women aboard. I have piloted several carriers and counted as many as 40 people on the bridge while we were entering port, and it makes for a distracting work environment. The Navy culture relies on the use of many assistants. There are advantages to the system, to be sure, but aboard ship, without one individual “running the show,” the potential for confusion and error increases exponentially. Yet, still, the Navy way continues.

We don’t know for sure that poor procedures are the cause of the collisions of USS Fitzgerald or USS McCain. But we do know that poor procedures generally cause accidents, and the U.S. Navy’s procedures for driving a ship are just ridiculous.

US should return to forward-stationed troops in Europe

John R. Deni in War On The Rocks recommends a return to a more permanently forward-stationed army.

[With] specific regard to Europe, the Pentagon should aim to station these units in Poland, either in whole or in part through split-basing. Stationing in Poland would provide greater assurance to Eastern Europe and more effectively deter aggression. Most importantly from a fiscal perspective, the Polish government has evinced a willingness to share some of the costs of construction and base operations.

According to Deni there are pretty much only advantages to having forward-stationed troops instead of relying on a scheme of rotational deployment.

Micromanagement or proper oversight?

Insightful piece by Micah Zenko in Foreign Policy on the principal-agent relationship between politicians and the military:

Yet, in every conversation I have had with civilian and military officials, I cannot recall a military officer — at any level — having received guidance or direction that was helpful in developing plans or in fulfilling a mission. The recalled examples of interference are always detrimental, wasteful, or, at best, pointless. The fact of the matter is that many senior military officers who do not receive the autonomy, latitude, or funding to do what they want to do — within the timeframe that they want to do it — claim they are being “micromanaged.” But it’s important to recognize that this impression is both subjective and selective. One person’s intrusive micromanagement is another’s proper attention to detail.
[…]
The demonstrable rise in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes is most likely the result of several factors, as discussed in previous pieces I’ve written. But the basic point is that Mattis’s judgment has proven incorrect. That should be no surprise. Everything we know from organizational studies suggests that managers and staffers immersed in day-to-day repetitive tasks (like military campaigns) eschew competing values-based priorities — particularly when senior leaders direct them to accelerate their efforts and narrow their mission, as has been true with the war against the Islamic State under Mattis’s watch.

Civilian oversight is so inconvenient but man, do we need it. The whole article is well worth the read.

Exercise scenarios tend to be a waste of time

The fictional scenario for Zapad 2017 has gone viral as a joke on social media, and that has led The Wall Street Journal to write a piece on the made-up settings that militaries use for training:

The U.S., its NATO allies, Russia and other militaries around the world use fictional scenarios to make their military drills more sophisticated. They require soldiers to understand the political environment and motivations of the people they are trying to protect, and defeat.

It’s hard to fathom the amount of time staff officers around the world spend drafting these sophisticated scenarios so that other officers can spend time trying to figure out what the heck the exercise is about. The funny thing is that for the most part the scenario is absolutely irrelevant to the desired learning outcome of the training. I say just make a good exercise and don’t spend time overthinking the scenario.

New Marine rotation arrives in Norway

The second rotation of American Marines has arrived in Norway, reports Marine Corps Times:

The Norwegian government has approved six-month rotations of about 300 Marines in Norway through 2018.

The Marines also store military equipment in caves near Trondheim, Norway, to make sure that a Marine Air-Ground Task Force has what it needs for cold weather training, crisis response or a humanitarian assistance mission, said 2nd Lt. Brett Lazaroff, a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe & Africa.

The Norwegian policy differs greatly from neighboring Sweden, which at least officially insists on neutrality, and Denmark that still seems ambivalent to the new security dynamics in the region.

U.S. Army unprepared to deal with Russia in Europe

Great article by Wesley Morgan for Politico.com. All countries should make regular and honest analyses of their operational abilities like the one by the 173rd Airborne Brigade, but unfortunately this kind of candor is rare. Too many decision makers get amazed by the technologically impressive possibilities of new equipment, and under the constraints of tight budgets it is inconvenient to remind oneself that reliability requires multiple layers of redundant systems.

This piece caught my eye:

The common thread running through the paper is the challenge posed by Russia’s jammers and other electronic warfare tools.

An enemy equipped with these “could effectively neutralize a GPS system from 50 miles away using one-fifth the power of a tactical radio,” the report estimates, so “we should assume that GPS will be either unavailable or unreliable for the duration of the conflict if the [brigade] faces a near-peer threat or sophisticated non-state actors.”

Here, too, some of the solutions are low-tech. High-frequency or HF radios are more difficult for enemy electronic warfare specialists to pinpoint and jam than the satellite radios that have become the norm for U.S. units over the past 15 years. HF radio equipment and training have fallen by the wayside in the American military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but not in some allied militaries.

The shortfalls have required the 173rd to call on allies from Latvia to help it learn how to communicate in the face of Russian jamming — a stark indicator of how badly knowledge of a key communication method has degraded in the American force.

The fragility of GPS and satellite communication is uncanny, considering how dependent societies are on these technologies.