Friday, September 18, 2015

Rommel Weeps

Germany's army is tiny. And now they want to make it lighter, too.

When I first saw the headline for this article, I thought, "Germany could use a light wheeled rapid intervention unit--as long as they add this unit rather than replace a heavy unit." There was no "as long as" involved:

"What we are talking about are first conceptual considerations," a source close to the concept phase told IHS Jane's . "The idea is to be able to fully deploy this force anywhere in mainland Europe in up to 48 hours, making full use of the existing rail and road infrastructure. Also, this is not a rehash of the old tracks vs wheels battle. A brigade sized wheeled rapid response element could be a door opener for heavy forces."

Given the reality of limited personnel available, the new formation would most likely be carved out of existing army structures, with attached unit rotation not being out of the question.

A door opener for what heavy forces?

Germany already has a tiny army. It has just 61,000 troops in 5 heavy brigades, a mountain brigade, 2 parachute brigades, and special forces.

You know the wheeled light armored brigade would replace one of the heavy brigades.

Given the preparations Russia is making and the horrible readiness of Germany's existing armed forces, that door being held open is going to have Russians coming west through it more than Germans going east.

Nor is a brigade based around 30mm-armed wheeled armored vehicles going to cut it in high intensity conventional warfare. I wrote that even an up-armed Stryker brigade would need heavy armor attached to it to survive against heavy armor.

But no, Germany will spend scarce defense dollars to buy new lighter armored vehicles while the pitifully few heavy forces they still have rot away in their bases.

Does Russia have to engineer an Anschluss with Belarus to get Germany's attention to expand and heavy up their army?

UPDATE: This is deliberate under German thinking about their military's role:

Germany should take on a greater share of the burden in upholding global order, including military contributions to UN, EU, or NATO missions. ...

Hence, a key slogan for the new orientation’s force structure is “breadth rather than depth” (“Breite vor Tiefe”), meaning a preference for “a little bit of everything” over further military specialization.

Germans have been very reluctant to deploy their military abroad in combat. I sincerely doubt that making their military more capable of doing that will increase the public's appetite for sending their military overseas. So what's the point of making their military a full-spectrum force capable of contributing a little bit to whatever expedition some supra-national body supports?

Germany's ground forces are already too small. Even if Germany focused on mechanized warfare to the exclusion of all else, they'd still have "a little bit of" just that.

This vision of a German military just means it will be capable of full-spectrum defeat as they commit a little bit of something to some conflict that is incapable of winning.

At a more basic level, preparing to build forces that can deploy overseas is insanity when you consider that threats beyond their capabilities are developing on their own continent as Putin pines for past Russian imperial glory.