04 July 2015

Independence Day

Enjoy your day off commemorating a bunch of politicians signing a document that led to 8 years of war.

Remember that was is easy to put on paper is often difficult to do in reality. Remember that the "Articles of Confederation" setting up the United States of America was cast aside less than a decade after the revolution was complete. Remember that the same politicians simply kicked the can of slavery down the road for their descendants to deal with.

What are we kicking down the road for our descendants to deal with?

03 July 2015

Red Teaming and OPFOR, there are differences

All OPFOR are a type of "Red Team" but not all Red Teams are OPFOR (by DOD standards, by Army standards they are entirely different animals). In my ongoing discussion with Solomon about Millennium Challenge 2002, it seems that this concept has not been adequately addressed. For the purpose of this, I will use the broader DOD definition of what is a "Red Team".

Resources for those who want to dig deeper into Army doctrine:
Red Team Handbook: http://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/documents/ufmcs/The_Applied_Critical_Thinking_Handbook_v7.0.pdf
FM 7-100.1 "OPFOR" http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm7_100x1.pdf

The purpose of ALL "Red Teams" is to make the US military BETTER by finding shortcoming in our current capabilities. But there are different types of red teams for a reason. Like tools in the tool box, every training exercise needs the right Red Team to meet the training objectives.

OPFOR units do it by simulating a threat force for us to spar against to test our formations against their formations, our doctrine against their doctrine. This is supposed to allow units to prepare for what the enemy is most likely to throw against them to prepare for future real world missions. If a unit sucks at "react to contact" then the job of the OPFOR is to give the BLUFOR lots of opportunities to practice "react to contact" until they overcome that deficiency. The OPFOR give the BLUFOR a training partner, and the Observer/Controller/Trainers OCTs give the BLUFOR feedback on performance. The purpose of this training is not to invent new tactics, but to make units better at their wartime tasks.

The purpose of a "Devil's Advocate" type Red Team is to point out EVERYTHING we are doing wrong. The Navy has the longest running continual red team program to test the security of their ballistic missile submarines. What this team is designed to do is essentially "pen testing" (penetration testing) or "hack through security to compromise the objective" for the Navy. These Red Teams are unconstrained by any threat doctrine, they have free reign to come up with any solution they can pull off. When they do pull something off, you can bet there will be a change in security posture, or doctrine, or whatever to address the deficiency. The purpose of this is to point out deficiencies in plans, doctrine, procedures, or equipment.

Then there is the "neutral party" Red Team, and the "Green Team" which is designed to think solely about what is happening outside of the OPFOR/BLUFOR conflict. This is very important as civilians can turn into enemies really fast if you piss them off. These exist to ensure that BLUFOR fully understand how tactical operations affect civilians in the operating environment. My experience with "Green Teams" is that they only focus on BLUFOR actions and completely ignore OPFOR actions because they aren't there to train the OPFOR. This essentially makes the "Green Team" a real pain in the ass because they become non-neutral terrain to the BLUFOR while pretending the OPFOR don't exist. Why is this? In my experience it is because the "Green Team" is contracted civilians who have a contract to train the BLUFOR and so they set up to do just that without caring what the OPFOR does.

Now that we've covered the difference between Red Teaming and OPFOR it should be obvious that what LTG Riper did in Millennium Challenge 2002 was not "OPFOR" but "Devil's Advocate Red Teaming." His other criticism of the OPFOR moves being scripted by the Exercise Director against his orders is a separate issue which I assume is due to the same problems we still have when combining Live/Virtual/Constructive training (the live units often get out of synch with the ones in the computers, or the real terrain and virtual terrain don't overlay quite right). LTG Van Riper's comments should be taken in with that context in mind.

02 July 2015

OPFOR discipline, revisited

Solomon left this comment.
when OPFOR goes off the rail and tries to win then that's when the actual learning begins. you think that an innovative commander will stick to script when engaging US forces? you think that same commander will stick to doctrine?
Le Sigh...

When the OPFOR goes off the rails, it is generally a suicide attack because they know they won't really die.

Yup, real innovative those suicide attacks.

Yes there is no good defense from suicide attacks. Evidently "real learning" is just reinforcing the lesson that you can't stop someone who is willing to die attacking you. See 9/11, "kamikaze" and "suicide bomber" for further details.

When OPFOR abandon the desire for self preservation because "it's just a game" they don't actually help learning. In fact at that point they hinder learning.

Every wargame is limited by something as you can't replicate reality, and gaming the system to take advantage of those limitations can definitely let you "win" the scenario.

But if "winning" a fake war is more important to you than actually learning how things will interact when used doctrinally, then you are the problem. "Winning" a wargame is not the point of a wargame. Testing plans, testing capabilities, identifying friction points, identifying unexpected opportunities and vulnerabilities, those are what you are after.

Of course a fleet will get sunk when a magical swarm of small boats is magically transported into firing range. Of course the enemy will be destroyed by your magical tank formation that flanked them because the terrain on the map is a flat piece of paper...

Imagine a turn based role playing game. Wargaming is like D&D for work instead of fun. Our computer simulations are slightly better, but still not true replications of reality.

01 July 2015

The Last Unscripted War Game won't die

Millenium Challenge 2002 is like the criticism of the military that won't die. "Last unscripted war game the DOD ever did" is a rather dubious claim to fame since there have been other unscripted "war games" since then.

You'll generally find a picture of retired LTG Riper associated with "Millenium Challenge 2002" and the story about how he won the war, and then the Pentagon reset the board and made the red team follow a script. Usually the story will end with the spin that somehow the Pentagon or DOD as a whole is incompetent yes men who will sacrifice America's young men and women in a disastrous future battle...

So lets clear some things up. The myth of "the last unscripted war game" came out in 2004, less than two years after Millenium Challenge 2002. There have been several unscripted war games since then, and you can find some reports in the professional journals from the war colleges. If you are going to criticize me for not pointing out unscripted war games, google is your friend to find the evidence.

So that is one myth down. The second myth is that all war games follow a script. This is clearly false as only some war games follow a script depending on what you want to get out of a war game.

What LTG Riper did in MC2002 is "game the system" in the same manner that the best Soviet Mechanized Infantry on the planet at any given time is the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment out at Fort Irwin. Those guys have to know the opponents doctrine so that they can fight the way the opponent actually fights. But even then, you run into the problem of the OPFOR trying ever more daring tactics because, hey, it's only MILES and we'll be fighting this battle again next month.

When your OPFOR goes off the rails and stops simulating the enemy and starts trying to "win the game" then you haven't learned anything useful about how the enemy fights. You learn about how your own guys fight when they are unconstrained by your rules of engagement and doctrinal tactics.

What LTG Riper did was a rookie 2nd LT mistake, fighting to win against a force that he knew intimately (the US military) based on the knowledge he has of actions the US MUST take and countering them early. This is the same lesson you learn when a rogue tank commander decides to roll around the desert blowing shit up until someone on the BLUFOR kills him so he can go back and get some sleep.

What is never talked about in MC2002 is whether it was a mission rehearsal war game, or a planning simulation war game. If you have a mission rehearsal war game, the intelligence guy gets to play the enemy, not a LTG. The intelligence guy makes a living knowing the enemy's doctrine and capabilities.

To make a BLUE plan, the first thing you do is make the RED plan to accomplish the RED goals. If the RED goals are "defense of my country" then all actions should be taken to achieve that end instead of changing the goal to "Kill all the BLUE!!!"

So you make the red plan, then you make the blue plan based on how you would achieve blue objectives in the face of the BEST GUESS OF THE RED PLAN BY THE INTEL GUY. That is the "script" that the entire BLUE plan is based off of, the doctrinal application of the enemies combat power (most likely enemy course of action, and most deadly enemy course of action).

What LTG Riper did was demonstrate that when the enemy doesn't follow its own doctrine, they can screw up our plans right quickly. This is still true to this day (the suicidal tank OPFOR units do this pretty frequently, but we don't expect much from LTs). But what LTG Riper did wasn't helpful, it was a waste of time. And the fact that people are still bringing up MC2002 as evidence of something or other just tells you that the internet is forever.

EDIT: For backstory, Millenium Challenge 2002 was a war game designed to test out concepts that would drive acquisition for the DOD. The purpose was not an invasion rehearsal of Iran. MC2002 was a "contractor" wargame in that the simulation software was provided by contract.

28 June 2015

The Security SItuation in Europe

Lately the subject of the decision by the North Atlantic Council to raise the number of troops assigned to the "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force" to 40,000 has come under either scrutiny or ridicule.

The Raging Tory: http://theragingtory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/the-very-high-readiness-joint-allied.html

SNAFU: http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.de/2015/06/nato-rapid-response-force-more-nonsense.html

If Russia decided on an all out assault to regain territory that it lost in breakup of the Soviet Union, there is very little that the west could do to respond on the ground in under 12 hours. Poland and Germany would immediately go to higher states of readiness, as would every other member of NATO.

This would also spark the third world war. Russia has an entire Pacific fleet to worry about, and so would need Chinese assistance to protect their eastern flank.

This would also trigger the isolation of Russia's Black Sea fleet from returning to home port through the straights controlled by Turkey. This is why the port of Tartus in Syria is so strategically important to Russia and why Russia worked so hard to keep western powers from supporting terrorists working to remove Assad from power. Syria is one of the easily logical reasons that Ukraine happened as a Russian response to western meddling in what Russia views as its strategic interests. That Putin was very correct about the terrorists in Syria is a side matter, but it illustrates that western powers are meddling in affairs they don't fully understand and are like children playing with gasoline and matches.

What is most likely to happen is that Ukraine will continue to be a war zone for as long as Russia can afford to keep it that way. As the Donetsk Peoples Republic and other puppet regimes will be supported by Russia with everything they need to continue to control territory.

So, getting back to NATO. The increase in troop numbers for the very high readiness task force is clearly a political move meant to send a very specific message to Russia. The message is that NATO is preparing for the long fight, that we know the outcome of this conflict will be economic in nature.

NATO/Russia relations have gone on for a long time. Right now Putin is calling the tune that the couple dances to.

The more immediate question, will Russia start WWIII? I do not believe so. Russia will act to maintain its prominence on the world stage through destabilizing NATO members and manipulating energy sources. Putin is crazy like a fox, he shows one face to the west and a very different face to Russians. His actions in the Crimea are supported by a majority of Russians because he sells it as "making Russia whole again" since Kiev was the birthplace of Russian history.

Russia has an impressive number of ground forces, but the turnover rate in personnel is extremely high (Russia still relies on conscription to fill out its military ranks) and the leadership to soldier ratio is very low. Russia does not have a tradition of a strong NCO Corps, and very low NCO total numbers. This creates a military that is much more suited to defense and internal security operations than offensive operations.

This is why non-attributional "little green men" were used in Ukraine. Professional Russian and Chechen special purposes forces instead of massed columns of armor and artillery. The armor and artillery followed, which is why entire Ukrainian units were wiped out from artillery shot from inside Russian borders, and why T-72B3 tanks showed up in the fighting.

One enough nations choose to recognize the Donetsk People's Republic, the DPR will officially request Russian assistance in deterring outside aggression and Putin will answer, "of course, I only care about the security of Russian speaking peoples everywhere."

And then NATO will relax once the fighting has ceased, Russia will begin to restock its foreign cash reserves once sanctions are lifted, and the whole process of friendship will begin again while Russia looks for the next easy target for expansion.

27 June 2015

Military body armor and small arms.

Midgetman's request will be answered. Specifically why medium caliber sniper rifles are not going to be the the answer to the proliferation of body armor on the battlefield.
Do you have or know of a good write up about about this myth that will not die?
I would like to see more on the subject of sniper (and service rifle) vs body armor.

The SAPI plates that I am familiar with are rated to withstand M80 ball and ESAPI (what I wore on deployment) M2 AP (30-06, not 50 BMG) ammunition fired from a conventional rifle at close range. Wikipedia actually has a decent but brief write up on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Arms_Protective_Insert

Sniper rifles, firing sniper cartridges, generally have bullets impact the target at distances longer than what we would consider "point blank" range. This means that the impressive muzzle energy numbers of a 338 Lapua or 300 Win Mag are not present for the impact at 800 meters and beyond.

If we use the most generous standard for M80 ball, a 147gr FMJBT at 2,800 fps (German loading for their machine guns) we get a muzzle energy of 2,572.5 ft/lbs of muzzle energy (3490.9 Newton Meters to my metric friends) and 8.151 Newton Seconds of momentum.

If we look at a 338 caliber bullet with muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps, we see it drop down to the momentum of M80 ball before 1,300 meters. Clearly using these numbers the 338 Lapua launching a 300gr SMK must defeat the ESAPI plate? No, not so much.

The 30-06 M2 Armor Piercing bullet is steel cored. The steel penetrator does not deform on contact the way soft core in the lead of match bullets does, and it still does not penetrate due to the composite design of ESAPI plates.

When you look at bullets capable of defeating ESAPI plates, you are looking at either larger than 50 caliber (such as 20mm cannon) or you have to use exploding bullets like a Raufoss in a 50 cal sniper rifle.

As of right now, I know of no country actually issuing bullets specifically designed to defeat body armor to their snipers. Match Kings, Scenars, and Lockbase bullets are not going do defeat plates at distance that were designed to stop M2 AP at point blank.

So what can you do to defeat ESAPI plates? Well you can get close with your 50 cal sniper rifle and shoot at close range: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdgQ0OSZqOo

You can use bullets like the Mk211 Raufoss which blast away the ceramic and have a follow on penetrator to get through. This will work sometimes, but even if it doesn't the target will still have a very bad day.

For service rifle verses body armor, don't bother trying to defeat the body armor with a service rifle. Aim for the hips and face.

But if I have not convinced you dear reader that intermediate sniper rifles (at least not with the bullets that are being issued to snipers) are not the answer to the proliferation of body armor on the battlefield, please explain why in comments.

Long Range sniper operations are the exception

Iraq and Afghanistan have produced some very awesome long range sniper shots, and this has sparked a discussion on what we need to do to increase the max effective range of our snipers to remain relevant on the battlefield. I would hesitate to use either Iraq or Afghanistan as prophecy for the future, the initial invasion of each saw very little in the way of the long sniper shots that came later during "stability" operations.

The US Army Sniper School is an 800 meter school for a reason. The absolute vast majority of shots will be inside of 800 meters during a war in which the US Army finds itself. If the trend towards more urban operations is proven to be a valid assumption, then long range engagements over open terrain in the mountains will probably not be much of an operational need.

The two conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can either be looked at as a trend of things to come, fighting in the mountains at the ass end of nowhere, or shooting long distance between urban structures in hell hole countries. Of course in Afghanistan the 7.62x51 was considered much better than 5.56 for long range engagements, but even now there are those who are lobbying for a 300 Win Mag or 338 Magnum solution to increase the range of our Snipers beyond 1500 meters.

This doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of sniper missions will take place under 800 meters for at least the foreseeable future. If I were going to build an Army that would face off against a parity foe, I wouldn't change anything about our Sniper training.

One of the trends in long range shooting is to go away from the 7.62x51/308 Win solution because of superior ballistics from various 6.5 offerings (260 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor) which is a perfectly understandable situation. Lower recoil, higher BC bullets, less affected by wind, there is a lot to like about the 6.5s.

However the 6.5s will not really extend the range significantly over the 7.62x51, so no one is taking that very seriously for military use.

The 300 Win Mag and 338 Lapua Magnum are the current tactical wonder cartridges and I think that the 300 Win Mag is a better choice for logistics if not ballistics for beyond 1000 meters. In equal weight rifles the 300 Win Mag is certainly nicer on the shoulder.

What this will go back to is a "dissimilar" sniper team load out with multiple chamberings between sniper and spotter (and security man for a three man team). The primary rifle will be a magnum, the spotters rifle will likely be a 7.62x51 SASS, and the security man an M4/320 combo or M249 depending.

The semi-auto sniper rifle systems are less accurate than their bolt action counterparts, but for 800 meters and under the difference between 1.5 and 0.75 MOA is academic. A 9 inch group will kill you just as dead as a 4.5 inch group if hit multiple times. But the SASS will be much faster to put an actual group on target than the bolt action rifle.

Currently the USMC is lobbying for something heavier, but the Precision Weapons http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/tech/2015/06/17/debate-rages-over-marine-corps-sniper-rifles/28811495/ but you can find the similar lobbying five years ago http://archive.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20100426/NEWS/4260314/More-lethal-sniper-rifle-eyed-by-Corps and it isn't like the Gannet news company won't make up shit to sell papers.

The US military has tested all sorts of sniper systems over the years, including the 408 Cheytac which was quite disappointing (yes lathe turned 408 bullets outperformed pulled 50 BMG machine gun ammo, no difference when you use lathe turned 50 cal bullets). The 7.62x51 will stick around for a while yet simply because the vast majority of sniper missions are well served by that cartridge.

I think that Iraq will actually serve a better example of what is most likely to come where "insurgent snipers" used SVD/PSL variants and modified AKs to conduct "short range" sniper operations. Grozny wasn't exactly an ultra long range sniper challenge either time as well.

Still, having the capability doesn't hurt. A 300 or 338 magnum will kill the enemy at 400 meter just as easily as anything else.