Wednesday, November 02, 2022

The Existential Requirement to Maintain a Broad Defense Industrial Base

With all its inefficiencies, bloat, and error; with all its problematic revolving door issues between government/military and civilian sectors – there is no greater existential requirement for a mature nation than to have its own military-industrial sector.

In peace it is easy to forget that in times of war – times that will always come with our warlike species – the vanities of peace can soon become a bleeding ulcer at war.

While small nations simply cannot sustain the full spectrum of military equipment due to overhead and development costs, medium to large nations have options. You may on occasion have to partner with friendly nations, but what strings come with those partnerships? Regardless of whose insignia is on a certain system, who really controls its use?

At peace when decisions are made in the moment, a greater appreciation of political risk down the road at war is required. A lot of, “what if” type questions need to be asked, and little tolerance should be allowed for the “that will never” or “unlikely given present circumstances” hand-waving away of problematic assumptions that would avoid either investment in significant reserve stockpiles of finished product or raw materials, or in higher per-unit production locally.

A perfect example of this trap can be found in the tracked anti-aircraft gun produced by the Germans, the Gepard (Cheetah), retired over a decade ago but taken out of reserve and handed over to the Ukrainians to great effect. Via Bild;

With its 35mm machine guns, this cheetah alone has already been able to destroy two Russian cruise missiles and a double-digit number of drones, says Max, confirming for the first time that a cheetah can also deal with these targets very well under combat conditions.

"The Shahed drones are very easy to fight when we're within range," says Max. The cheetah's search radar can pick them up well, and the explosive incendiary ammunition then makes short work of the slow drones.

Advantage cheetah: The machine guns can also fight swarms of cheaply produced drones very well. During an operation near Odessa, ten drones were shot down within a short period of time. This countered the tactics of the Iranian kamikaze drones, which are usually sent out in swarms to overwhelm the air defenses.

The ghosts of the peacetime accountants will haunt you at war. Via FT;

Germany wants to send 12,000 Swiss-made 35-milimetre rounds that were bought by Berlin decades ago to restock the 50 Cheetah flak cannons it has pledged to Ukraine.

The Swiss government, as part of the original sales contract with Germany, has a veto over the munitions’ resale or donation. Politicians in the wealthy alpine state believe that sending them to Ukraine would jeopardise its neutrality. Switzerland refused a request from Denmark for the re-export of two dozen Swiss-made “Piranha” armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine in May.

The German government has been struggling to find more shells to send to Kyiv. Brazil, which makes suitable munitions for the Cheetah guns, has also refused to allow their re-export.

 “For once, the Swiss government is right,” said Thomas Borer, former Swiss ambassador to Germany and an architect of Switzerland’s current laws on neutrality. “It’s clear that delivering arms of weapons into a conflict would infringe the core principle of what neutrality means for Switzerland. As a friendly neighbour that is aware of our laws and obligations, Germany shouldn’t put Switzerland in this position.”

Lambrecht wrote to her Swiss counterpart Viola Amherd saying the Cheetah munitions were purely defensive. In the letter, she said the weapons were “vital” for the protection of Black Sea grain exports from potential bombardment, according to Ukraine’s military.

Bern has yet to formally respond to Berlin’s renewed request, which has been made in parallel with diplomatic lobbying from Ukrainian officials. The Swiss defence ministry has passed the new German request on to the finance ministry, which handles export licences, a Swiss government spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

A spokesperson for Germany’s defence ministry said: “We are always actively finding ways to support Ukraine through our partners and alliances.” Discussions with Switzerland were part of that process, they added.

Senior German politicians, including members of parties in the governing coalition, have been more forthright, with Germany being Switzerland’s largest arms export market.

As I’ve said often before, were I German I’d be a member of the FDP party. As such, this makes me nod my head a bit smugly; 

“Anyone who does not deliver munition to an attacked state for national defence can no longer be a reliable supplier of ammunition for us either,” Marcus Faber, head of the liberal Free Democratic party’s parliamentary defence group, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “If Switzerland refuses this to Ukraine . . . then for security reasons, we can no longer get anything from there.”

Like the lessons from the 40-year old Falklands conflict still are of use today – of even more importance to this century are the legion of lessons that are coming out of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Smart people are taking note of the sometimes uncomfortable truths at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels that are emerging clearly with each month – truths that need to be look at with an unblinking eye. Some theories pushed by industry are being found to be garbage – and other proven “old think” as shown as immortal “new think” and the Gods of the Military Copybook Headings are validated once again.

There are also a bountifully supply of lessons in the diplomatic, economic, and informational domains that need attention as well. Military-Industrial policy is one of them.

Add this to the list.

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