Saturday, June 18, 2022

I Learned a New Word

Two, actually (bolded).  Col. Andrew Dziengeleski, Army - retired, has a new post on the Ukraine/Russian war, with an extended digression into high-tech vs. low tech weapons: FROM THE CHEAP SEATS: The Return of Materialschlacht and a Few Thoughts on Future Warfare

As the war in Ukraine drags on into its fourth month, it’s time to undertake a quick assessment of how the conflict is playing out, and provide a few possible insights into future warfare.

The war in Ukraine has now turned into what the Germans called materialschlacht in World War One and World War Two. The industrial capacity of England, France, and the United States in World War One, and the USSR and the US in World War Two, produced simply staggering amounts of equipment for the Allies in both World Wars. The US Navy, by the end of World War Two, was producing a ship a day for service somewhere in the world. The Soviets built almost 120,000 tanks during World War Two, a credit to the design teams which created the T-34 and Josef Stalin (JS) series of tanks which were simply to make, easy to train on, easy to operate and easy to maintain…which is what you need for an army that is poorly educated. Small arms ammunition was produced on a truly vast scale, with U.S. factories producing over 41 BILLION rounds of small caliber ammo during the war. So what does this have to do with the war in Ukraine, you might ask?

Well, a lot, actually. For all the talk of post-modern, high-tech, precision guided weaponry, that’s a small percentage of the actual weaponry being used. There are a number of reasons for that, and I’ll address that later on in the essay. As this article on states, “Russia is firing as many as 50,000 artillery rounds a day into Ukrainian positions, and the Ukrainians can only hit back with around 5,000 to 6,000 rounds a day, he said. The United States has committed to deliver 220,000 rounds of ammunition — enough to match Russian firepower for around four days.” Almost all of these rounds are unguided and very much not precision weaponry, which is actually ok for artillery. Many folks think artillery is all about destroying troop formations and equipment, which it does well, and even better when there’s GPS guided munitions available. But artillery has an equally important secondary mission, and that’s suppression. Suppression is critical for tactical maneuver, as opposing troops, tanks and other sorts of nasty enemy firepower will have to take cover and protect themselves from the barrage of one of my favorite Army words, scunion. You don’t want to waste guided munitions on suppression mission, because they are expensive and harder to produce. Good old fashioned dumb bombs and dumb shells work plenty good for suppression missions. And as the Russians are showing, you can produce a metric buttload (doctrinal term) of them, store them, and then train on them for relatively cheap. This is the benefit of having an Army largely dependent on field artillery capabilities, and an industrial base that can produce lots of ammunition cheaply and relatively quickly . . . 

Materialschlacht - looking around at definitions, it literally translates as a battle of material, but it seems to imply that the side with the most weapons, and not necessarily the best leadership, has the upper hand. In this case, it is clearly the Russians, although the west is fitfully trying to remedy that without pissing off the Russians too much.

Scunion - "Scunion: In Vietnam, and in the Western US, scunion, as in, to bring scunion, signified inflicting distress, injury or destruction."

Anyway, I'll leave it to readers to check out Ski's take on the increasing US reliance on high-tech weaponry at the expense of masses of ordinary bringers of scunion.

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