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Allanea's Brief Guide to Military Sustainment/Logistics

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:00 am
by Allanea
Allanea’s Brief Guide to Military Sustainment/Logistics


Sometimes... it’s really like this. US soldiers in Afghanistan look at a crane that has tipped over while trying to move a Containerized Housing Unit

One of the common complaints about Nationstates roleplays and other forms of military fiction is accusations - sometimes false ones - that players and writers do not fully understand the value of logistics and support activities. It’s often stated that the larger-scale movements described in the roleplays and the large armies sustained by the various nations are not justifiable in terms of realism because of the inability to sustain and supply them.

However, sadly speaking, many of the people who make these accusations are themselves often ignorant of this topic, or unwilling to provide constructive advice. I have decided after some contemplation to do some of the research myself and write up a short introduction to the various issues revolving around military Sustainment.

You will note that I am using the word ‘Sustainment’, rather than ‘Logistics’. This is because the term ‘logistics’, strictly speaking, concerns only the issue of the physical resupply of armies - the accumulation of resources for the military, and their shipping to the fighting units. For many years, the United States Military used the term in the broad sense that is known to most laymen - applying it, that is, to the whole range of military operations that aided in the maintenance of the fighting force.

However, in recent years, a struggle over the definitions has occurred in the American armed forces. The term ‘logistics’ has been shifted in use to apply - as it does in civilian life - to the subject of preparing, storing, and shipping supplies. The overall range of activities that are used to maintain the fighting ability of an army - logistics, medical services, food preparation, financial activities, military police duties, military courts and the maintenance of weapons and vehicles, and some others - have first become known as Combat Service Support, and today as Sustainment. This is the term I will use throughout this informative.

While primarily the informative will focus on the organization of logistics efforts - that is to say, preparing supplies for the armed forces, shipping them to the front, and handing them out to the fighting units - I will also provide some explanations regarding the associated efforts, to provide some limited explanation of the overall process of sustainment. Hopefully, this is information you can use either as a basis for learning more about the subject or in writing better posts for Nationstates or any other creative writing you may choose. At the end of the document, a bibliography will be provided, listing all sources I have used in researching and preparing for this documents, so you can research more on your own if you feel the need to do so.

In the following few pages, it will be unavoidable for me to use several military terms that might cause issues in comprehension. Some of them are being explained here, but do not hesitate to contact me if you feel anything is unclear.

Battle Rhythm - Battle Rhythm is the official US military term for the speed of the decisionmaking cycle of command and control units. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the tier of the unit, the longer the range of the planning which it carries out. A tactical unit (such as a battalion) typically plans activities 12 or 24 hours ahead (a 12-hour cycle is customary for US tactical sustainment units), and more senior units take a longer view, with the commanders of a brigade often using a 72-hour battle rhythm. Obviously, adjustments can be made to the plan in the event of unforeseen emergencies.

Command and Control - This term is defined by the US Department of Defense, as the set of organizational and technical attributes and processes by which an enterprise marshals and employs human, physical, and information resources to solve problems and accomplish missions. In other words, it’s the set of people and equipment that military commanders use to both issue their orders and gather information about their work.

Organic - In the military world, ‘organic’ means something that is an inherent part of the unit’s formal organization table, rather than temporarily placed under its command. For example, a tank battalion may have three organic tank companies and a logistics and maintenance company which are an organic part of its organization, whose members serve and train together. Additional units might be attached - temporarily placed under the command of the battalion commander - for a specific assignment.

Subordinate unit - a unit that is under the command of a (typically) larger and more complex military organization. Sometimes, it is because it forms a part of that larger organization, and at other times, it is because it has been temporarily placed under its command.

Support - Support is any relationship in which a military unit directly assists another unit in carrying out its main objective. One form of support is assisting in resupplying the unit or repairing its vehicles, but any activity which assists the unit in carrying out its main objective can be a form of support. Artillery can provide support by suppressing enemy positions or dropping smoke shells, A-10 Thunderbolts provide close air support, and combat engineers can build bridges in front of a tank battalion and thus provide it engineering support. Sometimes the supporting unit is subordinate to the unit that carries out the main mission, but sometimes it is not - for this reason, subordination and support are two separate relationships.

Sustainment - The Department of Defense defines ‘sustainment’ as the process of ‘ provision of logistics and personnel services required to maintain and prolong operations until successful mission accomplishment’. In other words, this is the overall spectrum of activities to keep troops armed, healthy, and fed and their vehicles fueled and running.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:01 am
by Allanea
Sustainment Throughout History

It is not practical, sadly, to cover here the entire history of military sustainment throughout the history of mankind. It should be noted, however, that the progenitors of the modern sustainment process were first seen in the ancient era. A brief overview of them and their earliest introductions is necessary before we move on to modern logistics.

Among the first military commanders famous for being progenitors of the modern logistical approach was Alexander the Great. In his campaign against Persia, he made a great effort to minimize his army’s logistical ‘tail’, by reducing the amount of camp followers (that is to say, various civilians, traders, servants, slaves and family members of troops that typically followed the main force), and to make arrangements to have stores of supplies prepared along his army’s route to Persia. As Alexander’s army advanced east, he made certain to lay his path in a way that would make it easier to resupply - keeping near the sea shore where possible (to both resupply from major ports and deny them to the enemy) and establishing supply stores along his path.

Another important feature of Alexander’s campaigns - although not known by that name at the time - was the staff - the division of the senior commander’s labor between a variety of officers that would advise him on specialty issues - camp paperwork, supplies, and other matters. This allowed the commander - as we will see later in more detail - to both control the complex tasks involved in running any large organization and remain intellectually nimble enough to make actual military decisions by himself.

The Roman military had a fairly evolved chain of logistics as well. The Roman Navy served to ferry supplies to legions across the seas, and elaborate systems of supply chains existed to deliver food and equipment from Spain and Italy to the legions stationed in Gaul. Other forms of sustainment were also worked out in detail that was unusual both for the ancient era and for many centuries afterwards. Roman engineers constructed roads along which the legions could swiftly be relocated across the empire, the Senate established regular and timely pay for all troops (something that some militaries struggle with even in the modern day), field medical services were established that were very probably the finest in the era. An elaborate system of state post - adopted from the Persians - enabled the fast transmission of messages at a then-incredible speed of 50 miles a day.

By the early modern era, however, many of these lessons were effectively forgotten. Although knowledge of the Roman and Macedonian systems existed in libraries and books, the forces of the time did not have organized systems of logistics along the Roman lines and effectively had to re-invent the systems of military sustainment all over again. In the 1550s, as the small armies that were then used by the kings and princes of Europe began to expand themselves, they discovered their supply chains woefully inadequate.To describe the supply chain of early 16th century Europe, it is necessary only to say that the armies of the era relied primarily on mercenary soldiers, who were paid various sums of money and then expected to buy their own food, clothing, weapons and horses. On campaign, these soldiers lugged behind them vast amounts of wagons filled with their personal belongings, and were further followed by various civilians - their relatives, wives, merchants (called ‘sutlers’) who sold them food and supplies, and even prostitutes. The amount of these wagons was proportionate to their rank and wealth (one period army had 152 out of its 958 wagons reserved for use of the commanding officers). As they transited through enemy territory, they were stationed in the locals homes, and sustained themselves by buying (and more often, downright looting) food and supplies from local population. This system of plunder served both as a method to supply one’s army, and as a method to damage the enemy, enticing them to give up the fight by imposing economic costs on the territory they control.

As the armies of the era were rapidly expanding, this method proved less and less efficient. Soon there were more and more incidents of period armies being unable to sustain themselves because the land around them was ‘eaten out’ - that is to say, the soldiers had rapidly looted and consumed everything of value. Soon solutions were beginning to be found that were similar to those that the Romans and Alexander had used centuries before. By the mid-17th century several European militaries (most prominently the French) began to implement a system of supply warehouses known as ‘magazines’ that aided in supplying the troops. Purchase of equipment, food, and clothing began to be centralized. The Dutch military utilized the Netherlands’ ample system of rivers to resupply its troops, using it to ship food and heavy artillery (too heavy to be moved by road).

Still the problem remained. The supplies that were being shipped by the horse-drawn carts of the period militaries were inadequate to feed them, and plunder remained the chief mechanism by which troops and armies were fed. To make the matter more efficient, European rulers conceived the mechanism of ‘contributions’ - that is, directly charging the enemy money as part of a peace settlement to cover the expenses of war. This, of course, did not obviate looting, and rather merely added insult upon injury.

By the early 18th century, supply became more and more centralized. Militaries signed direct contracts with sutlers to sell them large quantities of gear and food, in exchange not only for remuneration in funds, but also for preferential access to military camps and military protection for their travels. During the War of Spanish Succession, a Jewish merchant by the name of Solomon Medina was knighted for his assistance in supplying the campaigns of Duke of Marlborough. As the holder of the main contract to supply the British army, Medina moved swiftly to establish contracts for supplies with merchants in the area it operated. He maintained also a system of couriers agents that moved messages and procured information all across Europe, and was faster and more reliable than the couriers used by Queen Anne.

In the 17th and 18th century, armies were capable of sustaining themselves from the land - as long as they kept on the move. An army of 60,000 men could maintain itself by deploying foraging parties that scouted on both sides of its path, requisitioning (stealing) food for the men and forage for the horses. Ammunition consumption was fairly limited, and so it was primarily during long term sieges (when an army had to sustain itself from a single area of land for a prolonged period of time) that a country could be truly ‘eaten out’ (although, as we covered, the process of logistics-through-plunder was always unreliable and damaging).

This state of affairs was brought upon partly by the difficulties of long-range resupply, and partly by the desire of rulers to impose as much of the logistic costs of warfare on their enemy. Even in the 18th century, logistics had not made their complete separation from what Martin von Creveld refers to as ‘the tyranny of plunder’. European wars were associated with requisition - sometimes paid, sometimes remunerated only with promises of pay, at other times simply forceful - of supplies in the paths of oncoming armies, and by additional looting by soldiers themselves, who stole farm animals, food, horses, and pretty much anything else of value that came in their path.

Another issue with which armies often contended in the era was the problem of regular pay. As most soldiers and sailors expected to be paid in cash (most often, literally coins of precious metal), and as supplies of this cash was often irregular, this damaged morale and (again) reinforced looting and desertion. Senior military commanders often used their position for personal profit (famously, British naval captains used their ships to ferry private goods exempt from customs). During the Anglo-Dutch wars, the Dutch used the inability of the British to regularly pay their sailors to recruit many Englishmen, fed up with the irregularity of British pay, into their own Navy. Englishmen even participated in the famous Dutch raid into the Thames, waving the unpaid English Navy debt papers at their opponents on the shore in mockery.

To some extent, the abandonment of the Roman-era sustainment system was due to the economic changes that occurred since the age of Rome. Medieval-era warfare was too small-scale to require them and did not have the backing of the centralized state that enabled the large Roman and Macedonian militaries, and early modern warfare deliberately used living off the land as a weapon against the enemy. In both raiding and siege warfare (the principal forms of warfare in the 17th and 18th century) this was at least in part helpful, both reducing one’s own savings on military expenditures, and imposing costs on the enemy. As armies of the period expanded, however, things had to come to a head, and it indeed did come to a head during the Napoleonic wars.

While Napoleon has the reputation of a brilliant military commander, military historians generally agree that he was a brilliant tactician and operational commander and less skilled as a strategist. As his army expanded to previously-unknown scale, it found itself frequently lacking supplies or being forced to live off the land, as Napoleon’s orders to make arrangements of food and forage for the army’s men and horses were often not met due to their full extent. Still, his operational skill and the superior quality of his men often carried the day, enabling him to shatter the armies of lesser tacticians on the battlefield.

That said, Napoleon did introduce some logistics innovations that would later form the foundations of the modern logistics service. He was among the first modern commanders to create a modern transport service, composed primarily of wagons owned by the army and manned by soldiers, and to maintain with his force a regular supply of artillery and small arms ammunition that was more than adequate to keep it supplied throughout a given campaign. Where Frederick II limited his troops to 180 rounds of ammunition per campaign, Napoleon placed thousands of rounds of small arms ammunition with his wagon trains, and, in addition, as many as a thousand rounds for every artillery gun, which was comparable in scope to the ammunition supplies of early 20th century artillery. The French government even instituted a large prize for an inventor that could provide a method to store food in the long term, leading to the invention of canning by Nicolas Appert (although production of canned food could not be deployed at the time at the scale needed for military supplies). In many ways his innovations of logistics were brilliant - but, importantly, in terms of the supply of the food of his troops he often had to resort to improved variants of the same warfare through plunder as had been seen in previous centuries.

The issue came to a head in Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 campaign. His plans revolved fully around a campaign that - he hoped - would last no more than 21 days, at which point he would be able to dictate a peace to the Russian monarch after having secured a swift decisive victory somewhere near the border. The Russian command planned a campaign of retreat that would force Napoleon to contend with the limitations of his wagon train. The Russians knew well that no wagon train could meaningfully resupply an army of 600,000 along a distance of hundreds of miles. As they drew back into the country, methodically destroying their own crops and organizing a partisan movement to damage Napoleon’s supply lines, hunger and frost began to soon take their toll. Bad discipline among Napoleon’s foraging parties and the inability of the heavy wagons to reliably move on the Russian roads compounded the damage, to the point that the troops often looted so much food that the officers were undersupplied. As Napoleon decided to leave Moscow, Russian commanders blocked off several retreat paths, forcing him to move along the same terrain that his troops had already looted on the way there. The rest, as we say, is history.

The 1860s and 1870s saw the introduction of railways as key weapons of military logistics, both in European wars and in the American Civil War. Entire divisions - and their supplies - were now transported by rail for the first time. However, those supplies could - still - be moved only as far as the railhead. As wagon-drawn supplies could not adequately supply the vast armies involved, and time and time again the armies resorted - once again - to living off the land. Some of them were quite brilliant at doing so - General Sherman won both victory and glory for himself by detaching a force of 60,000 men from its supply lines and resorting to consuming food and resources they took from Confederate civilians. Between this and deliberate, concerted destruction of economic infrastructure, Sherman and his men did the Confederacy grave damage, and eventually captured the city of Savannah.

In the First World War, both sides commenced the fighting with elaborate plans for sustaining their war efforts, which included such extremities as drilling including the entirety of a country’s railroad industry (in Germany), preparations of vast stockpiles of ammunition and food (everywhere), and so forth. Most of these plans proved inadequate in the outbreak of war. In particular, Germany’s elaborate plans for rail resupply proved to be unable to fully address the issues of controlling the movements of the trains to avoid traffic jams, and its wagon trains (trucks were still not widespread) not completely able to feed its armies on the move or evacuate the wounded. While the German armies were capable of feeding their men from seized Belgian resources, feeding the horses proved difficult (and entire divisions had to be withdrawn due to the horses starving on campaign) and feeding their cannon ammunition - impossible.

Later in the war, German logistics improved in quality and extent. Train tracks, built by teams of specialist railroad troops, extended all the way to the front, with narrow-gauge ‘trench rail’ extending down to the very front line. Similar trench rails were deployed by all combatants, with entire rail yards emerging near the front to manage the incredible flow of ammunition and personnel. The tiny locomotives used to ferry food and ammunition to the front and shift back the wounded often survived the war, and were later used in civilian industry for decades after the armistice was actually signed.

The First World War woke participants to the new reality of modern warfare - it was no longer meaningfully possible to sustain an army by simply seizing resources in the field. While in the past - and up to the 1870s - food for men and horses comprised the majority of a military organization’s logistics demand, by now ammunition (and later, spare parts for weapons and vehicles) began to form the majority of a unit’s logistics expenditure. This only increased in the Second World War.

As Operation Barbarossa began, two decades later, these lessons had been internalized, but the various militaries of the world still had issues properly implementing them. The Third Reich suffered a vast shortage of trucks, and was forced to bring along a vast quantity of horse-drawn wagons. As its forces pushed to the East it was hobbled by Russia’s horrible road network, a lack of compatibility between Soviet and German rail, and of course the infamous lack of preparation for the Russian winter (up to 80% of German locomotives needed for the Battle for Moscow had been damaged by bursting water pipes - Soviet locomotives were not so vulnerable, due to differences of design). The Soviets suffered from shortages of ammunition, food, and clothing, to the point some units had to go to battle in civilian clothes, with only Army belts to distinguish them from civilians. Both sides suffered with issues controlling the movement of their forces and troops.

Operation Overlord, on the other hand, was overplanned logistically, with planning carried out to the last jerry can and to the last ton of ammunition. Patton’s successes were only possible due to him in fact rejecting Allied logisticians’ advice and engaging on several ambitious offensives (some say Patton only spoke to his logistics officer twice in the entire war).

As a result of the transformation of warfare in the twentieth century, soldiers could no longer expect to resupply their armies in the field in the meaningful way (except, of course, for seizing fuel and food). The modern army had become an industrial outfit on its own, with its own unique equipment. The consumption of ammunition, parts and supplies by this incredible industrial machine began to be counted in the thousands of tons per day.

However, in the late 20th century, modern military logistics began to be transformed again. Electronics began to alter every field of the military science. On the front, guided weaponry began improving the firepower of fighting units, to some extent reducing the vast expenses of ammunition (at least in terms of its weight) known in previous wars. In the rear, improved computer technology improved the ability of military personnel to control the supply of military gear and to manage the movement of supplies and vehicles. The other fields of sustainment - financial services, maintenance, and record-keeping - have also been transformed by electronics. In the coming chapters, we will see how the sustainment process can work in the modern day.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:01 am
by Allanea
Strategic Sustainment

To begin with our informative, we will commence with the considerations of sustainment as they are taken up by the topmost levels of national leadership and military command, and descend towards the lowermost levels, that is to say, the small fighting units, such as battalions and companies.

The first concern that a national leader must have towards waging a war (and particularly an offensive war in a foreign nation) is the existence of a healthy national infrastructure. While it is not possible to elaborate on every aspect of this problem within the context of this informative, it must be stated here that any prolonged conflict is a conflict of national infrastructures and economies. The same infrastructure that, in peacetime, will produce consumer goods and maintain the quality of life of the citizenry will, in the event of a truly major war, become the heart and blood vessels of a nation at war.

Different national economies have different approaches to developing national infrastructure. Here is not the proper place to discuss conflicting economic theories, however several points must be made that are highly important on this topic.

1) Brutal dictatorships are not very efficient. While Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany have reputations for their large-scale construction projects, both of these reputations are in different ways undeserved. Stalin’s Russia had engaged in multiple highly wasteful and eventually useless projects (famously, the Belomorkanal project cost thousands of lives and ended up being practically useless industrially), weakened its own military through purges, and eventually ended up with massive munitions and supply shortcomings. Hitler’s Germany had started off with a short-lived economic boost but ended up with an economic slow-down. In previous posts, I have explained in detail the drawbacks of the totalitarian mindset in military terms.

2) Equally speaking, anarchies and stateless societies are not very good at warfare. Modern militaries benefit from the ability to concentrate large amounts of resources, political power and firepower that can’t be meaningfully and effectively rivaled in the modern day by a private actor. Terrorist groups and guerrillas might be hard to defeat, but that’s not because they’re actually better at using force - it’s mostly because it’s very hard to kill all of them. I’ve explained the tragic realities of guerrilla combat here.

A nation that wants to be prepared for war must have a prepared transport system - some combination of rail, highways, airports and ports is necessary. Some countries have built large railroads for the specific purpose of military resupply (the United States Interstate Highway system is actually officially known as The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways), but it’s not always necessary - a country with a pre-existing well-developed rail and highway system can use its existing rail. 19th-century Germany used a rail system which was built with little input from military planners (Moltke’s letters with suggestions for alterations were politely, yet firmly rejected), but it was still fairly useful when the time came to wage war.

Another concern is the maintenance of a functioning military industry, or at least supplies of weapons and spare parts. While many nations in the real world do not have a fully developed military industry, it is generally believed desirable to have as much of the industry localized as possible, if only to avoid shortages during wartime. In a perfect world, it would be best to maintain an arms industry that’s not only capable of producing and developing weapons and supplies for the armed forces, but is also capable of ramping up production in wartime to keep up with war losses. For this purpose, the world’s major military powers subsidize their defense industries in various ways (America’s military aid apparatus, for example, is a euphemistically concealed system of subsidies for military contractors - Congress funds purchases of weapons that go to allied nations and American arms factories are kept open, the various industry professionals are kept employed and available, etc.)

Further, a military power that wishes to be prepared for war needs to maintain stockpiles of military supplies beyond those used in peacetime readiness. This can be done both by retaining weapons and vehicles that have been replaced by a newer model, or by overproducing the current model so that stockpiles can be made. Because vehicles and other requirement only require regular maintenance when they are being used, storing them in appropriate conditions (generally in dry facilities, thus the name dry storage as used by the IDF) until they are used by reserve units (thus the name mobilisation reserve storage in Russian parlance). In this manner of storage, equipment typically requires only inspections every few months. Obviously, those will be located in militarily-advantageous positions, where they can be best accessed during wartime. Fuels and other supplies can also be stored - the United States maintains a strategic oil reserve in the event of a national emergency or a global oil shortage. Countries that are interested in global force projection (the United States, France, and Russia among them) are often interested in maintaining airfields and military bases abroad to make it easier to react swiftly to events abroad. Entire wars have been waged, and are being waged right now, for access to such locations.

(It’s worth mentioning here that some countries, Russia and Israel among them, maintain storage of various items necessary for the survival of civilian infrastructure in the event of a large-scale war - food, electric power plant components, medications, disassembled bridges for major rivers, vehicles, and so forth. These can also be used in lesser emergencies - during Hurricane Katrina, Russia donated blankets and tents from its State Reserve for use by New Orleans residents).

At the senior-most level of management, agencies should be created (either military or civilian, or both) to test and develop new types of military equipment, from shoes to tanks. America’s DARPA is most famous, but Israel has its Yachtal (IDF Technological Unit), and Russia has multiple state design bureaus, research institutes, and Army Scientific Companies (here ‘company’ means the military unit and not the business). These agencies will constantly research the experience of military users of weapons and gear, and the newest scientific data in general, hoping to incorporate them into design improvements or procedure updates.

Another element of the sustainment scheme is to regularly recruit and train members of the armed forces and to properly administer the vast human mass that a modern military requires. Again, recruitment policy is something that is set by a national government in coordination with the senior members of the armed forces. It’s not possible here to fully outline all the details of this work except that to say that to do this one has to have a demographically healthy, educated society.

At this level of the sustainment process, it is necessary to have a working system of military hospitals (and provisions to use civilian hospitals), detainee facilities (or provisions to set them up) for POWs, and arrangements to work with civilian industries in wartime. (Israel maintains the power to ‘draft’ not only people but industrial vehicles, commercial airliners, and ships in event of war. The US government used to provide subsidies to shipping companies in exchange for access to having their ships available in wartime). Some degree of funding is made available for military units and commanders to procure equipment or services that they may have an urgent need for.

Senior national leaders also decide on emergency measures that are sometimes considered necessary to sustain a military-industrial complex in wartime. Rationing, martial law, and other such measures are typically called upon at this level. They are not always meant for strictly utilitarian needs - for example, during the Second World War the United States collected used cooking oil from citizens, ostensibly for the needs of the munitions industry. Historians suggest that actual amounts of cooking oil collected were fairly marginal in military terms - but the process still had value in terms of making citizens feel that they were involved in the war effort. It was, in other words, an elaborate propaganda measure. Conversely, Stalin’s Russia collected jewelry and money from citizens to fund weapons. Even small children donated money - and although of course children breaking their piggy banks could not add much to the Soviet war machine, Stalin personally thanked some of those children, thus also encouraging the older, wealthier members of the population to donate and participate as well.

On a lower - but still strategic - level, senior commanders plan their actions based on the need their units have for ammunition, food, spare parts, medical services, and so forth. Because the average need for most supplies is more or less predictable (for example, US military commanders know more or less how many tons of ammunition and parts a division will consume in a day of offensive fighting), plans for military operations are made by commanders based on these predictions. If a commander needs, for example, to deploy ten armored divisions and knows that these divisions will consume 2,500 tons of supplies per day each, it would be necessary for him to locate port facilities with a capacity of handling 25,000 tons of supplies, or provide some way to set these up. If there is expected to be a larger-than-usual amount of casualties, then medical facilities are arranged ahead of time (as an extreme example, the United States stockpiled 500,000 Purple Heart medals to issue to soldiers injured in the planned invasion of Japan during the Second World War).

The planning of strategic campaigns at this level must keep in mind all forms of supply and sustainment. Oftentimes entire large-scale operations are staged to capture transport hubs, major ports, or oil fields that can be used to either limit the opponent’s sustainment process or improve one’s own (Hitler’s attempt to capture Stalingrad was premised on the city’s value as a transport hub. In more recent conflicts, the capture of Slaviansk by pro-Russian militants was motivated at least partly by its position on the Ukrainian road network, and the later capture of Debaltseve by forces of East Ukrainian rebels and the Russian army was also motivated by its role as a rail hub). In defensive operations, military commanders and national leaders must also consider their home country’s resources.

Provisions should be made to either physically destroy or evacuate major industrial facilities in the event of an enemy ground invasion to avoid their capture. During the Cold War the United States had provisions to emplace tactical nuclear munitions at major industrial and electric plants in Europe to avoid their capture by the Soviets, and of course the Russians carried out a scorched earth policy in their country both during the war of 1812 and during the Second World War. Large-scale provisions for evacuation of industry and civilians have been deployed in the Second World War.

Finally, national and senior military leadership plans large-scale relief operations for both military and natural disasters. The relief of the Leningrad Blockade by Soviet rail workers, truck drivers, and Navy personnel is famous in this context. Less famous is the heroic work of Soviet hydroelectric workers, who first restored the Volkhov Hydroelectric Plant under German fire (at least in one incident a German shell burst into the plant’s engine room, damaging a plant engine and killing workers), and then laid a high-voltage cable, along the bottom of Lake Ladoga, under German fire. With the power from the Volkhov plant restoring light and tram transport to many parts of the besieged city, doubtless thousands of life were saved.

It is at this level that the planning of large-scale operations (invasions, wars, defensive actions) are first planned. In the following chapters, we will look at the responsibilities of lower levels of sustainment and logistics planners, which will help the reader to become more at home with the considerations that are taken by Presidents, Kings, and Chiefs of Staff when planning campaigns and wars.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:04 am
by Allanea
Sustainment Hierarchy

Like all other military units, sustainment units exist in various sizes. It is important to note that the size and the logistics unit does not necessarily point to its subordination level. As a general rule, smaller logistics units are typically located on lower tiers of the military apparatus, and respond to more immediate needs of the fighting unit. These units can be as small as a squad. For example, the Wehrmacht infantry company contained within it a Combat Support Detachment - Gefechtstross of 17 men, responsible of providing medical and logistics services. (It was equipped with a bicycle for the unit NCO, and three horse-drawn wagons for transport). In addition the same company had a Food Supply Detachment - Verpflegungstross, composed of two men [!], and a Mounted Equipment Supply Detachment responsible for supplying soldiers with clothing and similar items or repairing them (Gepaecktross). Modern infantry companies often include some supply unit responsible also for maintenance of vehicles and a unit armorer.

A sustainment company of some manner is often included with a tank or infantry (or other) battalion, and of course a sustainment battalion can be included with the brigade or regiment. Sometimes some sustainment functions are included in separate units. An infantry battalion might have within it a medical platoon for administering immediate medical aid, a mobile kitchen, a transport platoon, or similar units (the exact administration differs in every country).

Even larger units can comprise entire sustainment brigades or regiments. These can provide support to a specific unit or group of units (for example, a sustainment brigade can be ordered to support one specific combat brigade), or they can form part of a division or even a corps. Sometimes at this level there exist other sustainment units - a Automobile Brigade, for example, is a Russian Army unit composed of vast quantities of trucks and truck repair shops, that can aid in the logistics effort of a group of brigades and divisions. Other examples of strategic sustainment units can include a Rear Echelon Support Division, Diviziya Tylovogo Obspechenia (the Soviet-era name for a sustainment division), understandably being a division dedicated to providing sustainment services, a mobile field bakery.

Other units, while small, can be tasked directly under the control of senior logistics echelons. Those are sometimes called ‘separate’ units. Those can be separate logistics or transportation battalions, military police units, or storage facilities.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:04 am
by Allanea
Long-Range Transportation

To understand the issue of military transportation, we must first understand the problem it comes to resolve. This is the issue that a modern military force requires the movement of vast quantities of supplies, numbers which have increased exponentially over the past two hundred years. As we covered in the previous chapters of this informative, the armies of Ancient Rome and even those of Napoleon required primarily food and water for their men and horses, with supplies of weapons and ammunition forming a relatively low fraction of the weight of items that need to be transported. In the modern day, this has changed drastically.

To illustrate the issue, let us consider a few numbers from the world of ground forces. A modern US light infantry division (about 11,000 lightly-armed troops) with all its gear and equipment, weighs 11,000 tons. A US military armored or mechanized division, with its 18,000 troops, Bradley IFVs and Abrams tanks fighting vehicles and associated gear weighs 110,000 tons - roughly as much as a large aircraft carrier with all its sailors and jets. A division in some other nation’s army might weigh several dozen thousand tons, depending on the types of equipment used. After this vast amount of gear is shifted into a combat zone, the divisions have to be further resupplied with gear. A US light brigade will require 600-800 tons of supplies per day of combat, whereas a US division will require between 1500 and 3000 tons of supplies, depending on the type of operations it carries out (in hotter climates, a division may consume as many as 800 tons of water per day, for instance, and in colder ones as little as 200 tons. Ammunition and fuel supplies vary similarly).

Similar problems also occur in air force and naval units. Fuel, food, ammunition, and spare parts for weapons and vehicles need to be constantly shifted to resupply all military units. Because of the high strain imposed by combat (or realistic training) on most military vehicles and aircraft, being able to shift damaged vehicles or their parts back behind the front for repair is crucial. (As an extreme example, an engine on a modern tank requires to be rebuilt after 1000-1500 hours of use, and the gun needs to be replaced after 500 shots are fired.) Nuclear-powered vessels by their nature can exist without resupply for months, though prefer to resupply things like food, fuel for aircraft, miscellaneous “consumable” supplies,(that which can be used up, i.e. paper, ink, tape), and receive mail on a more frequent basis, but even they require maintenance to be done in-port on occasion and the reactors themselves require refueling after extended intervals depending on enrichment-percentages.

Naval ships can be resupplied either in harbor or, at sea, by cargo ships and aircraft. Ground and air forces can be resupplied by air, by sea, by truck or by rail. (Naturally, the same means are also used to bring supplies to the actual cargo ships). Over the years, as technology advanced, the lift capacity of these vehicles and ships increased vastly. Current US military resupply ships can lift as much as 24,000 tons of cargo in a single journey, while WW2 equivalents carried perhaps 10,000 tons. (In time of need, far larger ships can be chartered from merchant fleets). Tactical trucks can now carry as many as ten tons of cargo, while semi-trailer trucks in military use can now shift loads of thirty tons of supplies or more. Where WW2 cargo aircraft usually lifted only 2-3 tons of supplies, modern military aircraft can lift cargos in excess of 40 tons. (Some large aircraft exist in the armed services that can carry in excess of 100 tons!).

This growth in transport capability has been a result of not only military, but also civilian investment, in expanding cargo capacities. Trucking and shipping companies, oil companies, and civil aviation have all invested billions over the years in researching ways to ship and handle cargo. That said, as we will see, there have been some limits on how much this progress can benefit the military planners. This is because, unfortunately, the capacity of military transport is not directly proportionate to the speed or capacity of shipping.

This is for several reasons, which apply in different ways to different means of transport. The most obvious ones are that various items have transport requirements beyond mere weight - for example, obviously, a C-130 aircraft, though having ten times the cargo capacity of a WW2 aircraft, does not actually carry more paratroopers. Roll on-Roll off ships carrying combat vehicles and trucks are limited not so much by the weight of the vehicles, as by the floor space for them. Safety requirements and methods by which cargo is secured inside a ship or plane further limit their capabilities (for example, a 50-ton tank may be carried inside big enough aircraft, but no additional cargo may be added - this might mean that two 70-ton aircraft can only move two tanks at a time).

Another limitation - which we will see in more detail in future chapters - is the expenses in time and money related to loading and unloading the cargo. Even in the modern day, with shipping containers and computer-assisted cargo handling, a 20,000-ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean might take more time loading and unloading (three to four days on each end) than actually crossing the Atlantic (six to seven days in good weather).

Further, vessels - less so ships, but to a far greater degree aircraft, trucks and trains - are limited by the capacity of the systems that are needed for them to move (and in the case of aircraft, take off and land) safely. Before the era of modern communications, this had been the cause of much disruption.

For example, during the First World War, the invading German armies in Belgium misplaced entire trains as the trains arrived at the front, failed to make contact with the units they were meant to resupply (often, due to the units’ movement orders having been changed in the meanwhile due to the exigencies of combat), and then leave their stations and go roving on the rail system in search for their unit, causing traffic jams as they went on. More, civilian care package trains, with gifts for the troops, sometimes arrived in Belgium unscheduled, adding to the confusion.

Similar events occurred during the hasty German retreats during the latter half of the Second World War, as the Wehrmacht’s vast array of trucks, half-tracks, and horse-drawn carriages ran into each other on the roads, blocking roads and creating jams in which sometimes hundreds or even thousands of vehicles were then caught up, with disastrous results.

In terms of ground transport, even more care needs to be carried out assuring protection of the forces - both in terms of organizing armed escorts, and in terms of moving the convoys in such a way as to minimize the threat of accidents, and - especially in the event of trucks and other road vehicles - spacing the convoys out to minimize the threat of enemy attack impacting a large amount of vehicles at once (for an extreme example, in the event of nuclear war, Soviet combat manuals call for separating individual truck companies by at least two kilometers of distance to avoid them being consumed in a single atomic blast). Add the necessity of dealing with malfunctions (if a truck in a convoy malfunctions and cannot move on, the rest of the convoy will often stop rather than abandon a driver on his own in a warzone), rest stops, and the need to leave routes open for other units, and you will end up with overall movement speeds far lower than those that the top speeds of trucks and cars might suggest. For this reason, the speeds at which American armored divisions maneuvered even in the best days of Desert Storm did not exceed 250 kilometers per day and often were far lower, not much exceeding the speeds seen by Wehrmacht troops in France).

In the following sections we will discuss, in a simplified manner, some of the organizational issues related to military resupply by ship, by air, by train and by truck, and some of the technical innovations used by the world’s most advanced militaries to solve them.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:06 am
by Allanea


Airlift services, much like with civilian air transport, are used primarily for transfer of passengers or cargoes where time is at a premium. As we covered somewhat in previous chapters of the informative, aircraft are not a practical method for truly large-scale military logistics operations. They are, however, used for relatively small-scale (compared to the vast amounts of cargo lifted by train or ship) airlifts of supplies, troops, and vehicles that can be urgently needed. In the terminology used by the U.S. air force, airlifts from one theater of war to another, or from one major part of the world to the other (say, from Europe to Iraq) are called strategic airlifts, while airlifts within a given theater of war are called tactical airlifts. Typically, large jet and turboprop aircraft (such as the C-5 Galaxy or C-130 Hercules or Il-76) are used for strategic airlifts, while turboprop aircraft (the C-130 Hercules, again, the An-26) and helicopters (Chinook and Mi-8) are used in tactical airlifts.

Beyond the obvious weight limits imposed by aircraft, other limits are also imposed on them. The most obvious one is the size of a cargo compartment. If the cargo compartment of the C-5 Galaxy is only 36.6 meters long, and the HEMTT truck is 10.4 meters long, you’re not going to be airlifting more than three of those trucks in one Galaxy, and most likely (for safety reasons) only two. Main battle tanks are so heavy that often only one can be carried in a given plane, and the ‘extra’ weight capacity normally goes unused. (If you fit two ten-ton trucks to fill most of a 70-ton-capacity plane, you’re unlikely to be carrying 50 tons of supplies in the two meters spare hold area you have left).

Statistics bear this out: a US heavy armored brigade, containing 4,500 troops and a total of 29,000 tons of armored vehicles, required a total of 478 flights using the heavy C-17 airlifter. A somewhat lighter brigade, using the Stryker vehicle, weighed in at 15,000 tons of vehicles and 3900 men, using up only 243 flights. A light infantry brigade - 7300 tons of supplies and 3500 men - needed 141 C-17 flights.

Extrapolating from these numbers, it seems obvious that airlifting a whole tank division would require an insane amount of flights, perhaps as many as 2,000 or so. These numbers will be smaller with the large aircraft in use in the NS universe, and they can be somewhat reduced by emergency measures (such as airlifting the combat troops without their support elements and having them engage in fighting while the logistics elements is being airlifted in), but it’s worth noting that measures would only enable the units to fight on for a few hours or days, and are only a viable solution either if heavy fighting is not expected (say, to stop a coup or a series of riots, or to assist in disaster recovery), or if additional resources will be airlifted in immediately after.

The problem is not fully solved by simply purchasing more aircraft, as the difficulties of strategic airlifts are not limited to simply the expenses of owning and fueling more planes. Air traffic control - actually managing all these airplanes in the air - is a difficulty that actually expands with the amount of planes you have, and so large aviation units would need to be staggered in space and time. (The world’s largest civilian airport in the real world handles about 2603 flights per day on average, which translates to about 108 flights per hour. It’s likely your division-sized airlift will take hours to take off. This can be resolved partly by having the planes take off from separate airfields).

Consider now the difficulties in full. A brigade or a division is several thousand men, organized in a variety of units - infantry, perhaps tanks, field kitchens, reconnaissance, combat engineers gods only know what else. Suppose these people are suddenly being alerted that they are going to war in Southern Bigtopia. These various units of the division - its various constituent battalions, groups, brigades - rush to their vehicles. If they are a reasonably good unit, at a state of high readiness, to get everyone going, to pack everyone’s gear, to make sure everything is in place, will take as little as twenty-four hours. (Individual units, like some of the combat-ready battalions, might get out in an hour or so - if they have been on high alert.) The next morning, if everything has gone right (we will cover later the things that can go awfully, horrifyingly wrong in transporting men along roads and rail to the airport), your men will be on the airfield. (The first men, of course, will arrive a lot before that - perhaps, if you’re lucky, as fast as within the first few hours).

In the meanwhile, the commanders of the aviation units that are responsible for the planes will be preparing their unit for transport. Presume everything has gone right, and the planes are now ready. Your troops now align on the tarmac in full gear, waiting for the planes to taxi out on the runway. (Perhaps, in a great emergency, you might be able to commandeer an airport terminal, but generally you will not be able to do so - photographs of soldiers waiting out on the tarmac are everywhere in the media).

Finally the plane arrives. The logistics officers in the division had already planned this in detail - they know precisely what cargo goes in which planes, based on considerations like the weight of the cargo, its bulk, and safety issues (certain cargos need to be secured inside the plane in a particular way, like explosives and heavy vehicles, and thus can’t share the plane with other cargoes), and coordination with the officers of the aviation unit. Now, the equipment needs to be loaded into the planes - but you can’t just roll it into the planes with Ye Olde Forklift. It needs to be secured safely - usually strapped to an aviation transport platform, or sometimes chained to the bottom of the cargo bay.

Finally the planes need to take off, in a careful schedule - to avoid interfering with each others or colliding with civilian traffic. Then, the same dance repeats itself in reverse, on the other side. Unloading planes is slightly simpler than loading them (it’s easier to unhook the chains or unstrap cargo and push it out than put it in place).

Obviously, this operation is limited by the capacity of the airfields on both ends. This capacity is not just limited by the airfield’s sheer size, but also on the capability of the equipment there, the skill of the airport control crew (the US is currently developing automated ATC to replace most of the work of human air traffic controllers).

[Military forces can erect temporary airfields. Those are obviously limited in capacity but can be used in an emergency. If time is available, enormous airfields can be constructed by combat engineers. (US Navy Construction Forces had famously constructed a vast system of airfields all over the Pacific Ocean to fight the Japanese. This is one of the world’s most famous and most heroic military logistics efforts. Over time, if war or tensions continue, the airfields can be expanded to any level of sophistication.)

This is, naturally, a difficult process. Given what we discussed previously, it might take one or two weeks to completely airlift a division’s worth of troops (if the same group of aircraft takes repeated flights with them), or perhaps a day - if a truly giant airfield and a hundred or more aircraft are immediately available.

The obvious way to get around this process is to only airlift the troops themselves, to a friendly nation near the conflict area, where you had positioned in advance the thousands of tons of equipment that the division requires.

During a prolonged conflict (such as the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam), airplanes shuttle constantly between the homeland and the country where the war is ongoing. These airplanes shuttle in supplies and troops in small lots, replacing the men who are moving back to the homeland (this process called ‘rotation’) with fresh troops and replacing broken equipment and expended supplies that are urgently needed. Injured men are flown out to hospitals out of theater where the best medical treatment can be provided, and of course cargo aircraft have the solemn duty of flying home the remains of the dead.

It should be noted that, naturally, long cargo airlifts are extremely vulnerable both in the air and during landing and takeoff. (And strategic airlifters more vulnerable than tactical ones due to the great size and complexity of these aircraft). In a guerilla conflict like the Afghanistan wars, terrorists may seek to attack the planes on landing. In a big war, it’s possible that enemy agents or Special Forces may attack the planes by sneaking in close to the airfield and firing weapons at the planes when they take off, land, or park on the runway, or parking anti-helicopter landmines near the runway itself. (Despite the name, those landmines can react to, and harm all low-flying aircraft). There are numerous examples of military cargo planes being taken out on take off and landing by enemy forces, most recently the loss of a Ukrainian air force Il-76 full of paratroopers that was landing in the Luhansk airport.

A specific form of airlifting is the airlifting of supplies and paratroopers to aid forces behind enemy lines. In this case, the supplies or men are typically dropped using parachutes, or dropped out using a low-altitude parachute extraction system (a technique in which the aircraft flies really low and then opens its cargo doors, allowing a parachute to open and drag the cargo out the back). In both cases, care needs to be taken that the area is safe in terms of enemy air defense, either by scouting the area out or by disrupting the enemy air defense in the area with sabotage or enemy fire. Naturally, this method is limited (vehicles over a weight of 22 tons cannot be airdropped with present-day technology, although they can be dropped by LAPES, that is to say, dropped out at extremely low altitude in which the plane is just barely avoiding touching the ground) in terms of scope and extremely dangerous.

Another form of airlift is the tactical airlift. As we covered, this includes using airplanes (typically of smaller types, sometimes as small as the AN-2, but sometimes as big as C-130 and IL-76) and helicopters or tilt-rotor aircraft to airlift objects within the same theater of war, sometimes directly into the presence of fighting forces, typically into temporary military airfields. In some cases, troops and supplies are airlifted - typically by helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft - directly in and out of combat.

This method has the advantage that helicopters and smaller aircraft are cheaper to operate and maintain than large military jets, and can land on smaller runways (or, in the case of helicopters, can land on any flat patch of ground or even hover low enough for people to jump to the ground or get on board). The helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft can be used to evacuate wounded soldiers who require immediate medical attention (indeed, medical teams can commence working on the patient as soon as they’re on board), or supply ammunition to beleaguered forward outposts.

However, helicopters are expensive enough and small enough that using those as a sole means of tactical resupply is highly impractical. They are also not capable of carrying most armored vehicles, trucks, or heavy weaponry, and are extremely vulnerable to air defenses and small arms fire. (Most cargo helicopters are almost entirely unarmored, and so can be shot with rifles, machineguns and RPGs when landing. Even attack helicopters are vulnerable to small arms fire at least around some of their body).

It is preferable to establish helicopter landing areas in units that are intended to receive helicopters, by using bulldozers to clear out permanent landing pads, and using radio beacons to mark their location. In emergencies, one can use smoke or fire signals to mark a suitable location.

All aircraft flights are planned out in cooperation with the senior officers responsible for them (typically by the commander of the unit that has the helicopters or airplanes, either on a strategic level when airplanes are concerned, or a lower level to which helicopters or VTOLs are assigned). For this purpose the officers making the decision need to have information regarding the weather (this is part of the reason military forces have meteorological services), the state of the aircraft (from the maintenance team responsible for them) and the priority of the mission. In some cases - for example, urgent rescue missions - a helicopter flight can be launched with little advance planning, however it is wildly preferable to have everything scheduled and planned in advance.

Finally it’s worth remembering that pilots can only fly only so many hours a day (much like you can’t drive a car when you’re very tired) and that aircraft require regular maintenance between flights. These facts limit the performance of aircraft. In short, users of aircraft sacrifice the size and scope of supplies for speed. While aircraft resupply can be used to carry large cargoes (in particular, NATO forces used a large quantity of planes to ferry food to civilians in West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift), they are clearly the least efficient tool to do so. (It should be noted that the Berlin Airlift is a fairly unique operation that could have been only carried out in a circumstance where NATO aircraft were not facing intense opposition, and where NATO was not facing other strategic commitments).

Other means of supply are used to establish supply on a truly grand scale. We are going to cover those in further chapters of this informative.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:06 am
by Allanea
Logistics By Sea

For millennia, humanity’s main avenue for shipping large cargos was the sea. Rivers and oceans have been avenues of trade and war for the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Carthaginians and the Romans. Great Britain, Imperial Japan, and the United States have all used the sea as a means to resupply enormous overseas deployments. As we have seen in the previous chapters of this informative, maritime transport is by far the cheapest way to move large quantities of goods over a large distance. As trade and technology evolved over the years,the cost of transporting things overseas has declined, and the speed and reliability of transport improved vastly.

Typically speaking, the actual act of moving the ship across a body of water (a sea, ocean, river or lake) is in the modern day fairly safe and reliable. In the 21st century, ships are rarely lost in storm and travel across vast distances at relatively great speed (especially as compared to the practical speeds of the movement of ground forces rather than their actual movement). A cargo ship can cross the Atlantic ocean within a week, sailing at a speed of about 40 kilometers an hour - easily comparable to the speeds at which military columns move in actual practice (as opposed to the top speeds listed on manufacturers’ websites).

The difficulty comes - just as with aircraft as we have seen prior - with loading and unloading the cargo. Placing cargo upon a ship is a science all unto itself. Cargo - vehicles, equipment, heavy loads - needs to be safely secured within the ship (to avoid the cargo moving as the ship tilts and heaves at sea, which could have disastrous results). It also needs to be spaced out safely within the ship, to avoid overloading any given part of the ship

The ships divide into several types, which are important for the purpose of this informative. Commercial vessels divide into oil tankers (used to deliver large quantities of fuel, and in some cases water), dry bulk freighters (used to deliver grain, ore, coal, and similar cargos), as well as container ships (used to deliver the majority of commercial cargos) and breakbulk vessels - for cargos that for whatever reason can’t be shipped in containers. Vehicles - civilian or military - are shipped by Roll On/Roll Off (RORO) vessels, that is to say, ships into which the vehicles can be driven, secured within the ship’s hold, and later rolled off under their own power at the port of arrival. Specialized RORO vessels exist for trains, from which locomotives and railcars can roll off directly onto a railway.

The armed forces utilize most of the above, and primarily tankers, container ships and RORO vessels, for resupply of their forces. In addition, mixed freighters (that carry food, water, fuel, and weaponry all at once, in separate compartments of course) exist to resupply ships at sea. In general, most of these ships operate at the same speed as regular civilian freighters (indeed, many of them are civilian freighters, purchased or leased from civilian companies or outright pressed into service for wartime). Some exemptions exist - for example, the United States Navy operated Algol-class Fast Logistics Ships - the pinnacle of military shipping technology at the time of their construction, a Fast Logistics Ship was capable of moving at a top speed of 33 knots (over 60 kilometers an hour), and carry up to 700 military vehicles. To illustrate the improvement between WW2-era and modern-day military logistics, it suffices to be say that to carry the same weight of payload in the same time period, one hundred and sixteen Liberty Ships would be required.

In addition to the above, modern militaries are also supported by hospital ships - literally floating hospitals, typically built on cruise liner or freighter bodies, where full medical services can be provided during wars or natural disasters, as well as tenders (ships capable of resupply Navy warships or submarines at sea). Beyond that, some navies operate floating workshops - enormous slow ships, capable of carrying out repair services on vessels either in harbors that are not themselves possessing repair equipment or even at sea, and in some extreme examples even replacing or refueling a ship’s nuclear reactor, though this is generally something planned so far in advance as to be deemed unnecessary and able to be worked around. Finally - and highly importantly - military oceanographic and meteorological research vessels, cable-layers and minesweepers round out the fleet. It is not possible to completely detail, in such a brief document, the full roles of these ships, but by and large their names speak for themselves.

In the modern day, loading and unloading a cargo ship is somewhat simpler than it was in the 1940s. This is because of the fact that a large proportion of supplies are now held in standardized shipping containers - ammunition, gun parts, weapons, even some vehicles can now be held in shipping containers. It is now possible to simply grab them with cranes and load them onto trucks or trains, or even simply have trucks loaded with containers roll off a RORO and continue on their way. To clarify the issue, the costs of cargo shipments have declined over 90% since the widespread deployment of standardized shipping containers had commenced, primarily because of the simplification of the shipping process.

As logistics ships move across the seas, they are extremely vulnerable to attack. While this can be mitigated to some extent by fitting freighters with light weaponry and electronic warfare equipment, they are, naturally, not true warships and if they are hit with weapons from enemy ships, submarines, or aircraft, the damage is likely to be devastating. To some extent they can be protected in wartime by operating in groups with other ships and escorted by warships (called convoys), however this is not foolproof - a modern submarine is extremely stealthy and can get even through very elaborate defenses. In addition, relying on convoy systems limits a nation’s shipping capacity - rather than maintain a constant flow of ships, it is necessary to wait for enough ships to form a convoy to become available, for enough cargo to accumulate to fill those ships, and so forth - rather than send a ship every day, you might be sending ten ships at once, every month. In truth, the most efficient way to secure one’s shipments is to destroy or severely weaken the enemy fleet first.

As a military force arrives in a foreign country, it stands before several options. The easiest one is to have a friendly harbour, in which the supplies can be unloaded using existing cargo equipment. This is a simple option, but it does have some difficulty associated with it. Harbours are limited in their capacity, both in terms of the amount of ships they can accept, and the amount of cargo that they can handle. (The availability of crane equipment, road quality, and the availability of skilled work can all affect the capacity of harbours). Port capacity can also be affected by the security situation - obviously, enemy attacks can damage port equipment, but even when real damage is not done to the port, the sheer risk of attack can slow down work, both in terms of workers abandoning work during attacks, and in terms of the many security precautions that need to be taken.

When a port is not available, a temporary port can be established - either on a domestic or an enemy shore. The tactics of amphibious landings are beyond the scope of this brief informative, but it should suffice to say here that they are very dangerous and difficult. Because of the increased threat of modern guided weaponry, most large ships need to remain in a safe zone as far away as 45 to 60 kilometers from shore to avoid being struck with them. The first stage of either an opposed amphibious landing or any such construction is to study the lay of the land and the local climate. For this purpose it is possible to carry out what is called engineering reconnaissance - studying the shore via the means of air photography or special forces infiltration, for the purpose of learning whether the shore is available for a landing.

In years past it was only possible to carry out amphibious landings on beaches, however since more and more beaches are now the sites of cities, studies have been undertaken to deploy mobile port equipment on somewhat harder forms of terrain, including on artificial shore constructs such as wavebreakers and anti-flooding defenses. Obviously cliffs cannot be the sites of either beach landing or artificial port construction, but at least in terms of the artificial ports there may be a bit more choice than there was in the days of the Normandy landings.

Let us discuss the three forms of landings in turn - combat amphibious landings, unopposed landings on an unprepared shore, and landings in a prepared port.

We will omit here the tactical and combat considerations of amphibious landings, except saying here that, in the event that landing under fire occurs, most ships will remain far away from the shore (as far away as several dozen miles) until the main threat has been suppressed. Helicopters and landing craft, specialized for rapidly landing troops and supplies on the shore, will go forward. (Some combat vehicles can swim ashore independently, using their own engines, however these can at best do so slowly, over a short distance, and in relatively stable seas). These landing craft are relatively small, both because of their need to be swift and because of a natural lack of desire to expose a large amount of troops at once to enemy fire. (The world’s largest air-cushioned landing craft can pack 500 troops - if no vehicles are brought along with them - or 140 troops with eight APCs. Other landing craft have comparable, or often smaller capacity). Amphibious trucks, ferries, and other equipment can be also used to resupply those troops which land in this first combat wave.

Behind them, specialist ‘amphibious’ ships serve to support the landing. These have various features - on-board docks, ramps, and helicopter landing pads, typically - to support the landing craft. These features, by nature, limit the size of the ship, typically those are much smaller than purpose-built cargo ships in terms of the cargo available (and often in size). Being combat vessels they also require to have many provisions not necessary for cargo ships - weaponry, armor, crew to handle the docking machinery - that further degrade their capacity as compared to a regular cargo vessel. As an example, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, which displaces 40,500 tons, has on board 50,800 square feet (4700 square meters) of space to hold 38 combat vehicles, 80 various support vehicles (mostly trucks), and needs a ship’s company of 1200 men. It also carries helicopters and Harrier jets to support the landing - essentially, almost a light aircraft carrier. Comparably, the US Navy’s standard RORO cargo ship, the Watson class, displaces 62,000 tons, has 393,000 square feet capacity for vehicles (36,500 square meters), and requires an operating crew of 76 men. These are of course extreme examples, but they demonstrate the point - amphibious landing and assault ships are more expensive, more complex, and carry less cargo.

As the combat troops push ashore, the amphibious ships send out dozens, and then hundreds, of tons of cargo backing them up. Food and ammunition, spare parts, batteries and tent poles are all sent ashore, and the infantry and tanks push deeper in, until an area of beach has been cleared, permitting a larger force to be landed behind them. Now smaller landing ships (in between an amphibious vessel like the Wasp in size, and the LCVP), if your Navy has them, can approach the shore directly. If there is an appropriate beach (or the ship can accommodate a shore other than a beach) the ships can come directly to the shore, and open a forward ramp, with each ship carrying perhaps a few dozen vehicles.

Again, we see here a pattern - an amphibious landing is carried out under direct enemy opposition, either literally in combat with rifles and cannon being fired at the landing ships, or at least with the threat of such things happening, with the shore entirely or almost entirely unprepared. All of these factors limit the scope of the landing itself and the logistical support that can be rendered.

Once the shore has been relatively secured, however, or in the event that the shore has been captured unopposed, there is now a need to establish a more permanent presence. As we have seen in previous sections of this informative, the requirements of a large military force are counted in the thousands of tons per day. Those cannot be met with amphibious landings, and in the long term they must be met with cargo ships. A military offensive of a major scope will consume thousands of tons of fuel and ammunition every day. Clearly a more serious solution is required.

Combat engineers and construction teams spring into action. In the days before the landings (and sometimes, years before the war even was seriously considered, much less declared), reconnaissance and intelligence services have studied the enemy nation’s shores, the composition of its soil, the weather and dominating currents. Now, Navy and ground forces engineers move forward, moving in vast sections of pontoon bridge, floating sections of armored concrete caissons (hollow concrete barges), and other parts that together, form piers and wavebreakers. The caissons are then filled with water and soil, sinking to become parts of the landscape, immovable even in the hardest storms. Alternately, concrete (or steel) barges can be linked up together just off-shore, and linked to the land with a pontoon bridge. (This latter technique was used during the Falklands conflict, where the British Navy deployed a fixed off-shore platform that it used to deploy thousands of tons of cargo, and which was so sturdy that it remains in use to this day, now with the civilian local government). In some cases this equipment is actually constructed by the soldiers themselves - British combat engineers built a pontoon ferry to be used in the humanitarian resupply of liberated Kuwait - but most often it is purchased before or during the war from industry.

On the shore, cargo handling equipment is deployed first - smaller versions of the massive cranes used to unload ships in civilian harbors, forklifts (sometimes armored ones, if the situation calls for it), and all the other equipment that one associates with unloading a ship, down to cast iron bollards to which one can moor vessels. This equipment is typically more portable, although as sturdy or sturdier as the equipment civilians use. (Some of the electric cranes built for use in D-Day were still used in civilian industry in 2013.) Over small bodies of water (and even as big as the English Channel), underwater cables and pipes can be laid to pump fuels or oils to the enemy shore or to a besieged city. (Cables and pipes under Lake Ladoga supplied besieged Leningrad with power and fuel).

In years past, organizing the unloading of military warships was a horrifyingly complex science. Professional stevedores formed a crucial part of the D-day landings. Today, however, the invention of shipping containers has simplified manifold - goods are packaged into containers of standardized size, and either placed directly on trucks that are shipped in RO-RO freighters (or, in some rare cases, railcars on train-specific ROROs), or, more often, on container ships. Typically, the military will have its own container ships, but civilian container shipping can be either rented or drafted for the purpose. (The US military’s container ships have capacities measured in hundreds of containers, but it is possible to have container ships that carry thousands of container or more, with all the obvious limitations a larger ship could entail).

Obviously, however, using such a makeshift port will still carry disadvantages. It will typically have only limited capacity compared to a well-developed civilian port. That said, its capacity can still be enormous - during the 10 months after D-Day, the temporary harbors built by the Allies handled 4,000,000 tons of supplies - over 13,000 tons per day. Today, with the use of container shipping and automation, even greater numbers can be accomplished. However, clearly there are disadvantages to this method. Not only will the harbor be smaller and less equipped than an existing industrial port, it is likely to be remote from enemy road and rail infrastructure - its remoteness from civilization was exactly why the attacker chose it for a landing site in the first place. To advance, one would have to establish new roads and rail (a topic that we will discuss later in more detail). Clearly, an existing harbour is a better option.

There are, however, still limitations. Every harbor has capacity limits - both in terms of the size of ships that can enter it (due to its depth and the size of its docks) - and the ability of the harbour to handle cargo. This is set by the amount of load-handling equipment and skilled personnel available locally (which can be somewhat augmented by sending in your own men and gear), and by the existence of appropriate docking facilities. Again, combat engineers can augment an existing harbour by the same means that a temporary harbor can be set up - but this will not turn a minor third-world harbor into a giant industrial port overnight. Studying the capacity of potential harbors (whether enemy or allies) is a necessary part in planning military operations, preferably long before war.

When capturing an enemy harbor or rendering disaster assistance, additional problems may occur. The harbor can be damaged by war or earthquakes (after the Japanese tsunami, many shipping containers floated in the sea, creating a shipping hazard), and the enemy can damage it purposefully (by mining the harbor with sea mines, setting explosives, mines, and booby traps on harbor equipment or outright destroying it, sinking its own ships along waterways to bar access, and so forth). Before a damaged harbor can be used, combat engineers must assess the damage (again, by aerial photography and directly visiting the area where possible) and create a plan to fix all or part of it. However, once the harbor is restored, aid (or military troops) can pour in in vast numbers. Even in the third world, harbors can handle tens of thousands of tons of cargo every day, and major industrial harbors can handle more than a million tons of cargo every day. (In NS, even larger harbors may exist, especially in countries such as Freethinkers, whose maritime trade is a major focus of their economy). Clearly, existing harbors are the primary means for large-scale military shipping.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:07 am
by Allanea
His Majesty, The Train

Where goods have to be shipped overland for vast distances, obviously it is not possible to ship them by freight ships. For shipping a large amount of goods in a straight line overland, freight trains are by far the cheapest and most efficient way to do so. In the United States, costs of freight rail transport are approximately 2 cents per ton for every kilometer shipped, where truck transport is just over 23 cents, and transport by air is $2.83 per kilometer. Because of the greater efficiency involved, a train consumes only a quarter of the amount of fuel needed to transport a given load by trucks.

There are of course also obvious problems - rail is more complicated to build and maintain than roads, and cannot be practically extended everywhere. Most of the time, trains require train stations, depots, and complex movement control measures (similar to those seen with aircraft) to avoid traffic jams and lethal collisions. Whereas, trucks can feasibly operate on any reasonably flat land, and basic dirt roads can be built anywhere just using a bulldozer.

In a civilian context, the difference between train and truck is extremely complex, and cannot be easily summarized here, especially that it is subject to much contentious debate. In a military context however, the choice is simple: for transporting large quantities of cargo over strategic and operational distances, the train is clearly superior if the rail infrastructure already exists or can be feasibly constructed rapidly.

Several important considerations exist for moving military supplies and units by rail. Even in peacetime, trains require a large degree of organization. Because cargo trains are enormous (freight trains in the United States can sometimes reach the length of over three kilometers, and the current world record, held by an Australian ore train, is 7.3 kilometers) and because of the possibility of both traffic jams and accidents, the movement of trains is carefully scheduled and controlled from central control rooms, overseen by government agencies or in some cases railroad companies. During times of a total war (such as WW2), it’s feasible to have trains and train stations put under military or paramilitary authority).

Loading and unloading a train with troops and vehicles is a complex matter. Typically speaking, the unit commander and his staff will be aware in advance (preferably, several days in advance) of the train’s schedule, its route, and plan accordingly. Because trains can be sabotaged or attacked in transit, this information is kept classified, and only the members of staff and other officers who need to know this for their duties will be informed ahead of time. As with other forms of transport, preparing a large unit for transport takes several days (at the best, 24 hours). The unit then moves towards the nearest train station (preferably, large freight-handling facilities should be available such as cranes etc.). If the nearest train station is far enough from the unit’s permanent base (over 20-30 km) they will set up camp in locations known as ‘staging’, places where a secure camp can be established and from which the rail is easily accessible. If the distance from the ‘staging area’ to the rail station is over 10 kilometers, an additional staging or waiting location can be scheduled near the railroad. In either case, these locations are kept classified where possible.

Long before the loading of the trains, the unit’s commander will sit down with his staff and subordinate officers and divide his division, brigade, or what it may be into temporary units, based on the capacity of the trains in question. In Russian military parlance these temporary units are called ‘echelons’. The unit commander appoints officers that will be responsible for each train, and will be responsible for organizing security on board the train, its transport, loading and unloading. Often the train combines both passenger and freight railcars, to carry the soldiers assigned to the military unit, or, at least, to carry sufficient troops to handle the security of the train (to prevent saboteurs, enemy infiltrators or guerrillas from attacking it, for instance). In all cases, the train’s commander (or ‘echelon commander’, in Russia), is responsible.

As the trains arrive, the troops begin (with some help form professional railway troops when it comes to operating cranes and other specialist equipment) loading equipment and vehicles onto the trains. Tanks, trucks, and other vehicles are driven onto rail flatcars and prepared to be moved - that is to say, lashed to the flatcars with cables or chains, and their wheels secured with clamps or other tools. The vehicles are typically carried either fully or partly fueled (depending on safety regulations), to enable them to roll off the rail at the point of destination. Some combat vehicles have special arrangements for preparing them for transport (the cannon of self-propelled guns lowered and placed in a resting position, MLRS rocket blocks lowered and unloaded, etc.) At least part of the unit’s air defense vehicles are placed on the flatcars in such a way that they will be able to shoot at enemy aircraft or guided munitions. Finally, the train must be stocked with food for the troops onboard for the entire journey, plus sufficient food supply for three days after the date of the train’s arrival, and at least some potable water for the troops on board.

If the troops are unloading somewhere which is not a set train station, it needs to be equipped with facilities for unloading the trains - phone lines for traffic control and communications, temporary ramps for rolling the vehicles off the trains, even toilets for the troops. Measures should be taken ahead of time to protect the unloading site and camouflage it from potential enemy attacks as needed.

Beyond the trains directly assigned to transport a specific military unit, it’s feasible to have trains that support ammunition, fuel, mail and food to the front, as well as specialized trains to carry injured soldiers home or provide medical assistance in disaster zones. (Those are called hospital trains, and typically have a small hospital’s worth of military facilities and supplies in their railcars.

It’s not possible to outline here the capacities of all the different trains in the world, but the following numbers should be kept in mind: A heavy-load flatcar can carry up to 100 tons of equipment, while a standard COFC (Container on Flat-Car) flatcar can carry up to two standard FEU shipping containers (or four TEUs). Some special railcars allow stacking two rows of shipping containers one on top of the other. For calculations of length it’s best to consider that a railcar is typically about 17-20 meters in length. A flatcar can fit one or two armored vehicles (typically a single tank, and two or at best three lighter vehicles). Trucks and staff cars depend on the type of car and method of packing.

As the train movement is planned, military commanders take into account the limitations of the railroad itself (some rail locations can only accommodate trains below a certain length or weight, for instance, certain tunnels will not fit certain cargos, etc.) and issues of safety when planning the journey. Longer trains, of course, are easier to manage than several trains of a shorter length and carry more cargo at once, but of course shorter trains are easier to navigate and splitting your cargo between several trains is safer.

It should be noted here that while the trains themselves can move at relatively fast speeds (45-70 kilometers per hour is the maximum permitted speed of a freight train in most countries, and the trains can travel as fast as 120 kilometers per hour - indeed, during the Cold War, plans were made by NATO forces to use high-speed trains to carry tanks and other military freight), the time spent unloading the trains, loading them, waiting at intersections and so forth cuts into the actual speed of transit. When these are included in the calculation, the speed of freight rail can fall to only several hundred kilometers per day, and in countries having problems with their transit system, sometimes to less than 300 kilometers per day, even as the train actually can accelerate to far greater speeds.

The obvious issue must be addressed as well: it appears to the layman that trains are extremely vulnerable, since of course they appear to be bound to their railroad to an even greater extent than trucks. This is true to some extent, but limitations apply to the principle. Damaging the rail itself will do nothing to the train, which will simply stop, wait for soldiers to rebuild the rail (during WW2, Nazi troops were capable of rebuilding the damage done to the rail by a dynamite charge in as little as 15 minutes, using supplies the trains carried directly on board).

As such, there are two meaningful dangers to rail transport that must be addressed: attacks on important train infrastructure (such as bridges, tunnels, and depots), and the train themselves. The train itself, if it is attacked in motion (either by enemy attack), will sometimes derail, which will cause vast damage to the rail itself that will take hours and sometimes days to clear. A group of guerillas or enemy troops that manages to sneak a small landmine into a rail route and detonate it under a train in motion can possibly delay dozens of other trains for days and days. If an enemy spy has managed to sneak into the depot, sabotaging the train’s mechanism can cause a lethal crash. Air strikes can, of course, also damage trains.

Measures need to be taken to protect rail facilities and trains. For this purpose, troops (or local police and militia) need to be poised near important rail infrastructure or within reach of it. The length of the railroad must also be patrolled and scanned against mines and ambushes. Fencing off areas of the rail to limit access is also a stopgap solution. Of course, on board the trains themselves, armed soldiers stand on guard during travel and stops, and if air defense vehicles are carried, they can also return fire against attacking aircraft. When troops are on board, all of them have access to armories on board the train or to their own weapons, to help retaliate against surprise attacks or ambushes. Sometimes several flatcars filled with sandbags are mounted in front of the locomotive, to protect from landmine explosions and ambushes.

Finally, countries that use trains extensively in combat have specialized armored trains, for escorting cargo trains and patrolling the rail. The Russian Rail Forces have several armored trains (brought back into service and modernized in 2013), and the U.S. military has provisions to rapidly build and deploy armored trains if they are needed. These trains both carry engineers to detect mines and solve issues with the rail networks, and weapons (and sometimes even vehicles like tanks and IFVs) to fight back against attacks on the railroad or its trains.

While the primary use of railroads is, naturally, within one’s existing rail networks, it should be noted that it is feasible to use rail transport outside it. In wartime, it is entirely feasible to transition to using the enemy’s captured rail lines. If the enemy uses a different gauge from you (in the real world, the entirety of the Middle East, Europe, and North America use one gauge, and the former USSR - another), this may cause problems, but these are less of an issue today, and trains can be rapidly refitted from one gauge to another (indeed, some trains can use two or three types of gauge, adjusting rapidly or even simply on the move).

Furthermore, it is entirely feasible for military forces to lay down both ordinary and narrow-gauge (somewhat smaller, and typically in civilian life used only in mining and local applications) rail to supply troops far beyond the edge of the existing rail network. During the Second World War, rail was laid at a speed of 3-4 kilometers an hour depending on the period in the war. Famously, Soviet railroad workers built the Victory Road, a railroad through a narrow gap in the German defenses in the Leningrad blockade - in some parts they worked within range of German artillery guns, delivering thousands of tons of food to the besieged city. An attempt to build a narrow-gauge railroad over the ice of Lake Ladoga was also carried out, but made obsolete by the existence of Victory Road. Today, with modern mechanized equipment, it’s possible to have far greater speeds of railroad building, accelerating to as much as 10 kilometers per day.

During the World Wars, narrow-gauge railways were used to connect broad-gauge industrial railways to the front lines, in some cases picking up injured troops almost directly from the front-line trenches of the First World War and delivering ammunition directly to the guns. Sometimes trenches were dug, with the narrow, tiny rail laid on the bottom.

Equally, rail troops can establish their own rail bridges, using much the same methods used to establish road bridges across river. Indeed, they can either establish rail over pontoon bridges or build rail bridges outright, bridging a major river within a day. Rail troops - like all military forces - can do their work even in contaminated environment, working in NBC suits to build or repair rail in areas damaged with nuclear fallout or chemical weapons.

That said, the ability to build rails and rail installations from scratch is always secondary - such installations and rails will by necessity be secondary in quality to permanent, long-term rail, and to the permanent and functional existence of a rail infrastructure of a given country. Major rail depots and installations play key roles in warfare to this day - the capture of the Debaltsevo rail hub was a key moment of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, enabling the Russians to resupply the separatists in the area with thousands of tons of munitions of supplies once they possessed a large rail depot capable of handling them. In the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, the Roki Tunnel was the main route through which thousands of Russian troops poured across the border. As such, long-term military planning in your nation - both as done by your logisticians and other military personnel - must involve detailed knowledge of the capabilities and design of both yours and enemy’s rail networks.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:08 am
by Allanea
The Automobile - The Backbone of the Armed Forces

HEMT-T Heavy Extended Mobility Tactical Trucks

Ships and trains are majestic in their own right, and of course very well capable of moving dozens of thousands of tons of gear. But in truth, no modern army - no modern civilization at all - is possible without automobiles. From enormous tank transporters carrying armored war machines through broad highways, to eight-wheeled off-road trucks plowing through the mud of South-Eastern Ukraine and Humvees rolling down the roads of Northern Iraq and tracked transports drag towed guns through the mountains of the Caucasus.

Where rail is not available, where the economics of rail shipping do not work out or where the supplies need to be broken down into parts shipped to individual units. From the railhead and harbor, the cargo will typically move in on trucks and cars. (For moving really small cargos and officers, staff cars and pickup trucks are normally used). Injured soldiers are evacuated by ambulance.

Just like with all the previous vehicles we’ve discussed, with trucks, the main complexity is not the sheer movement of the cargo, but organizing and managing this movement. While it is not possible to describe all the complexities of automotive transport - an issue complex enough that entire books have been written to address it.

The armed forces have within them a variety of trucks, some organized as their own units (these can be called ‘Transport Battalions’, ‘Transport Brigades’, ‘Transport Companies’, or something similar), and some organically involved in smaller units. Most of these trucks are intended to transport food, equipment, and fuel for the troops, and others house things such as mobile armories, maintenance workshops, even bakeries and laundries. (The Ukrainian Army fields armored saunas and shower/laundry complexes built on semitrailer truck bodies)

These trucks have the unenviable task of resupplying a fighting force in wartime - sometimes along existing roads, but quite often not. Obviously, wars are not always fought near straight, paved roads, and combat engineers need to build temporary military roads to resupply forces that are located far away from roads. These are quite often unpaved - very simply lines of dirt that have been cleared and packed by bulldozers, with bridges laid rapidly across any rivers, moats, or ditches that may come in the path of the force. (Unpaved roads deteriorate rapidly as trucks pass - a hundred or two hundred trucks passing along an unpaved road may require the engineers to do it all over again). These roads can be laid fairly swiftly - as fast a 10 kilometers per hour for a simple road - but, of course, at the expense of quality.

On most levels (with some exceptions at the very small scale) military trucks move in groups (called vehicle columns). In peacetime the movement of these groups is a relatively simple matter, with the only possible problem arising being, perhaps, a malfunction in one of the vehicles or a traffic accident. In a peacetime army, all that happens is that a dozen trucks are carrying tanks from one base to another and maybe one of the trucks breaks down and the tanks get there late.

In war time - and especially in the theater of operations itself, where the war is actually being waged - the issue is much more complex. For one, the vehicle columns need to be staggered, to avoid a large quantity of trucks being caught in an ambush or air strike (or nuclear strike, if this sort of thing is in play) at once. The vehicles themselves need to be at a constant, safe distance from each other, both to avoid traffic accidents, and of course to avoid several trucks at once being consumed in a mine or IED explosion. (In times of nuclear war, distances between two truck battalions can be up to two kilometers, and distances between the companies of a battalion will be as long as 500 meters!).

Moreover, of course, the trucks themselves must be protected. This means that they must be escorted by armed vehicles - either gun trucks, that is to say trucks that have been converted to carry weaponry and its crews instead of cargo, or actual military vehicles like APCs, IFVs, or even tanks. Military regulations typically set forth a specific amount of armed vehicles for every convoy (say, one gun truck for every three regular trucks), based on the specific dangers of a given theater of war. If these vehicles are not available, the convoy can’t move - that’s to say, if a given commander has three gun trucks available and the orders for his theater of war require one gun truck for every four cargo trucks, only twelve cargo trucks can be sent out (perhaps there is an ongoing insurgency, and the cargo trucks require protection from insurgent ambushes).

Now add the requirement of a crew. A military truck typically needs to be manned by two drivers - so that one can driver while the other one rests or sleeps, and so that it is easier for them to fix the truck’s technical problems if any arise, fight back against enemy attacks, and so forth. [This is partly obviated with driverless trucks, which are now only starting to enter use with the armed forces of the wealthier and better-armed nations]. Water and food must be kept on board to last the duration of the journey (several liters of water per person and one or two MREs).

With all this organized, a truck convoy heads out. It is traveling not at the maximum speed of the engines, but at a regulation-set speed, partly to guarantee the safety of the convoy and partly to enable it to easily move in an organized fashion. This speed is much lower than the top speeds of modern vehicles - in the US military, at 40 kilometres per hour on highways in-theater, and in some situations (such as in city environments or off-road), as low as 15 kilometers. The convoy is spread out over an incredible length - a dozen trucks can take as much as a dozen minutes to travel through an intersection. This fact, together with the considerations that we have previously covered, means that the movement of military convoys through the theater needs to be planned almost at the same levels of detail as the movement of trains, ships, and airplanes.

This is not a metaphor. During the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military maintained a range of logistics headquarters at several levels of command, from brigade-level commands on the ground, to theater-level movement control headquarters that oversaw the movement of truck convoys through the entirety of Iraq or Afghanistan, and to interservice logistics headquarters in Washington D.C. itself.

Military writing (both fiction and history) rarely addresses the complexities dealing with these logistical problems directly. Indeed, one does not have to describe these in detail to be either a good fiction writer, a good historian, or a good roleplayer. But it’s worth to have an understanding of broad these details when writing about military operations or planning them.

A Special Note: The Different Types of Trucks

When discussing trucks, it’s worth introducing a brief guide to the different types of trucks and other cars used by the armed forces, and the roles of each of them in the armed forces. This will be in a brief glossary form.

Tank Transporter: These are some of the largest trucks in any military use. Essentially, those are large trailer trucks, appearing like enlarged versions of civilian semitrailers, capable of transporting dozens of tons of cargo. As the name suggests, they’re essentially the only trucks capable of moving full-sized main battle tanks, but in fact are also used to transport other military vehicles, such as SPGs and IFVs, to combat areas or training grounds. This is necessary partly to avoid strain on the combat vehicle’s engine and tracks (tanks are particularly short-lived), and partly to avoid strain on the crew and the roads (which can be damaged by tank tracks.

Semitrailer: Regular semi trailer trucks, carrying large lots of cargo (sometimes containerized) along vast distances. These are most often used within the homeland, traveling principally along roads as their offroad capability is limited. Often civilian companies are hired to transport large quantities of cargo, in some circumstances as much as 40 tons (though typically much less is carried).

General-Purpose Truck or Tactical Truck is a broad class of six- or eight-wheel drive vehicles that are typically used today to carry the majority of military payloads. These are capable of both using unpaved roads and operating off-road entirely. The capacity of these trucks varies, with 10 tons being the typical upper end of large vehicles such as the HEMT-T to as little as 2.5 tons. These can be used to transport both cargo and troops (though, obviously, in somewhat reduced comfort). Many other logistics vehicles are often built on the bodies of these general-purpose trucks, from fuel transports to well-drilling vehicles, excavators and mobile cranes and wreckers.

MRAP - While not all MRAPs fully belong in his informative, some Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles have a role to play as logistics vehicles, essentially functioning as mildly bullet-resistant trucks that have a greater chance of surviving a landmine or IED explosion. These serve to move cargo and troops in areas affected by terrorism or insurgencies, sacrificing some of their cargo capacity for armor. A typical member of the logistical MRAP family is the KamAZ Typhoon series.

Light Utility Vehicle - Starting with the Second World War, many of the world’s armed forces have deployed small, four-wheel-drive vehicles. The United States had the Jeep (so popular it became a general term for such vehicles), Germany had the Schwimmwagen, and the USSR had the GAZ-64. Used for nearly every logistics purpose - towing light artillery, carrying officers as staff cars, packed full of infantrymen for short-range transport (the Soviets soon learned they could pack as many as 10 men into the GAZ-64), the vehicles became the backbone of short-range military transport.

HMMW-Like Vehicle - In this context, various world militaries have deployed light trucks which are actually really big jeeps (or, if you, prefer, insanely enormous SUVs). The most famous member of this family was the Humvee, or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). It was intended to replace the Jeep and its various relatives with a vehicle which was somewhat larger, but yet not as big and unwieldy as a full truck, and capable of carrying cargo, tools, weapons, and soldiers within relatively short distances in theater. While the vehicle itself met with some controversy during the Iraq War, it’s worth remembering that it would be irrational to expect what’s essentially been born as a truck to resist the environment of direct combat.

Regardless of criticism, Humvees are now used around the world (and a copy is manufactured by China). Similar vehicles (though today slightly better armored) of various models are produced in Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and a bunch of other countries. Versions with various degrees of protection exist. Versions can be adapted for use as ambulances, staff cars, communications vehicles, drone launch vehicles, and so forth, and essentially infinitely, as any large, hardy vehicle. (For a funny example, the IDF deploys Humvees with fake tank turrets with laser-tag style guns to teach tank crews basic tank tactics to save money on using actual tanks for training).

Pickup Truck: These are essentially the same as ordinary pickup trucks. A heavy-duty pickup truck is typically procured by armed forces for small-scale use (typically within a military unit itself). They can be converted to ambulances, fitted with armor to use as MRAPs, or - most commonly - used for small-scale transport, for example when your Battalion Sergeant needs to drive down and get a few dozen buckets of white paint. In the IDF, my experience primarily has been with the Ford F-350, but no doubt other similar vehicles are in use throughout the world.

Artillery Tractor - A purpose-built vehicle (tracked or wheeled) designed to tow artillery pieces. These are sometimes designed based on trucks or civilian tractors, however purpose-built artillery tractors are also sometimes used. Often their reliable, hardy nature means they also are used as tactical cargo vehicles near the front line. Most famous in this role is the Russian/Ukrainian MTLB, which was first born as an artillery tractor, but later was also adapted as a tracked, lightly-armored logistics vehicle and so successful in this role that both countries are now resuming production of it separately. However, the MTLB’s popularity is mainly in its non-artillery use, and purpose-built artillery tractors are gradually going extinct due to the growing prevalence of self-propelled artillery.

Staff cars: Mentioned previously in the descriptions of other vehicles, those are vehicles assigned for personal and official use by military officers whose rank or duties qualify them for these vehicles (depending on the specific military, these may vary) These can be of various types, and some officers actually qualify for several different staff cars. (A senior officer such as a battalion or brigade commander can have a civilian-grade staff car he uses in town, an off-road capable military car, and then something like a Humvee he might use in combat situations, or even a MRAP-like vehicle. At one point IDF Brigade Commanders had upwards of seven vehicles assigned to them personally - a ‘white’ civilian staff car, a ‘brown’ staff car, a Humvee, a communications vehicle, an M113, an armored jeep... and the list went on. (Beyond this, of course, an officer of this rank will typically personally own a car too.)

White Vehicles: These are the various civilian-grade vehicles owned by a nation’s military. These can include buses, vans, and staff cars.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:09 am
by Allanea
A stack of military shipping containers.

As has been noted several times during this informative, loading and unloading freight and organizing it for transit is a difficult problem, and the costs and time for doing so are the most difficult problem for both military and civilian shippers. Therefore, we must speak of the number one invention in the modern shipping industry, that has, since its introduction, reduced the costs of international shipping by over 90% and has been one of the foundations for the introduction of the modern world of globalized trade. It is quite arguable that this one invention has done more for the benefit of the world economy than thousands of economists and managers. We speak, of course, of the standard intermodal shipping container.

Starting with the 1830s, various engineers and businessmen toyed with the idea of introducing a standard system of packaging goods that could be used on trains, ships, and later other vehicles. If such a system was invented, they understood, all you’d need to do when moving cargo from ship to rail would be to just move a single large crate, rather than unloading, arranging and securing the cargo. However, practical difficulties (containerization only truly became practical when trucks and trains became ubiquitous) and political resistance (stevedores and dockhands who stood to lose their jobs opposed containerization from the 1930s to the 1960s) delayed the invention. The United States Army pioneered the first modern shipping container, the “Transporter”, in 1948, which evolved into the “CONEX” of Vietnam fame.

In 1955, Malcolm McLean, an eccentric trucking tycoon, formed the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation, later to be known as Sea-Land, Inc. It would be this company that, in 1956, deployed the first commercially successful container ship. But it would be during the Vietnam War that McLean truly made it big - using his containers to shift thousands of thousands of tons of containerized cargo to the United States forces in Vietnam and making hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the late 1960s containers were standardized in the form we know them today - the United Nations publishing standards for the size, materials, and capacities of shipping containers. Now the same containers you can see passing you on the road are used throughout the world, both as containers and as units of measurement (cargo ship capacities are commonly estimated as TEUs - Twenty-foot equivalent units, or the amount of twenty-foot containers the ship can ostensibly fit) . The principal types of the containers are the twenty-foot (6.1 meter) and forty-foot (12.2 meter) containers, sometimes known as the TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and FEU (forty-foot equivalent unit). They were designed to be hardy enough to stack several high, and to hold a weight of 21.6 tons and 26.5 tons correspondingly (sadly, the weight capacity doesn’t increase proportionately to volume, for engineering reasons). Specialized containers were also designed for heavy machinery, refrigerated goods, and so forth.

The use of shipping containers saved the shipping industry thousands of dollars. Rather than send, say, a hundred mattresses, unpack them and then fit them in a truck, it is now possible to just use a crane to heft a container with the box of mattresses from a ship to a train or a truck and be on your way after you’ve safely secured the container. Just for the same reasons, it reduced costs for the civilian industry - making the process of actual loading and unloading far simpler - containerization was soon adopted by militaries across the world.

The advantages of containerization - the cheapness of containers, their standard sizes (compatible with shipping equipment across the world) and their sturdiness - soon made it attractive to create various items that would either fit the dimensions of shipping containers or would themselves be made from shipping containers.

The most basic example is housing - because a shipping container costs less than ten thousand dollars and can withstand most weather, these have been used as housing on military bases, in third-world countries, and in construction sites across the world. Military forces have also procured purpose-designed modular building elements - offices, hospital surgery rooms, and anything in between (some even armored, or even protected against nuclear blasts). Mobile generators, water purification plants, and other equipment have all been made in container form, and even anti-ship missile launchers have been designed to be containerized.

By the 1980s, tactical trucks were being designed to push containers to the very edge of the battlefield. The British government deployed a set of medium tactical trucks capable of carrying shipping containers known as the Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System, and the US HEMT-T truck, which we discussed previously, was also compatible with standard shipping containers. This did not merely make it easier to ship goods - this also improved the firepower of British and US artillery. If 1970’s-era military depots struggled with shipping the payload of ammunition that NATO artillery now needed to combat Soviet main battle tanks, DROPS and similar systems enabled them to heft a dozen tons of shells onto a truck literally within a dozen minutes. In 1992, NATO adopted STANAG 2413 - a joint standard for measurements and requirements for container-capable platforms and trucks to be used across NATO countries. This standard, with slight modifications, remains in use to this day.

Today, the ISO container standard, and container-sized housing and weapons systems are used in every country in the world, in both NATO and non-NATO countries. Combat engineers use rapid-deployment obstacle systems that use shipping containers, signals officers use mobile headquarters based in shipping containers, NATO forces in Europe convert them into armed sentry turrets, and of course they have formed the basis of bunkers and entrenched positions.

Most importantly, however, they have solved many of the problems that have plagued logisticians on the shores of Normandy and stevedores in the New York Harbors. In the 21st century, they have been upgraded further - with individual RFID electronic chips in every container, enabling military commanders to track every piece of cargo in real-time as it moves across the world. Moreover, they have allowed many aspects of cargo handling to be automated, since the cranes, trucks, and forklifts all handle standardized, rectangular cargo elements.

For these reasons, though the cargos moved by both civilian and industry ships have increased vastly since the Second World War, the costs of shipping them, managing them, and unloading them have actually declined.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:09 am
by Allanea
Engineering and Logistics

Among all the branches of the armed services, perhaps the logistician’s best friend is the combat engineer. Indeed, many combat engineering operations are in a sense so close to the operations of combat logistics services that they could be described as straddling a thin line between combat engineering and sustainment operations. Because I have already posted a detailed article that describes the functions of combat engineers, I will only be somewhat brief here, but an overview of engineers’ assistance to sustainment services is still useful.

As has been stated above, combat engineers carry out reconnaissance efforts to ensure that roads and various facilities are available for travel, or, failing this, that the terrain is at least available to be used to build the needed roads and facilities. Combat engineers help repair or establish roads, railroads, runways, rail depots and harbor, and assist in camouflaging those against detection by enemy assets, including the deployment of RADAR and visual decoys that would feign movement of ground vehicles and aircraft to deceive enemy observers.

However, this is not the only function that combat engineers carry out for the benefit of logistics services. Another useful service (carried out either by combat engineers or, in some militaries, dedicated pipeline troops) is the laying of fuel or water pipelines. These can be used to deliver fresh water or fuel across dozens of miles to resolve natural disasters (fires, nuclear meltdowns, droughts) or assist military operations. A modern pipelaying battalion can lay pipe at a speed of up to 120 kilometers a day (that is to say, fast enough to keep up with advancing mechanized units), which can be used to pipe up to 3,000 tonnes of fuel per day, enough to supply an entire division’s fuel needs. Distributing the fuel on the other end is going to be more complex technically than actually moving the fuel.

Another important service, in terms of resupplying forces in wartime and solving natural disasters, is the presence of mobile drill vehicles in the combat engineer’s arsenal. These can be used to drill wells, lay down phone or electric underground lines, or drill for oil in oil-rich areas. All these things can be used, of course, to resupply armed forces.

While we are on the topic of electric lines, it is the duty of combat engineers to ensure modern armed forces are supplied with electricity throughout. They maintain mobile power plants and generators, and establish power line feeds at permanent military bases. (Feeding computers, RADAR systems, and of course recharging batteries for various weapons systems is an important concern). They also work with the country’s general energy industry to re-establish power lines and other infrastructure that has been damaged in wartime. (During the Second World War, joint operations by electric plant workers and combat engineers allowed the creation of the Line of Life - a high-voltage line across the bottom of Lake Ladoga that allowed suffering Leningraders to heat their homes and the city’s military factories to make shells and weapons).

Some national militaries include in their setup permanent military construction units, which assist in the building of various facilities - barracks, storage facilities, and bomb shelters. However, this has gone out of fashion in recent years, and most permanent construction can be handled by civilian contractors or civilian government agencies. In wartime, however, it is entirely feasible for combat engineers to build almost any kind of setup, from airfields to hospitals to entire military bases. One of the last currently operational military construction forces is the United States Naval Construction Forces, also known as the Navy Seabees. (Famous for their exploits in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War).

The Naval Sea Bees have participated in every major conflict in which the US has participated in the past 70 years. During the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, they were seen toppling the infamous statues of Saddam Hussein. In the later occupation, they built the Forward Operating Bases which the allied forces used to control Iraq. They also participated in various peacekeeping and disaster relief operations throughout the world, building army camps, bases, repairing hurricane and earthquake damage and proving generators and fresh food to disaster areas.

In summary, where infrastructure is lacking or damaged, combat engineers and construction units are what the military uses to plug the gaps.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:10 am
by Allanea

Another important form of sustainment without which the armed forces simply could not operate is maintenance. Every weapon, every vehicle, every optic and every radio needs to be regularly and properly maintained, or it will fail when it is needed most. For this reason the world’s armed forces have developed clear and regular procedures designed to ensure that their weapons and vehicles are in working order both in peacetime and in war time.

To manage the processes of maintenance, different officers exist in a unit. Obviously, a commander is responsible to see that their direct subordinates clean their guns and tanks on a regular basis. But beyond that, specialist officers and troops are responsible for organizing the maintenance process. In the United States military, these duties are also overseen by the S-4 - the staff logistics officer.

Every vehicle and weapon has its own regular maintenance cycle - that is to say, a list of activities that need to be carried out on a regular basis, whether or not there is a known malfunction. For example, vehicles need to undergo a weekly maintenance check-up, where all major parts of the vehicle are thoroughly cleaned, the vehicle entirely inspected for malfunctions, and all the onboard weapons cleaned. In light vehicles this is a fairly simple process, taking as little as an hour in a M113 APC, but in tanks it is incredibly labor-consuming. In a modern main battle-tank it can take as long as six to eight hours hard work for the entire crew. In aircraft it is so complex that the pilots cannot do it themselves and entire dedicated maintenance crews exist to carry out all the work on the aircraft.

Beyond those regular maintenance tasks, there is of course the necessity of repairing weapons and equipment that have become damaged. Even outside of combat, regular use can cause damage to weapons or vehicles. (And, of course, they can become damaged in an accident). Intensive use - such as what is seen in combat or in training - wears out equipment fairly rapidly. A tank engine needs to be rebuilt or replaced after about a thousand hours of running. Several hundred shots fired - and a tank’s main gun needs to be replaced. Aircraft engines need replacing after several hundred hours of flight. The environment, too, can damage vehicles - ice mixing with lens-washer fluid to destroy lenses, engines becoming clogged with sand, mud tearing tracks. In short, the pressure of being driven through the battlefield or fired damages weapons and vehicles long before the enemy’s weapons get to it.

Simple forms of damage can be easily (or less easily) repaired by the members of the crew itself. For example, when a tank shakes loose its track, it can typically (though with some sweat) be repaired by the members of the crew itself. When the grips come off an M16 rifle, those can be replaced easily by the soldier himself using a pen, a kitchen knife or even a fork. This is often referred to as soldier-level maintenance.

Obviously, however, soldiers cannot do all the maintenance themselves on their vehicles and weaponry, some of it because they don’t have the proper tools and training, and some because, for whatever reasons, army policy is against them doing so. For example, any person can, without even using any tools more complicated than a screwdriver, replace a faulty trigger or a stock on an M16 rifle, however official IDF policy prohibits soldiers from doing so. (Some still do, of course). Other things are impossible without proper tools and supplies (for example, fixing certain engine malfunctions). For these repairs, the weapon or repair is returned to be fixed at a mobile workshop within its own unit (if it is a rifle or a machine gun, this workshop is sometimes called the unit armory. Typically those units are on the battalion level. A battalion vehicle repair workshop may be equipped with recovery vehicles capable of removing damaged vehicles from the field, and sometimes heavy gear such as cranes to remove the engine of of a tank. In United States military parlance, this is called Organizational, or O-Level maintenance.

The choice of the level of repair is rarely decided by soldiers or officer on a subjective measure. Typically, army regulations will determine the fate of the vehicle or weapon system based entirely on the type of malfunction. An armorer knows, for instance, that he is not permitted to attempt to replace a bent barrel on an an M16 rifle himself, but must arrange to have it sent to a higher-level armory for repair. On the other hand, he also knows that the barrel on an M60 or FN MAG machine gun is designed to be easily swapped out by the soldier himself within seconds and so even if the barrel is bent or broken all he needs to do is swap in a new one.

The next level of repair is a divisional or brigade or regimental workshop, which is equipped with heavier equipment, has more experienced technicians, and is generally equipped to deal with more complex issues. (For example, bent gun barrels, seriously damaged vehicles, and so forth.). At this level tank turrets are typically removed and replace (Bear in mind a tank turret can weigh from a dozen to two dozen tons). This is referred to in the United States military as Intermediate or Operational-level maintenance.

The next level of maintenance is called, in the United States, Depot-level maintenance. It consists of serious rebuilds, overhauls, and other serious rebuilds that require the equivalent of having a full-service factory to accomplish. This can be carried out either at the manufacturer’s factory (for example, Abrams tanks are refurbished at the Joint Systems Manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio), or in a large-scale military depot which essentially has factory-grade facilities. (In Israel, the latter is referred to as depot-level, or C-level maintenance, while returning the item to the manufacturer is referred to as manufacturer-level maintenance.) In addition, the United States defines any maintenance activities that requires the manufacture of parts or part assemblies, rather than just grabbing a part out of a box and replacing an old one, to be depot-level maintenance.

Part of the job of an S4 officer is to be aware which equipment in his unit requires maintenance. In some units (and some militaries), there is a special officer responsible for the maintenance of unit weapons (in Israel, the Katzin Himush, Ordnance Officer, in Russia, it is the Deputy Battalion Commander for Ordnance. Their exact duties are somewhat different, but they are both responsible for keeping the unit’s weaponry intact and ready and scheduling proper activities and training for this purpose. Other officers are similarly responsible for assisting the S4 officer or unit commander (depending on the exact structure) in assuring the maintenance of other vehicles.

Should a weapon or vehicle break down, pure logistics once again comes into play. One must then, once again, call upon the very trucks (or possibly trains, or other vehicles) to arrange for its transport to the workshop where it can be repaired, and the transport of a replacement vehicle (or part). This is a more complex issue than might appear. Obviously an individual rifle can’t be tossed into a box and shipped somewhere just because someone accidentally left it leaning against a tank roadwheel and it got sucked into the track and turned into a vaguely rifle-shaped metal blob - only once you’ve accumulated several broken up weapons is it worth shipping. Obviously also, trucks, and room on trucks, are at a premium - figuring out how to get those three replacement Abrams tank engines across the country and to the unit that needs them might become a whole riddle. You will be fighting for transport space with other units, other needs within your unit. (What does your unit need more right now - tank engines, or food? You can’t fight without either of them).

The truth is that combat soldiers are capable of fighting and training only because they, and other soldiers, are constantly working hard to keep their equipment going. This hard work is rarely portrayed in Hollywood, but is a crucial process. The functioning of maintenance processes depends - like the work of the combat soldiers themselves - on the function of the logistics system. As I will show in the next chapters, so do the other major forms of sustainment.

Special Note on Compatibility in Maintenance:]

It’s generally preferable to maintain in your arsenal and vehicle park as many vehicles and weapons as possible that share similar parts and require similar tools to work with, to simplify one’s logistics chain. If a given heavy truck is used, it is best to have all one’s heavy trucks be of the same type, to avoid confusion and difficulties with all the different parts. Equally if one uses a certain APC or IFV, it’s best to use it throughout one’s forces. On the other hand, this should not be fetishized to the point of spending billions and billions of dollars to try to convert disparate vehicles into a unified ‘platform’. It’s worth noting also that while vehicle uniformity is important, competent militaries have sometimes used a wide disparate range of equipment - Israel at one point has as many as five main infantry rifles on issue simultaneously, and, at peak, about a half-dozen types of tanks. Part compatibility is important - but don’t make it into a religion.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:12 am
by Allanea

Military mfedical activities are extremely important. The obvious reason - that is to say, soldiers getting injured in combat - is actually not the only one. Disease (spread by the lack of hygiene), dehydration (in exercises or on operations), and failure to observe safety protocols when planning exercises or activities can in fact do as much damage to the performance of servicemen (and in some cases more) as the actual combat itself. Further, soldiers also suffer from psychological injuries. In non-combat operations military medics also provide aid and assistance to local populations that have suffered from natural disasters. Finally, for long-term planning, military medics carry out continuous research on topics that are of importance for the armed services, from testing new medications and surgery techniques, to creating new physical fitness training schedules.

The purpose of combat medicine, it should be noted, is different somewhat from the purpose of civilian medicine. This is for two reasons. The first one is that while the purpose of civilian medicine is to primarily improve the health of the patient as much as possible, the purpose of military medicine is to preserve the patient as a combat resource, and to return him to the front as soon as possible. Second, military medicine - unlike civilian medicine in most cases - is confronted with the problem of malingerers, and especially so in conscript troops. Soldiers in the IDF have been known rub toothpaste in their eyes to make them look reddish, eat chalk or iodine (and sometimes even actually harm their own health in serious ways) to get days off from military service. Even in professional militaries soldiers sometimes ‘fake’ it’.

On the tactical level, the modern armed forces commence their medical support chain from the very front-line soldier himself. That is to say, modern troops are taught to administer several forms of first aid, bandage wounds, and apply tourniquets, as well as carry out safety means to handle common disorders that may be caused by military operations (hypothermia, dehydration, etc.). Every soldier is equipped with a sealed one-use bandage and tourniquet, which he can use to deal with injuries in a basic way. In some countries soldiers are also issued prescription medications in sealed kits or one-use syringes (atropine is commonly issued for use during chemical attack, for instance).

Then there is a company and platoon medic. This man has two jobs. One is to instruct soldiers regarding hygiene medicine and first aid (the infamous STD briefings are typically also the responsibility of military medics), and second to ensure that the various safety measures intended to preserve soldiers’ health are carried out. (He is responsible for ensuring the soldiers stay hydrated, that their quarters are hygienic, and that rules that restrict training and for safety purposes are observed by officers - for example, the IDF prohibits field training and any field operations for which there is not an immediate national security need on days with a high heat level.) Finally, he is responsible for administering first aid, serious painkillers like promedol or morphine to people who’ve suffered heavy injuries and removing them immediately from the combat area. On the battalion level, additional medics are available to both assist the company and platoon medic and to evacuate men to the rear through the use of ambulances (sometimes the ambulances are armored, at other times they’re just pickup trucks or Humvees with a red cross on them).

Higher up is a medical battalion. This is essentially a small mobile hospital or clinic. It is equipped with its own ambulances (sometimes even helicopters, or has access to the Brigade or Division’s helicopters), and can use them to retrieve injured men from the combat zone. The medical battalion has many of the same services available in a hospital - an intensive care unit, and anesthesiology and a surgery unit and a dentist, as well as an X-ray technician. In peacetime, the battalion carries out many of the same services a clinic or does for the unit’s troops. In wartime, the battalion accepts those wounded who have had to be sent back from the front, and carries out a form of triage - those who can return to the front do so, those who need immediate surgery are given it as soon as possible, and stay at the battalion if they need only a short time for recovery (up to two weeks). If they need more extensive surgery than the battalion can provide, or if they need more recovery time, they are sent to hospitals in the rear, and possibly even in the home nation. The desire, again, is to return soldiers to the front as soon as possible, while removing them as little as possible from the battle area. This means that if someone can be given surgery and then seven days of rest, that’ll happen at the battalion hospital and not sent home. Another service provided by the medical battalion is epidemiology - it is responsible for both studying the impact of contagious disease on soldiers (thus diagnosing and preventing epidemics) and carrying out measures to avoid the spread of contagious diseases from cholera to malaria.

On higher levels, military hospitals can be established in-theater, where a person can spend several months. Typically one such hospital is deployed for several divisions. In peacetime, the facilities and equipment of such mobile hospitals can be used to deal with natural disasters (this is both good PR for one’s government and training for one’s doctors). Furthermore, military forces around the world have their own permanent hospitals and clinics, organized much like regular hospitals - typically they provide treatment for military personnel for the regular peacetime and training injuries. In wartime, these facilities can be used to handle the influx of the wounded, as can civilian hospital facilities. Countries with extensive train networks can put a military hospital on rails, and treat the injured on the train even as they’re being evacuated back from the front.

Typically speaking, civilian hospitals can be called upon in wartime to help the wounded. Most countries that have reasons to expect major war have provisions to vastly expand hospital capacity in wartime, commandeering school buildings and other government facilities to stage thousands of extra hospital beds. (When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government had 70,000 military hospital beds available, but provisions for deploying 400,000 more by commandeering various civilian facilities. In practice, millions of hospital beds were actually needed eventually.)

In wartime, medical services also issue combat enhancement drugs. Though modern society has gotten more averse to the use of drugs than it had been during the Second World War, amphetamines and other chemicals are sometimes issued to special forces soldiers and pilots. Again, medics are responsible for the prescription of substances and their safe use. Less dangerous and more effective substances, such as modafinil, can also be issued.

Another aspect of medical service that needs to be treated with care is the issue of psychological and psychiatric support. Combat military units have staff psychologists and therapists to evaluate soldiers on a regular basis, and in non-combat units soldiers can speak to a psychologist should they request an appointment. This serves to try and alert command to soldiers who might be displaying signs of self-harming or suicidal behavior, or abusive relations between members of a team. Furthermore, and very importantly, psychiatrists and psychologists serve to identify individuals who may be suffering from some manner of psychological trauma from combat (either PTSD or other trauma-related forms of health issues). In these cases the goal is always to return the individuals to service as soon as possible, or to organize long-term treatment (in some cases, a military or paramilitary organization is also responsible for soldiers’ medical care after their demobilization).

[I am deliberately not covering in this informative the various forms of PTSD treatment that may be available in a military force. It is a highly controversial and specialized topic and it cannot be covered here in full detail. It suffices here to say that even peacetime military service may prove traumatic for a person, much less a combat experience, and that evolving ways to prevent and treat such injury is as important as treating physical injury to the body.]

Finally, the medics gather various information about the service, and about the health risks to which the soldiers are exposed. This is used to gather new procedures, new medication, and even new weapons systems. [For example, after many soldiers suffered stress fractures from carrying FN MAGs during long-range forced marches, the IDF chose to carry out infantry graduation marches using only the lighter Negev machine gun. Similarly, psychology research during WW2 caused the US Army to set a safety limit to how long a soldier could spend in a combat zone].

Another important service, while not strictly a medical one, is often carried out either by medics or in close cooperation with them. It is what is called in the United States the Mortuary Services. In this context, the bodies of fallen men are identified and shipped home for burial. If it is not possible to identify the bodies, they are sent home with any and all personal items found on them (such as weapons) with hope that in a safer environment they can be matched with the names of the soldiers who once held them. [If a person had been killed in an armored vehicle, their bodies often evacuated to the rear with the vehicle hull, and removed from it at the workshop]. For obvious reasons, this is often carried out at military hospitals (where facilities to handle dead bodies are available, and where injured people sometimes die).

The process of military medicine is constantly improving. Robotic evacuation vehicles and drones, and improved training (the bleeding edge is to give more and more first-aid training to infantrymen, to make them more likely to survive to evacuation or to the arrival of a medic) are being deployed with even poor nations, and improved methods of psychiatric treatment are going to make dealing with PTSD much easier for troops and their nations alike.

But it should be already obvious that before soldiers can actually get to combat or training where they can become injured, a far more basic need has to be addressed.

Also a reader, Greater Thennis, provides some very useful and knowledgeable comments.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:12 am
by Allanea
Food and Water
Russian soldiers in their mess hall

Military food is portrayed in lots of fiction as being horribly bad. Soldiers are portrayed either eating disgusting slop of dubious origin, or, if not that, then some manner of prepackaged ‘rations’. These are often portrayed in fiction, and in particular in science fiction, as being almost entirely unnatural in origin, and horrible in taste. Sometimes soldiers are portrayed as suffering from various ailments (diarrhea is often exploited for its comedic potential) as a result of consuming these foods.

In many historical conflicts, this was true. Rommel’s Infantry Attacks is riddled with descriptions of the horrible stomach problems he got from eating the meager food available on the Western Front. The diet of British or Russian Navy sailors was terrible for many years (the sort of stuff portrayed in Battleship Potemkin was not an aberration).Partly the reason for this was a lack of an ability to organize reliable resupply - as we’ve covered in the previous chapters of this informative, military sustainment only began to take up its modern form in the 20th century - and partly the lack of technological knowledge necessary to provide soldiers and sailors with healthy, well-preserved food and the medical knowledge needed to make a healthy diet. Add to this the issue of military corruption, and we can see why soldiers have often received less than optimal diets.

Issues with faulty organization have plagued some military organizations into the Second World War. The peacetime German military, for instance, expected military units to provide part of their nutrition by means of small farm facilities - growing vegetables, raising pigs and chickens - directly on-base, and in wartime, by purchasing food from a special budget. It is easy to imagine how this broke down during the invasion of Soviet Russia, and it is also easy to see why so many German troops had to resort to outright looting.

Misorganization even in the peacetime Soviet Army meant that many troops did not receive a lot of the food that was ostensibly budgeted to them, and the problem only got worse in the Russian Army. In the 1990s, soldiers could be seen in the streets of St. Petersburg literally begging for bread, and as late as 2008 a Russian soldier was driven to such privation by bad food and horrible living conditions in the invasion army in Georgia that he in fact surrendered to the Georgian military and promptly made appearances on Georgian TV eating a McDonalds’ hamburger, a vast national humiliation for the Russian Army.

But as a matter of fact, in the modern day feeding a national military force is a fairly simple task for a stable and competent government, and can be done with reasonable reliability. After the Georgian War, Russia moved to modernize and improve its military kitchens (and in some military bases, to transfer their operation to private companies). In 2014, during the crisis in Crimea, twenty thousand Ukrainian troops had willingly abandoned their service and signed up for service in Russia. For many Ukrainian soldiers, the superior Russian military food - and the fact that Ukrainian military kitchens only fed the professional troops one meal a day, whereas the Russian Army made three multi-course meals available, was a powerful motivator. There was also a famous, high-profile, incident of a company of Ukrainian paratroopers surrendering to unarmed rebel supporters with their armored vehicles and self-propelled gun when local women offered them soup and cookies. (It turned out that the paratroopers had not eaten for four days).

From these incidents, it’s clear that providing regular food is an important issue. Any industrialized country should be able to do so regularly at least in peacetime, and it should, again, in even a country with a semi-competent government, be happening regularly even in war time. Unless enemy troops are directly surrounding one’s soldiers (at which point there are more immediate problems to think about) they should be receiving fresh food on a regular basis.

The issue, then, is to organize the preparation of the food. The general rule of military cooking is that soldiers should be receiving regular courses of high-calorie meals, as appropriate for people who do hard, physical labor. (It’s best if they are receiving this food even if they’re not immediately expected to do the hard labor - you never know when something needs to be done, and at worst they will just eat less than their full portion).

In peacetime, the process is fairly simple. The food is prepared in kitchens in Army bases, much like any factory or business that has its own cafeteria. In some armies it is prepared by other soldiers whose military specialty is to be cooks (often with the help with other soldiers in the unit who pull ‘kitchen duty’ that day, assisting the cook with various menial tasks), and in other countries an ever-greater proportion of food preparation is outsourced in peacetime to private companies. Both methods carry the threat of corruption (soldier-cooks may steal the food, private corporations can overcharge for the contracts or provide less quality of services than the military bargained for), and in both cases problems can occur with the food quality (especially if the food is cooked by conscripts - the tales of safety and hygiene violations that occurred in both the Russian and the Israeli Army in their worst days are both legendary and utterly repulsive - they are being omitted here for a reason.)

It is in wartime that things begin to get interesting. Obviously, permanent military kitchens are not an option for advancing or defending military units. For this reason, mobile kitchen units are attached to moving armies. These consist, quite simply, of several men (or women), and some mobile stoves and other cooking supplies. In some militaries, what is used is a specialized trailer (or several trailers) which combine a stove and several massive pots for boiling hundreds of liters of food all at once. Alternatively, mobile kitchens can be deployed in tents, or in shipping containers. In permanent facilities like forts, forward camps, or FOBs, of course a permanent kitchen can be built near the front line, in some cases such kitchens are even maintained by a private company. (Infamously, Halliburton was responsible for maintaining such military kitchens at several facilities in Iraq, with disastrous results as the company failed to live up to many of its contract promises). In all cases, the military doctors as seen in the previous chapter are responsible to ensure that the hygiene at these kitchens is being maintained (sometimes they fail). In religious countries, like Israel, kitchens are also sometimes inspected to see if they conform with the dominant religion’s dietary laws.

Now we can see why the stereotype of soldiers eating MREs constantly is just that, a movie stereotype. In reality, food supplies - eggs, flour, rice, meat - are brought to front-line military units by the same logisticians that bring the combat troops ammunition and fuel. (Water is sometimes brought similarly if it cannot be locally sourced). In more senior units, other soldiers maintain stockpiles of the food supplies, and in some cases cook bulk amounts of food that can’t be made in smaller units (the Soviet Union maintained mobile bakeries on the Corps level to provide several Divisions with bread and spaghetti by the ton, and the Israeli Army used to maintain a plant that provided units across the IDF with boiled eggs).

In the specific case of the Navy, sailors of course have food cooked for them on their ship, resupplied regularly via tenders. While in the past (even as late as in the mid-20th century) sailors’ food was notoriously awful in quality (again, a classic action movie was filmed about a mutiny of battleship sailors over their rations), today, it has improved vastly. In particular, submarine crews are often rewarded with above-average food to compensate for their isolated, stressful conditions. Even Russian Navy submarine crews are issued foods like caviar. The logic has been, for many years, that men who submit themselves to the hardships and dangers of submarine travel deserve better food.

In some cases, the food is cooked quite a distance from the fighting line. Generally, military commanders know that good food is not only the guarantee of soldiers’ health - but also of their morale. For this reason, competent military forces will often attempt unusual effort to bring fresh food to the front line, even where rations would have sufficed. In Ron Leshem’s autobiographical novel Beaufort, he describes for example the effort undertaken by the Israeli military to ensure daily that the soldiers holding the titular fort were supplied food cooked by the best cooks by the IDF, sealed in secure containers against interference along the way. In the street combat in Germany in the last months of WW2, the Soviet Army organized ‘soup runners’ to carry thermoses full of soup to the very fighting forces on the front line. Again, in general, the units considered to be of better ‘quality’ (for instance, those submitting themselves to more danger and hardship, like Special Forces units) often qualify for ‘better’ food.

It is also for this reason that, beyond the “official” food rations, military forces encourage civilians to send food items as ‘care packages’ to soldiers, even in armies where proper food is supplied, and why military bases (even actual combat facilities in places like Iraq and Afghanistan) are permitted to have fast-food restaurants directly within them. (And where this is not the case, soldiers sometimes order fast food into the base. Indeed, in some cases IDF troops had ordered pizzas into ongoing combat zones and had them delivered!)

Finally, at last, soldiers do eat various rations. Some of them, like the American Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), designed to be eaten after reheating and to be entirely self-sufficient. The Israeli equivalent, the Manot Krav (Combat Rations) are less elaborate, but this is because IDF troops are somewhat unlikely to be more than a few miles away from resupply. (And have sometimes literally mutinied and went home after being forced to eat Manot Krav for several days straight). Other countries maintain a whole variety of rations for different applications - compact rations for use by Special Forces on operations, full rations for infantry that are intended to contain a day’s worth of meals and to be stored in vehicles, winter rations, and so forth). None, however, are a replacement for a hearty, fresh meal.

Another logistical concern, of course, is water. A healthy human being needs to drink at least two liters of water a day, and even more is required for washing, cooking food, etc. Even more is required when one considers needs like washing dishes, decontaminating vehicles, and so forth. This water can be delivered either by pipe (we have discussed the issue of military pipelines previously), or by truck, as also previously discussed. In some cases, combat engineers can drill wells, obviating the issue entirely, or water can be secured from rivers (combat engineers have in their possesion water purification equipment small enough to go on trailers, that can of course be used to turn even water from murky rivers passably drinkable).

Another option, used by more and more militaries, is to resolve the specific issue of drinking water by delivering bottled water by the pallet. As long as the bottles are not breached, bottled water is guaranteed to be good to drink in most circumstances, secure even against most types of nuclear fallout and chemical weaponry.

With these specifics more or less covered, we are moving on to discuss general concerns with logistics and sustainment that apply throughout the branches of the armed forces.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:13 am
by Allanea
Organization and Sustainment - Why the Tooth-To-Tail Ratio is a Lie

[align=justify]One of the most contentious issues in Sustainment is the proper way to organize it, and the specific ratios of sustainment versus combat power. What level should the sustainment units be incorporated in, how many sustainment troops are needed for each fighting man, and what defines a fighting man versus a non-combat soldier (or, in the language of the modern military, ‘a sustainment warrior’ versus ‘a warfighter’)? Some imagine that there exist hard formulas defining and controlling these factors, such as ‘two non-combat soldiers for each combat soldier’ or something similar. This numerical value is sometimes referred to as the ‘tooth-to-tail ratio’’ Sadly, as we will discover in this chapter, the issue is somewhat more complicated than these people imagine.

As we have already seen, there were many incidents in history where an army improved its sustainments by actually reducing its logistics component, and trimming excess forces that have burdened the fighting force and limited its mobility. This is exactly what Alexander the Great did and what Sherman did in his March to the Sea. An armed force in the modern day faces a dilemma: an armed force that has a sustainment capacity that is too light is unable to proceed in long-term combat, but an armed force that has too much of a logistics capacity is also unable to proceed.

Consider the following examples from the Second World War. On the Eastern Front, the German tank company had within it 144 men, of whom 55 were carrying out various sustainment duties, fixing tanks, preparing food, feeding and driving the horses (the tank company’s food and supplies were still partly transported by wagons). These men were responsible for about twenty tanks of various types. The German infantry company had 191 men, of which 24 were responsible for various sustainment tasks. They were confronted, on the other hand, with a Soviet tank company which had 40 to 50 men in total - all of them crewmembers on ten tanks, and a rifle company in which out of 178 men had only about a dozen employed in sustainment tasks.

In theory, the Germans were meant to benefit from superior availability of food and maintenance. In practice, the only benefit they had was the ability to return damaged tanks to combat somewhat faster. This was, however, obviated to a great degree by three factors. One was the fact that the Soviets were capable of fielding more tanks and troops for a given amount of soldiers (the sustainment was centralized, therefore less ‘non-combat’ troops were capable of supporting more combat troops, of course at the cost of somewhat lesser availability of these services). Another was that German sustainment was somewhat badly organized, making it difficult for the Third Reich to make the most of its vast tactical sustainment apparatus. Finally, attaching the vast amounts of trucks and, importantly, horse-drawn wagons that German logistics relied upon during the war directly to the company level meant that the movement of companies - particularly, on the defensive - was constrained by the speed of the wagons. During Soviet counteroffensives, this proved disastrous for both the German tank crews and the maintenance men who supported them, as vast traffic jams in the German doomed thousands of men to death or captivity.

There are, of course, converse examples. In 1973, Arab military planners copied Soviet organization, in which most maintenance and sustainment facilities were kept to the rear, on the division or regiment level. Because the response time of the Arab maintenance men was therefore reduced, their maintenance regulations had (compared to Israeli ones) a far greater proportion of malfunctions in which a tank had to be abandoned in the field (later to be, hopefully, picked up by advancing units). This would have made sense - except, as we know, many of the Arab units would soon be cut off from their support, and picking up their tanks became impossible - thus, many malfunctions which in an IDF tank battalion would lead to a tank being swiftly repaired by tactical-level maintenance caused it to be entirely lost to the Arab coalition (and later, in many cases, repaired and returned to service - in the IDF).

In other words, the tooth-to-tail ratio of an army or a tactical unit is not set entirely by an objective technological reality, but by the nation’s varying strategic and tactical needs. A nation that insists on having many front-line units that can replace each other once battalions or even divisions are destroyed in combat will reduce the amount of tactical support available. A nation that wants their soldiers to be able to fight wars far beyond its borders will also try and reduce their dependence on logistics, or conversely create a global network of logistics bases (the United States does both, with a focus on the latter).

Further, it’s not clear whom we define as sustainment versus combat troops. Many can arguably fit into both categories - helicopter pilots obviously engage in combat, but they also transport cargo. Combat engineers have important combat and support functions alike. Most militaries issue those sustainment troops serving near the front line a degree of combat training (up to the level where USMC truck drivers have comparable training to many countries’ infantrymen).

Another issue is that it is not clear yet what impact modern technology will have on sustainment. While the instinctive reply is that it will increase the demand for sustainment troops, that’s not necessarily true. As we’ve seen, transport ships now require far less crew than they did in 1941, and of course, containerisation and automated cargo tracking has reduced the requirement for cargo handling personnel. It’s generally easier to automate various elements of sustainment - and particularly, of logistics - than it is to automate combat functions. While robotic infantry are probably still years away, unmanned trucks and cargo helicopters are serving in the battlefield right now, and rear-echelon automated warehousing is being fielded both in the United States and Russia.

In other words, people who are selling you a hard and fast ratio of ‘one combat soldier for every non-combat soldier’ or ‘in the future, the ratio of non-combat to combat troops will only increase’ are at best oversimplifying the situation, and at worst don’t know what they’re talking about - not because they’re dumb, but because nobody actually knows how this ratio will evolve.

[Note: Questers recommends, in NS, using a rule of ‘the amount of your soldiers who are in divisions should be equal to the number of non-division troops’. This might not be fully based in military theory, but is accepted by most players as a rule of thumb in NS MT].

In the short term, if you don’t have it in you to research the issue, it’s best to simply look up the organizational structures of real-world militaries and check out how they work. This will allow you to have a better imagination of how the militaries in your NS (or other) writing work and what their ratio of tooth-to-tail should be.[/justify]

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:13 am
by Allanea
Corruption and Sustainment

The average armed force is not governed - internally - by the rules of the civilian society. The best parallel that can be used to describe even the most functional armed forces is a mix between a very large industrial corporation and a totalitarian Soviet-style dictatorship. Or, in other words, a large, state-owned factory, that instead of cookies or smartphones, makes death. It is plagued by all the problems that are generally known in state enterprises - moderated, in the case of efficient militaries, by external oversight.

As such, any modern military force suffers from a degree of corruption and theft, which to some extent limit the effectiveness of the armed forces. The most obvious is the attempt of senior officials and arms industry executives to use the armed forces for their own profit. In Western societies, this has a semi-legal form, in the form of industry lobbying, wherein industry groups attempt (and sometimes succeed) to sell the military overpriced goods, or cut corners on the goods’ quality. Even in the most advanced countries there are sometimes examples of this.

The most famous of this in modern times is the vast contract the company KBR (formerly Halliburton) received to provide support for U.S. military bases in Iraq. Having collected over 36 billion dollars in contract money, KBR had managed to commit every violation possible, hiring corrupt contractors through the use of kickbacks, overbilling the Department of Defense hundreds of millions of dollars, and even misplacing vast quantities of Army-provided equipment. Dangerous electric wiring in military compounds built by KBR has been linked to at least 12 US soldier deaths through electrocution. Despite those - and many other - problems, KBR continues to be the largest contractor firm used by the U.S. forces in Iraq.

Sadly, KBR/Halliburton is not the only such military contractor. To this day, overbilling, fraud, and other such issues appear even in first-world countries’ military contracts. To some extent, this is mitigated by open and honest discussion of government contracting (though this is of course limited by the requirements of military secrecy), but no country with a significant military has ever fully avoided corruption of this form. Even as I write this, Israel is embroiled in a corruption scandal involving its Navy’s submarine procurement (the Prime Minister is accused of having an improper connection to the shipyards providing the Israeli navy’s newest submarines) and the Australian Navy is involved in a multimillion dollar bribery scandal involving the French submarine builder DCNS - and of course matters are far worse with countries whose civic institutions are less robust.

On lower level, two important problems arise within actual military units. Both can be summed up in the fact that soldiers and commanders will use both their connections with other soldiers and commanders to procure or steal equipment that they should not, per regulation, receive from the Army. This problem is not limited to the desire to steal equipment for sale, personal benefit, or even pranks - although all of the above is done routinely by soldiers. Within my service, I have personally witnessed the theft of a Brigade Headquarters’ supply of food, a hardened laptop PC, several units of RAM, a small interior part of a computer, uniforms, a tentpole remover, an air conditioner unit, rifle ammunition and magazines. In addition, people at my unit have taken home 40mm grenades by the belt, a truckload of office supplies, computers, and the contents of entire offices (with their doors and windows bars).

Beyond the obvious theft of items for resale - which is incredibly common, and indeed for many years it was common among IDF officers to use the free refueling privileges they had for their personal vehicles to resell vast quantities of fuel - or personal use, many soldiers will steal or bribe their way into equipment that isn’t properly theirs not so much for personal use, but for a form of local patriotism - the desire to have their unit equipped with the best possible gear or simply to have spare equipment to pass inspections or to use in an emergency. Sometimes military commanders will deliberately falsely report equipment as destroyed or lost so they can get new equipment issued to them.

An infamous story on this topic details a Soviet garrison unit in Afghanistan that had a BRDM vehicle issued to them and neglected cleaning or maintaining it, until it finally got into a state it could not be driven, nor pass even the slightest inspection. After deliberation they entered an arrangement with a unit that had a drivable BRDM. The two units would switch plates on their BRDMs, and thus the garrison unit would get a BRDM that could pass inspection - and the other unit would destroy the devastated BRDM, claim that ‘their’ BRDM got lost in combat, and get a new vehicle with the next shipment from the USSR - in other words, the garrison unit would get an inspection-passing, usable BRDM today, and the other unit would get a brand new BRDM a bit later. To carry this out, they gave a young lieutenant a hand-grenade and a jerry can of fuel. The next time the Mujahedin mortared the base, he was to run up to the one BRDM that was not functional - and now fitted with the other vehicle’s plates - pour in the fuel via the hatch and toss in the hand-grenade.Unfortunately both the functional vehicle and the wreck were parked next to each other - and the story ended how one would expect this story ended - as soon as the alarm sounded and the mortar rounds started falling, the young lieutenant sprinted across the base, poured out the gasoline into the gaping BRDM hatch, tossed in the grenade and ran for cover - and, of course, you can imagine the boundless enthusiasm of all the senior officers involved when it turned out that in the excitement that young man had torched the wrong BRDM.

The truth is that officers - and especially logisticians - are concerned primarily with getting their unit the best stuff and the best gear. Naturally every military officer is trained to think that his job is important and that his military unit matters. Moreover, people are naturally predisposed to want their associates to prosper. Just like every hospital manager wants his hospital to have more hi-tech CT machines and more funding and more grants, in the same way military men want to have the shiniest equipment and best stuff. Partly, it’s an issue of wanting to do a better job, and partly it’s an issue of prestige - in many militaries units that have better gear are seen as being better. When I was an armorer, everyone in my unit lobbied me to try and get issued tactical accessories for their guns (our unit was not a combat one and had absolutely no need for any manner of Picatinny rails, forward grips, or optical scopes - imagine now the degree of competition for this stuff in actual combat outfits). It was in this unit that our logistics NCO directed the men under his command to scout through an IDF Paratroopers and steal their equipment - “If they’re not watching the equipment, it’s abandoned, and abandoned equipment is the property of the unit that finds it! Go, go, go!”. He did not - again - have any personal interest in the tentpole-removal tool that was thus stolen - but he felt that his unit might in the future need it.

Other incidents I am familiar with are perhaps more illustrative. One IDF armor company had once gotten hold of their Company Armorer’s parts catalog and then called the supply unit number listed in it and just started rattling off catalog numbers for gun parts. The supply unit could not conceive, it appears, anyone other than an armorer could know these numbers - and pretty soon all the unit’s tank crews had their Galil rifles outfitted with the latest tactical gear. Russian paratroopers until very recently told the educational story of a young man who, just as he was about to jump from a plane with his parachute, noticed a broom propped up against the cargo bay’s door. Driven by a desire to get another - though tiny - bit of equipment for his unit he grabbed the broom and hopped out of the plane with it, for the VDV. American logistics textbooks instruct logisticians on how to deal with supported commanders who attempt to commandeer fuel trucks and use them as fuel storage for their unit.

In short, corruption is not just a tool for fatcat generals and military lobbyists to fill their pockets. For the day-to-day function of the military support soldier and officer, it is yet another, informal, tool which he uses to augment his unit’s (and his own) supplies and capabilities, and for men in other units another problem to deal with. If you are writing from the perspective of military officers, or anyone involved with military sustainment and logistics, these sorts of incidents will probably be an inevitable part of their life.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:14 am
by Allanea
How Does it All Come Together?

As we have looked over the principal issues that pertain to the various forms of sustainment efforts, we are now ready to make a small introduction into how battlefield sustainment works in practice. This, of course, is a highly abridged and simplified explanation, but it should be enough to give you an inkling of sorts of what sorts of decisions the sustainment officer (the S4) faces on a daily basis and what work is involved. To start with, let us consider one of the building blocks of the ground forces - the battalion. While similar principles apply to non-ground units, the ground forces are the branch I am most familiar with by inclination and interest.

A ground forces (for example, a tank or mechanized infantry) battalion carries with it a number of supplies. Tanks and vehicles have some degree of ammunition and fuel on board, and the battalion’s supply units have some more ammunition, fuel, and spare parts with them. These are sufficient to maintain the battalion in action for several days - typically 72 hours, although some militaries and situations may differ. In other words, in most situations an infantry or tank battalion can keep fighting for up to three days without any contact with senior sustainment units whatsoever.

However, normally speaking, to maintain the battalion in combat, it is preferable to have it regularly resupplied. Typically, in NATO forces, a planning period of 24 hours is used - that is to say, a unit carries out planning 24 hours ahead, hoping to continue planning its activities within cycles of 24 hours where a plan is debated, corrected, formulated into orders, and finally issued, and then corrected in mid-action based on how events are working in reality - even as the plan for the next 24 hour cycle is already starting to be formulated. (The US has a special, formulated way to come up with these plans, the Military Decision Making Process, or the MDMP - however fully understanding the MDMP requires a special textbook all on its own).

Related to this informative, the logistics officer communicates with the various elements of the battalion - the various companies, the artillery officer and weapons officer - to see what spare parts, ammunition, food, batteries etc. they need. Based on their input he creates a report that comprises two important elements - a requirement and a projection.

The requirement is a definition of the units needs for the operational cycle - that is to say, how much supplies the unit needs to sustain itself for the next 24-hour period. (A different cycle can possibly be used).

The projection is the ability of the unit to provide for these needs, especially in terms of its transport and storage capability. For example, if the unit has two trucks that can carry 10 tons each and these trucks can make two trips a day, then the total transport capacity is 40 tons. However this is obviously only valid if the first 20 tons can be safely stored somewhere while the trucks make the round trip - if you are ferrying water and the unit’s water storage is only 25 tons in capacity, then you can only project 25 tons.

At this point, the S4 submits a sustainment report - including information about the unit’s need for all sorts of supplies, fresh troops, and vehicles that need to be shipped back for maintenance - to the unit that is responsible for providing him sustainment, or to a senior unit (the exact arrangements differ). The report would be detailed and written in a technical military language, but it could be summarized as “look, we need 50 tons of ammunition shipped, one of our men has gotten ill and needs to be rotated back, and also two of our tank engines have broken so we need to ship them back and get two fresh tank engines, but we only have three trucks to do it with.”

The supporting unit now comes up with a forecast. In the world of military sustainment, forecast has a specific meaning - it describes the process of coming up with a way to bridge the gap between the capability that the supported unit has and the requirements it needs to fill. So in the above case, the supporting unit might decide that, say, three more trucks would be sent in to ship the supplies that the battalion cannot ship by itself (and the supplies that are missing would be provided).

Two essential ways exist to organize the delivery of the supplies. One is called “push” delivery and the other is called “pull”. In “push” delivery, a supporting unit uses its own transportation to deliver goods to a supported unit, whereas in a “pull” process the supported unit sends its transport to picking up the goods. For example, a senior unit may decide to use its trucks to deliver ammunition directly to the fighting position where artillery guns are located, or, if the roads are bad or dangerous, the artillery unit may choose to send its off-road trucks to pick up the ammunition directly from the regimental ammunition dump.

Beyond this, sustainment and logistics staff plan out all the routine maintenance activities, and the arrangements to keep the sustainment effort ticking and working. They pick out staging areas for all those trucks and trains we spoke of, arrange for handover of food and water, the transport home of the bodies of the fallen, and the feeding and transport of enemy prisoners.

Beyond that, they plan the regular work that combat soldiers must do, on their end, to keep the unit’s sustainment working - helping to schedule weekly maintenance for tanks, scheduling soldiers for kitchen and cleaning duties (in those armies where these have not been outsourced yet), and even boring - and yet important - things like suicide awareness and safety lectures and hygiene inspections.

Their job is much like the job of a civilian logistics manager - but with more pressure and - sometimes - more blood. Much like the stereotype suggests, sustainment is very important, and without it armies literally cannot wage war. Much unlike the stereotype, this job can very well be exciting and adventurous. Sustainment officers may sometimes be called upon to solve crimes (as they investigate the disappearance of supplies or terrible on-base accidents) or carry out crimes themselves (there were several incidents early in the First World War of German officers literally hijacking supply trains at gunpoint, for instance, to keep their units going). Sometimes they may be at the head of an effort to save civilian lives.

But there is an important way in which the stereotype of military sustainment is not true.

Although many people hype up the importance of logistics and sustainment, the very purpose of a functional military sustainment system is to free tactical commanders from the need to even think about sustainment and logistics. Much like you do not need to consciously think about your heartbeat for it to work unless there is a problem, a battalion commander does not need to contemplate most day-to-day sustainment issues. Members of his staff ensure that the supplies arrive and the gear is in good condition - his job is to direct the battalion to fight and defeat the enemy. If there is a grave problem with some sustainment area, it is in most cases still solved for the commander by one of his two deputies.

In reality, if one’s military is competently trained and well-organized, the unit’s tactical commander does not need to think about the trucks that carry the tank fuel. Even if we forget about the battalion’s ability to fight for several days without resupply, if everything is done even vaguely competently, the trucks with the food and ammunition will arrive and the military doctors will do their job.

As we recall, Patton waged the campaign in Europe and spoke to his headquarters logistics officer only twice in about a year. This was not because Patton was an incompetent - in reality, Patton was supremely competent, and had himself experience in sustainment from being the logistics officer under Pershing - and that meant that he knew the boundaries of his job well. The main and most likely situation in which a battalion, regiment, or division commander needs to think of his sustainment chain is if it’s being disrupted by the enemy - say, enemy tanks are blocking the movement of his supply columns. At which point it is not a sustainment issue - it is a tactical and operational issue.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:15 am
by Allanea
Nationstates Sustainment

Because this informative is written primarily for Nationstates players, it’s worth spending a few minutes discussing a few of the speculative technologies used by nations in the game to augment their logistics apparatus. While those are mostly either appropriate for ‘big NS’ type of MT or outright PMT, I have never been committed to ‘hard realism’, and so would like to discuss these sort of speculative technologies here, is only in brief. Those who roleplay in ‘closed-world’ roleplays or in communities with strict insistence on so-called ‘realism’ may skip this chapter. For those of us who inhabit ‘big NS’, with its giant populations and vast distances, it may come as a font of good ideas. (Or horribly bad ones).


The airship (whether a helium airship, or a sensibly-designed hydrogen airship) - is far more prominent in fiction than it is in reality. (Indeed, a joke statement in the science fiction community reads that if you see an airship, it’s a sure sign the timeline has been tampered with). In the real world, cost overruns killed off DARPA’s plan to build a cargo airship. In NS - and other fiction, cargo airships may, should the engineering claims made by DARPA and its contractors turn out to be true (a fairly reasonable assumption for the purpose of this discussion), they may take up a niche between ships and aircraft, carrying amounts of cargo between those of ships and aircraft (several hundred tons in weight) directly inland. They would not require runways, and could - hypothetically - land in any place they could fit in.

There would, of course, be practical limitations. Airships would be more susceptible to hard weather than ships or even aircraft, and would have difficulties operating in full-scale war zones, as they are large, slow, and impossible to armor. This would of course make them very susceptible to enemy fire. One such NS airship is the Cumulous class cargo airship produced by Zepplin Manufacturers

Giant/nuclear trains The notion of solving logistics problems by making trains larger has been around at least since Hitler’s era, when Hitler himself proposed the Breitspurbahn - an extremely broad-gauge train that would travel on a track 3 meters wide (more than double the width of standard railroad tracks). Civilian trains traveling the vast railroad were intended to be 500 meters long and carrying up to 4,000 passengers, and to be equipped with a sauna, barbershop, and 20mm AA cannon for protection. Passenger trains were meant to travel the railroad at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour, and freight trains were meant to move at 100 kph - speeds that would be highly respectable even for a modern train. Railcars were designed capable of lifting up to 500 tons of cargo - far more than even the mightiest standard-gauge railcars.

There were obvious issues in building trains in such a vast gauge. The vast width of the Breitspurbahn would make it very difficult to build in any but the flattest terrain (as it would require a very wide, flat surface for its function), and it would not be in the slightest compatible with existing trains. However, quite obviously, it would simplify rail transit by allowing less trains to be used to send more cargo (with the obvious limits imposed by cargo volume. If your nation has large areas of flat terrain and enough money to build Breitspurbahn, it might - might - be worth trying it on lanes where there are vast amounts of cargo to be ferried or very large cargo items, like space rockets or superheavy tanks, to be moved).

Another technology that is relevant to rail transit is nuclear-powered locomotives. In the 1980s Soviet industry had a working design for a nuclear-powered locomotive intended to power ICBM trains and provide resupply for remote areas beyond the Polar Circle (as well as functioning as a power plant when the railroads in those areas were too snowed in for it to make the return journey) The locomotive would have sported a reactor producing 60 MWt of thermal and 12 MWt of electric energy and taken up two regular-width tracks. A successor is currently in development with Rosatom, which some suggest will fit on a regular track.

Atomic trains - either in combination with immense gauges like the Breitspurbahn or on regular rail lines - clearly have some use, especially in situations where loads need to be carried across immense distances without access to train stations for maintenance and refueling (such as, of course, the Siberian Tundra).

Giant and Nuclear aircraft Feasibility studies done by Western and Soviet engineers in the 1960s and 1970s proved that it was possible, even with the technology available at the time, to field nuclear-powered aircraft (indeed, prototype reactors were built and flight-tested). Design studies by various corporations and design bureaus suggested that vastly larger aircraft could be built than those in current use. Ignoring here the various designs for bomber aircraft, it’s worth mentioning here the Lockheed CL-1201, a feasibility study for a giant, blended-wing cargo aircraft carrying several thousand tons and powered by atomic engines (and conventional engines for low-altitude flight). Boeing had also studied several similar, though smaller, blended-wing aircraft, capable of carrying several hundred tons of cargo or between 500 and 1000 passengers.

Naturally speaking, the vast distances often discussed in the context of ‘big NS’ roleplays, as well as the vast cargoes concerned will justify aircraft that have not been fielded in the real world yet. Obviously also, most NS nations are friendlier towards nuclear power.

As an example of such an aircraft fielded in NS, we can see the The Corparation’s AN5K strategic nuclear airlifter. Another (though, to my knowledge, conventional-powered) strategic airlifter famous in NS is [nation]Zepplin Manufacturers[/url] Pegasus Transporter, with a capacity of over 1000 tons.

We must address also - if in brief- the issue of immense ships. Several designs have come through the years to solve the problem of the vast armed forces in use in NS, the best of them possibly the John Sheppard Prepositioning Ship, a vessel just slightly smaller than the largest real-world container ships, capable of moving an entire division’s supply of vehicles and gear. There is nothing unrealistic about the design of this ship - ships much larger exist and are regularly used by commercial companies in the real world, though they typically use non-nuclear reactors. Another fairly interesting design is the Aura-class Combat Cargo ship, an outgrowth of the WW2-era notion of giving cargo ship a selfr-defense capability. The Aura is about 500 meters long, about as large as the largest cargo ships in the world, but some of the size gap between it and the John Sheppard is consumed by its missile armament. Unlike the Sheppard, it is also equipped with a battery of large cranes to ease unloading - useful given the issues we previously covered regarding ports and unloading facilities. Those of us interested in smuggling might be interested in deploying cargo submarines - such as those proposed in the 1990s by the Rubin Design Bureau. Notably, again, there’s nothing unrealistic about this - smaller versions were in fact used in the Second World War.

More interesting, perhaps, in terms of its implications (both in terms of tactics and plot) Water Buffalo class. Not merely a larger version of a real world logistics vessel, the Water Buffalo is in fact a giant hovercraft capable of carrying several thousand tons of cargo - unsurprisingly at this stage in our chapter, it is nuclear-powered. It straddles the line between ships and trucks, being able to cross the line between sea and land and deliver its cargo deep inland, as long as the land is relatively flat at a speed of over 150 kph - but, of course, its size and limited armor makes it somewhat impractical for it to deliver directly to the front.

But even more fascinating in terms of their NS application are technologies that are rarely discussed. At least as important for logistics and sustainment as delivering the supplies is the issue of managing them. Robotic warehouses, of the exact sort used now by some online stores for their deliveries, are being delivered with militaries in the real world the thousands of tons of supplies used. Drones - both UAVs and UGVs - can deliver cargo directly to the front lines. It is not impossible - indeed, it can feasibly be done today, and only the fact that drones aren’t common yet is stopping it from being done - for a soldier to order a pizza and have it delivered to his trench.

Finally, an important feature of any truly advanced logistics system would be, in my opinion, not so much any fancy robot or a giant ship, but a system of software. In the real world, interservice and bureaucratic rivalry have delayed the introduction of a single logistics management system for the US military, but there is nothing technically unfeasible about the existence of one. Already today it is possible - indeed it is regularly done - to track every individual container in a military storage facility electronically using electronic tags, and every delivery truck, to manage truck cargos and even rapidly make shipping contracts with civilian freighters online. In an NS MT or PMT setting, one can imagine this being implemented in unified logistics software, using simple graphical user interfaces and tactical tablets, rather than utilizing Windows 3.1 or even DOS in the year 2016, as some nations’ militaries are wont to do. These simple things are even now resolving many of the age-old problems of logistics and sustainment, and simplifying the use of such a system would do even more.

It is true, of course, that technology creates problems with logistics. But just as in civilian life, it solves far more problems than it creates.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:15 am
by Allanea

Now that this informative has come to an end, it’s worth saying a few things for a conclusion. As it is evident from the above, in many ways sustainment is a difficult task, or rather a set of difficult tasks. But it is important to understand that most sustainment tasks are not uniquely military. They are the same tasks that millions of people engage in every day to sustain the infrastructure of the modern world. For this reason, just as weapons and armies have become more sophisticated, logistics has more than kept up. The ever-increasing wealth and quality of life around us shows that if anything, the global ability to produce, ship, and maintain goods and machinery, to treat wounds and build roads has expanded much more than the ability to maim and kill each other.

It is possible to write wonderful war stories and have excellent war roleplays without telling a story about the men who cook the food and driver the trucks - indeed, it’s fully possible to fight in a war without focusing on those people. But it is not possible to write or worldbuild or understand war without at least a passing familiarity with how these things are done.

Moreover, there is an added value to understanding sustainment and logistics. It comes from the ability to envision the soldier and his task in a wholly new way. A lot of war narratives, both fictional and non-fictional focus - far too much, in my opinion - on war as a burst of activity - violent, rapid, exciting and short-term. To these, war is about the conflict of fighter pilots, artillery men, tank crews, fighting brutally at Kursk, the Ardennes or in the Sinai desert.

But in my view, this forgets the other side of what soldiers do - a form of heroism that is perhaps as important as the heroism of the man who fixes bayonets and charges. It forgets that before the infantryman fixed his bayonet, he had probably slept for four hours and spent eight hours digging a trench. That the Soviet tank crews at Kursk spent hours before the battle oiling and inspecting their tank, hefting parts dozens of kilograms in weight. It forgets the hard - and extremely dangerous - work of the military mailmen, who rode their bicycles through the trench lines under German fire so that soldiers could get their letters from home on time. It forgets not just the men who maintain, feed, and supply the troops - but it forgets that the troops themselves do not merely commit an act of heroism over the course of a few hours. In truth, troops and generals are not heroes but hard workers - assembly line crew, foremen, and managers in a vast factory that produces death and injury on behalf of their countrymen.

And if reading about military logistics brings you to better understand this hard work, then this accomplishes much more than simply knowing how many tons of supplies a truck can carry.

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:15 am
by Allanea

Unlike previous informatives, this informative does not contain a recommended reading list. Instead, it maintains a partial bibliography - a list of the sources I used when I researched for this book. Although I realize few people on this forum read Russian, the main Russian source I used is provided for completeness’ sake. Online sources are provided as hyperlinks, everything else is made available as MLA citations.

Creveld, Martin van, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Cambridge, 2004
Henderson, James, Tactical Logistics Made Easy: Back to the Basics, Bloomington, 2011
Hardemon, Alan General Logistics Paradigm: A Study Of The Logistics Of Alexander, Napoleon, And Sherman, USA, 2011
Henderson, James, Military Logistics Made Easy: Concept, Theory, and Execution, Bloomington, 2008
O'Hanlon, Michael E. The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes, Princeton, 2010
Kurkotkin, S., ed. Tyl Sovetskih Vooruzhennyh Sil v Velikoy Otechestvennoy Voyne, Voenizdat, 1977
Stepheson, Marc, The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, Princeton, 2008
FM 4-0. Sustainment
FMFRP 12-14 Logistics in the National Defense
Ship to Shore Logistics

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:28 pm
by Erutenia

PostPosted: Sun Dec 11, 2016 11:58 pm
by Donald J Trump America
I think you're making this whole "logistics" thing sound a lot harder than it actually is. I'm sure it's a lot simpler than all this.

Like, honestly, how hard can it be to drive some trucks with ammunition to a city or something?

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 1:20 am
by Allanea
Well the whole point is to save the Commander in Chief the need to think of it! :)

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:08 am
by Minroz
Working on Logistics can be anything less fun than shooting guns but it's necessary. Did you some of guys honestly think bullets and rockets come out of thin air? Obviously not. :P

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:36 am
by Tekeristan
Tag :)