31 August 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Leopard II

A design from Japan, Leopard II gets you some tanking' goodness.

That's a LOT of counters!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

30 August 2012

BULLETS! - Mission Statements

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Not everything needs an OPORD.
Almost everything needs a mission statement.
Mission = Task and purpose. Don't cloud the issue with stuff that belongs in a full OPORD.
If you fail to issue missions, people will develop their own.
Their purposes rarely coincide with yours, and thus their missions likely won't, either.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: STANTA Exercise

A soldier is pictured during an exercise at the Stanford Battle Area, better known as the Stanford Training Area (STANTA). Members from all the units from across the 49 Bde area came together for the annual Brigade Exercise held at the Stamford training area STANTA for a series of military stands.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

Russian Photos from Invasion of Georgia

Here are three galleries of photos from a Russian journalist, taken during the invasion of Georgia in the South Ossetia war in 2008. Note that some of the images of the wounded and dead are predictably graphic, but there's a lot of good hardware imagery in here, too.

Arcadia Magazine Babchenko - Tskhinvali. Second day. 11/08/08
Arkady Babchenko Journal - Day Three. March on Gori. 08/12/08
Arcadia Magazine Babchenko - Fight in Zemo Nikozi. Ambush. 11/08/08

By: Brant

29 August 2012

GameTalk - HADR

(re-running this b/c of lack of responses last time)

Gaming HADR - Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief - is a very real problem for the professional wargaming world.
What the important considerations in building a wargame focusing on HADR?
What are the success criteria for the players?

How, if at all, can you commercialize one of these designs in a way that someone like GrogHeads would make a review of it into their cover story?

By: Brant

Helicopter Combat on Your Tabletop

FOGN Michael Peck has a review of Hind Commander, a minis wargame that focuses on helicopter combat.

an excerpt:
As expected in a helicopter warfare simulation, victory in “Hind Commander” tends to center on exploiting the technical characteristics of your equipment. Helicopters are rated for speed, ceiling, sensor effectiveness, range and tracking capability, plus electronic countermeasures and armor. The helicopters hunt, while anti-aircraft weapons hunt them. Naturally, helicopters are far more mobile than the plodding ground-bound troops and armor, which are treated more abstractly. There are fixed-wing aircraft, but they are also treated in less detail. The whirlybirds are the stars of this show.

An interesting feature of “Hind Commander” is that for a given battle, players have a certain number of points to spend on various configurations of “strike groups.” A regular strike group will have a balanced mix of, say, a dozen heavy and light helicopters. On the other hand, a special forces group will have fewer but more high-tech choppers, while a reserve group will have more but older equipment. In addition, players can buy stratagem cards that offer bonuses such as elite helicopter crews or enhanced jamming. So there’s a fair amount of unpredictability on the tabletop battlefield.

Sounds intriguing... I'm curious how big the "minis helicopter-centric wargaming" market is.

By: Brant

Syrian Rebels Claim Helicopters Destroyed

FSA (or someone affiliated with them) are claiming they destroyed 5 choppers on the ground in a raid. The Syrian government, predictably, denied it.

Syrian rebels said they destroyed five helicopters in a raid on a military airport between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib on Wednesday, while state television said the attack was repelled.
Abu Mossab, a rebel who said he took part in the attack, told AFP via Skype that rebels shelled Taftanaz military airport with two tanks captured from the army and destroyed five helicopters.
"We destroyed five helicopters as well as buildings in the airport," Abu Mossab said, although the facility remained in army hands after the raid in which the rebels lost two men before pulling back.
"The regime's MiG planes continue to bomb houses in Taftanaz, which has been emptied of its inhabitants," the rebel added.
Syrian state television said the military repelled the attack with the airport suffering "no material damage."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier reported fierce fighting near the airport and helicopter raids on the nearby town of Taftanaz.

Now, the Syrian government has lost a lot more equipment than they're admitting to, so it's not a surprise they brushed it off. But their army is down more than a brigade's worth of tanks/BMPs, so it's not like you expect them to man up about this one.

By: Brant

Interview With Designers of A Distant Plain

Hey folks! GrogHeads.com has a fantastic interview with Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke, designers of A Distant Plain, GMT's upcoming boardgame on Afghanistan using Volko's COIN system.

And as a bonus - the designers have agreed to stick around a few days and answer some of your questions in the forums

Please stop by and check it out :)

Part 1 of the interview

Part 2 of the interview

By: Brant

A New Crop of Wargames... And Designers

Dr Sabin's students at King's College London have a new year's worth of designs posted over at his page.

An aspect of War Studies literature which has hitherto received little academic attention is the corpus of several thousand conflict simulation games published in recent decades. Further details of these simulation games may be found at www.grognard.com and at www.consimworld.com.

In September 2003, Professor Philip Sabin began teaching a radical new option course on conflict simulation within the Department's MA programmes. This forms part of his broader teaching and research focus on simulations, which is detailed further in this document and in his major new book on Simulating War

Students discuss the utility and ethics of conflict simulation, and attend classes on topics including understanding historical campaigns, modelling conflict and command dynamics, and writing simulation rules.

By: Brant

28 August 2012

Sound Off! CRTs

Do you prefer a wargame combat results table with...

-- step-based damage that reduces unit strengths?

-- forced retreats or eliminations, with units either present or dead?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

27 August 2012

Kickstarting Some Fantasy Wargaming

This is off of our usual stream of topics, but it's from a FOGN, so we're running with it. DGS minis, run by a retired Army officer and wargamer, has posted a project over on Kickstarter to raise some funds for the Urdaggar Tribes of Valor Fantasy Miniatures line that they're building out. From the CEO...

Well, finally got a kickstarter project going for my little game company DGS Games. Kickstarter is a crowd source funding website where companies post product ideas and ask for public support to get the funding for their projects, in our case to hire some sculptors and pay for production molds. While I learned a lot about producing baordgames over the years, it's incredible what the up front the production costs are for quality miniatures. So, please take a look and help if you can.

Yes, it is for some fantasy miniatures -- but, we do have a T-Shirt reward level for just a $20 pledge, and a variety of other reward levels. If you really want to help, there is an $800 reward level where we will immortalize your likeness in one of our production miniatures. Imagine millions of gamers everywhere using your figure to fight off their enemies!! Okay, maybe not millions yet, but it could happen - with your help.

Check out the excellent illustrations, and lend a hand if you can to help them get these figs into production.

By: Brant

DoD IDs Next Afghan Units

The DoD has released the next units for upcoming Afghanistan rotation

The Department of Defense today identified three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan. The scheduled rotation involves three brigade combat teams (BCT) -- one Infantry brigade combat team with roughly 2,800 personnel; one armored brigade combat team with roughly 4,000 personnel and one infantry brigade combat team with roughly 2,870 personnel -- to rotate in winter 2012. The deploying units include:

Brigade Combat Teams:

1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

By: Brant

26 August 2012

Every Service Has At Least One Bat-Shit Crazy Senior Officer

And apparently the Navy's guy wanted to pick a fight with Iran.

According to Todd and another witness, Cosgriff’s idea, presented in a series of staff meetings, was to sail three “big decks,” as aircraft carriers are known, through the Strait of Hormuz — to put a virtual armada, unannounced, on Iran’s doorstep. No advance notice, even to Saudi Arabia and other gulf allies. Not only that, they said, Cosgriff ordered his staff to keep the State Department in the dark, too.

To Todd, it was like something straight out of “Seven Days in May,” the 1964 political thriller about a right-wing U.S. military coup. A retired senior naval officer familiar with Cosgriff’s thinking said the deployment plan was not intended to be provocative.

But Todd, in an account backed by another Navy official, said the admiral “was very, very clear that we were to tell him if there was any sign that Washington was aware of it and asking questions.”

For the past year, the air had been electric with reports of impending U.S. or Israeli attacks on Iran. If this maneuver were carried out, Todd and others feared, the Iranians would freak out. At the least, they’d cancel a critical diplomatic meeting coming up with U.S. officials. Todd suspected that was Cosgriff’s aim. She and others also speculated that Cosgriff wouldn’t propose such a brazen plan without Fallon’s support.

Retired Adm. David C. Nichols, deputy Centcom commander in 2007, recalled in an interview last year that Fallon “wanted to do a freedom-of-navigation exercise in what Iran calls its territorial waters that we hadn’t done in a long time.” Nothing wrong with that, per se, but the problem was that “we don’t understand Iran’s perception of what we’re doing, and we haven’t understood what they’re doing and why,” Nichols said. “It makes miscalculations possible.”

By: Brant

Are Iraq and Afghanistan That Different?

Clearly they are significantly different when when it is notable that a commander with Iraq experience is taking his first spin through Afghanistan.

So without commenting on Dunford’s military competence, we can still ask one quite obvious question:

Why is General Dunford being nominated as the COMISAF when, as the story concedes (in paragraph seven), “Gen. Dunford has served in Iraq but has never served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.”

Really? Ten years in Afghanistan, and almost three years after the President’s West Point speech, and we can’t find a commander who has served in Afghanistan before? Is the cupboard really that empty? As one who made the Iraq to Afghanistan transition, I can assure you that it’s neither simple, nor easy. Afghanistan is exponentially more complex—and harder.

By: Brant

24 August 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Central Command (S&T)

Another Kamps design for S&T, Central Command: Superpower Confrontation in the Straits of Hormuz keeps having relevance today.

Believe it or not, I can't find a CSW thread on this one. If you know of one, point it out!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

An Information War We're Losing

If Syrian jihadist-wannabe's think we're keeping Assad in power, then it's clear that US information flow in the MidEast is pretty dicked up.

Among those volunteering for the frontline was a young Iraqi from Falluja, a bastion of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. occupation and Shi'ite-led governments that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003: "For me, it's the same battle," said the man, who gave his first name as Jawad.
Though he had written his will and was ready for martyrdom, he said, he also did not want any trouble if he did return to his regular job - as an accountant for a Japanese firm in Dubai.
"America planted its Shi'ite stooges in Iraq, and America and Israel are now keeping Assad in power to stifle the awakening of the Sunnis," asserted Jawad, who said his infant sister had died in a U.S. raid in Falluja in 2004 and an elder brother was tortured to death by suspected Shi'ite militiamen.
"I am here," he said, "To avenge my sister and brother."

While I can admire his passion - even if it is directed against my country - it would be nice if he had an occasional fact in his hip pocket.

By: Brant

23 August 2012

BULLETS! - Engineer Capabilities

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Capabilities - ask that engineer platoon leader what he can do for you. It may be more than you realize.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: SCOTS on Parade

Around 450 soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) paraded through Inverness to mark their recent return from operations in Afghanistan. Soldiers from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland will take part in a series of Homecoming parades to mark their recent return from a six month operational tour in Afghanistan. The soldiers returned to their permanent base in Fort George, Inverness throughout April 2012 and will hold the parades to thank families,friends and local communities for the support they received while on deployment.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

22 August 2012

GameTalk - Minis vs Cardboard

What's the primary fascination with miniatures, and what can they do better than cardboard on the tabletop?

By: Brant

21 August 2012

Sound Off: African Memories

The more compelling post-colonial African conflict:

- Biafra: ethnic self-determination with a side-order of white mercenaries

- Rhodesia: racist minority rule or aborted educated transition into the modern world

your thoughts below!

By: Brant

NORAD Exercise Planned for the National Capital Region

From the DoD newswire,there's a NORAD exercise being planned for the National Capital Region. Want to bet there's a bunch of panicked 911 calls about the goings-on?

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), will conduct exercise Falcon Virgo 12-11 between 11:30 p.m. (EDT) tonight and 5:30 a.m. (EDT) tomorrow, in the National Capital Region (NCR), Washington, D.C.

The exercise is comprised of a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the NCR Coordination Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center (JADOC), Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and CONR’s Eastern Air Defense Sector.

Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD’s intercept and identification operations as well as operationally test the NCR Visual Warning System and certify newly assigned command and control personnel at JADOC. Civil Air Patrol aircraft and a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter will participate in the exercise.

These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure CONR’s rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the United States and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

By: Brant

GEN Dempsey's Plane Hit in Afghanistan

An attack in Afghanistan hit the CJSC's C-17 on the tarmac.

The plane of the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, was damaged after Taliban militants fired rockets at Bagram Air Field.
A military official told ABC News the attack occurred just after midnight local time at Bagram Air Field outside Kabul when Dempsey's C-17 plane was hit by fragments of indirect fire from two rockets. Dempsey was safely back in his room when the attack occurred and was not hurt in the blast. Two maintenance people working nearby sustained minor injuries.
Due to the exterior damage of the aircraft, Dempsey and his team left Bragman on a different C-17 plane. The attack also caused slight damage to an Apache helicopter that was parked nearby.

By: Brant

20 August 2012

USS Constitution Sets Sail

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of a victory in the War of 1812, the USS Constitution sets sail under her own power in Boston.

CHARLESTOWN, Mass (Aug. 19, 2012) The world's oldest commissioned warship, USS Constitution, sails under her own power. This is only the second time in 131 years traveling without help. The last time Constitution sailed was 1997. This exercise commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Constitution's victory over the British frigate Guerriere during the War of 1812. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrew Meyers/ Released)

By: Brant

18 August 2012

German Army Revises Domestic ROE

Germany is widening the "crisis role" of its army.

The German military will in future be able to use its weapons on German streets in an extreme situation, the Federal Constitutional Court says.

The ruling says the armed forces can be deployed only if Germany faces an assault of "catastrophic proportions", but not to control demonstrations.

The decision to deploy forces must be approved by the federal government.

Severe restrictions on military deployments were set down in the German constitution after Nazi-era abuses.

The court says the military still cannot shoot down a hijacked passenger plane - fighter jets would have to intercept the plane and fire warning shots to force it to land.

After World War II the new constitution ruled that soldiers could not be deployed with guns at the ready on German soil, the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

The court has now changed that, saying troops could be used to tackle an assault that threatens scores of casualties.

By: Brant

17 August 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: China-Vietnam War

It's always awesome when you find games in other languages... China-Vietnam War was published in Chinese.

Anyone out there know anything about this one?

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Israel and Iran, Again

Yep, it's been awhile since we ran an article about Israel's concern with Iran's nuke program. Are we getting closer to open warfare? Or is Israel waiting for Assad to implode in Syria before doing anything so as not to give the world a distraction from what's happening there?

It is often hard for Americans to grasp the idea of an existential threat to a nation. While one existed for Americans during the Cold War, since then the notion that any single actor with any single act could effectively obliterate Americans or their lifestyle is very hard for many people to get their brains around. But that is exactly the threat that Israelis face from even a "limited" Iranian nuclear attack. And though it is reasonable to debate whether the Iranians would actually use such a weapon against Israel given the likely consequences for them, from the Israeli perspective, given Iranian threats and actions, the risks of guessing wrong about the intent of the leaders in Tehran are so high that inaction could easily be seen to be the imprudent path.

This summarizes the carefully worded case made last week in the Wall Street Journal by Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. His article was nothing less than a case for war, and, over lunch on Friday, Aug. 10, he underscored to me how much thought and care was put into its drafting. (Oren is, for the record, my longtime very good friend.) The response to the article included the unlikely endorsement of its core points by Khalid Al Khalifa, the foreign minister of Bahrain, who tweeted it with the words "Time Is Short For Iran Diplomacy." It also was seen as one of the most important of last week's signals that Israel's discomfort with the Iran situation is growing greater, signals that included on-the-record statements by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and off-the-record statements to journalist Ari Shavit (widely assumed to have been from Defense Minister Ehud Barak) that both underscored and amplified Oren's case for ramped-up pressure on Iran.

By: Brant

16 August 2012

BULLETS! - Combat Support

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

You don't live/work how it's convenient for you. Never forget that. Life in a support unit is not about what's convenient for you, but about what's convenient for that E-3 with a Bradley out on the BDE screen line. If you can't properly support him from the comfort of your shade tree, then it's time for you to move.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Royal Marines, Closer Than You Want To See Them

A Royal Marine of the Fleet Protection Group is pictured during a warfare demonstration.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

15 August 2012

GameTalk - Smugglers

Every day on the news, you can find examples of smuggled, hidden, and mis-represented cargo to move arms traffic from state to state (not just to non-state actors). How does one wargame the quasi-legal-but-thoroughly-misrepesented global arms trade to show the way that governments move weapons around the world?

By: Brant

14 August 2012

Sound Off! Digital Games!



sound off below!

By: Brant

12 August 2012

USN Collision in Persian Gulf

An oil tanker collided with the USS Porter in the Persian Gulf.

An oil tanker collided with a U.S. Navy ship near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday but no one was hurt and shipping traffic in the waterway, through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports pass, was not affected, officials said.
"Both vessels are okay and the Strait of Hormuz is not closed, and business is as usual there," an Oman coast guard official told Reuters, declining to be named under briefing rules.
The Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet said the Panamanian-flagged, Japanese-owned bulk oil tanker M/V Otowasan collided with the USS Porter, a guided-missile destroyer, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The navy vessel remained able to operate under its own power after the collision, which was not combat-related, the statement added without elaborating on how the accident happened. An investigation was underway.

By: Brant

10 August 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Nordkapp

This week's game is Nordkapp, from one of my favorite designers/authors, Charles Kamps. Anyone play this one? System similarities?

That's a damn colorful map!

Never did find a CSW folder for it.

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Revisiting 1942 Dieppe Raid

Was the Dieppe raid a cover to steal an Enigma machine?

New research suggests the real intent of the historic raid on Dieppe in 1942 was to steal a machine that would help crack top-secret German codes.

Military historian David O’Keefe spent 15 years searching through the once-classified and ultra-secret war files and says the real purpose behind the Dieppe operation—which cost hundreds of Canadian soldiers their lives — was to capture advanced coding technology from the German headquarters near the French beach.

“For years, so many veterans, men who stormed the beaches and ended up in prisoners of war camps, had no clue what the reason was that they were there,” O’Keefe tells Global National’s Christina Stevens.

“They had their own missions, but they did not understand what the driving force was behind the raid.”

Historians have assigned many purposes to the disastrous raid: to gather intelligence from prisoners and captured materials, to assess Germany’s response to amphibious raids, to boost Allied morale and to assure the Soviets—locked in a titanic struggle with Germany — that the west was committed to fighting in Europe.

Good article to go along with this map at the link above.

h/t Shelldrake

By: Brant

Didn't We Build This Game?

Y'know, if the Nigerians had played a run or two through GEMSTONE, they'd know that you can't shoot your way out of an insurgency.

Jonathan's critics say he relies too much on the military to defeat Boko Haram, rather than addressing northerners' grievances, such as poverty and unemployment.
"A security strategy is not enough," the official said.
Military crackdowns have mixed results - hurting Boko Haram in some areas but angering people by their heavy handedness.
Washington will offer Nigeria help with forensics, tracking of suspects and "fusing" disparate strands of police and military intelligence, the U.S. official said.
"We know all too well from our own experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan what can happen if soldiers and police are not operating under appropriate authorities."
"We will encourage them not to use excessive force and to look at this as a ... law enforcement operation," he added.

See more about GEMSTONE here, and here.

By: Brant

09 August 2012

BULLETS! - Shared Intel

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Within the various levels of staff planning, remember to maintain a common picture of the enemy. Oftentimes, a scout platoon will find the enemy and their immediate HQ will plot it, but it won't go any higher. On the off chance that it does go higher, the higher HQ rarely disseminates it back down the pipe to the other task forces.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: ANA EHRT

A sergeant with the Afghan National Army (ANA) is pictured on a joint patrol in Afghanistan. The Afghan Army Explosive Hazard Reduction Teams are advised by a 2 man team from the Airborne Troop of 49 Squadron, 33 Regiment Royal Engineers.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

08 August 2012

US Loading Up For Pre-Emptive Attack on Norks?

No, it's not The Onion or The Daily Show. This is from KCNA, the official propaganda "news" agency of Naughty North Korea.

US Hit for Attempting Preemptive Attack on DPRK
Pyongyang, August 7 (KCNA) -- Some days ago, the U.S. opened to the public its deployment of Bunker-buster targeting the DPRK and Iran. It let the secretary of the Air Force make a spate of balderdash about the blowing power of the new bomb and the maximum distance which it can penetrate to destroy underground nuclear facilities.
Minju Joson Tuesday says in a bylined commentary in this regard:
This is another grave military provocation against the DPRK and an undisguised declaration of confrontation with it.
The U.S. developed and deployed this bomb with an aim to carry out its scenario for mounting a preemptive attack on the DPRK.
It is seeking to mount a preemptive strike at major military objects of the DPRK which are of strategic significance and thus neutralize the DPRK's military muscle for self-defence and realize its strategy for stifling the DPRK by force of arms. This proves that the strategy for world hegemony by force of arms still remains a major mode of the U.S. for realizing its foreign policy and it is its persistent intention to apply this to the Korean Peninsula.
Now that the dignity and security of the DPRK have been seriously threatened by the U.S. evermore intensified hostile policy toward it, there is no other choice but to bolster up its military muscle for self-defence.
The military and technological advantages are not a monopoly of the U.S. and will not work on the DPRK today.
The further the U.S. steps up pressure on the DPRK by force of arms, the further the DPRK will strengthen countermeasures.
The U.S. should stop at once the anachronistic military rackets, pondering over the consequences to be entailed by its moves for confrontation with the DPRK.

By: Brant

Something Else To Read: JOMO

Check out The Journal of Military Operations

The Journal of Military Operations, otherwise known as Military Operations, is an online peer-reviewed publication concerned with warfare, the conduct of war.
It focuses on engagement with the enemy; combat; fighting.
It seeks to develop insights into the nature of war, in order to better understand it and conduct it. It seeks to identify what changes in warfare and what doesn’t; why; and how.
Military Operations focuses primarily on the conduct of war on land, but also includes air-land and amphibious aspects.
It considers regular and irregular warfare. It will consider subjects as diverse as first hand-experience, doctrine, training and equipment, personnel, logistics and medical support. It will reflect historical, scientific and operations research. It is about how armed forces fight or should fight.
If you are interested in how wars should be fought in the future, Military Operations will be relevant to you.

By: Brant

GameTalk - Eras of War

When does the "modern" era of wargame genres begin? What subject matter is considered "modern" and why? How far back do you go (if at all) before "modern" is no longer "contemporary"?

How does one distinguish between eras and draw a line at which one stops and another starts, given the potential overlap along the edges of the eras?

By: Brant

07 August 2012

Sound Off! Foreign Engagement

Do you...

... bring foreign nationals into your military training institutions, schools, bases, and establishments to learn while embedded in your country?

... hit the road and spread your folks across their units, countries, and bases, training alongside their military?

And Brian, you can't say "both"! Pick one and defend your choice below!

By: Brant

Reviving Overseas Russian Bases?

Look, it's Pravda, so don't read too much into the 'facts', but even going public with plans to re-invigorate overseas bases has got to raise some eyebrows, huh?

The Russian government intends to restore the military-technical support of their ships at the former military base in Cam Ranh (Vietnam), Lourdes (Cuba) and the Seychelles. So far, this is not about plans for a military presence, but rather the restoration of the crew resources. However, a solid contractual basis should be developed for these plans.

The intentions were announced on July 27 by the Russian Navy Commander Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov. "At the international level, the creation of logistics points in Cuba, the Seychelles and Vietnam is being worked out," Chirkov was quoted by the media. The issue was specifically discussed at the meeting with the leaders of all countries. President of Vietnam Truong Tan Sang has recently held talks with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow and President Putin in Sochi. Cuban leader Raul Castro met with Putin in Moscow earlier this month. A little earlier the President of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel made an unequivocal statement.

By: Brant

06 August 2012

Anniversary: Hiroshima

(rerunning this, as it's an anniversary article)

Today is the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which is alternately considered both controversial and essential to ending the war.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to hear a talk at the Mershon Center at Ohio State by Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, discussing the impact of the bomb on Japan's decision to surrender. This article was originally written/published at Wargamer.com back in '06.

A Different Theory on the Japanese Surrender


I attend a weekly seminar series at the Mershon Center for Security Studies and Public Policy here at Ohio State University. On some weeks, the seminar coincides with guest speakers. Last week, Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa came to talk, and this is a summary of his narrative. But first, it may be helpful to introduce Dr. Hasegawa by way of his Mershon Center bio:
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is professor of Modern Russian and Soviet History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His current research interests include the political and social history of the Russian Revolution, focusing on crime and police in Petrograd during the Revolution, March 1917 - March 1918, as well as Soviet military history, collecting materials on V.K. Bliukher. Hasegawa is also studying Russian/Soviet-Japanese relations, especially the Soviet-Japanese War of 1945, Soviet policy toward the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, and the Soviet-Japanese Normalization Talks, 1955-56. Hasegawa has published widely on the Russian and Soviet history, his most major publications being The Northern Territories Dispute and Russo-Japanese Relations. Vol. 1: Between War and Peace, 1967-1985. Vol.2: Neither War Nor Peace, 1985-1998 (UC Berkeley, 1998), Russia and Japan: An unresolved Dilemma between Distant Neighbors, edited with Jonathan Haslam and Andrew Kuchins (UC Berkeley, 1993), and Roshia kakumeika petorogurado no shiminseikatsu [Everyday Life of Petrograd during the Russian Revolution] (Chuokoronsha, 1989). His most recent publication is titled Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Belknap, 2005). Dr. Hasegawa received his PhD from Washington University in 1969.

The Presentation

Following the fall of Germany in May of '45, the Allies turned their attention to the three-year old Pacific War. To avoid continued American causalities and bring World War II to a close, Truman ordered the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Conventional American wisdom is that the atomic bomb brought about the fall of Japan, and few American textbooks challenge this idea. However, a Japanese scholar, Dr. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa of UC-Santa Barbara, has published an new book, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, that re-examines the end of World War II through a new perspective on international diplomacy, and comes to the conclusion that although the atomic bomb was certainly a very important factor in ending World War II, it was not the most important one. In fact, it might have caused the U.S. to prolong the war longer than necessary.

Dr. Hasegawa's book opens by addressing the inner workings of the Truman administration, a perspective with which Americans are most comfortable. Leading up to the conference in Potsdam, Truman was pulled in several different directions. First, he was fully aware that Soviet entry into the war in the Pacific would ease the burden on the U.S. Tying down Japanese units on mainland China would inhibit their evacuation to assist in the defense of the Japanese homeland. However, Truman was reluctant to encourage Soviet entry into the Pacific theater, wary of the promises made to Stalin by FDR at Yalta, where the Soviets had been promised certain territories, including warm-water ports. These territories would have enlarged the Soviet sphere of influence (and more importantly, introduced Communism) into an ocean thus far dominated by U.S., British, and Dutch interests. Additionally, Truman felt obliged to support FDR's insistence on an unconditional surrender by the Japanese. However, within his own cabinet, there was support for including in the surrender documents a provision to allow the Japanese to maintain a constitutional monarchy, ensuring the continuation of the imperial line. Such language was even included in the original draft of the Potsdam Declaration, but excised before its eventual release. The inclusion of such language was intended to encourage Japanese moderates to push for a surrender before the eventual invasion of Japan.

Shifting gear to Stalin's Moscow, Dr. Hasegawa focuses on an oft-ignored (by American historians) theater of diplomatic shenanigans. The Soviet Union and Japan had a neutrality pact that pre-dated World War II. The pact was due to expire in April of 1946, but would be automatically extended unless one party notified the other of the intent to void the pact. Communication of that intent was required one full year in advance. Stalin notified the Japanese of the intention to void the pact, but it remained in force until April of 1946. This pact had an extraordinary effect on Stalin. Desperate not to be seen as a second Hitler, Stalin was loathe to violate a neutrality pact in the same way that Hitler had when launching Operation Barbarossa. However, if the U.S. were to invite the Soviet Union into the war, then of course Stalin could not abandon his allies. Stalin expected to receive such an invitation at Potsdam.
In Japan, the government was fractured into parties on either side of the war-peace divide. Those supporting a continuation of the war were determined to defend the Japanese homeland to the last man, in the hopes of bleeding the will to fight out of the Americans and their allies and eventually gain favorable terms for their eventual surrender. The peace party thought that national suicide was a bad idea, and that continuing the fight would only further anger the allies and reduce the likelihood that the imperial system would survive.

Under instructions from the Emperor, Japanese diplomats in Moscow approached the Soviet regime to begin discussing potential terms for a surrender. This contact was opened shortly before Potsdam. The Japanese understood the American demand for an "unconditional surrender" as the end of their imperial system; the goal was to work through Stalin to try preserve the emperor after the surrender.

The Americans intercepted these instructions and were well aware of the ongoing diplomacy in Moscow, but did not overtly tip their hand to the Soviets. Furthermore, it remains unknown if Stalin knew that Truman knew of the negotiations.

At Potsdam, Stalin was expecting to receive an invitation to sign the declaration insisting on Japanese capitulation. Once invited, Stalin would have the pretext for over-riding the neutrality pact with the Japanese. However, no invitation was forthcoming. Once the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Truman was well aware that the Allies did not need the Soviets to enter the war in the Pacific. Truman, in fact, seemed determined to keep Stalin out of the war. Moreover, there are interesting details from behind the scenes at (and before) Potsdam that Dr. Hasegawa has interpreted as having much greater significance than previously recognized.
First, it was known before Potsdam that Japanese hesitation over surrender was motivated primarily by the desire to retain the imperial system. Were the Allies to ensure the continuation of the monarchy, Japan might have agreed to terms on a surrender sooner. In spite of this knowledge, Truman insisted on including the term "unconditional surrender" in the Potsdam Declaration, knowing that the Japanese would reject it. Coupled with military communications indicating the preparations for dropping the A-bomb on Japan had begun before Truman departed for Potsdam, Hasegawa believes it is not unreasonable to conclude that Truman intended for, and expected, the rejection of the Potsdam Declaration, to justify the use of the atomic bomb.

Stalin, having been snubbed at Potsdam (but unaware of U.S. progress in deploying the A-bomb), ordered his military to speed up their preparations for entering the Pacific theater, starting with an invasion of Manchuria. The military resisted this pressure, given the massive amounts of men and material they had to move. However, on the 6th of August, they could no longer afford to wait.

Stalin's appointment log shows a full day of meetings on the 6th of August. Following the news that Hiroshima had been leveled, Stalin withdrew into seclusion. His appointment log for the 7th shows not a single meeting. On the 8th, however, he sprung back into action, and Soviet invasion of Manchuria began on the 9th, three days ahead of schedule (and the same day as the Nagasaki bomb). Stalin's eagerness to enter the Pacific theater led the Soviets to break their neutrality pact with Japan, and couch it in terms that left the public believing that the Soviets were invited to join the war. That evening (Moscow time), the American press conference in Washington congratulated the Soviets on entering the war. However, the American (and British) statements were intentionally mute about the "invitation" claimed by the Soviets. Sixty years later, we rarely see this distinction, given that the Allies (U.S., U.S.S.R., U.K.) had made numerous public statements about first defeating Germany and then turning on Japan. Today's school children see the Soviet entry into the Pacific war as a natural extension of World War II. Today's school children are also rarely taught about the Japanese-Soviet neutrality pact or the territorial implications of Soviet entry into the war in the Pacific.

Dr. Hasegawa's conclusion, therefore, is that the threat of Soviet entry into the Pacific theater spurred the Japanese to hasten their surrender more than the atomic bomb did. Japanese fear of territorial loss to the Soviets, and preference for dealing with Truman over Stalin, led to peaceniks in the Japanese government gaining the upper hand. Truman felt obliged to maintain FDR’s staunch position on “unconditional surrender” and expected the A-bomb to force the Japanese to surrender before the Soviets were prepared to enter the war in the Pacific. Therefore, he crafted the Potsdam Declaration such that the Japanese would reject it. The haste with which the Japanese government acted following the Nagasaki bomb was motivated by the Soviet entry into the war - coincidentally on the same day - more than the destruction of another one of their cities.

Asking Questions Today

While this was written 6 years ago, very few of the key issues brought up by Dr Hasegawa have changed since then. What are your opinions on why the Japanese surrendered? Was the atomic bomb the key factor? Or were to Soviets a bigger issue than previously thought? Your commente below...

By: Brant

Monday Video: MARSOC Goes HIPHOP

Starting your week off with an old-school hip hip BANG

By: Brant

05 August 2012

Weekend Humor: Fail, and Fail Some More

There's some actual 'fail' in here, but the segment starting at 2:20, while canned, is a freakin' riot.

By: Brant

"Lightly Arming" Syrian Opposition - Good Idea?

Doctrine Man thinks this is shades of Afghanistan in the '80s. I think the suggestion that we "lightly arm" the Syrian Opposition shows that we're just trying too hard to hedge our bets: if it goes well then we can claim we 'helped' and if it goes to shit someone unfriendly to the US takes over then we can claim 'we really didn't do much'. The problem is that if it's true in one direction, it's true in the other, and if the opposition wins, they can claim 'we really didn't do much' and that's not going to do much for US foreign policy.

Arming the Syrian opposition is a better option. The Assad regime has shown no hesitation in using artillery and armor against the Syrian people. Equipping Syrian rebels with light anti-tank weapons such as RPG-7s will allow them to combat the regime’s T-55 and T-72 tanks. RPG-7s and lighter anti-tank weaponry are not capable of penetrating U.S. M1 Abrams tanks.

The Middle East is already awash in such weaponry so America wouldn’t be introducing anything new. Getting them quickly and directly into the hands of Syrian resistance fighters will bring the timely turning point needed to end the violence. Keeping an eye on the future after the Assad regime falls, America should stop short of providing small-arms weaponry, such as machine guns which may be used in the turmoil after the regime falls.

By: Brant

03 August 2012

Random Friday Wargaming: Second Fleet

One of the ever-popular "fleet" series of games... Why 2nd Fleet? Because it features the Red Banner Fleet, and I was just watching Firefox on TV the other day, and they talk about the Red Banner Fleet in the movie. That's it. Never played it. Anyone out there got some feedback for us?

Discuss away over at CSW!

Master links/images from Boardgamegeek.com; message boards linked to Consimworld. Other links to the actual game pages...

By: Brant

Some People Are Going To Have To Face Reality

and accept that their lives are not going to be spent sitting at the grown-up table.

It's not a heart-warming story of successful counterinsurgency, it's the cold, hard reality that no matter how much hand-holding we do, the the Afghan army, government, and people are not ready for the responsibility of behaving with a level of competence that the US would accept as barely adequate.

As the Taliban ramped up its attacks in eastern Afghanistan’s Wardak province this spring, the Afghan soldiers here came to a painful conclusion: They were not ready to take on the fight alone. But it was too late — the Americans were not coming back.

The transition of Combat Outpost Conlon to Afghan control — marked by a flag-raising ceremony and a visit from top U.S. military brass — was an early milestone in the NATO drawdown that will continue through 2014.

But Afghan officials worry that the problems plaguing Conlon could be replicated across the country as the U.S. military hands over authority, leaving 200,000 Afghan soldiers without the equipment or wherewithal to defeat a resilient enemy.

“The Americans left too early, and they left without giving us what we need,” said Lt. Col. Hamidullah Kohdamany, the battalion commander.

U.S. officials say that after years of depending on Americans for tactical and logistical support, Afghan soldiers often struggle to adapt to a sudden surge in responsibility.

“They’ve just never had to rely on their own leaders. They’ve always had the Americans for a backstop,” said Lt. Col. Clint Cox, the head of the U.S. military advisory team that oversees Afghan units in Wardak province. “It’s going to take some time. It’s just like with children — sometimes it takes a hard lesson for them to learn.”

It's not that it's a hard lesson to learn. It seems to be a lesson they are incapable of learning. Their initial allegiances are not to the nation, or even their fellow soldiers. Their logistical tail breaks down because the convoy guys make a delivery to the tribal elders before they ever get to the combat outpost. They've got no electricity because the funds for providing them keep lining the pockets of kleptocrats in Kabul. The vehicles don't work because the spare parts are for sale in bazaars in Kandahar.

We have to quit applying US standards of competence to a nation that seems willfully proud of their inability to even attempt to learn them.

By: Brant

RIP, Sir John Keegan

One of the world's foremost military historians, Sir John Keegan, has passed away.

The hip grew worse again, and he found himself taken back to hospital, encased in a plaster corset. This time he was not among children, but cheerful cockney veterans in a men’s ward of St Thomas’s, near Westminster Bridge. The Anglican chaplain taught him Greek; a polio victim coached him in French; and, thanks to a well-stocked library, Johnnie, as he was known there, was able to read much history and almost the entire works of Thomas Hardy.
On emerging from hospital two years later, his hip immobilised with a bone graft, Keegan won a place to read History at Oxford. But on going up to Balliol he developed TB again, and was away for another year while being treated with new drugs. He then returned, walking with a stick, to find himself among a highly talented intake, which included the future Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham, Northern Ireland Secretaries Patrick Mayhew and Peter Brooke, historian Keith Thomas, the Benedictine monk Daniel Rees, and the Prince of Wales’s Australian schoolmaster Michael Collins Persse.
Keegan was tutored in the Middle Ages by Richard Southern and in the 17th century by the Marxist Christopher Hill. Although there was no chance of a military career, he observed the confidence of those who had done National Service and decided to take “Military History and the Theory of War” as a special subject.
After a long tour of the battlefields of the American Civil War with his future brother-in-law Maurice Keen, the medieval historian, he returned home to find work writing political reports for the American embassy in London for two years, then obtained a post as a lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. It was Keegan’s first proper job.
The academy had some similarities with an Oxford college, including beautiful grounds and buildings as well as good company. But while Oxford encouraged debate, Keegan found himself, as a civilian, lecturing on Military History to motivate young men who were part of a chain of command, trained to accept orders.
The rebellious streak that lurked within him meant that he did not always find this easy; nevertheless, he discovered how liberal and open-minded the Army could be (as long as its core values were not undermined). It tolerated the Keegan family donkey, Emilia, which kept breaking into the student officers’ quiet room. But while writing half a dozen 40,000-word potboilers for “Ballantyne’s Illustrated History of the Violent Century”, he was constantly aware that neither he nor his charges had any personal experience of war.
As a result, his first major book, The Face of Battle (1976), asked: what is it like to be in a battle? Instead of adopting a commander’s perspective, seeing every conflict as an impersonal flow of causation, currents and tendencies in the way favoured by contemporary historians, Keegan concentrated on the experience of the common soldier.

By: Brant

02 August 2012

BULLETS! - Look Back

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

Go out and look at your defense from the enemy perspective. Assume he's got perfect intel.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

UK In Action: Sea King Flares

A Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 helicopter of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) fires decoy flares whilst on operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. An Army Air Corps Lynx Mk9a is visible in the background. Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 helicopters from 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons normally based with Commando Helicopter Force at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, were flying as part of the Joint Helicopter Force Afghanistan in support of current operations in Afghanistan.
img from UK MoD By: Widow 6-7

Sound Off Bonus! Two-Sided Wargaming Maps

By: Brant

US Army Software Wars

You want a compelling asymetric warfare game? Put together a wargame about the Army's software acquisition strategies, which are under fire again.

Palantir has certainly been an aggressive presence around the nation’s capitol. Its advertisements cover the walls of metro stations in D.C. and northern Virginia. The company spent more than half a million dollars on lobbying last year. Its “Palantir Night Live” speakers’ series in Washington has attracted luminaries from former CIA chief George Tenet to Craig Newmark, of Craigslist fame. In 2010 — perhaps as an attempt to curry favor in D.C. — the company agreed to participate in a cockamamie (and unsuccessful) scheme to bring down WikiLeaks. In 2012, Palantir started its own political action committee to hand out campaign donations.

Still, the reports from the field about Palantir were so positive that the Army’s top officer asked the independent Army Test and Evaluation Command to survey troops, and make recommendations about how to proceed. On April 25, the Command rendered its decision: “DCGS is overcomplicated, requires lengthy classroom instruction, and is easily perishable skill set is not used constantly.” (.pdf) Instead, the Army should “install more Palantir servers in Afghanistan” and “incorporate a one-week training class on Palantir” for all new intelligence analysts.

The report, signed by Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson and obtained by Danger Room, was a bombshell, shattering the DCGS-A monopoly. Less than a month later, the Army took it back. “Please ensure that any and all copies of the 25 April report are destroyed and not distributed,” (.pdf) read an email from the command. The report was replaced with a nearly-identical document (.pdf). All that was missing was the recommendation to buy Palantir.

These sorts of software wars have been going on for several years... CIDNE vs TIGR vs FusionNet, then CIDNE vs MapHT, then DCGS was supposed to make all those other systems (and their data) play nice together. Except that it doesn't matter how much data is in the system if it's too hard for the users to use it (shades of ASAS-L).

Palantir might have an easier UI, react more quickly, etc, but what should *not* be happening is that ATEC should be advocating for a specific *product*. ATEC should talk in terms of capabilities, functions, etc, but they shouldn't be advocating for one product over another, especially since it sounds like the only real comparisons here were Palantir vs DCGS-A (don't know if that was the case, since the article isn't totally clear on that point).

If the issue is that someone is acting as a uniformed extension of a commercial company's marketing department, then that's a very valid problem to be addressed.
If the issue is that the DoD hasn't figured out yet how to converge the tangled web of "requirements" vs capabilities vs ownership of systems vs ownership of data into a single, coherent data management strategy without weighing it down with an excess of administrative baggage, then that's tilting at 20-year-old windmills and not likely to improve any time soon.

By: Brant

A Look at How Pentagon's ONA Developed the Seeds of AirSea Battle

It's an interesting article about how looking forward beyond the GWOT developed into current AirSea Battle fad.

In recent months, the Air Force and Navy have come up with more than 200 initiatives they say they need to realize Air-Sea Battle. The list emerged, in part, from war games conducted by Marshall’s office and includes new weaponry and proposals to deepen cooperation between the Navy and the Air Force.

A former nuclear strategist, Marshall has spent the past 40 years running the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, searching for potential threats to American dominance. In the process, he has built a network of allies in Congress, in the defense industry, at think tanks and at the Pentagon that amounts to a permanent Washington bureaucracy.

While Marshall’s backers praise his office as a place where officials take the long view, ignoring passing Pentagon fads, critics see a dangerous tendency toward alarmism that is exaggerating the China threat to drive up defense spending.

“The old joke about the Office of Net Assessment is that it should be called the Office of Threat Inflation,” said Barry Posen, director of the MIT Security Studies Program. “They go well beyond exploring the worst cases. . . . They convince others to act as if the worst cases are inevitable.”

Marshall dismisses criticism that his office focuses too much on China as a future enemy, saying it is the Pentagon’s job to ponder worst-case scenarios.

“We tend to look at not very happy futures,” he said in a recent interview.

It's worth reading the rest, too.

By: Brant

01 August 2012

Signs of Intelligent Thought Spotted Online!

Two articles out there today (and the accompanying comments) are actually quite thoughtful in their ideas. They are completely unrelated to each other (unless you start trying to draw parallels between them) other than both being intelligent and detailed and worthy of note.

Information Dissemination, a primarily naval blog, has a discussion that starts talking about prepositioning equipment sets, and morphs into The Expeditionary... Army

The US Army reinvented itself for the war in Iraq in 2005, and reinvented itself again in 2009 in Afghanistan - and bought completely new gear both times specific to each conflict. This isn't new, the Army did the same thing in Vietnam and WWII. Relative to the Navy and Air Force, the US Army can be raised and reinvented very quickly when the money for war is provided.

Meanwhile, over at the relatively new Grand Blog Tarkin, a not-so-subtle discussion of The Jedi Way of War has definite analogues to today's military. That said, I personally believe that the battle scenes in the Star Wars movies are chaotic disasters more suitable for Braveheart than Saving Private Ryan because Lucas doesn't know (or care) about military tactics, doctrine, etc, but he knows what he thinks looks 'dramatic' on-screen.

Although the Jedi were renowned diplomats and keepers of the peace, they were not politicians or strategists, and never critically examined the Separatist’s grievances to identify the root causes of the conflict. Without understanding the causes of conflict, they failed to develop a theory of victory. Without this, they merely continued to pursue of the Separatist leaders and the destruction of their army after the first engagement. They failed to reframe from their roles as individual combatants to leaders of an Army for a multitude of reasons explored below.

By: Brant

Turkish "Exercises" On Syrian Border

What better pretense for having a significant force along the border than a series of "exercises".

The exercises were held after a series of Turkish military deployments to the area prompted by the spiraling violence in the 17-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The reports could not immediately be confirmed.
Some 25 tanks from the Mardin 70th Mechanised Brigade took part in the exercises, which were overseen by commanders in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, just 2 km (1 mile) from the Syrian border, Dogan news agency said.

And 25 tanks from an entire mech brigade is not all that significant. It's barely 2 maneuver companies (assuming a few tanks are down for maintenance).

By: Brant

GameTalk - Radio Nets

The entire force isn't operating on one radio net, if they have a radio net at all. How do you distinguish who talks to who on what radio net for sharing information on the tabletop, especially in tactical games in which the delay in relaying information can have very real effects on battlefield action.

What are some mechanisms that can be put in place to replicate these behaviors on the cardboard tabletop, without getting too fiddly?

By: Brant