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Destroyed Abrams Tanks

       I just want to say that I appreciate your site.  You make some good recommendations.  I have to say that I was quite dishearten by seeing an image of the M1 Abrams tank knocked out in Iraq.  To be quite honest, I thought the Abrams tank was pretty much invulnerable.  I then read the article on the Abrams by Hackworth.  I didn't realize how many Abrams were hit or knocked out.  That's discouraging!  I truly thought the Abrams was quite a beast to say the least.  The Abrams that were knocked out, did the Iraqi's able to penetrate the frontal armor of the Abrams, or were they just hit from the rear and other vulnerable areas, and did any crew members survive the hits?

                                                                                       Scott Saale

Ed: The Army hasn't released much info, but I was surprised that many were knocked out.  I doubt any penetrated the frontal armor, but they may have got a lucky hit in the gun or turret ring.  From what I've seen from good sources, they were all RPGs into the rear and engine flank.  Usually they just set the engine afire which eventually consumed the tank.  In one case the ammo went off.  I am aware of no serious crew injuries, other than one Marine tank which went off a bridge and an Army tank which sank in a canal.  Here is part of a report from Jane's.

G2mil is the Best

     I just have to say that you're site is ***THE BEST*** military analysis and commentary magazine on the Web - or anywhere else for that matter.  Every time I read your expository articles (and reader feedback) I'm find myself appalled - but not really surprised - at the waste and self-interested non-sense that afflicts the American "military-industrial-congressional-complex."

I say "I'm appalled - but not really surprised" for a reason: I too have the misfortune of working inside a dysfunctional "government-industrial complex". I won't mention which one - because I don't want to be fired tomorrow (actually it's not even for the American gov't - I work for an East Asian gov't closely allied with America).

But let's just say that everything around here is inefficient, self-interested, bureaucratic-bullshit ... Furthermore, this place has been captured by "special-interest" (our friggin' contractors and suppliers) and finally, that our management lives in a "Dream-world" where neither costs nor ***Performance*** matter ... All in all, my experience working in this place has confirmed all the economics I learned in college:

1) free markets do a good job of providing goods and services

2) governments and their "special friends" DO NOT do a good job of providing goods and services

3) governments and their special friends are VERY powerful once they get going - and are very hard to scale back

4) the best way to keep goods and services flowing to the citizens is to NOT create bureaucracies in the first place

5) campaign rigorously for the abolition of those bureaucracies already established

Hopefully, I'll be able to leave this friggin' "house-of-leeches" in the next few months and return to the Real-World of the private sector.

                                                                                                   Mike M.

The Mythical North Korean Threat

I just finished reading your evaluation of North Korean military readiness and was very interested in this new perspective. Are you familiar with the (Center for Korean Affairs) version of the situation? If not, it is virtually the exact opposite of your version and was also posted on the Information Clearinghouse website this last April. It led with an excerpt that read: North Korea has not only the military power but also the political will to wage total war against the United States. I'm always interested in discovering the truth if not then the closest version to it.


Ed:  It would be interesting to find out who funds the "Center for Korean Affairs"  They probably won't say.  As I mentioned, the US troop commitment requires ~$5 billion dollars a year, and those getting that money don't want change.  G2mil is funded by no one except subscribers.  And don't forget the US military is full of "experts" on Korea who live there and depend on a never-ending conflict for their livelihood.  They are terrified the US might pull out, leaving them unemployed Cold Warriors, like the old "Sovietologists"

People seem to forget that we mostly fought the Chinese army in the last war, and are surprised when I mention the five million man South Korean Army.  These are mostly reservists who can be mobilized within hours and are better trained  and equipped than North Korean regulars.  In addition, only about half the million-man North Korean Army can attack, the other half would have to guard the coasts and capital from amphibious or heliborne attacks, and to check likely coups and food riots.  Keep in mind that regional police are included in the "million-man army".  

So do we need 14,000 US combat troops to help 5,000,000 South Koreans fend off 500,000 North Koreans whose equipment dates from the 1950s - 1970s.  And the South Koreans will fight from fortifications with complete air and naval superiority.  Some readers worry about "tunnels".  However, once those were discovered many years back the S. Koreans began to employ ground penetrating radar and seismic devices so they know even if rats are digging holes near the DMZ.  Yes, the Chinese or Russians may intervene, but only because they'd be furious the nuts in the North caused a crisis which hurt trade.  The reason they are reestablishing a rail line across the DMZ is to ship goods between China and South Korea; North Korea is a wasteland. So the Chinese or Russians may send forces across the border, but only to quickly topple the North Korean regime and help unify Korea.  

Generals Love Their Bases                                                          

Your article on base closure might touch on the REAL reason the services hate to close bases - less slots for Generals.  If everyone is stationed logically, the services could go back to the 5:1 supervision rule it has successfully employed since WW II.  Now, there are FAR too many generals and admirals that reducing bases would leave without "paper billets."  For instance - Iwakuni Marines Air Base is worthless.  My brother and sister-in-law were there for six years as contractors to the Marine Corps.  They just returned in the past six months.  The waste that goes on there would make you blush.


Ed: I'm rarely shocked by military waste anymore, although I'm one of the few that hate air shows because I know how much they waste.  When I was in Korea, my good friend Lt Malanowski had a fit.  His engineer platoon spent two weeks in cold weather building VIP quarters with wood in a Marine tent city.  It had a wood floor, desk, and bed with mattress (rather than a cot). The General arrived, spent one night, then left.  Malanowski was then ordered to tear it down.  He was not inspired by such leadership.

David Hackworth noted there are 44 US Army Generals based in Europe to command five combat maneuver brigades.  We have three Admirals in London even though there are no Navy ships or aircraft there.  Here is the mission they claim: 

Naval Activities United Kingdom (NAVACTUK) oversees facilities and services in England. Its mission is to exercise command over assigned activities; to discharge area coordination responsibilities over shore activities in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe; to coordinate the provision of logistic and administrative support for the US Naval activities and units in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe and other agencies as directed; and carry out responsibilities and act as the single Navy official to speak for the Commander in Chief, US Naval Forces, Europe/US Commander, Eastern Atlantic in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. Total population served is as of late 1998 was 3605, with 1140 active duty, 1729 family members, 361 civilian employees, and 384 retirees.

There are no naval units in the UK or Northern Europe, except an occasional ship or two for NATO exercises to defend against, uh, the unknown?  There is a small air station in Iceland to support patrol planes used to track Soviet subs. Yes I know the Soviet Union doesn't exist, but tell that to the Navy.  A few years ago, some Congressmen began asking just what these 1140 sailors and their three Admirals do.  The best the Navy could say is they were helping train the new Baltic navies. The great news is that this London base may close, read this Stars and Stripes article, which also notes a Texas Senator just endorsed my idea of an Overseas BRAC.

Bring ALL the Troops Home

I think you're going about the "bring the troops home" argument all wrong.  Too many reformers fall into the Pax Americana, we're trying to take over the world nonsense and there's no evidence to accurately support it.  If reformers are serious about bringing the forces home, and they SHOULD be, we need to work the angle that prepositioning of forces is entirely counterproductive altogether.

We cannot predict where and when forces will be needed for any future event.  Consequently, unless a war happens to break out next to currently occupied location, which is never going to happen, we will need to relocate forces for any given conflict.  Keeping forces in a garrison state abroad makes this virtually impossible as any movement or use of these forces becomes dependent upon the host government's permission.  This is why I call these prepositioned units static assets - once we send them abroad, they are generally stuck there and unusable short of massive conflict.

Instead of positioning forces abroad, we should station logistics materials abroad.  Leave the tanks and artillery at home where it can be properly maintained and called upon whenever needed, but retain stockpiles of fuel, food, ammunition, and other materials at these locations throughout the world.  If a conflict erupts, you can draw materials from a variety of locations, lessening the need for moving these materials from stateside, and focusing our deployment assets on moving the force itself.

The host nation will no longer face the problems of having US forces residing in their borders and they can also benefit by having access to these materials for their own defense needs.  Instead of the US paying rent, the host nation can use older stocks to form a rotation of materials that will keep the stocks fresh and ready for use.  Our forces can then remain stateside and fully trained and prepared while the only costs we have are keeping some warehouses filled and secured abroad.  Plus, terrorists lose a target as there really isn't much value in blowing up a warehouse of MREs.

The host nations get a real benefit, the US gets a real benefit.  We still save the big bucks and the forces come back to where they belong.  For more information, please visit


Ed: That is why pre-positioned ships full of equipment are so popular.  However, it is expensive to procure and maintain these stocks.  A better solution are more ships ready for immediate embarkation, like they have for the Army's 3rd Mech division in Georgia.  The Army needs to buy and keep ready ships portside at Tacoma WA and Beaumont TX.

For an example of serious bureaucratic stupidity, the Marines want $100 million dollars to replace aging equipment stored in northern Norway.  Someone needs to tell the Marines the Soviet Union is no longer, and the Russians have no capability to conduct an amphibious invasion of Norway, assuming they went completely nuts and went to war with NATO.  In addition, the Marines waste a billion dollars a year to continue a senseless occupation of the small island of Okinawa, whose Governor now demands that US troops leave.

300 Major Bases Overseas?

Where can I find a list -- or even better, a map -- and descriptions, of all U.S. foreign military bases?  I have read that the U.S. has on the order of 3000 foreign military installations, of which 300 or so are considered "major".  When I have mentioned this to people, they have been incredulous.  Can you help?

                                                                                            Robert Rotstein

Ed: Here you go:

Artillery Counterfires

In the "Shoot and Duck" article, you were quite right IMHO with the need for digging in. This has some consequences on the maneuver warfare capability and expectable precision (with long range fire becoming more usual than for scooting batterys), but it's IMHO the best towed batterys could do.  Other reason why scooting could be of doubtful use are the possibility of artillery-delivered mines which could block the escape routes (especially the wheeled vehicles of the battery) and the problem in areas with high military density (many soldiers per square mile). The latter is a problem because each counterfire could easily cover an area of 500x600m, probably repeatedly.

Several firing batteries using several firing positions per day would turn huge proportions of the landscape into forbidden areas which need to be guarded by the MP to prevent that train troops get caught accidentally by counterfire. The modern answer to artillery counterfire seems to be the use of single artillery pieces instead of batteries and the capability to suppress the enemy even more. Both can fail if DPICM is used against entrenched artillery and if the enemy fires back with MRLs. Not to forget: especially MLRS can be detected with acoustic and optic sensors.

I believe that dedicated equipment for quicker construction of covered trenches should be available for towed artillery batteries.  But even entrenching might be futile if the enemy has a really potent counterfire weapon; thermobaric or incendiary warhead rockets fired by MRLs would even kill entrenched troops.  You're publishing the "tank escorts" article right after the "shoot and duck" article, but don't address the jamming protection for batteries. I believe that more could be done to counter potential counter-battery radars - Harpy anti-radar drones, tethered UAVs for radio direction finding and UAVs for jamming.

The SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) mission (mostly radar hunting) is a prominent Air Force mission, for the good of the Air Force strike capability. Maybe there's more than I now, but I don't know of a comparable army interest in counterfire-radar suppression.

                                                                                 Sven Ortmann

Checkpoint Equipment NEEDS

The problem of Baathist/Shiite suicide bombers/snipers attacking US forces in Iraq has to be addressed because this is what we will face in many areas of the world if we get involved. It is classic Vietnam/LIC/guerilla war tactics that are going to be amplified every time a soldier is killed or wounded in Iraq. The goal of the leadership behind the attacks is to force the US out by driving up the body count and putting pressure on the political leadership. This situation will be endemic for several years, much the same way "Werewolves" Nazi guerillas were a problem in West Germany from 1944 to 1947. Troops need two things to reduce the dangers: bomb detection equipment and weapon detection equipment. I think I have ideas that might address both problems.  

The weapon detection equipment can be addressed by using a parabolic metal detector to scan people approaching checkpoints for metal. Fragmentation is the kill mechanism of a bomb; if a detector shows metal on a person, have them halt and slowly turn around. If the scan still shows metal, have the person open their garments to display what the metal is. If they refuse, turn them away or shoot them with a non-lethal weapon (Tazer® with a real long cable, beanbag round, rubber bullet, etc.). Obviously, the need to communicate instructions is paramount and few US troops speak Arabic. So, we solve that by having a large simple projection TV screen that prints the words in Arabic on a screen in big print that a person can read. The projection equipment is kept safe in a protected housing and a computer operator punches in the code to display the appropriate messages. A voice module repeats the words over a loudspeaker to the person. We want the person taken alive to get information that can be converted to intelligence troops can act upon. Signs should address the fact these steps will be taken before anyone approaches a checkpoint, so you can watch to see who avoids the scanning. A larger metal scanning system can be used to attempt to locate would-be snipers in a pro-active effort to identify and neutralize these individuals. Again, taking them alive will pay great dividends in the future.  

Vehicles should be required to drive thru a barrier system that has a portable vehicle scale on a simple trailer to allow vehicle to drive on it. Personnel are required to leave the vehicle to be scanned and the vehicle is weighed for anomalies. The scale can also have a bomb detection "sniffer" head to look for traces of explosives, with the read-out portion behind a barrier for protection.  

These systems should be part of an S5 equipment package issued to troops on an as-needed basis. It protects friendly forces, separates good guys from bad, reduces wear and tear of the normal friction of occupation duty and helps get stability into the area more quickly. By not killing local people indiscriminately, the US forces gain a better image among the vast majority of Iraqis who want to get to that better life ASAP.


Ed: The current spin is that it doesn't matter that evil weapons didn't exist in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and we won.  Everyone seems to ignore the 200 American troops who have been killed in this adventure, and even more who will live permanently disabled.  And what about the mothers, fathers, wives, children and others of the victims of this "miscalculation".  When 19 GIs died during a dubious mission in Somalia, the Clinton administration was chastised for "unfortunate casualties".  Ten times that number have died in Iraq.  Where is the outrage?  

No one says a word because few in Washington DC give a damn about the troops.  They consider soldiers expendable volunteers.  Yet they volunteered to defend the USA, not to play globocop for an empire.  There is now great concern the US Army will have serious recruiting and reenlistment programs because no one wants to go back for a second tour in Iraq as the Army implements its failed Vietnam rotation policy of one-year individual rotations to hide the cost of occupation. 

I don't understand why the Iraqi army wasn't immediately reconstituted for peacekeeping in Iraq.  Just re-form the same Iraqi divisions where they were based, except the eight Republican Guard divisions whose soldiers are free to join the regular Army. These Iraqi soldiers understand the people, the problems, and have great experience with small arms and civil control. Otherwise, they have no jobs and have nothing better to do than rob, loot, and ambush Americans.  The only challenge is selecting a new cast of Generals.

On June 23, the US ruler in Iraq announced plans for a new Iraqi army: "an initial division of 12,000 men will be ready within a year and will grow to 40,000 within three years — still just a fraction of the Saddam's military force of 400,000... Up to 250,000 ex-soldiers will be eligible for support payments of $50 to $150 per month from the administration." (which are decent wages in Iraq).  

This pace is absurd.  These jobless Iraqis are former soldiers, they have uniforms and plenty of Iraqi military equipment is laying around, so re-form 10 divisions within 30 days.  Since they plan to pay these 250,000 Iraqis anyway, why not make them show up for work, even just picking up trash or patrolling the streets unarmed.  The only rational reason this has not occurred is that US Army Generals are using their soldiers as pawns for their goal of a larger active duty US Army.  The longer US troops remain in Iraq, the better chance they have at getting approval more active duty divisions, and the more "combat command time" officers can accumulate.  Yes, many US Generals are that devious, which is how they became Generals.