The Hellenistic Period – Weapons 400–150 BC I

This follows the great changes in Greek warfare that occurred in the fourth century under the influence of Iphicrates of Athens, Epaminondas of Thebes, and Philip II and Alexander the Great of Macedonia. These led to the hoplite and peltast being replaced by infantry wielding a two-handed pike called a sarissa, and to the greater use of heavy cavalry. The third century saw the rise and fall of the use of elephants and, to a much lesser extent, the use of chariots again. Finally, the second century marked the rise of Rome and the demise of the Greek kingdoms as an effective military force. The same period also saw the development of siege artillery (catapults), which will be touched on.

The evidence for this period is widespread across the three spheres of artistic representations, archaeological artefacts and literary evidence, but there are still major problems with interpretation. Rather than the vase painting of the Archaic and Classical periods, it is sculpture and, to a lesser extent, coinage that provide the best artistic evidence for the period. These start with Athenian funerary monuments and the Alexander Sarcophagus, and end with the great Hellenistic monuments such as the Artemision at Magnesia-on-the-Meander and the altar friezes at Pergamum.

Of the archaeological finds, pride of place must go to the ones from the royal tombs at Vergina in Macedonia; but there have also been outstanding finds of an iron muscle cuirass from Thesprotia in north-west Greece, and cataphract armour from Ai Khanum in Afghanistan.

As for literature, we have good secondary sources in Diodorus and Arrian for the earlier period, and an excellent primary source in Polybius for the later period. There are also an increasing number of useful contemporary inscriptions, like that from Amphipolis referring to military equipment under Philip V.

Another difference in this period is the geographical coverage. Apart from Greece and the islands, this chapter includes Macedonia in north Greece to a much greater extent. Philip II of Macedonia conquered the rest of Greece and then his son, Alexander the Great, conquered the Persian Empire, including Egypt, and pushed on to India. After his death, various generals – the Successors – quarrelled over the spoils. These disputes eventually settled down into new kingdoms: Macedonia itself, the Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire of Syria and the East, and several smaller kingdoms that came and went. The Greek states of mainland Greece obtained varying degrees of freedom, but were generally under the Macedonian yoke. This means that much of the evidence for later Greek warfare comes from Egypt, Asia Minor, the Near East and the Far East – even as far as Afghanistan. These Hellenistic kingdoms used the same troop types as one another, with minor differences. Mainland Greece tended to continue with peltast and hoplite warfare using the ordinary spear, but most changed eventually to the sarissa and Macedonian-style warfare. After Alexander they played a small part in warfare, which was dominated by the larger Hellenistic states.

THE REFORMS OF IPHICRATES

We have seen how light troops called peltasts had been effective against the Spartans at Sphacteria in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians repeated the feat in 390 when Iphicrates defeated a unit of Spartan hoplites in the field with a force of peltasts (Connolly 1998, p. 49). He later campaigned with his peltasts in Egypt and, after returning from there in 373, he apparently instituted some military reforms. We do not have a contemporary source for this fact, but only the later reports of Diodorus Siculus (Diodorus XV, 44, 2–4) and Cornelius Nepos (Life of Iphicrates XI), which are so similar that they must have copied the same earlier source. The following is Best’s translation of Diodorus (Best 1969, pp. 102 ff.):

Soldiers who used to carry the aspis (hoplite shield) and were called hoplites, now carried the pelta and were called peltasts. Their new spears were half as long again or even twice as long as before. Sword length was doubled. He introduced a new type of boot called the Iphicratid, and linen corslets replaced the bronze cuirass.

The original author of this can have known nothing of the military practices of the early fourth century as it is full of errors, leaving interpretation difficult. The first clear misconception is that hoplites became peltasts. We have seen that these two infantry types had co-existed since the Peloponnesian War. The other misconception concerns the corslet. Linen corslets had replaced bronze cuirasses for most hoplites at the end of the sixth century. By 400, if not earlier, it seems that the leather spolas was the main body armour of choice, apart from cavalry and officers who wore a bronze cuirass as well. It may be that Iphicrates had come across linen corslets on his campaign in Egypt, where the material originated, and brought back some to give body armour to peltasts for the first time, but there is no other corroborating evidence for this. Parke (1993) accepted these reforms as a bringing together of hoplites and peltasts to form one infantry type, with peltasts adopting the spear instead of javelins, and hoplites adopting the lighter shield of the peltast. Best (1969, plates 3, 4) has shown, however, that a thrusting spear was sometimes used by peltasts in the fifth century, although perhaps Iphicrates made it more common. Both Parke and Best accept the idea of hoplites discarding bronze cuirasses for linen, which we have shown to be incorrect and which is a problem in the original source. Many peltasts were mercenaries from Thrace, and Thracian hoplites did still wear bronze cuirasses throughout the fifth century (see below). It is possible, then, that Iphicrates took a force of Thracian hoplites as well as peltasts to Egypt, or perhaps he was put in charge of some on his return, and it was they who discarded bronze cuirasses for linen corslets and became peltasts. The Iphicratid boot sounds very much like the high boots often worn by peltasts as early as the fifth century, and there is no reason why it should not have been worn instead of greaves. It may have been adopted from the cavalry boot mentioned by Xenophon. The lengthening of the spear suggests a forerunner of the Macedonian sarissa, or pike, and this will be looked into when we examine infantry weapons.

The main infantry body of troops, the phalanx, continued to be made up of soldiers called hoplites throughout the rest of the fourth century, and it is uncertain whether these new peltasts existed outside one or two campaigns of Iphicrates. Some of the ideas certainly stuck, however, and we shall be examining those as they occur. The main body of this chapter concerns the armies of Macedonia and the successor Hellenistic kingdoms, which consisted of many different troop types. We will look at the infantry first.

THE SARISSA

Hoplite spears seem to have been about 7 or 8ft in length from the limited evidence we have (Anderson, in Hanson 1991, pp. 22–3), so the doubling by Iphicrates would give a length of 14 – 16ft. This approaches the length of the later Macedonian sarissas and makes the spear a two-handed weapon. Whether Iphicrates’ peltasts ever used a two-handed pike like this is doubtful. It would have removed the mobility of the soldier. It is possible that our late sources are exaggerating the lengthening of the spear and that Iphicrates did lengthen it, but not by so much. Spears up to about 13–14ft long can be managed with one hand, especially if used underarm.

In 371 BC the Thebans defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra, much to everyone’s surprise. The main reason for their victory was that they had a phalanx that was fifty men deep instead of the usual eight to twelve, and they put their crack troops, the Sacred Band, on their left wing. This put them opposite the Spartan king and his bodyguard, and the depth of the Theban phalanx simply steamrollered the Spartans. The rest of the Spartan army (made up of allies) melted away. It is possible that an additional reason for this victory was that the Thebans were using longer spears, of the Iphicratid model. It seems most likely that the hoplite phalanx charged with the spear underarm, and a longer spear would have presented more spear points to the enemy (Hanson 1989, p. 162). A possible argument against this is that in 377 the Thebans were certainly still using normal hoplite spears, as they threw some at the Spartans like javelins (Anderson, in Hanson 1991, p. 20). The main argument in favour is that Philip II of Macedonia, in north Greece, was a hostage at Thebes at the time of their victories after Leuctra, and when he returned to Macedonia he built up an army which eventually included the two-handed sarissa. It seems likely that he got the idea from the Thebans, or developed it from what they had already achieved. It is still not certain that the sarissa in Philip and Alexander the Great’s time was two-handed, but given the fact that both men used the phalanx – now generally sixteen men deep – as a holding force while attacking with cavalry, it does seem likely (Sekunda 1984, p. 27).

The length of the sarissa has caused much academic argument over the years. Theophrastus, writing in the late fourth century, mentions that the Cornelian cherry tree, whose wood was commonly used for spears, grew to a height of 12 cubits, the length of the longest Macedonian sarissa (Theophrastus 3.12.2). Polybius, writing in the second century, states that the sarissa was 14 cubits long. Ten of these cubits projected in front of the soldier, and the spears of the first five ranks projected in front of the phalanx (Polybius XVIII, 29, 2–30, 4). Twelve and 14 cubits are commonly translated as 18 and 21ft, as the cubit is to be regarded as the Attic cubit, a standard measurement. Tarn (1930, pp. 15–16) argued that the measurements were shorter Macedonian cubits, giving a Theophrastan length of only 13ft. He suggested this because the sarissa was used by cavalry under Alexander, as well as by the infantry, and 18ft would have been an impractical length. However, it is unlikely that an author like Theophrastus would use anything other than the standard Attic cubit, as he was writing for an Athenian audience. Also, it seems likely that the cavalry sarissa was a different weapon, the word sarissa simply meaning ‘a long spear’ (see below). Studies of the sarissa have also been hampered by Markle’s reconstructions (1977 and 1978) in the 1970s. Connolly (2000, pp. 105–8) has shown that the sarissa head used by Markle is in fact a heavy butt end, and that sarissas had much lighter heads to aid balance. He has also shown that the sarissa was not of uniform thickness all along its length, but tapered from butt to point, also as an aid to balance. Using these criteria, Connolly has reconstructed 12-cubit sarissas weighing only just over 4kg, about two-thirds that of Markle’s reconstruction. We still have to consider the difference between the lengths given by Theophrastus and Polybius. This seems entirely chronological, as Polybius himself says that sarissas were longer in earlier times (Polybius XVIII, 29). So we might suggest that the sarissa used by Philip and Alexander was 18ft long; in the third century it grew to perhaps 24ft, the longest manageable pike; and that by Polybius’s time in the third century, it had reduced again to 21ft. It seems likely that the earliest sarissas were of Cornelian cherrywood, which is hinted at by Theophrastus, but that later examples – too long to be easily obtained from that tree – were much more likely to be made of ash, like sixteenth- and seventeenth-century pikes. Ash has the added advantage of being a lighter wood, and so longer sarissas could be made which were no heavier than the shorter cherrywood ones (Lumpkin 1975, p. 197).

The Macedonian phalanx was organised into units of 256 men, called syntagmas or speiras (Connolly 1998, p. 76). These were generally arranged in blocks of sixteen by sixteen, although at Magnesia in 190 Antiochus III arranged his phalanx to a depth of thirty-two men. The overall size of the phalanx was also larger, as Philip II had more men at his disposal. Philip’s phalanx was usually 20,000 men, supported by 2,000–3,000 horse. Alexander would invade Persia with a phalanx of 32,000 and 5,100 horsemen. As was mentioned earlier, the points of the sarissas of the first five ranks projected in front of the phalanx. The other men held their sarissas upright to avoid spearing their own men, and this also helped to break up missile attacks. This new style of phalanx was much more unwieldy than the hoplite phalanx had been, and Connolly (2000, p. 111) has demonstrated the difficulties of manoeuvring it into position. With its sarissas lowered the phalanx was a formidable fighting machine, which held up the Persian armies with ease while Alexander won his victories with the cavalry. Later Hellenistic battles, such as Ipsus in 301 and Raphia in 217, had huge phalanxes locked in combat almost to no avail, while the battles were won and lost by cavalry encounters. The Battle of Ipsus, when Antigonus fought Seleucus and Lysimachus, featured a staggering clash of 70,000 men in each phalanx, supported by 10,000 cavalry. It was the Romans who finally showed the weakness of this type of phalanx. Because of the need for cohesion, battles tended to be fought on flat ground, where the phalanxes could manoeuvre carefully. The flexible Roman legionaries could fight anywhere and, when they drew the Macedonian phalanx onto rough ground at the Battle of Pydna in 168, they annihilated it and put an end to the Macedonian kingdom. In his campaigns in Italy in the 270s, Pyrrhus tried to add flexibility to his phalanx by inserting bodies of Italian light troops in between each phalanx block, which seems to have been fairly effective but was not copied elsewhere. At the Battle of Magnesia in 190, Antiochus III inserted elephants and their light troop guards in between phalanx blocks, but that became a disaster when the Romans attacked the elephants with archers and javelin men and panicked them. They then routed and broke up the Greek phalanx.

Apart from the phalanx, Alexander the Great also had a body of men called the hypaspists (shield-bearers). These men were often used for scouting manoeuvres and usually formed up in battle between the cavalry and the phalanx. They were apparently lightly armoured, therefore, although the name suggests they carried substantial shields. The warriors on the Alexander Sarcophagus (which dates to the late fourth century, and was the tomb for King Abdalonymus of Sidon) carry large hoplite shields of c. 85–90cm and must therefore have been using a spear rather than a sarissa. It is possible that these men are meant to be hypaspists (Sekunda 1984, pp. 28–30)

Newcastle University has a bronze spear butt in its collection, which is marked ‘MAK’, showing it was an official Macedonian issue. It must be from a spear rather than a sarissa, and may therefore be from one of those used by the hypaspists. There is also the possibility that it comes from a cavalry spear. The Macedonian army was issued with all its equipment by the state, though this is the only known marked item apart from sling bullets and ballista bolts marked with Philip’s name.

SWORDS

In the reforms of Iphicrates mentioned by Diodorus and Nepos, swords were also apparently doubled in length. However, there appears to be no real archaeological evidence for this, and the two types of hoplite sword – the straight sword and the recurved machaira or kopis – continued in use. By the second century the latter sword was certainly the more popular, and Polybius mentions that the Romans reinforced their shields with iron to withstand them. Most surviving machairas are 35 to 70cm long, although the example from the cuirass tomb in Thesprotia (see below) is 77cm (Choremis 1980, pp. 15–16). These longer examples are almost certainly cavalry versions, and a sword length of under 50cm for infantry seems more likely. At their widest point these blades measure about 5cm, and the bone or wood handles are usually in the form of animal heads. Examples on the Pergamum frieze have elaborate scabbards decorated with tassels (Jaeckel 1965, figs 5–7). The straight sword is also featured on the Pergamum reliefs and on the tomb paintings of Lyson and Kallikles (Hatzopoulos and Loukopoulos 1980, pp. 60–1), dating to the early second century BC. The latter have sword handles of a Celtic style, no doubt adopted following the Celtic invasions of the early third century.

INFANTRY SHIELDS

The Macedonian shield has been studied at length by Liampi (1998). The adoption of the two-handed sarissa by the infantry obviously necessitated a change in the shield, as the left hand now needed to be able to protrude beyond the shield rim to grasp the sarissa. Surviving shields seem to suggest a diameter of c. 65–75cm. At the top end of this range they may have been cavalry shields, but Connolly (2000, pp. 109–10) has successfully used 63cm shields in a reconstructed phalanx, and the pictures suggest that larger shields of up to 70cm would not have been a problem. The shield seems to have had a shoulder strap, which would also have taken some of the weight of the sarissa in the lowered position, while it also enabled the shield to be carried on the back, leaving both hands free to manoeuvre the pike. A hoplite grip was still employed, with the hand also slipping through the handgrip to grasp the sarissa. This also meant that, should the sarissa be lost or broken, the grip could be used like a hoplite grip and the sword drawn, as is shown on the second-century Aemilius Paullus monument (Kahler 1965, plate 12).

Third-century depictions of this shield show it to have been very convex and there must have been quite a lot of padding behind the metallic face, which cannot all have been a wooden core. The bronze facings that survive, and the literary mentions of ‘bronze-shields’ and ‘silver-shields’, show that these shields cannot have been wicker peltast ones, as suggested by Plutarch at the Battle of Pydna. He also mentions small daggers as compared to Roman swords, and is clearly indulging in literary exaggeration. By far the commonest designs on Macedonian shields are geometric. A small shield from Olympia, and the paintings in the tomb of Lyson and Kallikles (Liampi 1998, plates 1, 3), show a large central circle and smaller circles around the edge. These were all embossed onto the bronze sheet. Occasionally the shields feature a central Macedonian star or head of a god or, on one occasion, an eagle (Liampi 1998, plates 2, 14); but what is most remarkable is the uniformity of design from 300 down until 150. The Lyson and Kallikles paintings show us that, apart from the embossing, these shields were painted as well. Sometimes different regiments, or wings of the phalanx, were distinguished by their shields. Livy describes the two halves of the Macedonian phalanx as ‘bronze-shields’ and ‘white-shields’. The phalanx of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king in the late third and early second centuries, all had bronze shields, although he had a separate guard unit called the ‘silver-shields’, a name which had been used for a corps of elite troops since Alexander the Great’s time. In 167 at the Daphne parade (Polybius XXX, 35.3), Antiochus IV showed off a phalanx of 20,000. Part of this, or possibly in addition to this, was a unit of 5,000 ‘bronze-shields’, some (5,000?) ‘silver-shields’, and perhaps some ‘gold-shields’, although there are difficulties with the text (Sekunda 1994b, pp. 14–15).

The shields of the hypaspists shown on the Alexander Sarcophagus have very elaborate portraits of gods and goddesses painted on, and one has an apparent portrait of Alexander the Great as King of Persia (although these have all virtually completely faded away now). Although Sekunda suggests these are regimental devices, I cannot see such devices being applied to the army in general, owing to the time and expense of applying such decoration. I think they are far more likely to be elaborate pictures dreamed up by the artist of the sarcophagus (Sekunda 1984, plates F, G, H). The shield from the tomb of Philip II is a highly elaborate affair covered in gold and ivory, although the basic structure was of wood covered with leather. It tells us little about the decoration of combat shields (Vokotopoulou 1995, pp. 157–8).

HELMETS

The soldiers of the phalanx had a wide variety of helmets to choose from, and these same helmets were also worn by the heavy cavalry, and so they will all be discussed here following the designations and order given by Dintsis. The Boeotian helmet was mentioned in Chapter 4, and it continued to be worn throughout the period: indeed, until about 50 BC. Usually thought of as a cavalry helmet, it was possibly worn by infantry from the third century onwards. Later versions are shown on coins and sculpture with cheek pieces and horsehair crests coming from a central knob. Alexander’s companion cavalry almost certainly wore this helmet (Sekunda 1984, plates A, C, D).

The Phrygian helmet appeared from about 400 and lasted until c. 100. It is similar to the Thracian helmet, but its most conspicuous feature is a high crown very similar to a Phrygian cap. It usually has a peak, cheek pieces, and sometimes an extra brow guard. An example in the Ioannina Museum in north Greece shows tubes at the sides and at the top of the crest to hold plumes (Sekunda 1984, p. 26). Other examples from Thrace are decorated with silver appliqués (Webber 2001, pp. 11, 23, figs 2, 4). Nearly all the infantry on the Alexander Sarcophagus are wearing this type of helmet, and it also seems to have been the favoured cavalry helmet under Philip II (Sekunda 1984, plate D). It is being worn by soldiers on the Pergamum frieze, too.

The tomb of Philip II produced an iron helmet of this type, where the crest is a raised, flat piece of iron rather than the hollow crest of the bronze Phrygian helmets, and this is no doubt because of the difficulties in working in iron. The reinforcement crests on the front of these and other Hellenistic helmets seem to appear first in the third century, and Connolly (1998, p. 80) has suggested that this was a response to the Celtic invasions of that time. The Celts wielded long slashing swords, and extra reinforcement would have been a useful addition.

The Pilos helmet (Fig. 48) also continued in use until about 150. After Alexander, this helmet incorporated the wavy lower edge of the Boeotian helmet, and is called a ‘Cone’ helmet by Dintsis. There is a fine example of this type in the Ashmolean Museum. An example with a Celtic-style crest knob is shown being worn by an officer, possibly from the cavalry, on the Artemision at Magnesia-on-the-Meander dating from the early second century BC.

The Corinthian helmet, which by 400 had degenerated into a cap called by Connolly (1998, p. 110, no. 5) an Italo-Corinthian helmet, seems to have remained popular in Sicily and south Italy, but not among the Hellenistic states, although there is one example on the Pergamum frieze (Jaeckel 1965, fig. 25). Cheek pieces also appeared later with this type of helmet, and it sometimes had a fore-and-aft crest or a metal ridge in place of a crest.

The Attic helmet also continued throughout this period. It features on the Alexander Sarcophagus, and developed into Dintsis’s Pseudo-Attic helmet, which is generally called Thracian by other modern writers. A good number of examples are known from Thrace, but it does seem to be an Attic derivative and not to have derived from Thrace. This helmet has a peak and cheek pieces, and third-century and later examples have a brow protector. Instead of a crest it usually has a fore-and-aft ridge for added protection. An example from Thrace is of the usual bronze, but originally it had iron cheek pieces (Webber 2001, p. 24), and two wonderful iron specimens are known from a cuirass tomb at Prodromi in Thesprotia near Epirus (Choremis 1980, pp. 13–14). These are both very similar in design, but one has been completely sheathed in silver, and so it seems that we have here examples of a battlefield helmet and a parade helmet. They date from about 330. The warrior in this tomb was certainly an officer and probably a cavalryman, but Thracian helmets are also seen being worn by infantry soldiers on the tomb of Antiochus II, dating to 246 (Head 1981, figs 8–10).

A final item of headgear that warrants a brief mention is the kausia. This is a traditional Macedonian hat rather like a beret. It features on the Alexander mosaic at Pompeii, being worn by a light infantryman who may be a hypaspist (Sekunda 1984, p. 30). A kausia is also pictured on the victory frieze at Pergamum, but I think it unlikely that it was used as a regular item of protective headgear for the phalanx, since we have so many references to the use of helmets. It was possibly worn off duty, like an army forage cap, and was clearly a very popular item. Kings of the Greek Kingdom of Bactria, in what are modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, are often shown wearing the kausia on coins as late as 100 BC.

Helmets were also frequently painted, and the tomb of Lyson and Kallikles is our best evidence for this. One helmet is coloured red with a black peak, yellow cheek pieces and crest, whereas the other is yellow with a black and a red stripe, silver peak and cheek pieces and a large orange plume. I would suggest that the yellow paint on these helmet pictures shows the original bronze, with the rest being painted additions on the helmets.

We have already mentioned the use of iron helmets, of which that from the tomb of Philip II is the earliest known. The expense of these meant that they were unlikely to have been used for the general rank and file, but could have been purchased by wealthy officers, perhaps especially among the cavalry. They would certainly have been stronger helmets, if rather heavier than bronze. The Roman army did not equip their legionaries with iron helmets until the time of Marius or Caesar (first century BC), and it is unlikely that any of the Hellenistic kingdoms could have been more generous. There are ambiguities with a couple of sculptures, which use blue paint. The soldiers on the Alexander Sarcophagus have blue helmets, which Sekunda (1984, plates F, G) interprets as having been painted blue, but there is a slim chance that they are meant to be iron helmets. There is also a third-century grave stele from Ptolemaic Egypt showing an officer with a helmet and a muscle cuirass both painted blue, which Head (1981, p. 24) has interpreted as representing iron. The fact that we are dealing with an officer here, both items are painted blue, and we are fifty or so years later in date, all make this a far more likely candidate for the use of iron armour.

THRACIAN BODY ARMOUR

As with helmets, the body armour in use at this period was not generally specific to either infantry or cavalry, so both cuirasses and corslets will be discussed here. While most scholars agree that Alexander’s Companion cavalry and later Hellenistic cavalry wore cuirasses, there remains some doubt as to what was worn by the infantry, and whether that changed over time.

We will look at metal cuirasses first. Macedonia and Thrace were somewhat backward compared to southern Greece in the Classical period, but in the later sixth century they adopted bronze armour in the form of the bell cuirass and the Illyrian and Corinthian helmets, just as these forms were dying out in the south. Because Thracians often buried their warriors with their armour, we have a series of nine cuirasses from c. 500 to c. 350 that throw light on the metal working of northern Greece of the fifth and fourth centuries (Ognenova 1961, passim). The bell cuirasses of the early fifth century have simple lines with wide bottom flanges and a minimum of anatomical decoration, but it is the cuirasses of the later fifth and early fourth centuries that are most interesting. The cuirass from Dalboki, now in the Ashmolean Museum, has been dated to the early fifth century by Vickers (2002, p. 62), although the tomb it comes from is clearly after 430. Ognenova dates the cuirass to c. 400 and the similar ‘Basova Mogila’ cuirass to c. 380, and this seems more likely to me. Unlike the earlier Thracian cuirasses, these have no high collar but a large semi-circular neck opening instead, and also much larger armholes. The edges are also not rolled over bronze wire, but consist of a flattened border over 1cm wide, marked every 2–3cm by an iron nail. At first sight it seems that these borders may have been for the folding over of a linen or leather lining, but the wide neck hole seems very vulnerable and Ognenova (1961, pp. 528, 533; see also Webber 2001, plate E) suggests this was covered by an iron pectoral. Ognenova herself points out, however, that iron pectorals are sometimes found without a bronze cuirass, and vice versa. The example from Dalboki had a gold pectoral with traces of iron on the back, so this may have been an example of the pectoral as iron armour. Traces of iron at the neck and armholes of the Dalboki cuirass, and especially on the ‘Basova Mogila’ cuirass, do not appear to be from pectorals, however. They seem to me to suggest that these bell cuirasses were half bronze and half iron. The bronze survives better and we are missing an iron collar, iron-reinforced armholes and an iron flange at the bottom. This is reminiscent of the bronze Thracian helmet with iron cheek pieces mentioned above, and shows that Thracians were working in iron fifty years before the first pieces of armour completely made of iron appeared. However, it is important to note that this evidence exists mainly because of Thracian burial customs. It seems highly likely that other areas in Greece experimented with bronze and iron cuirasses, and helmets in the later fourth century, but there just isn’t the evidence because such pieces were hardly ever buried. If they were offered at sanctuaries they would have rusted away before disposal, and sanctuary offerings were severely on the decline by then. The three Greek iron helmets and two iron cuirasses we have come from two tombs: that of Philip II and the cuirass tomb from Prodromi in Thesprotia.

 

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END OF THE MISSILE GAP

Starting in the summer of 1961 the United States flew a number of successful missions of the Corona satellite, which provided details on a number of Soviet sites. In addition there were now materials from Penkovsky documenting Russian difficulties with their ICBM program as well as submarines stuck at port, a lack of bombers on alert, and gaps in early warning coverage. Because this material jarred so much with prior expectations, and Penkovsky’s own reliability was still uncertain, it did not have an immediate impact on estimates. The extent of the US comparative advantage dawned on American officials over the summer. The June National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), providing the official view for the height of the Berlin crisis, remained in cautious mode. Although almost as soon as it was completed analysts suspected it was over pessimistic, it was not until the start of September that the president was informed that earlier estimates of 50 to 100 operational Soviet missiles were “probably too high.” It was the September 1961 NIE that decisively brought down the estimated number of operational Russian ICBMs from between 140 and 200 to between 10 and 25 (still an exaggeration). Important was that the force level would “not increase markedly during the months immediately ahead.” It described the problems the Kremlin had with its first-generation ICBMs, too cumbersome to be deployed in any number.

Should Khrushchev, in the throes of using nuclear intimidation to weaken Western resolve on Berlin, be told that the Americans knew just how boastful his claims had been? The Soviet leader had habitually inflated his country’s relative strength. Some deflation might be in order. On the other hand, there was a risk that the uncomfortable news would appear threatening and lead to a surge of Soviet activity in an effort to catch up, while also revealing to Moscow the quality of American intelligence. Unofficially the news soon leaked. Joe Alsop, the leading promoter of the “missile gap” thesis, reported on the drastic reduction of the figures at the end of September. On 11 October Kennedy was asked at a news conference whether the United States had done enough to convince the “leaders of the Soviet Union that we are determined to meet force with force in Berlin.” He replied by recounting all that had been achieved on the American side since the start of the year: 14 percent more on the defense budget, increases in nuclear delivery vehicles and their alert status; more nonnuclear forces, including two extra divisions. He said nothing, however, about the Soviet side.

Even this claim goaded Khrushchev. A week later, when speaking at the Twenty-second Party Congress, he went out of his way to deny American strength.

We believe today that the forces of socialism, all the forces that stand for peace, are today more powerful than the aggressive imperialist forces. But even if one agreed with the President of the United States that our forces are equal—he said this quite recently—it would plainly be unwise to threaten war.

His theme was that the aggressive Western nations (“imperialist Americans” in league with “revanchist and militarist Germans” and so on) had required the socialist bloc to step up its own military efforts. The response he announced, however, was hardly modest: The current nuclear test series was to end that month with a 50-megaton bomb. This was, as one of the scientists involved later acknowledged, more about intimidation than military need. It could have been boosted to 100 megatons and then “would have generated a gigantic, fiery tornado, engulfing an area larger than…the state of Maryland.” No rocket could actually carry such a weapon. This was a time when the most the Soviet strategic rocket forces could accomplish was one launch against four “hostage cities”—New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Before the test, Washington had taken the propaganda war a step further. On 21 October Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, in a deliberately dry presentation, enumerated American nuclear strength—six hundred strategic bombers, six Polaris submarines, dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles—and then continued:

The destructive power which the United States could bring to bear even after a Soviet surprise attack upon our forces would be as great as—perhaps greater than—the total undamaged forces which the enemy can threaten to launch against the United States in a first strike. In short, we have a second strike capability which is at least as extensive as what the Soviets can deliver by striking first.

To ensure that the message got back to Moscow there were briefings for NATO allies, complete with pictures, that were almost certain to be picked up by the KGB.

The party congress had already been a difficult one for Khrushchev, as he had denounced domestic critics and argued publicly with the Chinese, who had walked out. Now the United States was challenging his central strategic claim. When details reached the congress, the planned speech of Defense Minister Marshal Rodion Malinovsky was brought forward to 23 October. Malinovsky repeated Kennedy’s description of the American buildup and then mentioned Gilpatric’s speech: “What is there to say to this latest threat, to this petty speech? Only one thing: The threat does not frighten us! (stormy applause).”

While American warheads were only 5 megatons, Russian warheads had yields ranging from “20 to 30 to 100 megatons” and could be delivered anywhere. The American “madmen” had better recalculate

Kennedy’s main recalculation, given Khrushchev’s reliance on his testing program, was that he could no longer delay authorizing preparations for U.S. atmospheric tests. A National Security Council (NSC) committee urged their resumption by the start of April 1962. Kennedy agreed, but only if reductions could be made in the number of tests, the duration of the series, and the amount of radioactive fallout generated, and he still reserved judgment on the final decision to test. The disappointment this caused among the liberals in the White House was reflected in a powerful memo from Schlesinger. If it was the case, as was continually asserted, that the United States was “ahead” in the technology, then it was hard to explain why the United States would suddenly become weak if it desisted from further tests. As a clincher, Schlesinger added a Gallup Poll: American opinion was evenly divided on the matter, but there had been a real swing against resumption compared with the commanding majority four months earlier (during the height of the Berlin crisis). Bundy urged the president to reconsider, although every other senior figure in the administration wanted the testing. The NSC staff now provided the only opposition. In January Carl Kaysen produced a paper demonstrating the virtues of proposing a ban only on atmospheric tests, which would both sustain the nuclear standoff and put the onus back on Moscow. John McNaughton in the Pentagon was already coming to a similar conclusion. The new ideas neither stopped the resumption of testing nor led to immediate modifications of Western proposals for a comprehensive test ban, but they planted the seeds of a thought.

Another issue for reappraisal was the size of the American missile force. The developing missile gap in reverse had been sufficiently striking for Kaysen to raise the question as to whether the United States was now aiming too high, with numbers having been based on an exaggerated NIE. Was there a risk that this might influence adversely a future Soviet buildup? He continued to argue from this point that the proposed missile force was too high, although with limited effect. Enthoven’s analysis also supported the view that the relatively small number of large cities in the Soviet Union meant that adding extra nuclear weapons soon reached a point of diminishing marginal returns. In the end—at a meeting in November—ICBM numbers were set at 1,200 (they were cut in 1963 to 1,000). This was half the number the air force was seeking, though about 50 percent higher than McNamara and Kennedy thought really justified, but the minimum sustainable politically. The fact that this decision was accompanied by public assertions of American nuclear superiority—from Kennedy at a press conference on 8 November (“[W]e… would not trade places with anyone in the world”) and then McNamara in a magazine interview (“[W]e have nuclear power several times that of the Soviet Union”)—indicates that Kennedy was not expecting to be criticized for excess. He acknowledged this in early 1962, blaming the congressional demand for more weapons. “I don’t think such sentiments can be rationally defended, but there it is.”

THE CAVITY MAGNETRON CLUE

Depth charges exploding after being dropped by the destroyer HMS VANOC over the spot indicated by the submarine detecting apparatus, which reported a contact during an Atlantic Convoy, May 1943. Some crew members can be seen at the stern watching the explosion.

A Type IXD2 under attack from US aircraft. The two flakvierling appears to be pointed in different directions, indicating it is under attack by more than one aircraft.

Slow Convoy, SC 127 eluded U-boats at one of the most difficult times in the Battle of the Atlantic. The ocean was so full of U-boats that the first sea lord feared that “We can no longer rely on evading the U-boat packs and, hence, we shall have to fight the convoys through them.” In addition, the B-Dienst was at the height of its powers, solving 5 to 10 percent of its intercepts in time for Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz C-in-C U-boat command, to use them in tactical decisions. Early information sometimes enabled him to move his U-boats so that a convoy would encounter the middle of the pack, enabling more boats to attack than if the convoy met only one wing of the patrol line.

But the first signs of German weakness had begun to appear. Stronger Allied defenses—more escorts, more airplanes—kept the U-boats from attacking with the vigor and daring of the previous years. Dönitz’s exhortations grew shriller, complaining that anyone who failed to engage the enemy closely was “no true U-boat man.” The rate of success declined. The great convoy battle of March 1943, during which U-boats sank Allied ships at twice the rate at which they were being built, was followed in April by a fight that brought poorer results: the Germans sank twelve merchant vessels, but at a cost of seven U-boats. The situation worsened the following month.

“In the Atlantic in May,” wrote Dönitz in his war diary, “the sinking of 10,000 tons was paid for with the loss of one U-boat, while not very long before that time one boat was lost for the sinking of about 100,000 tons.” He called such losses “unbearable,” and on May 24 he pulled the seventeen submarines on the North Atlantic convoy routes out and sent them to what he thought was a “less air-endangered area” to the south. From there they could operate against the convoys between the United States and the Strait of Gibraltar, through which supplies for the American forces in North Africa had to pass. But this was not the vital traffic whose loss would defeat Britain and keep the Allies from mounting an assault against Festung Europa. The move marked a major defeat for the Germans in the vital Battle of the Atlantic.

The success of Allied convoy diversions in January and February 1943 had again raised Dönitz’s suspicions about the security of his ciphers. For two and a half weeks in January, U-boat sweeps had discovered no convoys along the North Atlantic routes to Britain; for the first time since the United States entered the war, merchant ship losses in all Atlantic areas fell below one a day. In February, the few convoys that were not sighted by chance were spotted only by single boats at the ends of patrol lines, suggesting that the convoys were going around the wolfpacks. Dönitz’s concern was intensified when Allied destroyers came upon the U-459 as it was refueling an Italian U-boat some 300 miles east of St. Paul’s Rock, the desolate traditional division between the North and the South Atlantic, far from any destroyer bases and far from the normal convoy lanes. And the B-Dienst’s solutions of Allied U-boat situation reports raised suspicions. On April 18, for example, an intercept of an Allied submarine situation report showed that the Americans suspected the presence of twenty submarines in the rectangle running from 48° to 54° north latitude and from 38° to 45° west longitude. And the report was correct: TITMOUSE was in the area with eighteen boats.

Dönitz asked Vice-Admiral Erhard Maertens, Chief of Office of Naval Intelligence, Naval War Command, to investigate, as he had done in 1941. Again Maertens exculpated Enigma. The British U-boat situation reports themselves stated that the Allies’ information on submarine locations was coming from direction-finding, he said. Documents found in a French Resistance agent’s radio station showed that the Allies were obtaining information from the Resistance on departure times for U-boats and on whether they were headed for the North or the South Atlantic, enabling the foe, Maertens said, to estimate submarine movements with some accuracy. The British information about the wolfpacks DOLPHIN and FALCON was vague; if the information had come from cryptanalysis, it would have been exact. At worst, capture, perhaps of a cue word, which—contrary to all regulations—would have to have been written down, might have given the Allies insight into some messages. The chief of the Naval War Staff conceded that a capture was possible, and he approved Maertens’s plan to establish separate regional key nets.

Maertens was supported in his position by the coincidental discovery on February 2, in a British bomber downed at Rotterdam, of a new type of radar. It was based on the cavity magnetron, a block of copper with eight cylindrical holes bored in it parallel to and around a central axis. These hollows enabled the radar to operate on a wavelength of 9.7 centimeters, much shorter than the earlier 1.5 meters. Because its wavelength was measured in centimeters, the device was called “centimetric radar.” It gave the British two advantages: it depicted objects—coastlines, buildings—on the radar screen, which the older radar could not do, and the U-boats’ radar warning receivers, which were tuned to the longer wavelength, could not detect it. With centimetric radar, British airplanes could thus locate surfaced U-boats from a distance without alerting the submarines and could attack them by surprise. The Royal Air Force Coastal Command had begun doing just this with some success against U-boats traversing the Bay of Biscay. Though Dönitz had as yet no evidence that centimetric radar was being used in the Battle of the Atlantic, the use of this powerful new weapon could not be excluded.

So Dönitz accepted Maertens’s view that Kriegsmarine ciphers were secure and that the leaks were elsewhere. “With the exception of two or three doubtful cases,” he confided to his war diary, “enemy information about the position of our U-boats appears to have been obtained mainly from extensive use of airborne radar, and the resultant plotting of these positions has enabled him [the enemy] to organize effective diversion of convoy traffic.” And when SC 127 circumvented a wolfpack, he gave as the most probable reason that “the enemy has an extraordinary location device, usable from airplanes, whose effect cannot be observed by our boats.”

Nevertheless, suspicion that the Allies were solving naval Enigma messages would not die. Dönitz tried to reconcile his concern with Maertens’s reassurances, but he was not always able to. On April 27, as SC 127 was slogging across the ocean, the Allies, in a U-boat situation report that the B-Dienst solved, reported five U-boats within a 150-mile radius of 50° north, 34° west. “For some time resupplying has been carried out here,” Dönitz noted. “It remains disquieting that they were suspected precisely in the area in which no radioing had been done for several days.”

A few days later, Dönitz, for reasons that went beyond his fears about cryptosecurity, fired Maertens, sending him to Kiel to run a shipyard. He replaced him with the glass-eyed Captain Ludwig Stummel, Maertens’s chief of staff, promoting him to rear admiral. Stummel maintained, as always, that Enigma “had, on the basis of repeated and thorough investigations, proved itself up to the present as unbreakable and militarily resistant.” Dönitz apparently believed him, for in June he was telling the Japanese ambassador that U-boat losses were due to a new Allied direction-finding system.

Despite his claims, Stummel began in 1944 to prepare a measure that would carry the Kriegsmarine’s basic cryptosecurity principle to its logical conclusion. By subdividing the navy’s cryptosystem into as many key nets as necessary, Stummel sought to reduce the number of messages in a common key. As the volume of traffic grew, Enigma key nets had expanded from one in the early 1930s to separate home and foreign key nets and to the addition of a U-boat net and many others by 1943, when traffic averaged 2,563 radio messages a day. Now Stummel proposed to give each U-boat its own key.

Individual keys were issued to some submarines shortly after D-Day, June 6, 1944; they began to be widely used in November, and by February 1945 they were carrying practically all the operational traffic of the U-Boat Command. In that month, Dönitz told Hitler that Allied knowledge of wolfpacks came from radar and betrayal. By then Stummel had also been ousted, but his program of individual keys justified his faith in Enigma: G.C.&C.S. solved only three keys for brief periods. Perhaps not coincidentally, sinkings rose steadily from November 1944 to April 1945 in the North Atlantic and North Sea, although the absolute number remained small. Solution of these individual keys would have required a great increase in personnel and in bombes, but G.C.&C.S. felt confident that it would have been able to do it. Germany’s surrender saved it from this test.

Long before that happened, Dönitz mourned the loss of the source of information that he said gave him half of his intelligence: the B-Dienst. He had feasted on it for so long in part because the Germans had no monopoly on cryptographic failure. In this respect the British were just as illogical as the Germans. The surprise of the North African invasion confirmed the Admiralty’s belief that its cryptosystems were secure, just as Fricke had argued that the operations of British ships gave no indication that the British were reading German messages. And G.C.&C.S. retained confidence in its superencipherment (even though it had solved similar systems before the war) because it was encountering increasing difficulty in solving high-grade Italian codes after the summer of 1940 and fewer problems with nonnaval Enigma; this logic resembles the Kriegsmarine’s argument that Enigma must be secure because it was unable to break the American naval cipher machine.

The cherished beliefs of the British were wrong. In December 1942, they learned from their Enigma solutions that the Germans were reading Naval Cypher No. 3, the main cryptosystem for convoy arrangements in the North Atlantic. And in Washington, in March 1943, Lieutenant McMahan of OP-20-G saw a German intercept that canceled an order by Dönitz of a few hours earlier and directed a radical change of course. McMahan thought that only a German solution of a message diverting an Allied convoy could have caused Dönitz to react like that. He went downtown to Convoy and Routing in Main Navy and, after some difficulty, persuaded them to let him see the messages to Allied convoys. His discovery of the very message that had ordered the detour brought together compartmentalized elements and confirmed the Allies’ recognition that the Germans were reading their traffic.

In June, when Naval Cypher No. 5 replaced Nos. 3 and 4, the B-Dienst made no real progress against it. Concerns about the security in heavy traffic of the superencipherment, called the long sub-tractor system, had been raised as early as 1940; G.C.&C.S. devised a replacement—the stencil subtractor—by 1941, but the services did not decide to adopt it until after extensive trials that ended in March of 1942. Design and production of the devices and printing of the tables took the rest of the year, distribution for the Royal Navy until the middle of 1943, and distribution within the U.S. Navy until January 1, 1944—a record of cryptographic negligence that compares favorably with Germany’s. Still, from the middle of June 1943, the B-Dienst was effectively shut out from its vital Anglo-American intelligence. In May 1944, Hitler asked his naval codebreakers which English systems could be broken. They had to confess that although they were solving a number of secondary systems and a convoy system for stragglers, “The two main English systems cannot be read, the one [the main warship cryptosystem] since the start of 1944 and the other [the convoy system] since the start of June 1943.”

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This admission unwittingly confirmed the Allied victory in cryptology. In August 1943, the British and the Americans had begun reading Enigma messages nearly always currently. The capture of the U-505 by an American task force on June 4, 1944, provided a copy of the Adressbuch that provided the keys for disguising grid positions; from then on the Allies read them as easily as the Germans did.

But solving German messages did not always mean the successful diversion of convoys. It is true that in January and February 1943, when solutions were almost uninterrupted, the Allies suffered far fewer losses than in March, when for days no solutions were achieved. On the other hand, two convoys out of three escaped detection in August and September 1942, during the ULTRA blackout, while less than half avoided being spotted in the first five months of 1943, when solutions were frequent. The totality of other factors eclipsed ULTRA: the number of U-boats on patrol, the quantity of very long range aircraft the Allies had, centimetric radar, shipboard direction-finding, operational research, the arrival of escort aircraft carriers, the increase in escort vessels. But when ULTRA worked with these new Allied strengths, particularly after Dönitz withdrew his U-boats from the North Atlantic on May 24, the results could be spectacular. On September 21, 1943, Churchill announced to the Commons that, in the third of a year just ending, not one merchant ship had been lost to enemy action in the North Atlantic. The House erupted in cheers.

Factors Influencing Russian Force Modernization

Russian Armata T-14 tank.

Russian SS-26 Iskander missile system.

The military that the Russian Federation inherited in the 1990s had a bloated command structure designed for the command and control of literally thousands of divisions, regiments, and battalions, with the vast majority of these units being ‘skeleton units’ manned by small cadres that would help flesh out the unit with conscripts and reservists in the event of a mass mobilization. This type of structure was ideal for fighting large-scale, state-on-state warfare like the Soviet Union experienced in World War II, but it became apparent after the Cold War that Russia would most likely face a different type of conflict in the future. Beliefs about the changing nature of future war and the lessons learned from Russia’s post-Soviet military experience drove Russia to reform the military district system and transition from a division/regimental to a brigade structure. These reforms were intended to streamline command and control, in order to give the Russian military a command structure more capable of responding to regional and low-intensity threats.

One of the most high-profile command and control changes Russia has made is the reform of the military district system. This reform did not just condense six military districts into four (later five), but also significantly changed command relationships, giving the military district commander operational control of most Ministry of Defense forces in their respective regions, somewhat similar to the Goldwater-Nichols reform in the United States.

The regimental/division structure that Russia inherited from the Soviet Union is a vestige of the Soviet conscript-based Army oriented to large-scale warfare, a structure that is notoriously officer heavy. Russia’s civilian leadership, and some elements in the military leadership, believed the Armed Forces structure should emulate the more modular forces that were quelling the insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucuses during the early 2000s. The Russian leadership was also aware of the United States and other countries transitioning to a brigade structure.

In terms of command and control, and force projection, these reforms are important for a couple of key reasons. The first is that they are responsible for consolidating the division/regimental structure (8,000- 10,000 personnel) into modular maneuver brigades of approximately 3,000-4,500 personnel, each capable of conducting independent action and providing its own organic support. The second is that the transition to the brigade not only reduced a level of management, but was also instrumental in reducing the bloated officer corps. When the Russian Federation converted to the brigade structure, it also designated all units as ‘permanent readiness units,’ eliminating all cadre units and related cadre (mostly officer) positions.

Perhaps the strongest external factor that is driving Russian force modernization is the fielding of U.S. long-range, precision fires. Leading Russian military thinkers viewed the United States’ routing of the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm (1991) as the first signs of an emerging ‘sixth generation warfare.’ Sixth generation warfare is characterized by the increasing use of precision guided munitions (PGMs) and the growing importance of the informational aspects of war (information / psychological operations, C4 ISR, Electronic warfare, cyber warfare, etc.). Usually when Russian security professionals are discussing ‘new generation warfare,’ this is the context in which they are thinking.

Russian military leaders eventually came to believe that sixth generation warfare would be fully manifested with the emergence of ‘non-contact warfare,’ which can be roughly defined as a type of warfare that is conducted by long-range and distant means, such as advanced cruise missiles and long-range drones. Such warfare would require not only advanced new weapons, but also a sophisticated C4 ISR system to provide targeting data for these weapons. In the Russian view, the United States’ ‘Prompt Global Strike’ concept is a prime example of ‘non-contact warfare.’

Meanwhile, Russia has long been at work on the development of twin concepts for the detection and assured destruction of high-value targets in near-real time. Its current iteration is referred to as the reconnaissance-fire system. This system is being implemented through the Strelets C4 ISR system that allows servicemen to task tactical and operational-level fires by linking sensor, C2, and fire assets.

Similarly, U.S. use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles has been of great interest in the Russian Federation, but Russia is taking a different path in its UAV development. While the United States has pioneered the use of UAVs as mobile firing platforms, Russia has been more interested in the ISR aspects of UAVs. In the Russian view, it is far better to use a UAV to accurately direct cheap artillery for an extended duration, than to have a UAV that just fires a missile or two and then needs to return to base.

Due to U.S./NATO airpower and concerns about sixth generation warfare, air defense and electronic warfare are high priorities for Russian development. Overlapping Russian air defense capabilities, such as the S-500 and A-235, are not only intended to destroy aircraft, but also cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and even low-earth orbit satellites. Electronic warfare capabilities can disrupt the satellite and terrestrial communications infrastructure and the precision navigation and timing capabilities that sixth generation warfare requires.

In addition to the international factors outlined above, there are a number of domestic developments that have shaped Russian military modernization as well. In 2016, the Russian Federation established the National Guard of the Russian Federation (Rosgvardiya). This new independent agency reports directly to the Russian President. Rosgvardiya controls most of Russia’s internally oriented militarized intelligence and security services. These include the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Internal Troops (MVD-VV), Special Rapid-Response Detachment (SOBR), the Special Purpose Mobile Detachment (OMON), the MVD Prompt-Response and Aviation Forces’ Special-Purpose Center, and aviation subunits. Estimates of the total personnel have varied between 200,000 and 300,000 uniformed personnel. This means that Russia’s militarized intelligence and security services are now mostly consolidated under three main government bodies – the Ministry of Defense (MoD), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and Rosgvardiya – instead of being spread through a myriad of ministries, services, and agencies.

This change was likely due to shifting attitudes toward the nature of both internal and external sources of threat. Russia’s Soviet legacy made stove-piped militarized intelligence and security agencies the norm, as the Soviets were leery of investing all military power in a single organization or ministry, due to fears of a coup. More recently, Moscow has been particularly concerned about foreign sponsored ‘color revolutions,’ so the formation of a single military command to put down an insurrection may have been an important factor in the creation of Rosgvardiya.

At the same time, Russia has streamlined its ability to design and field new large end items such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, a process that takes substantially longer in the United States. It apparently takes about 5 -10 years from the beginning of the Russian design process until serial production begins for most major Ground Forces/Airborne end items, if the initial prototype is deemed viable. (Air and naval systems take much longer.)

One of the reasons Russia has a much shorter design and production timeline compared to the United States is that Moscow relies on a very different arms development cycle. Capability development questions are settled in the Russian General Staff with inputs from the branch chiefs – this means that relative to the United States, there are far fewer bureaucratic hurdles. There also appears to be no bidding process, since the same manufacturers are consistently used. Russia’s primary manufactures of combat vehicles are UralVagonZavod (T-72, T-90, Armata) and KurganMachineZavod (BMP- 1, BMP-2, BMP-3). These production lines may be kept ‘warm’ through the steady production of new combat vehicles and the refurbishment of old combat vehicles. Design teams are continuously employed, and kept together to start on the next system or upgrade as soon as their current project enters production. Manufacturers typically build a few prototypes, and if the prototype is unacceptable the manufacturer returns to the design phase. Innovations are accepted or rejected at the prototype phase, and many designs make it no further than this phase.

If the prototype is acceptable, improvements are made and a test batch (approximately a battalion’s worth) of vehicles is produced for field testing. This field testing takes a year or two, after which the product is further refined and put into full serial production. Rarely does a new system or an upgrade replace all previous systems. In this incremental, evolutionary approach – versus a revolutionary approach – a certain percentage is usually replaced and then the next iteration begins.

Another reason that Russia is able to reach serial production quickly is the emphasis on interoperability and modularity. Russia’s unified design standards make many combinations of turrets and chassis for armored vehicles possible, despite being produced by different manufacturers. It also appears that cost (both production and operation/maintenance) is a key factor that is considered from the very beginning of development. Innovations that are deemed too costly are weeded out early, meaning that from the onset, the design must not only be combat effective, but also feasible in terms of cost.

Russia is pursuing an evolutionary strategy in terms of robotization. Instead of attempting to develop robotic combat vehicles from scratch, Russia is incrementally adding robotic capabilities – such as autoloaders, unmanned turrets, and computerized steering – to existing systems. This allows the Russian military to reduce crew sizes, with the desired end state of eventually eliminating the entire crew for some combat vehicles. Robotics utilization is not limited to unmanned platforms in the Russian Federation. The Russian Armed Forces is also developing small automated turrets for placement on manned armored personnel carriers, armored cars, support vehicles, and even as secondary weapons on large systems such as self-propelled artillery pieces.

Despite these advantages in Russia’s ability to more rapidly design, develop, and produce large weapons systems, President Putin’s recent comments at a meeting of the Defense Ministry Board indicate that Russia will instead focus on equipping modestly priced platforms with better munitions. This development is somewhat unsurprising, as Russia has appeared to have had great success in Syria with using technologically advanced munitions on older and/or less technologically advanced platforms. Although Russia is adopting this “lower cost” strategy, Moscow will not stop the development and fielding of technologically advanced platforms, but will instead slow their development and field fewer systems. Whether Russia is able to field a fully modernized military has yet to be seen, but it appears at very least a framework for modernization has been laid, and is being implemented.

German WWI Anti-Tank Tactics


Mauser Tankgewehr M1918

After Cambrai the Germans naturally started to take AT defence much more seriously. The battle itself had shown some major aspects of AT defence which were pointers to the future.

The action at Flesquieres had shown how tanks were vulnerable to artillery in the direct fire mode, what would later be termed an ‘AT screen’, or ‘PAK front’, but should also have shown how vulnerable the AT screen was to artillery fire or air attack.

The fact that tanks could make no progress in Bourlon Wood or Fontaine showed how vulnerable they were in close country. The German infantry, having driven off the British infantry, attacked the tanks at close range with AP ammunition and bundles of grenades. In Fontaine they attacked the roofs of the tanks from upstairs windows. In Bourlon Wood a design fault of the tanks proved disastrous. Many of the trees had been reduced to stumps, when a tank drove over one its belly plate bent upwards and snagged the fly wheel. This stalled the engine, which in the tactical conditions it was not possible to restart.

On the third day of the battle a new AT measure made itself felt, K flak (Kraftfahr-Fliegerabwehrkanone). These were AA guns, usually 57-mm, mounted on lorries, and they could be devastating against tanks. They had a very limited off-road mobility, but because of the poor communications of the day they were almost impossible to engage with artillery, and because the tanks were almost blind, they could not defend themselves against them. K flak claimed a total of 64 tanks. In future years this type of vehicle would be called a ‘tank destroyer’ and would be one of the principal AT weapons. At the time the British, at least, attached no particular significance to them.

The Germans quickly set to work to produce new AT weapons. The two main ones were an AT rifle and an AT gun. The rifle was really just a scaled up service rifle. It was of 13-mm calibre, big and heavy, unpopular and not very effective. The gun was small, 37-mm, cheap and handy. Its muzzle velocity was not that high but quite good enough for the thin armour of the tanks of the time. The plan was to deploy these guns in AT forts scattered in the battle zone.

The Germans made a start on developing AT mines, but did not get very far. They did, however improve on their field AT fortifications. Even before Cambrai, as has been seen, they had widened certain trenches to make them obstacles for tanks, but they also dug short trenches at right angles to the front and camouflaged them to make tank traps, pitfalls that the mammoth-like tanks would fall into. There were cases of streams being dammed to make inundations, and also the casting of concrete obstacles.

The Germans assumed that any significant Allied offensive would be led by tanks and they gave the fight against them priority, but this had an important indirect effect on the German defences. In order to have guns available for the direct fire role a large number was moved forward and dug in around the forward edge of the battle zone. Such guns were no longer available for normal artillery employment, and they suffered heavy casualties.

It could well be that the Germans had the measure of the tanks of 1918 and, if their army had not been worn away in the great Spring Offensive, they could have defeated a major tank-led offensive providing they had time to select the battlefield and prepare their defences. But after the failure of the Spring Offensive they fell back through a series of positions based on rivers, these being good AT obstacles. However rivers run in valleys which could be dominated by British artillery, and these positions crumbled one after the other.

ROBOTS GO TO WAR

Ultimately, technology caught up with ambition around the turn of the twentieth century. Science finally had advanced to create machines that could be controlled from afar and move about on their own. The robotic age was getting closer, and robots’ link with war would become even more closely intertwined.

The first real efforts started with Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, two rival scientists and the first of what we now would call electrical engineers. While working on various ways to transmit electricity, Edison and Tesla both experimented with radio-control devices. Because of his eccentric personality and lack of a good public relations team like Edison, Tesla would not gain the same place in history as his rival, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” and died penniless.

Tesla, though, did perhaps the most remarkable work at the time with remote-control devices. He first mastered wireless communication in 1893. Five years later, he demonstrated that he could use radio signals to remotely control the movements of a motorboat, holding a demonstration at Madison Square Garden. Tesla tried to sell this first remotely operated vehicle, along with the idea of remote-controlled torpedoes, to the U.S. military, but was rejected. As Tesla recounted, “I called an official in Washington with a view of offering the information to the government and he burst out laughing upon telling him what I had accomplished.” Tesla would not be the last inventor to find out that what was technically possible mattered less than whether it was bureaucratically imaginable. Two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, had the same experience a few years later when they first tried to sell their invention of manned flight.

The foundations then were laid for remote-controlled vehicles and weapons just as the First World War began. World War I proved to be an odd, tragic mix of outmoded generalship combined with deadly new technologies. From the machine gun and radio to the airplane and tank, transformational weapons were introduced in the war, but the generals could not figure out just how to use them. Instead, they clung to nineteenth-century strategies and tactics and the conflict was characterized by brave but senseless charges back and forth across a no-man’s-land of machine guns and trenches.

With war becoming less heroic and more deadly, unmanned weapons began to gain some appeal. On land, there was the “electric dog,” a three-wheeled cart (really just a converted tricycle) designed to carry supplies up to the trenches. A precursor to laser control, it followed the lights of a lantern. More deadly was the “land torpedo,” a remotely controlled armored tractor, loaded up with one thousand pounds of explosives, designed to drive up to enemy trenches and explode. It was patented in 1917 (appearing in Popular Science magazine) and a prototype was built by Caterpillar Tractors just before the war ended. In the air, the first of what we would now call cruise missiles was the Kettering “Bug” or “aerial torpedo.” This was a tiny unmanned plane that used a preset gyroscope and barometer to automatically fly on course and then crash into a target fifty miles away. Few of these remote-controlled weapons were bought in any numbers and most remained prototypes without any effect on the fighting.

The only system to be deployed in substantial numbers was at sea. Here, the Germans protected their coast with FL-7s, electronically controlled motorboats. The unmanned boats carried three hundred pounds of explosives and were designed to be rammed into any British ships that came near the German coast. Originally, they were controlled by a driver who sat atop a fifty-foot-high tower on shore, steering through a fifty-mile-long cable that spooled out of the back of the boat. Soon after, the Germans shifted the operator from a tower onto a sea-plane that would fly overhead, dragging the wire. Both proved unwieldy, and in 1916 Tesla’s invention of wireless radio control, now almost two decades old, was finally deployed in warfare.

Perhaps reflecting the fact that they were outnumbered in both these wars, the Germans again proved to be more inclined to develop and use unmanned systems when fighting began again in World War II. The best known of their weapons, akin to the land torpedo, was called the Goliath. About the size of a small go-cart and having a small tank track on each side, the Goliath of 1940 was shaped almost exactly like the Talon that Foster-Miller makes over six decades later. It carried 132 pounds of explosives. Nazi soldiers could drive the Goliath by remote control into enemy tanks and bunkers. Some eight thousand Goliaths were built; most saw service as a stopgap on the Eastern Front, where German troops were outnumbered almost three to one.

In the air, the Germans were equally revolutionary, deploying the first cruise missile (the V-1), ballistic missile (V-2), and jet fighter (Me-262). The Germans were also the first to operationally use remotely piloted drones. The FX-1400, known as the “Fritz,” was a 2,300-pound bomb with four small wings, tail controls, and a rocket motor. The Fritz would drop from a German plane flying at high altitude. A controller in the plane would then guide it into the target using a joystick that steered by radio. The Fritz made a strong debut in 1943, when the Italian battleship Roma was trying to defect to the Allies. Not knowing of the Fritz, the Italian sailors saw a German bomber plane, but didn’t worry too much as it was at a distance, height, and angle from which it couldn’t drop a bomb on top of them. A Fritz launched from the bomber and then flew into the Roma, sinking it with more than a thousand sailors lost.

The Allies were behind the Germans in these technologies, but they were no less futuristic in some of the things they sought to develop. In the United States, the focus of research was on aerial weapons and actually led to another of the great “what ifs?” of recent history. In 1944, “Operation Aphrodite” was launched in Europe. The idea was to strip down bomber planes and load them up with twenty-two thousand pounds of Torpex, a new explosive discovered to be 50 percent more powerful than TNT. A human crew would fly the plane during takeoff, arm the explosives in midair, and bail out. A mothership flying nearby would then take remote control of the bomber and, using two television cameras mounted in the drone’s cockpit, steer the plane into Nazi targets that were too well protected for manned bombers to hit.

On August 12, 1944, the naval version of one of these planes, a converted B-24 bomber, was sent to take out a suspected Nazi V-3, an experimental 300-foot-long “supercannon” that supposedly could hit London from over 100 miles away (unbeknownst to the Allies, the cannon had already been knocked out of commission in a previous air raid). Before the plane even crossed the English Channel, the volatile Torpex exploded and killed the crew.

The pilot was Joseph Kennedy Jr., older brother of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, thirty-fifth president of the United States. The two had spent much of their youth competing for the attention of their father, the powerful businessman and politician Joseph Sr. While younger brother JFK was often sickly and decidedly bookish, firstborn son Joe Jr. had been the “chosen one” of the family. He was a natural-born athlete and leader, groomed from birth to become the very first Catholic president. Indeed, it is telling that in 1940, just before war broke out, JFK was auditing classes at Stanford Business School, while Joe Jr. was serving as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. When the war started, Joe Jr. became a navy pilot, perhaps the most glamorous role at the time. John was initially rejected for service by the army because of his bad back. The navy relented and allowed John to join only after his father used his political influence.

When Joe Kennedy Jr. was killed in 1944, two things happened: the army ended the drone program for fear of angering the powerful Joe Sr. (setting the United States back for years in the use of remote systems), and the mantle of “chosen one” fell on JFK. When the congressional seat in Boston opened up in 1946, what had been planned for Joe Jr. was handed to JFK, who had instead been thinking of becoming a journalist. He would spend the rest of his days not only carrying the mantle of leadership, but also trying to live up to his dead brother’s carefree and playboy image.

The Aphrodite program was not the only remotely controlled weapons program that the Allies devised in World War II. The Brits, for example, developed what they darkly called “bombing without knowledge of path, place, or time” that used radio signals from afar to guide bombers in the dark. In the Pacific theater, more than 450 VB-1 Azons, a 1,000-pound radio-controlled glider bomb, were used to destroy targets in Burma, mainly bridges of the sort made famous in the movie The Bridge over the River Kwai.

The most widely produced unmanned plane in World War II, however, was used for training rather than combat. It was called the OQ-2 Radioplane, or sometimes the “Dennymite” after its maker, Reginald Denny. Denny was a British pilot during World War I, who then moved to Hollywood to become an actor. With his dashing looks and aristocratic accent, his career took off. Over the next forty years, he would appear in 172 films. The high point was his starring role opposite Greta Garbo in 1935’s Anna Karenina, the low point perhaps his final role as “Commodore Schmidlapp” in 1966’s Batman: The Movie.

While horsing around on set, Denny became a hobbyist of radio-controlled model airplanes. He saw a business opportunity in other fans, and so in 1934 opened Reginald Denny Hobby Shops, a model plane store located on Hollywood Boulevard. As war grew closer, Denny got the idea that cheap radio-controlled planes would make perfect targets to give more realistic training to antiaircraft gunners. In 1940, he pitched the idea of the planes, which he marketed to hobbyists as the “Dennymite,” for use as a target drone. The army signed a contract for fifty-three. Then Pearl Harbor happened. Over the next five years, the army would buy another fifteen thousand drones, making the Dennymite the first mass-produced unmanned plane in history.

To build so many drones, Denny had to move his manufacturing out of Hollywood and into a plant at the Van Nuys Airport. In 1944, army photographer David Conover was sent to this factory for a magazine shoot about women contributing to the war effort. He spotted a buxom woman spraying the drones with fire retardant. It was not the most sexy of settings but he thought this woman had potential as a model and sent his photos on to a friend at a model agency. Norma Jeane Dougherty soon dyed her mousy brown hair to platinum blond and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. After the war, the Northrop company bought out Denny, meaning that the icon of the blonde bombshell and the Global Hawk drone both were born in the same place.

More advancement was made during this period with computers and other automated systems, though, than with remote-controlled ones that went out into the world on their own. The most widely used of these automatic systems was the Norden bombsight.

Carl Norden was a Dutch engineer who moved to the United States in 1904. In 1920, he developed an analog computer that could calculate the trajectory of how a bomb would fall off a plane in flight. In a plane moving faster than three hundred feet per second, the human’s reaction time was too slow to use the computer’s calculation effectively, so the system automatically released the bomb at just the right time when it was sighted on a target. Norden’s bombsight could even be linked to the plane’s autopilot, taking over the flight controls on the final bombing run.

While it was advertised as being able to “put a bomb in a pickle barrel from twenty thousand feet,” the reality was that in combat conditions, the system was a little less accurate, typically hitting targets within one hundred to one thousand feet. Even so, the Norden was far more accurate than anything before it, and was used in all the U.S.’s heavy bombers during World War II. The device was considered so valuable that it was taken out of the plane and put in a safe after each mission. If their plane was about to crash, the crew was to shoot the bombsight with a thermite gun that would melt the computer.

The cost of the Norden program was $1.5 billion, almost the same as the Manhattan Project to make the first atomic bomb. Like many of the inventors, though, the “cranky” and “irascible” Norden was a bit of an oddball and never profited to the extent he might have. He didn’t like how the U.S. Army Air Corps had treated him when he had tried to sell them unmanned planes during World War I. So to get back, he sold his sight to the army’s greatest nemesis, not the Japanese or the Germans, but the U.S. Navy, for the grand price of one dollar. Throughout World War II, then, the U.S. Army had to buy its bomber sights from the U.S. Navy.

By the end of the war, the early B-17 and B-24 planes that Norden had equipped were being replaced by the far more sophisticated B-29 Superfortress. Besides the automated bombsight, the B-29 was the first plane to have a computer-controlled firing system, made up of twelve .50-caliber machine guns mounted in electric turrets, all remotely fired using an analog computer called the “Black Box.” It was a B-29, the Enola Gay, that would use a Norden bombsight to drop the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

The real breakthrough was in computers that stayed off the battlefield. The first that used programming as we now understand it was Colossus, built at the top-secret codebreakers’ lab at Bletchley Park, England. Weighing a ton, Colossus had fifteen hundred electronic valves to crank out the complex mathematics needed to break the Enigma code used by the Germans.

Colossus, however, used physical switches to store data, so the first truly electronic computer was ENIAC, the Electric Numerical Integrator and Computer. Built at the University of Pennsylvania in 1944, it weighed twenty-seven tons and took up eighteen hundred square feet of floor space. While it was an unwieldy system that required the wires to be reset for each different problem, ENIAC could crunch out equations in thirty seconds that took a human engineer with a slide rule more than twenty hours. It was put to work on everything from shell trajectories to the development of the hydrogen bomb. In 1951, the first commercial version was released, and it was soon put to use at such things as predicting election results. Officially, it was termed the UNIVAC, but the media called it the “Giant Electronic Brain.”

Antisatellite (ASAT) Weapons Redux

China’s new DN-3 satellite killer missile

Russian aerospace forces conducted test earlier this month, December 2016, of a new anti-satellite weapon system. Once it works, the weapon would be capable of targeting American military satellites, disrupting the Pentagon’s satellites for navigation and communications.

The test, conducted on December 16, was the fifth test of the PL-19 Nudol, according to the Washington Free Beacon. The test did not involve an intercept and may have just been to test the capabilities of the lofting rocket instead.

Moscow claims the Nudol is an anti-missile system that engages enemy warheads in the so-called “midcourse phase” after separating from the missile booster needed to reach low-earth orbit. Of course, that’s also where satellites are.

An anti-missile system, like the one in the image up above, can be used to target satellites with relative ease. In 2008 , the USA-193, a malfunctioning American spy satellite, was shot down from a decaying low-earth orbit by a SM-3 missile launched by the USS Lake Erie. Like Russia’s Nudol, the SM-3 is also a “midcourse phase” interceptor missile. 

ASAT weapons are generally designed to destroy or disable satellites of hostile powers. The initial objective of U.S. ASAT weapons was to counter orbiting nuclear weapons, which was a threat that failed to materialize. Initial problems with planned early ASAT weapons were that since they were nuclear-armed they would likely damage U.S. satellites as well as their intended Soviet targets. Limitations on early ASAT guidance systems made it possible to place such weapons only within a few miles of their target. An additional complication from this inaccurate ASAT targeting and dependence on nuclear armament was the widespread impact of electromagnetic pulse from the detonation of these weapons. An upper atmospheric ASAT test in 1962 activated burglar alarms and darkened streetlights in Hawaii several hundred miles from the test site while also disabling several U.S. satellites in the area.

A number of ASAT weapon systems were tested by various branches of the U.S. military during the 1950s and 1960s. Beginning in 1959, the Air Force’s Bold Orion program launched rockets from a B-47 bomber as part of an ASAT program. During 1962, the Navy conducted two Hi-Ho ASAT weapons tests from an F-4 jet fighter. The Army’s Nike-Zeus program during this period initially began as an ABM system but evolved into more of an ASAT system because of its ineffectiveness as an ABM. The United States’ first ASAT intercept occurred on May 23, 1963 from Kwajalein Island in the Pacific Ocean. The Air Force tested and deployed several THOR rockets for ASAT tests, and these became operational on Johnston Island in the Pacific in 1964 and had greater range than Nike-Zeus. These tests occurred at least 16 times between 1964-1970 before the system was retired in 1976.

The Air-Launched Miniature Vehicle (ALMV) was the principal U.S. ASAT program during the early 1980s. ALMV was launched from an F-15 fighter by a small two-stage rocket and carried a heat-seeking miniature homing vehicle that would destroy its target by direct impact at high speed. An advantage of this system was its enabling the F-15 to bring the ALMV under its targets ground track, as opposed to a ground-based ASAT, which must wait for a target satellite to overfly its launch site. An operational force of over 100 interceptors was originally planned for the ALMV program but cost overruns by 1986 had seen the program’s estimated cost skyrocket from $500 million to $5.3 billion. The Air Force scaled the program back by two-thirds in 1987, and it was cancelled by the Reagan administration in 1988 after encountering continuing cost overruns, testing delays, and homing guidance system problems.

In February 1989, the Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite Joint Program Office was established and the Army was given leadership of this program in December 1989. The purpose of this program was developing a ground-based interceptor capable of destroying satellites by homing in and colliding with them. This interceptor would reach satellites in low earth orbit at ranges of up to several thousand kilometers. Upon reaching the target, the interceptor would extend a sheet of Mylar plastic, called a “kill enhancement device,” that would strike the target and neutralize it without destroying the satellite.

In August 1992 a Kinetic Energy integrated technology experiment demonstrated the ability to intercept reentry vehicles in the atmosphere using a homing seeker and nonnuclear warhead, and in August 1997 a successful hover test of a prototype kinetic energy ASAT kill vehicle occurred.

Air Force officials have expressed concern that the kinetic energy ASAT could create debris and endanger other U.S. space assets. DOD has not requested funding for this program for several years, but Congress added money for this program into the defense budget for fiscal years 1996-1998, 2000-2001, and 2004.

There has been renewed congressional interest in ASAT weapons since the 104th Congress (1995-1996), and some funding for such programs has occurred even though there are variant viewpoints within DOD and individual armed services on the suitability of these programs for U. S. national security interests. A May 18, 2005 New York Times article asserted that a forthcoming national space policy being developed by the Bush administration was bringing the United States closer to deploying offensive and defensive space weapons. A legislative amendment introduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich (Democrat from Ohio) to ban the use of weapons to damage or destroy objects in orbit was rejected by the House by a vote of 302-124 on July 20, 2005.

Despite supporting some ASAT programs, Congress has been skeptical about the ability of the Air Force to manage the costs and goal schedules of these programs and expressed concern about relationships between classified and unclassified space activities and about defense space acquisition programs.

U.S. ASAT research programs are likely to continue but with acute skepticism about their viability and costs, Congress is likely to keep a tight rein on their funding.

While several countries are known to be making investments in the development of space weaponry, Chinese activities up to 2016, have engendered a particular concern among Pentagon leaders, analysts and threat assessment professionals.

The Chinese fired a land-based kinetic energy SC-19 missile at a satellite in space several years ago, an action which inspired worldwide attention and condemnation.

Pentagon officials say the Chinese program is very advanced.

“As long ago as 2007, they launched an ASAT (anti-satellite) test of a low-altitude interceptor. They struck and destroyed a defunct Chinese weather satellite and created tens of thousands of pieces of debris,” Winston Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space explained. “Much of that debris is still in orbit today and it continues to imperil the U.S. and other countries orbiting space.”

In response, the U.S. Joint Space Operations center has issued a warning to other countries which operate satellites to steer clear potentially damaging space debris.

Identifying the Chinese test-firing as “not a type of activity that we would deem to be responsible behavior,” Beauchamp explained that the Chinese have continued to conduct live-fire tests of ASAT weapons while avoiding repeated attacks on actual satellites.

The U.S. operates Advanced Extremely High Frequency, of AEHF, communication satellites which have replaced the older Milstar systems; they operate at 44 GHz uplink and 20 GHz downlink.

Space Defense Mission:

Although many of the details pertaining the U.S. space defenses and countermeasures are secret, there are some discussable elements of the Air Force effort to foster more “resilient” space assets.

Disaggregation and Diversity are among the most heavily focused-upon techniques which seek to deploy multiple satellites carrying both conventional and nuclear systems; Diversity tactics are aimed at using multiple satellites to achieve the same goal.

“The satellite architecture is not as vulnerable as many have maintained,” an Air Force official familiar with the plan told Defense Systems.

This included fielding “U.S. equipment that can use both GPS and Europe’s Galileo navigation system,” Air Force officials said.  Naturally, this technique would allow U.S. forces to use allied assets if U.S. satellites were disrupted or destroyed by enemy attack.

A Distribution strategy designed to spread satellites apart which perform certain key functions to preserve a needed technology should some assets be destroyed. Deception tactics are used so that potential adversaries are not aware of which satellites perform certain functions.

“There is no one node that is invulnerable to attack,” a senior Air Force official said.

Some satellites are purely “SATCOM,” whereas others are GPS oriented or geared toward what Air Force professionals describe as “Space-Based Infrared” or SBIR assets. SBIR assets are engineered to detect the large thermal signal from an enemy intercontinental ballistic missile launch to better enable missile-defense technology to intercept an approaching attack.

Proliferation and Protection are also part of the strategic initiative; this involves deploying multiple satellites to perform the same mission and taking specific technical steps to “harden” satellites against attacks. While many of the specifics of these techniques are secret, officials do acknowledge they are likely to contain various countermeasures, investments in remote sensing technologies and maneuverability tactics.

Hardening satellites will involve developing methods of allowing them to operate in an environment where there might be electronic warfare attacks. Hardening satellites will involve developing methods that will allow them to operate in an environment where there might be electronic warfare attacks.

Overall, the Air Force and Defense Department have stepped up space development and collaboration designed to properly respond to what experts cite as a commercial “renaissance” in space research, development and technological advances.