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The Fortress, a modern day possibility?

Discussion in 'Strategy & Tactics' started by Humanoid, Apr 30, 2009.

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  1. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    Sorry, forgot to post this earlier.
    Mobile warfare is doctrinal, not technological. Technologically the French forces were even better equipped for mobile warfare than the Germans, but they never developed the doctrine to use it. The Germans called the doctrine Bewegungskrieg and had been using it tactically since the 1870s, but were unable to make it work strategically prior to WWII.

    The fort Eben-Emael was the one attacked by glider troops. It is Belgian, not French. The Maginot Line was never attacked using gliders or paratroops.
    The Schlieffen Plan was a right hook, a sweeping advance west through Belgium (and originally Holland) and across northern France then south toward Paris. The Battle of the Ardennes from the German perspective was more about pinning the French forces in place while their right wing swept south behind them to form a double envelopment.

    The WWII plan was a left hook through the Ardennes then northwest to the coast, avoiding Paris, to trap the Allied forces in Belgium. The plan was adopted because:
    1. It was the only hope for victory, instead of a repeat of WWI. It was most definitely a desperation plan.
    2. A copy of the original plan (similar to the Schlieffen Plan) fell into Allied hands on January 10, 1940.
    3. Internal army politics that resulted in author, von Manstein, who made a personal appeal to Hitler when he was relieved of his position as Chief of Staff for Army Group A, and used the opportunity to present the plan.
    The original poster was interested if it was possible to create a very large fortification, nearly invulnerable to same generation weapons, to house a counterattack force in safety. The answer I think is a qualified ‘yes’ at this time, but by the time you finish building it (10 – 15 years) the weapons will have changed again, so the answer at the time of completion is, at best, probably not. That is the problem with large fortresses, they take so long to complete that they are already obsolete.

    But fortification is not dead in the slightest. The medieval castles and cement-brick-and-steel monsters of the Maginot Line are no longer relevant, but fortifications like Okinawa, Stalingrad, and the Kursk Salient in WWII are. Properly used fortification is a force multiplier that allows an inferior force to tie up a superior enemy force.
    If the Americans did not have control of the air then firebases would have been built differently, with larger garrisons, more artillery, extensive stores for a prolonged siege, and road and/or river access. Reality defines tactics.
     
  2. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    A Modern Fortress

    To create the toughest modern fortress I would rely on the following requirements:

    1 – Location is critical.
    Earlier on this thread we discussed Patton’s attack on the fortress at Metz which is a classic example. Patton had no alternatives to taking the fortress unless he was willing to just wait out the rest of the war in front of it. It should also be noted that the fortifications were built before WWI, had not been maintained, were stripped of the majority of its weapons in the years before the battle, and were manned by troops not trained in its use. It still took 3 months to knock out enough of it to allow passage.

    The fortress must be located such that the enemy absolutely must take the ground quickly or not at all, and reasonably intact. Starving the defenders out or resorting to nuclear weapons cannot be permitted as viable tactics by the attacker. The only reliable reason for this would be that it is the only practical route for logistics, i.e. a choke point. One advantage of these locations is that there are already a road/track/harbor for your own logistics, and almost always a city is present as these would have been prime locations for trade (and taxing trade).

    2 – Defensives
    There are 4 parts to the defenses – ground defenses, artillery, air defenses, and air support – that each contribute and must be overcome by the attacker. Coverage of each system extends beyond the previous system, so that at the point where a ground attacker actually reaches the ground defenses all 4 parts are at maximum effectiveness. Ground attackers have to overcome these in the order listed, penetrating the ground defenses to overrun the artillery, air defense batteries, and airfields. Attacks from the air deal with the defenses in the opposite order, establishing air superiority so that they can take out the air defenses, then destroy the artillery and ground defenses.

    3 – The fortifications
    Ideally most killing will be by the artillery, but for less valuable targets other options will be required.

    C3I
    The greatest strength of a carefully prepared modern fortification will be it the web of sensors deployed in front of it. Extensive preparation allows better concealment, the use of physical communication links (probably fiber optic) so there are no signals to detect and a much wider bandwidth that can be exploited for detailed analysis from multiple sensors, and calibration to optimize performance and eliminate holes. The greater bandwidth also would allow the use of sensors not practical in mobile operations. Current remote sensors, because of restrictions imposed by using radio signals, send little more information than “there is activity near me”, whereas for a fortress with hardwired sensors the result may be as detailed as ‘there is an 11 man squad proceeding on trail TR32, coordinates xxxx.yyyy, speed 2 miles per hour, and one of them is complaining about the quality of the toilet paper’.

    The enemy should be able to take it as a given that any unit within range of the defensive artillery can be targeted at will. Therefore finding and destroying these sensors will be the enemy’s primary objective throughout the siege. In the case of deeply buried seismic sensors this may be extremely difficult. Likewise, one of the defenders main tasks will be to prevent the attacker establishing his own coverage, most likely using robotic vehicles.

    The sensor web should if possible also extend miles beyond the defensive perimeter allowing the defender to monitor the build-up leading to an attack and plan their response.

    Concealment
    Smart weapons can destroy any target that can be pinpointed. The best defense is to prevent that from happening until the attacker is already in the danger zone of his own weapons, then make it difficult for him to retreat without casualties.

    When practical tunnels should be constructed to move troops and maintenance personnel as needed, and to be able to deploy new weapons and sensors in depleted areas, if not actively by enemy troops.

    The command and control centers need to be redundant, in multiple locations, and deep underground, as these are critical to the operation.

    Disposable
    Once a weapon fires it must be assumed that its location can be determined by units in line-of-sight, and it will be targeted and destroyed. Manned bunkers are therefore of very limited value in open terrain, and remote weapons, mostly one-shot, should be deployed instead. Weapons of choice will probably be minefields, claymore mines, and self-forging fragment mines for anti-armor work. Metalstorm also has some concepts that would be good for salvoes of grenades or mines against infantry. It may be possible to get multiple uses from carefully concealed and silenced robotic snipers.

    This also affects the choice of artillery. Static artillery is just a target. Mobile artillery can displace to avoid counter batter fire, but is likely run out of possible positions in short order. The slow rate of fire for tube artillery limits their effectiveness between displacements, therefore MRLs with individually programmable rounds will probably be best – setup, then ripple the load at the maximum rate of fire with each round allocated to a different target. Best would be disposable MRLs, so that even a fast and extensive counter-battery fire would be worthless. NETFIRES would have also been a good choice in this role.

    Air defense should be limited to CAP and SAMs. As with the artillery, SAMs should use mobile or disposable launchers, located close to the front to maximize coverage, if practical targeting data will be supplied by passive sensors. The aircraft component should be almost exclusively fighter aircraft and UAVs in a defensive role. It should include UAV fighters optimized to hunt down and kill enemy recon UAVs.

    Depth & dispersion
    Concentrated defenses are too vulnerable, they must be dispersed, which means the depth of the defenses needs be increased. You will not fight for every inch, but you will make the enemy bleed. Concealment and tactics play a role here as well, it may be desirable to allow an enemy to penetrate partway through the defenses, then use weapons behind him to cut him off and counter attack.

    The city will be the final line of resistance. The same methods can be deployed as in the outer defenses, but unless included in the buildings during construction will be much harder to conceal. Here reinforced firing positions are infantry are still of value, but troops will need to relocate frequently.

    Tunnels are extremely important in cities to provide access ways and safe locations to rest. Carefully concealed, deliberate, tunnels that permit troops to appear unexpectedly in an opponent’s rear areas can be of particular value both for the physical and psychological effects.

    4 – Troops
    Mechanized troops will be needed for performing limited counter-attacks, or at least threatening to do so, to force the attacker to extend his perimeter and increase the required troop strength. With most of the defenses until active control the defending forces can attack at almost any point, then retreat covered by an automated ambush if the attacking forces attempt to pursue. Infantry forces can be used to infiltrate enemy lines, especially if a covered route (tunnel) is available to pass through their lines, and in the defense of the city.
    =======================
    Some final notes:
    No fortress is so strong that it cannot be overcome, but it will take time (or treachery) to do it. The whole point is to tie-up as many enemy troops as possible for as long as possible with the minimum of your own forces, leaving the rest of your forces (hopefully a superior force to the rest of the enemy forces) free to defeat the enemy elsewhere. Or as some experts have noted: “The purpose of a fortified position is to hold an enemy by the nose while a superior force maneuvers to break his legs.”

    Relative cost – Sure you can take out a machine gun nest with a $20,000 smart bomb, but is that cost effective? And the cost includes not only the cost of the bomb, but the aircraft, fuel, etc., and the fact that you will not have that bomb available later for some other possible target, and if there are air defenses, either CAP of SAMs, there is also the chance you may lose the aircraft as well. So is it worth it, or do you just send in the PBI? This is what makes a properly designed and supported fortress so expensive to take. Figuring out the correct answer is what makes someone a good commander, and gives him ulcers. :lam
     
  3. Waylander

    Waylander Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Good points.

    I often get the impression that when people here or in other threads talk about air power and their effect on the war on the ground they imagine some gigantic air campaigns.
    But in asessing the effects of air power on ground forces one shouldn't take something like Iraqi Freedom in 2003 as an example. The US war machine is so much ahead of everybody else that no tactic or idea in the world is going to save your conventional forces.

    There is no rule that says that the side which builds fortifications automatically looses every ability to defend itself from air attacks.

    If the opponents are only roughly in the same league in terms of skill, numbers and technology extensive fortifications will pose a problem to the attacker as there won't be some huge undisputed air campaign in which he pummels enemy positions at will. Not every war is a superpower vs some 2nd-3rd world country.

    One needs some sorties to reduce and soften up enemy fortifications in order to help the ground troops. But sorties are limited as are operational squadrons which may suffer from having to attack predictable targets.
     
  4. rip

    rip New Member

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    I remember taking along bus trip through Albania, starting from northern Greece to the Albanian capital of Tirans and then on to the port city of Shëngjin. Talk about fortress, the entire country was lines of bunkers, redoubts, and underground forts. They ranged from straight lines of one man precast concrete domed mushroom looking things with firing slits which were half submerged in the ground and strung across farm fields that screwed up the farming, to huge many-level forts dung in to the high mountain passes with everything in between. They were never used, they were a fantastic waste of money for a small country, and are nothing now but huge hideous eye sores. The Albanian communists were the most paranoid of the whole paranoid lot and were not the brightest of dictators.

    Except for the air power part, they fulfilled all of your requirements of what a fortress should be and did so with many, many miles in depth. In the end it didn’t accomplished anything.
     
  5. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    No, those are just fortification, not a fortress. Few are probably even capable of mutually supporting fire. Probably it would be better described as a fortified crustal defense, like the Maginot Line. Few were probably garrisoned in peace time.

    And any defensive military expenditure, including fortresses, that prevents an attack from ever happening is by definition a success, even if not the most cost effective one.
     
  6. rip

    rip New Member

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    I must respectfully disagree. Albania at the time was a militarized police state and considered itself to be publicly as the only true fortress of communism. Considering their defenses it certainly looked like one. There is no reason to believe that anyone ever wanted to invade that poor backward county at any time. Their fornications were constructed for ideological reasons, not military ones. Albania was not even aligned with the Eastern Block it’s only friend was China thousands of miles away when China was crazy.

    Remember these people built walls to keep people inside not to keep other people out.
     
  7. kato

    kato Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    Some points of disagreement...

    I think you need to take a look at the Swiss monobloc Bisons there.

    Hard Protection against any:
    - artillery grenades (direct hit)
    - HE-FRAG BLUs up to 250 kg (direct hit)
    - HE-FRAG BLUs above 250 kg (indirect hit)
    - helicopter- or aircraft-mounted gun or rocket weapons (direct hit)
    - shaped-charge warheads, including large-caliber such as Maverick (direct hit)

    Soft Protection: Active countermeasures against IIR seekers (active IR signature modification) and laser-guided seekers (disruption); passive countermeasures detonating bombs and shaped charges before hitting the bunker.

    Armament: two 155mm/L52 guns, range 42 km, ROF 5 shots/gun in 25 seconds
    Ammunition Types used: HE, WP, ICM (63 bomblets), SmArt (2 guided AT submunitions)

    You needed modern penetrating weapons like GBU-28 or KAB-1500LG, or unitary SRBMs (like ATACMS Block IVA or Iskander) to combat such a position.

    Put them up in decent numbers in overlapping fields as artillery positions, layer some air defense over them and keep some infantry around - and the cost can become prohibitive.

    Look into the Austrian area defense concept. The Warsaw Pact considered it impregnable without gratuitous use of tactical nukes.

    It effectively pushed the fortress concept to an system of massive proportions, with its "key zones" becoming the abstract citadels of a fortress several hundred kilometers across. Unlike the Swiss concept it didn't put as much stock into fortified positions (although it still had some), but instead into active area denial and into drawing the enemy into the kill zones between its citadels while using mobile forces operating from the citadels or left as stay-behind forces to deny the enemy movement.
     
  8. My2Cents

    My2Cents Active Member

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    If the Bison can only handle BLUs up to 250kg then the 874kg BLU-109/116 should do fine, use it in a AGM-130 and the aircraft should survive. The SDB/GBU-39 is supposed to have the same penetration, so these mounts are look pretty vulnerable.

    The Bisons are WWII/Cold War designs, at which time they would have been formidable indeed. Against modern precision guided weapons they are marginal at best, and the Swiss are retiring both the Bisons and most of the fortifications.
    Again, this is a Cold War design, but within that context matches the requirements I laid out nicely. Against modern precision guided weapons only the mobile forces would be effective.

    Technology has progressed to the point that weapons in bunkers are just too vulnerable. Hence a shift to disposable (1 shot) weapons in the design.
     
  9. Jason Neri

    Jason Neri New Member

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    Hi all my first post! If a fortress can be mobile I'd go for the CBGroup. As far as HEOrbit space fortress with DEWeapons I'm not sure that's a good idea, for my 2 cents on what My2Cents said earlier...

    To beat it let's see... rockets with mini fragmentation explosives to break the rocket up. Now for the warheads off to the hardware store... nuts and bolts no nails. I like nails. Shoot my rockets off somewhere else for a massive debris field in parallel

    Debris up to 6 miles/sec or 21600 mph or (while no sound in space) equivalent to Mach 28. My money's on the nails

    Even minor damage could cause complications in the vacuum of space. Upgrade the fortress upgrade the projectiles against it, nails would at least slow construction and see if they get the hint

    Now the space fortress would have to turn into a space ship i.e. Sci-fi

    p.s. A space fortress would likely get its payload off whether the attack against it is direct or indirect, and if that's its purpose then it's a weaponised satellite

    Therefore in light of all this, a HEO space fortress would have to be a sneaky and modular endeavour. A few satellites that don't look like threats but can have offensive/defensive DEW plugged in, a couple of space shuttles that all come together rapidly to form a surprise station! Attack our surprise station and we'll get MAD!
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018