Strategic intelligence and the Kill Web

WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG: In previous articles, we explored the technologies and tactics going into the Kill Web, and how they work. Now, we need to look at how strategic intelligence feeds into the Kill Web, and into the order of battle (OB). That's the structure of our troops and weapons, and how they will be deployed against an enemy.

That structure, in turn, is derived from the intelligence assessment of the enemy’s capabilities on the battlefield, called SALUTE (size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment). Basically that’s who they are, where they are, how fast they can move, and what weapons they have. That is followed by another analysis: EMLCOA (enemy’s most likely course of action). In this essay, we’ll concentrate on the weapons the enemy produces or buys on the world market.

The first thing we need to know is global military spending by country, to give us the big picture. And the best place to find that is in the SIPRI report (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). In late April, SIPRI released their update for 2018. It’s on the web so you can download it. They break things down by total military expenditures by country, arms sales (from one country to another), and arms production by country.

In 2018, total worldwide military spending was about $1.82 trillion, up 2.6% over 2017. Military expenditures were 2.1% of global GDP in 2018, based on the 172 countries they track. Now, we need to break that big number down. The U.S. leads the world with 36% of global military spending. China was second with 14%, and India third with 3.7%. Russia fell to sixth at 3.4%. Iran and North Korea were small fractions of the total since they are both minor countries. According to SIPRI, Iran spends about 3% of their $450 billion GDP on their military. North Korea spends more than 20% of their $12 billion GDP on their forces. Neither has a significant military-industrial infrastructure, so they must import much of their weaponry.

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It’s interesting to see the military-spending-to-GDP ratios in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia (8.8%), Oman (8.2%), Kuwait (5.1%), Lebanon (5%), and Jordan (4.7%). This region is a hotbed of unrest, conflict, and turmoil, and all these countries have oil money to spend. Take away that money and their GDP, along with their military funding, will fall like a refrigerator down an elevator shaft. That’s why the U.S. recently expanded the sanctions against Iranian oil imports. US military spending was 3.2% of GDP in 2018.

We should consider our allies in the order of battle too. Only four European (NATO) countries hit 2% of GDP spending on defense in 2017: Greece, United Kingdom (UK), Estonia, and Poland. In 2018, seven of the 29 NATO countries were in the top 15 military spenders: the U.S., UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. But only the U.S. and France hit the 2% of GDP spending goal. Japan spent 0.9% of their GDP while South Korea spent 2.6%. But Japan’s spending is starting to rise, given the aggression by North Korea and China in the past few years. Japan ruled Korea from 1910 to 1945, and they also occupied China from 1931 to 1945. So, there’s still a lot of resentment from those countries. China and North Korea are threats to Japan, but Japan is not a threat to anyone. Hence, they must start spending more on their defense. You can read the details about other countries on the SIPRI website.

The next step is to look at who is exporting weapons and who is buying them. There are 67 countries that build and export military weapons. These transactions are what SIPRI calls “International Arms Transfers.” The U.S. shipped 36% of total weapons exports in 2018, primarily to Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Australia. The U.S. sells arms to about 98 countries.

Russia shipped 21% of total exported weapons to about 47 countries. Their primary customers are India, China, and Vietnam. But, Russia’s exports have been falling for the past few years. France shipped 6.8% of exported weapons to 81 countries, mostly to Egypt, China, and India. Rounding-out the top ten weapons exporters are Germany (6.4%), China (5.2%), UK (4.2%), Spain (3.2%), Israel (3.1%), Italy (2.3%), and Netherlands (2.1%). What’s glaring about these numbers is that there are six European NATO countries out of the top ten weapons exporters, and only one of those countries (France) met their NATO military spending requirement of 2% of GDP in 2018.

Something else to consider here: there were caches of older weapons captured after the wars in the Middle East by rogue countries (Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc). They are secretly sold again, by shady arms dealers, to terrorists and unstable countries. The weapons were counted once by SIPRI, in the year they were made and initially sold. Obviously, SIPRI doesn’t have insight into where they were sold later.

Additionally, certain countries clandestinely sell weapons to other countries, off the books. In 2014, a North Korean freighter was stopped at the Panama Canal, coming from Cuba. Russian weapons and parts for military aircraft were found onboard, in sacks of sugar. Also in 2014, the Israelis stopped a Panamanian-flagged ship headed for Yemen. It was loaded with missiles for the Houthi rebels. Obviously, SIPRI doesn’t track those shipments either. Watch the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” to see how these covert transactions are executed.

The top importers of weapons were Saudi Arabia, Australia, and China, followed by India, Egypt, Algeria, South Korea, UAE, Qatar, and Pakistan. Some of these countries are buying F-35 fighter jets, for $100 million each, so that distorts the numbers to some degree. More than 150 countries import weapons from the 67 countries that make them. The numbers are on the SIPRI website.

Another point to examine involves the older weapons each country already has, prior to their imports. There are several websites, like Globalfirepower, that cover this topic. However, you must consider that a country like Russia may have 21,000 tanks, but many of those are in storage, being cannibalized for parts to keep others running. So, the SALUTE analysts must derive the percentage of total tanks that are operational and battle-ready. That might be half of them, from my reading.

Finally, we need to examine arms production capacity by country. That’s hard to do, since many small companies make military equipment, so the best way to get a general idea is to look at the sales of the top 100 military contractors in the world. Again, SIPRI does a good job of collecting those numbers. In 2017, those 100 companies produced $398 billion worth of military weapons and systems. There are 42 prime contractors in the U.S., and they produced 57% of the total weapons made in the world (domestically consumed or exported). The top two weapons makers were Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, followed by General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Huntington Ingalls. SIPRI has not updated their website with the 2018 numbers for arms production, so we have to use the 2017 data here.

Russia produced 9.5% of the 2017 total, primarily made by Almaz-Antey, United Aircraft Corporation, and Tactical Missiles Corporation. The UK comes in third with 9% of the total, from BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, and GKN Aerospace. France comes in fourth at 5.3%, made by Thales, Naval Group, and KNDS.

China has 11 major government-run companies that make weapons. The primary ones are China State Shipbuilding, Chengdu Aircraft, Nanchang Aircraft, Changhe Aircraft, China Aerospace, and Norinco. Since these are government-controlled companies, they don’t publicly release production numbers, so we must extrapolate an estimate from their weapons exports and other intelligence sources. Only Xi Jinping and the Pentagon have good numbers for China’s weapons production capacity.

Iran has five weapons makers: Iran Electronics, Defense Industries, Aerospace Industries, Aviation Industries, and Marine Industries. Weapons made in North Korea are produced by the government, but they export missiles to Iran and other Middle East nations through KOMID (Korean Mining and Development Trading Corporation). There are no good numbers for the military production capacity of these countries either, except at the Pentagon.

This stuff is not that exciting to study, but now you have a general idea of the top-level strategic intelligence data that feeds into the Kill Web. And as a byproduct, you unconsciously gained an understanding of the type of war our enemies (and allies) can wage, and for how long. From a tactical perspective, you accidentally learned some of the primary targets for our weapons in a war. Those are the enemy’s military production facilities (from the SIPRI arms production data), and the ships from certain countries bringing weapons into their harbors (revealed in the SIPRI arms transfer data). This data also shows you the power of publicly-available “open-source intelligence” information. It’s called OSINT in military parlance.

At this point, you’re probably tired from inadvertently learning so much by reading this article, so let’s end this chapter here. In our next investigation, we’ll use OSINT again and go into detail about the weapons our enemies will unwittingly maneuver into our inescapable, phantasmagorical, and lethal Kill Web. We’ll start that process by looking at their navy ships. So, turn your bow into the wind, dog the hatches, and rig for heavy weather.