A Blog by Jonathan Low


Apr 28, 2022

Why the Little Things Like Packaging Impact Russian Military Logistics

Wooden crates for ammunition worked pretty well...during the US Civil War. And probably during the Russian Revolution. They also worked ok in World Wars I and II, up through Vietnam.

But the sensitive electronic smart weapons of today require packaging that protects their guidance systems from heat, cold, snow, rain, dust and human carelessness. A reason why such a large percentage of Russian munitions fail to hit their targets - or fail to explode when they do hit - is that they have not been properly stored and protected. And to be fair, the NLAW anti-tank missile being supplied by NATO to Ukraine has also had problems because its battery is affected by the cold. JL 

Trent Telenko, former US Dept of Defense, reports in Twitter:

US missile containers are the product of decades of improvement in mechanized logistics, human factors & experience with failed container technology.The US TOW anti-tank missile went into service in 1970. It was packaged in a wooden crate like you see with the (Russian) Kornet. Missiles are vulnerable to poor storage practices, design defects, plus sheer stupidity & procurement corruption. Missiles can go down, turning infantry into "Road Kill" versus tanks. A missile design defect with the NLAW in Ukraine (is) not enough battery for the cold. Compare wooden Russian ammunition crates to supply containers containing Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Javelin anti-armor systems, and other equipment bound for Ukraine.


The US missile containers are the product of decades of improvement in mechanized logistics, human factors & experience with failed container technology. Now the packaging technology teachable moment:

 The US TOW anti-tank missile went into service in 1970.It was packaged in a wooden crate like you see with the Kornet.

However, its wood crate packaging technology was applied in such a way as to make it work with mechanized logistics. Military missile packaging changed a whole lot because of the bad experiences of 1990-1991 Operation Desert Shield. Note for Twitter historians: Read the institutional logistical histories, it's where all the good stuff is which explains command decisions are hidden.When the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to Saudi Arabia in August 1990. They brought all their TOW missile stocks in those wooden boxes up thread. Problem: Saudi Arabia in August hits 130 deg. Fahrenheit (54 C) in the shade. The TOW missiles weren't in the shade. Oops. Being assault infantry, the 82nd Airborne didn't take care to properly protect their TOW rounds from the heat. They had only so much they could carry on the planes, thus no tarps for ammo. After about 4-to-6 weeks their entire stock of TOW missiles were unserviceable. A whole lot of things fell out of this assault infantry-short term thinking misadventure by the paratroopers. This event combined with the friendly fire incidences of the 82nd Airborne in 1989's "Operation Just Cause" in Panama destroyed the "Airborne Mafia" in the US Army.Where the 82nd Airborne comes in is that they did a firepower demonstration for the press early in Desert Shield & most of the TOW's they launched misfired. There was a whole lot of "Nothing to see here" in the aftermath, but it was clear to me that the media got the story at the time. Hence the embed program, despite the Fred Friendly seminar impact on officers like Schwarzkopf.It's a reason the 82nd didn't get an airborne drop & was sent on the left flank of Desert Storm with the French. And its also why Schwarzkopf got all the A-10's he demanded despite the USAF's 1st post Cold War attempt to dispose of the A-10 Warthog.AMCCOM could not say outright what happened to the TOW missiles, reasons. But it did leave a radioactive insider message as to what happened for the guilty. BTW, remember those TOW missile crates up thread?These are the post Desert Storm TOW missile containers that replaced the wood crates. Note all the ridges built in so no matter how you stacked them. There would always be air circulation between the crates as well a insulation inside. This is called "Stupid proofing."
Missiles are extremely vulnerable to poor storage practices, misadventure, design defects, electronic countermeasures plus the shear stupidity & procurement corruption revealed by war.Complete load outs of missiles can & will go down simultaneously, turning "speed bump" light infantry into "Road Kill" versus tanks. BTW, we are actually seeing a missile design defect with the NLAW in Ukraine...not enough battery for the cold.One of the problems that analysts have with the tank versus missile debate is their inability to look at the system problems with missiles. Missiles are horribly vulnerable to tactics & countermeasures in a way tanks are not, on top of logistic issuesMissiles are a binary on/off form of combat power. Tank's combat power degrades much more gracefully against a full range of threats and still brings a great deal to the battle while partially operational.


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