Saturday, 15 September 2012

Guest Post: The basics of Transition and post-peak and Transition in a naval context and for Australia

This is a guest post by my Twin.

In talking about any strategies and tactics for any military branch (but naval in particular) in the context of the post peak future, two important considerations must be factored in. The goal(s) of that military branch and at what stage beyond post peak one is looking at (These are more important for naval considerations because ships are purpose built and take a large amount of capital to build and maintain). The two stages I will be considering are Transition and the ‘New Dawn’. The Transition will be the time of decay and destruction where the world is getting larger and the available resources are getting, on average, smaller across the world. The ‘New Dawn’ will be the period after the decay stops and (hopefully) reverses to some extent, for the naval context I will also add that it also has the aspect that little to no ‘legacy tech’ is in use by the major conventional powers and the majority of Warships in active use are built post-peak. Goals are needed as they define how important, and therefore how many resources can be diverted, for this military aspect. They also define what is needed from that specific military branch in terms of operational capacity and For a Navy where ships have inbuilt capacity an long lifetimes (commonly decades) this is very important.

What are Australia maritime goals? The most obvious one is to defend the country from invasion and due to the criticality of this task, it is likely to be the first priority. However, there are other considerations, this Stratfor piece is an excellent discussion on this topic
In summation our biggest maritime problem is that, we need to trade through sea-lanes in order to be as prosperous as we have been and that we are relatively secure from invasion. However, we are not strong enough to protect and keep the sea-lanes open, especially against the world’s supreme naval power (first Britain and now the US). This means that our main strategy has been to create ‘dependency’ on us from the naval hegemony so that they will protect the trade lanes we depend on. In a post peak world, this strategy would be unreliable on the long term due to several factors such as the decentralization of Transition as well as the loss of technology gradients making the creation of a global empire much more difficult. The alternative strategy would be to keep the sea lanes open ourselves through a mix of direct naval action (mostly close to our shores) and friendly relations with those who control the other important sea lanes.

The differences in Transition and the ‘New Dawn’ are great in terms of tactics, strategic outlook, and preparation. The Transition phase is likely to be long (several decades to centuries) especially in naval terms; it will also involve shorter trade routes (modern long-range shipping will have severe problems) as well as the rapid changing of trade routes during the initial stages. The ‘New Dawn’ on the other hand will have longer trade routes and be defined by whatever technologies are viable and around. This leads to different responses to the two phases, Transition due to the shorter trade routes would favor more direct action along the lines of anti-piracy operations and naval dominance in the local region sufficient to stop the local island nations from blocking said routes. The ‘New Dawn’ on the other hand would rely more on diplomatic efforts to secure the longer trade routes in a similar way as today. Other aspects such as technology and available capital would also differentiate the two phases in radical ways. This aspect of different levels of access to capital is perhaps the greatest challenge in the Transition phase as during the transition little capital would be available to create new warships and maintain the existing ones, making adaption difficult. This however is solvable by preparation and planning taken before the peak hits during the time left. The ‘New Dawn’ is difficult if not impossible to prepare for due to the devastation that will take place during the peak as well as the unknowns about what technologies and resources will be available during that time.

The Transition phase has several problems due to the unique nature of this phase. These aspects are many but two of the main ones are the transitory nature of Transition with the strategic makeup is one of constant flux ending in the arrival of the ‘New Dawn’ through a slow process. The other is the lack of capital, which would mean that navies would be largely limited in warships to what survives the immediate post peak with only small ships being viable to build in significant numbers, this would also make maintenance and logistical support of the navy difficult. This would mean that high tech and large warships would quickly lose capability, as they couldn’t be maintained as often as needed. This would also cause problems in armaments, as the main ship-to-ship weapon of the modern vessel is the missile, a high tech piece of equipment. This would mean that there would be fewer missiles available, their price would be greater and they would be less effective due to cost cutting, non-replacement and degradation of the ships high tech sensors (important for targeting and control of said missiles). Another major tactical challenge during this time is a unique aspect of modern warship design, their lack of armor. Modern warships commonly have little to no armor and rely on not being hit to survive, through destruction of the enemy before either they fire, or destruction of the missiles fired at them. This has resulted in a British warship (HMS Sheffield) during the Falkland’s island being sunk by an Exocet that did not even detonate, instead punching through the ship damaging it and setting it on fire. For related reasons warship speed is also commonly slower than previous ships. This coupled with the inability to quickly replace losses and reduced capabilities would likely make most navies avoid engagements were they could easily lose irreplaceable ships.

Available technology and its availability will determine aspects of both the Transition and ‘New Dawn’ phases. This could easily create a complex environment with major difference amongst different forces as well as create radically different tactics depending on these variables. An example would be missiles, there may be large accurate missiles capable of sinking even the most heavily armored battleship but only the major powers could have access to them. This would mean that armored warships would be extremely effective against pirates but ineffective against another state’s navy. Or missiles could only be viable from aircraft mounts and with limited payloads leading to airplanes having a major advantage but armored warships able to survive. What technologies will be available during the different stages of the post-peak world is a complex question that I am in no position to make any authoritative statements only general principles to consider
  1. the age of the technology, new or old
  2. the simplicity of said technology
  3. how many separate production and design stages are needed
  4. dependency on related technologies
  5. and so on

Using this I would say that the predominate ship weapon is likely to become the cannon, likely turreted, as the technology is relatively simple when compared to missiles, it is much older and it depends less on related technologies. This does not mean that I think missiles will not be possible or even viable just that cannons will be preferable in many ways. This however means that I also think that armor will come back to warships as well as battleships due to their advantages in terms of cannons.

Other technologies to consider include large fleet carriers, torpedoes (both short and long range), helicopters, and subs. All have their advantages and disadvantages as well as varying levels of complexity and resource needs.

Next post I will look at generalized strategies for the transition stage.


  1. Hey dudes! Hope you are both well. This post reminded me of all of the troubles in the Strait of Malacca. Not a good place to do business, what with all of those pirates. I don't really know much about maritime stuff, so I'll take your word for it.

    The Northern part of Australia is a very hard place to invade due to the difficulties of climate, soil and hostile wildlife (crocodiles, stingers etc). I traveled up there over winter back in 1998 and it is a pretty unforgiving part of the world.

    During WWII, they came up with the Brisbane Line and it would have been a pretty effective defence as it is just not possible for an invading army to hold large chunks of the the Northern part of Australia.

    At the moment I'm reading a series of books by an English lady (Annie Hawes) who moved to Liguria in Italy in the 1980's and took up with the locals and lived as a peasant farmer. It has lots of useful insights into the locals lives. One thing it mentioned was that people generally lived inland away from the coast because of the historical threat of raiders from the sea. Interesting stuff.

    I hadn't heard about the ochre. Thanks.

    You know, I struggle with the biofuel concept because it is really hard to grow a surplus of produce using sustainable methods and I've been at it for a few years now.

    I've read about a few people using pig manure as a feedlot into a bio-digester to produce methane for kitchen fuels. It is very possible and easy technology.

    On the other hand, if I had pigs, I'd use them for foraging purposes (ie. aerating the soil - they love to dig) and the production and distribution of manure as a fertiliser. Both pigs and chooks were jungle / forest animals.

    Historically however, pigs / chooks / goats and sheep were too precious to eat for the small holder (except for the occasional beast on feast days - like midwinter => Christmas day). The outputs of those animals and the fertility they provided were the reason they were kept on small holdings.

    Check out my latest video:
    Fernglade Farm: Spring Update



  2. @ Cherokee Organics

    My impression of northern Australai is the same, so many crocodiles (I counted about 100 on one river cruise).

    Unfortunately collapse allows sea raiders, thats the main reason the vikings existed and it takes recovery to rebuil the local defense (which also made the vikings decline). Preparation can avoid it but, we'll see how well it turns out.

    The main problem with biofuels is that they are determined by what you grow & surplus, from your farm update i couldn't see anything for biodiesel (needs fats/oils), lots of biogas (requires more animals)

    Seeing as you have solar, biofuels probably aren't needed as a primary fuel source for your place. As a supplement (fill in the solar gaps, transport or any diesel/petrol engine) they'd be more useful. You do have wood nearbye and thats the traditional biofuel, or you can make charcoal with it.

    The lack of surplus is always going to be the limiting factor for biofuels, one of the reasons i think it'll be more common in urban farms (can pool surpluses more easily) or big acreage rather than small farms.

    One of the reasons we keep chickens (3 bantam Pekings) is to improve the garden, also when the lay we don't have to buy eggs.

  3. Thanks, i had completely missed the straight of Malacca. judging by the stuff I found in brief research it deserves a post on its own. fortunately for Australia we appear to have options other than the strait for much of out trade. unfortunately they would carry great costs and in a post peak world piracy could prove an intractable problem in that strait.

    good luck with your food forest and interesting way to grow blackberries.