Reinforcing Failure: Gate part 2

Gate 2 intro

At the end of the previous article, I asked the question “The JSDF in this scenario has massive technical and supply superiority. What could the Empire be doing to mitigate that and mount an effective counter to the invasion?” As it happens, I have a few ideas about that. Don’t get me wrong: the Empire is faced with major difficulties. But the JSDF isn’t going to have things all their own way, either.

Gate 2 JSDF base

This base is overlooked on all sides by hills. The JSDF couldn’t choose where the gate opened, but its a glaring tactical weakness nonetheless.


I’m guessing that that the JSDF forces on the Empire side of the gate are based around a reinforced mechanised regiment (or brigade, if you prefer). A regiment is the smallest force which is really capable of sustained independent operations, but also the largest mechanised unit Japan could probably spare for an extended period (most of the JGSDF is infantry divisions tied to specific areas, which are fine on defense but not what you want for an expeditionary force). That means we have a pretty good idea of what equipment and numbers the JSDF has available.

As an educated guess, I’m putting them at about 3000 combat troops. That’s a battalion of Type-74 tanks and light armour of various types, a battalion of mechanised infantry in Type-73 APCs, probably two battalions of regular infantry in trucks and other wheeled vehicles, and another battalion-equivalent of 155mm artillery, air defence troops, engineers, and other miscellaneous hangers-on. All with the usual integral supporting arms, HQ elements, and whatnot.

But that isn’t all. The JSDF has also deployed at least a couple of dozen helicopters of various types, F4-EJ jet fighters, all the support facilities for them, and a substantial engineering, logistics, and civil-affairs contingent. All up, I estimate that there are perhaps 9000 Japanese troops in that base, to say nothing of any refugees they have taken in. This is basically a small town.

Gate 2 logistics

Why am I talking about all this? Because that small town needs to be supplied. All their food, ammunition, fuel, spare parts, office and construction supplies, medical needs, personal items, clothing, toilet paper… everything has to come through that gate. And they can only fit so much through it. Assuming they’re doing a fair bit of movement but not much actual fighting and the aircraft are flying a total of 100 sorties each day between them, my references indicate they will need something in the region of 3000 tonnes of supplies every day in order to stay effective. Which is 150 20-tonne container trucks.

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad… Japan has plenty of trucks and plenty of shipping containers, and although 3000 tonnes of supplies might be expensive it’s a fairly trivial expenditure for a prosperous first-world nation. The gate is conveniently in downtown Tokyo so they just have to load up the trucks and roll them through, right?

Right. Let’s say it takes 10 minutes at the other end to get the truck unloaded and turned around. 10 minutes per truck is 1500 minutes per day to bring in all the supplies needed for that day… but there are only 1440 minutes in a day. So straight away we can see that the gate is fully utilised simply bringing through the supplies needed to sustain the forces that are already committed. There’s no scope to increase the level of commitment without reducing their operational tempo. The JSDF’s logistics are stretched from the beginning, and there just isn’t any spare capacity to improve them. With careful planning by the commanders and staff this shouldn’t be too much of a problem in the short term, but remember what the JSDF commanders are like. I think they’re going to be in trouble.

Gate 2 monty

Tell it like it is, Monty.

The Empire:

Let’s leave the JSDF for the moment and turn to the Empire. Assuming the Empire isn’t willing to just accept the JSDF presence, what can they do? They don’t know about the logistics crunch the JSDF is experiencing, of course, but there are some things that are obvious. The horrific casualties suffered by allied forces at the battle for Alnus hill should have made it clear that they simply cannot fight open-field battles against the JSDF. Unfortunately, that message hasn’t got through to everyone. Partly this is because communications in a low-tech society like this are patchy at the best of times, and partly because the Empire’s leaders are using the JSDF to rid themselves of potential rivals for control. Eventually, however, word is going to get around: forming into large groups anywhere in sight of JSDF troops is a bad move. Artillery, automatic weapons, and plain old rifle fire will shred these sorts of formations. That will force the Empire troops to take the field in smaller groups and stick to cover as much as they can.

It should also become clear that the JSDF unit commanders are aggressive to a fault – given a chance to attack they will take it, without much thought for what else might be going on or what it might lead to. Canny opposing commanders will be able to use this tendency to lead them around like a bull with a ring in its nose. We can’t expect the JSDF sub-unit commanders to be quite so impulsive – apart from anything else they have to know a bit more about the tactical situation they are facing. But they in turn will become wary of being lured into close terrain, where their firepower advantage is minimised.

gate 2 ambush

That’s not how you do an ambush!

The Empire also has something the JSDF has no counter for – magic. We don’t know exactly what mages are capable of in this setting, but we do know that magical talent is reasonably common and that there are at least some abilities that have military utility. I’m not just talking about tossing fireballs about either, the demonstrated ability to put people to sleep or float heavy loads inches off the ground open up a lot of options for the Empire. And the demigods which wander around are a whole different kettle of fish. They ignore small-arms fire and literally cannot die, in addition to being extravagantly destructive. Presumably enough firepower directed at them will at least keep them busy regenerating (refer to my comments about dealing with Titans), but any JSDF troops caught without that firepower on hand are in a world of trouble.

gate 2 ambush 2

That’s more like it.

What this is all adds up to is that the JSDF is trapped. They’re caught in a situation where the only thing they can do is go wherever they want, whenever they want, and do whatever they like when they get there… but it costs. Small groups are vulnerable to ambush and can’t cope with the magical threat, so they have to go mob-handed if they want to be sure of getting there. Big groups put pressure on the logistics system which is already strained. Want to increase the level of aerial reconnaissance and use helicopters for transport? Watch those supply stockpiles shrink. You could restrict operations and try to build up stocks, but that concedes the area to the Empire. And don’t try to talk about using local resources… I have great faith in the ability of Japanese engineers to create refineries and factories, but everything they need to do that will have to be brought the gate and guarded while it is being built and used. This means another regiment of troops, with all their supporting arms and hangers-on, and I hope by now it’s clear that the logistic capacity for that simply isn’t there.

This is by no means an easy situation for the Empire’s soldiers. They will have to get used to operating in smaller and more independent units. It will demand a lot from their small-unit commanders and troops, through a learning process that will be brutally difficult. And it will need a major change in tactics to focus on getting the mages/demigods into position and then protecting them while they do the real work. But they can do all those things, and I would wager it will be surprisingly fast to take effect. After that, it simply has to be replicated to leave the Japanese in the impossible position of a man trying to hold up his trousers while swatting at hornets.

The Empire can win simply by denying the Japanese a victory, and if they can produce the equivalent of a Belisarius or Scipio Africanus then things could get positively embarrassing for the newcomers. The long-term outlook for an Empire equivalent of those generals is not good, of course… the only thing more dangerous than incompetent commander is a competent one, politically speaking, and we only have to look at history to see their likely fate. That isn’t really a military issue, though.

Question of the post: What have I missed? And how might the JSDF react to the situation described in this post?

About Dr. J.H. Watson

I’m a New Zealander, in my 30s, and until recently I lived in rural Japan. I have interests in history, pop culture, video games, and the clever use of language.
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5 Responses to Reinforcing Failure: Gate part 2

  1. fgfdfh says:

    Well, the JSDF still has the advantage. The Europeans used local troops intensively during the colonization era. They don’t really have to bring much. In an under-developed place, civilians’ loyalty to the state is shaky at best. JSDF should give them modern medicine, technology and other other valuables while respecting their culture. With local human and natural resources, Japan will build an amazing economy.

    With technological superiority, solving transportation problems around the Gate should not be a big deal. The Japanese might have to rebuilt an entire expensive area in Tokyo, though. But if they can keep the Gate open for a long time, the economic potential is enormous. For a small island nation with aging population, having access to cheap labors and minerals is a god’s gift.

    On the other hand, the Empire should do what other third world country do: learn from their enemies. Send spies,diplomat, students to learn modern tech. Offer trade rights and land for advanced weapons and education. The Empire is too big to be controlled by an external forces. China and Rome has done those things for thousand years. Honestly, everyone in this anime acted like an idiot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The JSDF would retain their technological advantage, true. Their local troops wouldn’t have that, however, unless the JSDF is going to equip them and supply them… at which point the logistics crunch would take effect even worse. And the JSDF is going to have to supply them with food and water at the very least even if they continue to use their original equipment, because medieval societies do not have much agricultural excess to support large non-productive groups. “Campaign season” was traditionally the summer months, when agricultural workers (almost everybody) were available for military service and there was a food in the fields for an army to live off. That’s why armies kept marching, they had to move or starve. Regardless of what they did, it was a disaster for the locals when an army arrived. In any case these locals would be going up against Empire forces with more experience and better training. At best this is a recipe for a large-scale civil war, which might suit the JSDF but will have an appalling human cost.

      Simply supplying high-tech goodies is also going to change cultures in unpredictable ways. I don’t expect the anime to address this, but consider the impact on society if they adopt advanced medicine. More children will live, fewer people will die of accidents or disease… but the carrying capacity of the land has not been increased. Is the JSDF prepared to feed all those extra mouths? This is not something to be done lightly!

      Solving transportation problems on the Empire side of the gate will depend on a) resources brought through the gate, and b) a lack of interference by the Empire on the construction and operation of the transport networks. A is solvable although it will add an extra burden to the logistics situation, but B is not unless the Empire can be convinced not to engage in ambushes, raids on facilities, train-wrecking, or anything else. Personally this sounds like a major undertaking. The only thing that makes it worthwhile is, as you point out, the resources of an entire world being placed at Japan’s disposal. Questions about colonialism or imperialism are a bit outside my pay-grade, but the Japanese would have to consider them pretty carefully.

      And again, you’re absolutely right that the Empire is being presented with a priceless opportunity to learn. The JSDF in this scenario are already close to their peak, they have to work very hard in order to improve. But the Empire only has to learn a few simple tricks to massively increase their power and capabilities – we’re talking orders of magnitude here. Unless the JSDF is prepared to impose a Carthaginian peace then they will have to accept that sooner or later the Empire will be first their equal and then their superior on this side of the gate. China and Rome are certainly good models to look at. Unfortunately, idiots do not appear to be uncommon in anime.


      • fgfdfh says:

        Yeah, the colonial armies in the past used tactics and strategy that were very effective, but any modern society will find appalling. Granted, the fact that diplomacy is practically non-existent in this anime shows the author’s serious lack of knowledge. Both sides are now fighting for no good reason whatsoever. Well, this anime is a military circlejerk. War is more entertaining than realistic political deals, I guess.


        • The spectacle of modern weapons being used on opponents who can’t effectively respond must be satisfying to some people, but I find I get enough of it very quickly. Calling the show a circlejerk is quite fitting, it was amazing how much the locals fawned over Itami and just how much wish-fulfilment fantasy was going on. As you say, the REALLY interesting aspects of the situation would be happening up at the diplomatic/political levels and in terms of cultural shifts. But that might be too hard to show in anime, and certainly wouldn’t fit into 20-minute episodes.


  2. Ed Rota says:

    The author’s analysis of the JSDF’s logistical situation is fairly decent from a layman’s perspective, but there are too many assumptions the author is making about the Empire.

    1. That the Empire is one cohesive politcal entity rather than a collective group of squabbling, in-fighting fiefdoms only held together by the military might of the emperor.
    2. The mages / sorcerers / “magic using folk” are under the rule of the Empire or even politically aligned with them. Haven’t seen a single person capable of using magic in the imperial city.
    3. The magic using folk are available or even willing to be conscripted into the Imperial military.
    4. The Demigods: There’s only a handful of them. To think that they would align themselves with (allow themselves to be subjugated by) the Empire is really wishful thinking. A far bigger concern is that they would align themselves with the Japanese like Rory seems to have.
    5. That the integration of “magic using soldiers” (assuming it’s even likely) would be something quick and deployable in a year or 2 rather than taking generations of doctrinal development, and conversely that the JSDF will not be able to effectively counter magic because it’s beyond what they’ve encountered or trained for so far. Most modern people have some exposure to the concept of fantasy magic from general media. It’s more likely that by the time the Empire can field “magic using soldier” units, the JSDF would thoroughly know of it and have effective countermeasures against such.
    6. That magic is somehow super effective and super powerful: From what the anime and the manga has shown, most magic seems to have a range of, at best, a few dozen meters and requires line of sight, aside from the sleep spell Leilei uses, The Japanese are perhaps more likely to suss out any weaknesses in magic than the mages are of figuring out any of the weaknesses of technology, Leilei being an exception.
    7. The Empire, as a whole, is a feudal, pre-scientific, pre-industrial civilization. To think that they would be able to somehow reverse-engineer and effectively make use of even the basic ideas of the artifacts of a post-industrial civilization like Japan is a bit ludicrous. The mage college city, on the other hand, would probably dramatically advance their civilization in a single generation. They may even abandon magic to research science. For the Empire to advance technologically, they need hand-held knowledge transfer and the only game in town isn’t going to give it to them.
    8. That any effective counter to the technological and military might of the JSDF will come from tactical improvisation at the squad level. This is not a modern professional (volunteer) military force where even squaddies are taught to think tactically. This is a feudal (probably conscripted) military that is drilled in phalanx tactics and motivated by threat of punishment.

    On the Japanese side:
    1. The gate is controlled by the Japanese, and security at both ends are incredibly tight. It’s going to be incredibly hard to send spies through much less diplomats to learn the ways and knowledge of the Japanese
    2. The Japanese seem to have a pretty good idea of the capabilities of their opposition, unlike the Empire. The only thing holding back the Japanese military is their own political ideology and doctrine.
    3. The logistics will sharply shift from combat supplies to construction material after the 2nd battle of Alnus Hill. After the base is built, the supplies going through will shift from construction supplies to aviation fuel, maintenance supplies and PX goods.


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