Sunday, October 6, 2013

How To Win A War

We’ve had recent discussions about quantity versus quality, here and here, the supposed need for the F-35 because of the technological edge it provides, and so forth.  The underlying, if unstated, question in all these discussions is, of course, how best to win a war.  I won’t repeat the various points that were made.  Instead, I’d like to offer my prioritized list of factors that are most important for winning a war.

  1. Numbers
  2. Training
  3. Maintenance
  4. Technology

We’ve already discussed the importance of numbers and looked at the historical precedent from WWII so I won’t belabor it further.  Bear in mind that numbers refers not just to weapons and platforms but to men.  Japan lost the war as much because it couldn’t replace the trained naval aviators as because it couldn’t replace the aircraft.  The Soviets beat the Germans because of numbers, among other reasons.  Numbers also refers to the ability to deal with combat attrition.  Can you build enough weapons and platforms to compensate for losses.  If you’re building B-2 bombers, the answer is no.  If you’re building Sherman tanks, the answer is yes.

A superbly trained man with a knife is more deadly and valuable than a man with a gun who has no idea how to use it.  Training can make up for a LOT of technology.  Sadly, training is one of the Navy’s weakest areas.  As a general statement, our naval commanders have no idea how to get the best out of their ships because they don’t practice it.  The Navy believes that the key to improvement is new technology and has relegated training to an afterthought.  The reality is that training is a force multiplier.  Again, we’ve covered this extensively so I won’t belabor it. 

It’s of no use if it’s not available.  That statement can apply to anything.  We have ships that are barely able to deploy and many do so in a degraded state.  Aegis, fleetwide, is degraded to the point that the Navy had to implement a remediation program.  Ships are being retired early due to years of neglected maintenance.  This includes carriers which, given their enormous cost and strategic/tactical usefulness, is an absolutely stunning occurrence.  Likewise, individual weapon systems suffer all too frequent breakdowns.

Last on the list is technology.  Sure, who doesn’t want superior technology?  However, technology is only useful when it’s combined with numbers, training, and maintenance.  Failing that, technology is a false comfort that will prove to be a failure in combat.  Worse, technology costs LOTS of money and will take away from numbers, training, and maintenance.  Think of all the programs across the entire military that are being sacrificed to pay for the JSF.

Consider the impact of all of the above.  In Desert Storm, if Iraq and the US had completely switched weapons, meaning technology, the outcome would have been the same.  The US had far superior maintenance and training as well as numbers and those factors were far more decisive than technology.  Of course, when superior maintenance, training, and numbers are combined with superior technology, you get the overwhelming result that was Desert Storm.

I’d rather go to war with a WWII Fletcher class destroyer that was superbly trained in conventional and unconventional tactics, benefited from impeccable maintenance with every system performing at peak capability, and was available in overwhelming numbers than to go to war with Burke class destroyers crewed by barely adequate commanders and sailors who have only a nodding command of their equipment, suffers from equipment breakdowns on a regular basis, and is available in insufficient numbers.

JSF is the prime example of the reversal of the war winning list.  We are pursuing technology for its own sake at the expense of numbers, training, and maintenance.  As we pump more and more money into the JSF black hole, existing air wings are sitting idled or flying only minimal hours to maintain flight certification.  Our training is nearly non-existent and our aviation tactical expertise is evaporating before our eyes.  The Marines are sacrificing amphibious assault vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and heavy lift among other needs so that the F-35B can be procured.  JSF is directly reducing the numbers of all kinds of equipment and, ultimately, personnel as well.  As we pour money into the JSF, our ship’s maintenance is being skipped or indefinitely deferred.  When we go to war somewhere down the road, we’ll do so with insufficient numbers of everything, poorly trained soldiers and sailors, and inoperable or degraded equipment – but we’ll have the JSF.  We’ll lose the war – but we’ll have the JSF.


81 comments:

  1. You mentioned Desert Storm. I am reminded of how the media focused on the amazing whiz-bang technologies, the laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the cruise missiles that can follow the streets, etc... And that makes me wonder if the idolization of technology by the media has infected the elected and appointed leadership, and heck, even the military commanders themselves.

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    1. JI, that's a great thought. Today's politicians and military commanders grew up during the Desert Storm period and their view of the military and the strength of the military may well have been shaped and formed by the displays of technology that were credited (only partially correctly, at best) with winning the conflict. We may be seeing the results of that early "indoctrination" playing out today.

      Excellent comment!

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  2. One thing that I would love to see but haven't really seen anywhere is a breakdown of where the money is going with the F35. A break down by manufacturing and R&D and then a further breakdown for both of those.

    One thing I suspect, is that the basic airframe really isn't that expensive. Its all the electronics in that frame which are greatly adding to the costs. Likewise with the R&D. And I would also bet on a lot of mismanagement as well. Why in the world we went with the prime contractor who couldn't manage cost or program during the prototype phase, I'll never know. Likewise, why we changed the primary decision point from cost to technology at the last minute to hand the win to the company who couldn't even build a plane that could launch weapons and couldn't account for where the money went.

    JI, guided weapons aren't a bad thing. They generally are much more effective than dumb bombs/missiles. And it isn't like that is where the military R&D budget is really going towards anyways or will be going in the future (we've pretty much mined out all of the guidance R&D possible, we have advanced guidance on friggin 50 cal already). The next big thing the US DOD and the rest of the world is working on is autonomy.

    UCLASS and LRASM are results of that work along with NSM. The goal with autonomy is to be able to let weapons and platforms fulfill non-fully defined missions. In the example of NSM/LRASM, it is basically: we know they have ships in this general area, go there, find them, kill them. LRASM/NSM rely on general location info and can get there (with inertial guidance if required) and then use sensor and imagining technology to evade threats and select a target. In the case of UCLASS, the goal is to be able to tell the UCAV to do a mission, and then just sit back and let it do it and rely the data from the mission without requiring someone to baby sit it. Boeing ended up doing a lot of work on the autonomous operating concepts and software to make this work.

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    1. ats, no one disputes that technology isn't a wonderful thing to have. The dispute is where the pursuit of that technology falls in the list of war-winning priorities and what the overall impact of that pursuit is on training, readiness, maintenance, numbers, and so forth.

      Do you think autonomy for a destructive device/weapon is a good thing? Terminator?

      You'd like to know a more detailed breakdown of JSF costs. Aside from curiousity, to what purpose?

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    2. As always with technology, it depends what that technology provides. AKA, some technology is worth a lot more than some other technology. And it depends on what technology the adversary has as well.

      As far as autonomy, it is neither good nor bad. It is simply a tool. At the most basic level we already rely on autonomy in the vast majority of our weapons, its just that the autonomy is extremely basic. In our vehicles, we rely on various levels of autonomy so that we can run them with few personnel. We've had planes with autonomy crisscrossing the US for decades now in the form of commercial airplanes with autopilots. The only thing that is changing is that we are researching and building systems with even greater autonomy.

      As far as JSF costs, the breakdown of the costs has a lot to do with what can be salvaged for future programs (aka how much of the R&D is for minor upgrades of things and how much is for new technology) and where the actual costs for the plane are really coming from (ie, is the airframe itself costing more than any other comparable airframe or is the unit cost related to things that don't exist on other aircraft). As a first level, it is always good to understand where the money is going.

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    3. ats, there's a significant difference between autonomy and automation. Autopilot on a plane is automation. The plane follows a prescribed path without manual input but it can't change the path to, for instance, choose a more efficient path based on weather, tail/head winds, etc. That would be autonomy.

      Giving a destructive weapon the capability to make choices about targeting and weapon's release with no possibility of manual input is autonomy. That's scary! No software is perfect as we've seen repeatedly. Suppose the autonomous weapon decides that a commercial vessel is a valid target? We can't guarantee that situation won't occur. Sure, we'll program in safeguards for everything we can anticipate but we can't anticipate everything. I'm not arguing against autonomy. I'm just wary of it and suggest that we give it some very serious thought before committing to that path when it involves weapons. I'm sure you'd give the possible ramifications serious thought, as well.

      Autonomy is one of the few possible answers to long distance combat in a jamming and comm-disrupted environment. We just need to approach it very carefully and with much thought.

      I, too, would love to see detailed breakdowns of JSF (or most other platforms, for that matter!) cost. If you ever come across any, please share!

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    4. Or you could fire hundreds of obsolete, or second rate cruise missiles in a saturation attack and either overwhelm the enemy outright, or exhaust his air defences setting up the coup de main...

      The fact that perfectly functional old missiles are paid for, or that second class missiles are cheap, is a massive advantage.

      GAB

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    5. Automation and Autonomy are closely related. And the autonomy we're talking about currently isn't of the Terminator variety. It is certainly not self aware. And likely won't ever be (its a nobel level problem in computer science for a reason), but we've well since crossed the line between Automation and Autonomy in both autopilots and weapons. And nor does Autonomy mean without direction, we're certainly going to be telling these weapons what to do. We're just not going to be micromanaging them. As far as the autopilot choosing a more efficient path, those systems already exist in some commercial airplanes, their use currently is primarily restricted by the antiquated ATC systems used and updating of the ATC systems is a global priority to enable autonomous flight profiles saving significant time and money.

      LRASM is fully intended to be an autonomous weapon, using its own programming and sensors (along with those of its flight mates) to evade detection and find a target. Nor is this particularly new, the russians have had a semi-autonomous cruise missile system for years. The sensors and systems in LRASM should provide far better target discrimination than existing US anti-ship weapon systems. And lets not forget, human screw up as easily if not more so than machines, as Iran Air Flt 655 shows. So while we cannot guarantee that an autonomous weapon won't make a mistake, we cannot guarantee that a human controlled weapon won't make a mistake either. The one thing we do know however is that the autonomous weapon will follow its programming, which is something we can't even guarantee with a human.

      As far as the ramifications, yes, I've given them serious thought. It is good to be wary of any weapons release ability whether computer controlled or human controlled.

      GAB, as far as hundreds of obsolete or second rate cruise missiles, you are assuming that they would require kinetic defenses to overcome. Older school SARG and ARG systems have significant flaws and can be spoofed pretty reliably by a technologically advanced adversary. As CNO loves to point out, AShM have a pretty terrible hit rate historically even against ships without passive or active counter-measures/defense. There are a lot of reasons that the newer generations of AShMs are moving to imaging based targeting.



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    6. Ats,

      An empty F-35 weighs as much as an empty F-15, so I doubt the basic airframe is cheap.

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    7. "GAB, as far as hundreds of obsolete or second rate cruise missiles, you are assuming that they would require kinetic defenses to overcome. Older school SARG and ARG systems have significant flaws and can be spoofed pretty reliably by a technologically advanced adversary. As CNO loves to point out, AShM have a pretty terrible hit rate historically even against ships without passive or active counter-measures/defense. There are a lot of reasons that the newer generations of AShMs are moving to imaging based targeting"
      ============================================
      ATS,

      You bring up some excellent points about older generation ASCMs, but but in a saturation attack with literally hundreds of ASCMs there is a point of saturation of the defense grid. Far before you get to that point, someone is going to redirecting CAP and start loosing SAMs in an attempt to whittle down the odds. Even if a threat is going to pass "harmlessly by", how many PD systems are going to activate anyway?

      The situation gets far worse if you start mixing high tech missiles in with the older generations, particularly if the new missiles have features to mimic the older ASCMs.

      GAB

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  3. "Consider the impact of all of the above. In Desert Storm, if Iraq and the US had completely switched weapons, meaning technology, the outcome would have been the same."

    ********

    I understand where you are going with this, but I believe that's overstating the case a bit. Technology alone can often provide a decisive edge.

    Look at the tank battles during the Gulf War. M-1 Abrams had laser range-finders, state-of-the-art fire control systems, and night vision systems. The Iraqis did not. And in every tank engagement, the US started shooting well before the Iraqis even knew there was even a threat.

    No amount of training, numbers or superior maintenance could have overcome such a decisive technological advantage. And had the Iraqis possessed similar technology, they could've caused unacceptable losses to US -- a key concern for the CJCS and President.

    I really do get where you are coming from, but fielding large numbers of mass-produced, middle-of-the road weapons systems is not really the modern "US way of war." I don't think we'll ever see another Sherman tank.

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    1. Anon, you've missed the mark on multiple levels. Rather than begin a back and forth where I tell you what you're wrong about and you counter, I'm going to invite you to step up your game and let you tell me why you're wrong.

      Think deeply about the statement I made and how that relates to the list of war-winning priorities I gave in the post. Then tell me how you would have defeated the Iraqis with your T-72s, MiGs, etc. You don't even have to believe my statement is right. Just put yourself in command of a reversed technology scenario and figure out how to win it. I bet you can! If nothing else, it'll be a fun mental exercise.

      I'd like to believe my blog and readers are a cut above the Internet norm. Show me you are. Make me proud!

      As an aside, it's not required but a username at the end of your posts will help me keep track of who I'm talking to. You can still sign on anon but consider including a name at the end. Just a convenience and not required!

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    2. I won’t attempt to prove myself wrong, because I happen to believe I am right. But I do believe that the readers of this site are a cut above. And as such are willing to call the host out on his assumptions when they are unclear or flat out wrong.

      Your direct quote was: “In Desert Storm, if Iraq and the US had completely switched weapons, meaning technology, the outcome would have been the same.”

      In my opinion, the above statement would only be true if Iraq and the US-led coalition had identical starting conditions, identical objectives, and identical cost thresholds in achieving the conditions.

      They simply did not.

      Iraqi objectives were to hold onto Kuwait, and/or make retaking Kuwait so expensive for the US-led coalition in terms that a counter-attack would be infeasible. They had months to prepare defensive positions. And being a totalitarian regime with an immense draftee military, and a recent history of fighting very bloody wars against Iran, its tolerances for acceptable casualties were very large.

      The US strategic objective was to expel Iraq from Kuwait. We would by necessity be the attacker. And because we were and are a democratic society which is loathe to accept unnecessary military casualties, a corollary is that we wanted to do expel Kuwait with minimal loss in US lives. We don’t like seeing our troops get slaughtered.

      Now -- going back to your proposed examination of two equally equipped militaries (T-72, MiGs, etc.) facing off against each other. I don’t know how familiar you are with Lanchester equations, but a key takeaway is that given parity in technology, an attacker requires a 3:1 advantage over an ‘entrenched’ defender to ensure victory. And can expect to take ~25% casualties in doing so.

      The Iraqis had something like 500,000 troops in Kuwait and western Iraq. That would’ve required deploying a US-Coalition army on the order of a 1,500,000 troops – about 50% larger than what we actually sent. Putting aside for the moment that such an army would’ve been very difficult to transport and sustain in the desert, would the US citizenry really be willing to accept tens of thousands of casualties?

      Historically -- we expelled Iraq from Kuwait with 190 US killed in action. Do you honestly believe that if we’d gone against an entrenched enemy operating the same equipment, without the benefits of an effective aerial campaign, Apaches w/Hellfires, superior M1 Abrahams tanks, etc. we would’ve suffered that few casualties? Bear in mind that the modern US way of war is extremely casualty averse.

      Numbers and training alone simply would not have led to the same historical outcome as Desert Storm. Not unless we were willing to accept casualties on the same scale as the Normandy breakout circa 1944. It’s in fact very hard for me to believe that we would’ve even initiated Desert Shield without an overwhelming confidence in our own technological superiority.

      PS – My name is Matt.

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    3. Matt, hey good to have a name to put to the "face". Welcome.

      Let me see if I can present this another way. In logic, one of the exercises commonly performed is to take a hypothesis and then take the reverse position so as to fully explore the pros and cons of the original position. Don't think of this as win/lose or right/wrong. Look at this as a mental challenge. Could you envision a way for the US to have won Desert Storm using Iraqi technology while they had US tech? If you can't, and it's just not possible then you'll wind up with an even stronger belief and logical position and I'll have learned that my original position needs to be revised. If you can, the reverse holds. Either way, we both learn a bit more. If my position was erroneous, I'll gladly say so. I don't see it as win/lose but, rather, a chance to learn.

      View it as a war game. You're the US commander with MiGs and T-72s and whatnot. Can you come up with a winning strategy despite the technological difference? Let's leave our egos out of it and have fun with the mental exercise. Heck, blogs are supposed to be fun and educational. Let's have fun with this!

      Maybe someone else wants to chime in and take a shot at this?

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    4. Anonymous,

      You miss the point - those M1s were crewed by the cream of the U.S. Army, superbly trained, executing a very solid operational plan, with full moral support of the world, and fighting on their own initiative.

      Yes the losses may have been higher, but the end result would have been the same.

      You mention Lanchester's equations in a later post, but seem to forget the conditions necessary to use them. The first Gulf war was a manuever war - as Heinz Guderian, the man who organized and developed German Blitzkrieg doctrine noted: a tank's engine is just as important as its gun and armor. There is no attrition when the enemy sweeps far around your right flank and cuts off your communication and supply lines. Deprived of intelligence and support, the only Iraqi option was withdrawal. The engine of the M1 (and the massive logistic expertise that supported it) was the decisive factor, not the attrition suffered by the Iraqis.

      The one exception I would conceed is GPS because it made that "left hook" out in the deep Saudi desert so incredibly easy to execute.

      GAB

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    5. I am certainly having fun with this. I apologize if I gave the impression I'm not, or if I came off as adversarial. It’s hard to be polite or even complete in a comment block!

      If we are going to pursue this logical exercise, we would really need to agree on what a 'win' looks like for the US-led coalition. My proposal is that it would not be enough for US-led coalition to simply expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The US would have to do so with relatively low casualties.

      I could certainly come up with a strategy in which a well-trained and numerous US force equipped with Soviet-bloc equipment certainly could have expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait. But it would required that the the voting public be prepared to accept US military casualties numbering in the tens of thousands. A doutful proposition.

      Consider for a minute what was the decisive element of the entire campaign: the air war. Many histories of the Gulf War assert that the Iraqi armed forces were largely broken by the preliminary air campaign – before coalition ground forces even crossed into Kuwait or Iraq.

      A brief summary of the five-week campaign:

      - The US gained air superiority over Kuwait and most of Iraq almost immediately. Iraq's air force went into hiding or voluntary exile and most SAM batteries went silent.
      - Ammunition storage, production and transfer facilities were hit repeatedly
      - Bridges and road networks were systematically rendered unusable by bombing, cutting off forward units from vital food, fuel and ammunition.
      - The entire Iraqi C3 network was knocked out or rendered silent within days. Sadaam could not talk to his generals; generals couldn’t talk with officers; officers couldn’t talk with their troops.
      - With a few notable exceptions (i.e. the Republican Guard) most Iraqi divisions took a very heavy pounding, and lost a large proportion of their armored forces.
      - Morale among front-line troops plummeted.

      It’s very hard to see how the US would repeat this feat with Soviet-era MiGs. I am not even sure they could have maintained air superiority over a like-equipped force. I recently read that US ground forces have not been attacked from the air in over 50 years. Think about that.

      Technology matters a great deal more than you think... particulary if one does not want to see their nation’s soldiers dying in droves. Overwhelming technological superiority is such a fundamental element to the "US Way of War" that I am not sure you have considered the potential implications of its absence.

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    6. GAB,

      I don't think it's analytical defensible to say we'd get a win just with more casualties. The US military has been casualty averse for quite some time.

      Minimizing US battle casualties is a 'win condition' in this scenario. Maybe not to the level of what we actually saw in Desert Storm (<200) -- but certainly below 1,000.

      The 'hook' was certainly brilliant. However, I doubt the US would've tried anything so daring without air superiority -- and a host of other enabling technological preconditions (GPS, etc.) none of which the Iraqis possessed.

      And of course, five-weeks worth of very effective softening up from the air (see comment above).

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    7. GAB,

      I also meant to add that technological superiority - particularly deep air strikes and ISR - were integral elements to Army doctrine in 90s (Air-Land Battle).

      It's challenging to seperate the effects of technology from doctrine - they are mutually supporting. But they performed brillaintly in Desert Storm.

      Numbers alone will not cut it in the "US Way of War."

      Matt

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    8. Anon, I'm going to assume you're Matt. Tell me if I'm wrong.

      Excellent! Let's see what we can learn. First, I agree completely with your assessment about victory conditions. My statement implied exactly that; a duplication of what occurred but using Iraqi tech. That would include the same results and, within a reasonable limit, the same casualties.

      Second, it is absolutely imperative to remind you of the scenario because a sentence in one of your comments suggests that you may not be considering the key aspect which is that we are postulating a switch in tech but that the Iraqis are still the Iraqis. They have the same command and control structure, same level of training, same level of maintenance, etc. Only their equipment has changed. So, for example, if they weren't maintaining their MiGs properly, then they wouldn't maintain their F-15s. And so on ...

      You've focused first on the air campaign. That's fine as it was the first "phase". You noted that the US quickly established air superiority which in turn led to strikes on command and control, supply train, and actual ground unit attrition.

      The key question, here, is how did that occur? As we know, the Iraqi Air Force never even offered combat, with a handful of isolated exceptions. Why not? Several reasons, probably. They had no airborne control equivalent to the US AWACS. Their command and control structure, even when operable, allowed no degree of freedom or initiative to the unit commanders or individual pilots.

      Matt, keep going from here. What other factors prevented the Iraqis from even attempting an aerial defense? If the roles (not tech) were reversed, we would have fought with Sopwith Camels if that was the best we could get. We'd have died trying. Why didn't the Iraqis? Was it just because they thought they had inferior planes? Remember, the Iraqis had every MiG model including MiG-29s which were considered a match (or better!) for the F-15s and F-16s. They also had Su-22/25s and Mirage F-1s among other models.

      Continue with the analysis, Matt.

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    9. Matt,

      The casualty projections for the coalition forces in the first Gulf War were on the order of 30,000 plus: the U.S. public did not blink.

      You might want to read the book "Casualties and consensus before making predictions about public response.

      Evidence is that the U.S. public is fairly bloody minded provided the public perceives that there is the necessity. The public is however very sensitive about casualties when it comes to missions like Mogadishu in 1993.

      GAB

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    10. No - I am following that scenario!

      The Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) wasn't in quite as bad a shape going into the Gulf War as you may assume. There had been purges in the late 1980s to get rid of ‘disloyalty’ -- but they still had a lot more air combat veterans going into the fight than the USAF and USN. Maintenance and readiness didn’t seem to be big issues either. Are you perhaps projecting post-Gulf War conditions onto a pre-war IQAF?

      They also had some fairly sophisticated, hardened bunkers for sheltering their aircraft. Those would have been impossible to destroy without the precision-guided munitions (PGMs) used by the US. And of course all of this was backed up by robust integrated air-defense system (IADS). There is a very good possibility in your scenario that the IQAF would serve well as a defensive force.

      As to the motivation-level of IQAF pilots, that’s difficult to discern -- and arguably highly dependent upon the situation. I don’t think US pilots have a corner on bravery. IQAF pilots were quite brave and sometimes effective when fighting against a ‘near-peer’ neighbor (the Iranians).

      Now – if we look at the ‘other side of the line’, there are very real problems with using the IQAF for offensive activities/close-air support: re the United States conducting its campaign plan using the IQAF inventory. In basic terms, the technology available to the IQAF would not match well with US doctrine.

      The IQAF consisted almost exclusively of short-ranged fighters (MiG-21, MiG-23s, and Mirage F-1s). They had few ground support aircraft, little AEW, and practically no tankers. Its ability to conduct deep strikes and constant air support over advancing ground forces – critical to US combat doctrine – would be in practical terms impossible. It also had no dedicated ‘Wild Weasel’ aircraft to deal with Sadaam’s highly sophisticated IADS.

      From a more tactical viewport, the IQAF also had nowhere near the number of transport or attack helicopters as the US Army -- both of which were critical factors in implementing Schwarzkopf’s highly successful “left hook”.

      Lastly, your comparison of the MiG-29 and F-15/F-16 is a bit flawed. The MiG-29 MIGHT have been a better interceptor than either aircraft, but it was nowhere as good a fighter-bomber. The IQAF also had <40 MiG-29; the US had dozens of F-15s, F-16s and F-18s.*

      * I know you may think that this points to your numbers argument, but it does not. The US had both a technological edge AND a numerical edge in the air.

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    11. GAB,

      Thanks -- I will check that out. I was very young at the time, but I recall the casualty projections ran the gammit.

      Still -- I'd imagine statistical projections would be quite different from when US TV viewers start watching thousands of flag-draped coffins come home.

      Regardless - would you agree that the US way of war is averse to taking casualties? If so, then an hypothetical outcome in which we suffer significantly more than 200 KIA would be inferior.

      And I have a hard time seeing how we would do so without the overwhelming technological advantages we possessed in 1990-1.

      Matt

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    12. “I also meant to add that technological superiority - particularly deep air strikes and ISR - were integral elements to Army doctrine in 90s (Air-Land Battle).

      It's challenging to seperate the effects of technology from doctrine - they are mutually supporting. But they performed brillaintly in Desert Storm.”
      ============================================================

      And Soviet operational theory did not espouse intensive preparation (based upon intelligence), massive and deep strikes artillery (rocket and tube) throughout the enemy order of battle (into reserve armies), and maneuver units penetrating beyond 500km?

      Marshalls Tukhachevski and Triandafillov would be surprised at your analysis.

      You might want to revisit Operation Bagration (1944), where the Red Army set and achieved objectives 250-300 miles behind the German lines, enveloping the entire Army Group Center, costing the Germans about 300,0000 men, four armies, and driving the Germans back to Prussia. This was followed by Vistula–Oder Offensive in 1945 driving the Germans almost 300 miles to the Oder river.

      Remember the Russian airborne units drop in BMP3/4s ready to fight!

      No start your analysis!

      GAB

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    13. Matt, you've got to remember to keep the premise clearly in mind. We're switching technology but everything else stays the same. So, for numbers of aircraft, the Iraqis would have had around 40 F-15Cs (equivalent to the MiG-29 for switching purposes) and a couple hundred assorted second line aircraft such as Phantoms. The US would have around 100 MiG-29s, 200 MiG-25/Mirage F-1/MiG-27 (equivalent to F-16s), 50 MiG-23/27 (equivalent to F-15Es), 40 Su-24MKs (equivalent to F-117), 120 Su-24MK (equivalent to F-111E/F), 80 Tu-16/22 (equivalent to B-52G), 132 Su-25 (equivalent to A-10). That's just the Air Force side of things. The Navy would get 100 MiG-25s (equivlent to F-14), 100 MiG-29 (equivalent to F-18), 95 Su-24 (equivalent to A-6Es), 24 Su-25 (equivalent to A-7) plus hordes of whatever helos the Iraqis had.

      In addition, the US would get IL-76 Adnan AEW aircraft in whatever number the US AWACS operated. Yes, the Iraqis had the Adnan (three were believed to be operational) as documented in Polmar's book.

      These figures are taken from Norman Polmar's book, Desert Victory.

      While the Iraqis may have only had small numbers of any aircraft model, in our switch we have to credit the US with the same numbers of equivalent aircraft that they actually had. The number comparison is quite daunting from the Iraqi perspective! Further, this is only the US numbers and ignores the additional coalition aircraft. We'll ignore those for the time being since the point is made without them.

      So, just from a numbers point of view, the US will have LOTS of aircraft with which to perform whatever tasks we deem necessary. The technological gap, to the extent it existed, would have been overwhelmed by numbers.

      The MiG-29s and Mirages were, at the time, considered to be on par or superior to our F-15C and F-16.

      On paper, the Iraqi Air Force should have been able to put up a credible defense and yet they did not even attempt to do so. I offered a couple reasons and asked what other reasons there were.

      You mention maintenance. Iraqi air strength was significantly reduced due to their tendency to use other aircraft as sources of spares - they had numerous hangar queens. Their spares supply was limited.

      You mention motivation. Regardless of the reasons, Iraqi pilot motivation was nearly non-existent. That's not an opinion, that's what actually happened. Remember, we're switching tech, not motivation. The Iraqis had sufficiently capable aircraft but opted not to use them.

      I mentioned command and control problems and lack of initiative.

      The Iraqis also failed not to use their Adnan AEW aircraft effectively.

      The Iraqi radar system was significantly disrupted by attacks and never recovered. There's no reason why we can't do the same with our aircraft.

      For all these reasons and more, the Iraqi Air Force refused to fight. There is absolutely no reason to believe that switching aircraft would have changed that. Agreed?

      Delete
    14. Matt: “Regardless - would you agree that the US way of war is averse to taking casualties? “

      GAB: No. The American public was ready to take 50,000 casualties and absolutely level entire countries post 911. That national will was squandered, but make no mistake, Americans are a bloody minded people *if* focused.

      The American public is however, risk adverse in taking casualties where: 1) the public expects the U.S. military to absolutely obliterate the enemy, and 2) loosing good men in pursuit of nebulous foreign police adventures in third world countries (Mogadishu).

      ==================================================================
      Matt: “And I have a hard time seeing how we would do so without the overwhelming technological advantages we possessed in 1990-1.”

      Answer: I would argue that the U.S. possesses even greater technological advantages over enemies today! Everyone focuses on platforms and forgets critical things like logistics, communications, imagery, engineering, and so forth. People have no idea the level of pre-deployment training our troops get. Entire cities have been built and populated to train servicemen and civil employees prior to going to SW Asia. No one else does (or could do) that.

      GAB

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    15. GAB. I am really not at all sure what you are driving at. I never said that the US invented Air Land Battle "out of the blue", nor did I imply other nations didn't come to similar conclusions.

      Air Land Battle came from multiple sources, but most notably John Boyd. There is probably traceability to later war Soviet art -- as well as the German blitzkrieg.

      Of course - in the case of the Soviets the scales were quite different. I am sure you are well aware that Operation Bagration involved 2.5 million Soviet soldiers - who took on the order of 200K battle casualties in less than two months.

      To put it in perspective, the entire US Army in the ETO peaked at about 3 million soldiers, and suffered around 190K total losses in three and half years of combat.

      Soviet operational art was as much about sheer overwhelming mass as maneuver. And an almost complete disregard for casualties. And I don't think the latter would've sold so well in the '44 elections.

      Delete
    16. GAB, I agree completely and could not have said it better!

      Delete
    17. GAB: "No. The American public was ready to take 50,000 casualties and absolutely level entire countries post 911. That national will was squandered, but make no mistake, Americans are a bloody minded people *if* focused."

      The key of course is "if" focused. That has rarely been the case for very long since about 1945. Just track the US opinion polls following invasion of Iraq in 2003.

      ////

      "I would argue that the U.S. possesses even greater technological advantages over enemies today!"

      Wow. Well, not too many scholars would agree with you on that one. I'd strongly encourage read Andrew Krepenivech's "The Pentagon's Wasting Assets". Or anything he's written.

      Arms related technology is much more diffuse than in '90s - thanks largely to the Internet, porous borders, and bankrupt states out to make a quick buck. Large nation states no longer have a monopoly on high-tech arms manufacturing.



      Delete
    18. GAB. I am really not at all sure what you are driving at. …

      Air Land Battle came from multiple sources, but most notably John Boyd. …

      Soviet operational art was as much about sheer overwhelming mass as maneuver. And an almost complete disregard for casualties. …


      Nooooooo!

      You are confusing the art of operational level maneuver, with a fighter combat theory model :(

      AirLand Battle (note the correct spelling) was born from the Active Defense doctrine developed by General William Dupuy, CG of TRADOC. AirLand Battle development proper began under the tenure of General Don Starry, follow on CG of TRADOC. involved. JFC Fuller, the father of modern maneuver theory correctly described the objectives and effects of deep penetration maneuvers on the enemy decades before Boyd was born. There was no John Boyd in AirLand Battle.

      What you are missing in the reference to Soviet operational art is this: AirLand Battle, the U.S. Army operational doctrine, focused on the Corps level fight: typically out to 150km; Soviet Operational doctrine was focused on the Army or groups of armies (Fronts) level fight: typically maneuvering forces 400-500km out! When you understand this gem you will understand why the T-34 had a range of over 400km, and was also equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks on the side of the tank – this tank was tailored to the depth of operations the Soviets envisioned. And that was in 1930s and 40s! Look to the writings of Marshalls Tukhachevski and Triandafillov.

      Your assertion that the Russians disregarded casualties is not valid. In fact you should read some of the stinging British criticisms of U.S. Army planning and execution, of D-Day and subsequent operations. The reality is that the Germans put the Russian’s backs up to the wall right from the start of the conflict: the Germans Kommissarbefehl and general mistreatment of Soviet civilians and POWs made it quite clear that the war on the eastern front was a war of extermination. So yes, the desperation of 1941/42 led to horrific waste of men. That said, trying to paint the Red Army of mid and late period of the war, in the same cloth as the Army of 1941/2 is a huge error.


      GAB

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    19. GAB. I am really not at all sure what you are driving at. …

      Air Land Battle came from multiple sources, but most notably John Boyd. …

      Soviet operational art was as much about sheer overwhelming mass as maneuver. And an almost complete disregard for casualties. …
      ==================================================

      Nooooooo!

      You are confusing the art of operational level maneuver, with a fighter combat theory model :(

      AirLand Battle (note the correct spelling) was born from the Active Defense doctrine developed by General William Dupuy, CG of TRADOC. AirLand Battle development proper began under the tenure of General Don Starry, follow on CG of TRADOC. involved. JFC Fuller, the father of modern maneuver theory correctly described the objectives and effects of deep penetration maneuvers on the enemy decades before Boyd was born. There was no John Boyd in AirLand Battle.

      What you are missing in the reference to Soviet operational art is this: AirLand Battle, the U.S. Army operational doctrine, focused on the Corps level fight: typically out to 150km; Soviet Operational doctrine was focused on the Army or groups of armies (Fronts) level fight: typically maneuvering forces 400-500km out! When you understand this gem you will understand why the T-34 had a range of over 400km, and was also equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks on the side of the tank – this tank was tailored to the depth of operations the Soviets envisioned. And that was in 1930s and 40s! Look to the writings of Marshalls Tukhachevski and Triandafillov.

      Your assertion that the Russians disregarded casualties is not valid. In fact you should read some of the stinging British criticisms of U.S. Army planning and execution, of D-Day and subsequent operations. The reality is that the Germans put the Russian’s backs up to the wall right from the start of the conflict: the Germans Kommissarbefehl and general mistreatment of Soviet civilians and POWs made it quite clear that the war on the eastern front was a war of extermination. So yes, the desperation of 1941/42 led to horrific waste of men. That said, trying to paint the Red Army of mid and late period of the war, in the same cloth as the Army of 1941/2 is a huge error.


      GAB

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    20. Sigh. Where to even start?

      John Boyd's work is widely accepted as much bigger than a simple "fighter combat theory model." I'd sincerely suggest reading up on "Patterns of Conflict", and the how it led to the Reform Movement. That might help you better understant the context.

      I never meant to imply that Boyd solely invented Air Land Battle. Nor was I attempting to describe the entire TRADOC process (Starry, Dupuy, etc). Boyd was however a strong, notable, and vocal PROPONENT of maneuver warfare. Would it make you happier if I substituted that term?

      I would take the British views with a grain of salt. Many perhaps rightly considered the US Army as "johnny come lately." So there may have been some sour grapes.

      Recall also that the British were suffering their own infantry manpower crisis in 1944 - largely through costly earlier campaigns and poor management. They also had generally lackluster equipment and stale doctrine.

      The US might have been behind the curve in relation to the British in staff planning and combat effectiveness) when they landed on 6/6/44. Most of the US divisions were as yet unblooded, and their staffs had limited experience.

      By the late fall of '44, the British were not even in the same league as the US Army when it came to executing mobile warfare at the Corps and Army level. I'd urge you to read Mansoor's "The GI Offensive in Europe"

      As to whether the Russians disregarded casualties, the numbers tend to speak for themselves. They Russians lost something like 600-750K casualties per month in the period 1943-1945.

      I will certainly grant they gave nearly as good as they got, and the Soviet-German exchange ratio of 1943-5 was a lot better than 1941-2.

      However, I've read the staff accounts of Kursk and Seelow Heights. Conservation of military manpower didn't seem to be as high a priority as getting Germans out of the motherland and then getting into Berlin quickly.

      Delete
    21. GAB/Matt,

      Regarding the Russian regard, or lack thereof, for their soldiers, I'm not an expert on this subject but the empirical evidence seems pretty convincing. The massive casualties that the Russians accepted to fight Germany combined with the several million civilian deaths during the Stalin purges/policies strongly suggest a casual and total disregard for the value of human life, whether soldier or civilian. Just an observation for what it's worth.

      Delete
    22. Matt,

      When did you go to Command and General Staff College?

      You said: “Air Land Battle came from multiple sources, but most notably John Boyd. …” which is absolute rubbish. I outlined where AirLand Battle came from, and it certainly was not Boyd. Boyd had some great theories, but in terms of operational maneuver and winning wars he isn’t fit to wipe mud off the boots of the modern masters of the art: Fuller, Guderian, Tukhachevski, et al.

      AirLand Battleas revolutionary as it was for the U.S. Army at that time, I am sure you would agree that thinking in terms of operations 150km behind the lines, pales in comparison to Russian thinking which was to achieve not just the destruction of Corps, but the entirety of the enemy through his army level reserves.

      BTW, I have read “Patterns of Conflict,” and I am an OR. You have not read Dupuy.

      And healthy dose of reality here: it was the British and Canadian armies that took the brunt of the Wermacht and SS armored formations in western France and broke their back, not the USA. First, dealing with the immediate German reserves at Normandy, then the breakout to the German border was set up by the destruction of German operational reserves in the Falaise pocket.

      Since technology is your focus, you should consider that it was the British who developed the 17 pounder, the only western ATG capable of dealing with the frontal armor of Panthers and Tigers. It was the British who developed Hobart’s Funnies to deal with the obstacles at Normandy, It was the British who read USA and USMC after action reports from the Pacific and insisted on LVT(A)-2s and 4s for Commonwealth assault troops while the USA in Europe disregarded the lessons of the Pacific theater. So yes, the British were fairly incredulous with the USAAF about face on carpet/fire bombing, and even more so when the USA dismissed the 17 pounder, and then decided that LVTs were not necessary at Normandy. Seems like reasonable criticism to me.

      What is worse, is that German Commanders like Balck, who fought both Western Allies as well as the Russians, are generally very critical of USA operations in the ETO. The Germans certainly focused the bulk of their forces against the Russians.

      GAB

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    23. It's a bit ridiculous to consider switching technology between sides. Do the Iraqis get the carrier battle groups too? The nuclear submarines? How would the coalition invasion force even get close to Saudi Arabia?

      The Mig-29A used by the Iraqis, on a good day, may've had a 150 nm A2A combat radius with one centerline tank. That wouldn't even reach Kuwait from Prince Sultan Air Base. The Mig-25s are only a bit better. The second line Su-24s and Mig-23s are only a little better than that.

      So without air refueling the coalition air "war" would've been fought by 13 or so Tu-22s, Tu-16s, and H-6s. The rest of the coalition airpower would've been defensive only.

      Delete
    24. B.Smitty, c'mon now, you're telling me you don't get the idea behind a simple thought exercise? The Iraqis get M-1 Abrams and we get T-72s. The Iraqis get F-15Cs and we get MiG-29s. Those types of units are what did the bulk of the fighting. Could the US land forces have prevailed using T-72s and whatever the Iraqi equivalent of the Bradley was (BMP-?)? Could we have controlled the air and conducted an aerial campaign using MiG's and Su's and Mirages and Tu's? Sure, some tactics and strategies would have to change. The underlying premise is that we would have succeeded regardless of the technology and the reason is because of the list/premise in the post.

      "Air war would have been fought by 13 or so..." What?!!! It's a one for one swap. We're swapping technology, not numbers. If we had 100 B-52Gs then we would have 100 Tu-16s or whatever the closest Iraqi match would be. If we had 100 F-15Cs then we would have 100 MiG-29s. If we had 100 M-1 Abrams then we would have 100 T-72s. If the Iraqis only had 10 T-72s then they would only have 10 M-1 Abrams. And so on. Sure, there's no direct equivalent for carriers but they honestly didn't have a direct and major impact on the actual combat. It's a thought exercise, it's not perfect!

      Your comments have consistently shown you to be a bright guy. I know you get this. Of course, whether you agree with the conclusion is another question.

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    25. Ok, numbers stay the same but technology swaps. Makes sense.

      Do we get to keep systems where there is no Iraqi equivalent? If we swap Iraqi patrol boats for CVBGs, they most certainly would have direct impacts on the actual combat. There wouldn't have been any actual combat because we wouldn't be able to land any forces!

      But as a thought exercise, let's assume if there is no direct equivalent, neither side gets them. So no F-117, E-2/3, JSTARS, Compass Call, recon or comm satellites, EF-111s, EA-6Bs. No aerial refueling. Very limited night fighting capability.

      Let's swap Mig-25s for F-15Cs, Mig-29s for F-16s, Su-24s for F-111s, and Tu-22s for B-52/B-1s. Dumb bombs for PGMs.

      What we're left with is an air force that would have to be based VERY close to the Iraqi/Kuwaiti border to even strike military targets along the border. We wouldn't risk Tu-22s to strike strategic targets because of the air threat from F-15C/F-16s and Patriots and their lack of PGMs. Our eyes would be blind to their air and ground force disposition and movement because we lost our ISR enablers. We would have to fly regular fighter/bomber sorties with whatever weak recon gear the Iraqi's possessed (Mk. 1 eyeball and a Polaroid?) We could not effectively knock out the Iraqi C3 infrastructure without prohibitive losses.

      So the air war would look vastly different.

      On the ground, I think the technology will make major differences too. The Iraqis would have the range optics and fire control advantages, and their M1A1s would be largely invulnerable to our T-72 rounds and ATGMs.

      I don't know if tactics and training could overcome these disadvantages without huge casualties. I'll have to think about it.


      Delete
    26. B.Smitty, c'mon now, lift your head up out of the technology swamp. You're hung up on comparing technological capabilities. You're missing the point of the post. Let's look at just one aspect - tanks. If we had had T-72s and the Iraqis had M-1s would it have changed anything?

      Ask yourself why the Iraqis did so poorly with their T-72s. The T-72 is a capable and dangerous tank even if not quite on par with the M-1. Why did they get so little result out of it? It's not because of the tech difference, it's because they didn't know how to use them to take advantage of what they could do. They used them, generally, as self-propelled artillery or (literally) dug-in canons. They had no screening and no significant scouting. They didn't use helos to support their tanks. They didn't integrate infantry support with the tanks. They failed to take advantage of the mobility which is the tank's greatest advantage. The tanks were, generally, poorly maintained and suffered chronic fuel shortages. And, finally, they generally bailed out and ran at the start of any engagement.

      Does it matter if they had had M-1s instead? We're talking switching tech, only, not training, tactics, maintenance, or morale. They would have squandered the M-1's advantages just as they did the T-72s. The result would have been the same. We would have engaged in maneuver warfare using our T-72s (sure, we would have had to get a bit closer to shoot but they rarely saw us and still wouldn't for the reasons I just listed) and BMPs supported by our "Iraqi" helos (I don't know all the helo types they had) and Iraqi Su-25s and whatnot. It would have still been a one-sided massacre.

      The whole point of the post and my swap comment was that the Iraqis lost not because of tech but because of HUGE failings in numbers, training, and maintenance which meant idiotic strategy, poor tactics, unfamiliarity with the equipment they did have, poor maintenance, poor motivation, and so on. Our technology didn't determine the outcome it only made it easier. It was our overwhelming numbers, superior training, and outstanding maintenance that pre-ordained the outcome.

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    27. The Iraqi "monkey model" T-72s proved to be far less dangerous than they were made out to be in the press. They were closer to our M-60s than our M1A1s. We could see and engage them from much farther out than they could see or engage us. And the munitions they used weren't effective against our tanks.

      Reverse the tech and we would be driving blind into their dug-in positions, where their superior optics and fire control could offset their poor training.

      Morale is an interesting topic by itself. Their morale was significantly degraded by the coalition air campaign. If that were severely curtailed due to the tech swap, their morale would've been much stronger.

      In general, our technology allowed us to see what they were doing, deny them visibility into what we were doing, and strike them with precision and near impunity. It also allowed us to communicate quickly and near universally, while severely degrading their ability to do the same.

      Take away or reverse those advantages and a coalition victory is far from certain, IMHO.

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    28. B.Smitty, the Iraqis lost the "armor war" because they had absolutely no idea how to conduct it. They had no USEFUL training for a modern, maneuver based armor battle. Ask any armored soldier what the key to victory is and they'll tell you recon, recon, recon - not M1A1, M1A1, M1A1. I already listed alll the things the Iraqis did wrong regarding their use (or misuse) of armor. Do you really think simply having M1A1's instead of T-72s would have changed that? They were professionally incompetent. They would have had no idea where we were. They would have been totally surprised, as they were. And they would have been defeated before they began.

      We won because we had scout vehicles out along with helos. We generally (with a few exicitng exceptions!) knew where the Iraqi units were. We had air and helo support. We had the element of surprise, not due to random chance, but due to proper armored doctrine.

      You're better than this. To believe that technology determined the outcome is not worthy of you.

      I sometimes offer opinions that can be reasonably argued. This isn't one of them.

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    29. Our ability to perform ISR starts at the strategic level with our recon sats, U-2s, JSTARs, SIGINT, and so on. Take away those advantages and we don't have a clear picture where the Iraqi army is or what they are doing.

      Try to fly Hind recon helos when we don't have air dominance will result in many casualties and minimal intel.

      Try to scout with old generation BRDMs into dug-in Bradley and M1 positions with Apaches roaming randomly and F-15Cs and F-16s overhead will produce nothing more than "flaming datum".

      Iraq may not've had first-class training, but the technology difference were uniformly massive. Add to that the fact that we had entire categories of technologies with no meaningful Iraqi equivalent (e.g. stealth, satellites, AWACS, PGMs, JSTARS, SIGINT, EW aircraft, SEAD/DEAD aircraft).

      Delete
    30. Consider a relative advantage equation,

      A = n * ΔN + tr * ΔTR + m * ΔM + te * ΔTE

      Where,

      A is the relative advantage one side has over the other

      ΔN is the difference in numbers
      ΔTR is the difference in training
      ΔM is the difference in maintenance
      ΔTE is the difference in technology

      The coefficients n, tr, m, and te denote the importance of the term to the overall advantage.

      It may be that

      n > tr > m > te

      But a large enough delta in any one of the terms can overwhelm the others. So it follows that a large enough ΔTE can change the result of A by itself.

      Delete
    31. Smitty: “The Iraqi "monkey model" T-72s proved to be far less dangerous than they were made out to be in the press. They were closer to our M-60s than our M1A1s. We could see and engage them from much farther out than they could see or engage us. And the munitions they used weren't effective against our tanks.

      Reverse the tech and we would be driving blind into their dug-in positions, where their superior optics and fire control could offset their poor training. ”

      XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

      The first point is that you are looking at the problem the wrong way.

      The point of operational maneuver is to *maneuver*. The whole point of the coalition flanking maneuver was to cut the enemy off from his lines of supply and communication, not to engage in an attrition fight with his tanks. Even when forced to fight, a maneuver commander fights in order to *maneuver*. Heinz Guderian’s point about the engine of a tank being equally as powerful as it's gun, or armor applies!

      The second point is that sure the M1 is superior to a T-72 – so what? The Iraqis cannot maintain M1s today with massive tech support from DSCA. Heck the Iraqis have trouble making M4 carbines run. Start an M1 engine wrong (fail to follow the manual to the letter) and you blow a $1.2 million dollar power pack – psssft!

      This is the point that COMNAVOPS is making about training and maintenance. U.S. crews in the First Gulf War were going to get every last once of performance out whatever track you give them. Giving the Iraqis M1s would have been doing the work for the coalition: most tanks would have be inoperative from operator error and failed maintenance before the first shot was fired.

      Third, no one has mentioned the great unused advantage of Iraqis: artillery. To date, modern western commander has fought a campaign without artillery superiority. By failing to take the strategic initiative before or after the coalition deployment, the Iraqis negated their ability to deliver absolutely crushing artillery raids upon the coalition.

      And BTW, in spite of claims to the opposite, the Iraqis were able to kill M1s with T-72s. There were plenty of Iraqis who put up a hell of a fight too. More myths exposed…

      GAB

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    32. B.Smitty, your model is quite correct in that a large enough delta on one factor can overwhelm the others. Sopwith Camels, no matter how well trained, numerous, and well maintained, aren't going to beat F-16s.

      Generally wars are fought between reasonably equivalent forces. I'm trying to think of an example of a conflict where one or more of the factors was significantly out of whack. I can't come up with any off the top of my head. Any come to mind?

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    33. I don't think I'm looking at the problem the wrong way. I think perhaps my ability to convey thoughts through blog comments is lacking. :)

      Obviously just swapping M1s for T-72s would not change the outcome of the war. But, IMHO, it would very likely result in many more casualties on the coalition side. Yes, there were a handful of M1s knocked out by T-72s, but weren't more knocked out by friendly fire than all enemy action combined?

      The Republican Guard certainly put up a fight, no myth there. But the lopsided nature of their defeat was in part due to the technology differences. M1A1s were plinking dug-in T-72s at 3-4000m. The T-72s couldn't even SEE the M1s at that range, let alone hit them. And the primary Iraqi APFSDS rounds couldn't penetrate the frontal armor of the M1A1HA at any useful combat range even if they could overcome the T-72s deficiencies in optics and fire control.

      Steve Zaloga has a useful book on the topic. I'm sure it's a copyright violation, but someone (not me) uploaded it to Scribd.

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/116110996/Zaloga-SJ-2009-M1-Abrams-vs-T-72-Ural-Operation-Desert-Storm-1991-Osprey-Publishing-Ltd

      What all of this ignores, however, is that the ground war wasn't fought in a vacuum. There were 38 days of continuous air bombardment that knocked out the majority of Iraqi C3I, logistics capabilities, IADS, and smashed their soldiers' will to fight.

      I don't see how we could replicate this air war without our technology advantages (e.g. AWACS, air refueling, ISR assets and systems, C3 infrastructure, SEAD/DEAD, PGMs).

      If we are swapping technology, our antiquated Soviet era strike aircraft (Su-24s, Su-25s, Tu-16/22) won't be flying against Vietnam-era SA-2/3/6s. They would have to penetrate targets protected by Patriot, Improved Hawk, and Avenger/Stinger batteries. All without the help of strategic and tactical EW/SEAD/DEAD aircraft and anti-radiation missiles. Patriot alone could make large swaths of land no-go areas for our airpower.

      So what happens if our air war is far less dominant? What happens if we can only hit units near the border from the air, that we have to find on the fly? We can only hit them with dumb ordinance. No GBU-12 plinking from 20kft, no Mavericks, and so on. And the front line units might be protected by Patriot/I-Hawk/Stinger batteries, F-15Cs, F-16s and F/A-18s.

      Our air force might be decimated in the process.

      What if we don't have a constant, 20/20 picture of Iraqi movements behind the border? We might have a handful of Mig-25RBs with their limited photo recon capability as our only aerial recon asset. But they would have to brave the modern IADS too.

      What if, instead of Scuds, the Iraqis fire precision TLAMs at our bases in Saudi Arabia and actually hit things, or manage to get F-111/F-15E with GBUs through our antiquated air defenses? Or A-10s and F-16s with Mavericks through to hit our land force staging areas?

      Sure, they would miss a lot, get shot down a lot, and ride a lot of tarmac because of shoddy maintenance, but swapping all of these technologies opens up the possibility of a much less lopsided air war.

      During the Gulf War, we held ALL the cards. We could've fought and won easily with HALF of the forces we had in theater. We were vastly better soldiers, we had better leaders, and our technology was at least one or two generations ahead of theirs across the board, if they even had an equivalent technology at all!

      BTW, the Iraqi artillery advantage was also illusory. They had good systems, but their tactics and training were heavily biased towards a plodding infantry campaign, like those fought against the Iranians. They relied on pre-registered targets far too much, and couldn't handle the speed of advance of our forces. So this is certainly a case where their training and tactics made their artillery combat-ineffective against us.

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    34. CNO,

      There have been plenty of cases where numbers have been lopsided in favor of one side.

      The Gulf War is a clear case where technology was heavily lopsided, but as I said above, we held all the cards in that war. The war in Afghanistan is another case where we had superior training and technology but inferior numbers (augmented by local militias).

      One factor that you didn't put in your top 4 is quality of leadership. Good leaders can make a huge difference.

      Delete
    35. B.Smitty, you're kind of getting it but still not quite. If you haven't, read some of the individual aerial encounters (the few that happened) and you'll see that the Iraqi pilots had absolutely no idea how fly tactically. It doesn't matter what technology plane you're flying if you don't know how to use it. There's no other way to put it - the Iraqis were totally incompetent as pilots and as a cohesive aerial force. Giving them F-15s/16s or whatever wouldn't change that. Plus, as post-war analysis showed, half their planes couldn't fly due to maintenance problems and acute parts shortages. Grounded F-15s are no more of a threat than grounded Sopwith Camels.

      You seem to want give the Iraqis our training and competance along with the tech swap. The premise is our tech with Iraqi total incompetance.

      You also want to give us Iraqi incompetance along with their tech swap. We'd have developed tactics and doctrine to take full advantage of the Iraqi/Soviet tech just as we did for our own tech.

      You also seem to visualize swarms of Iraqi F-15s and whatnot. We're swapping one-for-one. Look in other comments where I've laid out the actual air force numbers. They had very few aircraft and half of those were unflyable. They had no significant numbers. Numbers was my number one factor on the post list. Even if they were superbly trained pilots flying F-15s against us they would have been quickly attrited to uselessness, albeit with a less favorable exchange ratio. Instead, they would have few numbers of F-15s piloted by total incompetents.

      All of the above comments hold true for the land battles. They had no idea what they were doing. We would have had to approach them a bit closer in our T-72s but they still would have had no idea we were there until rounds started impacting their M1A1s and our Su-25s and Hinds starting hitting them.

      It wasn't the technology it was the huge delta-training and numbers. Remember your equation? If delta for any factor was too big? Well, the delta-training in Desert Storm and, to a bit lesser degree, the delta-numbers that would have overwhelmed the technology swap effect.

      Do you see it, now?

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    36. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    37. I saw it before. ;) As I said, we held ALL the cards in Desert Storm. Our deltas outweighed theirs across the board.

      I'm not saying they would've won. I'm saying we we wouldn't have had the cake walk we did. We very well could've taken prohibitive casualties.

      I'm also not implying they had our training or maintenance. Ground 70% of their aircraft due to parts and maintenance. But that 30% left are F-16s and F-15, not antiquated Mig-23s, Mig-25s and overhyped Mig-29s. So maybe they get a few more kills and add a persistent fighter threat to their IADS (something we squashed early in the war).

      But my main point is taking away OUR aircraft and technology advantages removes our ability to prosecute the air war with the same effectiveness. Even if they flew ZERO fighter sorties, we still have to contend with Patriot/IHawk/Stinger without our SEAD/DEAD/EW/Stealth advantages. Patriot is orders of magnitude more dangerous than SA-2/3/6. You can pretty much write off striking Baghdad. We wouldn't risk Tu-22s or Su-24s against Patriots. And nothing else in our inventory could reach that far.

      The unrefueled combat radius of a Mig-29 on an A2A sortie is something like 150nm. Draw a 150nm circle around King Khalid Air base and see how far that gets you. Less than half way to Baghdad. Mig-25s can go futher, but only subsonic. They would have to use all of their Mach 3.2 speed and high altitude to stay out of Patriot range. So their combat radius wouldn't look much better.

      A "bit closer"? Remember, our T-72s can't penetrate their M1A1HAs frontally at ANY useful combat range. We would have to get to the side or BEHIND them to get reliable kills.

      They could see our heat signatures from 3-4km away. We would have to get within 1km to see their dug in tanks. So it's not just a "bit closer". And the fire control system on the M1 is MUCH easier and faster to use, so less trained crews can actually get more out of it than a T-72.

      Delete
  4. Your argument reminded me of WWII with the Germans having Me-263, Me-163, V-1, and V-2, guided Air-toAir missiles etc. As we know lots of P-51s with 50 cal's were more than a match back then.

    I agree, the F-35 is putting us at risk of fielding too far too few aircraft due to its F-22-like price. It is so bad now that services are cancelling programs just to feed the ever increasing F-35 bill. The other part of this that doesn't make sense is that the type of nation we would need this capability to defeat would require lots of range and lots of weapons on targets. The F-35 is poorly suited for this with only moderate range capability and an absurdly small internal payload capability. It is also really an attack aircraft with some ability to do A/A. Yet the argument is we need F-35 for air dominance. Frankly we need more F-22s or a 6th Gen aircraft if you really want air dominance.

    We need to cut the buy of the F-35 significantly and fund many more LRS-Bs.

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  5. ComNavOps

    Here is a shot at an Iraqi operational plan keeping in mind that the key Iraqi failing was allowing the coalition a chance to deploy, rehears, analyze and then shred them..

    The Iraqi first move should have been to roll through Kuwait and drive deep into Saudi Arabia. Then the Iraqis should have immediately negotiated the restoration of the Kingdom, in exchange for massive debt relief, “reparations”, and possibly keeping a portion of Kuwait.

    Failing to do that, the second Iraqi chance came when the U.S deployed the 82nd airborne “speed bump” - the Iraqis should have steam rolled them.

    Every Saudi military airfield in the north of the kingdom should have been subjected to intense bombardment from IRBMS just as the USAF began to deploy to them.

    Every Saudi port should have been mined by camouflaged merchantmen to delay and disrupt coalition logistics.

    The Iraqis would have been even better off if they had targeted U.S. pre-positioning ships in the region, possibly using commando raids, suicide ships, etc..

    Every occupied city should have been turned into a miniature Falujah.

    Had the Iraqis taken these actions and followed up with a negotiation strategy, they might have achieved their goals.

    GAB

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    1. GAB, quite right! The Iraqis had several opportunities to succeed and squandered each one. That's a failure of strategy at the highest level.

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    2. I fear we are getting off track with the minutiae of aircraft types. After reviewing your 'equivalencies, I am certain we won't come to terms.

      The final thing I will add is that the one critical capability that the US would lack if it switched would be an ability to effectively deceive/attrite Iraqi IADS. The Iraqis had no equivalent capability. Losing that would be very bad for the US, since eliminating the SAM threat was a precursor to nearly everything else.

      But "switching techs" involves a lot more than aircraft. The US would have lost GPS, SATCOM, EW, computerized logistics, modern NVGs, blue force tracking, etc. These IT capabilites underpinned almost everything we did.

      A commander would not have been able to coordinate fires effectively, or navigate across the desert, or maintain communicate with forces, or keep them supplied effectively, or minimize friendly fire (which was already a big problem.)

      If we are postulating that this 'magical' downgrade (i.e. US suddenly gets Iraqi tech) took place at the beginning of Desert Storm, it's difficult to see how the US could have coordinated its very aggressive but complicated battle plan.

      At that point, the smartest thing the Iraqis could do would be to hunker down and bleed out the Americans - launching occasional local counterattacks. Given equal technologies, a force-on-force engagement very much favored the Iraqis.

      Thankfully - the US had a decisive technological edge.

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    3. Every technology you cite merely made things a bit easier. They didn't enable victory they just made it a bit easier. Some examples ...

      The cross desert flanking maneuver was not enabled by GPS, it was just made easier (and I'm not convinced that's a good thing - look at our current dependence on GPS and loss of basic map reading and navigational skills). I have a book written by a Marine officer who served in Desert Storm. He describes how his particular unit did not have GPS (it was not yet universally available and Marines seem to always get the good stuff last) in their LAVs. Within a few weeks of arriving, they had mastered cross desert navigation through a combination of careful "INS", radio beacon triangulation, and other methods. The entire Army and Marine force could have similarly mastered the skill.

      To say that "A commander would not have been able to ..." completely misses the point. We would have been able to do anything. It simply would have required different training in some cases or somewhat different tactics and strategy to take advantage of the strengths of the switched technology or compensate for any gaps in capability.

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    4. Alright, let's stay at a higher level and not get bogged down, as you say. I said initially that you missed the mark on multiple levels. That was not a put-down. It was an observation and a hint. I'll explain.

      Most importantly, you failed to understand why we won. This a comment so I'll be brief.

      We won because we had superior command organization, and a professional military leadership that spent their lives studying war and strategy. We won because our better trained and more professional leadership were able to develop an operational strategy that emphasized our strengths and took advantage of the Iraqi weaknesses. Those weaknesses were not technical. They were overly centralized command, poor maintenance, very poor training, poor morale, poor motivation, and woefully insufficient numbers of the things that mattered most.

      We won because our training was vastly superior. Our pilots, tank crews, etc. knew how to use their equipment to get the most out of it. The T-72 was an adequate and dangerous tank but the Iraqis used them as self-propelled artillery rather than mobile armor. They failed to support their armor with proper scouting and air cover.

      Iraqi equipment was generally poorly maintained due to systemic parts shortages. This is not my opinion but the conclusion of after action reports as described in Friedman's book.

      The Iraqis had insufficient numbers of the things that mattered. They were badly outnumbered in the air and had far too few AEW assets, and so on.

      Their technological shortcomings didn't doom them - their lack of numbers, training, and maintenance did. Their technology was adequate if not exceptional. Used the way GAB describes, they could have prevailed. Their failings were not due to technology.

      You failed to grasp that we won because we claimed the initiative and were able to dictate the timing and location of the battles we wanted to conduct. We were able to mass force where and when needed.

      You failed to grasp the lessons of history. Less technically capable forces have a long history of faring well against supposedly superior forces: Viet Nam, Afghanistan against the Soviets, US against Japan at the outset of WWII, the Soviets against Germany, and so on.

      You failed to grasp the overwhelming importance of motivation. As a general statement, the Iraqis just didn't want to fight. That's not just my opinion that's what actually happened. You can rationalize it any way you want but the end result is an Iraqi force that wasn't mentally committed to battle.

      The US technological edge was the least important factor in the victory.

      Sure, if we switched technology we might have to adjust our tactics but that adaptability was one of our strengths anyway.

      Had the Iraqis acted as GAB suggests they would have prevailed using the technology they actually had. Our superior tech would have been unable to win at an acceptable cost. Again, logical evidence that tech was the least important of the various factors at play.

      Does this settle the issue for you?

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    5. Technology would only have made things a bit easier? You mean that bit of kit it didn't win the battle entirely on its own? Well then, we should cancel it immediately!

      Seriously, my appreciation is that this is one of the key functions of technology on the battlefield. To allow the warfighter to accomplish rote, time-consuming tasks more surely and efficiently.

      Every US officer COULD have learned to navigate the desert by sextant. But there are only so many hours to train, and there are perhaps more important things for him to worry about. Like what is he going to do when the shooting starts.

      And remember that Clausewitz stated "Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult." Removing the possibility for human processes where possible - like navigation - is usually a good thing. I do however agree that one should still have a basic knowledge of navigational principles.

      And not to quibble - but an INS is every bit as expensive and advanced as a GPS transceivers. Providing these to forward troops would be no mean or inexpensive feat. It's not like this is a low-tech solution.

      Matt

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    6. Matt, forgive me, I put INS in quotes because it was not actual INS as in a mechanical INS system. They didn't have those. By INS I meant that they learned to track their movements by tracking bearing, speed, and time - manual INS.

      As far as training, you train for what's most important. If we had not had GPS (and some units, like our example Marine, did not) training to know where you are seems like a pretty important priority, especially if you're going to fight in the desert!

      You're correct that technology should free the individual to concentrate on the more important things but technology doesn't guarantee results. Consider the Taliban infiltration of the Marine airbase and their destruction of an entire Harrier squadron. We had thermal and night vision devices, listening devices, radar, you name it - and yet a low tech enemy penetrated our base and destroyed an entire Harrier squadron. Just an isolated example, of course, but it illustrates the point.

      If you really believe that technology is the ultimate arbiter of victory, then how do you explain the many historical examples of the exact opposite such as the ones I listed in another comment?

      The answer is that technology is only one factor and it's the least important one.

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    7. Well - the Taliban apparently penetrated the perimeter largely because the Tongans were sleeping on the job. Technology won't fix incompetence!

      I really don't think that technology is the ultimate arbiter. My actual view is that the issue is more complex than examining a historical campaign and developing a simple ordinal list. They are intertwined and not necessarily mutually exclusive.

      For example: technology can also offset or allow reallocation of limited numbers. A Predator can stay along for a day, freeing up any number of orbiting F-16s to do strike missions.

      Yes, less technical forces can potentially overcome more technically advanced forces. But you overlook that the inverse has been proven true on a MUCH greater number of occasions!

      Alexander vs. the Eastern world; Greeks at Pharsalus; Rome vs. Britons; Spain vs. Aztecs; England vs. the Armada;; Britain vs. any number of African tribes; Germany vs. France; Europeans and Japan. vs. Boxers; Japan vs. Russia (1901); Russia vs. Japan (1939); US vs, Japan (1942-5).

      The list quite literally goes on and on....

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    8. OK, you say that you agree that technology isn't the ultimate arbiter of victory. That's a start! So, you agree with my list at least to the extent that technology isn't number one. That's progress.

      That leads to ... Unless you're going to buck a unanimous opinion among military historians about Desert Storm, the Iraqis had severe command and control problems, woefully inadequate training, insufficient numbers, and questionable maintenance, at best. With all that working against them and having now established that technology isn't the ultimate arbiter, do you still believe that we couldn't have switched technologies and come away with the same result, if perhaps using different tactics to some degree?

      Delete
    9. Let me ask you, why do you think the US prevailed over Japan in WWII? There is actually only one correct answer at the core of the discussion. Again, this isn't really opinion. I ask this because you're inclusion of that example in your list of technological victories suggests you're missing the underlying causes of victory in general. I don't say this to be mean but to try to nudge you to look closer at your positions.

      I'll help your thought process along. Consider that at the outset of war, Japan had far superior aircraft, highly trained and experienced aviators, far superior ships, probably the best torpedos in the entire war, superb naval night optics, superior naval tactics, very good strategists and tacticians, and outstanding maintenance. Despite all that, they not only lost the war but lost it fairly quickly with most historians agreeing that the Coral Sea/Midway time frame was the point at which the war was lost. In fact, many historians believe that Japan never had any hope of winning, even on day one.

      So, why did the US win?

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    10. Please drop the condescension and faux Socratic Method. My thought process is sound, I just don't happen to subscribe to your methodology or conclusions.

      I never once stated that technology was #1. I actually have more of a problem with your whole approach of developing an all-encompassing ordinal list, as I don’t think it is practical or analystically useful. Even if you could develop such a list, I do not believe it is universally applicable.

      And ‘what-if’ historical analysis is fun, but very much subject to interpretation and the historian’s assumptions. I just about rolled on the floor when you stated that a MiG-23/27 was equivalent in capability to an F-15E. It was at that point when I knew the "Desert Storm" scenario was going nowhere.

      Midway was the turning point in the sense that the Japanese lost the MOMENTUM. They hadn't yet lost the WAR. Not by a longshot. We still had more than three years of bloody island-to-island struggle before that happened. The end was not a foregone conclusion in '42.

      The factors which ultimately led the Emperor to surrender were a combination of the B-29 fire-bombings, starvation by submarine blockade, and the atomic bomb. Hirohito and the Japanese people were quite ready and prepared to fight on right up until we atomized Hiroshima.

      I completely agree that the Japanese had little to no chance of winning the war, and it would have been in their best interest not to attack or even antagonize the US!

      However, once they lost at Midway, the Japanese strategy was fairly sound. They would bleed the US dry fighting island-by-island, while conserving energy and mass for a naval counterstroke. That naval counterstroke failed quite miserably in the Phil Sea in June 1944. So why did the US win at the Phil Sea?

      Using your list and my judgments:

      TRAINING: USN aircrew training was excellent, although there were still quite a few veterans of Midway and the Solomons on the IJN side. Training among the IJN destroyer crews was equal or superior to USN – and many of their destroyers were combat veterans.

      MAINTENANCE: The IJN had no problems in putting its ships to sea and hundreds of aircraft in the air at the decisive point. The USN had an advantage in damage control, but not sure I would count that as ‘maintenance’. Once a ship or aircraft was hit, it was often out of the fight.

      NUMBERS: In terms of numbers, USN was larger than the IJN fleet. But the nature of WW2 naval warfare often gave the attacker a local advantage because he can choose the point of attack – while the the defenders fleet has to spread out and defend multiple sectors. This was certainly the case during the Battle of the Philippines Sea: the US had many more aircraft in total, but often ended up meeting IJN raid with same or smaller number of fighters.

      TECHNOLOGY: The US had an overwhelming technological superiority in fighter aircraft (Hellcat vs. Zeros), sensors (radar), C2l (CIC, FDC) and anti-aircraft weaponry (5” gun with proximity ammo).

      Take the AA fuze as example. USN AA crews were by this time extremely well trained. And the USN had large numbers of destroyers and cruisers to screen its carriers, each of which was properly maintained and ready for action. But this was before the era of long-range AA weapons – only a small number of ships could bring their weapons to bear against any attacker. And without an appropriate technology which turned a near-miss into a kill, the chance of bringing down an incoming torpedo or dive-bomber were relatively slim.

      By my reckoning technology was the #1 factor, training #2, while maintenance and numbers were largely a draw.

      Delete
    11. Unfortunately, you are so caught up in technology that you are completely failing to see the big picture. That's not a personal attack, just an analytical observation. The war with Japan was a foregone conclusion on day one. The only question was how long it would take. The reason was NUMBERS. The US had the ability to pour overwhleming numbers of soldiers, sailors, and pilots into the war along with overwhelming numbers of ships, planes, and tanks. Our industrial capacity so far exceeded Japan's that there was never the tiniest doubt about the outcome - only the time required.

      Had we never developed the Hellcat, AA fuze, radar, Essex class carriers or any other superior technology it wouldn't have mattered as far as the outcome.

      To paraphrase the famous quote, amateurs discuss technology, professionals discuss logistics. Well, logistics is numbers. The side that can deliver the greatest number of reasonably effective weapons to the battle will win. You need to begin examining the historical events from a professional's point of view.

      What if the US had carried out the war with only the tech they had on day one? Would the outcome have changed?

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    12. You clearly aren't reading my responses, but I will reiterate. I'm simply not going to engage in "'what-if" scenario analysis.

      And you cite your opionions as if they are objective facts. ("Had the US never developed..."). They aren't.

      Back to WW2:

      Logistics largely gave the US the freedom to conduct overseas operations 1,000's of miles from home.

      But due to the distances and problems in supporting amphibious operations at such distances from the mainland, it didn't gurantee overwheling numerical superiority on the BATTLEFIELD.

      In nearly every major amphibious operaiton, the US fought with a fairly insignificant superiority (less than 2:1) in terms of fighting troops.

      These were toe-to-toe 'slug-fests' against prepared positions. Our advantage was nowhere near the 3:1 rule of thumb necessary to overcome a prepared defender.

      And yet our soldiers and Marines emerged victorious against the Emperors well-trained and highly motivated soldiers every time. Why do you think that is?

      The question wasn't only how long the war would take but how many casualties would be incurred, and whether the US could stomach losing hundreds of thousands of its young men in a multi-year operation. And we were going to have to kill just about every adult male in Japan.

      You really need to read Giangreco to understand how tough the fight on the home islands was going to be. This isn't really 'ahistorical' analysis - the JCS analysts were quite literally projecting a bloodbath.

      "Hell to Pay" will also show you how wrong you are in terms of the importance of technology (particularly strategic airpower and the atomic bomb) in ending the war without sacrificing a generaion of Americans.

      Delete
    13. Please stop saying that I refuse to see "the big picture", just because my views don't agree with your own. It's impolite and annoying.

      You are presenting your opinions and judgements as if they are facts. They simply aren't!

      As to WW2 in the Pacific:

      The ultimate outcome WAS certainly in doubt in '42, in terms of the manner in which the war would end. There was certainly confidence that the US would probably prevail, but it was going to be very costly.

      And we were going to need every bit of our numerical superiority for the landing and march on Tokyo.

      I don't think too many soldiers, sailors or Marines would've projected that Emperor Hirohito would ever surrender unconditionally in a little more than 3 years.

      You appear to think that 'victory is a victory' even if it took two more years and hundreds of thousands of additional US casualties. Not to mention a complete leveling of most of the Japanese home islands.

      And that is exactly what would have been required if we had not developed the B-29 and the atomic bomb.

      Technology ended the war early, saved US and Japanese lives and ultimately put the US in a better strategic position going into the Cold War.

      Delete
  6. GAB, do you agree with my list in the post? Is there a factor you think should be added? Different priority arrangement?

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  7. A commander would not have been able to coordinate fires effectively, or navigate across the desert, or maintain communicate with forces, or keep them supplied effectively, or minimize friendly fire (which was already a big problem.)

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    And how were the Germans able to do these things in Russia? What about the British in North Africa. Ever travel through endless tracts of forest, wheat fields, or other featureless terrain? And how were the "primitive" Russians? Of course the Germans, British, and Russians were able to navigate, coordinate fires, and communicate even in featureless and hostile terrain.

    Vietnam era frogmen who were able to put A-6s on target using a morse code key strapped to the leg while running from the booger eaters. After being trained by some of those old farts, I carried a CW key strapped to my leg in the field (along with the 25lb first "man-pack" GPS) because a CW key broadcasts 100% of transmit power, an order of magnitude better than any voice modulated RF.

    IN the next war, expect the enemy to drop all of your precious satellite and data links, and knock down all your computer networks. Shame on you if you cannot operate without them.

    GAB

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    1. GAB,

      I never said the Russians were 'primitive' - I said they were unmindful of casualties.

      Are you debating someone else? You keep attemping to refute things I didn not say.

      Certainly the UK and Russians were able to do such thing "effectively" -- to the standards and conditions appropriate to WW2 ground combat.

      I recall reading that in WW2 European theater it often took a US FAC 15 minutes to arrange an airstrike by a P-47. The pilot would then deliver 0.50 caliber rounds, and perhaps some rockets and 250 lb bomb or two. Assuming the weather was good and the radios worked.

      Mass application of firepower sometimes went very wrong. See the use of B-17s during Operation Cobra.

      Contrast this to OEF, where our special forces troopers had F-14s and B-1s orbiting overhead, able to deliver dozens of 500 lb bombs to pinpoint accuracy, all weather, day/night.

      No argument that there should be redundancy. It would be extremely shortsighted to assume the enemy will not attempt to jam or deny.

      The challenge (at least as I see it) is how to make the systems work as well as they have in the absence of our 'networks.'

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    2. “I never said the Russians were 'primitive' - I said they were unmindful of casualties.”
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      Compared to what?

      Are you saying that the Russians did not take care of wounded red soldiers? Are you saying that the Russians did not go to heroic efforts to try to save their people in places like Leningrad or Stalingrad (to include driving supply convoys across partially frozen lakes in pitch dark - and without GPS!)? Can you cite any case where an allied general did anything like what Marshall Zukhov did to ensure wounded Soviet soldiers were evacuated from the front?

      Sure Stalin was the second largest mass murder in history behind Mao (and far ahead of number three Hitler), but the Germans were quite fearful of what the Russians might do to them in revenge – and they adopted the same brutal suppression of their soldiers as the Russians when their fortunes reversed. By the end of the war, there was very little difference between the Wermacht and the Red Army in “disregard for casualties”. Both sides were absolutely desperate. Hitler’s orders to hold the line at Moscow in the winter of 1941/42, or his expectation that the Sixth Army would fight to the death at Stalingrad are cases in point. The Germans and reds executed on the spot any poor soul that was suspect of shirking duty. Russian fury was fanned by the fact that that three out of every 100 Russian POWs survived captivity in Germany. Also the German decision to support its army entirely off the (Russian) land resulted in the starvation deaths of millions of Russian civilians. The Germans were justifiably afraid of red retribution. And before that, the Germans never had an issue with shooting a malingerer during basic training. Prussian discipline was in fact quite severe. Frontsoldaten by Stephen Fritz documents German “Landser” (soldier) training quite clearly.

      The West is always eager to describe eastern peoples as savage, brutal, blah, blah, blah. The reality is that even the “suicidal” Japanese loved and cared for their people.

      I could make the case that the U.S. was unmindful of casualties by ordering assaults into Iwo Jima and, Okinawa when Japan had been isolated and was effectively being starved into submission. Few medieval kings would waste troops in assaulting a castle that had been properly invested. Even Churchill was shocked at FDR's "Unconditional Surrender" policy.

      GAB

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    3. I've never once said the Soviets were savage, brutish, etc. Only that their method of warfare appears largely insensitive to losses in men and materiel.

      USSR suffered about 14 million military deaths during WWII. And minus losses taken fighting Japan in '39 and again in '45, almost all of them were incurred by Germany.

      Germany suffered about 5.5 million military deaths during WW2. About 3/4 of those were inflicting by the Soviets: 4 million dead.

      That's an exchange ratio of more than 3:1 in favor of the Germans. This does seem to indicate on a grand scale that the warfighting approaches taken by Germans and Soviets differed.

      From a practical standpoint, with a prewar population of 170 million the USSR had an overwhelming superiority in potential manpower over Germany - which had something like 70 million. A higher tolerance of casualties makes sense for the USSR.

      I would certainly agree with you by the end of the war there seems to be little difference in Soviet and German acceptance of casualties. The exchange ratios equaled out to near parity.

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  8. Matt: “Contrast this to OEF, where our special forces troopers had F-14s and B-1s orbiting overhead, able to deliver dozens of 500 lb bombs to pinpoint accuracy, all weather, day/night.“
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    Horse hockey.

    I can testify from first-hand knowledge that U.S. airstrikes were limited by weather in Iraq in 2007, 2008, and 2009 – they most certainly were limited by weather in the first Gulf War. The enemy recognized this limitation of airpower and made it a point to execute indirect fire attacks during sand storms, “mud rains,” and other periods of reduced (or zero) visibility.

    All weather is a relative term, and while bombing capability is significantly less impacted today by “conditions” today, there are still plenty of places on the globe where “all weather” is pure nonsense.

    GAB

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  9. GAB,

    OEF = Operation Enduring Freedom = Afghanistan.

    Are you saying our overwhelming technological superiority in airpower had little to do with the fall of the Taliban regime? I know a couple dozen Special Forces troopers who might disagree with that.

    Certainly there are periods when US airpower cannot be used. But when it is available it is devastatingly effective.

    Matt




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    1. Matt said: “Are you saying our overwhelming technological superiority in airpower had little to do with the fall of the Taliban regime? I know a couple dozen Special Forces troopers who might disagree with that….
      Matt

      No, I meant exactly what I said which is: “U.S. airstrikes were limited by weather in Iraq in 2007, 2008, and 2009 – they most certainly were limited by weather in the first Gulf War.”

      Anybody who has actually spent any time in Iraq (I have 34 months stretched over 2007-2009, and 2012) will testify to this fact.

      There is no such thing as “all weather” technology. The enemy certainly understands this, and uses it to advantage quite frequently.

      And BTW Matt, I know most of the SOF commanders – stop it with the secret squirrel hand shake routine.

      GAB

      Here is the original post/response:


      Matt: “Contrast this to OEF, where our special forces troopers had F-14s and B-1s orbiting overhead, able to deliver dozens of 500 lb bombs to pinpoint accuracy, all weather, day/night.“
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      GAB: “Horse hockey.

      I can testify from first-hand knowledge that U.S. airstrikes were limited by weather in Iraq in 2007, 2008, and 2009 – they most certainly were limited by weather in the first Gulf War. The enemy recognized this limitation of airpower and made it a point to execute indirect fire attacks during sand storms, “mud rains,” and other periods of reduced (or zero) visibility.

      All weather is a relative term, and while bombing capability is significantly less impacted today by “conditions” today, there are still plenty of places on the globe where “all weather” is pure nonsense.”

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    2. GAB,

      It's a simple question: did US airpower have an impact on the US/Northern Alliance overthrow of the Taliban? Desert Storm? OIF-I?

      Once again you've picked out one word in my discussion and attempted to create a debate around it. All-weather was not the point.

      Of course weather can inhibit air operations. 'All-weather' is actually DOD/NATO term. The USAF frequently uses it to describe the F-15E -- while USN uses it to describe the capabilites of the F/A-18E.

      Clearly there is a gap between what the airdales and ground pounders consider 'all weather.' However - it's not as stark as you make it out. I can speak from experience as a P-3 driver that there weren't too many days or nights where we couldn't go flying over Afghanistan.

      I believe my overall point - before you went tearing off on a sidebar - remains valid. US airpower provides a decisive campaign effects on the battlefield.

      Matt

      PS - I don't claim or mean to infer I have any 'secret squirrel' knowledge.

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    3. Matt,

      Yes, U.S. airpower has been a key factor in every war we have waged since WWII; but your own examples disprove your thesis. OIF and OEF were not simply about breaking things and killing people, they were about achieving U.S. national goals (winning the war). Winning the war is very much a numbers game.

      OIF removed Sadam Hussein's regime but failed miserably in achieving U.S. goals in Iraq. Iraq was a mess post 2003 invasion until the troop surge, coupled with the "Sons of Iraq (Sunni awakening movement) which added 100,000+ militia, *and* the massive production of IA and IP forces restored order. Then Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinsecki called it right when he called for "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" required for post war Iraq.

      Likewise, it meant very little to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan when we failed to have the troops, and artillery to destroy them. There were no strategic targets in Afghanistan after the first week of OEF – shift to the ground game, which failed. Tora Bora is a case study in lack of troops, bad intelligence, and lack of mass (primarily artillery). This allowed the enemy to escape, regroup and reconstitute a political and military threat in Afghanistan.

      The U.S. and its allies are failing, and will fail miserably in Afghanistan without massive numbers of troops to force the issue. Right now the number of IDP Afghans are about half a million: staggering for a country of that size. The Afghans are fleeing becasuse they know what is coming in 2014. The Afghans saw this when the Russians left.

      Yes, numbers do matter.

      GAB

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    4. GAB,

      My central thesis has *NEVER* been that numbers do not matter. My thesis is that the author's approach of concocting an ordinal list in which one ranks numbers, maintenance, training, technology as “war-winning” is false. For one thing, it overlooks the fact that technology saves US lives – a key aim in the US way of war. See my discussions regarding final operations against Japan in WW2.

      The early phases of OIF and OEF were certainly about breaking things and killing enemy soldiers. You overlook the fact that without overwhelming technological superiority, coalition forces could not have even progressed into later stages of the campaign. Technology was necessary – if not sufficient.

      I also think you look at troop numbers as an independent variable - divorced from history and political dynamics. We’re not the Soviet Union (1941-45), in which leaders can simply ‘turn up the dial’ and throw hundreds of thousands of additional troops at a problem.

      A half-million troops would certainly have been decisive in Afghanistan - if there had been unflinching political support in US and NATO countries for a massive, multi-year stability / nation-building effort. And those would have been pretty hard sells in 2002 -- let alone 2013.

      No argument that the war in Afghanistan is going very badly and is perhaps unwinnable. We should have left quite a long time ago. The Taliban is not a central threat to US security, and AQ has long since moved on to North Africa and Southeast Asia.

      Matt

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    5. Matt, I'm left wondering what it is that you're actually arguing about in response to the post. As best I can tell, your disagreement is with the fact that I've boiled all the myriad factors that go into winning a war down to a short list of four. Is that it? You just don't like the simplification? Let's assume that's it.

      Consider this analogy... I'm standing somewhere, anywhere, motionless but I want to walk a short ways to another spot. Doesn't matter why. Before I can safely take my next step I've got to do one of two things: either I have to ascertain and assess every possible risk factor there is (traffic, other people's movements, weather, the possiblity of freak lightening strikes, the likelihood of an earthquake, the tracks of all meteors in the solar system in case one is going to land where I want to step, the flight of birds so I don't get pooped on, and so on, or I simply take a quick glance, see no obvious threats and proceed. The first option provides absolute safety but would require the use of a supercomputer to collate all factors and would probably require years of careful study. The second option recognizes that certain factors, short range vision, in this case, are far more important and will with a certain amount of risk acceptance provide a simplified method that allows me to step with a high degree of confidence and, most importantly, in a short time frame.

      Similarly, there are thousands of factors that enter into "winning a war". If we insist on enumerating all of them we'll be paralyzed. We won't know where to concentrate our strategic efforts, force structure and sizing efforts, procurement focus, and so forth. We'll be paralyzed because there's a million factors that have to be analyzed and accounted for before we can move in any direction.

      Alternatively, brilliant people such as ComNavOps can see overall patterns that allow us to identify the major factors that exert the most influence on "winning wars" and we can then proceed to develop the strategies, procurement plans, and so forth that we need.

      Does that help you understand the purpose behind the post?

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    6. Matt,

      You are “a P-3 driver,” are probably a JO who has never been exposed to any operational campaign planning, or gone to a service war college. You may have overflown Iraq, but you clearly where never on the ground in a job that required you to get off a FOB and actually deal with “situations” on the ground. You are probably a smart guy, but you need to check your attitude, because your limited real world experience (including a complete lack of understanding of TACAIR naval, or USAF), as well as your limited historical knowledge, is leading you to make some outrageously silly assertions.

      The reason you don’t get it is because you are not listening. You are getting upset about “mis-quotes”, but you are not even following the discussion.

      A prime example is your statement: “A half-million troops would certainly have been decisive in Afghanistan …” My quote of General Shinsecki was about *IRAQ*. And the point was that to achieve victory, the Coalition and Iraqis ultimately had to place a fire team on every street corner. You can argue all you want about air-power or technology, Sadam Hussein was not the center of gravity in the war, the Iraqi people were. Trying to talk about how incredibly effective Coalition airpower was at chewing up the 2003 Iraqi Army is besides the point.

      You insist on arguing with me about weather in Iraq and its negative impact on air operations, even though I have 34 months in country (2007-2009, 2012), and I my friend and former roommate was in charge of the entire air operations picture in Iraq in 2005-2006 (Fallujah), not to mention personal experiences where weather completely shut down all air operations in Iraq.

      “In Iraq, enemy troops were not the only adversaries that coalition forces faced. The weather threatened to derail the coalition military campaign on several harrowing occasions. …

      The ground war commenced on March 20, 2003, and the Third Infantry Division began its furious race through the desert toward Baghdad. …

      The largest sandstorm to hit southern Iraq in decades engulfed a 300-mile-wide area and blasted tremendous walls of dust into the atmosphere. The fierce storm shredded tents, clogged engines and weapons and burned soldiers' eyes and lungs. Meanwhile, the Saddam Fedayeen, the most fanatical enemy fighters, moved under the cover of the blinding storm to attack the stalled U.S. Army convoys. U.S. ground troops had to engage a seemingly invisible enemy hiding in the swirling clouds of dust.

      The same frontal system that pummeled troops in southern Iraq created a different set of weather challenges for U.S. military operations in northern Iraq. Sleet, snow, and heavy cloud cover over Bashur Airfield jeopardized the largest and most daring combat jump since World War Two.”

      http://www.afweather.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123030265

      Or

      26/27 March [2003]
      “Sandstorms continued in Iraq, hindering fixed-wing and helicopter operations. According to media reports, Iraqi Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard units used the cover of sandstorms to move units south from Baghdad.”

      The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons, p78, by Anthony H. Cordesman

      GAB

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    7. GAB,

      Attitude? Perhaps read the comment string again. I never once came at you the way you're trying to come at me. I’ve actually been fairly polite, where as you come off as a bit of a troll.

      I've described my thesis and overall point of contention to you once already, but I’m perfectly happy to do it again. The point is that boiling ‘war-winning’ capabilites down to an ordinal list (#1, #2, etc.) is incredibly misleading. We often need BOTH numbers and technology for success at the campaign-level, depending on the stage of the campaign and the threat. My argument is more with the analytic process than with the order of the list.

      An observation: You’ve continually steered the discussion largely numbers of troops required for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq. And that is perfectly understandable -- given your much-advertised background, and the COIN operations undertaken by US forces following 9/11/01.

      You may have read somewhere that COIN is not the only method of warfare. In fact, it strikes many defense analysts as fairly unlikely that the US will commit or even structure itself for long-term, manpower intensive COIN operations on the scale of OIF/OEF. Our NATO allies are even more reluctant to commit large numbers of troops or capabilites to COIN.

      The key concern among DOD planners appears to be preventing and prevailing in a maritime-focused, conventionally-oriented conflict in the Western Pacific. This concern is being addressed by the Navy and Air Force in Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept. ASB is even being embraced by the Army.

      If one follows the ASB debate, the focus appear to be maintaining a capability (read technology) edge over an emergent near-peer competitor (read China!) employing anti-access / area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. And given China’s huge population, lower costs of labor, and manufacturing capacity, fighting a numbers game against China in their backyard is an extremely bad idea.

      It’s not that I am completely discounting your comments. But I do wonder how your observation that we needed to “…place a fire-team on every street-corner” is really relevant or even helpful to defeating an enemy in naval war. Or to any debate on a naval-oriented blog.

      Matt

      PS – We’re are all a product of our background, education and experiences. The only thing I told you was that I was a P-3 driver. Feel free to make up the rest. I didn’t feel the need to elaborate, as I don't believe that repeatedly laying one's CV on the table is a prerequisite to a healthy debate. Nor are pointless ad- hominem attacks and supposition. Attack the ideas, not the man.

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    8. Matt & GAB, this is probably a good point to let this discussion end. Everyone has made their points, no one is going to change anyone's mind, and further discussion will only become more personal. See you guys in the next post!

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  10. "Had we never developed the Hellcat, AA fuze, radar, Essex class carriers or any other superior technology it wouldn't have mattered as far as the outcome."

    *****************************

    I disagree. But let me ask how your viewpoint change if one added the atomic bomb to that list?

    The War Office estimated that forcible invasion and occupation of Japan would cost between 2 and 4 million American casualties. Included in that total was 400-800,000 dead.

    The Pentagon quite literally ordered half a million Purple Hearts in the event that we had to go through with Operation Downfall. So - the 'outcome' would've certainly been different for a lot of US and allied servicemen.

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    1. You disagree???? It's not an opinion. There's nothing to agree or disagree about.

      The title of the post is "How To Win A War". So, by outcome I mean winning or losing, victory or defeat. Of course, the time required and number of casualties would have changed! On day one, the war was lost for Japan just due to sheer numbers. Japan had no hope of replacing the lost planes, ships, and soldiers/sailors/aviators in sufficient quantities to compete with the US. It was inevitable that the US would win through sheeer numbers regardless of any further technological development. Our industrial capacity, meaning numbers of planes, tanks, and ships, guaranteed the outcome. Our population numbers guaranteed overwhelming force regardless of technology. Technology only speeded the time frame and, to some extent reduced our casualties. That's the whole point of the post! Even Yamamoto knew this.

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    2. That's one of many problems with your analysis. Not all victory outcomes are equal. A common benchmark for measuring victory is the amount of time and number of casualties taken.

      Historically, it cost the US approx. 110,000 dead and missing to defeat the Empire of Japan. The Japanese surrendered in August 1945 only because we successfully employed a piece of very high technology (an atomic bomb) on Hiroshima.

      Are you saying that a hypothetical war in which we did not drop the atomic bomb, had to spend an up to two years invading and occupying the Home Islands, lost an additional 400-800K US dead, and completely devastated Japan, would have been the same degree of victory?

      If so - that indicates a breathtaking misperception of US war aims.

      The US wanted to force the surrender of Japan in the shortest amount of time and with the least possible US and allied casualties. And ideally we’d like to do so without completely destroying the island of Japan – since we were almost certain to rebuild it.

      We COULD have thrown more numbers (men, ships, and aircraft) at the invasion problem. And even with equal technologies, we probably would have eventually forced a Japanese surrender. But in terms of US losses, it would have been equivalent to the ‘Flower of British Youth’ lost in 1914-18.

      We are not the Soviet Union (1941-45) or China (1951-53). They both displayed an almost willful disregard for friendly casualties. The US prefers to avoid seeing our young citizens dying in droves if we can avoid it.

      And breakthrough technologies like the atomic bomb and the B-29 are often key determinants between a 'good' victory (relatively low casualties) and a 'bad' victory (very high casualties).

      Matt

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