Monday, September 14, 2020

Right In Front Of You But You Can't See It

The US Army is working to figure out how to fight the next war which is more than can be generally said for the Navy or Air Force.  Unfortunately, they’re blind (as is the rest of the military) to what’s in front of them.  Consider this statement from Army Futures Command Commander Gen. Mike Murray who was discussing the German Blitzkrieg:

 

“It was a combination of those three technologies [German military’s airplanes, radios and tanks] and how the Germans put it together to execute what we call Blitzkrieg" that was “fundamentally different” than any of the capabilities the Allied forces … (1)

 

Okay, General, you recognize that Germany achieved a breakthrough in warfare and you want to achieve something similar in terms of significance.  Good for you!  What are your thoughts, Gen. Murray, on how to achieve this?

 

In 2020, there are three key technologies that when paired together in novel ways can provide a strong advantage against possible conflict with near-peer adversaries, according to Murray: artificial intelligence, autonomy and robotics in the air and on the ground. (1)

 

Uh …

 

Do you see a problem, General?

 

No?

 

Okay, let me lay it out for you.

 

Here’s what you identified as the three keys to the German breakthrough:

 

Airplanes

Radios

Tanks

 

Now, here’s the three keys you’ve identified for your desired, modern breakthrough:

 

Artificial intelligence

Autonomy

Robotics

 

General, do you see a fundamental difference between those two groups of factors?  It’s okay.  Take your time.  I’m asking you to think and that’s a new experience so I’ll wait.  

 

… …

 

Really … nothing?

 

All right, I’ll spell it out for you.

 

Two of the three German factors were things that make explosions (airplanes and tanks) and one was an enabler (radio).  None of the three current US factors make explosions and it’s highly debatable that any are even enablers.

 

It’s all about firepower, General.  If you can enhance your firepower, as the Germans did … all the better, but you have to have firepower.  Without it, you’ll just be a well-informed loser when the enemy’s firepower overwhelms you.

 

You’re not going to revolutionize warfare without things that go boom (I’m trying to keep this on a level that a General or Admiral can understand).  All the data in the world is useless if you haven’t got firepower.

 



Blitzkreig



For those who are a little smarter than a General or Admiral – like all the readers of this blog! – let’s consider the General’s three factors a bit closer.

 

Artificial intelligence – Our AI efforts are at the level of the Wright bother’s airplane.  We’re just barely beginning to develop it.  There won’t be any breakthroughs from this for the foreseeable future.  Consider our recent attempt:  the F-35’s ALIS was a colossal failure and it wasn’t even AI, really, just a predictive maintenance database.

 

Autonomy – The Navy just proved that an unmanned ship couldn’t navigate from San Diego to Hawaii without an attending ship and boarding crew.  We’re decades away from any significant breakthrough, here.  Significantly, our military appears committed to NOT allowing autonomous systems to control lethal weapons.  One can debate the wisdom of this position but it surely diminishes the breakthrough potential of autonomy, doesn’t it?  You’re trying to achieve a breakthrough while simultaneously limiting the scope and usefulness of the technology!

 

Robotics – Our current state of the art combat robots can’t tell the difference between a puddle and a lake, as a recent Internet article pointed out.  Our UAVs have been deemed non-survivable over a battlefield by the military.  UAVs around the world are routinely shot down.  Robots can offer some ancillary assistance but to expect a breakthrough from them is pure fantasy.

 

 

Here’s some more from Gen. Murray,

 

“I firmly believe on a future battlefield, the commander that can see first, understand first, decide first and the act first will have a distinct advantage and will ultimately win any future battle,” Murray said. (1)

 

Not without firepower, they won’t!  This is the blindness that the US military exhibits.  It’s all about firepower and they simply can’t see it.  There’s an adage that’s applicable, here.  Paraphrasing,

 

Get there firstest (first) with the mostest (most).

 

The saying is attributed (debatably) to Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and it means that victory goes to he who first achieves the proper position with the necessary firepower.  The key is the ‘mostest’:  the firepower.  It does no good to know everything about your enemy and to maneuver to an advantageous position if you lack the firepower to do anything decisive when you get there and yet that’s exactly the path the US military is heading down:  perfect knowledge and insufficient firepower.

 

Consider the example of Midway, in WWII.  We had the intel (code breaking) which allowed us to mass forces and reach a position of advantage but what allowed victory (aside from some large doses of good fortune!) was that we had sufficient firepower when we got there.  Had we arrived at Midway with our intel but lacked firepower, we would have been defeated.  Today’s leaders fail to recognize that you need the mostest to go along with the firstest.

 

It’s sad, isn’t it?  General Murray obviously read some history about the German army, which is great – ComNavOps constantly pushes for our military leaders to study history – but he completely fails to see the lessons from that history. 




Stuka Dive Bomber



 The more we head down the misguided path of data over firepower, the more I’m going to push back and keep pounding on the need for firepower.

 

Consider this for some perspective …  We’re coming out with new networks and data schemes on a seemingly daily basis but what was the last significant advance the US made in firepower?


______________________________________


Standard Disclaimer:  I'm all in favor of intel - as an enabler of firepower, not instead of firepower.

 

 

______________________________________


(1)Defense News website, “Inside Project Convergence: How the US Army is preparing for war in the next decade”, Jen Judson, 10-Sep-2020,

https://www.defensenews.com/smr/defense-news-conference/2020/09/10/army-conducting-digital-louisiana-maneuvers-in-arizona-desert/


73 comments:

  1. Like the FT says in one of the Navy's recruiting video, its all about "putting warheads on foreheads."

    Per your thread last week, we're not buying enough warheads, and now we aren't even thinking about warheads in our strategy. Somebody needs to explain to these people why they exist.

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  2. "You’re not going to revolutionize warfare without things that go boom (I’m trying to keep this on a level that a General or Admiral can understand)."

    When the "For Dummies" level is still not enough, there's the "For Admirals".

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    1. "For Admirals"

      One syllable, happy words arranged in a PowerPoint style?

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    2. It is said that top Admirals are so good they can deal with two syllable words, but it might just be an urban legend.

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  3. The general is more accurate than you are on his future assertion, but he is wrong on the past lesson. The radio was a key enabler of Blitzkrieg. Tanks and planes weren't new and their tanks and planes weren't decisively superior. The radio created the first network not tied to a physical medium. It allowed them to fully leverage the speed of the new methods of warfare planes and armor provided. It also used that speed to concentrate force faster at the decisive point. The general's three items for the future will again accelerate this process. I'll take shooting further with more, but we also now face the real problem of having to destroy more with less. That process will accelerate. What good is Thaad battery on Guam when it can get shredded by a drone swarm (Current world example over on TWZ)

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    1. Technology wise it wasn't that the Germans had radio, which wasn't new either. It was that the put it in EVERY tank. The French had radio's in their tanks, but only at company level and above. Get this, to control the tanks without radios they used symaphores to relay commands. What could possibly go wrong there?

      It is not just the tech you use but how you use it. All the items listed are potentially useful in the right circumstance.

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    2. "The general is more accurate than you are on his future assertion"

      I don't mind that you disagree but you don't really explain how/why. What do you see differently about the future and the three factors the General wants to use and what evidence you have to support it?

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    3. "It was that the put it in EVERY tank."

      So what is the lesson in that for us, today?

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    4. Once you put the brain in the computer already on the platform, the platform gets smaller, cheaper build, less logistics. Never misses a deployment due to injury, pregnancy, etc. Never forgets so give it the easy stuff and tasks that never change. Better endurance.

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    5. Um, okay. How is that a breakthrough in warfare?

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    6. Foot (4mph)
      Horse (slightly faster / longer)
      Locomotive (Faster, Longer)
      Telegraph
      Cars
      Telephone
      Planes
      Radio
      Computer
      Computer network / internet
      AI, no human limitation in speed, processing, endurance etc. This is literally just the continuation of getting there firstest with the mostest. It won't happen over night, but it will happen.

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    7. I still don't see how you envision this being a breakthrough in warfare. While the decisions would be faster (or not - I'll return to this in a moment), the actual physical movement of forces around the battlefield would not be any faster so no advantage gained there and the applications of firepower would not be any more effective so no advantage gained there. Where's the breakthrough?

      For sake of discussion, if you postulate faster decision making, that would be marginally helpful but decision making has never been the bottleneck in war. It's been the movement of forces, assembly of resources, industrial capacity, movement of supplies, application of firepower that is the limiting factor(s).

      Regarding faster decision making, I'm dubious that would even be true. While you *might* get a computer decision faster (might, depending on speed of input data - in war, collecting and 'inputting' the data is the limiting factor, not decision making), the actual speed of action would likely not be faster since any computer decision would still have to go through layers of command authority, review, debate, and approval.

      Remember, the premise of the post is that the three identified factors will provide a breakthrough in warfare, giving us a huge advantage over our hapless enemies. A minor improvement in one aspect of warfare does not qualify as a breakthrough. This breakthrough has been referred to in modern times as 'offsets'. We're looking for the third offset. The previous two offsets were stealth and guided munitions, each of which offered huge military advantages and provided breakthroughs in warfare even if they didn't last for long. The military is looking for the next offset/breakthrough and they think those three factors will do it but I just don't see it.

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    8. "This is literally just the continuation of getting there firstest with the mostest."

      Firstest, maybe. Mostest, no.

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    9. Mostest yes. If I can put 2 automated tanks on a C-17 instead of 1 manned, I have more tanks arriving faster. If I never need food water, sleep, time to take a leak, have no worry of being bounced around until injured, I will be faster across open ground. This is an extension of processes long under way.

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    10. Let's debunk some myths here. Its NOT true that the French only put radios in command vehicles and they did NOT use semaphores and flags for communication.

      In 1940 all French frontline tanks had radios. The issue was that some were only capable of receiving messages. The standard set up in a company with 15 tanks was 7 with dual-way radios (four platoon commanders and three tanks in the HQ group) and 8 tanks with radios that could only receive.

      Obviously it's better to have two-way radios in every tank but there were enough of those to allow for effective coordination and communication.

      This isn't what made the difference between the Germans and French and isn't at the core of blitzkrieg.

      What gave the Germans superior coordination was that the cadre of their armoured and motorised corps had been practising and perfecting this kind of warfare since the early to mid 1920s (no typo, I don't mean the 1930s), so they didn't NEED as much radio communication to get the job done.

      Radios back then weren't what they are now and what greatly helped the Germans achieve superior communications was that many of their tanks (P-III, P-IV, P-35t, P-38t) effectively had a crewman dedicated to serving as a radioman (operating the hull machine gun was his secondary task which he only rarely needed to use). French tanks didn't have that.

      Almost two decades of dedicated training and a dedicated communications crewmember in the tanks made a huge difference.

      Superior close air support also helped, but was far from decisive (and highly overrated).

      At the centre of blitzkrieg is not superior knowledge and information, but the willingness to embrace the ABSENCE of 'full' knowledge. By acting right away instead of waiting for more intel they continuously created new battlefield realities. The enemy (not just the French but the British too) adhered to the 'old' philosophy of not acting 'blindly', but because they did, and the Germans didn't, the allies were always several steps behind and never got a grip on controlling events, often paralysing the senior commanders into either inaction or purely defensive measures. Blitzkrieg was little more than using the fog of war as a beneficial tool and not seeing it as an obstacle to overcome.

      R.

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    11. "Mostest yes."

      Absolute best case, that's an improvement in effectiveness but is hardly a breakthrough in warfare. An AI tank would have no better firepower than a manned tank, no better range without refueling, no better armor, no better sensors, no better fire control … it would just be somewhat more effective because it wouldn't be subject to crew fatigue. That's nice but not a breakthrough.

      That's also the perfect, best case, Terminator level AI which is not on any foreseeable timeline. The question is not could AI in some distant future offer improvements but whether pursuit of what we call AI, today (which is just some enhanced computer analysis), is going to provide a breakthrough in warfare in any time frame that would be of use to us. The answer is clearly, no.

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    12. "At the centre of blitzkrieg is not superior knowledge and information, but the willingness to embrace the ABSENCE of 'full' knowledge."

      That is a fascinating take on the issue. I am not a land warfare expert and have not studied that aspect so I can't say whether you're correct or not but the concept is exactly what I've called for in assembling our networks and data reliance.

      You offer a very good comment and I thank you for that contribution. I'll have to study the history of this a bit closer. I look forward to more comments from you!

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    13. Just think about it this way, in a ww2 context, the combination of mobile warfare and 'full' battlefield knowledge was an impossible one. So the Germans didn't bother with it. Instead, they figured it was more effective to replace existing uncertainties (over which they didn't have much control) with new ones they had created themselves and over which they had some (but not complete) control. If conducted at a high pace, it also served to consistently increase the uncertainty for the other side.

      From a strategic point of view, they reverted the idea that when faced with great uncertainties, it's better to stay on the defensive than it is to take great risks, until such a time as you have a clearer picture. They figured that if that's how the enemy behaves, they could use it against him.

      To be more nuanced, this did not apply to all Germans or to all French. The German infantry army commanders were almost as conservative as the French ones and some of the French commanders were as good as the best German ones.

      Here's an anecdote you probably didn't know about. It's due to the conservatism of the German infantry armies and Hitler's inept meddling in the organisational structure of the army that they won the campaign. Ever wonder why 'panzergruppe Kleist' was called that and not an Army as the other formations?

      By not calling it an army it remained subordinate to the higher ranked commanders of the infantry armies. The latter insisted that the tank formations be assigned to them to support their units (as they had in Poland, which wasn't actually a true Blitzkrieg campaign). The tank generals insist they should be led of the leash and that the infantry would only slow them down.

      Hitler came up with the solution of keeping the Panzergruppe subordinate to the other armies, but allowed it to operate independently as long as the infantry hadn't caught up to them.

      So guess what happened? The tank generals kept advancing as much as they could to PREVENT the infantry from catching up. They also consistently lied to their higher ups on how far they had already advanced (even Kleist himself did so). That way, when they could a stop order ("halt at that or that town or river") they could reply that they were already past that point and were 'in the enemies rear' in order to keep advancing. It worked again and again and was instrumental on reaching the Atlantic coast as fast as they did.

      Seriously, the organisation of German high command in may 1940 was a complete mess.

      R.

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    14. Just reread the original post. General Murray doesn't know what he's talking about in more than one way. He credits the German victory to superior technology. That's nonsense.

      German tanks were not technologically superior. They still lagged the French in many areas of design. Their aircraft were not that much better either. Both side's tanks and aircraft had radios.

      The difference was made by tactics, training and a superior concept of operations.

      That a US general fails to recognise this is both telling and disturbing.

      R

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    15. "He credits the German victory to superior technology."

      This is the blindness/bias that has gripped the US military. We have substituted technology for strategy and believe technology to be solution to every military challenge. This is wrong for so many reasons, as I've laid out in the pages of this blog.

      Your comments are a welcome contribution.

      Now, the US military has been in search of another breakthrough (offset, as it's called today) and are, incorrectly, trying to base it on networks and data. What, in your opinion, should be the next breakthrough and from what factors should it come?

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    16. ""At the centre of blitzkrieg is not superior knowledge and information, but the willingness to embrace the ABSENCE of 'full' knowledge."

      That is a fascinating take on the issue. I am not a land warfare expert and have not studied that aspect so I can't say whether you're correct or not but the concept is exactly what I've called for in assembling our networks and data reliance."

      I have read more about land warfare, and this seems to be exactly the type of thing blitzkreig was about. They had the concept of Auftragstaktik, where instead of trying to micro-manage every little aspect of the army, they would give missions to their subordinates, and then allow them to act on their own initiative.

      This allowed them to move faster and react faster than other armies, which is how they had such success during the Ardennes penetration.

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    17. "Now, the US military has been in search of another breakthrough (offset, as it's called today) and are, incorrectly, trying to base it on networks and data. What, in your opinion, should be the next breakthrough and from what factors should it come?"

      Thanks for giving me the challenge of solving the DoD's biggest problem! ;-)

      I gave it some serious thought, as I do think I know where you need to look for it and what you need to do (in a general sense) to achieve it.

      Let's start with the quote "get there fistest with the mostest". Everyone usually focuses on the words 'fistest' and 'mostest' ignoring the far more important word 'there'. 'Fistest and mostest' is pointless if you're at the wrong 'there'.

      The challenge now is predicting what the correct 'there' in a future peer war will be.

      In the civil war era, this still applied to conventional battlefields. It took time to concentrate forces and the side that did it best usually won. The skill lay in identifying the correct location of the soon to be battle, in time.

      There were some attempts to get into the enemies rear to disrupt supply lines etc but this was a relatively minor issue.

      In WW1 they tried to make it a major issue (the German drive on Paris) as by then the enemies rear had been correctly identified as the new 'there'. What was lacking was a way to get there once the war devolved into trench warfare (the machine gun and accurate rifle fire had rendered horse cavalry obsolete for this task).

      The tank was part of the answer. The other part was the development of manoeuvre warfare. Most people don't understand what it is, including all too many professionals. They think of it in terms of the civil war era, get 'fistest and mostest' to a conventional field of battle.

      In manoeuvre warfare, mobility and manoeuvring REPLACE actual combat. Once the Germans tank formations broke through the French river defences at Sedan and Dinant they advanced to the Channel coast and defeated the allies without fighting a single major engagement.

      That is the point of manoeuvre warfare. It's not about fighting, it's about substituting fighting with manoeuvring to such a degree that it puts the adversary in a hopeless situation if and when he does offer battle.

      The subsequent fighting that did take place (Lille, Dunkirk, battle of France) was little more than glorified mopping up operations. The outcome had already been decided, THROUGH MANOEUVRING, not fighting.


      (part 1 of 2)

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    18. Remember that the Germans did not have overall superior technology. What they had done was adapt and tweak the same technology that the enemy had to help them get to the new 'there'.

      Just as the campaign in France was not decided by superior technological concepts, neither will the next war be. What will matter is how well you adapt the existing possibilities to what will be the new 'there' this time.

      In my opinion that 'there' is not a purely geographical location anymore. There is a truly vast tail in current militaries compared to things that go boom. Without the tail to tell them where to go, the few things that go boom that are left are of little use.

      In WW2 the Germans cut not just lines of supply but lines of communication, severing commanders (tail) from their frontline formations (thing that go boom) making it very hard for the allies to direct their units and conduct anything but the most basic operations.

      The modern equivalent will be the same. You need to sever or disrupt the enemy's ability to have the tail communicate effectively with the combat elements while safeguarding your own capabilities to do so. If you don't, you will probably lose the war in the first few minutes or hours at best, leaving nothing but mopping up operations.

      As far as I can tell, the US armed forces are doing neither of those things in any significant manner. It's all about having the most technologically advanced gadgets, irrespective of if and how they fit into the overall concept of operations.

      The French had more and better tanks than the Germans. Together the allies outnumbered the Germans in the air and their planes were, on average, about as good as the those of the Germans. The allies also had far more soldiers (especially if you include the Belgians). None of it helped them.

      The Russians greatly outnumbered the Germans (and their allies) in men, tanks and aircraft in 1941 and some of their tanks were far superior to anything the Germans had. None of it helped them.

      The solution does not lie in technology itself but in the appropriate application of what can be produced and deployed reliably to the new 'there'.

      The US seems to consistently confuse how to apply technologies to their own existing military infrastructure with how to apply them to next generation warfare. Those are NOT the same thing.

      Net-centric warfare is utterly pointless if you cannot adequately defend your 'net' or if you lack the capacity to effectively disrupt the enemy's 'net'. Net-centric warfare means net-warfare. Period.

      For example, I just read a piece about how the Indians and Russians are apparently busy modifying the Brahmos/Yakhont family of missiles into very long range AWACS killers. That is a very good example of tweaking existing and proven technology to the new 'there'.

      R.

      (part 2 of 2)

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    19. "Thanks for giving me the challenge of solving the DoD's biggest problem! ;-)"

      After lunch, you can solve world hunger!

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    20. "there"

      Another excellent comment(s). You've touched on a number of themes that have been posted on this blog so there's nothing I have any fundamental disagreement about.

      However, I note that you've offered a thought on what the next breakthrough should be - the ability to get 'there' - which you seem to suggest is the enemy's tail in the form of logistic support and communications but you haven't quite identified how that would be achieved other than a recognition of the use of maneuver.

      On a related note, you're semi-describing the 'Centers of Gravity' concept: identify the enemy's Center of Gravity(s) and attack it. The tail could easily be identified as a potential 'Center of Gravity'. I note, though, that in a war with China, their tail will be hugely shorter, more compact, and more heavily defended than ours!

      Returning to the subject of the post, which is the quest for a Breakthrough in warfare, I note that neither the recognition of the value and vulnerability of logistics (and more recently networks and communications) nor the use of maneuver are new or breakthrough concepts. Today, everyone knows of them and practices them to varying degrees. While worthy goals in modern war, neither constitutes a surprise or one-sided advantage which is what the US is searching for. China, for example, knows all this as well as we do and will, undoubtedly attempt to implement it as will we, so, no breakthrough for our Generals to hang their hats on.

      What you've described in your comment are well known and well understood (?) fundamentals of modern warfare that are equally available to both sides - so not a breakthrough.

      I've got a post coming shortly on the topic of breakthroughs in warfare and the US military's pursuit of breakthroughs. I think you'll find it interesting.

      Want to take a shot at how we would implement this maneuver warfare against China given that there likely won't be much land-based tail to maneuver on and attack?

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    21. I would like to add that the French and British army had more and better tanks then Germany in 1940 France. What made Germany effective was the task oriented command style mentioned above called "Auftragstaktik". I have read a divisional order to a brigade that was 10 lines.
      The important thing was that each order had a purpose, higher commanders goal. A lower officer could always disregard order from above if he found a better way to reach the goal. This made the German army much faster in the OODA-loop and could react much quicker on developments on the battlefield. To bad only one army continued to develop this in the post war period.
      As for the close air support. That was improvised during Polish-campaign. Though a reason it worked so well was that the Luftwaffe had assigned coordination officers that was with the ground units. The idea was that they were supposed to receive scouting reports from the pilots but it worked well with controlling the attack aircraft.

      It was doctrinal and training that made the German army effective. Not superior technology.

      Some books i would recommend are:
      Panzer leader by Hanz von Luck, he served on all fronts from 39-45 then 10years in russion prisson camp.
      Tigers in the mud by Otto Carius, Commander of a tiger with 150 kills
      Panzer battles by Mj.Gen. Von Mellenthin.
      Panzer Leader by Gen Guderian.

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    22. My earlier reply was long enough as it was so I had to cut out a fair bit of additional explanation that I had in mind.

      The era of manoeuvre warfare as the deciding factor is over.

      In WW2 it was, but those mopping up operations afterwards still had to be conducted and it took huge amounts of traditional infantry formations to do so, especially in the large encirclement battles on the east front.

      Manoeuvre warfare served to give the infantry a battle they couldn't lose. Nevertheless, they still needed to fight it and take serious losses doing so.

      In the next great war, mobile formations will be like the infantry of WW2, not a decisive force in itself, but necessary to reap the benefits. Other assets will set up the battlefield, just as the manoeuvre elements set up the battlefield for the infantry to finish off in WW2.

      Organisations consist of two main things: (physical) elements (typically people or suborganisations) and the (non-physical) relations between those elements. The military is no exception. Classical theories, including the 'centres of gravity' approach, focus on taking out (selective) elements to disrupt the organisation as a whole. Take out the right ones and the whole thing collapses or ceases to function properly.

      Modern warfare will instead focus on disrupting relations between elements and less on the elements themselves. In other words, far less physical destruction and far more chaos and uncertainty. As a result, modern warfare will resemble classical warfare far less in the decisive phase than previously (the mopping up phase will still look a lot like 'normal' warfare but the ultimate winner will already be evident).

      For example, cutting the underseas internet cables connecting the US with Europe and Asia amounts to very minor physical destruction but enormous military, economic and societal consequences.

      Take out X number of US satellites and no more GPS guidance. Relatively little physical damage and huge military, economic and societal consequences.

      To be honest, I suspect that just those two actions alone might suffice to create unwinnable conventional conditions for the US if they were then to offer (conventional) battle. If the US chooses to decline, the resulting conditions and economic misery will probably affect the US much more than the adversary, creating a de-facto victory for the enemy. Wars are not fought between armies, they are fought between nations using a plethora of means and tools of which traditional military forces are just one.

      If those two actions don't suffice, other communication nodes and weak spots will be targetted. Some through physical means (long range conventional missiles), others through new forms of warfare such as cyberwarfare, information warfare, etc.

      Let's get back to WW2. After the initial successes of the Germans, their adversaries caught on and developed similar capabilities of their own and learned how to handle German mobile forces.

      If both sides have these capabilities, its decisiveness decreases. But it doesn't go away. After three months of slugging it out in Normandy, the allies finally broke through with the Germans incapable of answering with mobile operations of their own. The same happened several times on the east front.

      Right now I see the US military in the position of France in 1940. A force that looks great on paper and appears undefeatable but with a few fatal flaws hidden in it.

      What the US needs to do now is not achieve some mystical breakthrough to gain the upper hand. They need to catch up first and gain capabilities the potential adversaries already seem to have (just as the allies first had to match Germany's battlefield capabilities before they could outproduce them).

      R

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    23. For the sake of discussion, let's assume that everything you've said is true and that communications is the 'there' of the next war (correct me if I've misinterpreted what you've been saying). The Chinese presumably know this, too, and will attempt to attack our various comms and networks. That being the case, isn't the US obsession with every greater centralization simply creating a larger, easier, single target for the Chinese? In other words, is our pursuit of a mythical AI-driven central command and control actually laying the foundation for own defeat by making it easier for the Chinese to attack our 'there'?

      Setting aside the preceding, I would disagree with you about the role of firepower. I certainly don't disagree about the vulnerabilities of communications (I've posted on this often) and the desirability of disrupting them but I fear you minimize the role of firepower too much.

      We should be aggressively decentralizing command and control and promoting 'commander's intent' in place of detailed orders (the German model). We should be assuming the failure of our comms and training to operate without them. You essentially said this with your comment about 'embracing' the absence of knowledge.

      Communications are great to have but are not necessary as long as you've trained to operate without them by using 'commander's intent'. The US has prided itself on this in the past but has, of late, gone the opposite route with AI-driven command and control. If we were to re-embrace decentralized command, wouldn't that deny the enemy the ability to attack our 'there' and remove it as a significant vulnerability?

      I also see a much greater importance for firepower than perhaps you do. Even cut off from comms, units can cause a great deal of damage - the Japanese defenders on Okinawa, for example. The ability to conduct effective area bombardment can make up for a lot of absence of knowledge. The Russians have demonstrated in Ukraine what overwhelming firepower can do to even armored units. Admittedly, their application of firepower was enabled, in many cases, by signals analysis and intel but, in the end, it was the firepower that decided the outcome. I understand that you're not calling for elimination of firepower. I'm just seeing a difference in degree of importance that we each attach to it. Again, correct me if I'm misinterpreting you.

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    24. We're actually very close to each other. Let's take your point in order.

      "communications is the 'there' of the next war"

      No, not exactly. The ability to communicate effectively will be the 'there' of the next war. That's not the same thing.

      Targetting communications in general (through jamming for example) is the modern equivalent of what the French did in WW2 when they used their tanks predominantly for infantry support.

      The Germans used their tanks to create an entirely new form of warfare. The modern equivalent in my view would be some sort of 'net-warfare' (I don't have a proper name for it yet). It goes much deeper than targetting communications themselves but will effectively destroy the enemy's overall (not just localised) ability to communicate over a significant period of time.

      The French and British regularly used tanks as infantry support against unsupported German infantry units. That typically didn't go well for the German units in question but those were just localised tactical victories than changed nothing regarding the bigger strategic picture.

      Going after (localised) communications now in support of your own firepower is the same thing. It may give you some local advantage and allow you to score some sort of tactical victory there, it's not going to change the strategic outcome.

      The Germans paralysed the entire allied command and control network through manoeuvre (quite an amazing feat if you think about it). This was not done in the context of infantry support.

      Similarly, disrupting the enemy's ability to communicate structurally will be the deciding factor in and off itself, irrespective of how and if it supports the 'things that go boom' directly. It will create a new set of base conditions under which the opponent (the US) is incapable of performing on an operational and strategic level.

      French soldiers fought hard and bravely nearly every time they faced the Germans (that they didn't fight and easily surrendered is another myth of WW2) and inflicted heavy casualties. But they didn't get to decide when, where and how those battles were fought. The Germans did and that's why they won. They got to make those calls.

      (part 1 of 2)

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    25. "isn't the US obsession with every greater centralization simply creating a larger, easier, single target for the Chinese?"

      Funny that you mentioned that as I considered adding something like that to my previous reply. What the US is now doing is akin to waving a big flag to make sure the enemy knows exactly where the weak spots are.


      Firepower still matters, (a lot!) as it will be needed to dislodged the enemy (US forces in this scenario), but without proper communications for the US forces, each of those battles will be a foregone conclusion. Without those communications, that firepower cannot be targetted properly and will be largely ineffective. And like in France in 1940, the enemy will get to decide if, how and when those US forces are engaged.

      I agree with you about decentralizing command and control instead of concentrating it as US forces now do. But I fear it will take many years of retraining before that will bear fruit.

      I don't know about the Chinese, but just about everything I've been describing reflects what the Russians are doing now and have been working towards the last two decades.

      Re-embracing decentralized command won't eliminate the vulnerability, but it will make it harder for the enemy to target it effectively. If both sides have the same capabilities, you'll get the attritional equivalent for information warfare. And if quality doesn't make the difference, quantity will. At that point it will be like the breakout of the Normandy beachhead. One side will still have effective communications, the other one won't and it will be a rout.

      With regards to your last paragraph, what good did the Japanese firepower on Okinawa do them? The outcome of the battle was a forgone conclusion, no matter how hard they fought. It didn't change the strategic picture and all they ended up with was a lot more casualties.

      Sure, area bombardment can work in a low-info environment. But the US has almost no capacity to conduct any, do they? Compare that to the number and quality of Russian MLRS artillery units. Those sure can level a large area rather quickly. Almost as if the Russians are expecting to fight in a low-communications environment...

      Firepower is not an ends but a means. A near-miss is the same as completely missing the target. The point of firepower will be to get it exactly where and when you need it. That will be very hard to achieve if you can't reach anyone that can tell you where to aim.

      Don't get me wrong, there will be massive, massive casualties on both sides, just as in France in 1940. But the ultimate outcome will not be decided purely by the availability of firepower. For example, most NATO aircraft will be destroyed not because they were shot down, but because they were hit while on the ground (or on the carrier).

      R

      (Part 2 of 2)

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    26. Hmm … I'm apparently not quite grasping your vision. I'm slow. Bear with me.

      You seem to be saying that your goal is to shut down the enemy's decision making capability by shutting down their communications? And, that the method(s) will include electronic warfare, cyber attacks, (presumably) satellite destruction, etc.?

      Expressed differently, you want to impose a blockade, not of goods but of communications, to isolate the enemy's C2 from their decision making inputs (intel, sensors, etc.)?

      Before I go any further, am I understanding you correctly, yet?

      I'm slow but I don't want to give up on this because I think you have a concept worth examining.

      Regarding the Okinawa example, the point was not that Japan could have won that battle or the war but that a unit that was completely isolated was able to construct and execute a formidable defense without the benefit of much, if any, contact with central command back in Japan. Yes, I'm sure they had some contact in the months prior to the actual battle but once the battle approached and commenced, they were on their own yet managed to get the maximum out of what they had.

      Am I getting this yet or still not?

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    27. Let's start with your last point because it goes to the heart of the issue.

      Yes, the Japanese were capable of mounting a formidable defence at Okinawa despite being completely isolated. And it was completely pointless. The end result was effectively the same as when they would have surrendered early on. Harsh as it may seem, all the casualties that resulted from the battle made no difference to the outcome of the war.

      This same scenario will play out many times over in a future war. Forces that are incommunicado will put up a brave fight (or not) using the firepower directly available to them, but it won't matter. They will lose their battle and the casualties they inflict won't change the outcome of the larger war.

      Just as the US could at Okinawa, the enemy will be able to commit the necessary firepower of their own to defeat the isolated pockets one by one.

      The forces of the side without functional communications will look like a collection of Okinawa's, each fighting on its own, with no mutual support or coordination, each waiting for its inevitable demise.

      As to the form in which this communication warfare will manifest, it will take many forms, I'm sure of that. What they will look like is much harder. We're kind of in the position that the military theorists of the interwar years were in. They knew the tank was going to be instrumental in the next war, but what form 'tank-warfare' would take was hard to predict. The French, British, Russians and Germans all had a different idea about it and to be honest, all had grasped at least a bit of the truth.

      The same applies to us, we have to guess what something that has never happened before will look like, based on limited information and a lot of bias we need to rid ourselves of first.

      Much of the information and communications warfare part of the next war won't resemble what we think of as war at all.

      If a GPS satellite stops functioning, is it an ordinary malfunction, cyberwarfare, or a Chinese chip that's been ordered to shut down? If it's due to a hostile act, can it even be detected and if so, positively attributed to the enemy? Can you be sure you're attributing it to the right enemy? Could someone else be playing you?

      That will be an essential part of this kind of warfare, structural uncertainty about if you are under attack at all, and if so, by whom?

      How do you react kinetically to something you suspect was done to you, but you can't be sure of and you certainly can't prove it?

      Overt attributable acts like taking out a satellite by launching something at it will be part the inventory, but it won't start with those. They'll be part of the final blow. In other words, when things become this overt, it (the net-warfare part) is already almost over and a whole bunch of Okinawa's await.

      Some of it may be similar to a blockade, but mostly it will just be essential communications stuff that stops working or become unusable.

      One form it will take I do know off, feeding false information into the enemy's networks to make them unreliable and even harmful to the owners. There will be at least two shapes this will take. One will be spoofing where the enemy will retarget your firepower for you (possibly to hit your own side), and the other will be overflowing your networks with so much additional (fake) information that by the time you weeded out the correct bits, they'll no longer matter.

      At some point, US commanders will make the choice OF THEIR OWN, to shut down a network because keeping it running does more harm than pulling the plug on it.

      R.

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    28. "The modern equivalent in my view would be some sort of 'net-warfare' (I don't have a proper name for it yet). It goes much deeper than targetting communications themselves but will effectively destroy the enemy's overall (not just localised) ability to communicate over a significant period of time."

      So, essentially large-scale hacking/cyber-warfare?
      That could absolutely be a thing, but:

      "How do you react kinetically to something you suspect was done to you, but you can't be sure of and you certainly can't prove it?"

      There will be a (kinetical?) reaction to a heavy cyber-attack even without definite proof, because the alternative is the leaders telling the population "Well, it might have been China but I'm not sure so we won't react", upon which they get lynched and replaced by someone that will react.

      Very interesting comments, nicely done.

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    29. "There will be a (kinetical?) reaction to a heavy cyber-attack even without definite proof, because the alternative is the leaders telling the population "Well, it might have been China but I'm not sure so we won't react", upon which they get lynched and replaced by someone that will react."

      I disagree on the reaction part. As long as there is plausible deniability that there was an attack at all, the first reaction of politicians will be to pretend that everything is normal. If that isn't possible, they'll blame it one someone they know they can defeat, or who is elusive (like a terrorist group), even if they know those have nothing to do with it. They'll fabricate whatever evidence they'll need. The absolutely last thing they will do is go to war with China or Russia over something like that.

      You see, without definite proof you cannot know who did it. You may think it was China, but whatever made you think that isn't definite proof so it could well have been planted by a third party to make it look like it was China in order to start a war between the two.

      That's the kind of uncertainty that comes with the new age of warfare and for which neither politicians nor generals seem to have an adequate answer yet.

      R.

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    30. "
      "How do you react kinetically to something you suspect was done to you, but you can't be sure of and you certainly can't prove it?"

      There will be a (kinetical?) reaction to a heavy cyber-attack even without definite proof, because the alternative is the leaders telling the population "Well, it might have been China but I'm not sure so we won't react", upon which they get lynched and replaced by someone that will react.
      "

      Their won't be any kinetic response unless a kinetic attack follows a cyber hack/attack etc. As long as a shooting war doesn't break out it gives time to identify and fix the intrusions, fix them, repair & harden the comms systems.
      In fact unless a substantial cyber hack / attack is followed up by a kinetic attack then it will have been effectively a wasted attack that just shows the opponents hand and achieves little. Yes, there may be economic damage and some loss of life but it will be hard to justify starting a shooting war if the public has not been greatly affected or can see the real threat and believes it.

      This Covid virus is a perfect example. Suppose it was a Chinese bio-weapon, maybe it got out a bit too early and not very well controlled, as China got hit too.
      However even if world leaders have secret reports saying it was a bio-weapon engineered to cause huge economic damage by forcing shutdowns in many economies, its still a huge leap to start any sort of shooting war. After all in out interconnected world, the Chinese economy also suffers.
      By not starting a shooting war, if allows time to find a vaccine etc and to 'harden' our health care systems.
      Even with all the deaths, far more damage would be done by starting a real shooting war.

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    31. "Yes, there may be economic damage and some loss of life but it will be hard to justify starting a shooting war if the public has not been greatly affected or can see the real threat and believes it."

      I agree. But if it does open up an avenue of repeated non-attributable attacks that perhaps each on its own doesn't do that much damage but as an aggregate do inflict significant (economical) harm.

      Wars are rarely total wars, most have more limited goals, and such economic damage (especially if it can be targetted to specific sections of the economy) may well be the goal of the war. No kinetic phase follows because the perpetrators have achieved their goals, they've 'won the war' the US didn't even realise it was fighting.

      But what if the economic damage is massive (for example one of the US energy networks gets taken down) but the attack non-attributable? That's the kind of horror scenario I fear as politicians may be forced to act against who are painted (by the media?) as the culprits.

      That leads us to another branch of informational warfare. If you control a significant portion of the enemy's media or opposition (directly or more likely indirectly), you can force actions, even have them attack someone else.

      R

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    32. "Their won't be any kinetic response unless a kinetic attack follows a cyber hack/attack etc. [...] it will be hard to justify starting a shooting war if the public has not been greatly affected."

      That's the point: any serious, large-scale cyber attack WILL cause massive disruption and affect the general population, which will in turn call for a strong response.

      Do note that while military cyber infrastructure is, er, "not really secure", civilian one has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

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    33. "That's the point: any serious, large-scale cyber attack WILL cause massive disruption and affect the general population, which will in turn call for a strong response."
      Yes, but i think the strong response will be to invest the time and resources to repair and harden the infrastructure affected to thwart any other attacks. This will be the 1st course of action before any shooting war starts imo.
      Any subsequent reprisals will probably be covert in nature as well, assuming the attackers systems are vulnerable.

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    34. "Of course, these attacks have not directly harmed US citizens (unless the coronavirus is a bio-weapon). Whether the non-responsiveness would hold if US citizens were being directly harmed remains to be seen."

      That's exactly the point.

      IP theft and various other espionage activities do not meet the "hard response threshold" because they don't directly blow things up, kill people, etc.

      Once civilian infrastructure is targeted on a large scale (might very well happen on day ZERO of a peer war, by the way), then demands for revenge are not going be something political leaders will be able to ignore.

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    35. Without taking any position, I would point out that the non-responsiveness to cyber attack has already been thoroughly demonstrated. China has committed massive intellectual property theft that has allowed them to build up their military. They've committed massive attacks against many US networks both commercial and military and that's just the ones that the US government has acknowledged - I'm sure there are many more attacks and more serious ones that aren't being publicly acknowledged.

      Despite all of that, there has been no kinetic response although there has been diplomatic, financial, and public relations responses. So, the premise that kinetic response would not occur from non-kinetic attacks seems already well established.

      Of course, these attacks have not directly harmed US citizens (unless the coronavirus is a bio-weapon). Whether the non-responsiveness would hold if US citizens were being directly harmed remains to be seen.

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    36. "Forces that are incommunicado will put up a brave fight (or not) using the firepower directly available to them, but it won't matter."

      You may be drawing an incorrect conclusion from the Okinawa example. Okinawa was lost to the Japanese not because they were isolated from Command but because the Japanese had already lost the logistical and manpower war - that was a foregone conclusion on day one of the war. To turn your example around, had the Japanese somehow managed to maintain total communications between Command and Okinawa, the outcome would have been EXACTLY the same.

      In fact, Japan managed to execute not only a robust defense of Okinawa despite being incommunicado, but they also managed an extensive 'joint' defensive operation using kamikazes and the Yamato in operation Ten-go.

      While I find your theory about Command isolation to be totally fascinating, I disagree about the degree of the effect (total collapse of the enemy).

      I also see achieving the condition of total (or even significant) isolation to be incredibly difficult to achieve with any tools we currently have. As such, I can't see it as the basis for the next Breakthrough/Offset that the US military seeks (again, post coming on that!). That said, efforts to hinder enemy Command are well worth it and, if successful even in part, would provide some worthwhile degree of advantage.

      What you're describing seems to be an application of Boyd's OODA loop applied to enemy Command rather than an enemy fighter pilot.

      Again, let me say that while I may harbor some doubt or disagreement about degree, this discussion is an outstanding contribution from you and I very much appreciate the time you've put into it. My agreement is not required to recognize an excellent piece of work and you've certainly provided that! I'm also going to think deeper about this in the future. You might give some thought to assembling an article for publication in one of the professional military journals.

      Here's an interesting related example: Are there some cases where isolation of Command might make an enemy MORE formidable? WWII Germany comes to mind. Had Hitler and his upper Command element somehow been isolated from his forces, might German forces have been more effective? Food for thought.

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    37. "Are there some cases where isolation of Command might make an enemy MORE formidable?"

      Well, the USA right now?

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    38. First off, it seems there's a misunderstanding here. I stated it before, but there is NO offset for the US to achieve. They enemy has already done that and all the US can do now (and should do) is catch up before it is too late.

      When I describe the effects I see coming from the next war, I'm not envisioning what the US can do to others, I'm seeing what others can do the the US. If the US catches up and gains those capabilities, then it will be both much harder for the enemy to do this to American (and NATO) forces, and the enemy will suffer some form of disruption themselves too.

      Then it will be a toss-up. The two 'nets' will struggle, trying to deal with incoming 'attacks' on it and trying to deliver its own on the other one. Then we wait and see whose quality and quantity will overcome that of the other side. Right now, there's no doubt in my mind that the US and NATO would lose that fight, certainly against Russia, probably against China.

      The isolation I refer too isn't physical isolation as the Japanese were on Okinawa, it's communicative isolation. Planes will still be able to fly from base to base and ships will still be able to sail. But they won't know where they're supposed to be going and what they're supposed to be doing, not in time anyway. The supply chain won't know what to send where, or even better, gets duped into sending the wrong stuff clogging up the supply lines. That's the sort of isolation I refer too, the one that comes from people who are used to be told what to do, now not knowing what's going on exactly and facing uncertainty on how to proceed. It will paralyse them into inaction because they will be afraid of making a wrong choice.

      "You may be drawing an incorrect conclusion from the Okinawa example. Okinawa was lost to the Japanese not because they were isolated from Command but because the Japanese had already lost the logistical and manpower war - that was a foregone conclusion on day one of the war. To turn your example around, had the Japanese somehow managed to maintain total communications between Command and Okinawa, the outcome would have been EXACTLY the same."

      Off course. The 'there' of WW2 wasn't communications as it is now, it was the entire ensemble of supply lines and lines of communication. A pep talk from Tokyo wouldn't have done them any good. But in modern terms, effective communications might allow missiles from the mainland to be precisely targetted on the attacker's ship of the Okinawan coast. The role of communications in warfare has fundamentally changed.

      And the Japanese would have been defeated in the Pacific without the island hopping campaign and without the bomber offensive. They were brought to their knees by the allied submarine operations against their supply lines alone (arguably WW2's naval equivalent of mobile warfare on land).

      I don't see how that contradicts my point. As Sun Tzu taught (I think it was him), "first you defeat your enemy, then you fight him".

      I think it's interesting you mentioned the kamikazes and the Yamato. Those were measures of desperation, trying to find some way to use the firepower they still had to some effect. The Yamato in particular, with all its incredible firepower, achieved nothing.

      It illustrates how firepower itself is not the answer. It needs to be at the right place at the right time to have any significant effect.

      The point of the net-warfare of the future will be to prevent the enemy from getting his firepower (be it land, air, or sea) at that right place at the right time. Or to otherwise reduce its effectiveness.

      R

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    39. "Here's an interesting related example: Are there some cases where isolation of Command might make an enemy MORE formidable? WWII Germany comes to mind. Had Hitler and his upper Command element somehow been isolated from his forces, might German forces have been more effective? Food for thought."

      There are many. The fortress at Brest-Litovsk in WW2 comes to mind. There was a similarly isolated russian fortress in WW1, Osowiec, known for 'the attack of the dead men'.

      As they say, "always leave the enemy an escape route, or he may fight to the death". History is full of such examples.

      Actually, the German tank forces of Panzergruppe Kleist in 1940 sometimes put themselves deliberately out of contact with their higher-ups so that the corps commanders and Kleist had plausible deniability when they received orders to halt the advance to let the infantry catch up.

      But as I said in my other reply, communications today is very different beast from what it was then.

      R

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    40. "Well, the USA right now?"

      Spot on!

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    41. "there is NO offset for the US to achieve."

      I understand your thought on this and I agree. I'm addressing the military's belief in, and desire for, an offset.

      Delete
  4. Stuka, the German MQ-9, great weapon if the other guy doesn't have an Airforce. Hopefully the General got that far in his reading.

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    1. That's true for all attack planes. Skuka's with enough fighter escorts had more success than Skuka's without enough fighter escorts.

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    2. Yes, but they were still very vulnerable. If their escorts had to fly as slow and low as the Stuka's they put themselves at a great disadvantage compared to the intercepting fighters. Even when dogfights ensued, it was very difficult for escorting fighters to prevent the attackers getting an attack run on the bombers. Even if they weren't damaged or shot down, they tended to end up scattered which was often enough to achieve a 'mission kill'.

      Interestingly, by the time of the second phase of the campaign of 1940 (the battle of France), the Germans were losing the air war, not winning it.

      R

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    3. Sorry to be dominating this thread like this but this goes towards a lot things I have been thinking about myself. Earlier you wrote this:

      "What you've described in your comment are well known and well understood (?) fundamentals of modern warfare that are equally available to both sides - so not a breakthrough.

      I've got a post coming shortly on the topic of breakthroughs in warfare and the US military's pursuit of breakthroughs. I think you'll find it interesting."

      That assumes there is a breakthrough to achieve. I don't think that's a given.

      Let's take WW2 again as an example. Mobile warfare was the breakthrough concept of that era. Could it have been anything else? Was there another possible breakthrough concept that was achievable through the means then available?

      I don't think there was.

      It wasn't all that unexpected either. Every major nation had been experimenting with the concept in some way or form in the inter-war years to varying degrees. Even the Germans only made it a core strategy after the Polish campaign had shown just how much potential the concept had. Ironically, de Gaulle was probably even further ahead than the Germans with his theories of future warfare, but before 1939 he lacked the influence to achieve significant changes.

      If there was no alternative to mobile warfare as the breakthrough concept for WW2 and if it had been theorised by many before the war, why assume there is some sort of yet undiscovered breakthrough now, just waiting to be unearthed?

      I don't think there is. And I don't believe there is some hidden technological innovation either.

      R.

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    4. posted it in the wrong place, sorry.

      R

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    5. "Sorry to be dominating this thread like this"

      Don't be sorry, at all. This is exactly the kind of discussion I look for and encourage! Keep going.

      Delete
    6. "why assume there is some sort of yet undiscovered breakthrough now, just waiting to be unearthed?"

      Now you're stealing my upcoming post! I happen to agree completely. The problem (and now I'm going to give away the post) is that the US military is so focused on the concept of breakthroughs that they've lost sight of, and are not conducting/preparing, the hard work of war like strategy, training, maintenance, industrial capacity, logistics, repair capacity, etc. Further, the US obsession with technology as the solution to all combat problems is leading us down a false path, chasing Fool's Gold.

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    7. Completely agree on this one CNO, can't wait to see your next post now! I agree with R and others about the German Blitzkrieg BUT I would add we shouldn't forget how much the Germans were training and doing almost constant "after action reviews", I can't remember the book now but it described to almost boring detail all the different manoeuvres, exercises and let's not forget how many "interventions" that Hitler had the German army do: Spain, occupation of Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia before even Poland and then France...I have a hard time buying that the Germans didn't learn a few lessons on all these campaigns. They didn't go straight to Blitzkrieg, they sure got a lot practice before they "stumbled" on it.....In away, US DoD is expecting to find the next Blitzkrieg or "breakthrough" without really experimenting and practicing ALL THE AREAS necessary, I'm not buying that the 3 changes: AI, autonomy, robotics are IT in totality and in what percentage or even 100% necessary, plus how do they all work together? Going to require more than a few prototypes and some wargames.....

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    8. "we shouldn't forget how much the Germans were training and doing almost constant "after action reviews"

      Absolutely. It took the Fall of France to convince the bulk of the German army of the benefits of mobile warfare. We tend to think of them as a monolithic force while in reality they were deeply divided over the proper use of tanks. The mobile warfare were even in the minority up until then.

      However, when faced with the evidence of its effectiveness (army level after action reviews) most opponents changed their minds.

      R

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    9. "Now you're stealing my upcoming post!"

      Sorry mate! Didn't mean to.

      One other thing strikes me as completely bonkers about the current attitude of the US military. They keep going on about 'breakthrough' technologies, while in reality, it not the technology that's the breakthrough but the operational concepts it allows.

      The tank wasn't the breakthrough, mobile warfare was. The tank opened the door, but they still had to enter the next room and discover what's in there.

      In France, the Gaulle did and he discovered the hidden treasure. The French high command didn't and insisted they use the tanks to assist the infantry and cavalry in their traditional tasks.

      Like the French high command, the US seems to be obsessed with the doors, not with what's behind them.

      R

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  5. In regards to the use of "AI" (which often isn't particularly either) a key consideration seems to be the context in which you are going to use its painfully limited capabilities.

    Essentially, if you are planning to use it for some variety of area denial the demands are much lower than they are for an effort that wants repeatable navigation to a given variable target area with discriminating application of "effects" that adheres to relatively restrictive rules of engagement as well as providing acceptable levels of deconfliction that avoids any unwelcome fratricide.

    So, using AI enabled weapons systems to simply kill anything/everything that moves within a given area based on a particular set of tolerable target signatures is probably fairly doable.

    But, ask yourself, which part of that sounds like a model the US or its close allies is likely to apply.

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    1. "So, using AI enabled weapons systems to simply kill anything/everything that moves within a given area"

      What would the advantage over good ol' area bombardment be?

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    2. Top of my head, area bombardment can work nicely on a battlefield, but is going to be impractical on an oceanic scale. And also lacks persistence.

      I suppose this application would amount to the equivalent of an intelligent minefield. Depending on the systems you are using and the level of development I would envisage something on the lines of a network of roving moderately sized arsenal ships with attendant sensor nets that reposition themselves to cover any gaps in the network generated as a result of enemy operation.

      As I said, top of my head.

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  6. I think there is a misunderstanding in your posts about AI. It stems from the name itself "Artificial Intelligence" ! Trouble is : there is no scientific definition of the word "intelligence", let alone the "artificial" kind ... We all have our own understanding of the word "intelligence" and that is usually good enough to talk to each other in a meaningful way but in the case of AI it doesn't work.

    From one of your previous posts that I commented on you said that I was talking about automation and you were right : AI is nothing more than very sophisticated automation and the progress made over the last few years in this particular field is very impressive. It is down to a few things : new algorithms that can now be implemented in real time, specialists processors that allow this and a lot of money thrown at it by investors that see the holy grail of autonomous vehicle around the corner (they are probably wrong, at least partially but that's another subject).

    So going back to your post (NB: I am not arguing with what you say on firepower) the thing I believe is missing is the idea of fashionable subjects. Those things exist in the technical field as well and AI is definitely one of them. The admirals/generals are people at the top of large organisations and they behave like the average CEO/CTO, they can't stay out of the trend for political reasons and they are easily influenced by nice powerpoints presentations and supposedly impressive (and well prepared) demos, so they fall in the trap and utter real nonsense sometimes.

    I will not try to discuss how they may be put back on a realistic path, mostly because if I knew that I would turn myself into a very well paid management consultant but I'd like to point a few things about AI/automation. The progress made in the field (let's call it "advanced automation", that's sufficiently explicit but not too fashionable) are real and I believe that they have some applications in military matters :
    - Pattern recognition in a general sense : for example how to recognise an acoustic or radar signature. It already exists (think of NCTR on fighter radars) but could probably be improved and made a lot more reliable.
    - Predictive failure detection for maintenance : a lot of people are working on this in aerospace right now.
    - Electronic warfare : recognise a signal and know who emits it.
    I know it doesn't feel great and certainly sounds much less attractive than AI but (correct me if I'm wrong) in the heat of battle having something that helps you understand what you are up against ASAP can't be a bad thing. Similarly reducing the cost of maintenance and the time needed to put your piece of military equipment back on line surely helps.

    The shame about all this is that instead of working on achievable and useful goals the time, money and energy are spent on fancy dreams that are not plausibly achievable in a reasonable timescale.

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    1. The bomb in 3 1/2 years, the moon in 8, Smallpox 10 years. All dreams.

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    2. None of them with AI, all of them with brains and money ...

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  7. Norman Schwartzkopf: "Armies are good for two things--killing people and breaking things."

    Instead of dazzling them with our brilliance or baffling them with our BS, we need to figure out how we are going to kill them and break their things.

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  8. You might have heard this - generals fight last war. Don't just mock today's generals, if you were them, most likely, you would have done the same. They learned in schools and in careers on people's experiences. While not reject new technologies, they don't trust them can totally change future wars. Before WWII, France kept emphasize on large distilleries while distributed tanks into many units as they believed tanks were helpful tools but not decisive power in wars.

    Today, information becomes more and more important in wars. While we armatures may enjoy on how many fighter jets, tanks, destroyers, .... decisive power has shifted. AI is part of the information war. It can help on "autonomous" attacks and on how to integrate information from all pieces of nodes. With so many advanced weapons on hand, most important thing is to locate enemies (information) then use most effective (overall) way to attack. Autonomous may be good but could be bad if front line uses some weapons actually exposes overall positions.


    Too many still enjoy success of the 1990-91 Gulf War. This can only be duplicated on nations like Iraq but not another superpower, period.

    For instance, a radar's specified range may not be as important to its anti jamming capabilities as another superpower has strong capability to jam radars. EF-18G can no longer flight to front line to jam enemies' radars as it might be easily gunned down as its strong electronic signal is best "guidance" of enemy's missiles.

    While make preparations, still, we need to stress to prevent going to wars with any other superpower because both have nuclear weapons and whatever "control" could end up with out of control. We should not die some %^&%$#!'s prides and ideologies.

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  9. It seems to me that nobody is asking the obvious question--What would a peer war look like? Then from that, what tools do we need to win that war?

    I think we get different answers depending on whether the peer is Russia or China. I see the Russian peer threat as primarily a land war in Europe, and the Chinese peer threat as a battle for hegemony in and around the South China Sea. But I think we need to be ready for either, as well as a wide range of other possibilities.

    Since WWII, we’ve had a dominant military that nobody wanted to take on directly. So they’ve gone indirectly—proxy wars, insurrection, terrorism. And we haven’t been very good at those. Now there is talk of cyber, electronic, space, and disinformation campaigns. We need to get vastly better at this part of the spectrum. But we also need to remember that it has been our perceived dominance in kinetic warfare that has forced the action to go to these softer methods.

    Dr. Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings has written, “We may not have an interest in large scale ground combat, but it has an interest in us. Put differently, in contemplating the character and scale of future warfare, the enemy gets a vote too.” (O'Hanlon, Michael E., 2015, The Future of Land Warfare, Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, p. 3).

    Do we know how that enemy will vote and how to counter that? Or, put another way, exactly what vote by the enemy would create a scenario where the LCS is a useful platform?

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  10. "It seems to me that nobody is asking the obvious question--What would a peer war look like? Then from that, what tools do we need to win that war?"

    I have been asking myself that a lot and one of the answers I keep coming up with is deeply disconcerting.

    First, don't assume it will take the form of one military fighting another military. I said it before, wars are fought between nations, not between armies.

    Why would an opponent seek to fight the US on her strengths (the military) when they can target far softer targets? So let's assume the enemy is smart.

    The point of a peer war cannot be total war and the destruction of the other side as all these nations have the power to annihilate each other. If pressed into an existential crisis there would be no more reason for the loser to hold back and they will unleash whatever they had been holding back up until then. Total peer war will only have losers.

    That leaves us with limited peer war. The objective of such a war would most likely be to force the opponent to submit to your hegemony (or however you'd want to call it).

    The most obvious route to that is not through direct military conflict but through regime change operations, replacing the current rulers with those of your picking.

    You could accomplish that through colour revolutions, large scale funding (if not outright bribery) of the people and party of your choice (through intermediaries), blackmail, or by setting different groups amongst your enemy's population against each other to foment civil war.

    (Side note; civil wars occur when two or more large enough factions have a fundamental difference of opinion on what the nature of the state is and should be, that does not allow for compromise.)

    The primary tools you'd use to achieve that would be those that allow you to infiltrate your enemy's media, scientific, cultural, economic and political institutions (and international ones) to such a degree that you gain significant leverage over the dominant societal narratives within the enemy's country. That translates into power, and that power may be enough to get your preferred people 'elected' or otherwise put in charge.

    Whether you succeed or not (in forcing your opponent nation to submit), your total costs will likely be far less than the costs of the societal damage inflicted on the enemy. It still amounts to a net win.

    Then you try again later.

    How's that for a potential scenario?

    R

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    1. "regime change operations"

      That's an interesting theory. The historical success rate of regime change operations has been poor. I think a far more likely type of war will be proxy/remote wars such as the US and Soviet Union engaged in in Cuba, Vietnam, etc. I can easily foresee remote wars with China taking place in Africa, South America, and the Middle East. China has already begun 'colonizing' those areas and we have already seen minor skirmishes/incidents between Chinese and US forces in Africa. Of course, proxy/remote wars takes us right back to firepower.

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    2. "The historical success rate of regime change operations has been poor."

      Depends on your definition. Many of the successful ones aren't called 'regime changes' but 'popular uprisings', 'colour revolutions', 'Arab springs', or are accomplished through rigging elections (that are the called 'fair' by western observers) or by assassinating charismatic leaders that get in the way.

      Bolivia for example, just recently, was a successful regime change operation.

      But it doesn't really matter if the success rate is relatively low. The costs of conducting them are extremely low compared to those of a traditional military, the risks are equally low and the potential benefits are huge. You'd be a fool not to conduct them, if only to weaken (the political will and reach of) your enemy and his allies.

      R

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    3. "The costs of conducting them are extremely low compared to those of a traditional military, the risks are equally low and the potential benefits are huge."

      A valid point about costs. I would also disagree that the benefits are huge, at least not historically. I'm hard pressed to think of a regime change sponsored by the US where we benefited to any great extent. This, however, is beginning to wander into politics and outside the scope of the blog.

      Facing an enemy, I certainly agree that regime change is well worth the effort even if history suggests a low success rate. Of course, the ramifications of a failed regime change operation can be significant, too. Cuba comes to mind.

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    4. "A valid point about costs. I would also disagree that the benefits are huge, at least not historically. I'm hard pressed to think of a regime change sponsored by the US where we benefited to any great extent. This, however, is beginning to wander into politics and outside the scope of the blog."

      I'll give just one example that was extremely beneficial to the US: the overthrow and assassination of Lumumba in Congo in 1960 and replacing him with Mobutu, thereby securing the country's uranium supply for the US.

      R.

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  11. See https://researchcentre.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/160819_-_concept_-_lw_-_australian_land_warfare_concept_series_1_-_unclas_0.pdf

    The point the author makes is that the tail to tooth ratio will have to rise.

    WW1 introduced "no-mans land" (although the lesson was first taught in the American Civil War - no one learnt). The first AA/AD network using artillery. The ranges are now thousands of kilometres.

    Australia is going to have a deployable AA/AD network. This can only work with enablers. - hence the increase in logistics, communications, and intelligence.

    One organisational challenge is to keep close combat capabilities in the force.

    But the main challenge is how to manoeuvre over thousands of km in face of the enemies AA/AD.

    As an additional comment storm troopers first cracked WW1 AA/AD network using infiltration tactics. But strategically they lacked effect as they couldn't get enough force forward before the allies reformed their lines.

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    1. That is one thing the Marines need to be aware of in their infiltration tactics.

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