Dupuy’s Verities: Initiative

Dupuy’s Verities: Initiative

German Army soldiers advance during the Third Battle of Kharkov in early 1943. This was the culmination of a counteroffensive by German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein that blunted the Soviet offensive drive following the recapture of Stalingrad in late 1942. [Photo: KonchitsyaLeto/Reddit]

The fifth of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Initiative permits application of preponderant combat power.

From Understanding War (1987):

The importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative has not declined in our times, nor will it in the future. This has been the secret of success of all of the great captains of history. It was as true of MacArthur as it was of Alexander the Great, Grant or Napoleon. Some modern Soviet theorists have suggested that this is even more important now in an era of high technology than formerly. They may be right. This has certainly been a major factor in the Israeli victories over the Arabs in all of their wars.

Given the prominent role initiative has played in warfare historically, it is curious that it is not a principle of war in its own right. However, it could be argued that it is sufficiently embedded in the principles of the offensive and maneuver that it does not need to be articulated separately. After all, the traditional means of sizing the initiative on the battlefield is through a combination of the offensive and maneuver.

Initiative is a fundamental aspect of current U.S. Army doctrine, as stated in ADP 3-0 Operations (2017):

The central idea of operations is that, as part of a joint force, Army forces seize, retain, and exploit the initiative to gain and maintain a position of relative advantage in sustained land operations to prevent conflict, shape the operational environment, and win our Nation’s wars as part of unified action.

For Dupuy, the specific connection between initiative and combat power is likely why he chose to include it as a verity in its own right. Combat power was the central concept in his theory of combat and initiative was not just the basic means of achieving a preponderance of combat power through superior force strength (i.e. numbers), but also in harnessing the effects of the circumstantial variables of combat that multiply combat power (i.e. surprise, mobility, vulnerability, combat effectiveness). It was precisely through the exploitation of this relationship between initiative and combat power that allowed inferior numbers of German and Israeli combat forces to succeed time and again in combat against superior numbers of Soviet and Arab opponents.

Using initiative to apply preponderant combat power in battle is the primary way the effects of maneuver (to “gain and maintain a position of relative advantage “) are abstracted in Dupuy’s Quantified Judgement Model (QJM)/Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM). The QJM/TNDM itself is primarily a combat attrition adjudicator that determines combat outcomes through calculations of relative combat power. The numerical force strengths of the opposing forces engaged as determined by maneuver can be easily inputted into the QJM/TNDM and then modified by the applicable circumstantial variables of combat related to maneuver to obtain a calculation of relative combat power. As another of Dupuy’s verities states, “superior combat power always wins.”

What Does Lethality Mean In Warfare?

What Does Lethality Mean In Warfare?

In an insightful essay over at The Strategy Bridge, “Lethality: An Inquiry,� Marine Corps officer Olivia Gerard accomplishes one of the most important, yet most often overlooked, aspects of successfully thinking about and planning for war: questioning a basic assumption. She achieves this by posing a simple question: “What is lethality?�

Gerard notes that the current U.S. National Defense Strategy is predicated on lethality; as it states: “A more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force, combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners, will sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order.� She also identifies the linkage in the strategy between lethality and deterrence via a supporting statement from Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan: “Everything we do is geared toward one goal: maximizing lethality. A lethal force is the strongest deterrent to war.�

After pointing out that the strategy does not define the concept of lethality, Gerard responds to Shanahan’s statement by asking “why?�

She uses this as a jumping off point to examine the meaning of lethality in warfare. Starting from the traditional understanding of lethality as a tactical concept, Gerard walks through the way it has been understood historically. From this, she formulates a construct for understanding the relationship between lethality and strategy:

Organizational lethality emerges from tactical lethality that is institutionally codified. Tactical lethality is nested within organizational lethality, which is nested within strategic lethality. Plugging these terms into an implicit calculus, we can rewrite strategic lethality as the efficacy with which we can form intentional deadly relationships towards targets that can be actualized towards political ends.

To this, Gerard appends two interesting caveats: “Notice first that the organizational component becomes implicit. What remains outside, however, is the intention–a meta-intention–to form these potential deadly relationships in the first place.�

It is the second of these caveats—the intent to connect lethality to a strategic end—that informs Gerard’s conclusion. While the National Defense Strategy does not define the term, she observes that by explicitly leveraging the threat to use lethality to bolster deterrence, it supplies the necessary credibility needed to make deterrence viable. “Proclaiming lethality a core tenet, especially in a public strategic document, is the communication of the threat.�

Gerard’s exploration of lethality and her proposed framework for understanding it provide a very useful way of thinking about the way it relates to warfare. It is definitely worth your time to read.

What might be just as interesting, however, are the caveats to her construct because they encompass a lot of what is problematic about the way the U.S. military thinks—explicitly and implicitly—about tactical lethality and how it is codified into concepts of organizational lethality. (While I have touched on some of those already, Gerard gives more to reflect on. More on that later.)

Gerard also references the definition of lethality Trevor Dupuy developed for his 1964 study of historical trends in weapon lethality. While noting that his definition was too narrow for the purposes of her inquiry, the historical relationship between lethality, casualties, and dispersion on the battlefield Dupuy found in that study formed the basis for his subsequent theories of warfare and models of combat. (I will write more about those in the future as well.)

Human Factors In Warfare: Fear In A Lethal Environment

Human Factors In Warfare: Fear In A Lethal Environment

Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Kapaun (right) and Capt. Jerome A. Dolan, a medical officer with the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, carry an exhausted Soldier off the battlefield in Korea, early in the war. Kapaun was famous for exposing himself to enemy fire. When his battalion was overrun by a Chinese force in November 1950, rather than take an opportunity to escape, Kapaun voluntarily remained behind to minister to the wounded. In 2013, Kapaun posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle and later in a prisoner of war camp, where he died in May 1951. [Photo Credit: Courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History]

[This piece was originally published on 27 June 2017.]

Trevor Dupuy’s theories about warfare were sometimes criticized by some who thought his scientific approach neglected the influence of the human element and chance and amounted to an attempt to reduce war to mathematical equations. Anyone who has read Dupuy’s work knows this is not, in fact, the case.

Moral and behavioral (i.e human) factors were central to Dupuy’s research and theorizing about combat. He wrote about them in detail in his books. In 1989, he presented a paper titled “The Fundamental Information Base for Modeling Human Behavior in Combat� at a symposium on combat modeling that provided a clear, succinct summary of his thinking on the topic.

He began by concurring with Carl von Clausewitz’s assertion that

[P]assion, emotion, and fear [are] the fundamental characteristics of combat… No one who has participated in combat can disagree with this Clausewitzean emphasis on passion, emotion, and fear. Without doubt, the single most distinctive and pervasive characteristic of combat is fear: fear in a lethal environment.

Despite the ubiquity of fear on the battlefield, Dupuy pointed out that there is no way to study its impact except through the historical record of combat in the real world.

We cannot replicate fear in laboratory experiments. We cannot introduce fear into field tests. We cannot create an environment of fear in training or in field exercises.

So, to study human reaction in a battlefield environment we have no choice but to go to the battlefield, not the laboratory, not the proving ground, not the training reservation. But, because of the nature of the very characteristics of combat which we want to study, we can’t study them during the battle. We can only do so retrospectively.

We have no choice but to rely on military history. This is why military history has been called the laboratory of the soldier.

He also pointed out that using military history analytically has its own pitfalls and must be handled carefully lest it be used to draw misleading or inaccurate conclusions.

I must also make clear my recognition that military history data is far from perfect, and that–even at best—it reflects the actions and interactions of unpredictable human beings. Extreme caution must be exercised when using or analyzing military history. A single historical example can be misleading for either of two reasons: (a) The data is inaccurate, or (b) The example may be true, but also be untypical.

But, when a number of respectable examples from history show consistent patterns of human behavior, then we can have confidence that behavior in accordance with the pattern is typical, and that behavior inconsistent with the pattern is either untypical, or is inaccurately represented.

He then stated very concisely the scientific basis for his method.

My approach to historical analysis is actuarial. We cannot predict the future in any single instance. But, on the basis of a large set of reliable experience data, we can predict what is likely to occur under a given set of circumstances.

Dupuy listed ten combat phenomena that he believed were directly or indirectly related to human behavior. He considered the list comprehensive, if not exhaustive.

I shall look at Dupuy’s treatment of each of these in future posts (click links above).

Simpkin on the Long-Term Effects of Firepower Dominance

Simpkin on the Long-Term Effects of Firepower Dominance

To follow on my earlier post introducing British military theorist Richard Simpkin’s foresight in detecting trends in 21st Century warfare, I offer this paragraph, which immediately followed the ones I quoted:

Briefly and in the most general terms possible, I suggest that the long-term effect of dominant �repower will be threefold. It will disperse mass in the form of a “net� of small detachments with the dual role of calling down �re and of local quasi-guerrilla action. Because of its low density, the elements of this net will be everywhere and will thus need only the mobility of the boot. It will transfer mass, structurally from the combat arms to the artillery, and in deployment from the direct �re zone (as we now understand it) to the formation and protection of mobile �re bases capable of movement at heavy-track tempo (Chapter 9). Thus the third effect will be to polarise mobility, for the manoeuvre force still required is likely to be based on the rotor. This line of thought is borne out by recent trends in Soviet thinking on the offensive. The concept of an operational manoeuvre group (OMG) which hives off raid forces against C3 and indirect �re resources is giving way to more fluid and discontinuous manoeuvre by task forces (“air-ground assault groups� found by “shock divisions�) directed onto �re bases—again of course with an operational helicopter force superimposed. [Simpkin, Race To The Swift, p. 169]

It seems to me that in the mid-1980s, Simpkin accurately predicted the emergence of modern anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) defensive systems with reasonable accuracy, as well the evolving thinking on the part of the U.S. military as to how to operate against them.

Simpkin’s vision of task forces (more closely resembling Russian/Soviet OMGs than rotary wing “air-ground assault groupsâ€� operational forces, however) employing “fluid and discontinuous manoeuvreâ€� at operational depths to attack long-range precision firebases appears similar to emerging Army thinking about future multidomain operations. (It’s likely that Douglas MacGregor’s Reconnaissance Strike Group concept more closely fits that bill.)

One thing he missed on was his belief that rotary wing helicopter combat forces would supplant armored forces as the primary deep operations combat arm. However, there is the potential possibility that drone swarms might conceivably take the place in Simpkin’s operational construct that he allotted to heliborne forces. Drones have two primary advantages over manned helicopters: they are far cheaper and they are far less vulnerable to enemy fires. With their unique capacity to blend mass and fires, drones could conceivably form the deep strike operational hammer that Simpkin saw rotary wing forces providing.

Just as interesting was Simpkin’s anticipation of the growing importance of information and electronic warfare in these environments. More on that later.

Richard Simpkin on 21st Century Trends in Mass and Firepower

Richard Simpkin on 21st Century Trends in Mass and Firepower

Anvil of “troops” vs. anvil of fire. (Richard Simpkin, Race To The Swift: Thoughts on Twenty-First Century Warfare, Brassey’s: London, 1985, p. 51)

For my money, one of the most underrated analysts and theorists of modern warfare was the late Brigadier Richard Simpkin. A retired British Army World War II veteran, Simpkin helped design the Chieftan tank in the 60s and 70s. He is best known for his series of books analyzing Soviet and Western military theory and doctrine. His magnum opus was Race To The Swift: Thoughts on Twenty-First Century Warfare, published in 1985. A brilliant blend of military history, insightful analysis of tactics and technology as well as operations and strategy, and Simpkin’s idiosyncratic wit, the observations in Race To The Swift are becoming more prescient by the year.

Some of Simpkin’s analysis has not aged well, such as the focus on the NATO/Soviet confrontation in Central Europe, and a bold prediction that rotary wing combat forces would eventually supplant tanks as the primary combat arm. However, it would be difficult to find a better historical review of the role of armored forces in modern warfare and how trends in technology, tactics, and doctrine are interacting with strategy, policy, and politics to change the character of warfare in the 21st Century.

To follow on my previous post on the interchangeability of fire (which I gleaned from Simpkin, of course), I offer this nugget on how increasing weapons lethality would affect 21st Century warfare, written from the perspective of the mid 1980s:

While accidents of ground will always provide some kind of cover, the effect of modern �repower on land force tactics is equally revolutionary. Just as we saw in Part 2 how the rotary wing may well turn force structures inside out, �repower is already turning tactical concepts inside out, by replacing the anvil of troops with an anvil of �re (Fig. 5, page 51)*. The use of combat troops at high density to hold ground or to seize it is already likely to prove highly costly, and may soon become wholly unpro�table. The interesting question is what effect the dominance of �repower will have at operational level.

One school of thought, to which many defence academics on both sides of the Atlantic subscribe, is that it will reduce mobility and bring about a return to positional warfare. The opposite view is that it will put a premium on elusiveness, increasing mobility and reducing mass. On analysis, both these opinions appear rather simplistic, mainly because they ignore the interchangeability of troops and �re…—in other words the equivalence or complementarity of the movement of troops and the massing of �re. They also underrate the part played by manned and unmanned surveillance, and by communication. Another factor, little understood by soldiers and widely ignored, is the weight of �re a modern fast jet in its strike con�guration, flying a lo-lo-lo pro�le, can put down very rapidly wherever required. With modern artillery and air support, a pair of eyes backed up by an unjammable radio and perhaps a thermal imager becomes the equivalent of at least a (company) combat team, perhaps a battle group.

Sound familiar? I will return to Simpkin’s insights in future posts, but I suggest you all snatch up a copy of Race To The Swift for yourselves.

* See above.

Interchangeability Of Fire And Multi-Domain Operations

Interchangeability Of Fire And Multi-Domain Operations

Soviet “forces and resources” chart. [Richard Simpkin, Deep Battle: The Brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii (Brassey’s: London, 1987) p. 254]

With the emergence of the importance of cross-domain fires in the U.S. effort to craft a joint doctrine for multi-domain operations, there is an old military concept to which developers should give greater consideration: interchangeability of fire.

This is an idea that British theorist Richard Simpkin traced back to 19th century Russian military thinking, which referred to it then as the interchangeability of shell and bayonet. Put simply, it was the view that artillery fire and infantry shock had equivalent and complimentary effects against enemy troops and could be substituted for one another as circumstances dictated on the battlefield.

The concept evolved during the development of the Russian/Soviet operational concept of “deep battle� after World War I to encompass the interchangeability of fire and maneuver. In Soviet military thought, the battlefield effects of fires and the operational maneuver of ground forces were equivalent and complementary.

This principle continues to shape contemporary Russian military doctrine and practice, which is, in turn, influencing U.S. thinking about multi-domain operations. In fact, the idea is not new to Western military thinking at all. Maneuver warfare advocates adopted the concept in the 1980s, but it never found its way into official U.S. military doctrine.

An Idea Who’s Time Has Come. Again.

So why should the U.S. military doctrine developers take another look at interchangeability now? First, the increasing variety and ubiquity of long-range precision fire capabilities is forcing them to address the changing relationship between mass and fires on multi-domain battlefields. After spending a generation waging counterinsurgency and essentially outsourcing responsibility for operational fires to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are scrambling to come to grips with the way technology is changing the character of land operations. All of the services are at the very beginning of assessing the impact of drone swarms—which are themselves interchangeable blends of mass and fires—on combat.

Second, the rapid acceptance and adoption of the idea of cross-domain fires has carried along with it an implicit acceptance of the interchangeability of the effects of kinetic and non-kinetic (i.e. information, electronic, and cyber) fires. This alone is already forcing U.S. joint military thinking to integrate effects into planning and decision-making.

The key component of interchangability is effects. Inherent in it is acceptance of the idea that combat forces have effects on the battlefield that go beyond mere physical lethality, i.e. the impact of fire or shock on a target. U.S. Army doctrine recognizes three effects of fires: destruction, neutralization, and suppression. Russian and maneuver warfare theorists hold that these same effects can be achieved through the effects of operational maneuver. The notion of interchangeability offers a very useful way of thinking about how to effectively integrate the lethality of mass and fires on future battlefields.

But Wait, Isn’t Effects Is A Four-Letter Word?

There is a big impediment to incorporating interchangeability into U.S. military thinking, however, and that is the decidedly ambivalent attitude of the U.S. land warfare services toward thinking about non-tangible effects in warfare.

As I have pointed out before, the U.S. Army (at least) has no effective way of assessing the effects of fires on combat, cross-domain or otherwise, because it has no real doctrinal methodology for calculating combat power on the battlefield. Army doctrine conceives of combat power almost exclusively in terms of capabilities and functions, not effects. In Army thinking, a combat multiplier is increased lethality in the form of additional weapons systems or combat units, not the intangible effects of operational or moral (human) factors on combat. For example, suppression may be a long-standing element in doctrine, but the Army still does not really have a clear idea of what causes it or what battlefield effects it really has.

In the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War and the ensuing “Revolution in Military Affairs,� the U.S. Air Force led the way forward in thinking about the effects of lethality on the battlefield and how it should be leveraged to achieve strategic ends. It was the motivating service behind the development of a doctrine of “effects based operations� or EBO in the early 2000s.

However, in 2008, U.S. Joint Forces Command commander, U.S Marine General (and current Secretary of Defense) James Mattis ordered his command to no longer “use, sponsor, or export” EBO or related concepts and terms, the underlying principles of which he deemed to be “fundamentally flawed.” This effectively eliminated EBO from joint planning and doctrine. While Joint Forces Command was disbanded in 2011 and EBO thinking remains part of Air Force doctrine, Mattis’s decree pretty clearly showed what the U.S. land warfare services think about battlefield effects.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

U.S. Army 155mm field howitzer in Normandy. [padresteve.com]

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,� by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

Table IX shows the distribution of cause of loss by type or armor vehicle. From the distribution it might be inferred that better protected armored vehicles may be less vulnerable to artillery attack. Nevertheless, the heavily armored vehicles still suffered a minimum loss of 5.6 percent due to artillery. Unfortunately the sample size for heavy tanks was very small, 18 of 980 cases or only 1.8 percent of the total.

The data are limited at this time to the seven cases.[6] Further research is necessary to expand the data sample so as to permit proper statistical analysis of the effectiveness of artillery versus tanks.


[18] Heavy armor includes the KV-1, KV-2, Tiger, and Tiger II.

[19] Medium armor includes the T-34, Grant, Panther, and Panzer IV.

[20] Light armor includes the T-60, T-70. Stuart, armored cars, and armored personnel carriers.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)

Knocked-out Panthers in Krinkelt, Belgium, Battle of the Bulge, 17 December 1944. [worldwarphotos.info]

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,� by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)


[14] From ORS Joint Report No. 1. A total of an estimated 300 German armor vehicles were found following the battle.

[15] Data from 38th Infantry After Action Report (including “Sketch showing enemy vehicles destroyed by 38th Inf Regt. and attached units 17-20 Dec. 1944″), from 12th SS PzD strength report dated 8 December 1944, and from strengths indicated on the OKW brieï¬�ng maps for 17 December (1st [circa 0600 hours], 2d [circa 1200 hours], and 3d [circa 1800 hours] situation), 18 December (1st and 2d situation), 19 December (2d situation), 20 December (3d situation), and 21 December (2d and 3d situation).

[16] Losses include con�rmed and probable losses.

[17] Data from Combat Interview “26th Infantry Regiment at Dom Bütgenbach” and from 12th SS PzD, ibid.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)

The U.S. Army 333rd Field Artillery Battalion (Colored) in Normandy, July 1944 (US Army Photo/Tom Gregg)

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,� by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)


[10] From ORS Report No. 17.

[11] Five of the 13 counted as unknown were penetrated by both armor piercing shot and by infantry hollow charge weapons. There was no evidence to indicate which was the original cause of the loss.

[12] From ORS Report No. 17

[13] From ORS Report No. 15. The “Pocket” was the area west of the line Falaise-Argentan and east of the line Vassy-Gets-Domfront in Normandy that was the site in August 1944 of the beginning of the German retreat from France. The German forces were being enveloped from the north and south by Allied ground forces and were under constant, heavy air attack.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)

15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 (15 cm s.FH 18 L/29,5)

German Army 150mm heavy field howitzer 18 L/29.5 battery. [Panzer DB/Pinterest]

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,� by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

Curiously, at Kursk, in the case where the highest percent loss was recorded, the German forces opposing the Soviet 1st Tank Army—mainly the XLVIII Panzer Corps of the Fourth Panzer Army—were supported by proportionately fewer artillery pieces (approximately 56 guns and rocket launchers per division) than the US 1st Infantry Division at Dom Bütgenbach (the equivalent of approximately 106 guns per division)[4]. Nor does it appear that the German rate of �re at Kursk was significantly higher than that of the American artillery at Dom Bütgenbach. On 20 July at Kursk, the 150mm howitzers of the 11th Panzer Division achieved a peak rate of �re of 87.21 rounds per gum. On 21 December at Dom Bütgenbach, the 155mm howitzers of the 955th Field Artillery Battalion achieved a peak rate of �re of 171.17 rounds per gun.[5]


[4] The US artillery at Dom Bütgenbach peaked on 21 December 1944 when a total of 210 divisional and corps pieces ï¬�red over 10,000 rounds in support of the 1st Division’s 26th Infantry.

[5] Data collected on German rates of fire are fragmentary, but appear to be similar to that of the American Army in World War ll. An article on artillery rates of �re that explores the data in more detail will be forthcoming in a future issue of this newsletter. [NOTE: This article was not completed or published.]

Notes to Table I.

[8] The data were found in reports of the 1st Tank Army (Fond 299, Opis‘ 3070, Delo 226). Obvious math errors in the original document have been corrected (the total lost column did not always agree with the totals by cause). The total participated column evidently reflected the starting strength of the unit, plus replacement vehicles. “Burned'” in Soviet wartime documents usually indicated a total loss, however it appears that in this case “burned” denoted vehicles totally lost due to direct ï¬�re antitank weapons. “Breakdown” apparently included both mechanical breakdown and repairable combat damage.

[9] Note that the brigade report (Fond 3304, Opis‘ 1, Delo 24) contradicts the army report. The brigade reported that a total of 28 T-34s were lost (9 to aircraft and 19 to “artillery”) and one T-60 was destroyed by a mine. However, this report was made on 11 July, during the battle, and may not have been as precise as the later report recorded by 1st Tank Army. Furthermore, it is not as clear in the brigade report that “artillery” referred only to indirect fire HE and not simply lo both direct and indirect fire guns.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)

A U.S. M1 155mm towed artillery piece being set up for firing during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944.

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,� by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5)

The effectiveness of artillery against exposed personnel and other “softâ€� targets has long been accepted. Fragments and blast are deadly to those unfortunate enough to not be under cover. What has also long been accepted is the relative—if not total—immunity of armored vehicles when exposed to shell ï¬�re. In a recent memorandum, the United States Army Armor School disputed the results of tests of artillery versus tanks by stating, “…the Armor School nonconcurred with the Artillery School regarding the suppressive effects of artillery…the M-1 main battle tank cannot be destroyed by artillery…â€�

This statement may in fact be true,[1] if the advancement of armored vehicle design has greatly exceeded the advancement of artillery weapon design in the last fifty years. [Original emphasis] However, if the statement is not true, then recent research by TDI[2] into the effectiveness of artillery shell �re versus tanks in World War II may be illuminating.

The TDI search found that an average of 12.8 percent of tank and other armored vehicle losses[3] were due to artillery �re in seven eases in World War II where the cause of loss could be reliably identified. The highest percent loss due to artillery was found to be 14.8 percent in the case of the Soviet 1st Tank Army at Kursk (Table II). The lowest percent loss due to artillery was found to be 5.9 percent in the case of Dom Bütgenbach (Table VIII).

The seven cases are split almost evenly between those that show armor losses to a defender and those that show losses to an attacker. The �rst four cases (Kursk, Normandy l. Normandy ll, and the “Pocket“) are engagements in which the side for which armor losses were recorded was on the defensive. The last three cases (Ardennes, Krinkelt. and Dom Bütgenbach) are engagements in which the side for which armor losses were recorded was on the offensive.

Four of the seven eases (Normandy I, Normandy ll, the “Pocket,” and Ardennes) represent data collected by operations research personnel utilizing rigid criteria for the identification of the cause of loss. Specific causes of loss were only given when the primary destructive agent could be clearly identified. The other three cases (Kursk, Krinkelt, and Dom Bütgenbach) are based upon combat reports that—of necessity—represent less precise data collection efforts.

However, the similarity in results remains striking. The largest identi�able cause of tank loss found in the data was, predictably, high-velocity armor piercing (AP) antitank rounds. AP rounds were found to be the cause of 68.7 percent of all losses. Artillery was second, responsible for 12.8 percent of all losses. Air attack as a cause was third, accounting for 7.4 percent of the total lost. Unknown causes, which included losses due to hits from multiple weapon types as well as unidenti�ed weapons, inflicted 6.3% of the losses and ranked fourth. Other causes, which included infantry antitank weapons and mines, were responsible for 4.8% of the losses and ranked �fth.


[1] The statement may be true, although it has an “unsinkable Titanic,” ring to it. It is much more likely that this statement is a hypothesis, rather than a truism.

[2] As pan of this article a survey of the Research Analysis Corporation’s publications list was made in an attempt to locate data from previous operations research on the subject. A single reference to the study of tank losses was found. Group 1 Alvin D. Coox and L. Van Loan Naisawald, Survey of Allied Tank Casualties in World War II, CONFIDENTIAL ORO Report T-117, 1 March 1951.

[3] The percentage loss by cause excludes vehicles lost due to mechanical breakdown or abandonment. lf these were included, they would account for 29.2 percent of the total lost. However, 271 of the 404 (67.1%) abandoned were lost in just two of the cases. These two cases (Normandy ll and the Falaise Pocket) cover the period in the Normandy Campaign when the Allies broke through the German defenses and began the pursuit across France.

Artillery Survivability In Modern Combat

Artillery Survivability In Modern Combat

The U.S. Army’s M109A6 Paladin 155 mm Self-Propelled Howitzer. [U.S. Army]

[This piece was originally published on 17 July 2017.]

Much attention is being given in the development of the U.S. joint concept of Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) to the implications of recent technological advances in long-range precision fires. It seems most of the focus is being placed on exploring the potential for cross-domain fires as a way of coping with the challenges of anti-access/area denial strategies employing long-range precision fires. Less attention appears to be given to assessing the actual combat effects of such weapons. The prevailing assumption is that because of the increasing lethality of modern weapons, battle will be bloodier than it has been in recent experience.

I have taken a look in previous posts at how the historical relationship identified by Trevor Dupuy between weapon lethality, battlefield dispersion, and casualty rates argues against this assumption with regard to personnel attrition and tank loss rates. What about artillery loss rates? Will long-range precision fires make ground-based long-range precision fire platforms themselves more vulnerable? Historical research suggests that trend was already underway before the advent of the new technology.

In 1976, Trevor Dupuy and the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO; one of TDI’s corporate ancestors) conducted a study sponsored by Sandia National Laboratory titled “Artillery Survivability in Modern War.” (PDF) The study focused on looking at historical artillery loss rates and the causes of those losses. It drew upon quantitative data from the 1973 Arab-Israel War, the Korean War, and the Eastern Front during World War II.


1. In the early wars of the 20th Century, towed artillery pieces were relatively invulnerable, and they were rarely severely damaged or destroyed except by very infrequent direct hits.

2. This relative invulnerability of towed artillery resulted in general lack of attention to the problems of artillery survivability through World War II.

3. The lack of effective hostile counter-artillery resources in the Korean and Vietnam wars contributed to continued lack of attention to the problem of artillery survivability, although increasingly armies (particularly the US Army) were relying on self-propelled artillery pieces.

4. Estimated Israeli loss statistics of the October 1973 War suggest that because of size and characteristics, self-propelled artillery is more vulnerable to modern counter-artillery means than was towed artillery in that and previous wars; this greater historical physical vulnerability of self-propelled weapons is consistent with recent empirical testing by the US Army.

5. The increasing physical vulnerability of modern self-propelled artillery weapons is compounded by other modern combat developments, including:

a. Improved artillery counter-battery techniques and resources;
b. Improved accuracy of air-delivered munitions;
c..increased lethality of modern artillery ammunition; and
d. Increased range of artillery and surface-to-surface missiles suitable for use against artillery.

6. Despite this greater vulnerability of self-propelled weapons, Israeli experience in the October war demonstrated that self-propelled artillery not only provides significant protection to cannoneers but also that its inherent mobility permits continued effective operation under circumstances in which towed artillery crews would be forced to seek cover, and thus be unable to fire their weapons. ‘

7. Paucity of available processed, compiled data on artillery survivability and vulnerability limits analysis and the formulation of reliable artillery loss experience tables or formulae.

8. Tentative analysis of the limited data available for this study indicates the following:

a. In “normal” deployment, percent weapon losses by standard weight classification are in the following proportions:

b. Towed artillery losses to hostile artillery (counterbattery) appear in general to very directly with battle intensity (as measured by percent personnel casualties per day), at a rate somewhat less than half of the percent personnel losses for units of army strength or greater; this is a straight-line relationship, or close to it; the stronger or more effective the hostile artillery is, the steeper the slope of the curve;

c. Towed artillery losses to all hostile anti-artillery means appears in general to vary directly with battle intensity at a rate about two-thirds of the-percent personnel losses for units of army strength or greater; the curve rises slightly more rapidly in high intensity combat than in normal or low-intensity combat; the stronger or more effective the hostile anti-artillery means (primarily air and counter-battery), the steeper the slope of the curve;

d. Self-propelled artillery losses appear to be generally consistent with towed losses, but at rates at least twice as great in comparison to battle intensity.

9. There are available in existing records of US and German forces in World war II, and US forces in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, unit records and reports that will permit the formulation of reliable artillery loss experience tables and formulae for those conflicts; these, with currently available and probably improved, data from the Arab-Israeli wars, will permit the formulation of reliable artillery loss experience tables and formulae for simulations of modern combat under current and foreseeable future conditions.

The study caveated these conclusions with the following observations:

Most of the artillery weapons in World War II were towed weapons. By the time the United States had committed small but significant numbers of self-propelled artillery pieces in Europe, German air and artillery counter-battery retaliatory capabilities had been significantly reduced. In the Korean and Vietnam wars, although most American artillery was self-propelled, the enemy had little counter-artillery capability either in the air or in artillery weapons and counter-battery techniques.

It is evident from vulnerability testing of current Army self-propelled weapons, that these weapons–while offering much more protection to cannoneers and providing tremendous advantages in mobility–are much more vulnerable to hostile action than are towed weapons, and that they are much more subject to mechanical breakdowns involving either the weapons mountings or the propulsion elements. Thus there cannot be a direct relationship between aggregated World War II data, or even aggregated Korean war or October War data, and current or future artillery configurations. On the other hand, the body of data from the October war where artillery was self-propelled is too small and too specialized by environmental and operational circumstances to serve alone as a paradigm of artillery vulnerability.

Despite the intriguing implications of this research, HERO’s proposal for follow on work was not funded. HERO only used easily accessible primary and secondary source data for the study. It noted much more primary source data was likely available but that it would require a significant research effort to compile it. (Research is always the expensive tent-pole in quantitative historical analysis. This seems to be why so little of it ever gets funded.) At the time of the study in 1976, no U.S. Army organization could identify any existing quantitative historical data or analysis on artillery losses, classified or otherwise. A cursory search on the Internet reveals no other such research as well. Like personnel attrition and tank loss rates, it would seem that artillery loss rates would be another worthwhile subject for quantitative analysis as part of the ongoing effort to develop the MDB concept.

UPDATE: Should The U.S. Army Add More Tube Artillery To It Combat Units?

UPDATE: Should The U.S. Army Add More Tube Artillery To It Combat Units?

A 155mm Paladin howitzer with 1st Battery, 10th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Liberty stands ready for a fire mission at forward operating base Gabe April 16, 2005. [U.S. Department of Defense/DVIDS]

In response to my recent post looking at the ways the U.S. is seeking to improve its long range fires capabilities, TDI received this comment via Twitter:

@barefootboomer makes a fair point. It appears that the majority of the U.S. Army’s current efforts to improve its artillery capabilities are aimed at increasing lethality and capability of individual systems, but not actually adding additional guns to the force structure.

Are Army combat units undergunned in the era of multi-domain battle? The Mobile Protected Firepower program is intended to provide additional light tanks high-caliber direct fire guns to the Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. In his recent piece at West Point’s Modern War Institute blog, Captain Brandon Morgan recommended increasing the proportion of U.S. corps rocket artillery to tube artillery systems from roughly 1:4 to something closer to the current Russian Army ratio of 3:4.

Should the Army be adding other additional direct or indirect fires systems to its combat forces? What types and at what levels? Direct or indirect fire? More tubes per battery? More batteries? More battalions?

What do you think?

UPDATE: I got a few responses to my queries. The balance reflected this view:

@barefootboomer elaborated on his original point:

There were not many specific suggestions about changes to the existing forces structure, except for this one:

Are there any other thoughts or suggestions out there about this, or is the consensus that the Army is already pretty much on the right course toward fixing its fires problems?

Status Update On U.S. Long Range Fires Capabilities

Status Update On U.S. Long Range Fires Capabilities

Soldiers fire an M777A2 howitzer while supporting Iraqi security forces near al-Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2017, as part of the operation to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. [Spc. William Gibson/U.S. Army]

Earlier this year, I noted that the U.S. is investing in upgrading its long range strike capabilities as part of its multi-domain battle doctrinal response to improving Chinese, Russian, and Iranian anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. There have been a few updates on the progress of those investments.

The U.S. Army Long Range Fires Cross Functional Team

A recent article in Army Times by Todd South looked at some of the changes being implemented by the U.S. Army cross functional team charged with prioritizing improvements in the service’s long range fires capabilities. To meet a requirement to double the ranges of its artillery systems within five years, “the Army has embarked upon three tiers of focus, from upgrading old school artillery cannons, to swapping out its missile system to double the distance it can fire, and giving the Army a way to fire surface-to-surface missiles at ranges of 1,400 miles.�

The Extended Range Cannon Artillery program is working on rocket assisted munitions to double the range of the Army’s workhouse 155mm guns to 24 miles, with some special rounds capable of reaching targets up to 44 miles away. As I touched on recently, the Army is also looking into ramjet rounds that could potentially increase striking range to 62 miles.

To develop the capability for even longer range fires, the Army implemented a Strategic Strike Cannon Artillery program for targets up to nearly 1,000 miles, and a Strategic Fires Missile effort enabling targeting out to 1,400 miles.

The Army is also emphasizing retaining trained artillery personnel and an improved training regime which includes large-scale joint exercises and increased live-fire opportunities.

Revised Long Range Fires Doctrine

But better technology and training are only part of the solution. U.S. Army Captain Harrison Morgan advocated doctrinal adaptations to shift Army culture away from thinking of fires solely as support for maneuver elements. Among his recommendations are:

  • Increasing the proportion of U.S. corps rocket artillery to tube artillery systems from roughly 1:4 to something closer to the current Russian Army ratio of 3:4.
  • Fielding a tube artillery system capable of meeting or surpassing the German-made PZH 2000, which can strike targets out to 30 kilometers with regular rounds, sustain a firing rate of 10 rounds per minute, and strike targets with five rounds simultaneously.
  • Focus on integrating tube and rocket artillery with a multi-domain, joint force to enable the destruction of the majority of enemy maneuver forces before friendly ground forces reach direct-fire range.
  • Allow tube artillery to be task organized below the brigade level to provide indirect fires capabilities to maneuver battalions, and make rocket artillery available to division and brigade commanders. (Morgan contends that the allocation of indirect fires capabilities to maneuver battalions ended with the disbanding of the Army’s armored cavalry regiments in 2011.)
  • Increase training in use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) assets at the tactical level to locate, target, and observe fires.

U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy Face Long Range Penetrating Strike Challenges

The Army’s emphasis on improving long range fires appears timely in light of the challenges the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy face in conducting long range penetrating strikes mission in the A2/AD environment. A fascinating analysis by Jerry Hendrix for the Center for a New American Security shows the current strategic problems stemming from U.S. policy decisions taken in the early 1990s following the end of the Cold War.

In an effort to generate a “peace dividend� from the fall of the Soviet Union, the Clinton administration elected to simplify the U.S. military force structure for conducting long range air attacks by relieving the Navy of its associated responsibilities and assigning the mission solely to the Air Force. The Navy no longer needed to replace its aging carrier-based medium range bombers and the Air Force pushed replacements for its aging B-52 and B-1 bombers into the future.

Both the Air Force and Navy emphasized development and acquisition of short range tactical aircraft which proved highly suitable for the regional contingencies and irregular conflicts of the 1990s and early 2000s. Impressed with U.S. capabilities displayed in those conflicts, China, Russia, and Iran invested in air defense and ballistic missile technologies specifically designed to counter American advantages.

The U.S. now faces a strategic environment where its long range strike platforms lack the range and operational and technological capability to operate within these AS/AD “bubbles.� The Air Force has far too few long range bombers with stealth capability, and neither the Air Force nor Navy tactical stealth aircraft can carry long range strike missiles. The missiles themselves lack stealth capability. The short range of the Navy’s aircraft and insufficient numbers of screening vessels leave its aircraft carriers vulnerable to ballistic missile attack.

Remedying this state of affairs will take time and major investments in new weapons and technological upgrades. However, with certain upgrades, Hendrix sees the current Air Force and Navy force structures capable of providing the basis for a long range penetrating strike operational concept effective against A2/AD defenses. The unanswered question is whether these upgrades will be implemented at all.

Looking At Recent Reported Combat Loss Rates In Afghanistan

Looking At Recent Reported Combat Loss Rates In Afghanistan

Afghan National Army soldiers simulate clearing a compound with help from their instructors at the 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps ANA Non-commissioned Officer Academy on Forward Operating Base Eagle in Zabul province Jan. 10, 2012 [{Wikimedia]

Last Friday, Rod Nordland published an article in the New York Times alleging that Afghan security forces (Afghan National Army (ANA) and police) had suffered an average of 57 killed in action (KIA) per day during the previous week, up from 22 killed per day in 2016. If true, such reports would indicate a dramatic increase in loss rates over the previous years.

These reported figures should be regarded critically, however. It is not clear how Nordland arrived at the total of 22 KIA per day for 2016. His article cited another article by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, published in the Times on 30 October 2017. This reported Afghan security forces casualties for 2016 at 6,700 KIA and 12,000 wounded in action (WIA), which works out to an average of 18.36 KIA per day (6,700/365), not 22. The total number of KIA + WIA works out to an average of 51.23 per day (18,700/365).

The lede of Gibbons-Neff’s 2017 article was that the U.S. and Afghan governments had stopped providing official strength and loss figures for the Afghan security forces. Citing the last report of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Gibbons-Neff reported Afghan security forces losses from 1 January-8 May 2017 (126 days) as 2,531 KIA and 4,238 WIA. This works out to an average of 20.08 KIA (2,531/126) and 53.72 KIA + WIA (6,679/126) per day.

Nordland arrived at the figure of 57 KIA per day based on a report of 400 Afghan security forces killed in the week leading up the publication of his article on 21 September 2018. He calculated it by averaging the total over the previous seven days (400/7). Casualty rates in combat have been highly variable, historically. Brief spikes in rates are common. In the same paragraph reporting the 400 KIA total, Nordland quoted senior Afghan government officials stating that the daily average for recent months had been 30 to 40 KIA per day.

It is possible to use the figures cited by Nordland and Gibbons-Neff to make ballpark estimates for Afghan security forces casualties in 2017 and 2018. Even if the weekly loss of 400 KIA for 14-20 September 2018 represents an abnormally high total, it is reasonable to conclude that the Afghan security forces are very likely incurring sharply higher combat losses in 2018 than the previous two years. These figures do not include counts of missing or captured and thus underestimate the actual numbers of battle casualties being suffered by the Afghan forces. It is also possible that the estimates of 30-40 KIA per day apply only to the peak spring-to-autumn fighting season, which would somewhat reduce the overall 2018 KIA and WIA totals.

As Nordland reported, these losses are resulting in an increasing strain on the Afghan forces. His article stated that the strength of the ANA and police in April 2018 was 314,000, 38,000 below the authorized total of 352,000, and that the actual total was likely even lower due to fraudulent reporting and unreported desertions. The ANA suffered a monthly attrition rate of 2.9 percent in early 2017 from combat casualties, desertion, and failed reenlistments, requiring one-third of the overall force to be replaced by new recruits annually. That attrition rate is undoubtedly far higher now and almost certainly not sustainable for long.

In comparison, the Afghan government reported in August that its security forces had killed 42 Taliban fighters per day, or 1,300 per month. For the year ending in March 2018, it claimed to have killed 13,600 insurgent fighters. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims and they should be treated skeptically.

U.S. Army Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) Program Update

U.S. Army Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) Program Update

BAE Systems has submitted its proposal to the U.S. Army to build and test the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) vehicle [BAE Systems/Fox News]

When we last checked in with the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) program—an effort to quickly field a new light tank lightweight armored vehicle with a long-range direct fire capability—Request for Proposals (RFPs) were expected by November 2017 and the first samples by April 2018. It now appears the first MPF prototypes will not be delivered before mid-2020 at the earliest.

According to a recent report by Kris Osborn on Warrior Maven, “The service expects to award two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) deals by 2019 as part of an initial step to building prototypes from multiple vendors, service officials said. Army statement said initial prototypes are expected within 14 months of a contract award.�

Part of the delay appears to stem from uncertainty about requirements. As Osborn reported, “For the Army, the [MPF} effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently available or fast emerging technology while engineering the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.�

Among the technologies the Army will seek to integrate into the MPF are a lightweight, heavy caliber main gun, lightweight armor composites, active protection systems, a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors, greater computer automation, and artificial intelligence.

Osborn noted that

the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors – with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

These evolving requirements are already impacting the Army’s approach to fielding MPF. It originally intended to “do acquisition differently to deliver capability quickly.� MPF program director Major General David Bassett declared in October 2017, “We expect to be delivering prototypes off of that program effort within 15 months of contract award…and getting it in the hands of an evaluation unit six months after that — rapid!“

It is now clear the Army won’t be meeting that schedule after all. Stay tuned.

“Quantity Has A Quality All Its Own”: How Robot Swarms Might Change Future Combat

“Quantity Has A Quality All Its Own”: How Robot Swarms Might Change Future Combat

Humans vs. machines in the film Matrix Revolutions (2003) [Screencap by The Matrix Wiki]

Yesterday, Paul Scharre, director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, and prolific writer on the future of robotics and artificial intelligence, posted a fascinating argument on Twitter regarding swarms and mass in future combat.

His thread was in response to an article by Shmuel Shmuel posted on War on the Rocks, which made the case that the same computer processing technology enabling robotic vehicles combined with old fashioned kinetic weapons (i.e. anti-aircraft guns) offered a cost-effective solution to swarms.

Scharre agreed that robotic drones are indeed vulnerable to such countermeasures, but made this point in response:

He then went to contend that robotic swarms offer the potential to reestablish the role of mass in future combat. Mass, either in terms of numbers of combatants or volume of firepower, has played a decisive role in most wars. As the aphorism goes, usually credited to Josef Stalin, “mass has a quality all of its own.”

Scharre observed that the United States went in a different direction in its post-World War II approach to warfare, adopting instead “offset” strategies that sought to leverage superior technology to balance against the mass militaries of the Communist bloc.

While effective during the Cold War, Scharre concurs with the arguments that offset strategies are becoming far too expensive and may ultimately become self-defeating.

In order to avoid this fate, Scharre contends that

The entire thread is well worth reading.

Trevor Dupuy would have agreed with much of what Scharre’s asserts. He identified the relationship between increasing weapon lethality and battlefield dispersion that goes back to the 17th century. Dupuy believed that the primary factor driving this relationship was the human response to fear in a lethal environment, with soldiers dispersing in depth and frontage on battlefields in order to survive weapons of ever increasing destructiveness.

TDI Friday Read: Lethality, Dispersion, And Mass On Future Battlefields

Robots might very well change that equation. Whether autonomous or “human in the loop,” robotic swarms do not feel fear and are inherently expendable. Cheaply produced robots might very well provide sufficient augmentation to human combat units to restore the primacy of mass in future warfare.

How Many Confederates Fought At Antietam?

How Many Confederates Fought At Antietam?

Dead soldiers lying near the Dunker Church on the Antietam battlefield. [History.com]

Numbers matter in war and warfare. Armies cannot function effectively without reliable counts of manpower, weapons, supplies, and losses. Wars, campaigns, and battles are waged or avoided based on assessments of relative numerical strength. Possessing superior numbers, either overall or at the decisive point, is a commonly held axiom (if not a guarantor) for success in warfare.

These numbers of war likewise inform the judgements of historians. They play a large role in shaping historical understanding of who won or lost, and why. Armies and leaders possessing a numerical advantage are expected to succeed, and thus come under exacting scrutiny when they do not. Commanders and combatants who win in spite of inferiorities in numbers are lauded as geniuses or elite fighters.

Given the importance of numbers in war and history, however, it is surprising to see how often historians treat quantitative data carelessly. All too often, for example, historical estimates of troop strength are presented uncritically and often rounded off, apparently for simplicity’s sake. Otherwise careful scholars are not immune from the casual or sloppy use of numbers.

However, just as careless treatment of qualitative historical evidence results in bad history, the same goes for mishandling quantitative data. To be sure, like any historical evidence, quantitative data can be imprecise or simply inaccurate. Thus, as with any historical evidence, it is incumbent upon historians to analyze the numbers they use with methodological rigor.

OK, with that bit of throat-clearing out of the way, let me now proceed to jump into one of the greatest quantitative morasses in military historiography: strengths and losses in the American Civil War. Participants, pundits, and scholars have been arguing endlessly over numbers since before the war ended. And since nothing seems to get folks riled up more than debating Civil War numbers than arguing about the merits (or lack thereof) of Union General George B. McClellan, I am eventually going to add him to the mix as well.

The reason I am grabbing these dual lightning rods is to illustrate the challenges of quantitative data and historical analysis by looking at one of Trevor Dupuy’s favorite historical case studies, the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg, for the unreconstructed rebels lurking out there). Dupuy cited his analysis of the battle in several of his books, mainly as a way of walking readers through his Quantified Judgement Method of Analysis (QJMA), and to demonstrate his concept of combat multipliers.

I have questions about his Antietam analysis that I will address later. To begin, however, I want to look at the force strength numbers he used. On p. 156 of Numbers, Predictions and War, he provided the following figures for the opposing armies at Antietam:The sources he cited for these figures were R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Compact History of the Civil War (New York: Hawthorn, 1960) and Thomas L. Livermore, Numbers and Losses of the Civil War (reprint, Bloomington: University of Indiana, 1957).

It is with Livermore that I will begin tracing the historical and historiographical mystery of how many Confederates fought at the Battle of Antietam.

Questioning The Validity Of The 3-1 Rule Of Combat

Questioning The Validity Of The 3-1 Rule Of Combat

Canadian soldiers going “over the top” during an assault in the First World War. [History.com]

[This post was originally published on 1 December 2017.]

How many troops are needed to successfully attack or defend on the battlefield? There is a long-standing rule of thumb that holds that an attacker requires a 3-1 preponderance over a defender in combat in order to win. The aphorism is so widely accepted that few have questioned whether it is actually true or not.

Trevor Dupuy challenged the validity of the 3-1 rule on empirical grounds. He could find no historical substantiation to support it. In fact, his research on the question of force ratios suggested that there was a limit to the value of numerical preponderance on the battlefield.

TDI President Chris Lawrence has also challenged the 3-1 rule in his own work on the subject.

The validity of the 3-1 rule is no mere academic question. It underpins a great deal of U.S. military policy and warfighting doctrine. Yet, the only time the matter was seriously debated was in the 1980s with reference to the problem of defending Western Europe against the threat of Soviet military invasion.

It is probably long past due to seriously challenge the validity and usefulness of the 3-1 rule again.

TDI Friday Read: Iranian Casualties In The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War

TDI Friday Read: Iranian Casualties In The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War

This series of posts was based on the article “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,� by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter. Mr Beuttel was a former U.S. Army intelligence officer employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. He also authored several updates to this original article, to be posted at a later date, which refined and updated his analysis.

Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal (1)

Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War (2)

Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (3)

The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (4)

Iranian Killed In Action and Died of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War (5)

Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War (6)

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (9)


Dupuy’s Verities: Seek The Flanks!

Dupuy’s Verities: Seek The Flanks!

Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison (1888). This painting depicted the wounding of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on 2 May 1863, while leading one of the more famous flank attacks in history.

The fourth of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Flank and rear attack is more likely to succeed than frontal attack.

From Understanding War (1987):

Flank or rear attack is more likely to succeed than frontal attack. Among the many reasons for this are the following: there is greater opportunity for surprise by the attacker; the defender cannot be strong everywhere at once, and the front is the easiest focus for defensive effort; and the morale of the defender tends to be shaken when the danger of encirclement is evident. Again, historical examples are numerous, beginning with Hannibal’s tactical plans and brilliant executions of the Battles of Lake Trasimene and Cannae. Any impression that the concept of envelopment or of a “strategy of indirect approachâ€� has arisen either from the introduction of modern weapons of war, or from the ruminations of recent writers on military affairs, is a grave misperception of history and underestimates earlier military thinkers.

“Seek the flanks” has been a military adage since antiquity, but its signiï¬�cance was enhanced tremendously when the conoidal bullet of the breech-loading, rifled musket revolutionized warfare in the mid-nineteenth century. This led Moltke to his 1867 observation that the increased deadliness of ï¬�repower demanded that the strategic offensive be coupled with tactical defensive, an idea that depended upon strategic envelopment for its accomplishment. This was a basic element of Moltke‘s strategy in the 1870 campaign in France. Its tactical manifestations took place at Metz and Sedan; both instances in which the Germans took up defensive positions across the French line of communications to Paris, and the French commanders, forced to attack, were defeated.

The essential emphasis of modern tactics and operational art remains enabling flank or rear attacks on enemy forces in order to obtain decisive results in combat. Will this remain true in the future? The ongoing historical pattern of ground forces dispersing on the battlefield in response to the increasing lethality of weapons seems likely to enhance the steadily increasing non-linear and non-contiguous character of modern battles in both conventional and irregular warfare.

The architects of the U.S. multi-domain battle and operations doctrine seem to anticipate this. Highly dispersed and distributed future battlefields are likely to offer constant, multiple opportunities (and risks) for flank and rear attacks. They are also likely to scramble current efforts to shape and map future battlefield geometry and architecture.

One of the significant selling points of military gadfly Douglas Macgregor’s proposed Reconnaissance Strike Group force structure is the capability for conducting continuous 360-degree combat operations.

Curiously enough however, current U.S. Army operational doctrine has little to say about the non-linear or non-contiguous aspects of battle. On the other hand, the current U.S. joint operations doctrinal manual has an entire section to defining and describing linear and nonlinear operations.

A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (9)

A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (9)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,� by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

If we estimate that at least 5,000,000 troops (about 12% of Iran’s then population) served in the war zone, then the military casualty distribution is not less than the following (Bold indicates the author’s choice from ranges):

Killed in Action/Died of Wounds: 188,000 (156,000-196,000) (17%)

Wounded in Action: 945,000 (754,000-1,110,000) (83%)

Severely Wounded/Disabled: 200,000 (18%) (Note: carve out of total wounded)

Missing in Action: 73,000 (6%) (Note: Carve out of total KIA plus several thousand possible defectors/collaborators)

PoW: 39,000-44,000

Total Military Battle Casualties (KIA + WIA): 1,133,000-1,302,000 (28% theater rate)

Possible Non-Battle Military Deaths: 74,000

Non-Battle Military Injuries: No idea.

With Civilian KIA (11,000) and WIA (34,000) and “chemical� (45,000) Total Hostile Action Casualties: 1,223,000

Possible Military Non-Battle Deaths (74,000):1,297,000

Total Deaths Due to the Imposed War: 273,000 (104% of Pentagon estimate of 262,000)


Of 5,000,000 estimated Iranian combatants (1 million regular army, 2 million Pasdaran, 2 million Baseej)

~ 4% were Killed in Action/Missing in Action

~ 4% were Disabled

~ 13% were Wounded

~ 1% were Non-Battle Deaths

~ 1% were PoWs

Total military losses all known causes ~ 27%


The military battle casualty total percentile (27%) is intermediate between that of World War I (50% ~ British Army) and World War II (13% ~ U.S. Army/U.S. Marine Corps, 22% British Army).[118]

The author acknowledges the highly speculative nature of much of the data and argument presented above. It is offered as a preliminary starting point to further study. As such, the author would appreciate hearing from anyone with additional data on this subject. In particular he would invite the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide any information that would corroborate, correct or expand on the information presented in this article.


[118] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 406-407, n. 3

The Origins Of The U.S. Army’s Concept Of Combat Power

The Origins Of The U.S. Army’s Concept Of Combat Power

The U.S. Army’s concept of combat power can be traced back to the thinking of British theorist J.F.C. Fuller, who collected his lectures and thoughts into the book, The Foundations of the Science of War (1926).

In a previous post, I critiqued the existing U.S. Army doctrinal method for calculating combat power. The ideas associated with the term “combat power� have been a part of U.S Army doctrine since the 1920s. However, the Army did not specifically define what combat power actually meant until the 1982 edition of FM 100-5 Operations, which introduced the AirLand Battle concept. So where did the Army’s notion of the concept originate? This post will trace the way it has been addressed in the capstone Field Manual (FM) 100-5 Operations series.

As then-U.S. Army Major David Boslego explained in a 1995 School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) thesis[1], the Army’s original idea of combat power most likely derived from the work of British military theorist J.F.C. Fuller. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Fuller articulated the first modern definitions of the principles of war, which he developed from his conception of force on the battlefield as something more than just the tangible effects of shock and firepower. Fuller’s principles were adopted in the 1920 edition of the British Army Field Service Regulations (FSR), which was the likely vector of influence on the U.S. Army’s 1923 FSR. While the term “combat power� does not appear in the 1923 FSR, the influence of Fullerian thinking is evident.

The first use of the phrase itself by the Army can be found in the 1939 edition of FM 100-5 Tentative Field Service Regulations, Operations, which replaced and updated the 1923 FSR. It appears just twice and was not explicitly defined in the text. As Boslego noted, however, even then the use of the term

highlighted a holistic view of combat power. This power was the sum of all factors which ultimately affected the ability of the soldiers to accomplish the mission. Interestingly, the authors of the 1939 edition did not focus solely on the physical objective of destroying the enemy. Instead, they sought to break the enemy’s power of resistance which connotes moral as well as physical factors.

This basic, implied definition of combat power as a combination of interconnected tangible physical and intangible moral factors could be found in all successive editions of FM 100-5 through 1968. The type and character of the factors comprising combat power evolved along with the Army’s experience of combat through this period, however. In addition to leadership, mobility, and firepower, the 1941 edition of FM 100-5 included “better armaments and equipment,â€� which reflected the Army’s initial impressions of the early “blitzkriegâ€� battles of World War II.

From World War II Through Korea

While FM 100-5 (1944) and  FM 100-5 (1949) made no real changes with respect to describing combat power, the 1954 edition introduced significant new ideas in the wake of major combat operations in Korea, albeit still without actually defining the term. As with its predecessors, FM 100-5 (1954) posited combat power as a combination of firepower, maneuver, and leadership. For the first time, it defined the principles of mass, unity of command, maneuver, and surprise in terms of combat power. It linked the principle of the offensive, “only offensive action achieves decisive results,� with the enduring dictum that “offensive action requires the concentration of superior combat power at the decisive point and time.�

Boslego credited the authors of FM 100-5 (1954) with recognizing the non-linear nature of warfare and advising commanders to take a holistic perspective. He observed that they introduced the subtle but important understanding of combat power not as a fixed value, but as something relative and interactive between two forces in battle. Any calculation of combat power would be valid only in relation to the opposing combat force. “Relative combat power is dynamic and can be directly influenced by opposing commanders. It therefore must be analyzed by the commander in its potential relation to all other factors.â€� One of the fundamental ways a commander could shift the balance of combat power against an enemy was through maneuver: “Maneuver must be used to alter the relative combat power of military forces.â€�

[As I mentioned in a previous post, Trevor Dupuy considered FM 100-5 (1954)’s list and definitions of the principles of war to be the best version.]

Into the “Pentomic Era�

The 1962 edition of FM 100-5 supplied a general definition of combat power that articulated the way the Army had been thinking about it since 1939.

Combat power is a combination of the physical means available to a commander and the moral strength of his command. It is significant only in relation to the combat power of the opposing forces. In applying the principles of war, the development and application of combat power are essential to decisive results.

It further refined the elements of combat power by redefining the principles of economy of force and security in terms of it as well.

By the early 1960s, however, the Army’s thinking about force on the battlefield was dominated by the prospect of the use of nuclear weapons. As Boslego noted, both FM 100-5 (1962) and FM 100-5 (1968)

dwelt heavily on the importance of dispersing forces to prevent major losses from a single nuclear strike, being highly mobile to mass at decisive points and being flexible in adjusting forces to the current situation. The terms dispersion, flexibility, and mobility were repeated so frequently in speeches, articles, and congressional testimony, that…they became a mantra. As a result, there was a lack of rigor in the Army concerning what they meant in general and how they would be applied on the tactical battlefield in particular.

The only change the 1968 edition made was to expand the elements of combat power to include “firepower, mobility, communications, condition of equipment, and status of supply,” which presaged an increasing focus on the technological aspects of combat and warfare.

The first major modification in the way the Army thought about combat power since before World War II was reflected in FM 100-5 (1976). These changes in turn prompted a significant reevaluation of the concept by then-U.S. Army Major Huba Wass de Czege. I will tackle how this resulted in the way combat power was redefined in the 1982 edition of FM 100-5 in a future post.


[1] David V. Boslego, “The Relationship of Information to the Relative Combat Power Model in Force XXI Engagements,� School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1995.

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

Iranian Civilian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (8)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,� by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War produced remarkably few civilian casualties compared to World War I or World War II rates. UNICEF data suggests that prior to World War I, civilians accounted for only 5% of all deaths in a given war. This rose to 15% in World War I and an astounding 65% in World War II.[113] Iran claims 11,000 civilian deaths as a result of the war primarily through Iraqi air and missile strikes. The author‘s own study of Iranian civilian deaths places it at about 8,800 known deaths, indicating this number is probably very close to the true �gure. If so, civilian deaths accounted for just 5% of total war dead, a turn-of-the-century standard. The number of wounded has not been released, but this author’s �gures can account for over 34,000 civilian wounded by air and missile strikes. Further, Iran claims 45,000 civilian “chemical� casualties. If all claims are true then approximately 90,000 civilians became casualties of the war.

This yields a military to civilian casualty ratio of 11:1. This is far better than the ratio claimed in recent wars of 1:9. This suggests that despite the hysteria surrounding “War of the Cities,� the Iranian civilian population was not severely at risk during the war. Compare this to World War II England where the one-year German V-1/V-2 campaign killed 8,588 and wounded 46,838.[114] Then contrast it to total English civilian casualties during World War II at 60,000 dead and 86,800 wounded due to the blitz and buzz bombs. U.K. military killed, wounded and missing (excluding PoW) were 582,900 in World War II giving a military-to-civilian casualty ratio of 4:1.[115] Of course the World War II German bombing and missile campaigns against England were far more severe than that experienced by Iran at the hands of Iraq.

Civilian chemical casualties match military in magnitude. At �rst this might seem strange. I have found no World War I data on military-to-civilian casualty ratios as regards chemical agents, so there is no point of comparison or contrast here. The high number of civilian chemical casualties seems to be a function of several factors. First some 2,000 Iranian towns and villages lay in areas where Iraqi forces employed chemical weapons.[116] Secondly, Iraqi chemical strikes were often delivered deep into Iranian rear areas to attack reinforcements and support troops. Casualties were often high as the rear echelon troops were less well equipped and prepared to cope with chemical attacks.[117] In these rear area attacks the civilian population density must have been much higher than on the front line. Further, civilians probably had no means of chemical defense. Witness the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 with mustard, nerve and cyanogen chloride which killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, This may explain the 1:1 relationship between overall Iranian military and civilian chemical casualties.

Mr. Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[113] Abstracts Obtained from Iran on Medical Research Conducted After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War,” www.chronicillnet.org/PGWS/tuite/IRMED/IRANTOC.html

[114] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft. Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, p. 67; Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War,New York, Penguin, Viking, 1978, p. 124.

[115] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,â€� www.ch.ic.ac.uk/vchemlib/mol/horrible/War/mustard

[116] Anthony Coordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder, CO; Westview Press, 1990, p. 525, n. 56.

[117] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 145-146.

Chinese “Pirates� Accused Of Plundering WWII-Era Shipwrecks

Chinese “Pirates� Accused Of Plundering WWII-Era Shipwrecks

A crane barge allegedly pulling up scrap metal from a World War II wreck in the Java Sea. [The Daily Mail]

An investigation by the British newspaper The Daily Mail has alleged that 10 British shipwrecks from World War II lying of the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia have been illegally salvaged for scrap by “pirates,� including Chinese, Mongolian, and Cambodian-flagged vessels. The shipwrecks have been designated war graves and are protected from looting by the U.N. International Salvaging Convention and British, Indonesian and Malaysian law.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has demanded an immediate investigation into allegations that dozens of barges with cranes have been plundering the wrecks for many years.

One Chinese shipping giant, Fujian Jiada, which owns five of eight barges alleged to be recently actively salvaging, has denied any involvement. The Malaysian Navy impounded the Fujian Jiada-owned Hai Wei Gong 889 in 2014 on charges of illegally salvaging Japanese and Dutch shipwrecks, and detained another Vietnamese-crewed barge in 2015 for doing the same.

Both vessels were also accused of looting the wrecks of the battleship H.M.S. Prince of Wales and battlecruiser H.M.S. Repulse, sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of Malaysia in 1941. Marine experts estimate half of the remains of the two ships have disappeared and stolen artifacts have been discovered being offered for auction.

In 2016, the British and Dutch Defense Ministries revealed the discovery that the wrecks of three Dutch Navy, three British Navy, and one U.S. Navy ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II had disappeared from the seabed.

Sonar image of the Java Sea bed location where the wreck of the HMS Exeter used to be. [BBC]

Metals salvaged from the wrecks can be quite lucrative, each vessel yielding up to ₤1 million, and brass propellers and fixtures selling for ₤2,000 per metric ton. Metals fabricated before post-World War II atmospheric nuclear testing are particularly useful for medical devices. The Daily Mail found that the barges drop the cranes on to the wrecks to break off large pieces. These are then taken to scrapyards in Indonesia to be cut into smaller pieces, which are then shipped to China and sold into the global steel markets.

And earlier TDI post on the this subject can be found here:

The Curious Case of the Missing WWII Shipwrecks

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War (7)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,� by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

Historical Chemical Casualties

The War of Sacred Defense was the only conflict of the 20th Century other than World War I fought under conditions of general chemical release. The Iranian ground forces were generally ill-prepared for chemical defense, during the course of the war much NBC defense gear was purchased from the U.K., Germany, and Czechoslovakia, but there was never enough and NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] defense training was insufficient. Many Iranian solders became gas casualties because they did not shave often enough to allow their protective masks to make a tight seal.[88]

Throughout the war Iraq employed chemical weapons against Iranian forces 195 times. After the chemical attack on Halabja in March 1988 killed some 4,000-5,000 civilians and maimed 7,000 others, the IRGC sent a video crew to document the atrocity. The video was used as a training �lm for Iranian recruits. Instead of instilling hatred for Saddam’s brutality, the �lm demoralized its viewers and exaggerated the power of Iraqi chemical weapons.[89] Iranian troops later panicked under gas attack conditions at Fao and Majnoon and abandoned their positions. However, this phenomenon was widespread in the First World War.[90] Further, chemical attacks were usually not significantly lethal. This is again in accord with World War I experience. Gas inflicted 70,552 casualties on the American Expeditionary Force in 1917-18. Of these only 1,221 died (2% lethality). The British Army suffered 185,706 gas casualties of which only 5,899 died (3% lethality), Total British battle casualties for World War I were 677,515 KIA and 1,837,613 WIA. Gas accounted for only 7% of all British casualties and only 1% of all KIA. The Russian Anny suffered an amazing 600,000 gas casualties with a lethality rate at times as much as 12%.[91]

The Use Of Gas In The Iran-Iraq War

Iraq may have first used gas in late 1980 near Salamcheh. Iran reported its �rst chemical casualty in �ghting near Hoveyzeh in early 1981. These early attacks seem to have been limited to the riot control agent CS. On 27 October 1982, near Musain, four Iranian soldiers died from toxic chemical exposure, probably mustard gas. In mid-August 1983 Iran suffered 318 casualties from mustard and arsenic agents. On 7, 9, and 13 November 1983, Iraq used mustard in the Panjwin area. Four seriously wounded Iranian soldiers later died in European hospitals.[92] Between May 1981 and March 1984, Iran claimed Iraq had employed chemical weapons on forty-nine different occasions. This had resulted in 1,200 Iranian dead and 5,000 wounded.[93] Mycotoxins may also have been used.[94] On 17 March 1984 Iraqi forces employed gas which caused 400 Iranian casualties, 40 of which were from nerve agents.[95] In the Badr operation (1-18 March 1985) Iraq used chemical weapons �ve times, but inflicted only 200 Iranian casualties, none apparently fatal.[96] In one unnamed 1985 attack, Iran claimed 11,000 troops were exposed to Iraqi chemical agents.[97] In Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-11 March 1986) Iran claimed 1,800 chemical casualties from a total of about 30,000.[98] Up to 8,500 Iranian soldier were gas casualties by the end of Wal Fajir-8 and Wal Fajir-9 (15 February-19 May 1986) with about 700 killed or seriously wounded.[99] In attacks on 27 and 30 January, 9, 10, 12, and 13 February 1986, 8,500 Iranian gas casualties were reportedly suffered, of which 35 died and 2,500 had to be hospitalized.[100] In Karbala-4 (24-26 December 1986) only �ve Iranian troops died from toxic gas out of 10,000 battle casualties.[101] By early 1987, chemical weapons had inflicted at least 10,000 Iranian casualties.[102] In all Iran had suffered 25,600 gas casualties by April 1988, of which 260 (sic 2,600?) died. Iraq’s extensive use of chemical agents in the �nal months before the August 1988 cease-�re may have raised the casualty count to as much as 45,000.[103] In the Iraqi “In God We Trust� offensive of June 1988 against Majnoon, Iran claimed sixty soldiers killed and 4,000 wounded by Iraqi chemical weapons, which included nerve and blood agents.[104] A small U.K. article on mustard gas from the Internet cites 5,000 Iranian troops killed by gas and 40,000-50,000 injured during the war.[105] The overall cumulative wartime pattern of Iranian military chemical casualties is illustrated in the below �gure.

The Lethality Of Gas

Speaking in 1996, Abdollah Mazandarani, Secretary General of the Iranian Foundation for Chemical Warfare Victims, claimed 25,000 Iranian soldiers were “martyred� (killed?) by Iraqi use of chemical weapons in operations Wal Fajir-8, Karbala-8, Badr, Fao, and Majnoon. 45,000 civilians were also affected by chemical weapons.[106] Iran claims at least 100,000 wounded by chemical weapons during the imposed war with Iraq. 1,500 of these casualties require constant medical attention to this day. Since 1991, 118 have died as a result of their toxic chemical exposure according to Hamid Sohralr-Pur, head of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled’s Center for Victims of Chemical Warfare.[107] One of these was Reza Alishahi, who died in September 1994 after suffering 70% disability when he was gassed during the Wal Fajir offensives of 1987.[108] Another pathetic story is that of Magid Azam, now a 27-year-old medical student, who was a 16-year-old Baseej �ghter gassed with mustard in the Karbala-5 offensive of January 1987 with no apparent permanent effects. In 1995 his health suddenly began to deteriorate so rapidly he required intensive care. His lungs are now so damaged that only a transplant can save his life. He is one of 30,000 Iranian veterans who have received treatment for recurring or delayed reactions to chemical weapons. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Iranian soldiers were exposed to toxic agents during the war.[109]

In the First World War toxic chemical agents accounted for only 4-5% of total casualties. Of 1,296,853 known chemical casualties in that conflict, 90,080 died (7%), 143,613 were badly wounded (11%) and the remaining 1,053,160 (82%) not seriously affected.[110] 25,000 Iranian military dead out of 45,000 chemical casualties gives an incredible chemical lethality rate of 56%, higher than that for land mines. This claim of 25,000 Iranian troops “martyred� is not an exaggeration, but rather a probable misprint.[111] Elimination of an extraneous zero makes the number 2,500, in line with previously released �gures. This would give a chemical lethality rate of 6% per chemical casualty, remarkably close to the World War I general rate, although somewhat higher than individual U.S. or British experience. Further, 45,000-55,000 military chemical casualties out of 1,133,000 total combat casualties yields a 4% casualty total for chemical weapons, again in line with overall World War I experience. 2,500 dead from chemical weapons is only 1% of total Iranian KIA. If 5,000 cited above is correct, about 3%. A representative sample of 400 chemical warfare casualties treated at the Labbati-Nejad Medical Center in Tehran in early 1986 yielded 11 deaths (3%) and 64 (16%) very seriously injured.[112]

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[88] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, pp. 516.

[89] Kenneth R. Timmerman, Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991, pp. 293-94.

[90] G. M. Hammerman et al., Impact of the Introduction of Lethal Gas on the Combat Performance of Defending Troops, Fairfax VA: Data Memory Systems Inc., 1985, Contract No. DNA 001-84-C-0241.

[91] Charles E. Heller, Chemical Warfare in World War I: The American Experience 1917-1918, Leavenworth Papers No. 10, Ft Leavenwoth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1984, pp. 33, 91-92. This represented some 32% of all hospitalized AEF casualties in World War I. Only about 200 were killed in action outright by gas. U.S. troops were ill prepared, poorly equipped and inadequately trained to �ght on the European chemical battle�eld. See Denis Winter, Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War, London: Penguin Books, 1978, p.125.

[92] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 188, n. 23, 513-518.

[93] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 149; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,� NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 28-37.

[94] U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and Their Possible Impact on Health Consequences of the Gulf War. (The “Riegle Report�) citing H Kadivar and S.C. Adams, “Treatment of Chemical and Biological Warfare Injuries: Insights Derived from the 1984 Attack on Majnoon Island,� Military Medicine, April 1991, pp. 171-177.

[95] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Journey to Iran,� pp. 28-37.

[96] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 164.

[97] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam‘s Use of Mustard Gas in War,� Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[98] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 179.

[99] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, pp. 224; Peter Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,â€� NBC Defense and Technology International, June 1986, pp. 32-37.

[100] “Iran Keeps Chemical ‘Options’ Open; Claims to Have Upper I-land,� NBC Defense and Technology International, April 1986, pp. 12-13.

[101] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 193.

[102] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, p. 264, n. 39.

[103] ibid, pp. 516-517.

[104] ibid, p. 389.

[105] “Bis(2-chloroethyl)thioether, C4H8SCI2,â€� www.ch.ic.ac.uk/vchemlib/mol/horrible/War/mustard

[106] “Official Says Germany, U.S. and Britain were Main Suppliers of Chemicals to Iraq,� IRNA, 1 December 1996.

[107] “I18 Iranian Chemically Wounded War Veterans Martyred Since 1991,� IRNA, 17 April 1997.

[108] “Latest Victim of Iraqi Chemical Warfare Against Iran Dies,” IRNA, 27 September 1994.

[109] “Iranians Still Suffering from Saddam’s Use of Mustard Gas in War,� Buffalo News, 23 November 1997.

[110] Ian V. Hogg, Gas, New York: Ballantine Books, 1975, p.136.

[111] This report was taken from the intemet where sometimes an extraneous number appears in figures. Such was the case when another report stated that 9974 Iraqi PoWs had been released in 1996, when the true �gure was 974.

[112] Dunn, “The Chemical War: Iran Revisited – 1986,â€� pp. 32-39.

Drones: The People’s Weapon?

Drones: The People’s Weapon?

The DJI Matrice 600 commercial drone for professional aerial photography. Available for $4,600, a pair of these drones were allegedly used in an assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in August 2018. [Wired]

Last week, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that its military air defense assets had shot down 45 drones in attempted attacks on Khmeimim Air Base, the main Russian military installation in Syria. The frequency of these attacks were increasing since the first one in January, according to Major General Igor Konashenkov. Five drones had been downed in the three days preceding the news conference.

Konashenkov asserted that although the drones appeared technologically primitive, they were actually quite sophisticated, with a range of up to 100 kilometers (60 miles). While the drones were purportedly to be piloted by Syrian rebels from Idlib Provence, the Russians have implied that they required outside assistance to assemble them.

The use of commercial off-the shelf (COTS) or modified off-the-shelf (MOTS) aerial drones by non-state actors for actions ranging from precision bombing attacks on combat troops, to terrorism, to surveillance of law enforcement, appears to be gaining in popularity.

Earlier this month, a pair of commercial drones armed with explosives were used in an alleged assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Daesh fighters in Syria and Iraq have been using drones for reconnaissance and to drop explosives and bombs on opposition forces.

According to Kathy Gilsinan in The Atlantic,

In 2015, Reuters reported that a protester flew “a drone carrying radioactive sand from the Fukushima nuclear disaster onto the prime minister’s office, though the amount of radiation was minimal.� Mexican cartels have used drones to smuggle drugs and, in one instance, to land disabled grenades on a local police chief’s property. Last summer, a drone delivered an active grenade to an ammunition dump in Ukraine, which Kyle Mizokami of Popular Mechanics reported caused a billion dollars’ worth of damage.

Patrick Turner reported for Defense One that a criminal gang employed drones to harass an FBI hostage rescue team observing an unfolding situation outside a large U.S. city in 2017.

The U.S. Defense Department has been aware for some time of the potential effectiveness of drones, particularly the specter of massed drone “swarm� attacks. In turn, the national security community and the defense industry have turned their attention to potential countermeasures.

As Joseph Trevithick reported in The Drive, the Russians have been successful thus far in thwarting drone attacks in Syria using air defense radars, Pantsir-S1 short-range air defense systems, and electronic warfare systems. These attacks have not involved more than a handful of drones at a time, however. The initial Syrian rebel drone attack on Khmeimim Air Base in January 2018 involved 10 drones carrying 10 bomblets each.

The ubiquity of commercial drones also raises the possibility of attacks on non-military targets unprotected by air defense networks. Is it possible to defend every potential target? Perhaps not, but Jospeh Hanacek points out in War on the Rocks that there are ways to counter or mitigate the risk of drone attacks that do not involve sophisticated and expensive defenses. Among his simple suggestions are using shotguns for point defense against small and fragile drones, improving communications among security forces, and complicating the targeting problem for would-be attackers. Perhaps the best defense against drones is merely to avoid overthinking the problem.

Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War (6)

Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War (6)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,� by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed In Action And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

No of�cial Iranian �gures of overall wounded have been released to this author’s knowledge. Major General Rezai in the interview cited above mentioned some 200,000 permanently disabled. For reasons given above, this probably represents all components, not just Pasdaran forces. Given the standard 4:1 wounded-to-killed ratio, Iranian wounded must have been about 752,000. This gives a total battle casualty sum of right at 940,000. A problem is we have no data on Died of Wounds (DoW) as a category. Also the war was one of general chemical release which biases �gures somewhat as the experience of World War I shows.

If the of�cial Iranian �gures are only rigorous KIA (death within one hour and counting 72,754 MIAs as KIAs) then using a “World War I w/gas� planning factor the ratio of wounded-to-killed would be 5.96 indicating about 1,120,480 “wounded.� This is probably high as the blanket Iranian casualty figures for deaths probably include both KIA and DoW.

If we consider the Iranian ï¬�gures to indicate both KIA and DOW the “World War I w/gas” ratio of surviving wounded to KIA and DOW of 4.1 yields 770,800 “surviving wounded.”

The average of these latter two �gures is on the order of 945,440 wounded. This produces a ratio of 5:1. It seems reasonable that this average is closest to the truth.

Another clue to total Iranian wounded comes from the statistics of the Khuzistan Blood Transfusion Center. During the war the center provided 736,284 units of blood and blood products for both combatants and civilian patients in the province. The center itself produced 501,639 of the units.[83] In World War II, 10-12% of wounded were transfused with an average usage of 4.3 units of blood per patient.[84] It is likely the center used the majority of its blood products for combatants. If the 501,639 units it produced itself was so used with the remainder procured for the civilian population, applying World War II standards the total number of wounded transfused would be: 501,639/4.3 = 116,660. This in tum might represent 12% of total wounded. Back calculating gives 116,660/12 * 100 = 972,168. This is very close to the above estimate of 945,000 surviving wounded. It, however, may be high as it would probably include a substantial number who received transfusion, but died of wounds.

One last observation—the Iranians tried to make extensive use of Medevac [medical evacuation] helicopters during the war similar to U.S. Army practice in Viet Nam. In the latter conflict the ratio of KIA and DoW to surviving wounded was 4.16, very close to the “World War I w/gas” planning factor of 4.1.[85] However, the Medevac solution was not completely feasible as it did not suit Iranian climatic and geographic situations. As a result the Iranians built a series of underground clinics immediately behind the front lines which offered the best and most expeditious medical service to their wounded according to Brigadier General Abolqasem Musavi, chancellor of the Iranian Army Medical University. This system allowed speedy evacuation and treatment of wounded even in mass casualty situations.[86]

Given that the Iranian Army suffered on the order of 1,133,000 casualties in the War of Sacred Defense what else does this tell us about the conflict?

First, the average annual “theater� battle casualties would be approximately 28% or 141,000 battle casualties per year (given that the Iranians had about 500,000 troops committed at any one time). This rate is only little over half that of World War I although about 50% higher than that of World War II. As far as U.S. wars are concerned it most resembles that of the U.S. Civil War (24.6%).

The distribution of casualties is also in accordance with modern experience since 1945. The dead (188,000) represent about 17%, severely wounded (200,000) about 18%, and other wounded (745,000) about 65%. This matches closely with T. N. Dupuy’s historically derived distribution of modern war casualties of 20% KIA, 15% severely wounded and 65% other wounded.[87]

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[83] “Kuzistan’s Blood Transfusion Center’s Effectiveness Role in Hygiene and War,� abstract contained in “Abstracts Obtained from Iran on Medical Research Conducted After the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War,� www.chronicillnet.org/PGWS/tuite/IRMED/IRANTOC.html.[Dead link, August 2018]

[84] John Ellis, The Sharp End: The Fighting Man in World War II, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980, p.169.

[85] Trevor N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War, Fairfax, VA: HERO Books, 1990, pp. 48-50.

[86] “Army Medical Department Acquired Expertise,” Iran News, 16 October 1997.

[87] Dupuy, Attrition, pp. 165-167.

Iranian Killed In Action and Died of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War (5)

Iranian Killed In Action and Died of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War (5)

[Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

Killed and Died of Wounds

As early as 1984—only half way through the war—estimates of Iranian casualties were wildly exaggerated as equally as wildly divergent. Figure 2 illustrates this so-called “Thermometer of Death� widely believed in the West.

Of 72,753 currently estimated MIAs, virtually all are probably KIA. When this is added to the of�cial KIA count of 123,230 we arrive at a total of 195,983 fallen.

Another clue for total KIA total comes from the Behest-e Zahra Military Cemetery in Tehran. In this cemetery rest 36,000 fallen from Tehran Province alone.[77] The Iranian Army was (and is) a territorially based and mobilized entity. Depending on population base, the regions and provinces support various numbers and echelons of operational units. For example, the entire 1st Sarollah Corps is mobilized in Region 10 (Tehran) which has the largest population base. Kerman province, which is far less populous, is home to only the 41st Sarollah Division and the Zul�qar Brigade.[78] Given this fact we may postulate that total casualties of all provinces are proportional to their populations. If so, the 36,000 KIA from Tehran Province (about 20% of Iran’s total population) represents about 20% of total KIA. This leads us to the calculation Total KIA = 36,000 * 5 = 180,000. This proportion is also con�rmed by the mass ceremony for 3,000 recovered MIAs in February 1995. Six hundred of these were from Tehran Province, 20% of the total count in this instance.[79] Again, when 1,200 martyrs were buried nationwide in October 1997, 112 (or 17%) were from Tehran Province.

If we do a simple average of the two ï¬�gures we arrive at somewhere in the vicinity of 188,000 KIA. The minimum is too low as all MIAs are not yet accounted for. I use the average rather than the maximum as I feel that probably several thousand of the missing were defectors or collaborators who joined the ranks of the Iraqi sponsored National Liberation Army of Iran. Iran recruited at least 10,000 Iraqi PoWs into their “Badr” Army of Iraqi expatriates to ï¬�ght against Saddam Hussein.

The Moshen Rezui Excursion

In September of 1997, outgoing commander of the Pasdaran, Major General Moshen Rezai, cited some compelling statistics on Iranian casualties in the War of Sacred Defense. Speaking of the IRGC, he claimed some 2,000,000 Pasdaran served in combat over the course of the war. Of these 150,000 were martyred, 200,000 permanently disabled.[80] Taken at face value, these �gures suggest KIA totals far higher than released in 1988. The Pasdaran are cited as taking some 90% more KIA than disclosed at war’s end. If the proportion is the same for the regular army, then it must have suffered some 66,000 KIA, and paramilitary deaths were on the order of 16,000. The total KIA would stand at 232,000. Another question is whether Rezai counted the MIAs, and if so how many were Pasdaran (and Baseej)? If he did and the proportion is constant (69%) then some 23,000 of 33,000 cases recovered or settled were Pasdaran (or Baseej). This in turn boosts the count by at least 11,000 (counting regular army and paramilitary recovered M1As) to about 243,000. As there are at least 39,000 still missing (and presumed dead) the �nal tally would be on the order of 282,000 military and paramilitary dead.

On the other hand Major General Rezai may have been speaking somewhat loosely to exaggerate his component’s contribution. He has been known to exaggerate before. The number of 150,000 KIA matches the sum of the announced dead (123,220) at war’s end plus of�cially announced recovered MIA bodies—27,000 as of June 1997—(remember: 6,000 MIAs have been simply declared dead at family request). 123,220 + 27,000 = 150,220. The remaining estimated 39,000 residual MIAs would bring the total count of military combat dead to 189,000, in line with above estimates.

Possible Clues to Non-Battle Deaths

Another piece of indirect evidence comes from the vast quantities of Iranian equipment captured by Iraqi forces between March and July 1988. These losses included 1,298 tanks, 155 infantry �ghting vehicles, 512 armored personnel carriers, 365 pieces of artillery, 300 anti-aircraft guns, 6,196 mortars, 5,550 recoilless rifles, 8,050 RPG-7s, 60,164 assault rifles, 322 pistols, 501 engineer vehicles, 6,156 radios, 2,054 trucks and light vehicles, 16,863 items of NBC defense equipment and 24,257 caskets.[81] It is the caskets which are of interest.

These were obviously intended for Iranian dead. For an army that popular imagination saw as taking 10,000 dead in a single battle this was a paltry number, In early 1988 Iran had 600,000 troops on the battle front. 24,000 represent only 4% of this number. Interestingly, if this author’s calculation of Iranian KIA at circa 188,000 is correct, annual average war deaths would be roughly 188,000/8 or 23,500, almost the exact number of caskets. However, the Iranians did not know they were actually taking this many dead. They listed only 123,220 KIA at war’s end, not realizing how many “missing� (PoW/MIA) they really had and that over half of these were, in fact, dead. Expected annual war dead under their original figures would have been 123,000/8 = 15,000. This �gure is 40% less than the casket cache total, but probably represented an Iranian planning factor for annual graves registration requirements at the front, but with a 60% hedge?

Sixty percent seems somewhat excessive. 10-25% is a more normal “fudge� factor. It may, however, provide a clue to the rate of Iranian non-battle deaths which would require caskets too. In the latter case this would indicate a non-battle-to- (then known) battle deaths ratio of roughly .6. This would represent something like 74,000 non-battle deaths (accident, disease, etc). Ground truth ratio (with now known MIA dead) would be .39. This is almost identical to U.S. experience in World War II (.36) and does not approach the World War I experience (1.43).[82]

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[77] “36,000 Martyr Commemoration Ceremony Wound Up,” Iran News, 10 May 1997.

[78] Kenneth Katzman, The Warriors of Islam: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994, pp. 86-89.

[79] “Leader, President Attend Funeral of 3,000 Martyrs in Tehran,� IRNA, 19 February 1995.

[80] “Rezai Speaks Out About His New Appointment, IRGC,� Iran News, 13 September 1997.

[81] Anthony H. Cordesman, After the Storm: The Changing Military Balance in the Middle East, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993, p. 404.

[82] Trevor N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War, Fairfax, VA: HERO Books, 1990, p. 51.

The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (4)

The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (4)

Helmets from dead Iranian soldiers. [Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

It is the opinion of this author that, aside from the 400 expatriates Iraq admitted, that the “5,000â€� Iranian PoW and “20,000 PoW/MIA” still unaccounted for [as of December 1997] will be shown to be KIA (dead on the battleï¬�eld or died in captivity) as recovery operations proceed (20 more were delivered to Iran in June 1997 and another 15 in August). The alternate possibility is that some or most of these personnel now serve in the NLA or other Iraqi supported resistance groups and their identities and existence are concealed for this reason. There is no real evidence that such a large number of living Iranian PoWs are still being held by Iraq. Another chilling possibility recently raised is that some Iranian POWs may have disappeared into the Iraqi biological weapons programs as human guinea pigs.â€�[73]

[Authors note: As this article went to press I uncovered a small piece of information from 1988. In reference to some of the Iranian MIAs being defectors to the Iraqi-sponsored NLA, the Iranians estimated that as many as 3,000 of their troops may have defected while PoWs in Iraq. They have never mentioned this since. Also 136 Iranian soldiers were arrested and shot for desertion.]

The continued Iranian insistence on 5,000 possible remaining PoWs may also be related to the 6,000 missing declared dead at family request without recovery of a body. In an interesting turn to usual practice, the families seem to have given up hope before the government has lost interest.

Further complicating the matter, Iran seems to have lost control of its accounting procedures. Originally listing 60,711 “missing� in 1988, this increased to 72,753 estimated MIA by 1995. If we combine the 39,048 released PoWs with 72,753 estimated MIA, Iran actually had some 111,801 PoW/MIA during the war or 84% more than they �rst thought. If there are 5,000 Iranian PoWs still held by Iraq then the total would be 116,801 or 92% higher than estimated.

The answer to this poor accounting probably lies in the overall organization for combat employed by Iranian forces during the war. In addition to the regular army and Pasdaran, Iran employed a third component called the Baseej. The Baseej al Mostafazim (Mobilization of the Oppressed) was founded as a wartime expedient to augment the IRGC and formally placed under their control in January 1981. Baseej formations comprised 300-man battalions divided into 100-man companies with 22-man platoons armed with light weapons.[74] Their functions were IRGC reinforcement in the war. Baseej units fought extensively in the War of Sacred Defense (1980-88). However, their availability was only episodic as their tour of duty was normally only three months, usually from January to March. At this time most Baseej were rural peasants, often very young (some only 10) or very old and illiterate, who had to return for spring planting and fall harvests. As a result their training was rudimentary, often as little as two weeks of small arms and hand grenade practice. It was the Baseej who were given plastic keys to hang around their necks with the promise these would unlock the gates of paradise if they were killed in action.[75] As many as two million Baseej forces saw combat in the imposed war with Iraq.[76]

When the Iranian government offered its original tally of dead and missing in 1988 the Baseej losses were not mentioned separately and assumed to fall under the category of Pasdaran. It was only after the war when most (if not all) Iranian PoWs had been released and the magnitude of the MIA issue became evident that Iran realized it had suffered far more losses than originally thought. It is likely the degree of Baseej unit administration and accountability was far below regular army or established Pasdaran formations. Given the episodic nature of their participation, widespread personnel illiteracy and their poor level of training (and the fact they were used as temporary human “�ll� for Pasdaran formations), it is unlikely that unit returns were maintained in anything like a proper or organized manner.

This author believes that the bulk of the additional true MIAs claimed since the end of the war are represented by primarily Baseej fallen who were simply not originally accounted for in established Pasdaran or regular army unit returns. Baseej units made up to 40% of Iranian force strength during the war. The 73,000 now-claimed missing (and presumed dead) of the war represent 38% of the total known and presumed combat dead (circa 188,000—see below). This is too close to be accidental.

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[73] “The World’s Deadliest Woman?â€� MSNBC News, November 1997.

[74] Anthony H. Cordesman, The Iran-Iraq War and Western Security 1984-87, London: Jane’s Publishing Ltd, 1987, p. 103.

[75] Kenneth Katzman, The Warriors of Islam: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994, p. 67, 93.

[76] “Plans for 20 Million Strong Army by 2025,” Iran News, 25 September 1997.

Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (3)

Iranian Prisoners Of War From The Iran-Iraq War (3)

Iranian Prisoners of War. [Conflict Iran]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

Actual Numbers of PoWs and Missing in Action

By January 1982 Iran held some 28,423 Iraqi PoWs to Iraq’s 5,285 Iranian captives.[29] In early 1984 Iran held 50,000 Iraqis to Iraq’s 7,300 Iranian PoWs.[30] In August 1986 Iran claimed to hold some 52,000 Iraqi PoWs.[31] Just before the cease-�re in 1988 the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated 49,285 Iraqi PoWs in �fteen Iranian camps and 12,747 Iranians in ten Iraqi camps.[32]

On 9 August 1988 the ICRC count was 50,182 Iraqi PoWs held in Iran to 13,526 Iranians in Iraqi captivity.[33] Iran had at least 8,500 captured in the �nal Iraqi offensives oi July 1988 and another 700 on 23 August 1988 immediately after the cease-�re went into effect.[34] PoW release had begun long before the war ended. In August 1986 Iran had released 200 Iraqi PoWs and had unilaterally released some 620-650 previously.[35] By 18 October 1988 Iran and Iraq had agreed to begin PoW exchanges. Beginning 30 October 1988 each side exchanged 25 PoWs. Eight of the 25 Iranians were civilian internees captured early in the war.[36]

On 10 November Iran and Iraq agreed again to the exchange of 1,118 Iraqi and 411 Iranian PoWs who were badly wounded or ill.[37] However, after 156 Iraqis and only 57 Iranians had been released the exchange broke down by 27 November over 63 Iraqis who refused repatriation.[38] In January 1989 Iran released 131 sick and wounded Iraqis and Iraq reciprocated by releasing 124 Iranians.[39] In February Iran offered to release another 260 ill Iraqi PoWs. One hundred �fty-eight were released, but 27 refused to return.[40] In March 1989 the more or less of�cial count of PoWs was 50,000 Iraqi to 18,902 Iranians.[41] Iran, on 10 April, released 70 disabled and sick Iraqi PoWs and on 23 May a further 49 plus 15 other PoWs of varied nationalities who fought for Iraq.[42] No further activity occurred until December when Iran proposed more sick and disabled PoWs be exchanged and suggested that a substantial number of Egyptian nationals were among the PoWs it held.[43] Eventually on 14 March 1990 Iran released twenty Egyptians captured �ghting for Iraq.[44]

Post-Desert Storm PoW Exchanges

It was not until after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait that the PoW issue came alive again. On 15 August 1990 Saddam Hussein offered to release all Iranian PoWs. He further allowed 17,000 Iranian nationals in Kuwait to return home. By 23 August PoW exchanges were running at 6,000 a day and some 21,000 Iraqi and Iranian PoWs had been repatriated.[45] By 4 September 23,798 Iranian and 24,250 Iraqis had been released.[46] On 16 November the two countries agreed to another exchange of 100 PoWs a day and a group of200 Iraqis was released on 4 December, another group of 200 on 10 December 1990.[47] There is no record of Iranian PoW releases by Iraq in this time period. However, a total of 39,043 Iranian PoWs were eventually released.[48]

On 1 June 1991 Iran claimed Iraq was still holding at least 5,000 Iranian PoWs, an assertion Iraq denied. When Iran repeated the claim in October, Iraq admitted it had 400 who refused repatriation.[49] During the 1991-92 time frame another 64 Iranian soldiers became PoWs during �ghting with the NLA [National Liberation Army of Iran] and Kurdish groups supported by Iraq.[50]

Then in early 1991 some 5,000 Iraqi soldiers crossed into Iran to evade coalition forces in the Desert Storm War. Beginning in November 1992 Iran released 400, followed by releases of 1,000 (April 1993), 400 (May 1993), 450 (June 1993) and 459 (July 1993). Eventually 4,115 were released in fourteen intervals with the last known release bringing the total to 4,574.[51] At the same time Iran released 100 Iraqi PoWs from the War of Sacred Defense in May 1993.[52]

At that time the ICRC claimed to have had overseen the repatriation of over 80,000 PoWs held by both Iran and Iraq.[53] This �gure is not borne out by the published numbers. At this time the maximum number of Iranian and Iraqi PoWs released from both the Iran-Iraq and Desert Storm wars stood at about 92,267, a discrepancy of 12,000. Some of the 17,000 repatriated civilian internees of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait may have been counted. The ICRC still had some 19,000 Iraqis and 4,000 Iranians on its books as active PoWs.[54]

By July 1992 the only exchanges were those of 101 MIA bodies.[55] In December 1993 Iran complained Iraq was still holding 8,000 Iranian PoWs. The proof was that 26 Iranian civilian internees from the war had escaped and made it back to Iran that same month.[56]

In January 1994 Iran conceded that many of the personnel it listed as PoWs may have been KIA/MIA.[57] Then in July 1994 Iran accused Iraq of holding 16,000 Iranian PoWs.[58] According to the Red Cross Iran continued to hold as many as 19,000 Iraqi PoWs as of 1994.[59] In 1994 the ICRC calculated 4,168 con�rmed Iranian PoWs still in Iraq and some 475 other unaccounted for Iranian PoWs.[60]

In August 1995 the Iraqis complained Iran still held 7,000 of their PoWs.[61] That same month Iran released 100 PoWs. The ICRC claimed at that time it had overseen the repatriation of 82,000 of 100,000 known PoWs of the war.[62] MIA exchanges continued with Iraq returning 144 dead and Iran 200 in June 1996.[63] Since then Iran released 150 of Iraqi PoWs as late as 28 October and 724 on 27 December 1996 making a total of 974 that year.[64] Iraq insisted there were still 20,000 Iraqis captive in Iran.[65]

“Not even a single Iranian PoW has been released by the Iraqi regime in the past �ve years.�

In January 1997 the two nations exchanged 60 Iranian and 70 Iraqi MIA remains, but Iraq again insisted Iran held 17,000 of its PoWs.[66] In August 1997 Saddam Hussein claimed Iran still held 20,000 (1997 ICRC �gures about 13,000) Iraqi PoWs. He also claimed that all 39,000 Iranian PoWs held by Iraq had been freed except for a pilot downed during the early part of the war who was still being held as proof Iran started the whole thing.[67] The Iranians countered that 5,000 Iraqi PoWs had requested and been granted asylum in Iran which more or less agrees with 1994 ICRC �gures for total remaining Iraqi PoWs (19,000-5,000 = 14,000).[68] In September 1997 47 more Iraqi PoWs were released.[69] In total Iran has released some 48,650 Iraqi PoWs.[70] In November 1997 Iran approved release of another 500 Iraqi PoWs.[71]

Speaking in September 1997 Brigadier General Abdullah Naja�, chairman of the Iranian PoW commission, stated that “not even a single Iranian PoW has been released by the Iraqi regime in the past �ve years.�[72] This suggests that some may have been released as late as 1992, but this author can �nd no record of this. The cold fact remains that since 1990 (or 1992 at the latest), no known living Iranian PoW has been recovered. 27,000 remains of MIAs have with another 39,000 estimated. A chronology of this confusing and somewhat contradictory chain of events is given below.

This author’s �gures (admittedly incomplete) indicate the release of 92,267 PoWs (plus 547 more Iraqis as of November 1997) by both sides resulting from the Iran-Iraq and Desert Storm conflicts. If ICRC �gures for “PoWs� (which seems to include PoWs and CIs from both conflicts) are correct 18,000 are still unreleased. Their own �gures list 13,000 Iraqis and 5,000 Iranians still unreleased which makes up the difference.

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[29] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 104,

[30] Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict, London: Paladin Books, 1990, p. 106.

[31] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, p. 266, n. 58.

[32] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, p. 398.

[33] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO: For Your Eyes Only, No. 195, 15 August 1988, p. 195-4.

[34] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 195, 15 August 1988, p. 195-4; “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 195, 12 September 1988, p. 197-3.

[35] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modem War Volume II, p. 266, n. 58.

[36] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 201, 7 November 1988, p, 201-4.

[37] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 202, 21 November 1988, p, 202-6,

[38] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 203, 5 December 1988, p. 203-3.

[39] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 206, 6 February 1989, p. 206-3,

[40] “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 207, 20 February 1989, p. 207-5; “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 208, 6 March 1989, p, 208-3,

[41] “Persian Gulf War�, FYEO, NO. 209, 20 March 1989, p, 209-3,

[42] “Persian Gulf War Aftermath,â€� FYEO, NO. 211, 17 April 1989, p. 211-3; “Persian Gulf War, FYEO, NO. 214, 29 May 1989, p. 214-5; “Persian Gulf War Aftermath,” FYEO, NO. 215, 12 June 1989, p. 215-9.

[43] “Persian Gulf“, FYEO, NO. 229, 25 December 1989, p. 229-4. The reports indicated 13,000-20,000 Egyptians held, but this �gure seems incredible.

[44] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, N0. 236, 2 April 1990, p. 236-4,

[45] “Persian Gulf Crisis,� FYEO, No. 246, 20 August 1990, p. 246-3; “Persian Gulf Crisis,� FYEO, N0. 247, 3 September 1990, p. 247-1.

[46] “Persian Gulf Crisis,� FYEO, No. 248, 17 September 1990, p. 248-1.

[47] “Persian Gulf Crisis,” FYEO, No. 253, 26 November 1990, p. 253-2; “Persian Gulf Crisis,â€� FYEO, N0. 254, 10 December 1990, p. 254-1, 254-2; “Persian Gulf Crisis,â€� FYEO, No. 255, 24 December 1990, p. 255-1.

[48] “Iran Calls on Iraq to Release Prisoners of War,” Iran News, 18 August 1997.

[49] “War in the Gulf: Chronology of Events,” FYEO, No, 267, 10 June 1991, p. 267-2; “War in the Gulf: Chronology of Events,â€� FYEO, No. 277, 28 October 1991, p. 277-4.

[50] “Iran and Iraq,” International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) Annual Report 1996, 1 June 1997.

[51] “1,000 Iraqi Military Men to Return to Iraq,â€� 1, 17 February 1993; “Iran Releases More Iraqi PoWs,” IRNA, 22 April 1993; “Iran Frees Another Group of Iraqi Army Personnel,â€� IRNA, 19 May 1993; “450 Iraqi Military Men to Return Home Tomorrow,” IRNA, 22 June 1993; “Iran to Set Free 459 Iraqis Tomorrow,â€� IRNA, 13 July 1993.

[52] “Iran to Release More Iraqi PoWs,� IRNA, 26 May 1993.

[53] “Iran-Iraq Conflict: Repatriation Process May Resume,� ICRC Press Release, 96/40, 28 December 1996,

[54] “Aftermath of the Iran/Iraq War,� ICRC Annual Report 1994, 30 May 1995

[55] “Gulf War Aftermath: Chronology of Events,� FYEO, No. 297, 3 August 1992, p. 297-3.

[56] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No, 333, 20 December 1993, p. 333-3: “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No. 324, 10 January 1994, p. 324-3.

[57] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No. 335, 24 January 1994, p. 335-3.

[58] “Persian Gulf,” FYEO, No. 348, 25 July 1994, p. 348-21

[59] “Aftermath of the Iran/Iraq War,� ICRC Annual Report 1994, 30 May 1995

[60] “Aftermath of the Iran/Iraq War,� ICRC Annual Report 1994, 30 May 1995

[61] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No. 376, 21 August 1995, p. 376-41

[62] “Iran: 100 Iraqi Prisoners of War Set Free,� ICRC News 34, 23 August 1995.

[63] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No. 399, 8 July 1996, p. 399-4.

[64] “Iran Releases 150 Iraqi PoWs,â€� Compass Middle East News Wire, 28 October 1996; “General Najaï¬�: Iran Continues to Release Remaining PoWs,” Tehran Times, 13 March 1997; “724 Iraqi Prisoners of War Freed Unilaterally,â€� Iran Review, No 2 (January 1997).

[65] “Persian Gulf,” FYEO, No. 412, 6 January 1997, p. 412-4.

[66] “Persian Gulf,� FYEO, No. 413, 20 January 1997, p. 413-3.

[67] “Iraq – Saddam Hits at Iran Over Jets, PoWs,â€� USNI Daily Defense News Capsules, 8 August 1997.

[68] “Issue of Iranian PoWs Should Be Publicized More,� IRNA, 18 August 1997.

[69] “Iran Releases More Iraqi PoWs Unilaterally,� IRNA, 25 September 1997.

[70] “Iran Calls on Iraq to Release Prisoners of War,� Iran News, 18 August 1997.

[71] “Iran to Unilaterally Release 500 Iraqi PoWs,” IRNA, 26 November 1997; “Leader Approves Release of Iraqi PoWs,â€� IRNA, 26 November 1997.

[72] “Iran Releases More Iraqi PoWs Unilaterally,� IRNA, 25 September 1997.

Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War (2)

Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War (2)

Shalmjah border, February 2010. An operation to repatriate the mortal remains of Iranian soldiers killed during the Iran-Iraq War is carried out under the aegis of the ICRC. [CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / M. Greub]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In Action In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

Iranian Missing in Action: Wanted Dead or Alive

By 1995 Iran had conducted seventeen dedicated MIA [missing in action] retrieval operations from wartime battle�elds. Approximately 80% of the MIAs are believed to lie in Iraqi territory. In that year Iran proposed a joint Iranian-Iraqi accord to retrieve the missing of both sides.[18] Brigadier General Mir Feisel Baqerzadeh and IRGC Brigadier General Behahim Safaie head the Special Commission for MIA Retrieval. Iran claimed to have recovered or settled some 21,000 cases by early 1995. In that time 2,505 MIAs had been retrieved by joint search operations in Iraq and another 12,638 in Iranian territory, the latter representing 85% of those estimated missing in Iranian held ground. Back calculating these �gures indicates total Iranian missing was now regarded as 72,753, up 20% from the original �gure of 60,711. By October 1996 the count was 24,000 retrieved.[19] By June of 1997 the number of MIA cases resolved had risen to 33,000 including 6,000 death certificates issued at family request for individuals of whom no trace had ever been found.[20] As of September 1997 the total number of MIA bodies recovered stood at over 37,000 according to Brigadier General Baqerzadeh.[21] “Martyr� (i.e. killed in action) status entitles the family to a $24,000 lump sum death benefit as well as a $280 monthly pension with provision for $56 a month for each dependent child from the Foundation for the Martyrs,[22]

The rate of actual forensic identification of the remains is unknown. One source mentions a positive identification of some 900. The standard practice seems to be determination of the operation in which they were martyred and the provincial origins of units in that engagement. Wartime operations which have yielded large numbers of MIA remains are Beit al-Moqqadas-4, Kheiber, Karbala-4, Karbala-5, Karbala-6, Karbala-8, Karbala-10, Ramazan, Badr, Kheiber, Muslim Ibn-e Aqil, Wal Fajir Preliminary Operation, Wal Fajir-1, Wal Fajir-2, Wal Fajir-6, Wal Fajir-8, Fath-5, and the Iraqi attacks on Majnoon and Shalamech, The retrieval operations are often dangerous and occur in former mine�elds. As of 1995 eleven IRGC personnel had been killed and fourteen seriously wounded in MIA retrieval operations. Individual military units often recover their own MIAs. In a speech at Gurgan, Ali Mirtaheri, head of the committee in charge of search teams for MIAs of the 27th Huzrat-e Rasul Pasdaran Infantry Division, stated in November 1997 that divisional teams had recovered 1,610 MIA bodies. Forty-two team members from the division have been killed and another eighty maimed in the operations (probably from leftover mines).[23]

Due to the number of cases and the vigorous retrieval operations MIA funerals tend to be mass affairs. Burials in Tehran alone tell the story. In October 1993 208 were buried in Tehran and 360 in other locations. In October 1994 1,000 martyrs were buried in Tehran; in April 1995 another 600 of 3,000 just recovered MIAs and the following month 405 more in Mashad; in October 1995 600 were interred; 750 in October 1996; 1,000 more in January 1997; in July 1997 another 2,000 including 400 from Tehran Province were interred nationwide; in September 1997 200 of 1,233 interred nationwide, including 47 in Qazvin, 34 in Khuzistan, 5 in Shustar and 5 in Sistan-Baluchistan. Of these only 118 were unknowns.[24] Unrecovered Iranian MIAs are carried as active soldiers on their unit personnel rolls with their current status listed simply as “still at the front.� Iran has also recovered Iraqi MIAs, returning up to 400 bodies at a time in a mutual exchange program usually accomplished at the Khosrawi border station in Kermanshah Province.[25] A total of 31,000 Iraqi bodies have been so returned compared to 2,500 Iranian dead returned by Iraq as of January 1997.[26] In January 1997, in conjunction with the Iraqi return of the remains of sixty Iranian MIAs of the Wal Fajir Preliminary Operation, Brigadier General Mir Feisel Baqerzadeh stated that Iran was willing to assume all search responsibilities and associated costs for both Iraqi and Iranian MIAs on Iraqi territory should Iraq not wish to continue recovery operations.[27] In May 1997 Brigadier General Mohammed Balar, spokesman for the Commission for Iranian PoWs, called on international organizations to pressure Iraq to clarify the status of 20,000 Iranian MIAs.[28]

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[18] “Iran Proposes Joint Committee to Decide Fate of PoWs,� Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), 18 October 1993.

[19] “The Remains of 750 Iranian Soldiers…” Al Akhbar Muslim World News, 15 October 1996.

[20] “Remains of Twenty Martyrs of Imposed War Handed Over to Iran,” IRNA, 1 June 1997.

[21] “Funeral Service to be Held Nationwide for 1,233 War Martyrs,� IRNA, 1 October 1997.

[22] Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict, London: Paladin Books, 1990, p. 54.

[23] “37,000 Bodies of Martyrs Discovered in Seven Years,� IRNA, 10 November 1997.

[24] “Funeral Procession War Martyrs,â€� IRNA, 7 July 1997; “The Remains of 750 Iranian Soldiers…â€�, Al Akhbar Muslim World News, 15 October 1996; “Funeral Service to be Held Nationwide for 1,233 War Martyrs,” IRNA, 1 October 1997; “Funeral Service for War Martyrs,” Iran Daily, 7 October 1997.

[25] “3,000 Bodies of Martyrs Found on Former Iran-Iraq Battleï¬�elds,â€� IRNA, 15 February 1995; “Funeral Service Held for 405 Martyrs in Mashad,” IRNA, 6 March 1995; “Cases of Over 21,000 MIA’s Settled So Far, IRNA, 19 February 1995; “568 More Bodies of Iran’s MIAs Uncovered,â€� IRNA, 17 October 1993; “Paper on PoW Issues,” IRNA, 31 May 1993; “IRGC Ofï¬�cial: Investigations Continue to Find Our Martyrs’ Bodies,” IRNA, 20 February 1995; “Bodies of 65 Martyrs of Iraq-Imposed War Delivered to Iran,” IRNA, 13 August 1993; “Leader Attends Funeral for 600 Martys,â€� Iran News, 28 October 1995; “Leader Attends Funeral Service for 1,000 Martyrs,â€� Iran News, 20 October 1997; “War: MIAs Search Operation for MIAs Extended Another Year,â€� IRNA, 23 October 1995.

[26] “Funeral Ceremony for 1,000 Soldiers Killed in War Against Iraq,� Iran Weekly Press Digest, 21-31 January 1997.

[27] “Bodies of Sixty Martyrs Handed Over to Iran,� IRNA, 7 January 1997.

[28] “Iran Calls in International Clout to Find 20,000 PoWs,� Iran News, 20 May 1997.

Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal (1)

Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal (1)

The Martyrs Memorial to the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) in Imam Khomeini Square, Hamadan, Iran. [KiwiOutThere]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing� Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War was the longest sustained conventional war of the 20th Century. Lasting from 22 September 1980 to 20 August 1988, the seven years, ten months, and twenty-nine days of this conflict are some of the least understood in modem military history. The War of Sacred Defense to the Iranians and War of Second Qadissiya to Iraqis is the true “forgotten warâ€� of our times. Seemingly never ending combat on a scale not witnessed since World War I and World War II was the norm. Casualties were popularly held to be enormous and, coupled with the lack of battleï¬�eld resolution year after year, led to frequent comparisons with the Western Front of World War I. Despite the fact that Iran had been the victim of naked Iraqi aggression, it was the Iraqis who were viewed as the “good guys” and actively supported by most nations in the world as well as the world press.

Studying the Iran-Iraq War is beset with difficulties. Much of the reporting done on the war was conducted in a slipshod manner. Both Iraq and Iran tended to exaggerate each other’s losses. As oftentimes Iraqi claims were the only source, accounts of Iranian losses became exaggerated. The data is highly fragmentary, often contradictory, usually vague in particulars, and often suspect as a whole. It defies complete reconciliation or adjudication in a quantitative sense as will be evident below.

There are few stand-alone good sources for the Iran-Iraq War in English. One of the �rst, and best, is Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War (1988). O’Ballance was a dedicated and knowledgeable military reporter who had covered many conflicts throughout the world. Unfortunately his book ends with the Karbala-9 offensive of April 1987. Another good reference is Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (1990). Hiro too is a careful journalist who specializes in South Asian affairs. Finally, there is Anthony Cordesman and Abraham Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War Volume III: The Iran-Iraq War (1990). This is the most comprehensive treatment of the conflict from a military standpoint and tends to be the “standard� reference. Finally there are Iranian sources, most notably articles appearing since the war in the Tehran Times, Iran News, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and others.

This paper will approach the subject of losses in the conflict from the Iranian perspective. This is for two reasons. First, too often during the war Iraqi claims and �gures were uncritically accepted out of prejudice against Iran. Secondly, since the War the Iranians have been more forthcoming about details of the conflict and though not providing direct �gures, have released related quantified data that allows us to extrapolate better estimates. The �rst installment of this paper examines the evidence for total Iranian war casualties being far lower than popularly believed. It will also analyze this data to establish overall killed-to-wounded ratios, MIA and PoW issues, and the effectiveness of chemical warfare in the conflict. Later installments will analyze selected Iranian operations during the war to establish data such as average loss rate per day, mean length of engagements, advance rates, dispersion factors, casualty thresholds affecting breakpoint and other issues.

Casualties as Reported and Estimated

Too often incorrect formulae were applied to calculate casualties or the killed-to-wounded ratio. The standard belief was that Iran suffered two wounded for every killed—a ratio not seen since the ancient world. Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy established that the average distribution of killed-to-wounded in 20th Century warfare is on the order of 1:4 and in fact this relationship may be as old as the year 1700.[1] In Operation Peace for Galilee of 1982 the Israeli ratio of killed-to-wounded was on the order of 1:6.5 while the Syrian was 1:3.56.[2] At the same time in the Falklands, U.K. casualty ratio was 1:3. For Argentine ground forces it was 1:4.85.[3] Also it was assumed that Iran must have suffered 3-4 times the casualties of Iraqi forces in many given engagements on the basis of no good evidence this author can �nd.

Typical Western estimates of Iranian losses in the war are given below.[4]

The lowest estimate of Iranian KIA was from the Pentagon which estimated the killed (military and civilian) at 262,000.[5]

At the end of 1980 the Iraqis claimed 4,500 Iranian KIA and 11,500 WIA.[6] Iraqi claims as of 22 September 1981 were 41,779 Iranian KIA[7] By the end of August 1981 other estimates placed it as 14,000-18,000 KIA and some 26,000-30,000 WIA.[8] Alternate estimates placed this at 14,000 KIA and 28,000 WIA,[9] Still others claimed 38,000 KIA.[10] During the ï¬�rst half of 1982 estimate was 90,000 Iranians killed.[11] Iran’s casualties in its 1984 offensives resulted in 30,000-50,000 more KIA.[12] In mid-1984 Iran’s KIA were 180,000-500,000 and WIA 500,000-825,000.[13] By 23 March 1985, Iranian KIA may have been 650,000 with 490,000 “seriouslyâ€� wounded.[14] In September 1986 the count of Iranian dead was 240,000.[15] By April 1987 Iran had 600,000-700,000 KIA and twice that number wounded.[16] Iraq claimed 800,000 total Iranian KIA at the time of the cease-ï¬�re.[17] Figure 1 graphically depicts this reporting.

Of�cial Iranian statistics released on 19 September 1988 immediately after the cease �re listed the following casualty �gures:

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[1] Trevor N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War, Fairfax, VA: HERO Books, 1990.

[2] Richard Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: The Israeli PLO War in Lebanon, New York: Hill and Wang, 1984. pp. 235-236.

[3] Martin Middlebrook, Task Force: The Falklands War, 1982, Revised Edition; London: Penguin Books, 1987, pp. 382-385; Martin Middlebrook, The Fight for the Malvinas, London: Penguin Books, 1990, pp. 283-284. The low British ratio in the Falklands is a result of many ground forces being killed in mass while still aboard the Sir Galahad. This deflates the ratio vis a vis that actually experienced in ground combat. The shipborne dead should more properly be considered naval casualties.

[4] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, p. 3.

[5] Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict, London: Paladin Books, 1990, p. 4.

[6] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 144, n. 2.

[7] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 275, n. 26.

[8] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 120.

[9] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 74.

[10] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 54.

[11] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 88.

[12] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 198.

[13] Ibid, p. 434, Figure 12.3.

[14] Ibid, p. 215, n. 18.

[15] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 175.

[16] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p, 261.

[17] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 250.

Counting Holes in Tanks in Tunisia

Counting Holes in Tanks in Tunisia

M4A1 Sherman destroyed in combat in Tunisia, 1943.

[NOTE: This piece was originally posted on 23 August 2016]

A few years ago, I came across a student battle analysis exercise prepared by the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute on the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in February 1943. At the time, I noted the diagram below (click for larger version), which showed the locations of U.S. tanks knocked out during a counterattack conducted by Combat Command C (CCC) of the U.S. 1st Armored Division against elements of the German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions near the village of Sidi Bou Zid on 15 February 1943. Without reconnaissance and in the teeth of enemy air superiority, the inexperienced CCC attacked directly into a classic German tank ambush. CCC’s drive on Sidi Bou Zid was halted by a screen of German anti-tank guns, while elements of the two panzer divisions attacked the Americans on both flanks. By the time CCC withdrew several hours later, it had lost 46 of 52 M4 Sherman medium tanks, along with 15 officers and 298 men killed, captured, or missing.

Sidi Bou Zid00During a recent conversation with my colleague, Chris Lawrence, I recalled the diagram and became curious where it had originated. It identified the location of each destroyed tank, which company it belonged to, and what type of enemy weapon apparently destroyed it; significant battlefield features; and the general locations and movements of the enemy forces. What it revealed was significant. None of CCC’s M4 tanks were disabled or destroyed by a penetration of their frontal armor. Only one was hit by a German 88mm round from either the anti-tank guns or from the handful of available Panzer Mk. VI Tigers. All of the rest were hit with 50mm rounds from Panzer Mk. IIIs, which constituted most of the German force, or by 75mm rounds from Mk. IV’s. The Americans were not defeated by better German tanks. The M4 was superior to the Mk. III and equal to the Mk. IV; the dreaded 88mm anti-tank guns and Tiger tanks played little role in the destruction. The Americans had succumbed to superior German tactics and their own errors.

Counting dead tanks and analyzing their cause of death would have been an undertaking conducted by military operations researchers, at least in the early days of the profession. As Chris pointed out however, the Kasserine battle took place before the inception of operations research in the U.S. Army.

After a bit of digging online, I still have not been able to establish paternity of the diagram, but I think it was created as part of a battlefield survey conducted by the headquarters staff of either the U.S. 1st Armored Division, or one of its subordinate combat commands. The only reference I can find for it is as part of a historical report compiled by Brigadier General Paul Robinett, submitted to support the preparation of Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West by George F. Howe, the U.S. Army Center of Military History’s (CMH) official history volume on U.S. Army operations in North Africa, published in 1956. Robinett was the commander of Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, but did not participate in the engagement at Sidi Bou Zid. His report is excerpted in a set of readings (pp. 103-120) provided as background material for a Kasserine Pass staff ride prepared by CMH. (Curiously, the account of the 15 February engagement at Sidi Bou Zid in Northwest Africa [pp. 419-422] does not reference Robinett’s study.)

Robinett’s report appeared to include an annotated copy of a topographical map labeled “approximate location of destroyed U.S. tanks (as surveyed three weeks later).� This suggests that the battlefield was surveyed in late March 1943, after U.S. forces had defeated the Germans and regained control of the area.

Sidi Bou Zid02The report also included a version of the schematic diagram later reproduced by CMH. The notes on the map seem to indicate that the survey was the work of staff officers, perhaps at Robinett’s direction, possibly as part of an after-action report.

Sidi Bou Zid03If anyone knows more about the origins of this bit of battlefield archaeology, I would love to know more about it. As far as I know, this assessment was unique, at least in the U.S. Army in World War II.

Is The End Of Stealth Neigh?

Is The End Of Stealth Neigh?

Lockheed F-35 Lightning II. [Creative Commons]

Michael Peck made an interesting catch over at The National Interest. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting input on potentially disruptive technologies for future warfare. With regard to air warfare, the solicitation baldy states, “Platform stealth may be approaching physical limits.� This led Peck to ask “Did the Pentagon just admit that stealth technology may not work anymore?�

A couple of years ago, a media report that the Chinese had claimed a technological breakthrough in stealth-busting quantum radar capabilities led me to muse about the possible repercussions on U.S. military capabilities. This was during the height of the technology-rooted Third Offset Strategy mania. It seemed to me at the time that concentrating on technological solutions to the U.S.’s strategic challenges might not be the wisest course of action.

The notion that stealth might be a wasting asset seemed somewhat far-fetched when I wrote that, but it appears to have become a much more serious concern. As the DARPA solicitation states, “Our acquisition system is finding it difficult to respond on relevant timescales to adversary progress, which has made the search for next generation capabilities at once more urgent and more futile.� (p. 5)

Er, yikes.



Trevor N. Dupuy (1916-1995) and General William E. DePuy (1919-1992)

I first became acquainted with Trevor Dupuy and his work after seeing an advertisement for his book Numbers, Prediction & War in Simulation Publications, Inc.’s (SPI) Strategy & Tactics war gaming magazine way back in the late 1970s. Although Dupuy was already a prolific military historian, this book brought him to the attention of an audience outside of the insular world of the U.S. government military operations research and analysis community.

Ever since, however, Trevor Dupuy has been occasionally been confused with one of his contemporaries, U.S. Army General William E. DePuy. DePuy was notable in his own right, primarily as the first commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) from 1973 to 1977, and as one of the driving intellectual forces behind the effort to reorient the U.S. Army back to conventional warfare following the Vietnam War.

The two men had a great deal in common. They were born within three years of one another and both served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Both possessed an analytical bent and each made significant contributions to institutional and public debates about combat and warfare in the late 20th century. Given that they tilled the same topical fields at about the same time, it does not seem too odd that they were mistaken for each other.

Perhaps the most enduring link between the two men has been a shared name, though they spelled and pronounced it differently. The surname Dupuy is of medieval French origin and has been traced back to LePuy, France, in the province of Languedoc. It has several variant spellings, including DePuy and Dupuis. The traditional French pronunciation is “do-PWEE.� This is how Trevor Dupuy said his name.

However, following French immigration to North America beginning in the 17th century, the name evolved an anglicized spelling, DePuy (or sometimes Depew), and pronunciation, “deh-PEW.� This is the way General DePuy said it.

It is this pronunciation difference in conversation that has tipped me off personally to the occasional confusion in identities. Though rare these days, it still occurs. While this is a historical footnote, it still seems worth gently noting that Trevor Dupuy and William DePuy were two different people.

TDI Friday Read: Lethality, Dispersion, And Mass On Future Battlefields

TDI Friday Read: Lethality, Dispersion, And Mass On Future Battlefields

Armies have historically responded to the increasing lethality of weapons by dispersing mass in frontage and depth on the battlefield. Will combat see a new period of adjustment over the next 50 years like the previous half-century, where dispersion continues to shift in direct proportion to increased weapon range and precision, or will there be a significant change in the character of warfare?

One point of departure for such an inquiry could be the work of TDI President Chris Lawrence, who looked into the nature of historical rates of dispersion in combat from 1600 to 1991.

The Effects Of Dispersion On Combat

As he explained,

I am focusing on this because l really want to come up with some means of measuring the effects of a “revolution in warfare.� The last 400 years of human history have given us more revolutionary inventions impacting war than we can reasonably expect to see in the next 100 years. In particular, I would like to measure the impact of increased weapon accuracy, improved intelligence, and improved C2 on combat.

His tentative conclusions were:

  1. Dispersion has been relatively constant and driven by factors other than �repower from 1600-1815.
  2. Since the Napoleonic Wars, units have increasingly dispersed (found ways to reduce their chance to be hit) in response to increased lethality of weapons.
  3. As a result of this increased dispersion, casualties in a given space have declined.
  4. The ratio of this decline in casualties over area have been roughly proportional to the strength over an area from 1600 through WWI. Starting with WWII, it appears that people have dispersed faster than weapons lethality, and this trend has continued.
  5. In effect, people dispersed in direct relation to increased firepower from 1815 through 1920, and then after that time dispersed faster than the increase in lethality.
  6. It appears that since WWII, people have gone back to dispersing (reducing their chance to be hit) at the same rate that �repower is increasing.
  7. Effectively, there are four patterns of casualties in modem war:

Period 1 (1600 – 1815): Period of Stability

  • Short battles
  • Short frontages
  • High attrition per day
  • Constant dispersion
  • Dispersion decreasing slightly after late 1700s
  • Attrition decreasing slightly after mid-1700s.

Period 2 (1816 – 1905): Period of Adjustment

  • Longer battles
  • Longer frontages
  • Lower attrition per day
  • Increasing dispersion
  • Dispersion increasing slightly faster than lethality

Period 3 (1912 – 1920): Period of Transition

  • Long battles
  • Continuous frontages
  • Lower attrition per day
  • Increasing dispersion
  • Relative lethality per kilometer similar to past, but lower
  • Dispersion increasing slightly faster than lethality

Period 4 (1937 – present): Modern Warfare

  • Long battles
  • Continuous frontages
  • Low attrition per day
  • High dispersion (perhaps constant?)
  • Relatively lethality per kilometer much lower than the past
  • Dispersion increased much faster than lethality going into the period.
  • Dispersion increased at the same rate as lethality within the period.

Chris based his study on previous work done by Trevor Dupuy and his associates, which established a pattern in historical combat between lethality, dispersion, and battlefield casualty rates.

Trevor Dupuy and Historical Trends Related to Weapon Lethality

What Is The Relationship Between Rate of Fire and Military Effectiveness?

Human Factors In Warfare: Dispersion

There is no way to accurately predict the future relationship between weapon lethality and dispersion on the battlefield, but we should question whether or not current conception of combat reflect consideration of the historical trends.

Attrition In Future Land Combat

The Principle Of Mass On The Future Battlefield



U.S.S. Racine, serving as a target ship for a sinking exercise on 12 July 2018. [YouTube Screencap/The Drive]

The U.S. Navy has uploaded video of a recent sinking exercise (SINKEX) conducted during the 2018 Rim Of The Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, hosted bi-annually by the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Honolulu, Hawaii. As detailed by Tyler Rogoway in The Drive, the target of the SINKEX on 12 July 2018 was the U.S.S. Racine, a Newport class Landing Ship-Tank amphibious ship decommissioned 25 years ago.

As dramatic as the images are, the interesting thing about this demonstration was that it included a variety of land-based weapons firing across domains to strike a naval target. The U.S. Army successfully fired a version of the Naval Strike Missile that it is interested in acquiring, as well as a half-dozen High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System [HIMARS] rounds.Japanese troops fired four Type 12 land-based anti-ship missiles at the Racine as well. For good measure, an Australian P-8 Poseidon also hit the target with an air-launched AGM-84 Harpoon.

The coup de gras was provided by a Mk-48 torpedo launched from the Los Angeles class nuclear fast attack submarine USS Olympia, which broke the Racine‘s back and finally sank it an hour later.

Security On The Cheap: Whither Security Force Assistance (SFA)?

Security On The Cheap: Whither Security Force Assistance (SFA)?

A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger Army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, February 28, 2017. [U.S. Army/SFC Christopher Klutts/AFRICOM]

Paul Staniland, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, has a new article in The Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog that contends that the U.S. is increasingly relying on a strategy of “violence management� in dealing with the various counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and stability conflicts (i.e. “small wars�) it is involved with around the world.

As he describes it,

America’s “violence management� strategy relies on light ground forces, airpower and loose partnerships with local armed actors. Its aim is to degrade and disrupt militant organizations within a chaotic, fractured political landscape, not to commit large numbers of forces and resources to building robust new governments.

…Violence management sidesteps politics in favor of sustained military targeting. This approach takes for granted high levels of political disorder, illiberal and/or fractured local regimes, and protracted conflicts. The goal is disrupting militant organizations without trying to build new states, spur economic development, or invest heavily in post-conflict reconstruction.

…It has three core elements: a light U.S. ground force commitment favoring special forces, heavy reliance on airpower and partnerships of convenience with local militias, insurgents, and governments.

…Politically, this strategy reduces both costs and commitments. America’s wars stay off the front pages, the U.S. can add or drop local partners as it sees fit, and U.S. counterterror operations remain opaque.

Staniland details the risks associated with this strategy but does not assess its effectiveness. He admits to ambivalence on that in an associated discussion on Twitter.

Whither SFA?

Partnering with foreign government, organizations, and fighters to counter national security threats is officially known by the umbrella terms Security Force Assistance in U.S. government policy terminology. It is intended to help defend host nations from external and internal threats, and encompasses foreign internal defense (FID), counterterrorism (CT), counterinsurgency (COIN), and stability operations. The U.S. has employed this approach success since World War II.

Has it been effective? Interestingly enough, this question has not been seriously examined. The best effort so far is a study done by Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker, “Small Footprint, Small Payoff: The Military Effectiveness of Security Force Assistance,� published the Journal of Strategic Studies earlier this year. It concluded:

We find important limitations on SFA’s military utility, stemming from agency problems arising from systematic interest misalignment between the US and its typical partners. SFA’s achievable upper bound is modest and attainable only if US policy is intrusive and conditional, which it rarely is. For SFA, small footprints will usually mean small payoffs.

A Mixed Recent Track Record

SFA’s recent track record has been mixed. It proved conditionally successful countering terrorists and insurgents in the Philippines and in the coalition effort to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria; and it handed a black eye to Russian sponsored paramilitary forces in Syria earlier this year. However, a train and advice mission for the moderate Syrian rebels failed in 2015; four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers died in an ambush during a combined patrol in Niger in October 2017; there are recurring cases of U.S.-trained indigenous forces committing human rights abuses; and the jury remains out on the fate of Afghanistan.

The U.S. Army’s proposed contribution to SFA, the Security Forces Assistance Brigade, is getting its initial try-out in Afghanistan right now. The initial reports indicate that it has indeed boosted SFA capacity there. What remains to be seen is whether that will make a difference. The 1st SFAB suffered its first combat casualties earlier this month when Corporal Joseph Maciel was killed and two others were wounded in an insider attack at Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province.

Will a strategy of violence management prove successful over the longer term? Stay tuned…

TDI Friday Read: Measuring The Effects of Combat in Cities

TDI Friday Read: Measuring The Effects of Combat in Cities

Between 2001 and 2004, TDI undertook a series of studies on the effects of urban combat in cities for the U.S. Army Center for Army Analysis (CAA). These studies examined a total of 304 cases of urban combat at the divisional and battalion level that occurred between 1942 and 2003, as well as 319 cases of concurrent non-urban combat for comparison.

The primary findings of Phases I-III of the study were:

  • Urban terrain had no significantly measurable influence on the outcome of battle.
  • Attacker casualties in the urban engagements were less than in the non-urban engagements and the casualty exchange ratio favored the attacker as well.
  • One of the primary effects of urban terrain is that it slowed opposed advance rates. The average advance rate in urban combat was one-half to one-third that of non-urban combat.
  • There is little evidence that combat operations in urban terrain resulted in a higher linear density of troops.
  • Armor losses in urban terrain were the same as, or lower than armor losses in non-urban terrain. In some cases it appears that armor losses were significantly lower in urban than non-urban terrain.
  • Urban terrain did not significantly influence the force ratio required to achieve success or effectively conduct combat operations.
  • Overall, it appears that urban terrain was no more stressful a combat environment during actual combat operations than was non-urban terrain.
  • Overall, the expenditure of ammunition in urban operations was not greater than that in non-urban operations. There is no evidence that the expenditure of other consumable items (rations; water; or fuel, oil, or lubricants) was significantly different in urban as opposed to non-urban combat.
  • Since it was found that advance rates in urban combat were significantly reduced, then it is obvious that these two effects (advance rates and time) were interrelated. It does appear that the primary impact of urban combat was to slow the tempo of operations.

In order to broaden and deepen understanding of the effects of urban combat, TDI proposed several follow-up studies. To date, none of these have been funded:

  1. Conduct a detailed study of the Battle of Stalingrad. Stalingrad may also represent one of the most intense examples of urban combat, so may provide some clues to the causes of the urban outliers.
  2. Conduct a detailed study of battalion/brigade-level urban combat. This would begin with an analysis of battalion-level actions from the first two phases of this study (European Theater of Operations and Eastern Front), added to the battalion-level actions completed in this third phase of the study. Additional battalion-level engagements would be added as needed.
  3. Conduct a detailed study of the outliers in an attempt to discover the causes for the atypical nature of these urban battles.
  4. Conduct a detailed study of urban warfare in an unconventional warfare setting.

Details of the Phase I-III study reports and conclusions can be found below:

Measuring The Effects Of Combat In Cities, Phase I

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase II – part 2

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 2.1

Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase III – part 3

Urban Phase IV – Stalingrad

Urban Combat in War by Numbers

Dupuy’s Verities: The Utility Of Defense

Dupuy’s Verities: The Utility Of Defense

Battle of Franklin, 1864 by Kurz and Allison. Restoration by Adam Cuerden [Wikimedia Commons]

The third of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Defensive posture is necessary when successful offense is impossible.

From Understanding War (1987):

Even though offensive action is essential to ultimate combat success, a combat commander opposed by a more powerful enemy has no choice but to assume a defensive posture. Since defensive posture automatically increases the combat power of his force, the defending commander at least partially redresses the imbalance of forces. At a minimum he is able to slow down the advance of the attacking enemy, and he might even beat him. In this way, through negative combat results, the defender may ultimately hope to wear down the attacker to the extent that his initial relative weakness is transformed into relative superiority, thus offering the possibility of eventually assuming the offensive and achieving positive combat results. The Franklin and Nashville Campaign of our Civil War, and the El Alamein Campaign of World War II are examples.

Sometimes the commander of a numerically superior offensive force may reduce the strength of portions of his force in order to achieve decisive superiority for maximum impact on the enemy at some other critical point on the battle�eld, with the result that those reduced-strength components are locally outnumbered. A contingent thus reduced in strength may therefore be required to assume a defensive posture, even though the overall operational posture of the marginally superior force is offensive, and the strengthened contingent of the same force is attacking with the advantage of superior combat power. A classic example was the role of Davout at Auerstadt when Napoléon was crushing the Prussians at Jena. Another is the role played by “Stonewall� Jackson’s corps at the Second Battle of Bull Run. [pp. 2-3]

This verity is both derivative of Dupuy’s belief that the defensive posture is a human reaction to the lethal environment of combat, and his concurrence with Clausewitz’s dictum that the defense is the stronger form of combat. Soldiers in combat will sometimes reach a collective conclusion that they can no longer advance in the face of lethal opposition, and will stop and seek cover and concealment to leverage the power of the defense. Exploiting the multiplying effect of the defensive is also a way for a force with weaker combat power to successfully engage a stronger one.

It also relates to the principle of war known as economy of force, as defined in the 1954 edition of the U.S. Army’s Field Manual FM 100-5, Field Service Regulations, Operations:

Minimum essential means must be employed at points other than that of decision. To devote means to unnecessary secondary efforts or to employ excessive means on required secondary efforts is to violate the principle of both mass and the objective. Limited attacks, the defensive, deception, or even retrograde action are used in noncritical areas to achieve mass in the critical area.

These concepts are well ingrained in modern U.S. Army doctrine. FM 3-0 Operations (2017) summarizes the defensive this way:

Defensive tasks are conducted to defeat an enemy attack, gain time, economize forces, and develop conditions favorable for offensive or stability tasks. Normally, the defense alone cannot achieve a decisive victory. However, it can set conditions for a counteroffensive or counterattack that enables Army forces to regain and exploit the initiative. Defensive tasks are a counter to enemy offensive actions. They defeat attacks, destroying as much of an attacking enemy as possible. They also preserve and maintain control over land, resources, and populations. The purpose of defensive tasks is to retain key terrain, guard populations, protect lines of communications, and protect critical capabilities against enemy attacks and counterattacks. Commanders can conduct defensive tasks to gain time and economize forces, so offensive tasks can be executed elsewhere. [Para 1-72]

Another Look At The Role Of Russian Mercenaries In Syria

Another Look At The Role Of Russian Mercenaries In Syria

Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin—who reportedly has ties to Putin, the Russian Ministry of Defense, and Russian mercenaries—was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on 16 February 2018 for allegedly funding and guiding a Russian government effort to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. [Alexei Druzhinin/AP]

As I recently detailed, many details remain unclear regarding the 7 February 2018 engagement in Deir Ezzor, Syria, between Russian mercenaries, Syrian government troops, and militia fighters and U.S. Special Operations Forces, U.S. Marines, and their partnered Kurdish and Syrian militia forces. Aside from questions as to just how many Russians participated and how many were killed, the biggest mystery is why the attack occurred at all.

Kimberly Marten, chair of the Political Science Department at Barnard College and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, takes another look at this in a new article on War on the Rocks.

Why did Moscow initially deny any Russians’ involvement, and then downplay the casualty numbers? And why didn’t the Russian Defense Ministry stop the attackers from crossing into the American zone, or warn them about the likelihood of a U.S. counterstrike? Western media have offered two contending explanations: that Wagner acted without the Kremlin’s authorization, or that this was a Kremlin-approved attack that sought to test Washington while maintaining plausible deniability. But neither explanation fully answers all of the puzzles raised by the publicly available evidence, even though both help us understand more generally the opaque relationship between the Russian state and these forces.

After reviewing what is known about the relationship between the Russian government and the various Russian mercenary organizations, Marten proposes another explanation.

A different, or perhaps additional, rationale takes into account the ruthless infighting between Russian security forces that goes on regularly, while Russian President Vladimir Putin looks the other way. Russian Defense Ministry motives in Deir al-Zour may actually have centered on domestic politics inside Russia — and been directed against Putin ally and Wagner backer Yevgeny Prigozhin.

She takes a detailed look at the institutional relationships in question and draws a disquieting conclusion:

We may never have enough evidence to solve definitively the puzzles of Russian behavior at Deir al-Zour. But an understanding of Russian politics and security affairs allows us to better interpret the evidence we do have. Since Moscow’s employment of groups like Wagner appears to be a growing trend, U.S. and allied forces should consider the possibility that in various locations around the world, they might end up inadvertently, and dangerously, ensnared in Russia’s internal power struggles.

As with the Institute for the Study of War’s contention that the Russians are deliberately testing U.S. resolve in the Middle East, Marten’s interpretation that the actions of various Russian mercenary groups might be the result of internal Russian politics points to the prospect of further military adventurism only loosely connected to Russian foreign policy direction. Needless to say, the implications of this are ominous in a region of the world already beset by conflict and regional and international competition.

Chris Lawrence Interviewed About America’s Modern Wars

Chris Lawrence Interviewed About America’s Modern Wars

TDI President Chris Lawrence was recently interviewed on The Donna Seebo Show about his 2015 book, America’s Modern War: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

The 27 June 2018 interview can be listed to below.


Back To The Future: The Return Of Sieges To Modern Warfare

Back To The Future: The Return Of Sieges To Modern Warfare

Ruins of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which was besieged by Syrian government forces from July 2012 to December 2016. [Getty Images]

U.S. Army Major Amos Fox has published a very intriguing analysis in the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Landpower Essay series, titled “The Reemergence of the Siege: An Assessment of Trends in Modern Land Warfare.� Building upon some of his previous work (here and here), Fox makes a case that sieges have again become a salient feature in modern warfare: “a brief survey of history illustrates that the siege is a defining feature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries; perhaps today is the siege’s golden era.�

Noting that neither U.S. Army nor joint doctrine currently addresses sieges, Fox adopts the dictionary definition: “A military blockade of a city or fortified place to compel it to surrender, or a persistent or serious attack.� He also draws a distinction between a siege and siege warfare; “siege warfare implies a way of battle, whereas a siege implies one tool of many in the kitbag of warfare.� [original emphasis]

He characterizes modern sieges thusly:

The contemporary siege is a blending of the traditional definition with concentric attacks. The modern siege is not necessarily characterized by a blockade, but more by an isolation of an adversary through encirclement while maintaining sufficient firepower against the besieged to ensure steady pressure. The modern siege can be terrain-focused, enemy-focused or a blending of the two, depending on the action of the besieged and the goal of the attacker. The goal of the siege is either to achieve a decision, whether politically or militarily, or to slowly destroy the besieged.

He cites the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996) as the first example of the modern phenomenon. Other cases include Grozny (1999-2000); Aleppo, Ghouta, Kobani, Raqaa, and Deir Ezzor in Syria (2012 to 2018); Mosul (2016-2017); and Ilovaisk, Second Donetsk Airport, and Debal’tseve in the Ukraine (2014-present).

Fox notes that employing sieges carries significant risk. Most occur in urban areas. The restrictive nature of this terrain serves as a combat multiplier for inferior forces, allowing them to defend effectively against a much larger adversary. This can raise the potential military costs of conducting a siege beyond what an attacker is willing or able to afford.

Modern sieges also risk incurring significant political costs through collateral civilian deaths or infrastructure damage that could lead to a loss of international credibility or domestic support for governments that attempt them.

However, Fox identifies a powerful incentive that can override these disadvantages: when skillfully executed, a siege affords an opportunity for an attacker to contain and tie down defending forces, which can then be methodically destroyed. Despite the risks, he believes the apparent battlefield decisiveness of recent sieges means they will remain part of modern warfare.

Given modern sieges’ destructiveness and sharp impact on the populations on which they are waged, almost all actors (to include the United States) demonstrate a clear willingness—politically and militarily—to flatten cities and inflict massive suffering on besieged populations in order to capitalize on the opportunities associated with having their adversaries centralized.

Fox argues that sieges will be a primary tactic employed by proxy military forces, which are currently being used effectively by a variety of state actors in the Eastern Europe and the Middle East. “[A]s long as intermediaries are doing the majority of fighting and dying within a siege—or holding the line for the siege—it is a tactic that will continue to populate current and future battlefields.�

This is an excellent analysis. Go check it out.

The Combat Value of Surprise

The Combat Value of Surprise

American soldiers being marched down a road after capture by German troops in the Ardennes, December 1944.

American soldiers being marched down a road after capture by German troops in the Ardennes, December 1944.

[This article was originally posted on 1 December 2016]

In his recent analysis of the role of conventional armored forces in Russian hybrid warfare, U.S. Army Major Amos Fox noted an emphasis on tactical surprise.

Changes to Russian tactics typify the manner in which Russia now employs its ground force. Borrowing from the pages of military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, who stated, “It is still more important to remember that almost the only advantage of the attack rests on its initial surprise,� Russia’s contemporary operations embody the characteristic of surprise. Russian operations in Georgia and Ukraine demonstrate a rapid, decentralized attack seeking to temporally dislocate the enemy, triggering the opposing forces’ defeat.

Tactical surprise enabled by electronic, cyber, information and unconventional warfare capabilities, combined with mobile and powerful combined arms brigade tactical groups, and massive and lethal long-range fires provide Russian Army ground forces with formidable combat power.

Trevor Dupuy considered the combat value of surprise to be important enough to cite it as one of his “timeless verities of combat.�

Surprise substantially enhances combat power. Achieving surprise in combat has always been important. It is perhaps more important today than ever. Quantitative analysis of historical combat shows that surprise has increased the combat power of military forces in those engagements in which it was achieved. Surprise has proven to be the greatest of all combat multipliers. It may be the most important of the Principles of War; it is at least as important as Mass and Maneuver.

In addition to acting as combat power multiplier, Dupuy observed that surprise decreases the casualties of a surprising force and increases those of a surprised one. Surprise also enhances advance rates for forces that achieve it.

In his combat models, Dupuy categorized tactical surprise as complete, substantial, and minor; defining the level achieved was a matter of analyst judgement. The combat effects of surprise in battle would last for three days, declining by one-third each day.

He developed two methods for applying the effects of surprise in calculating combat power, each yielding the same general overall influence. In his original Quantified Judgement Model (QJM) detailed in Numbers, Predictions and War: The Use of History to Evaluate and Predict the Outcome of Armed Conflict (1977), factors for surprise were applied to calculations for vulnerability and mobility, which in turn were applied to the calculation of overall combat power. The net value of surprise on combat power ranged from a factor of about 2.24 for complete surprise to 1.10 for minor surprise.

For a simplified version of his combat power calculation detailed in Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War (1990), Dupuy applied a surprise combat multiplier value directly to the calculation of combat power. These figures also ranged between 2.20 for complete surprise and 1.10 for minor surprise.

Dupuy established these values for surprise based on his judgement of the difference between the calculated outcome of combat engagements in his data and theoretical outcomes based on his models. He never validated them back to his data himself. However, TDI President Chris Lawrence recently did conduct substantial tests on TDI’s expanded combat databases in the context of analyzing the combat value of situational awareness. The results are described in detail in his forthcoming book, War By Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat.

Are Russia And Iran Planning More Proxy Attacks On U.S. Forces And Their Allies In Syria?

Are Russia And Iran Planning More Proxy Attacks On U.S. Forces And Their Allies In Syria?

Members of the Liwa al-Baqir Syrian Arab militia, which is backed by Iran and Russia. [Navvar Åžaban (N.Oliver)/Twitter]

Over at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Jennifer Cafarella, Matti Suomenaro, and Catherine Harris have published an analysis predicting that Iran and Russia are preparing to attack U.S. forces and those of its Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies in eastern Syria. By using tribal militia proxies and Russian mercenary troops to inflict U.S. casualties and stoke political conflict among the Syrian factions, Cafarella, et al, assert that Russia and Iran are seeking to compel the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Syria and break up the coalition that defeated Daesh.

If true, this effort would represent an escalation of a strategic gambit that led to a day-long battle between tribal militias loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Syrian government troops, and Russian mercenaries and U.S. allied Kurdish and SDF fighters along with their U.S. Marine and Special Operations Forces (SOF) advisors in February in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. This resulted in a major defeat of the pro-Assad forces, which suffered hundreds of casualties–including dozens of Russians–from U.S. air and ground-based fires.

To support their contention, Cafarella, et al, offer a pattern of circumstantial evidence that does not quite amount to a definitive conclusion. ISW has a clear policy preference to promote: “The U.S. must commit to defending its partners and presence in Eastern Syria in order to prevent the resurgence of ISIS and deny key resources to Iran, Russia, and Assad.� It has criticized the U.S.’s failure to hold Russia culpable for the February attack in Deir Ezzor as “weak,� thereby undermining its policy in Syria and the Middle East in the face of Russian “hybrid� warfare efforts.

Yet, there is circumstantial evidence that the February battle in Deir Ezzor was the result of deliberate Russian government policy. ISW has identified Russian and Iranian intent to separate SDF from U.S. support to isolate and weaken it. President Assad has publicly made clear his intent to restore his rule over all of Syria. And U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to indicate that he has changed his intent to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

Russian and Iranian sponsorship and support for further aggressive action by pro-regime forces and proxies against U.S. troops and their Syrian allies could easily raise tensions dramatically with the U.S. Since it is difficult to see Russian and Iranian proxies succeeding with new Deir Ezzor-style attacks, they might be tempted to try to shoot down a U.S. aircraft or attempt a surprise raid on a U.S. firebase instead. Should Syrian regime or Russian mercenary forces manage to kill or wound U.S. troops, or bring down a U.S. manned aircraft, the military and political repercussions could be significant.

Despite the desire of President Trump to curtail U.S. involvement in Syria, there is real potential for the conflict to mushroom.

Recent Developments In “Game Changing” Precision Fires Technology

Recent Developments In “Game Changing” Precision Fires Technology

Nammo’s new 155mm Solid Fuel Ramjet projectile [The Drive]

From the “Build A Better Mousetrap� files come a couple of new developments in precision fires technology. The U.S. Army’s current top modernization priority is improving its long-range precision fires capabilities.

Joseph Trevithick reports in The Drive that Nammo, a Norwegian/Finnish aerospace and defense company, recently revealed that it is developing a solid-fueled, ramjet-powered, precision projectile capable of being fired from the ubiquitous 155mm howitzer. The projectile, which is scheduled for live-fire testing in 2019 or 2020, will have a range of more than 60 miles.

The Army’s current self-propelled and towed 155mm howitzers have a range of 12 miles using standard ammunition, and up to 20 miles with rocket-powered munitions. Nammo’s ramjet projectile could effectively double that, but the Army is also looking into developing a new 155mm howitzer with a longer barrel that could fully exploit the capabilities of Nammo’s ramjet shell and other new long-range precision munitions under development.

Anna Ahronheim has a story in The Jerusalem Post about a new weapon developed by the Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. called the FireFly. FireFly is a small, three-kilogram, loitering munition designed for use by light ground maneuver forces to deliver precision fires against enemy forces in cover. Similar to a drone, FireFly can hover for up to 15 minutes before delivery.

In a statement, Rafael claimed that “Firefly will essentially eliminate the value of cover and with it, the necessity of long-drawn-out firefights. It will also make obsolete the old infantry tactic of firing and maneuvering to eliminate an enemy hiding behind cover.�

Nammo and Rafael have very high hopes for their wares:

“This [155mm Solid Fuel Ramjet] could be a game-changer for artillery,� according to Thomas Danbolt, Vice President of Nammo’s Large Caliber Ammunitions division.

“The impact of FireFly on the infantry is revolutionary, fundamentally changing small infantry tactics,� Rafael has asserted.

Expansive claims for the impact of new technology are not new, of course. Oribtal ATK touted its XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) precision-guided grenade launcher along familiar lines, claiming that “The introduction of the XM25 is akin to other revolutionary systems such as the machine gun, the airplane and the tank, all of which changed battlefield tactics.�

Similar in battlefield effect to the FireFly, the Army cancelled its contract for the XM25 in 2017 after disappointing results in field tests.

Are There Only Three Ways of Assessing Military Power?

Are There Only Three Ways of Assessing Military Power?

military-power[This article was originally posted on 11 October 2016]

In 2004, military analyst and academic Stephen Biddle published Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle, a book that addressed the fundamental question of what causes victory and defeat in battle. Biddle took to task the study of the conduct of war, which he asserted was based on “a weak foundation� of empirical knowledge. He surveyed the existing literature on the topic and determined that the plethora of theories of military success or failure fell into one of three analytical categories: numerical preponderance, technological superiority, or force employment.

Numerical preponderance theories explain victory or defeat in terms of material advantage, with the winners possessing greater numbers of troops, populations, economic production, or financial expenditures. Many of these involve gross comparisons of numbers, but some of the more sophisticated analyses involve calculations of force density, force-to-space ratios, or measurements of quality-adjusted “combat power.� Notions of threshold “rules of thumb,� such as the 3-1 rule, arise from this. These sorts of measurements form the basis for many theories of power in the study of international relations.

The next most influential means of assessment, according to Biddle, involve views on the primacy of technology. One school, systemic technology theory, looks at how technological advances shift balances within the international system. The best example of this is how the introduction of machine guns in the late 19th century shifted the advantage in combat to the defender, and the development of the tank in the early 20th century shifted it back to the attacker. Such measures are influential in international relations and political science scholarship.

The other school of technological determinacy is dyadic technology theory, which looks at relative advantages between states regardless of posture. This usually involves detailed comparisons of specific weapons systems, tanks, aircraft, infantry weapons, ships, missiles, etc., with the edge going to the more sophisticated and capable technology. The use of Lanchester theory in operations research and combat modeling is rooted in this thinking.

Biddle identified the third category of assessment as subjective assessments of force employment based on non-material factors including tactics, doctrine, skill, experience, morale or leadership. Analyses on these lines are the stock-in-trade of military staff work, military historians, and strategic studies scholars. However, international relations theorists largely ignore force employment and operations research combat modelers tend to treat it as a constant or omit it because they believe its effects cannot be measured.

The common weakness of all of these approaches, Biddle argued, is that “there are differing views, each intuitively plausible but none of which can be considered empirically proven.� For example, no one has yet been able to find empirical support substantiating the validity of the 3-1 rule or Lanchester theory. Biddle notes that the track record for predictions based on force employment analyses has also been “poor.� (To be fair, the problem of testing theory to see if applies to the real world is not limited to assessments of military power, it afflicts security and strategic studies generally.)

So, is Biddle correct? Are there only three ways to assess military outcomes? Are they valid? Can we do better?

Should The Marines Take Responsibility For Counterinsurgency?

Should The Marines Take Responsibility For Counterinsurgency?

United States Marines in Nacaragua with the captured flag of Augusto César Sandino, 1932. [Wikipedia]

Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr recently reported in Breaking Defense that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), led by chairman Senator John McCain, has asked Defense Secretary James Mattis to report on progress toward preparing the U.S. armed services to carry out the recently published National Defense Strategy oriented toward potential Great Power conflict.

Among a series of questions that challenge existing service roles and missions, Freedberg reported that the SASC wants to know if responsibility for carrying out “low-intensity missions,� such as counterinsurgency, should be the primary responsibility of one service:

Make the Marines a counterinsurgency force? The Senate starts by asking whether the military “would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions, thereby enabling the other Armed Forces to focus more exclusively on advanced peer competitors.� It quickly becomes clear that “one Armed Force� means “the Marines.� The bill questions the Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and suggest shifting that role to the Marines. It also questions the survivability of Navy-Marine flotillas in the face of long-range sensors and precision missiles — so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems — and asked whether the Marines’ core mission, “amphibious forced entry operations,� should even “remain an enduring mission for the joint force� given the difficulties. It suggests replacing large-deck amphibious ships, which carry both Marine aircraft and landing forces, with small aircraft carriers that could carry “larger numbers of more diverse strike aircraft� (but not amphibious vehicles or landing craft). Separate provisions of the bill restrict spending on the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle (Sec. 221) and the future Amphibious Combat Vehicle (Sec. 128) until the Pentagon addresses the viability of amphibious landings.

This proposed change would drastically shift the U.S. Marine Corps’ existing role and missions, something that will inevitably generate political and institutional resistance. Deemphasizing the ability to execute amphibious forced entry operations would be both a difficult strategic choice and an unpalatable political decision to fundamentally alter the Marine Corps’ institutional identity. Amphibious warfare has defined the Marines since the 1920s. It would, however, be a concession to the reality that technological change is driving the evolving character of warfare.

Perhaps This Is Not A Crazy Idea After All

The Marine Corps also has a long history with so-called “small wars�: contingency operations and counterinsurgencies. Tasking the Marines as the proponents for low-intensity conflict would help alleviate one of the basic conundrums facing U.S. land power: the U.S. Army’s inability to optimize its force structure due to the strategic need to be prepared to wage both low-intensity conflict and conventional combined arms warfare against peer or near peer adversaries. The capabilities needed for waging each type of conflict are diverging, and continuing to field a general purpose force is running an increasing risk of creating an Army dangerously ill-suited for either. Giving the Marine Corps responsibility for low-intensity conflict would permit the Army to optimize most of its force structure for combined arms warfare, which poses the most significant threat to American national security (even if it less likely than potential future low-intensity conflicts).

Making the Marines the lead for low-intensity conflict would also play to another bulwark of its institutional identity, as the world’s premier light infantry force (“Every Marine is a rifleman�). Even as light infantry becomes increasingly vulnerable on modern battlefields dominated by the lethality of long-range precision firepower, its importance for providing mass in irregular warfare remains undiminished. Technology has yet to solve the need for large numbers of “boots on the ground� in counterinsurgency. The crucial role of manpower in counterinsurgency makes it somewhat short-sighted to follow through with the SASC’s suggestions to eliminate the Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and to reorient Special Operations Forces (SOF) toward support for high-intensity conflict. As recent, so-called “hybrid warfare� conflicts in Lebanon and the Ukraine have demonstrated, future battlefields will likely involve a mix of combined arms and low-intensity warfare. It would be risky to assume that Marine Corps’ light infantry, as capable as they are, could tackle all of these challenges alone.

Giving the Marines responsibility for low-intensity conflict would not likely require a drastic change in force structure. Marines could continue to emphasize sea mobility and littoral warfare in circumstances other than forced entry. Giving up the existing large-deck amphibious landing ships would be a tough concession, admittedly, one that would likely reduce the Marines’ effectiveness in responding to contingencies.

It is not likely that a change as big as this will be possible without a protracted political and institutional fight. But fresh thinking and drastic changes in the U.S.’s approach to warfare are going to be necessary to effectively address both near and long-term strategic challenges.

Senate Armed Service Committee Proposes Far-Reaching Changes To U.S. Military

Senate Armed Service Committee Proposes Far-Reaching Changes To U.S. Military

Senate Armed Services Committee members (L-R) Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (R-RI) listen to testimony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 11, 2017 in Washington, D.C. [CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images]

In an article in Breaking Defense last week, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. pointed out that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has requested that Secretary of Defense James Mattis report back by 1 February 2019 on what amounts to “the most sweeping reevaluation of the military in 30 years, with tough questions for all four armed services but especially the Marine Corps.�

Freedberg identified SASC chairman Senator John McCain as the motivating element behind the report, which is part of the draft 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. It emphasizes the initiative to reorient the U.S. military away from its nearly two-decade long focus on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to prioritizing preparation for potential future Great Power conflict, as outlined in Mattis’s recently published National Defense Strategy. McCain sees this shift taking place far too slowly according to Freedberg, who hints that Mattis shares this concern.

While the SASC request addresses some technological issues, its real focus is on redefining the priorities, missions, and force structures of the armed forces (including special operations forces) in the context of the National Defense Strategy.

The changes it seeks are drastic. According to Freedberg, among the difficult questions it poses are:

  • Make the Marines a counterinsurgency force? [This would greatly help alleviate the U.S. Army’s current strategic conundrum]
  • Make the Army heavier, with fewer helicopters?
  • Refocus Special Operations against Russia and China?
  • Rely less on stealth aircraft and more on drones?

Each of these questions relates directly to trends associated with the multi-domain battle and operations concepts the U.S. armed services are currently jointly developing in response to threats posed by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian military advances.

It is clear that the SASC believes that difficult choices with far-reaching consequences are needed to adequately prepare to meet these challenges. The armed services have been historically resistant to changes involving trade-offs, however, especially ones that touch on service budgets and roles and missions. It seems likely that more than a report will be needed to push through changes deemed necessary by the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and the Secretary of Defense.

Read more of Freedberg’s article here.

The draft 2019 National Defense Authorization Act can be found here, and the SASC questions can be found in Section 1041 beginning on page 478.

Measuring The Effects Of Combat In Cities, Phase I

Measuring The Effects Of Combat In Cities, Phase I

“Catalina Kid,” a M4 medium tank of Company C, 745th Tank Battalion, U.S. Army, drives through the entrance of the Aachen-Rothe Erde railroad station during the fighting around the city viaduct on Oct. 20, 1944. [Courtesy of First Division Museum/Daily Herald]

In 2002, TDI submitted a report to the U.S. Army Center for Army Analysis (CAA) on the first phase of a study examining the effects of combat in cities, or what was then called “military operations on urbanized terrain,� or MOUT. This first phase of a series of studies on urban warfare focused on the impact of urban terrain on division-level engagements and army-level operations, based on data drawn from TDI’s DuWar database suite.

This included engagements in France during 1944 including the Channel and Brittany port cities of Brest, Boulogne, Le Havre, Calais, and Cherbourg, as well as Paris, and the extended series of battles in and around Aachen in 1944. These were then compared to data on fighting in contrasting non-urban terrain in Western Europe in 1944-45.

The conclusions of Phase I of that study (pp. 85-86) were as follows:

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Outcome

The data appears to support a null hypothesis, that is, that the urban terrain had no significantly measurable influence on the outcome of battle.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Casualties

Overall, any way the data is sectioned, the attacker casualties in the urban engagements are less than in the non-urban engagements and the casualty exchange ratio favors the attacker as well. Because of the selection of the data, there is some question whether these observations can be extended beyond this data, but it does not provide much support to the notion that urban combat is a more intense environment than non-urban combat.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Advance Rates

It would appear that one of the primary effects of urban terrain is that it slows opposed advance rates. One can conclude that the average advance rate in urban combat should be one-half to one-third that of non-urban combat.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Force Density

Overall, there is little evidence that combat operations in urban terrain result in a higher linear density of troops, although the data does seem to trend in that direction.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Armor

Overall, it appears that armor losses in urban terrain are the same as, or lower than armor losses in non-urban terrain. And in some cases it appears that armor losses are significantly lower in urban than non-urban terrain.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Force Ratios

Urban terrain did not significantly influence the force ratio required to achieve success or effectively conduct combat operations.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Stress in Combat

Overall, it appears that urban terrain was no more stressful a combat environment during actual combat operations than was non-urban terrain.

The Effect of Urban Terrain on Logistics

Overall, the evidence appears to be that the expenditure of artillery ammunition in urban operations was not greater than that in non-urban operations. In the two cases where exact comparisons could be made, the average expenditure rates were about one-third to one-quarter the average expenditure rates expected for an attack posture in the European Theater of Operations as a whole.

The evidence regarding the expenditure of other types of ammunition is less conclusive, but again does not appear to be significantly greater than the expenditures in non-urban terrain. Expenditures of specialized ordnance may have been higher, but the total weight expended was a minor fraction of that for all of the ammunition expended.

There is no evidence that the expenditure of other consumable items (rations, water or POL) was significantly different in urban as opposed to non-urban combat.

The Effect of Urban Combat on Time Requirements

It was impossible to draw significant conclusions from the data set as a whole. However, in the five significant urban operations that were carefully studied, the maximum length of time required to secure the urban area was twelve days in the case of Aachen, followed by six days in the case of Brest. But the other operations all required little more than a day to complete (Cherbourg, Boulogne and Calais).

However, since it was found that advance rates in urban combat were significantly reduced, then it is obvious that these two effects (advance rates and time) are interrelated. It does appear that the primary impact of urban combat is to slow the tempo of operations.

This in turn leads to a hypothetical construct, where the reduced tempo of urban operations (reduced casualties, reduced opposed advance rates and increased time) compared to non-urban operations, results in two possible scenarios.

The first is if the urban area is bounded by non-urban terrain. In this case the urban area will tend to be enveloped during combat, since the pace of battle in the non-urban terrain is quicker. Thus, the urban battle becomes more a mopping-up operation, as it historically has usually been, rather than a full-fledged battle.

The alternate scenario is that created by an urban area that cannot be enveloped and must therefore be directly attacked. This may be caused by geography, as in a city on an island or peninsula, by operational requirements, as in the case of Cherbourg, Brest and the Channel Ports, or by political requirements, as in the case of Stalingrad, Suez City and Grozny.

Of course these last three cases are also those usually included as examples of combat in urban terrain that resulted in high casualty rates. However, all three of them had significant political requirements that influenced the nature, tempo and even the simple necessity of conducting the operation. And, in the case of Stalingrad and Suez City, significant geographical limitations effected the operations as well. These may well be better used to quantify the impact of political agendas on casualties, rather than to quantify the effects of urban terrain on casualties.

The effects of urban terrain at the operational level, and the effect of urban terrain on the tempo of operations, will be further addressed in Phase II of this study.

More on the QJM/TNDM Italian Battles

More on the QJM/TNDM Italian Battles

Troops of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division advance inland on Red Beach, Salerno, Italy, 1943. [ibiblio/U.S. Center for Military History]

[The article below is reprinted from December 1998 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

More on the QJM/TNDM Italian Battles
by Richard C. Anderson, Jr.

In regard to Niklas Zetterling’s article and Christopher Lawrence’s response (Newsletter Volume 1, Number 6) [and Christopher Lawrence’s 2018 addendum] I would like to add a few observations of my own. Recently I have had occasion to revisit the Allied and German records for Italy in general and for the Battle of Salerno in particular. What I found is relevant in both an analytical and an historical sense.

The Salerno Order of Battle

The first and most evident observation that I was able to make of the Allied and German Order of Battle for the Salerno engagements was that it was incorrect. The following observations all relate to the table found on page 25 of Volume 1, Number 6.

The divisional totals are misleading. The U.S. had one infantry division (the 36th) and two-thirds of a second (the 45th, minus the 180th RCT [Regimental Combat Team] and one battalion of the 157th Infantry) available during the major stages of the battle (9-15 September 1943). The 82nd Airborne Division was represented solely by elements of two parachute infantry regiments that were dropped as emergency reinforcements on 13-14 September. The British 7th Armored Division did not begin to arrive until 15-16 September and was not fully closed in the beachhead until 18-19 September.

The German situation was more complicated. Only a single panzer division, the 16th, under the command of the LXXVI Panzer Corps was present on 9 September. On 10 September elements of the Hermann Goring Parachute Panzer Division, with elements of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division under tactical command, began arriving from the vicinity of Naples. Major elements of the Herman Goring Division (with its subordinated elements of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division) were in place and had relieved elements of the 16th Panzer Division opposing the British beaches by 11 September. At the same time the 29th Panzergrenandier Division began arriving from Calabria and took up positions opposite the U.S. 36th Divisions in and south of Altavilla, again relieving elements of the 16th Panzer Division. By 11-12 September the German forces in the northern sector of the beachhead were under the command of the XIV Panzer Corps (Herman Goring Division (-), elements of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division and elements of the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division), while the LXXVI Panzer Corps commanded the 16th Panzer Division, 29th Panzergrenadier Division, and elements of the 26th Panzer Division. Unfortunately for the Germans the 16th Panzer Division’s zone was split by the boundary between the XIV and LXXVI Corps, both of whom appear to have had operational control over different elements of the division. Needless to say, the German command and control problems in this action were tremendous.[1]

The artillery totals given in the table are almost inexplicable. The numbers of SP [self-propelled] 75mm howitzers is a bit fuzzy, inasmuch as this was a non-standardized weapon on a half-track chassis. It was allocated to the infantry regimental cannon company (6 tubes) and was also issued to tank and tank destroyer battalions as a stopgap until purpose-designed systems could be brought into production. The 105mm SP was also present on a half-track chassis in the regimental cannon company (2 tubes) and on a full-track chassis in the armored field artillery battalion (18 tubes). The towed 105mm artillery was present in the five field artillery battalions present of the 36th and 45th divisions and in a single non-divisional battalion assigned to the VI Corps. The 155mm howitzers were only present in the two divisional �eld artillery battalions, the general support artillery assigned to the VI Corps, the 36th Field Artillery Regiment, did not arrive until 16 September. No 155mm gun battalions landed in Italy until October 1943. The U.S. artillery figures should approximately be as follows:

75mm Howitzer (SP)

2 per infantry battalion


6 per tank battalion



105mm Howitzer (SP)

2 per infantry regiment


1 armored FA battalion[2]


5 divisional FA battalions


1 non-divisional FA battalion



155mm Howitzer

2 divisional FA battalions

3″ Tank Destroyer

3 battalions


Thus, the U.S. artillery strength is approximately 272 versus 525 as given in the chart.

The British artillery figures are also suspect. Each of the British divisions present, the 46th and 56th, had three regiments (battalions in U.S. parlance) of 25-pounder gun-howitzers for a total of 72 per division. There is no evidence of the presence of the British 3-inch howitzer, except possibly on a tank chassis in the support tank role attached to the tank troop headquarters of the armor regiment (battalion) attached to the X Corps (possibly 8 tubes). The X Corps had a single medium regiment (battalion) attached with either 4.5 inch guns or 5.5 inch gun-howitzers or a mixture of the two (16 tubes). The British did not have any 7.2 inch howitzers or 155mm guns at Salerno. I do not know where the �gure for British 75mm howitzers is from, although it is possible that some may have been present with the corps armored car regiment.

Thus the British artillery strength is approximately 168 versus 321 as given in the chart.

The German artillery types are highly suspect. As Niklas Zetterling deduced, there was no German corps or army artillery present at Salemo. Neither the XIV or LXXVI Corps had Heeres (army) artillery attached. The two battalions of the 7lst Nebelwerfer regiment and one battery of 170mm guns (previously attached to the 15th Panzergrenadier Division) were all out of action, refurbishing and replenishing equipment in the vicinity of Naples. However, U.S. intelligence sources located 42 Italian coastal gun positions, including three 149mm (not 132mm) railway guns defending the beaches. These positions were taken over by German personnel on the night before the invasion. That they �red at all in the circumstances is a comment on the professionalism of the German Army. The remaining German artillery available was with the divisional elements that arrived to defend against the invasion forces. The following artillery strengths are known for the German forces at Salerno:

16th Panzer Division (as of 3 September):

14 75mm infantry support howitzers
11 150mm SP infantry support howitzers
10 105mm howitzers
8 105mm SP howitzers
4 105mm guns
8 150mm howitzers
5 150mm SP howitzers
5 88mm AA guns

26th Panzer Division (as of 12 September):

15 75mm infantry support howitzers
12 150mm infantry support howitzers
6 105mm SP howitzers
12 105mm howitzers
10 150mm SP howitzers
4 150mm howitzers

Herman Goring Parachute Panzer Division (as of 13 September):

6-8 75mm infantry support howitzers
8 150mm infantry support howitzers
24 105mm howitzers
12 105mm SP howitzers
4 105mm guns
8 150mrn howitzers
6 150mm SP howitzers
6 150mm multiple rocket launchers
12 88mm AA guns

29th Panzergrenadier Division

106 artillery pieces (types unknown)

15th Panzergrenadier Division (elements):

10-12 105mm howitzers

3d Panzergrenadier Division

6 150mm infantry support howitzers


501st Army Flak Battalion (probably 20mm and 37mm AA only)
I/49th Flak Battalion (probably 8 88mm AA guns)

Thus, German artillery strength is about 342 tubes versus 394 as given in the chart.[3]

Armor strengths are equally suspect for both the Allied and German forces. It should be noted however, that the original QJM database considered wheeled armored cars to be the equivalent of a light tank.

Only two U.S. armor battalions were assigned to the initial invasion force, with a total of 108 medium and 34 light tanks. The British X Corps had a single armor regiment (battalion) assigned with approximately 67 medium and 10 light tanks. Thus, the Allies had some 175 medium tanks versus 488 as given in the chart and 44 light tanks versus 236 (including an unknown number of armored cars) as given in the chart.

German armor strength was as follows (operational/in repair as of the date given):

16th Panzer Division (8 September):

7/0 Panzer III flamethrower tanks
12/0 Panzer IV short
86/6 Panzer IV long
37/3 assault guns

29th Panzergrenadier Division (1 September):

32/5 assault guns
17/4 SP antitank
3/0 Panzer III

26th Panzer Division (5 September):

11/? assault guns
10/? Panzer III

Herman Goering Parachute Panzer Division (7 September):

5/? Panzer IV short
11/? Panzer IV long
5/? Panzer III long
1/? Panzer III 75mm
21/? assault guns
3/? SP antitank

15th Panzergrenadier Division (8 September):

6/? Panzer IV long
18/? assault guns

Total 285/18 medium tanks, SP anti-tank, and assault guns. This number actually agrees very well with the 290 medium tanks given in the chart. I have not looked closely at the number of German armored cars but suspect that it is fairly close to that given in the charts.

In general it appears that the original QJM Database got the numbers of major items of equipment right for the Germans, even if it flubbed on the details. On the other hand, the numbers and details are highly suspect for the Allied major items of equipment. Just as a first order “guestimate� I would say that this probably reduces the German CEV to some extent; however, missing from the formula is the Allied naval gun�re support which, although negligible in impact in the initial stages of the battle, had a strong influence on the later stages of the battle.

Hopefully, with a little more research and time, we will be able to go back and revalidate these engagements. In the meantime I hope that this has clarified some of the questions raised about the Italian QJM Database.


[1] Exacerbating the German command and control problems was the fact that the Tenth Army, which was in overall command of the XIV Panzer Corps and LXXVI Panzer Corps, had only been in existence for about six weeks. The army’s signal regiment was only partly organized and its quartermaster services were almost nonexistent.

[2] Arrived 13 September, 1 battery in action 13-15 September.

[3] However, the number given for the 29th Panzergrenadier Division appears to be suspiciously high and is not well defined. Hopefully further research may clarify the status of this division.

Dupuy’s Verities: The Power Of Defense

Dupuy’s Verities: The Power Of Defense

Leonidas at Thermopylae, by Jacques-Louis David, 1814. [Wikimedia]

The second of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Defensive strength is greater than offensive strength.

From Understanding War (1987):

[Prussian military theorist, Carl von] Clausewitz expressed this: “Defense is the stronger form of combat.� It is possible to demonstrate by the qualitative comparison of many battles that Clausewitz is right and that posture has a multiplicative effect on the combat power of a military force that takes advantage of terrain and fortifications, whether hasty and rudimentary, or intricate and carefully prepared. There are many well-known examples of the need of an attacker for a preponderance of strength in order to carry the day against a well-placed and fortified defender. One has only to recall Thermopylae, the Alamo, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and El Alamein to realize the advantage enjoyed by a defender with smaller forces, well placed, and well protected. [p. 2]

The advantages of fighting on the defensive and the benefits of cover and concealment in certain types of terrain have long been basic tenets in military thinking. Dupuy, however, considered defensive combat posture and defensive value of terrain not just to be additive, but combat power multipliers, or circumstantial variables of combat that when skillfully applied and exploited, the effects of which could increase the overall fighting capability of a military force.

The statement [that the defensive is the stronger form of combat] implies a comparison of relative strength. It is essentially scalar and thus ultimately quantitative. Clausewitz did not attempt to define the scale of his comparison. However, by following his conceptual approach it is possible to establish quantities for this comparison. Depending upon the extent to which the defender has had the time and capability to prepare for defensive combat, and depending also upon such considerations as the nature of the terrain which he is able to utilize for defense, my research tells me that the comparative strength of defense to offense can range from a factor with a minimum value of about 1.3 to maximum value of more than 3.0. [p. 26]

The values Dupuy established for posture and terrain based on historical combat experience were as follows:

For example, Dupuy calculated that mounting even a hasty defense in rolling, gentle terrain with some vegetation could increase a force’s combat power by more than 50%. This is a powerful effect, achievable without the addition of any extra combat capability.

It should be noted that these values are both descriptive, in terms of defining Dupuy’s theoretical conception of the circumstantial variables of combat, as well as factors specifically calculated for use in his combat models. Some of these factors have found their way into models and simulations produced by others and some U.S. military doctrinal publications, usually without attribution and shorn of explanatory context. (A good exploration of the relationship between the values Dupuy established for the circumstantial variables of combat and his combat models, and the pitfalls of applying them out of context can be found here.)

While the impact of terrain on combat is certainly an integral part of current U.S. Army doctrinal thinking at all levels, and is constantly factored into combat planning and assessment, it does not explicitly acknowledge the classic Clausewitzian notion of a power disparity between the offense and defense. Nor are the effects of posture or terrain thought of as combat multipliers.

However, the Army does implicitly recognize the advantage of the defensive through its stubbornly persistent adherence to the so-called 3-1 rule of combat. Its version of this (which the U.S. Marine Corps also uses) is described in doctrinal publications as “historical minimum planning ratios,� which proscribe that a 3-1 advantage in numerical force ratio is necessary for an attacker to defeat a defender in a prepared or fortified position. Overcoming a defender in a hasty defense posture requires a 2.5-1 force ratio advantage. The force ratio advantages the Army considers necessary for decisive operations are even higher. While the 3-1 rule is a deeply problematic construct, the fact that is the only quantitative planning factor included in current doctrine reveals a healthy respect for the inherent power of the defensive.

Details Of U.S. Engagement With Russian Mercenaries In Syria Remain Murky

Details Of U.S. Engagement With Russian Mercenaries In Syria Remain Murky

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, SYRIA (May 15, 2017)— U.S. Marines fortify a machine gun pit around their M777-A2 Howitzer in Syria, May 15, 2017. The unit has been conducting 24-hour all-weather fire support for Coalition’s local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as part of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. CJTF-OIR is the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

Last week, the New York Times published an article by Thomas Gibbons-Neff that provided a detailed account of the fighting between U.S-advised Kurdish and Syrian militia forces and Russian mercenaries and Syrian and Arab fighters near the city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria on 7 February 2018. Gibbons-Neff stated the account was based on newly obtained documents and interviews with U.S. military personnel.

While Gibbons-Neff’s reporting fills in some details about the action, it differs in some respects to previous reporting, particularly a detailed account by Christoph Reuter, based on interviews from participants and witnesses in Syria, published previously in Spiegel Online.

  • According to Gibbons-Neff, the U.S. observed a buildup of combat forces supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Deir Ezzor, south of the Euphrates River, which separated them from U.S.-backed Kurdish and Free Syrian militia forces and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and U.S. Marine Corps elements providing advice and assistance north of the river.
  • The pro-regime forces included “some Syrian government soldiers and militias, but American military and intelligence officials have said a majority were private Russian paramilitary mercenaries — and most likely a part of the Wagner Group, a company often used by the Kremlin to carry out objectives that officials do not want to be connected to the Russian government.â€�
  • After obtaining assurances from the Russian military chain-of-command in Syria that the forces were not theirs, Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered “for the force, then, to be annihilated.â€�
  • Gibbons-Neff’s account focuses on the fighting that took place on the night of 7-8 February in the vicinity of a U.S. combat outpost located near a Conoco gas plant north of the Euphrates. While the article mentions the presence of allied Kurdish and Syrian militia fighters, it implies that the target of the pro-regime force was the U.S. outpost. It does not specify exactly where the pro-regime forces concentrated or the direction they advanced.
  • This is in contrast to Reuter’s Spiegel Online account, which reported a more complex operation. This included an initial probe across a bridge northwest of the Conoco plant on the morning of 7 February by pro-regime forces that included no Russians, which was repelled by warning shots from American forces.
  • After dark that evening, this pro-regime force attempted to cross the Euphrates again across a bridge to the southeast of the Conoco plant at the same time another pro-regime force advanced along the north bank of the Euphrates toward the U.S./Kurdish/Syrian forces from the town of Tabiya, southeast of the Conoco plant. According to Reuter, U.S. forces engaged both of these pro-regime advances north of the Euphrates.
  • While the Spiegel Online article advanced the claim that Russian mercenary forces were not leading the pro-regime attacks and that the casualties they suffered were due to U.S. collateral fire, Gibbons-Neff’s account makes the case that the Russians comprised at least a substantial part of at least one of the forces advancing on the U.S./Kurdish/Syrian bases and encampments in Deir Ezzor.
  • Based on documents it obtained, the Times asserts that 200-300 “pro-regimeâ€� personnel were killed out of an overall force of 500. Gibbons-Neff did not attempt to parse out the Russian share of these, but did mention that accounts in Russian media have risen from four dead as initially reported, to later claims of “perhaps dozensâ€� of killed and wounded. U.S. government sources continue to assert that most of the casualties were Russian.
  • It is this figure of 200-300 killed that I have both found problematic in the past. A total of 200-300 killed and wounded overall seems far more likely, with approximately 100 dead and 100-200 wounded out of the much larger overall force of Russian mercenaries, Syrian government troops, and tribal militia fighters involved in the fighting.

Motivation for the Operation Remains Unclear

While the details of the engagement remain ambiguous, the identity of those responsible for directing the attacks and the motivations for doing so are hazy as well. In late February, CNN and the Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence had detected communications between Yevgeny Prigozhin—a Russian businessman with reported ties to President Vladimir Putin, the Ministry of Defense, and Russian mercenaries—and Russian and Syrian officials in the weeks leading up to the attack. One such intercept alleges that Prigozhin informed a Syrian official in January that he had secured permission from an unidentified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong� initiative in Syria in early February.

Prigozhin was one of 13 individuals and three companies indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on 16 February 2018 for funding and guiding a Russian government effort to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

If the Deir Ezzor operation was indeed a clandestine operation sanctioned by the Russian government, the motivation remains mysterious. Gibbons-Neff’s account implies that the operation was a direct assault on a U.S. military position by a heavily-armed and equipped combat force, an action that all involved surely understood beforehand would provoke a U.S. military reaction. Even if the attack was instead aimed at taking the Conoco gas plant or forcing the Kurdish and Free Syrian forces out of Deir Ezzor, the attackers surely must have known the presence of U.S. military forces would elicit the same response.

Rueter’s account of a more complex operations suggests that the attack was a probe to test the U.S. response to armed action aimed at the U.S.’s Kurdish and Free Syrian proxy forces. If so, it was done very clumsily. The build-up of pro-regime forces telegraphed the effort in advance and the force itself seems to have been tailored for combat rather than reconnaissance. The fact that the U.S. government inquired with the Russian military leadership in Syria in advance about the provenance of the force build-up should have been a warning that any attempt at surprise had been compromised.

Whether the operation was simply intended to obtain a tactical advantage or to probe the resolution of U.S. involvement in Syria, the outcome bears all the hallmarks of a major miscalculation. Russian “hybrid warfare� tactics sustained a decisive reverse, while the effectiveness of U.S. military capabilities received a decided boost. Russian and U.S. forces and their proxies continue to spar using information operations, particularly electronic warfare, but they have not directly engaged each other since. The impact of this may be short-lived however, depending on whether or not U.S. President Donald J. Trump carries through with his intention announced in early April to withdraw U.S. forces from eastern Syria.

CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943

CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943

Tip of the Avalanche by Keith Rocco. Soldiers from the U.S. 36th Infantry Division landing at Salerno, Italy, September 1943.

[The article below is reprinted from June 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter. Chris Lawrence’s response from the August 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter will be posted on Friday.]

CEV Calculations in Italy, 1943
by Niklas Zetterling

Perhaps one of the most debated results of the TNDM (and its predecessors) is the conclusion that the German ground forces on average enjoyed a measurable qualitative superiority over its US and British opponents. This was largely the result of calculations on situations in Italy in 1943-44, even though further engagements have been added since the results were �rst presented. The calculated German superiority over the Red Army, despite the much smaller number of engagements, has not aroused as much opposition. Similarly, the calculated Israeli effectiveness superiority over its enemies seems to have surprised few.

However, there are objections to the calculations on the engagements in Italy 1943. These concern primarily the database, but there are also some questions to be raised against the way some of the calculations have been made, which may possibly have consequences for the TNDM.

Here it is suggested that the German CEV [combat effectiveness value] superiority was higher than originally calculated. There are a number of flaws in the original calculations, each of which will be discussed separately below. With the exception of one issue, all of them, if corrected, tend to give a higher German CEV.

The Database on Italy 1943-44

According to the database the German divisions had considerable �re support from GHQ artillery units. This is the only possible conclusion from the fact that several pieces of the types 15cm gun, 17cm gun, 21cm gun, and 15cm and 21cm Nebelwerfer are included in the data for individual engagements. These types of guns were almost exclusively con�ned to GHQ units. An example from the database are the three engagements Port of Salerno, Amphitheater, and Sele-Calore Corridor. These take place simultaneously (9-11 September 1943) with the German 16th Pz Div on the Axis side in all of them (no other division is included in the battles). Judging from the manpower �gures, it seems to have been assumed that the division participated with one quarter of its strength in each of the two former battles and half its strength in the latter. According to the database, the number of guns were:

15cm gun 28
17cm gun 12
21cm gun 12
15cm NbW 27
21cm NbW 21

This would indicate that the 16th Pz Div was supported by the equivalent of more than �ve non-divisional artillery battalions. For the German army this is a suspiciously high number, usually there were rather something like one GHQ artillery battalion for each division, or even less. Research in the German Military Archives con�rmed that the number of GHQ artillery units was far less than indicated in the HERO database. Among the useful documents found were a map showing the dispositions of 10th Army artillery units. This showed clearly that there was only one non-divisional artillery unit south of Rome at the time of the Salerno landings, the III/71 Nebelwerfer Battalion. Also the 557th Artillery Battalion (17cm gun) was present, it was included in the artillery regiment (33rd Artillery Regiment) of 15th Panzergrenadier Division during the second half of 1943. Thus the number of German artillery pieces in these engagements is exaggerated to an extent that cannot be considered insigni�cant. Since OLI values for artillery usually constitute a signi�cant share of the total OLI of a force in the TNDM, errors in artillery strength cannot be dismissed easily.

While the example above is but one, further archival research has shown that the same kind of error occurs in all the engagements in September and October 1943. It has not been possible to check the engagements later during 1943, but a pattern can be recognized. The ratio between the numbers of various types of GHQ artillery pieces does not change much from battle to battle. It seems that when the database was developed, the researchers worked with the assumption that the German corps and army organizations had organic artillery, and this assumption may have been used as a “rule of thumb.� This is wrong, however; only artillery staffs, command and control units were included in the corps and army organizations, not �ring units. Consequently we have a systematic error, which cannot be corrected without changing the contents of the database. It is worth emphasizing that we are discussing an exaggeration of German artillery strength of about 100%, which certainly is significant. Comparing the available archival records with the database also reveals errors in numbers of tanks and antitank guns, but these are much smaller than the errors in artillery strength. Again these errors do always inflate the German strength in those engagements l have been able to check against archival records. These errors tend to inflate German numerical strength, which of course affects CEV calculations. But there are further objections to the CEV calculations.

The Result Formula

The “result formula” weighs together three factors: casualties inflicted, distance advanced, and mission accomplishment. It seems that the ï¬�rst two do not raise many objections, even though the relative weight of them may always be subject to argumentation.

The third factor, mission accomplishment, is more dubious however. At �rst glance it may seem to be natural to include such a factor. Alter all, a combat unit is supposed to accomplish the missions given to it. However, whether a unit accomplishes its mission or not depends both on its own qualities as well as the realism of the mission assigned. Thus the mission accomplishment factor may reflect the qualities of the combat unit as well as the higher HQs and the general strategic situation. As an example, the Rapido crossing by the U.S. 36th Infantry Division can serve. The division did not accomplish its mission, but whether the mission was realistic, given the circumstances, is dubious. Similarly many German units did probably, in many situations, receive unrealistic missions, particularly during the last two years of the war (when most of the engagements in the database were fought). A more extreme example of situations in which unrealistic missions were given is the battle in Belorussia, June-July 1944, where German units were regularly given impossible missions. Possibly it is a general trend that the side which is �ghting at a strategic disadvantage is more prone to give its combat units unrealistic missions.

On the other hand it is quite clear that the mission assigned may well affect both the casualty rates and advance rates. If, for example, the defender has a withdrawal mission, advance may become higher than if the mission was to defend resolutely. This must however not necessarily be handled by including a missions factor in a result formula.

I have made some tentative runs with the TNDM, testing with various CEV values to see which value produced an outcome in terms of casualties and ground gained as near as possible to the historical result. The results of these runs are very preliminary, but the tendency is that higher German CEVs produce more historical outcomes, particularly concerning combat.

Supply Situation

According to scattered information available in published literature, the U.S. artillery �red more shells per day per gun than did German artillery. In Normandy, US 155mm M1 howitzers �red 28.4 rounds per day during July, while August showed slightly lower consumption, 18 rounds per day. For the 105mm M2 howitzer the corresponding �gures were 40.8 and 27.4. This can be compared to a German OKH study which, based on the experiences in Russia 1941-43, suggested that consumption of 105mm howitzer ammunition was about 13-22 rounds per gun per day, depending on the strength of the opposition encountered. For the 150mm howitzer the �gures were 12-15.

While these �gures should not be taken too seriously, as they are not from primary sources and they do also reflect the conditions in different theaters, they do at least indicate that it cannot be taken for granted that ammunition expenditure is proportional to the number of gun barrels. In fact there also exist further indications that Allied ammunition expenditure was greater than the German. Several German reports from Normandy indicate that they were astonished by the Allied ammunition expenditure.

It is unlikely that an increase in artillery ammunition expenditure will result in a proportional increase combat power. Rather it is more likely that there is some kind of diminished return with increased expenditure.

General Problems with Non-Divisional Units

A division usually (but not necessarily) includes various support services, such as maintenance, supply, and medical services. Non-divisional combat units have to a greater extent to rely on corps and army for such support. This makes it complicated to include such units, since when entering, for example, the manpower strength and truck strength in the TNDM, it is difficult to assess their contribution to the overall numbers.

Furthermore, the amount of such forces is not equal on the German and Allied sides. In general the Allied divisional slice was far greater than the German. In Normandy the US forces on 25 July 1944 had 812,000 men on the Continent, while the number of divisions was 18 (including the 5th Armored, which was in the process of landing on the 25th). This gives a divisional slice of 45,000 men. By comparison the German 7th Army mustered 16 divisions and 231,000 men on 1 June 1944, giving a slice of 14,437 men per division. The main explanation for the difference is the non-divisional combat units and the logistical organization to support them. In general, non-divisional combat units are composed of powerful, but supply-consuming, types like armor, artillery, antitank and antiaircraft. Thus their contribution to combat power and strain on the logistical apparatus is considerable. However I do not believe that the supporting units’ manpower and vehicles have been included in TNDM calculations.

There are however further problems with non-divisional units. While the whereabouts of tank and tank destroyer units can usually be established with sufficient certainty, artillery can be much harder to pin down to a speci�c division engagement. This is of course a greater problem when the geographical extent of a battle is small.

Tooth-to-Tail Ratio

Above was discussed the lack of support units in non-divisional combat units. One effect of this is to create a force with more OLI per man. This is the result of the unit‘s “tail” belonging to some other part of the military organization.

In the TNDM there is a mobility formula, which tends to favor units with many weapons and vehicles compared to the number of men. This became apparent when I was performing a great number of TNDM runs on engagements between Swedish brigades and Soviet regiments. The Soviet regiments usually contained rather few men, but still had many AFVs, artillery tubes, AT weapons, etc. The Mobility Formula in TNDM favors such units. However, I do not think this reflects any phenomenon in the real world. The Soviet penchant for lean combat units, with supply, maintenance, and other services provided by higher echelons, is not a more effective solution in general, but perhaps better suited to the particular constraints they were experiencing when forming units, training men, etc. In effect these services were existing in the Soviet army too, but formally not with the combat units.

This problem is to some extent reminiscent to how density is calculated (a problem discussed by Chris Lawrence in a recent issue of the Newsletter). It is comparatively easy to de�ne the frontal limit of the deployment area of force, and it is relatively easy to de�ne the lateral limits too. It is, however, much more difficult to say where the rear limit of a force is located.

When entering forces in the TNDM a rear limit is, perhaps unintentionally, drawn. But if the combat unit includes support units, the rear limit is pushed farther back compared to a force whose combat units are well separated from support units.

To what extent this affects the CEV calculations is unclear. Using the original database values, the German forces are perhaps given too high combat strength when the great number of GHQ artillery units is included. On the other hand, if the GHQ artillery units are not included, the opposite may be true.

The Effects of Defensive Posture

The posture factors are difficult to analyze, since they alone do not portray the advantages of defensive position. Such effects are also included in terrain factors.

It seems that the numerical values for these factors were assigned on the basis of professional judgement. However, when the QJM was developed, it seems that the developers did not assume the German CEV superiority. Rather, the German CEV superiority seems to have been discovered later. It is possible that the professional judgement was about as wrong on the issue of posture effects as they were on CEV. Since the British and American forces were predominantly on the offensive, while the Germans mainly defended themselves, a German CEV superiority may, at least partly, be hidden in two high effects for defensive posture.

When using corrected input data on the 20 situations in Italy September-October 1943, there is a tendency that the German CEV is higher when they attack. Such a tendency is also discernible in the engagements presented in Hitler’s Last Gamble. Appendix H, even though the number of engagements in the latter case is very small.

As it stands now this is not really more than a hypothesis, since it will take an analysis of a greater number of engagements to con�rm it. However, if such an analysis is done, it must be done using several sets of data. German and Allied attacks must be analyzed separately, and preferably the data would be separated further into sets for each relevant terrain type. Since the effects of the defensive posture are intertwined with terrain factors, it is very much possible that the factors may be correct for certain terrain types, while they are wrong for others. It may also be that the factors can be different for various opponents (due to differences in training, doctrine, etc.). It is also possible that the factors are different if the forces are predominantly composed of armor units or mainly of infantry.

One further problem with the effects of defensive position is that it is probably strongly affected by the density of forces. It is likely that the main effect of the density of forces is the inability to use effectively all the forces involved. Thus it may be that this factor will not influence the outcome except when the density is comparatively high. However, what can be regarded as “high� is probably much dependent on terrain, road net quality, and the cross-country mobility of the forces.


While the TNDM has been criticized here, it is also �tting to praise the model. The very fact that it can be criticized in this way is a testimony to its openness. In a sense a model is also a theory, and to use Popperian terminology, the TNDM is also very testable.

It should also be emphasized that the greatest errors are probably those in the database. As previously stated, I can only conclude safely that the data on the engagements in Italy in 1943 are wrong; later engagements have not yet been checked against archival documents. Overall the errors do not represent a dramatic change in the CEV values. Rather, the Germans seem to have (in Italy 1943) a superiority on the order of 1.4-1.5, compared to an original �gure of 1.2-1.3.

During September and October 1943, almost all the German divisions in southern Italy were mechanized or parachute divisions. This may have contributed to a higher German CEV. Thus it is not certain that the conclusions arrived at here are valid for German forces in general, even though this factor should not be exaggerated, since many of the German divisions in Italy were either newly raised (e.g., 26th Panzer Division) or rebuilt after the Stalingrad disaster (16th Panzer Division plus 3rd and 29th Panzergrenadier Divisions) or the Tunisian debacle (15th Panzergrenadier Division).

The Third World War of 1985

The Third World War of 1985


[This article was originally posted on 5 August 2016]

The seeming military resurgence of Vladimir Putin’s Russia has renewed concerns about the military balance between East and West in Europe. These concerns have evoked memories of the decades-long Cold War confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact along the inner-German frontier. One of the most popular expressions of this conflict came in the form of a book titled The Third World War: August 1985, by British General Sir John Hackett. The book, a hypothetical account of a war between the Soviet Union, the United States, and assorted allies set in the near future, became an international best-seller.

Jeffrey H Michaels, a Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies at the British the Joint Services Command and Staff College, has published a detailed look at how Hackett and several senior NATO and diplomatic colleagues constructed the scenario portrayed in the book. Scenario construction is an important aspect of institutional war gaming. A war game will only be as useful if the assumptions that underpin it are valid. As Michaels points out,

Regrettably, far too many scenarios and models, whether developed by military organizations, political scientists, or fiction writers, tend to focus their attention on the battlefield and the clash of armies, navies, air forces, and especially their weapons systems.  By contrast, the broader context of the war – the reasons why hostilities erupted, the political and military objectives, the limits placed on military action, and so on – are given much less serious attention, often because they are viewed by the script-writers as a distraction from the main activity that occurs on the battlefield.

Modelers and war gamers always need to keep in mind the fundamental importance of context in designing their simulations.

It is quite easy to project how one weapon system might fare against another, but taken out of a broader strategic context, such a projection is practically meaningless (apart from its marketing value), or worse, misleading.  In this sense, even if less entertaining or exciting, the degree of realism of the political aspects of the scenario, particularly policymakers’ rationality and cost-benefit calculus, and the key decisions that are taken about going to war, the objectives being sought, the limits placed on military action, and the willingness to incur the risks of escalation, should receive more critical attention than the purely battlefield dimensions of the future conflict.

These are crucially important points to consider when deciding how to asses the outcomes of hypothetical scenarios.

Dupuy’s Verities: Offensive Action

Dupuy’s Verities: Offensive Action

Sheridan’s final charge at Winchester by Thune de Thulstrup (ca. 1886) [Library of Congress]

The first of Trevor Dupuy’s Timeless Verities of Combat is:

Offensive action is essential to positive combat results.

As he explained in Understanding War (1987):

This is like saying, “A team can’t score in football unless it has the ball.� Although subsequent verities stress the strength, value, and importance of defense, this should not obscure the essentiality of offensive action to ultimate combat success. Even in instances where a defensive strategy might conceivably assure a favorable war outcome—as was the case of the British against Napoleon, and as the Confederacy attempted in the American Civil War—selective employment of offensive tactics and operations is required if the strategic defender is to have any chance of final victory. [pp. 1-2]

The offensive has long been a staple element of the principles of war. From the 1954 edition of the U.S. Army Field Manual FM 100-5, Field Service Regulations, Operations:

71. Offensive

Only offensive action achieves decisive results. Offensive action permits the commander to exploit the initiative and impose his will on the enemy. The defensive may be forced on the commander, but it should be deliberately adopted only as a temporary expedient while awaiting an opportunity for offensive action or for the purpose of economizing forces on a front where a decision is not sought. Even on the defensive the commander seeks every opportunity to seize the initiative and achieve decisive results by offensive action. [Original emphasis]

Interestingly enough, the offensive no longer retains its primary place in current Army doctrinal thought. It is now placed on the same par as the defensive and stability operations. As the 2017 edition of the capstone FM 3-0 Operations now lays it out:

Unified land operations are simultaneous offensive, defensive, and stability or defense support of civil authorities’ tasks to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative to shape the operational environment, prevent conflict, consolidate gains, and win our Nation’s wars as part of unified action (ADRP 3-0)…

At the heart of the Army’s operational concept is decisive action. Decisive action is the continuous, simultaneous combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability or defense support of civil authorities tasks (ADRP 3-0). During large-scale combat operations, commanders describe the combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability tasks in the concept of operations. As a single, unifying idea, decisive action provides direction for an entire operation. [p. I-16; original emphasis]

It is perhaps too easy to read too much into this change in emphasis. On the very next page, FM 3-0 describes offensive “tasks� thusly:

Offensive tasks are conducted to defeat and destroy enemy forces and seize terrain, resources, and population centers. Offensive tasks impose the commander’s will on the enemy. The offense is the most direct and sure means of seizing and exploiting the initiative to gain physical and cognitive advantages over an enemy. In the offense, the decisive operation is a sudden, shattering action that capitalizes on speed, surprise, and shock effect to achieve the operation’s purpose. If that operation does not destroy or defeat the enemy, operations continue until enemy forces disintegrate or retreat so they no longer pose a threat. Executing offensive tasks compels an enemy to react, creating or revealing additional weaknesses that an attacking force can exploit. [p. I-17]

The change in emphasis reflects recent U.S. military experience where decisive action has not yielded much in the way of decisive outcomes, as is mentioned in to FM 3-0’s introduction. Joint force offensives in 2001 and 2003 “achieved rapid initial military success but no enduring political outcome, resulting in protracted counterinsurgency campaigns.� The Army now anticipates a future operating environment where joint forces can expect to “work together and with unified action partners to successfully prosecute operations short of conflict, prevail in large-scale combat operations, and consolidate gains to win enduring strategic outcomes� that are not necessarily predicated on offensive action alone. We may have to wait for the next edition of FM 3-0 to see if the Army has drawn valid conclusions from the recent past or not.

Scoring Weapons And Aggregation In Trevor Dupuy’s Combat Models

Scoring Weapons And Aggregation In Trevor Dupuy’s Combat Models

[The article below is reprinted from the October 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

Consistent Scoring of Weapons and Aggregation of Forces:
The Cornerstone of Dupuy’s Quantitative Analysis of Historical Land Battles
James G. Taylor, PhD,
Dept. of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School


Col. Trevor N. Dupuy was an American original, especially as regards the quantitative study of warfare. As with many prophets, he was not entirely appreciated in his own land, particularly its Military Operations Research (OR) community. However, after becoming rather familiar with the details of his mathematical modeling of ground combat based on historical data, I became aware of the basic scienti�c soundness of his approach. Unfortunately, his documentation of methodology was not always accepted by others, many of whom appeared to confuse lack of mathematical sophistication in his documentation with lack of scienti�c validity of his basic methodology.

The purpose of this brief paper is to review the salient points of Dupuy’s methodology from a system’s perspective, i.e., to view his methodology as a system, functioning as an organic whole to capture the essence of past combat experience (with an eye towards extrapolation into the future). The advantage of this perspective is that it immediately leads one to the conclusion that if one wants to use some functional relationship derived from Dupuy’s work, then one should use his methodologies for scoring weapons, aggregating forces, and adjusting for operational circumstances; since this consistency is the only guarantee of being able to reproduce historical results and to project them into the future.

Implications (of this system’s perspective on Dupuy’s work) for current DOD models will be discussed. In particular, the Military OR community has developed quantitative methods for imputing values to weapon systems based on their attrition capability against opposing forces and force interactions.[1] One such approach is the so-called antipotential-potential method[2] used in TACWAR[3] to score weapons. However, one should not expect such scores to provide valid casualty estimates when combined with historically derived functional relationships such as the so-called ATLAS casualty-rate curves[4] used in TACWAR, because a different “yard-stick� (i.e. measuring system for estimating the relative combat potential of opposing forces) was used to develop such a curve.

Overview of Dupuy’s Approach

This section briefly outlines the salient features of Dupuy’s approach to the quantitative analysis and modeling of ground combat as embodied in his Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM) and its predecessor the Quanti�ed Judgment Model (QJM). The interested reader can �nd details in Dupuy [1979] (see also Dupuy [1985][5], [1987], [1990]). Here we will view Dupuy’s methodology from a system approach, which seeks to discern its various components and their interactions and to view these components as an organic whole. Essentially Dupuy’s approach involves the development of functional relationships from historical combat data (see Fig. 1) and then using these functional relationships to model future combat (see Fig, 2).

At the heart of Dupuy’s method is the investigation of historical battles and comparing the relationship of inputs (as quanti�ed by relative combat power, denoted as Pa/Pd for that of the attacker relative to that of the defender in Fig. l)(e.g. see Dupuy [1979, pp. 59-64]) to outputs (as quanti�ed by extent of mission accomplishment, casualty effectiveness, and territorial effectiveness; see Fig. 2) (e.g. see Dupuy [1979, pp. 47-50]), The salient point is that within this scheme, the main input[6] (i.e. relative combat power) to a historical battle is a derived quantity. It is computed from formulas that involve three essential aspects: (1) the scoring of weapons (e.g, see Dupuy [1979, Chapter 2 and also Appendix A]), (2) aggregation methodology for a force (e.g. see Dupuy [1979, pp. 43-46 and 202-203]), and (3) situational-adjustment methodology for determining the relative combat power of opposing forces (e.g. see Dupuy [1979, pp. 46-47 and 203-204]). In the force-aggregation step the effects on weapons of Dupuy’s environmental variables and one operational variable (air superiority) are considered[7], while in the situation-adjustment step the effects on forces of his behavioral variables[8] (aggregated into a single factor called the relative combat effectiveness value (CEV)) and also the other operational variables are considered (Dupuy [1987, pp. 86-89])

Figure 1.

Moreover, any functional relationships developed by Dupuy depend (unless shown otherwise) on his computational system for derived quantities, namely OLls, force strengths, and relative combat power. Thus, Dupuy’s results depend in an essential manner on his overall computational system described immediately above. Consequently, any such functional relationship (e.g. casualty-rate curve) directly or indirectly derivative from Dupuy‘s work should still use his computational methodology for determination of independent-variable values.

Fig l also reveals another important aspect of Dupuy’s work, the development of reliable data on historical battles, Military judgment plays an essential role in this development of such historical data for a variety of reasons. Dupuy was essentially the only source of new secondary historical data developed from primary sources (see McQuie [1970] for further details). These primary sources are well known to be both incomplete and inconsistent, so that military judgment must be used to �ll in the many gaps and reconcile observed inconsistencies. Moreover, military judgment also generates the working hypotheses for model development (e.g. identi�cation of signi�cant variables).

At the heart of Dupuy’s quantitative investigation of historical battles and subsequent model development is his own weapons-scoring methodology, which slowly evolved out of study efforts by the Historical Evaluation Research Organization (HERO) and its successor organizations (cf. HERO [1967] and compare with Dupuy [1979]). Early HERO [1967, pp. 7-8] work revealed that what one would today call weapons scores developed by other organizations were so poorly documented that HERO had to create its own methodology for developing the relative lethality of weapons, which eventually evolved into Dupuy’s Operational Lethality Indices (OLIs). Dupuy realized that his method was arbitrary (as indeed is its counterpart, called the operational definition, in formal scientific work), but felt that this would be ameliorated if the weapons-scoring methodology be consistently applied to historical battles. Unfortunately, this point is not clearly stated in Dupuy’s formal writings, although it was clearly (and compellingly) made by him in numerous brie�ngs that this author heard over the years.

Figure 2.

In other words, from a system’s perspective, the functional relationships developed by Colonel Dupuy are part of his analysis system that includes this weapons-scoring methodology consistently applied (see Fig. l again). The derived functional relationships do not stand alone (unless further empirical analysis shows them to hold for any weapons-scoring methodology), but function in concert with computational procedures. Another essential part of this system is Dupuy‘s aggregation methodology, which combines numbers, environmental circumstances, and weapons scores to compute the strength (S) of a military force. A key innovation by Colonel Dupuy [1979, pp. 202- 203] was to use a nonlinear (more precisely, a piecewise-linear) model for certain elements of force strength. This innovation precluded the occurrence of military absurdities such as air �repower being fully substitutable for ground �repower, antitank weapons being fully effective when armor targets are lacking, etc‘ The �nal part of this computational system is Dupuy’s situational-adjustment methodology, which combines the effects of operational circumstances with force strengths to determine relative combat power, e.g. Pa/Pd.

To recapitulate, the determination of an Operational Lethality Index (OLI) for a weapon involves the combination of weapon lethality, quanti�ed in terms of a Theoretical Lethality Index (TLI) (e.g. see Dupuy [1987, p. 84]), and troop dispersion[9] (e.g. see Dupuy [1987, pp. 84- 85]). Weapons scores (i.e. the OLIs) are then combined with numbers (own side and enemy) and combat- environment factors to yield force strength. Six[10] different categories of weapons are aggregated, with nonlinear (i.e. piecewise-linear) models being used for the following three categories of weapons: antitank, air defense, and air �repower (i.e. c1ose—air support). Operational, e.g. mobility, posture, surprise, etc. (Dupuy [1987, p. 87]), and behavioral variables (quanti�ed as a relative combat effectiveness value (CEV)) are then applied to force strength to determine a side’s combat-power potential.

Requirement for Consistent Scoring of Weapons, Force Aggregation, and Situational Adjustment for Operational Circumstances

The salient point to be gleaned from Fig.1 and 2 is that the same (or at least consistent) weapons—scoring, aggregation, and situational—adjustment methodologies be used for both developing functional relationships and then playing them to model future combat. The corresponding computational methods function as a system (organic whole) for determining relative combat power, e.g. Pa/Pd. For the development of functional relationships from historical data, a force ratio (relative combat power of the two opposing sides, e.g. attacker’s combat power divided by that of the defender, Pa/Pd is computed (i.e. it is a derived quantity) as the independent variable, with observed combat outcome being the dependent variable. Thus, as discussed above, this force ratio depends on the methodologies for scoring weapons, aggregating force strengths, and adjusting a force’s combat power for the operational circumstances of the engagement. It is a priori not clear that different scoring, aggregation, and situational-adjustment methodologies will lead to similar derived values. If such different computational procedures were to be used, these derived values should be recomputed and the corresponding functional relationships rederived and replotted.

However, users of the Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM) (or for that matter, its predecessor, the Quanti�ed Judgment Model (QJM)) need not worry about this point because it was apparently meticulously observed by Colonel Dupuy in all his work. However, portions of his work have found their way into a surprisingly large number of DOD models (usually not explicitly acknowledged), but the context and range of validity of historical results have been largely ignored by others. The need for recalibration of the historical data and corresponding functional relationships has not been considered in applying Dupuy’s results for some important current DOD models.

Implications for Current DOD Models

A number of important current DOD models (namely, TACWAR and JICM discussed below) make use of some of Dupuy’s historical results without recalibrating functional relationships such as loss rates and rates of advance as a function of some force ratio (e.g. Pa/Pd). As discussed above, it is not clear that such a procedure will capture the essence of past combat experience. Moreover, in calculating losses, Dupuy �rst determines personnel losses (expressed as a percent loss of personnel strength, i.e., number of combatants on a side) and then calculates equipment losses as a function of this casualty rate (e.g., see Dupuy [1971, pp. 219-223], also [1990, Chapters 5 through 7][11]). These latter functional relationships are apparently not observed in the models discussed below. In fact, only Dupuy (going back to Dupuy [1979][12] takes personnel losses to depend on a force ratio and other pertinent variables, with materiel losses being taken as derivative from this casualty rate.

For example, TACWAR determines personnel losses[13] by computing a force ratio and then consulting an appropriate casualty-rate curve (referred to as empirical data), much in the same fashion as ATLAS did[14]. However, such a force ratio is computed using a linear model with weapon values determined by the so-called antipotential-potential method[15]. Unfortunately, this procedure may not be consistent with how the empirical data (i.e. the casualty-rate curves) was developed. Further research is required to demonstrate that valid casualty estimates are obtained when different weapon scoring, aggregation, and situational-adjustment methodologies are used to develop casualty-rate curves from historical data and to use them to assess losses in aggregated combat models. Furthermore, TACWAR does not use Dupuy’s model for equipment losses (see above), although it does purport, as just noted above, to use “historical data” (e.g., see Kerlin et al. [1975, p. 22]) to compute personnel losses as a function (among other things) of a force ratio (given by a linear relationship), involving close air support values in a way never used by Dupuy. Although their force-ratio determination methodology does have logical and mathematical merit, it is not the way that the historical data was developed.

Moreover, RAND (Allen [1992]) has more recently developed what is called the situational force scoring (SFS) methodology for calculating force ratios in large-scale, aggregated-force combat situations to determine loss and movement rates. Here, SFS refers essentially to a force- aggregation and situation-adjustment methodology, which has many conceptual elements in common with Dupuy‘s methodology (except, most notably, extensive testing against historical data, especially documentation of such efforts). This SFS was originally developed for RSAS[16] and is today used in JICM[17]. It also apparently uses a weapon-scoring system developed at RAND[18]. It purports (no documentation given [citation of unpublished work]) to be consistent with historical data (including the ATLAS casualty-rate curves) (Allen [1992, p.41]), but again no consideration is given to recalibration of historical results for different weapon scoring, force-aggregation, and situational-adjustment methodologies. SFS emphasizes adjusting force strengths according to operational circumstances (the “situation�) of the engagement (including surprise), with many innovative ideas (but in some major ways has little connection with previous work of others[19]). The resulting model contains many more details than historical combat data would support. It also is methodology that differs in many essential ways from that used previously by any investigator. In particular, it is doubtful that it develops force ratios in a manner consistent with Dupuy’s work.

Final Comments

Use of (sophisticated) mathematics for modeling past historical combat (and extrapolating it into the future for planning purposes) is no reason for ignoring Dupuy’s work. One would think that the current Military OR community would try to understand Dupuy’s work before trying to improve and extend it. In particular, Colonel Dupuy’s various computational procedures (including constants) must be considered as an organic whole (i.e. a system) supporting the development of functional relationships. If one ignores this computational system and simply tries to use some isolated aspect, the result may be interesting and even logically sound, but it probably lacks any scienti�c validity.


P. Allen, “Situational Force Scoring: Accounting for Combined Arms Effects in Aggregate Combat Models,� N-3423-NA, The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 1992.

L. B. Anderson, “A Brie�ng on Anti-Potential Potential (The Eigen-value Method for Computing Weapon Values), WP-2, Project 23-31, Institute for Defense Analyses, Arlington, VA, March 1974.

B. W. Bennett, et al, “RSAS 4.6 Summary,� N-3534-NA, The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 1992.

B. W. Bennett, A. M. Bullock, D. B. Fox, C. M. Jones, J. Schrader, R. Weissler, and B. A. Wilson, “JICM 1.0 Summary,� MR-383-NA, The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 1994.

P. K. Davis and J. A. Winnefeld, “The RAND Strategic Assessment Center: An Overview and Interim Conclusions About Utility and Development Options,� R-2945-DNA, The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, March 1983.

T.N, Dupuy, Numbers. Predictions and War: Using History to Evaluate Combat Factors and Predict the Outcome of Battles, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis/New York, 1979,

T.N. Dupuy, Numbers Predictions and War, Revised Edition, HERO Books, Fairfax, VA 1985.

T.N. Dupuy, Understanding War: History and Theory of Combat, Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1987.

T.N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modem War, HERO Books, Fairfax, VA, 1990.

General Research Corporation (GRC), “A Hierarchy of Combat Analysis Models,� McLean, VA, January 1973.

Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO), “Average Casualty Rates for War Games, Based on Historical Data,� 3 Volumes in 1, Dunn Loring, VA, February 1967.

E. P. Kerlin and R. H. Cole, “ATLAS: A Tactical, Logistical, and Air Simulation: Documentation and User’s Guide,� RAC-TP-338, Research Analysis Corporation, McLean, VA, April 1969 (AD 850 355).

E.P. Kerlin, L.A. Schmidt, A.J. Rolfe, M.J. Hutzler, and D,L. Moody, “The IDA Tactical Warfare Model: A Theater-Level Model of Conventional, Nuclear, and Chemical Warfare, Volume II- Detailed Description� R-21 1, Institute for Defense Analyses, Arlington, VA, October 1975 (AD B009 692L).

R. McQuie, “Military History and Mathematical Analysis,” Military Review 50, No, 5, 8-17 (1970).

S.M. Robinson, “Shadow Prices for Measures of Effectiveness, I: Linear Model,� Operations Research 41, 518-535 (1993).

J.G. Taylor, Lanchester Models of Warfare. Vols, I & II. Operations Research Society of America, Alexandria, VA, 1983. (a)

J.G. Taylor, “A Lanchester-Type Aggregated-Force Model of Conventional Ground Combat,� Naval Research Logistics Quarterly 30, 237-260 (1983). (b)


[1] For example, see Taylor [1983a, Section 7.18], which contains a number of examples. The basic references given there may be more accessible through Robinson [I993].

[2] This term was apparently coined by L.B. Anderson [I974] (see also Kerlin et al. [1975, Chapter I, Section D.3]).

[3] The Tactical Warfare (TACWAR) model is a theater-level, joint-warfare, computer-based combat model that is currently used for decision support by the Joint Staff and essentially all CINC staffs. It was originally developed by the Institute for Defense Analyses in the mid-1970s (see Kerlin et al. [1975]), originally referred to as TACNUC, which has been continually upgraded until (and including) the present day.

[4] For example, see Kerlin and Cole [1969], GRC [1973, Fig. 6-6], or Taylor [1983b, Fig. 5] (also Taylor [1983a, Section 7.13]).

[5] The only apparent difference between Dupuy [1979] and Dupuy [1985] is the addition of an appendix (Appendix C “Modi�ed Quanti�ed Judgment Analysis of the Bekaa Valley Battle�) to the end of the latter (pp. 241-251). Hence, the page content is apparently the same for these two books for pp. 1-239.

[6] Technically speaking, one also has the engagement type and possibly several other descriptors (denoted in Fig. 1 as reduced list of operational circumstances) as other inputs to a historical battle.

[7] In Dupuy [1979, e.g. pp. 43-46] only environmental variables are mentioned, although basically the same formulas underlie both Dupuy [1979] and Dupuy [1987]. For simplicity, Fig. 1 and 2 follow this usage and employ the term “environmental circumstances.”

[8] In Dupuy [1979, e.g. pp. 46-47] only operational variables are mentioned, although basically the same formulas underlie both Dupuy [1979] and Dupuy [1987]. For simplicity, Fig. 1 and 2 follow this usage and employ the term “operational circumstances.�

[9] Chris Lawrence has kindly brought to my attention that since the same value for troop dispersion from an historical period (e.g. see Dupuy [1987, p. 84]) is used for both the attacker and also the defender, troop dispersion does not actually affect the determination of relative combat power PM/Pd.

[10] Eight different weapon types are considered, with three being classi�ed as infantry weapons (e.g. see Dupuy [1979, pp, 43-44], [1981 pp. 85-86]).

[11] Chris Lawrence has kindly informed me that Dupuy‘s work on relating equipment losses to personnel losses goes back to the early 1970s and even earlier (e.g. see HERO [1966]). Moreover, Dupuy‘s [1992] book Future Wars gives some additional empirical evidence concerning the dependence of equipment losses on casualty rates.

[12] But actually going back much earlier as pointed out in the previous footnote.

[13] See Kerlin et al. [1975, Chapter I, Section D.l].

[14] See Footnote 4 above.

[15] See Kerlin et al. [1975, Chapter I, Section D.3]; see also Footnotes 1 and 2 above.

[16] The RAND Strategy Assessment System (RSAS) is a multi-theater aggregated combat model developed at RAND in the early l980s (for further details see Davis and Winnefeld [1983] and Bennett et al. [1992]). It evolved into the Joint Integrated Contingency Model (JICM), which is a post-Cold War redesign of the RSAS (starting in FY92).

[17] The Joint Integrated Contingency Model (JICM) is a game-structured computer-based combat model of major regional contingencies and higher-level conflicts, covering strategic mobility, regional conventional and nuclear warfare in multiple theaters, naval warfare, and strategic nuclear warfare (for further details, see Bennett et al. [1994]).

[18] RAND apparently replaced one weapon-scoring system by another (e.g. see Allen [1992, pp. 9, l5, and 87-89]) without making any other changes in their SFS System.

[19] For example, both Dupuy’s early HERO work (e.g. see Dupuy [1967]), reworks of these results by the Research Analysis Corporation (RAC) (e.g. see RAC [1973, Fig. 6-6]), and Dupuy’s later work (e.g. see Dupuy [1979]) considered daily fractional casualties for the attacker and also for the defender as basic casualty-outcome descriptors (see also Taylor [1983b]). However, RAND does not do this, but considers the defender’s loss rate and a casualty exchange ratio as being the basic casualty-production descriptors (Allen [1992, pp. 41-42]). The great value of using the former set of descriptors (i.e. attacker and defender fractional loss rates) is that not only is casualty assessment more straight forward (especially development of functional relationships from historical data) but also qualitative model behavior is readily deduced (see Taylor [1983b] for further details).

The Lanchester Equations and Historical Warfare

The Lanchester Equations and Historical Warfare

Allied force dispositions at the Battle of Anzio, on 1 February 1944. [U.S. Army/Wikipedia]

[The article below is reprinted from History, Numbers And War: A HERO Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1977, pp. 34-52]

The Lanchester Equations and Historical Warfare: An Analysis of Sixty World War II Land Engagements

By Janice B. Fain

Background and Objectives

The method by which combat losses are computed is one of the most critical parts of any combat model. The Lanchester equations, which state that a unit’s combat losses depend on the size of its opponent, are widely used for this purpose.

In addition to their use in complex dynamic simulations of warfare, the Lanchester equations have also sewed as simple mathematical models. In fact, during the last decade or so there has been an explosion of theoretical developments based on them. By now their variations and modifications are numerous, and “Lanchester theory� has become almost a separate branch of applied mathematics. However, compared with the effort devoted to theoretical developments, there has been relatively little empirical testing of the basic thesis that combat losses are related to force sizes.

One of the first empirical studies of the Lanchester equations was Engel’s classic work on the Iwo Jima campaign in which he found a reasonable �t between computed and actual U.S. casualties (Note 1). Later studies were somewhat less supportive (Notes 2 and 3), but an investigation of Korean war battles showed that, when the simulated combat units were constrained to follow the tactics of their historical counterparts, casualties during combat could be predicted to within 1 to 13 percent (Note 4).

Taken together, these various studies suggest that, while the Lanchester equations may be poor descriptors of large battles extending over periods during which the forces were not constantly in combat, they may be adequate for predicting losses while the forces are actually engaged in fighting. The purpose of the work reported here is to investigate 60 carefully selected World War II engagements. Since the durations of these battles were short (typically two to three days), it was expected that the Lanchester equations would show a closer fit than was found in studies of larger battles. In particular, one of the objectives was to repeat, in part, Willard’s work on battles of the historical past (Note 3).

The Data Base

Probably the most nearly complete and accurate collection of combat data is the data on World War II compiled by the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO). From their data HERO analysts selected, for quantitative analysis, the following 60 engagements from four major Italian campaigns:

Salerno, 9-18 Sep 1943, 9 engagements

Volturno, 12 Oct-8 Dec 1943, 20 engagements

Anzio, 22 Jan-29 Feb 1944, 11 engagements

Rome, 14 May-4 June 1944, 20 engagements

The complete data base is described in a HERO report (Note 5). The work described here is not the first analysis of these data. Statistical analyses of weapon effectiveness and the testing of a combat model (the Quantified Judgment Method, QJM) have been carried out (Note 6). The work discussed here examines these engagements from the viewpoint of the Lanchester equations to consider the question: “Are casualties during combat related to the numbers of men in the opposing forces?�

The variables chosen for this analysis are shown in Table 1. The “winnersâ€� of the engagements were specified by HERO on the basis of casualties suffered, distance advanced, and subjective estimates of the percentage of the commander’s objective achieved. Variable 12, the Combat Power Ratio, is based on the Operational Lethality Indices (OLI) of the units (Note 7).

The general characteristics of the engagements are briefly described. Of the 60, there were 19 attacks by British forces, 28 by U.S. forces, and 13 by German forces. The attacker was successful in 34 cases; the defender, in 23; and the outcomes of 3 were ambiguous. With respect to terrain, 19 engagements occurred in flat terrain; 24 in rolling, or intermediate, terrain; and 17 in rugged, or difficult, terrain. Clear weather prevailed in 40 cases; 13 engagements were fought in light or intermittent rain; and 7 in medium or heavy rain. There were 28 spring and summer engagements and 32 fall and winter engagements.

Comparison of World War II Engagements With Historical Battles

Since one purpose of this work is to repeat, in part, Willard’s analysis, comparison of these World War II engagements with the historical battles (1618-1905) studied by him will be useful. Table 2 shows a comparison of the distribution of battles by type. Willard’s cases were divided into two categories: I. meeting engagements, and II. sieges, attacks on forts, and similar operations. HERO’s World War II engagements were divided into four types based on the posture of the defender: 1. delay, 2. hasty defense, 3. prepared position, and 4. fortified position. If postures 1 and 2 are considered very roughly equivalent to Willard’s category I, then in both data sets the division into the two gross categories is approximately even.

The distribution of engagements across force ratios, given in Table 3, indicated some differences. Willard’s engagements tend to cluster at the lower end of the scale (1-2) and at the higher end (4 and above), while the majority of the World War II engagements were found in mid-range (1.5 – 4) (Note 8). The frequency with which the numerically inferior force achieved victory is shown in Table 4. It is seen that in neither data set are force ratios good predictors of success in battle (Note 9).

Table 3.

Results of the Analysis Willard’s Correlation Analysis

There are two forms of the Lanchester equations. One represents the case in which firing units on both sides know the locations of their opponents and can shift their fire to a new target when a “kill� is achieved. This leads to the “square� law where the loss rate is proportional to the opponent’s size. The second form represents that situation in which only the general location of the opponent is known. This leads to the “linear� law in which the loss rate is proportional to the product of both force sizes.

As Willard points out, large battles are made up of many smaller fights. Some of these obey one law while others obey the other, so that the overall result should be a combination of the two. Starting with a general formulation of Lanchester’s equations, where g is the exponent of the target unit’s size (that is, g is 0 for the square law and 1 for the linear law), he derives the following linear equation:

log (nc/mc) = log E + g log (mo/no) (1)

where nc and mc are the casualties, E is related to the exchange ratio, and mo and no are the initial force sizes. Linear regression produces a value for g. However, instead of lying between 0 and 1, as expected, the) g‘s range from -.27 to -.87, with the majority lying around -.5. (Willard obtains several values for g by dividing his data base in various ways—by force ratio, by casualty ratio, by historical period, and so forth.) A negative g value is unpleasant. As Willard notes:

Military theorists should be disconcerted to find g < 0, for in this range the results seem to imply that if the Lanchester formulation is valid, the casualty-producing power of troops increases as they suffer casualties (Note 3).

From his results, Willard concludes that his analysis does not justify the use of Lanchester equations in large-scale situations (Note 10).

Analysis of the World War II Engagements

Willard’s computations were repeated for the HERO data set. For these engagements, regression produced a value of -.594 for g (Note 11), in striking agreement with Willard’s results. Following his reasoning would lead to the conclusion that either the Lanchester equations do not represent these engagements, or that the casualty producing power of forces increases as their size decreases.

However, since the Lanchester equations are so convenient analytically and their use is so widespread, it appeared worthwhile to reconsider this conclusion. In deriving equation (1), Willard used binomial expansions in which he retained only the leading terms. It seemed possible that the poor results might he due, in part, to this approximation. If the first two terms of these expansions are retained, the following equation results:

log (nc/mc) = log E + log (Mo-mc)/(no-nc) (2)

Repeating this regression on the basis of this equation leads to g = -.413 (Note 12), hardly an improvement over the initial results.

A second attempt was made to salvage this approach. Starting with raw OLI scores (Note 7), HERO analysts have computed “combat potentials� for both sides in these engagements, taking into account the operational factors of posture, vulnerability, and mobility; environmental factors like weather, season, and terrain; and (when the record warrants) psychological factors like troop training, morale, and the quality of leadership. Replacing the factor (mo/no) in Equation (1) by the combat power ratio produces the result) g = .466 (Note 13).

While this is an apparent improvement in the value of g, it is achieved at the expense of somewhat distorting the Lanchester concept. It does preserve the functional form of the equations, but it requires a somewhat strange definition of “killing rates.�

Analysis Based on the Differential Lanchester Equations

Analysis of the type carried out by Willard appears to produce very poor results for these World War II engagements. Part of the reason for this is apparent from Figure 1, which shows the scatterplot of the dependent variable, log (nc/mc), against the independent variable, log (mo/no). It is clear that no straight line will fit these data very well, and one with a positive slope would not be much worse than the “best� line found by regression. To expect the exponent to account for the wide variation in these data seems unreasonable.

Here, a simpler approach will be taken. Rather than use the data to attempt to discriminate directly between the square and the linear laws, they will be used to estimate linear coefficients under each assumption in turn, starting with the differential formulation rather than the integrated equations used by Willard.

In their simplest differential form, the Lanchester equations may be written;

Square Law; dA/dt = -kdD and dD/dt = kaA (3)

Linear law: dA/dt = -k’dAD and dD/dt = k’aAD (4)


A(D) is the size of the attacker (defender)

dA/dt (dD/dt) is the attacker’s (defender’s) loss rate,

ka, k’a (kd, k’d) are the attacker’s (defender’s) killing rates

For this analysis, the day is taken as the basic time unit, and the loss rate per day is approximated by the casualties per day. Results of the linear regressions are given in Table 5. No conclusions should be drawn from the fact that the correlation coefficients are higher in the linear law case since this is expected for purely technical reasons (Note 14). A better picture of the relationships is again provided by the scatterplots in Figure 2. It is clear from these plots that, as in the case of the logarithmic forms, a single straight line will not fit the entire set of 60 engagements for either of the dependent variables.

To investigate ways in which the data set might pro�tably be subdivided for analysis, T-tests of the means of the dependent variable were made for several partitionings of the data set. The results, shown in Table 6, suggest that dividing the engagements by defense posture might prove worthwhile.

Results of the linear regressions by defense posture are shown in Table 7. For each posture, the equation that seemed to give a better fit to the data is underlined (Note 15). From this table, the following very tentative conclusions might be drawn:

  • In an attack on a fortiï¬�ed position, the attacker suffers casualties by the square law; the defender suffers casualties by the linear law. That is, the defender is aware of the attacker’s position, while the attacker knows only the general location of the defender. (This is similar to Deitchman’s guerrilla model. Note 16).
  • This situation is apparently reversed in the cases of attacks on prepared positions and hasty defenses.
  • Delaying situations seem to be treated better by the square law for both attacker and defender.

Table 8 summarizes the killing rates by defense posture. The defender has a much higher killing rate than the attacker (almost 3 to 1) in a fortified position. In a prepared position and hasty defense, the attacker appears to have the advantage. However, in a delaying action, the defender’s killing rate is again greater than the attacker’s (Note 17).

Figure 3 shows the scatterplots for these cases. Examination of these plots suggests that a tentative answer to the study question posed above might be: “Yes, casualties do appear to be related to the force sizes, but the relationship may not be a simple linear one.�

In several of these plots it appears that two or more functional forms may be involved. Consider, for example, the defender‘s casualties as a function of the attacker’s initial strength in the case of a hasty defense. This plot is repeated in Figure 4, where the points appear to fit the curves sketched there. It would appear that there are at least two, possibly three, separate relationships. Also on that plot, the individual engagements have been identified, and it is interesting to note that on the curve marked (1), five of the seven attacks were made by Germans—four of them from the Salerno campaign. It would appear from this that German attacks are associated with higher than average defender casualties for the attacking force size. Since there are so few data points, this cannot be more than a hint or interesting suggestion.

Future Research

This work suggests two conclusions that might have an impact on future lines of research on combat dynamics:

  • Tactics appear to be an important determinant of combat results. This conclusion, in itself, does not appear startling, at least not to the military. However, it does not always seem to have been the case that tactical questions have been considered seriously by analysts in their studies of the effects of varying force levels and force mixes.
  • Historical data of this type offer rich opportunities for studying the effects of tactics. For example, consideration of the narrative accounts of these battles might permit re-coding the engagements into a larger, more sensitive set of engagement categories. (It would, of course, then be highly desirable to add more engagements to the data set.)

While predictions of the future are always dangerous, I would nevertheless like to suggest what appears to be a possible trend. While military analysis of the past two decades has focused almost exclusively on the hardware of weapons systems, at least part of our future analysis will be devoted to the more behavioral aspects of combat.

Janice Bloom Fain, a Senior Associate of CACI, lnc., is a physicist whose special interests are in the applications of computer simulation techniques to industrial and military operations; she is the author of numerous reports and articles in this field. This paper was presented by Dr. Fain at the Military Operations Research Symposium at Fort Eustis, Virginia.


[1.] J. H. Engel, “A Verification of Lanchester’s Law,â€� Operations Research 2, 163-171 (1954).

[2.] For example, see R. L. Helmbold, “Some Observations on the Use of Lanchester’s Theory for Prediction,â€� Operations Research 12, 778-781 (1964); H. K. Weiss, “Lanchester-Type Models of Warfare,â€� Proceedings of the First International Conference on Operational Research, 82-98, ORSA (1957); H. K. Weiss, “Combat Models and Historical Data; The U.S. Civil War,â€� Operations Research 14, 750-790 (1966).

[3.] D. Willard, “Lanchester as a Force in History: An Analysis of Land Battles of the Years 1618-1905,� RAC-TD-74, Research Analysis Corporation (1962). what appears to be a possible trend. While military analysis of the past two decades has focused almost exclusively on the hardware of weapons systems, at least part of our future analysis will be devoted to the more behavioral aspects of combat.

[4.] The method of computing the killing rates forced a fit at the beginning and end of the battles. See W. Fain, J. B. Fain, L. Feldman, and S. Simon, “Validation of Combat Models Against Historical Data,� Professional Paper No. 27, Center for Naval Analyses, Arlington, Virginia (1970).

[5.] HERO, “A Study of the Relationship of Tactical Air Support Operations to Land Combat, Appendix B, Historical Data Base.� Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, report prepared for the Defense Operational Analysis Establishment, U.K.T.S.D., Contract D-4052 (1971).

[6.] T. N. Dupuy, The Quantified Judgment Method of Analysis of Historical Combat Data, HERO Monograph, (January 1973); HERO, “Statistical Inference in Analysis in Combat,� Annex F, Historical Data Research on Tactical Air Operations, prepared for Headquarters USAF, Assistant Chief of Staff for Studies and Analysis, Contract No. F-44620-70-C-0058 (1972).

[7.] The Operational Lethality Index (OLI) is a measure of weapon effectiveness developed by HERO.

[8.] Since Willard’s data did not indicate which side was the attacker, his force ratio is defined to be (larger force/smaller force). The HERO force ratio is (attacker/defender).

[9.] Since the criteria for success may have been rather different for the two sets of battles, this comparison may not be very meaningful.

[10.] This work includes more complex analysis in which the possibility that the two forces may be engaging in different types of combat is considered, leading to the use of two exponents rather than the single one, Stochastic combat processes are also treated.

[11.] Correlation coefficient = -.262;

Intercept = .00115; slope = -.594.

[12.] Correlation coefficient = -.184;

Intercept = .0539; slope = -,413.

[13.] Correlation coefficient = .303;

Intercept = -.638; slope = .466.

[14.] Correlation coefficients for the linear law are inflated with respect to the square law since the independent variable is a product of force sizes and, thus, has a higher variance than the single force size unit in the square law case.

[15.] This is a subjective judgment based on the following considerations Since the correlation coefficient is inflated for the linear law, when it is lower the square law case is chosen. When the linear law correlation coefficient is higher, the case with the intercept closer to 0 is chosen.

[16.] S. J. Deitchman, “A Lanchester Model of Guerrilla Warfare,� Operations Research 10, 818-812 (1962).

[17.] As pointed out by Mr. Alan Washburn, who prepared a critique on this paper, when comparing numerical values of the square law and linear law killing rates, the differences in units must be considered. (See footnotes to Table 7).

What Is A Breakpoint?

What Is A Breakpoint?

French retreat from Russia in 1812 by Illarion Mikhailovich Pryanishnikov (1812) [Wikipedia]

After discussing with Chris the series of recent posts on the subject of breakpoints, it seemed appropriate to provide a better definition of exactly what a breakpoint is.

Dorothy Kneeland Clark was the first to define the notion of a breakpoint in her study, Casualties as a Measure of the Loss of Combat Effectiveness of an Infantry Battalion (Operations Research Office, The Johns Hopkins University: Baltimore, 1954). She found it was not quite as clear-cut as it seemed and the working definition she arrived at was based on discussions and the specific combat outcomes she found in her data set [pp 9-12].


The following definitions were developed out of many discussions. A unit is considered to have lost its combat effectiveness when it is unable to carry out its mission. The onset of this inability constitutes a breakpoint. A unit’s mission is the objective assigned in the current operations order or any other instructional directive, written or verbal. The objective may be, for example, to attack in order to take certain positions, or to defend certain positions. 

How does one determine when a unit is unable to carry out its mission? The obvious indication is a change in operational directive: the unit is ordered to stop short of its original goal, to hold instead of attack, to withdraw instead of hold. But one or more extraneous elements may cause the issue of such orders: 

(1) Some other unit taking part in the operation may have lost its combat effectiveness, and its predicament may force changes, in the tactical plan. For example the inability of one infantry battalion to take a hill may require that the two adjoining battalions be stopped to prevent exposing their flanks by advancing beyond it. 

(2) A unit may have been assigned an objective on the basis of a G-2 estimate of enemy weakness which, as the action proceeds, proves to have been over-optimistic. The operations plan may, therefore, be revised before the unit has carried out its orders to the point of losing combat effectiveness. 

(3) The commanding officer, for reasons quite apart from the tactical attrition, may change his operations plan. For instance, General Ridgway in May 1951 was obliged to cancel his plans for a major offensive north of the 38th parallel in Korea in obedience to top level orders dictated by political considerations. 

(4) Even if the supposed combat effectiveness of the unit is the determining factor in the issuance of a revised operations order, a serious difficulty in evaluating the situation remains. The commanding officer’s decision is necessarily made on the basis of information available to him plus his estimate of his unit’s capacities. Either or both of these bases may be faulty. The order may belatedly recognize a collapse which has in factor occurred hours earlier, or a commanding officer may withdraw a unit which could hold for a much longer time. 

It was usually not hard to discover when changes in orders resulted from conditions such as the first three listed above, but it proved extremely difficult to distinguish between revised orders based on a correct appraisal of the unit’s combat effectiveness and those issued in error. It was concluded that the formal order for a change in mission cannot be taken as a definitive indication of the breakpoint of a unit. It seemed necessary to go one step farther and search the records to learn what a given battalion did regardless of provisions in formal orders… 


In the engagements studied the following categories of breakpoint were finally selected: 

Category of Breakpoint 

No. Analyzed 

I. Attack [Symbol] rapid reorganization [Symbol] attack 


II. Attack [Symbol] defense (no longer able to attack without a few days of recuperation and reinforcement 


III. Defense [Symbol] withdrawal by order to a secondary line 


IV. Defense [Symbol] collapse 


Disorganization and panic were taken as unquestionable evidence of loss of combat effectiveness. It appeared, however, that there were distinct degrees of magnitude in these experiences. In addition to the expected breakpoints at attack [Symbol] defense and defense [Symbol] collapse, a further category, I, seemed to be indicated to include situations in which an attacking battalion was ‘pinned down” or forced to withdraw in partial disorder but was able to reorganize in 4 to 24 hours and continue attacking successfully. 

Category II includes (a) situations in which an attacking battalion was ordered into the defensive after severe fighting or temporary panic; (b) situations in which a battalion, after attacking successfully, failed to gain ground although still attempting to advance and was finally ordered into defense, the breakpoint being taken as occurring at the end of successful advance. In other words, the evident inability of the unit to fulfill its mission was used as the criterion for the breakpoint whether orders did or did not recognize its inability. Battalions after experiencing such a breakpoint might be able to recuperate in a few days to the point of renewing successful attack or might be able to continue for some time in defense. 

The sample of breakpoints coming under category IV, defense [Symbol] collapse, proved to be very small (5) and unduly weighted in that four of the examples came from the same engagement. It was, therefore, discarded as probably not representative of the universe of category IV breakpoints,* and another category (III) was added: situations in which battalions on the defense were ordered withdrawn to a quieter sector. Because only those instances were included in which the withdrawal orders appeared to have been dictated by the condition of the unit itself, it is believed that casualty levels for this category can be regarded as but slightly lower than those associated with defense [Symbol] collapse. 

In both categories II and III, “‘defenseâ€� represents an active situation in which the enemy is attacking aggressively. 

* It had been expected that breakpoints in this category would be associated with very high losses. Such did not prove to be the case. In whatever way the data were approached, most of the casualty averages were only slightly higher than those associated with category II (attack [Symbol] defense), although the spread in data was wider. It is believed that factors other than casualties, such as bad weather, difficult terrain, and heavy enemy artillery fire undoubtedly played major roles in bringing about the collapse in the four units taking part in the same engagement. Furthermore, the casualty figures for the four units themselves is in question because, as the situation deteriorated, many of the men developed severe cases of trench foot and combat exhaustion, but were not evacuated, as they would have been in a less desperate situation, and did not appear in the casualty records until they had made their way to the rear after their units had collapsed.

In 1987-1988, Trevor Dupuy and colleagues at Data Memory Systems, Inc. (DMSi), Janice Fain, Rich Anderson, Gay Hammerman, and Chuck Hawkins sought to create a broader, more generally applicable definition for breakpoints for the study, Forced Changes of Combat Posture (DMSi, Fairfax, VA, 1988) [pp. I-2-3]

The combat posture of a military force is the immediate intention of its commander and troops toward the opposing enemy force, together with the preparations and deployment to carry out that intention. The chief combat postures are attack, defend, delay, and withdraw.

A change in combat posture (or posture change) is a shift from one posture to another, as, for example, from defend to attack or defend to withdraw. A posture change can be either voluntary or forced. 

A forced posture change (FPC) is a change in combat posture by a military unit that is brought about, directly or indirectly, by enemy action. Forced posture changes are characteristically and almost always changes to a less aggressive posture. The most usual FPCs are from attack to defend and from defend to withdraw (or retrograde movement). A change from withdraw to combat ineffectiveness is also possible. 

Breakpoint is a term sometimes used as synonymous with forced posture change, and sometimes used to mean the collapse of a unit into ineffectiveness or rout. The latter meaning is probably more common in general usage, while forced posture change is the more precise term for the subject of this study. However, for brevity and convenience, and because this study has been known informally since its inception as the “Breakpoints” study, the term breakpoint is sometimes used in this report. When it is used, it is synonymous with forced posture change.

Hopefully this will help clarify the previous discussions of breakpoints on the blog.

Human Factors In Combat: Syrian Strike Edition

Human Factors In Combat: Syrian Strike Edition

Missile fire lit up the Damascus sky last week as the U.S. and allies launched an attack on chemical weapons sites. [Hassan Ammar, AP/USA Today]

Even as pundits and wonks debate the political and strategic impact of the 14 April combined U.S., British, and French cruise missile strike on Assad regime chemical warfare targets in Syria, it has become clear that effort was a notable tactical success.

Despite ample warning that the strike was coming, the Syrian regime’s Russian-made S-200 surface-to-air missile defense system failed to shoot down a single incoming missile. The U.S. Defense Department claimed that all 105 cruise missiles fired struck their targets. It also reported that the Syrians fired 40 interceptor missiles but nearly all launched after the incoming cruise missiles had already struck their targets.

Although cruise missiles are difficult to track and engage even with fully modernized air defense systems, the dismal performance of the Syrian network was a surprise to many analysts given the wary respect paid to it by U.S. military leaders in the recent past. Although the S-200 dates from the 1960s, many surmise an erosion in the combat effectiveness of the personnel manning the system is the real culprit.

[A] lack of training, command and control and other human factors are probably responsible for the failure, analysts said.

“It’s not just about the physical capability of the air defense system,� said David Deptula, a retired, three-star Air Force general. “It’s about the people who are operating the system.�

The Syrian regime has become dependent upon assistance from Russia and Iran to train, equip, and maintain its military forces. Russian forces in Syria have deployed the more sophisticated S-400 air defense system to protect their air and naval bases, which reportedly tracked but did not engage the cruise missile strike. The Assad regime is also believed to field the Russian-made Pantsir missile and air-defense artillery system, but it likely was not deployed near enough to the targeted facilities to help.

Despite the pervasive role technology plays in modern warfare, the human element remains the most important factor in determining combat effectiveness.

U.S. Army Invests In Revitalizing Long Range Precision Fires Capabilities

U.S. Army Invests In Revitalizing Long Range Precision Fires Capabilities

U.S. Marines from the The 11th MEU fire their M777 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning/Military.com)

In 2016, Michael Jacobson and Robert H. Scales amplified a warning that after years of neglect during the counterinsurgency war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. was falling behind potential adversaries in artillery and long range precision fires capabilities. The U.S. Army had already taken note of the performance of Russian artillery in Ukraine, particularly the strike at Zelenopillya in 2014.

Since then, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have started working on a new Multi-Domain Battle concept aimed at countering the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of potential foes. In 2017, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley made rapid improvement in long range precision fires capabilities the top priority for the service’s modernization effort. It currently aims to field new field artillery, rocket, and missile weapons capable of striking at distances from 70 to 500 kilometers – double the existing ranges – within five years.

The value of ground-based long-range precision fires has been demonstrated recently by the effectiveness of U.S. artillery support, particularly U.S. Army and Marine Corps 155mm howitzers, for Iraqi security forces in retaking Mosul, Syrian Democratic Forces assaulting Raqaa, and in protection of Syrian Kurds being attacked by Russian mercenaries and Syrian regime forces.

According to Army historian Luke O’Brian, the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense budget includes funds to buy 28,737 XM1156 Precision Guided Kit (PGK) 155mm howitzer munitions, which includes replacements for the 6,269 rounds expended during Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. O’Brian also notes that the Army will also buy 2,162 M982 Excalibur 155mm rounds in 2019 and several hundred each in following years.

In addition, in an effort to reduce the dependence on potentially vulnerable Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite networks for precision fires capabilities, the Army has awarded a contract to BAE Systems to develop Precision Guided Kit-Modernization (PGK-M) rounds with internal navigational capacity.

While the numbers appear large at first glance, data on U.S. artillery expenditures in Operation DESERT STORM and IRAQI FREEDOM (also via Luke O’Brian) shows just how much the volume of long-range fires has changed just since 1991. For the U.S. at least, precision fires have indeed replaced mass fires on the battlefield.

Breakpoints in U.S. Army Doctrine

Breakpoints in U.S. Army Doctrine

U.S. Army prisoners of war captured by German forces during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. [Wikipedia]

One of the least studied aspects of combat is battle termination. Why do units in combat stop attacking or defending? Shifts in combat posture (attack, defend, delay, withdrawal) are usually voluntary, directed by a commander, but they can also be involuntary, as a result of direct or indirect enemy action. Why do involuntary changes in combat posture, known as breakpoints, occur?

As Chris pointed out in a previous post, the topic of breakpoints has only been addressed by two known studies since 1954. Most existing military combat models and wargames address breakpoints in at least a cursory way, usually through some calculation based on personnel casualties. Both of the breakpoints studies suggest that involuntary changes in posture are seldom related to casualties alone, however.

Current U.S. Army doctrine addresses changes in combat posture through discussions of culmination points in the attack, and transitions from attack to defense, defense to counterattack, and defense to retrograde. But these all pertain to voluntary changes, not breakpoints.

Army doctrinal literature has little to say about breakpoints, either in the context of friendly forces or potential enemy combatants. The little it does say relates to the effects of fire on enemy forces and is based on personnel and material attrition.

According to ADRP 1-02 Terms and Military Symbols, an enemy combat unit is considered suppressed after suffering 3% personnel casualties or material losses, neutralized by 10% losses, and destroyed upon sustaining 30% losses. The sources and methodology for deriving these figures is unknown, although these specific terms and numbers have been a part of Army doctrine for decades.

The joint U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps vision of future land combat foresees battlefields that are highly lethal and demanding on human endurance. How will such a future operational environment affect combat performance? Past experience undoubtedly offers useful insights but there seems to be little interest in seeking out such knowledge.

Trevor Dupuy criticized the U.S. military in the 1980s for its lack of understanding of the phenomenon of suppression and other effects of fire on the battlefield, and its seeming disinterest in studying it. Not much appears to have changed since then.

Abstraction and Aggregation in Wargame Modeling

Abstraction and Aggregation in Wargame Modeling

[IPMS/USA Reviews]

“All models are wrong, some models are useful.â€� – George Box

Models, no matter what their subjects, must always be an imperfect copy of the original. The term “model” inherently has this connotation. If the subject is exact and precise, then it is a duplicate, a replica, a clone, or a copy, but not a “model.” The most common dimension to be compromised is generally size, or more literally the three spatial dimensions of length, width and height. A good example of this would be a scale model airplane, generally available in several ratios from the original, such as 1/144, 1/72 or 1/48 (which are interestingly all factors of 12 … there are also 1/100 for the more decimal-minded). These mean that the model airplane at 1/72 scale would be 72 times smaller … take the length, width and height measurements of the real item, and divide by 72 to get the model’s value.

If we take the real item’s weight and divide by 72, we would not expect our model to weight 72 times less! Not unless the same or similar materials would be used, certainly. Generally, the model has a different purpose than replicating the subject’s functionality. It is helping to model the subject’s qualities, or to mimic them in some useful way. In the case of the 1/72 plastic model airplane of the F-15J fighter, this might be replicating the sight of a real F-15J, to satisfy the desire of the youth to look at the F-15J and to imagine themselves taking flight. Or it might be for pilots at a flight school to mimic air combat with models instead of ha

The model aircraft is a simple physical object; once built, it does not change over time (unless you want to count dropping it and breaking it…). A real F-15J, however, is a dynamic physical object, which changes considerably over the course of its normal operation. It is loaded with fuel, ordnance, both of which have a huge effect on its weight, and thus its performance characteristics. Also, it may be occupied by different crew members, whose experience and skills may vary considerably. These qualities of the unit need to be taken into account, if the purpose of the model is to represent the aircraft. The classic example of this is a flight envelope model of an F-15A/C:


This flight envelope itself is a model, it represents the flight characteristics of the F-15 using two primary quantitative axes – altitude and speed (in numbers of mach), and also throttle setting. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is the realization than an F-15 slows down as it descends. Are these particular qualities of an F-15 required to model air combat involving such and aircraft?

How to Apply This Modeling Process to a Wargame?

The purpose of the war game is to model or represent the possible outcome of a real combat situation, played forward in the model at whatever pace and scale the designer has intended.

As mentioned previously, my colleague and I are playing Asian Fleet, a war game that covers several types of naval combat, including those involving air units, surface units and submarine units. This was published in 2007, and updated in 2010. We’ve selected a scenario that has only air units on either side. The premise of this scenario is quite simple:

The Chinese air force, in trying to prevent the United States from intervening in a Taiwan invasion, will carry out an attack on the SDF as well as the US military base on Okinawa. Forces around Shanghai consisting of state-of-the-art fighter bombers and long-range attack aircraft have been placed for the invasion of Taiwan, and an attack on Okinawa would be carried out with a portion of these forces. [Asian Fleet Scenario Book]

Of course, this game is a model of reality. The infinite geospatial and temporal possibilities of space-time which is so familiar to us has been replaced by highly aggregated discreet buckets, such as turns that may last for a day, or eight hours. Latitude, longitude and altitude are replaced with a two-dimensional hexagonal “honey comb” surface. Hence, distance is no longer computed in miles or meters, but rather in “hexes”, each of which is about 50 nautical miles. Aircraft are effectively aloft, or on the ground, although a “high mission profile” will provide endurance benefits. Submarines are considered underwater, or may use “deep mode” attempting to hide from sonar searches.

Maneuver units are represented by “counters” or virtual chits to be moved about the map as play progresses. Their level of aggregation varies from large and powerful ships and subs represented individually, to smaller surface units and weaker subs grouped and represented by a single counter (a “flotilla”), to squadrons or regiments of aircraft represented by a single counter. Depending upon the nation and the military branch, this may be a few as 3-5 aircraft in a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) detachment (“recon” in this game), to roughly 10-12 aircraft in a bomber unit, to 24 or even 72 aircraft in a fighter unit (“interceptor” in this game).

Enough Theory, What Happened?!

The Chinese Air Force mobilized their H6H bomber, escorted by large numbers of Flankers (J11 and Su-30MK2 fighters from the Shanghai area, and headed East towards Okinawa. The US Air Force F-15Cs supported by airborne warning and control system (AWACS) detected this inbound force and delayed engagement until their Japanese F-15J unit on combat air patrol (CAP) could support them, and then engaged the Chinese force about 50 miles from the AWACS orbits. In this game, air combat is broken down into two phases, long-range air to air (LRAA) combat (aka beyond visual range, BVR), and “regular” air combat, or within visual range (WVR) combat.

In BVR combat, only units marked as equipped with BVR capability may attack:

  • 2 x F-15C units have a factor of 32; scoring a hit in 5 out of 10 cases, or roughly 50%.
  • Su-30MK2 unit has a factor of 16; scoring a hit in 4 out of 10 cases, ~40%.

To these numbers a modifier of +2 exists when the attacker is supported by AWACS, so the odds to score a hit increase to roughly 70% for the F-15Cs … but in our example they miss, and the Chinese shot misses as well. Thus, the combat proceeds to WVR.

In WVR combat, each opposing side sums their aerial combat factors:

  • 2 x F-15C (32) + F-15J (13) = 45
  • Su-30MK2 (15) + J11 (13) + H6H (1) = 29

These two numbers are then expressed as a ratio, attacker-to-defender (45:29), and rounded down in favor of the defender (1:1), and then a ten-sided-die (d10) is rolled to consult the Air-to-Air Combat Results Table, on the “CAP/AWACS Interception” line. The die was rolled, and a result of “0/0r” was achieved, which basically says that neither side takes losses, but the defender is turned back from the mission (“r” being code for “return to base”). Given the +2 modifier for the AWACS, the worst outcome for the Allies would be a mutual return to base result (“0r/0r”). The best outcome would be inflicting two “steps” of damage, and sending the rest home (“0/2r”). A step of loss is about one half of an air unit, represented by flipping over the counter or chit, and operating with the combat factors at about half strength.

To sum this up, as the Allied commander, my conclusion was that the Americans were hung-over or asleep for this engagement.

I am encouraged by some similarities between this game and the fantastic detail that TDI has just posted about the DACM model, here and here. Thus, I plan to not only dissect this Asian Fleet game (VGAF), but also go a gap analysis between VGAF and DACM.

The Dupuy Air Campaign Model (DACM)

The Dupuy Air Campaign Model (DACM)

[The article below is reprinted from the April 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter. A description of the TDI Air Model Historical Data Study can be found here.]

The Dupuy Air Campaign Model
by Col. Joseph A. Bulger, Jr., USAF, Ret.

The Dupuy Institute, as part of the DACM [Dupuy Air Campaign Model], created a draft model in a spreadsheet format to show how such a model would calculate attrition. Below are the actual printouts of the “interim methodology demonstration,” which shows the types of inputs, outputs, and equations used for the DACM. The spreadsheet was created by Col. Bulger, while many of the formulae were the work of Robert Shaw.

The Dupuy Institute Air Model Historical Data Study

The Dupuy Institute Air Model Historical Data Study

British Air Ministry aerial combat diagram that sought to explain how the RAF had fought off the Luftwaffe. [World War II Today]

[The article below is reprinted from the April 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

Air Model Historical Data Study
by Col. Joseph A. Bulger, Jr., USAF, Ret

The Air Model Historical Study (AMHS) was designed to lead to the development of an air campaign model for use by the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). This model, never completed, became known as the Dupuy Air Campaign Model (DACM). It was a team effort led by Trevor N. Dupuy and included the active participation of Lt. Col. Joseph Bulger, Gen. Nicholas Krawciw, Chris Lawrence, Dave Bongard, Robert Schmaltz, Robert Shaw, Dr. James Taylor, John Kettelle, Dr. George Daoust and Louis Zocchi, among others. After Dupuy’s death, I took over as the project manager.

At the �rst meeting of the team Dupuy assembled for the study, it became clear that this effort would be a serious challenge. In his own style. Dupuy was careful to provide essential guidance while, at the same time, cultivating a broad investigative approach to the unique demands of modeling for air combat. It would have been no surprise if the initial guidance established a focus on the analytical approach, level of aggregation, and overall philosophy of the QJM [Quantified Judgement Model] and TNDM [Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model]. It was clear that Trevor had no intention of steering the study into an air combat modeling methodology based directly on QJM/TNDM. To the contrary, he insisted on a rigorous derivation of the factors that would permit the �nal choice of model methodology.

At the time of Dupuy’s death in June 1995, the Air Model Historical Data Study had reached a point where a major decision was needed. The early months of the study had been devoted to developing a consensus among the TDI team members with respect to the factors that needed to be included in the model. The discussions tended to highlight three areas of particular interest—factors that had been included in models currently in use, the limitations of these models, and the need for new factors (and relationships) peculiar to the properties and dynamics of the air campaign. Team members formulated a family of relationships and factors, but the model architecture itself was not investigated beyond the surface considerations.

Despite substantial contributions from team members, including analytical demonstrations of selected factors and air combat relationships, no consensus had been achieved. On the contrary, there was a growing sense of need to abandon traditional modeling approaches in favor of a new application of the “Dupuy Method� based on a solid body of air combat data from WWII.

The Dupuy approach to modeling land combat relied heavily on the ratio of force strengths (largely determined by �repower as modi�ed by other factors). After almost a year of investigations by the AMHDS team, it was beginning to appear that air combat differed in a fundamental way from ground combat. The essence of the difference is that in air combat, the outcome of the maneuver battle for platform position must be determined before the �repower relationships may be brought to bear on the battle outcome.

At the time of Dupuy’s death, it was apparent that if the study contract was to yield a meaningful product, an immediate choice of analysis thrust was required. Shortly prior to Dupuy’s death, I and other members of the TDI team recommended that we adopt the overall approach, level of aggregation, and analytical complexity that had characterized Dupuy’s models of land combat. We also agreed on the time-sequenced predominance of the maneuver phase of air combat. When I was asked to take the analytical lead for the contact in Dupuy’s absence, I was reasonably conï¬�dent that there was overall agreement.

In view of the time available to prepare a deliverable product, it was decided to prepare a model using the air combat data we had been evaluating up to that point—June 1995. Fortunately, Robert Shaw had developed a set of preliminary analysis relationships that could be used in an initial assessment of the maneuver/�repower relationship. In view of the analytical, logistic, contractual, and time factors discussed, we decided to complete the contract effort based on the following analytical thrust:

  1. The contract deliverable would be based on the maneuver/firepower analysis approach as currently formulated in Robert Shaw’s performance equations;
  2. A spreadsheet formulation of outcomes for selected (Battle of Britain) engagements would be presented to the customer in August 1995;
  3. To the extent practical, a working model would be provided to the customer with suggestions for further development.

During the following six weeks, the demonstration model was constructed. The model (programmed for a Lotus 1-2-3 style spreadsheet formulation) was developed. Mechanized, and demonstrated to ACSC in August 1995. The �nal report was delivered in September of 1995.

The working model demonstrated to ACSC in August 1995 suggests the following observations:

  • A substantial contribution to the understanding of air combat modeling has been achieved.
  • While relationships developed in the Dupuy Air Combat Model (DACM) are not fully mature, they are analytically signiï¬�cant.
  • The approach embodied in DACM derives its authenticity from the famous “Dupuy Methodâ€� thus ensuring its strong correlations with actual combat data.
  • Although demonstrated only for air combat in the Battle of Britain, the methodology is fully capable of incorporating modem technology contributions to sensor, command and control, and ï¬�repower performance.
  • The knowledge base, fundamental performance relationships, and methodology contributions embodied in DACM are worthy of further exploration. They await only the expression of interest and a relatively modest investment to extend the analysis methodology into modem air combat and the engagements anticipated for the 21st Century.

One �nal observation seems appropriate. The DACM demonstration provided to ACSC in August 1995 should not be dismissed as a perhaps interesting, but largely simplistic approach to air combat modeling. It is a signi�cant contribution to the understanding of air combat relationships that will prevail in the 2lst Century. The Dupuy Institute is convinced that further development of DACM makes eminent good sense. An exploitation of the maneuver and �repower relationships already demonstrated in DACM will provide a valid basis for modeling air combat with modern technology sensors, control mechanisms, and weapons. It is appropriate to include the Dupuy name in the title of this latest in a series of distinguished combat models. Trevor would be pleased.

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 30 March 2018

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 30 March 2018

This week’s list of links is an odds-and-ends assortment.

David Vergun has an interview with General Stephen J. Townshend, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) on the Army website about the need for smaller, lighter, and faster equipment for future warfare.

Defense News’s apparently inexhaustible Jen Judson details the Army’s newest forthcoming organization, “US Army’s Futures Command sets groundwork for battlefield transformation.�

At West Point’s Modern War Institute, Army Lionel Beehner, Liam Collins, Steve Ferenzi, Robert Person and Aaron Brantly have a very interesting analysis of the contemporary Russian approach to warfare, “Analyzing the Russian Way of War: Evidence from the 2008 Conflict with Georgia.�

Also at the Modern War Institute, Ethan Olberding examines ways to improve the planning skills of the U.S. Army’s junior leaders, “You Can Lead, But Can You Plan? Time to Change the Way We Develop Junior Leaders.�

Kyle Mizokami at Popular Mechanics takes a look at the state of the art in drone defenses, “Watch Microwave and Laser Weapons Knock Drones Out of the Sky.�

Jared Keller at Task & Purpose looks into the Army’s interest in upgunning its medium-weight armored vehicles, “The Army Is Eyeing This Beastly 40mm Cannon For Its Ground Combat Vehicles.�

And finally, MeritTalk, a site focused on U.S. government information technology, has posted a piece, “Pentagon Wants An Early Warning System For Hybrid Warfare,” looking at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) ambitious Collection and Monitoring via Planning for Active Situational Scenarios (COMPASS) program, which will incorporate AI, game theory, modeling, and estimation technologies to attempt to decipher the often subtle signs that precede a full-scale attack.

‘Love’s Tables’: U.S. War Department Casualty Estimation in World War II

‘Love’s Tables’: U.S. War Department Casualty Estimation in World War II

The same friend of TDI who asked about ‘Evett’s Rates,� the British casualty estimation methodology during World War II, also mentioned that the work of Albert G. Love III was now available on-line. Rick Atkinson also referenced “Love’s Tables� in The Guns At Last Light.

In 1931, Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier General) Love, then a Medical Corps physician in the U.S. Army Medical Field Services School, published a study of American casualty data in the recent Great War, titled “War Casualties.�[1] This study was likely the source for tables used for casualty estimation by the U.S. Army through 1944.[2]

Love, who had no advanced math or statistical training, undertook his study with the support of the Army Surgeon General, Merritte W. Ireland, and initial assistance from Dr. Lowell J. Reed, a professor of biostatistics at John Hopkins University. Love’s posting in the Surgeon General’s Office afforded him access to an array of casualty data collected from the records of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, as well as data from annual Surgeon General reports dating back to 1819, the official medical history of the U.S. Civil War, and U.S. general population statistics.

Love’s research was likely the basis for rate tables for calculating casualties that first appeared in the 1932 edition of the War Department’s Staff Officer’s Field Manual.[3]

Battle Casualties, including Killed, in Percent of Unit Strength, Staff Officer’s Field Manual (1932).

The 1932 Staff Officer’s Field Manual estimation methodology reflected Love’s sophisticated understanding of the factors influencing combat casualty rates. It showed that both the resistance and combat strength (and all of the factors that comprised it) of the enemy, as well as the equipment and state of training and discipline of the friendly troops had to be taken into consideration. The text accompanying the tables pointed out that loss rates in small units could be quite high and variable over time, and that larger formations took fewer casualties as a fraction of overall strength, and that their rates tended to become more constant over time. Casualties were not distributed evenly, but concentrated most heavily among the combat arms, and in the front-line infantry in particular. Attackers usually suffered higher loss rates than defenders. Other factors to be accounted for included the character of the terrain, the relative amount of artillery on each side, and the employment of gas.

The 1941 iteration of the Staff Officer’s Field Manual, now designated Field Manual (FM) 101-10[4], provided two methods for estimating battle casualties. It included the original 1932 Battle Casualties table, but the associated text no longer included the section outlining factors to be considered in calculating loss rates. This passage was moved to a note appended to a new table showing the distribution of casualties among the combat arms.

Rather confusingly, FM 101-10 (1941) presented a second table, Estimated Daily Losses in Campaign of Personnel, Dead and Evacuated, Per 1,000 of Actual Strength. It included rates for front line regiments and divisions, corps and army units, reserves, and attached cavalry. The rates were broken down by posture and tactical mission.

Estimated Daily Losses in Campaign of Personnel, Dead and Evacuated, Per 1,000 of Actual Strength, FM 101-10 (1941)

The source for this table is unknown, nor the method by which it was derived. No explanatory text accompanied it, but a footnote stated that “this table is intended primarily for use in school work and in field exercises.� The rates in it were weighted toward the upper range of the figures provided in the 1932 Battle Casualties table.

The October 1943 edition of FM 101-10 contained no significant changes from the 1941 version, except for the caveat that the 1932 Battle Casualties table “may or may not prove correct when applied to the present conflict.�

The October 1944 version of FM 101-10 incorporated data obtained from World War II experience.[5] While it also noted that the 1932 Battle Casualties table might not be applicable, the experiences of the U.S. II Corps in North Africa and one division in Italy were found to be in agreement with the table’s division and corps loss rates.

FM 101-10 (1944) included another new table, Estimate of Battle Losses for a Front-Line Division (in % of Actual Strength), meaning that it now provided three distinct methods for estimating battle casualties.

Estimate of Battle Losses for a Front-Line Division (in % of Actual Strength), FM 101-10 (1944)

Like the 1941 Estimated Daily Losses in Campaign table, the sources for this new table were not provided, and the text contained no guidance as to how or when it should be used. The rates it contained fell roughly within the span for daily rates for severe (6-8%) to maximum (12%) combat listed in the 1932 Battle Casualty table, but would produce vastly higher overall rates if applied consistently, much higher than the 1932 table’s 1% daily average.

FM 101-10 (1944) included a table showing the distribution of losses by branch for the theater based on experience to that date, except for combat in the Philippine Islands. The new chart was used in conjunction with the 1944 Estimate of Battle Losses for a Front-Line Division table to determine daily casualty distribution.

Distribution of Battle Losses–Theater of Operations, FM 101-10 (1944)

The final World War II version of FM 101-10 issued in August 1945[6] contained no new casualty rate tables, nor any revisions to the existing figures. It did finally effectively invalidate the 1932 Battle Casualties table by noting that “the following table has been developed from American experience in active operations and, of course, may not be applicable to a particular situation.� (original emphasis)


[1] Albert G. Love, War Casualties, The Army Medical Bulletin, No. 24, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: 1931)

[2] This post is adapted from TDI, Casualty Estimation Methodologies Study, Interim Report (May 2005) (Altarum) (pp. 314-317).

[3] U.S. War Department, Staff Officer’s Field Manual, Part Two: Technical and Logistical Data (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1932)

[4] U.S. War Department, FM 101-10, Staff Officer’s Field Manual: Organization, Technical and Logistical Data (Washington, D.C., June 15, 1941)

[5] U.S. War Department, FM 101-10, Staff Officer’s Field Manual: Organization, Technical and Logistical Data (Washington, D.C., October 12, 1944)

[6] U.S. War Department, FM 101-10 Staff Officer’s Field Manual: Organization, Technical and Logistical Data (Washington, D.C., August 1, 1945)

‘Evett’s Rates’: British War Office Wastage Tables

‘Evett’s Rates’: British War Office Wastage Tables

Stretcher bearers of the East Surrey Regiment, with a Churchill tank of the North Irish Horse in the background, during the attack on Longstop Hill, Tunisia, 23 April 1943. [Imperial War Museum/Wikimedia]

A friend of TDI queried us recently about a reference in Rick Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 to a British casualty estimation methodology known as “Evett’s Rates.” There are few references to Evett’s Rates online, but as it happens, TDI did find out some details about them for a study on casualty estimation. [1]

British Army staff officers during World War II and the 1950s used a set of look-up tables which listed expected monthly losses in percentage of strength for various arms under various combat conditions. The origin of the tables is not known, but they were officially updated twice, in 1942 by a committee chaired by Major General Evett, and in 1951-1955 by the Army Operations Research Group (AORG).[2]

The methodology was based on staff predictions of one of three levels of operational activity, “Intense,� “Normal,� and “Quiet.� These could be applied to an entire theater, or to individual divisions. The three levels were defined the same way for both the Evett Committee and AORG rates:

The rates were broken down by arm and rank, and included battle and nonbattle casualties.

Rates of Personnel Wastage Including Both Battle and Non-battle Casualties According to the Evett Committee of 1942. (Percent per 30 days).

The Evett Committee rates were criticized during and after the war. After British forces suffered twice the anticipated casualties at Anzio, the British 21st Army Group applied a “double intense rate� which was twice the Evett Committee figure and intended to apply to assaults. When this led to overestimates of casualties in Normandy, the double intense rate was discarded.

From 1951 to 1955, AORG undertook a study of casualty rates in World War II. Its analysis was based on casualty data from the following campaigns:

  • Northwest Europe, 1944
    • 6-30 June – Beachhead offensive
    • 1 July-1 September – Containment and breakout
    • 1 October-30 December – Semi-static phase
    • 9 February to 6 May – Rhine crossing and final phase
  • Italy, 1944
    • January to December – Fighting a relatively equal enemy in difficult country. Warfare often static.
    • January to February (Anzio) – Beachhead held against severe and well-conducted enemy counter-attacks.
  • North Africa, 1943
    • 14 March-13 May – final assault
  • Northwest Europe, 1940
    • 10 May-2 June – Withdrawal of BEF
  • Burma, 1944-45

From the first four cases, the AORG study calculated two sets of battle casualty rates as percentage of strength per 30 days. “Overall� rates included KIA, WIA, C/MIA. “Apparent rates� included these categories but subtracted troops returning to duty. AORG recommended that “overall� rates be used for the first three months of a campaign.

The Burma campaign data was evaluated differently. The analysts defined a “force wastage� category which included KIA, C/MIA, evacuees from outside the force operating area and base hospitals, and DNBI deaths. “Dead wastage� included KIA, C/MIA, DNBI dead, and those discharged from the Army as a result of injuries.

The AORG study concluded that the Evett Committee underestimated intense loss rates for infantry and armor during periods of very hard fighting and overestimated casualty rates for other arms. It recommended that if only one brigade in a division was engaged, two-thirds of the intense rate should be applied, if two brigades were engaged the intense rate should be applied, and if all brigades were engaged then the intense rate should be doubled. It also recommended that 2% extra casualties per month should be added to all the rates for all activities should the forces encounter heavy enemy air activity.[1]

The AORG study rates were as follows:

Recommended AORG Rates of Personnel Wastage. (Percent per 30 days).

If anyone has further details on the origins and activities of the Evett Committee and AORG, we would be very interested in finding out more on this subject.


[1] This post is adapted from The Dupuy Institute, Casualty Estimation Methodologies Study, Interim Report (May 2005) (Altarum) (pp. 51-53).

[2] Rowland Goodman and Hugh Richardson. “Casualty Estimation in Open and Guerrilla Warfare.� (London: Directorate of Science (Land), U.K. Ministry of Defence, June 1995.), Appendix A.

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 23 March 2018

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 23 March 2018

To follow on Chris’s recent post about U.S. Army modernization:

On the subject of future combat:

  • The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has issued a new report emphasizing the need for developing countermeasures against multiple small unmanned aerial aircraft systems (sUASs) — organized in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups — which could be used much sooner than the U.S. Army anticipates.  [There is a summary here.]
  • National Defense University’s Frank Hoffman has a very good piece in the current edition of Parameters, “Will War’s Nature Change in the Seventh Military Revolution?,â€� that explores the potential implications of the combinations of robotics, artificial intelligence, and deep learning systems on the character and nature of war.
  • Major Hassan Kamara has an article in the current edition of Military Review contemplating changes in light infantry, “Rethinking the U.S. Army Infantry Rifle Squadâ€�

On the topic of how the Army is addressing its current and future challenges with irregular warfare and wide area security:

Perla On Dupuy

Perla On Dupuy

Dr. Peter Perla, noted defense researcher, wargame designer and expert, and author of the seminal The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists, gave the keynote address at the 2017 Connections Wargaming Conference last August. The topic of his speech, which served as his valedictory address on the occasion of his retirement from government service, addressed the predictive power of wargaming. In it, Perla recalled a conversation he once had with Trevor Dupuy in the early 1990s:

Like most good stories, this one has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I have sort of jumped in at the middle. So let’s go back to the beginning.

As it happens, that beginning came during one of the very first Connections. It may even have been the first one. This thread is one of those vivid memories we all have of certain events in life. In my case, it is a short conversation I had with Trevor Dupuy.

I remember the setting well. We were in front of the entrance to the O Club at Maxwell. It was kind of dark, but I can’t recall if it was in the morning before the club opened for our next session, or the evening, before a dinner. Trevor and I were chatting and he said something about wargaming being predictive. I still recall what I said.

“Good grief, Trevor, we can’t even predict the outcome of a Super Bowl game much less that of a battle!â€� He seemed taken by surprise that I felt that way, and he replied, “Well, if that is true, what are we doing? What’s the point?â€�

I had my usual stock answers. We wargame to develop insights, to identify issues, and to raise questions. We certainly don’t wargame to predict what will happen in a battle or a war. I was pretty dogmatic in those days. Thank goodness I’m not that way any more!

The question of prediction did not go away, however.

For the rest of Perla’s speech, see here. For a wonderful summary of the entire 2017 Connections Wargaming conference, see here.


Technology And The Human Factor In War

Technology And The Human Factor In War

A soldier waves an Israeli flag on the Golan front during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. (IDF Spokesperson’s unit, Jerusalem Report Archives)

[The article below is reprinted from the August 1997 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

Technology and the Human Factor in War
by Trevor N. Dupuy

The Debate

It has become evident to many military theorists that technology has become increasingly important in war, In fact (even though many soldiers would not like to admit it) most such theorists believe that technology has actually reduced the signi�cance of the human factor in war, In other words, the more advanced our military technology, these “technocrats� believe, the less we need to worry about the professional capability and competence of generals, admirals, soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

The technocrats believe that the results of the Kuwait, or Gulf, War of 1991 have con�rmed their conviction. They cite the contribution to those results of the U.N. (mainly U.S.) command of the air, stealth aircraft, sophisticated guided missiles, and general electronic superiority, They believe that it was technology which simply made irrelevant the recent combat experience of the Iraqis in their long war with Iran,

Yet there are a few humanist military theorists who believe that the technocrats have totally misread the lessons of this century‘ s wars! They agree that, While technology was important in the overwhelming U.N. victory, the principal reason for the tremendous margin of U.N. superiority was the better training, skill, and dedication of U.N. forces (again, mainly U.S.).

And so the debate rests. Both sides believe that the result of the Kuwait War favors their point ofview, Nevertheless, an objective assessment of the literature in professional military journals, of doctrinal trends in the U.S. services, and (above all) of trends in the U.S. defense budget, suggest that the technocrats have stronger arguments than the humanists—or at least have been more convincing in presenting their arguments.

I suggest, however, that a completely impartial comparison of the Kuwait War results with those of other recent wars, and with some of the phenomena of World War II, shows that the humanists should not yet concede the debate.

I am a humanist, who is also convinced that technology is as important today in war as it ever was (and it has always been important), and that any national or military leader who neglects military technology does so to his peril and that of his country, But, paradoxically, perhaps to an extent even greater than ever before, the quality of military men is what wins wars and preserves nations.

To elevate the debate beyond generalities, and demonstrate convincingly that the human factor is at least as important as technology in war, I shall review eight instances in this past century when a military force has been successful because of the quality if its people, even though the other side was at least equal or superior in the technological sophistication of its weapons. The examples I shall use are:

  • Germany vs. the USSR in World War II
  • Germany vs. the West in World War II
  • Israel vs. Arabs in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982
  • The Vietnam War, 1965-1973
  • Britain vs. Argentina in the Falklands 1982
  • South Africans vs. Angolans and Cubans, 1987-88
  • The U.S. vs. Iraq, 1991

The demonstration will be based upon a marshaling of historical facts, then analyzing those facts by means of a little simple arithmetic.

Relative Combat Effectiveness Value (CEV)

The purpose of the arithmetic is to calculate relative combat effectiveness values (CEVs) of two opposing military forces. Let me digress to set up the arithmetic. Although some people who hail from south of the Mason—Dixon Line may be reluctant to accept the fact, statistics prove that the fighting quality of Northern soldiers and Southern soldiers was virtually equal in the American Civil War. (I invite those who might disagree to look at Livermore’s Numbers and Losses in the Civil War). That assumption of equality of the opposing troop quality in the Civil War enables me to assert that the successful side in every important battle in the Civil War was successful either because of numerical superiority or superior generalship. Three of Lee’s battles make the point:

  • Despite being outnumbered, Lee won at Antietam. (Though Antietam is sometimes claimed as a Union victory, Lee, the defender, held the battleï¬�eld; McClellan, the attacker, was repulsed.) The main reason for Lee’s success was that on a scale of leadership his generalship was worth 10, while McClellan was barely a 6.
  • Despite being outnumbered, Lee won at Chancellorsville because he was a 10 to Hooker’s 5.
  • Lee lost at Gettysburg mainly because he was outnumbered. Also relevant: Meade did not lose his nerve (like McClellan and Hooker) with generalship worth 8 to match Lee’s 8.

Let me use Antietam to show the arithmetic involved in those simple analyses of a rather complex subject:

The numerical strength of McClellan’s army was 89,000; Lee’s army was only 39,000 strong, but had the multiplier benefit of defensive posture. This enables us to calculate the theoretical combat power ratio of the Union Army to the Confederate Army as 1.4:1.0. In other words, with substantial preponderance of force, the Union Army should have been successful. (The combat power ratio of Confederates to Northerners, of course, was the reciprocal, or 0.71:1.04)

However, Lee held the battle�eld, and a calculation of the actual combat power ratio of the two sides (based on accomplishment of mission, gaining or holding ground, and casualties) was a scant, but clear cut: 1.16:1.0 in favor of the Confederates. A ratio of the actual combat power ratio of the Confederate/Union armies (1.16) to their theoretical combat power (0.71) gives us a value of 1.63. This is the relative combat effectiveness of the Lee’s army to McClellan’s army on that bloody day. But, if we agree that the quality of the troops was the same, then the differential must essentially be in the quality of the opposing generals. Thus, Lee was a 10 to McClellan‘s 6.

The simple arithmetic equation[1] on which the above analysis was based is as follows:

CEV = (R/R)/(P/P)

CEV is relative Combat Effectiveness Value
R/R is the actual combat power ratio
P/P is the theoretical combat power ratio.

At Antietam the equation was: 1.63 = 1.16/0.71.

We’ll be revisiting that equation in connection with each of our examples of the relative importance of technology and human factors.

Airpower and Technology

However, one more digression is required before we look at the examples. Air power was important in all eight of the 20th Century examples listed above. Offhand it would seem that the exercise of air superiority by one side or the other is a manifestation of technological superiority. Nevertheless, there are a few examples of an air force gaining air superiority with equivalent, or even inferior aircraft (in quality or numbers) because of the skill of the pilots.

However, the instances of such a phenomenon are rare. It can be safely asserted that, in the examples used in the following comparisons, the ability to exercise air superiority was essentially a technological superiority (even though in some instances it was magnified by human quality superiority). The one possible exception might be the Eastern Front in World War II, where a slight German technological superiority in the air was offset by larger numbers of Soviet aircraft, thanks in large part to Lend-Lease assistance from the United States and Great Britain.

The Battle of Kursk, 5-18 July, 1943

Following the surrender of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, on 2 February, 1943, the Soviets mounted a major winter offensive in south-central Russia and Ukraine which reconquered large areas which the Germans had overrun in 1941 and 1942. A brilliant counteroffensive by German Marshal Erich von Manstein‘s Army Group South halted the Soviet advance, and recaptured the city of Kharkov in mid-March. The end of these operations left the Soviets holding a huge bulge, or salient, jutting westward around the Russian city of Kursk, northwest of Kharkov.

The Germans promptly prepared a new offensive to cut off the Kursk salient, The Soviets energetically built ï¬�eld fortifications to defend the salient against expected German attacks. The German plan was for simultaneous offensives against the northern and southern shoulders of the base of the Kursk salient, Field Marshal Gunther von K1uge’s Army Group Center, would drive south from the vicinity of Orel, while Manstein’s Army Group South pushed north from the Kharkov area, The offensive was originally scheduled for early May, but postponements by Hitler, to equip his forces with new tanks, delayed the operation for two months, The Soviets took advantage of the delays to further improve their already formidable defenses.

The German attacks finally began on 5 July. In the north General Walter Model’s German Ninth Army was soon halted by Marshal Konstantin Rokossovski’s Army Group Center. In the south, however, German General Hermann Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army and a provisional army commanded by General Werner Kempf, were more successful against the Voronezh Army Group of General Nikolai Vatutin. For more than a week the XLVIII Panzer Corps advanced steadily toward Oboyan and Kursk through the most heavily forti�ed region since the Western Front of 1918. While the Germans suffered severe casualties, they inflicted horrible losses on the defending Soviets. Advancing similarly further east, the II SS Panzer Corps, in the largest tank battle in history, repulsed a vigorous Soviet armored counterattack at Prokhorovka on July 12-13, but was unable to continue to advance.

The principal reason for the German halt was the fact that the Soviets had thrown into the battle General Ivan Konev s Steppe Army Group, which had been in reserve. The exhausted, heavily outnumbered Germans had no comparable reserves to commit to reinvigorate their offensive.

A comparison of forces and losses of the Soviet Voronezh Army Group and German Army Group South on the south face of the Kursk Salient is shown below. The strengths are averages over the 12 days of the battle, taking into consideration initial strengths, losses, and reinforcements.

A comparison of the casualty tradeoff can be found by dividing Soviet casualties by German strength, and German losses by Soviet strength. On that basis, 100 Germans inflicted 5.8 casualties per day on the Soviets, while 100 Soviets inflicted 1.2 casualties per day on the Germans, a tradeoff of 4.9 to 1.0

The statistics for the 8-day offensive of the German XLVIII Panzer Corps toward Oboyan are shown below. Also shown is the relative combat effectiveness value (CEV) of Germans and Soviets, as calculated by the TNDM. As was the case for the Battle of Antietam, this is derived from a mathematical comparison of the theoretical combat power ratio of the two forces (simply considering numbers and weapons characteristics), and the actual combat power ratios reflected by the battle results:

The calculated CEVs suggest that 100 German troops were the combat equivalent of 240 Soviet troops, comparably equipped. The casualty tradeoff in this battle shows that 100 Germans inflicted 5.15 casualties per day on the Soviets, while 100 Soviets inflicted 1.11 casualties per day on the Germans, a tradeoff of4.64. It is a rule of thumb that the casualty tradeoff is usually about the square of the CEV.

A similar comparison can be made of the two-day battle of Prokhorovka. Soviet accounts of that battle have claimed this as a great victory by the Soviet Fifth Guards Tank Army over the German II SS Panzer Corps. In fact, since the German advance was halted, the outcome was close to a draw, but with the advantage clearly in favor of the Germans.

The casualty tradeoff shows that 100 Germans inflicted 7.7 casualties per on the Soviets, while 100 Soviets inflicted 1.0 casualties per day on the Germans, for a tradeoff value of 7.7.

When the German offensive began, they had a slight degree of local air superiority. This was soon reversed by German and Soviet shifts of air elements, and during most of the offensive, the Soviets had a slender margin of air superiority. In terms of technology, the Germans probably had a slight overall advantage. However, the Soviets had more tanks and, furthermore, their T-34 was superior to any tank the Germans had available at the time. The CEV calculations demonstrate that the Germans had a great qualitative superiority over the Russians, despite near-equality in technology, and despite Soviet air superiority. The Germans lost the battle, but only because they were overwhelmed by Soviet numbers.

German Performance, Western Europe, 1943-1945

Beginning with operations between Salerno and Naples in September, 1943, through engagements in the closing days of the Battle of the Bulge in January, 1945, the pattern of German performance against the Western Allies was consistent. Some German units were better than others, and a few Allied units were as good as the best of the Germans. But on the average, German performance, as measured by CEV and casualty tradeoff, was better than the Western allies by a CEV factor averaging about 1.2, and a casualty tradeoff factor averaging about 1.5, Listed below are ten engagements from Italy and Northwest Europe during that 1944.

Technologically, German forces and those of the Western Allies were comparable. The Germans had a higher proportion of armored combat vehicles, and their best tanks were considerably better than the best American and British tanks, but the advantages were at least offset by the greater quantity of Allied armor, and greater sophistication of much of the Allied equipment. The Allies were increasingly able to achieve and maintain air superiority during this period of slightly less than two years.

The combination of vast superiority in numbers of troops and equipment, and in increasing Allied air superiority, enabled the Allies to �ght their way slowly up the Italian boot, and between June and December, 1944, to drive from the Normandy beaches to the frontier of Germany. Yet the presence or absence of Allied air support made little difference in terms of either CEVs or casualty tradeoff values, Despite the defeats inflicted on them by the numerically superior Allies during the latter part of 1944, in December the Germans were able to mount a major offensive that nearly destroyed an American army corps, and threatened to drive at least a portion of the Allied armies into the sea.

Clearly, in their battles against the Soviets and the Western Allies, the Germans demonstrated that quality of combat troops was able consistently to overcome Allied technological and air superiority. It was Allied numbers, not technology, that defeated the quantitatively superior Germans.

The Six-Day War, 1967

The remarkable Israeli victories over far more numerous Arab opponents—Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian—in June, I967 revealed an Israeli combat superiority that had not been suspected in the United States, the Soviet Union or Western Europe. This superiority was equally awesome on the ground as in the air. (By beginning the war with a surprise attack which almost wiped out the Egyptian Air Force, the Israelis avoided a serious contest with the one Arab air force large enough, and possibly effective enough, to challenge them.) The results of the three brief campaigns are summarized in the table below:

It should be noted that some Israelis who fought against the Egyptians and Jordanians also fought against the Syrians. Thus, the overall Arab numerical superiority was greater than would be suggested by adding the above strength �gures, and was approximately 328,000 to 200,000.

It should also be noted that the technological sophistication of the Israeli and Arab ground forces was comparable. The only significant technological advantage of the Israelis was their unchallenged command of the air. (In terms of battle outcomes, it was irrelevant how they had achieved air superiority.) In fact this was a very significant advantage, the full import of which would not be realized until the next Arab-Israeli war.

The results of the Six Day War do not provide an unequivocal basis for determining the relative importance of human factors and technological superiority (as evidenced in the air). Clearly a major factor in the Israeli victories was the superior performance of their ground forces due mainly to human factors. At least as important in those victories was Israeli command of the air, in which both technology and human factors both played a part.

The October War, 1973

A better basis for comparing the relative importance of human factors and technology is provided by the results of the October War of 1973 (known to Arabs as the War of Ramadan, and to Israelis as the Yom Kippur War). In this war the Israeli unquestioned superiority in the air was largely offset by the Arabs possession of highly sophisticated Soviet air defense weapons.

One important lesson of this war was a reassessment of Israeli contempt for the �ghting quality of Arab ground forces (which had stemmed from the ease with which they had won their ground victories in 1967). When Arab ground troops were protected from Israeli air superiority by their air defense weapons, they fought well and bravely, demonstrating that Israeli control of the air had been even more significant in 1967 than anyone had then recognized.

It should be noted that the total Arab (and Israeli) forces are those shown in the �rst two comparisons, above. A Jordanian brigade and two Iraqi divisions formed relatively minor elements of the forces under Syrian command (although their presence on the ground was significant in enabling the Syrians to maintain a defensive line when the Israelis threatened a breakthrough around 20 October). For the comparison of Jordanians and Iraqis the total strength is the total of the forces in the battles (two each) on which these comparisons are based.

One other thing to note is how the Israelis, possibly unconsciously, con�rmed that validity of their CEVs with respect to Egyptians and Syrians by the numerical strengths of their deployments to the two fronts. Since the war ended up in a virtual stalemate on both fronts, the overall strength �gures suggest rough equivalence of combat capability.

The CEV values shown in the above table are very significant in relation to the debate about human factors and technology, There was little if anything to choose between the technological sophistication of the two sides. The Arabs had more tanks than the Israelis, but (as Israeli General Avraham Adan once told the author) there was little difference in the quality of the tanks. The Israelis again had command of the air, but this was neutralized immediately over the battle�elds by the Soviet air defense equipment effectively manned by the Arabs. Thus, while technology was of the utmost importance to both sides, enabling each side to prevent the enemy from gaining a significant advantage, the true determinant of battle�eld outcomes was the �ghting quality of the troops, And, while the Arabs fought bravely, the Israelis fought much more effectively. Human factors made the difference.

Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, 1982

In terms of the debate about the relative importance of human factors and technology, there are two significant aspects to this small war, in which Syrians forces and PLO guerrillas were the Arab participants. In the �rst place, the Israelis showed that their air technology was superior to the Syrian air defense technology, As a result, they regained complete control of the skies over the battle�elds. Secondly, it provides an opportunity to include a highly relevant quotation.

The statistical comparison shows the results of the two major battles fought between Syrians and Israelis:

In assessing the above statistics, a quotation from the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Rafael Eytan, is relevant.

In late 1982 a group of retired American generals visited Israel and the battle�elds in Lebanon. Just before they left for home, they had a meeting with General Eytan. One of the American generals asked Eytan the following question: “Since the Syrians were equipped with Soviet weapons, and your troops were equipped with American (or American-type) weapons, isn’t the overwhelming Israeli victory an indication of the superiority of American weapons technology over Soviet weapons technology?�

Eytan’s reply was classic: “If we had had their weapons, and they had had ours, the result would have been absolutely the same.�

One need not question how the Israeli Chief of Staff assessed the relative importance of the technology and human factors.

Falkland Islands War, 1982

It is difficult to get reliable data on the Falkland Islands War of 1982. Furthermore, the author of this article had not undertaken the kind of detailed analysis of such data as is available. However, it is evident from the information that is available about that war that its results were consistent with those of the other examples examined in this article.

The total strength of Argentine forces in the Falklands at the time of the British counter-invasion was slightly more than 13,000. The British appear to have landed close to 6,400 troops, although it may have been fewer. In any event, it is evident that not more than 50% of the total forces available to both sides were actually committed to battle. The Argentine surrender came 27 days after the British landings, but there were probably no more than six days of actual combat. During these battles the British performed admirably, the Argentinians performed miserably. (Save for their Air Force, which seems to have fought with considerable gallantry and effectiveness, at the extreme limit of its range.) The British CEV in ground combat was probably between 2.5 and 4.0. The statistics were at least close to those presented below:

It is evident from published sources that the British had no technological advantage over the Argentinians; thus the one-sided results of the ground battles were due entirely to British skill (derived from training and doctrine) and determination.

South African Operations in Angola, 1987-1988

Neither the political reasons for, nor political results of, the South African military interventions in Angola in the 1970s, and again in the late 1980s, need concern us in our consideration of the relative significance of technology and of human factors. The combat results of those interventions, particularly in 1987-1988 are, however, very relevant.

The operations between elements of the South African Defense Force (SADF) and forces of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) took place in southeast Angola, generally in the region east of the city of Cuito-Cuanavale. Operating with the SADF units were a few small units of Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). To provide air support to the SADF and UNITA ground forces, it would have been necessary for the South Africans to establish air bases either in Botswana, Southwest Africa (Namibia), or in Angola itself. For reasons that were largely political, they decided not to do that, and thus operated under conditions of FAPLA air supremacy. This led them, despite terrain generally unsuited for armored warfare, to use a high proportion of armored vehicles (mostly light armored cars) to provide their ground troops with some protection from air attack.

Summarized below are the results of three battles east of Cuito-Cuanavale in late 1987 and early 1988. Included with FAPLA forces are a few Cubans (mostly in armored units); included with the SADF forces are a few UNITA units (all infantry).

FAPLA had complete command of air, and substantial numbers of MiG-21 and MiG-23 sorties were flown against the South Africans in all of these battles. This technological superiority was probably partly offset by greater South African EW (electronic warfare) capability. The ability of the South Africans to operate effectively despite hostile air superiority was reminiscent of that of the Germans in World War II. It was a further demonstration that, no matter how important technology may be, the �ghting quality of the troops is even more important.

The tank �gures include armored cars. In the �rst of the three battles considered, FAPLA had by far the more powerful and more numerous medium tanks (20 to 0). In the other two, SADF had a slight or signi�cant advantage in medium tank numbers and quality. But it didn’t seem to make much difference in the outcomes.

Kuwait War, 1991

The previous seven examples permit us to examine the results of Kuwait (or Second Gulf) War with more objectivity than might otherwise have possible. First, let’s look at the statistics. Note that the comparison shown below is for four days of ground combat, February 24-28, and shows only operations of U.S. forces against the Iraqis.

There can be no question that the single most important contribution to the overwhelming victory of U.S. and other U.N. forces was the air war that preceded, and accompanied, the ground operations. But two comments are in order. The air war alone could not have forced the Iraqis to surrender. On the other hand, it is evident that, even without the air war, U.S. forces would have readily overwhelmed the Iraqis, probably in more than four days, and with more than 285 casualties. But the outcome would have been hardly less one-sided.

The Vietnam War, 1965-1973

It is impossible to make the kind of mathematical analysis for the Vietnam War as has been done in the examples considered above. The reason is that we don’t have any good data on the Vietcong—North Vietnamese forces,

However, such quantitative analysis really isn’t necessary There can be no doubt that one of the opponents was a superpower, the most technologically advanced nation on earth, while the other side was what Lyndon Johnson called a “raggedy-ass little nation,� a typical representative of “the third world.“

Furthermore, even if we were able to make the analyses, they would very possibly be misinterpreted. It can be argued (possibly with some exaggeration) that the Americans won all of the battles. The detailed engagement analyses could only con�rm this fact. Yet it is unquestionable that the United States, despite airpower and all other manifestations of technological superiority, lost the war. The human factor—as represented by the quality of American political (and to a lesser extent military) leadership on the one side, and the determination of the North Vietnamese on the other side—was responsible for this defeat.


In a recent article in the Armed Forces Journal International Col. Philip S. Neilinger, USAF, wrote: “Military operations are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the side that doesn’t control the sky.� From what we have seen, this is only partly true. And while there can be no question that operations will always be difficult to some extent for the side that doesn’t control the sky, the degree of difficulty depends to a great degree upon the training and determination of the troops.

What we have seen above also enables us to view with a better perspective Colonel Neilinger’s subsequent quote from British Field Marshal Montgomery: “If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war and we lose it quickly.� That statement was true for Montgomery, and for the Allied troops in World War II. But it was emphatically not true for the Germans.

The examples we have seen from relatively recent wars, therefore, enable us to establish priorities on assuring readiness for war. It is without question important for us to equip our troops with weapons and other materiel which can match, or come close to matching, the technological quality of the opposition’s materiel. We must realize that we cannot—as some people seem to think—buy good forces, by technology alone. Even more important is to assure the �ghting quality of the troops. That must be, by far, our �rst priority in peacetime budgets and in peacetime military activities of all sorts.


[1] This calculation is automatic in analyses of historical battles by the Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM).

[2] The initial tank strength of the Voronezh Army Group was about 1,100 tanks. About 3,000 additional Soviet tanks joined the battle between 6 and 12 July. At the end of the battle there were about 1,800 Soviet tanks operational in the battle area; at the same time there were about 1,000 German tanks still operational.

[3] The relative combat effectiveness value of each force is calculated in comparison to 1.0. Thus the CEV of the Germans is 2.40:1.0, while that of the Soviets is 0.42: 1.0. The opposing CEVs are always the reciprocals of each other.

Russian Body Count: Update

Russian Body Count: Update

Map of the reported incident between U.S., Syrian, and Russian forces near Deir Ezzor, Syria on 7 February 2018 [Spiegel Online]

An article by Christoph Reuter in Spiegel Online adds some new details to the story of the incident between U.S., Syrian, and Russian mercenary forces near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on 7 February 2018. Based on interviews with witnesses and participants, the article paints a different picture than the one created by previous media reports.

According to Spiegel Online, early on 7 February, a 250-strong force comprised of Syrian tribal militia, Afghan and Iraqi fighters, and troops from the Syrian Army 4th Division attempted to cross from the west bank of the Euphrates River to the east, south of a Kurdish Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) base at Khusham. The Euphrates constitutes a “deconfliction” line established by the United States and Russia separating the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from those of the U.S.-supported SDF. The Syrian force was detected and U.S. combat forces fired warning shots, which persuaded the Syrians to withdraw.

After dark that evening, the Syrian force, reinforced to about 500 fighters, moved several kilometers north and attempted to cross the Euphrates a second time, this time successfully. As the force advanced through the village of Marrat, it was again spotted and engaged by U.S. air and artillery assets after an alleged 20-30 tank rounds impacted within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters in Khusham. The U.S. employed field artillery, drones, combat helicopters, and AC-130 gunships to devastating effect.

Speigel Online reported that U.S. forces also simultaneously engaged a force of approximately 400 pro-Assad Syrian tribal militia and Shi’a fighters advancing north from the village of Tabiya, south of Khusham. A small contingent of Russian mercenaries, stationed in Tabiya but not supporting the Syrian/Shi’a fighters, was hit by U.S. fire. This second Syrian force, which the U.S. had allowed to remain on the east side of the Euphrates as long as it remained peaceful and small, was allegedly attacked again on 9 February.

According to Spigel Online’s sources, “more than 200 of the attackers died, including around 80 Syrian soldiers with the 4th Division, around 100 Iraqis and Afghans and around 70 tribal fighters, mostly with the al-Baqir militia.” Around 10-20 Russian mercenaries were killed as well, although Russian state media has confirmed only nine deaths.

This account of the fighting and casualty distribution is in stark contrast to the story being reported by Western media, which has alleged tens or hundreds of Russians killed:

[A] completely different version of events has gained traction — disseminated at first by Russian nationalists like Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, and then by others associated with the Wagner unit. According to those accounts, many more Russians had been killed in the battle — 100, 200, 300 or as many as 600. An entire unit, it was said, had been wiped out and the Kremlin wanted to cover it up. Recordings of alleged fighters even popped up apparently confirming these horrendous losses.

It was a version that sounded so plausible that even Western news agencies like Reuters and Bloomberg picked it up. The fact that the government in Moscow at first didn’t want to confirm any deaths and then spoke of five “Russian citizens” killed and later, nebulously, of “dozens of injured,” some of whom had died, only seemed to make the version of events seem more credible.

Spiegel Online implies that the motive behind the account being propagated by sources connected to the mercenaries stems from the “claim they are being used as cannon fodder, are being kept quiet and are poorly paid. For them to now accuse the Kremlin of trying to cover up the fact that Russians were killed — by the Americans, of all people — hits President Vladimir Putin’s government in a weak spot: its credibility.”

The Spiegel Online account and casualty tally — 250 Syrian/Shi’a killed out of approximately 900 engaged, with 10-20 Russian mercenaries killed by collateral fire — seems a good deal more plausible than the figures mentioned in the initial Western media reports.

Comparing the RAND Version of the 3:1 Rule to Real-World Data

Comparing the RAND Version of the 3:1 Rule to Real-World Data

Chuliengcheng. In a glorious death eternal life. (Battle of Yalu River, 1904) [Wikimedia Commons]

[The article below is reprinted from the Winter 2010 edition of The International TNDM Newsletter.]

Comparing the RAND Version of the 3:1 Rule to Real-World Data
Christopher A. Lawrence

For this test, The Dupuy Institute took advan­tage of two of its existing databases for the DuWar suite of databases. The first is the Battles Database (BaDB), which covers 243 battles from 1600 to 1900. The sec­ond is the Division-level Engagement Database (DLEDB), which covers 675 division-level engagements from 1904 to 1991.

The first was chosen to provide a historical con­text for the 3:1 rule of thumb. The second was chosen so as to examine how this rule applies to modern com­bat data.

We decided that this should be tested to the RAND version of the 3:1 rule as documented by RAND in 1992 and used in JICM [Joint Integrated Contingency Model] (with SFS [Situational Force Scoring]) and other mod­els. This rule, as presented by RAND, states: “[T]he famous ‘3:1 rule,’ according to which the attacker and defender suffer equal fractional loss rates at a 3:1 force ratio if the battle is in mixed terrain and the defender enjoys ‘prepared’ defenses…�

Therefore, we selected out all those engage­ments from these two databases that ranged from force ratios of 2.5 to 1 to 3.5 to 1 (inclusive). It was then a simple matter to map those to a chart that looked at attackers losses compared to defender losses. In the case of the pre-1904 cases, even with a large database (243 cases), there were only 12 cases of combat in that range, hardly statistically significant. That was because most of the combat was at odds ratios in the range of .50-to-1 to 2.00-to-one.

The count of number of engagements by odds in the pre-1904 cases:

As the database is one of battles, then usually these are only joined at reasonably favorable odds, as shown by the fact that 88 percent of the battles occur between 0.40 and 2.50 to 1 odds. The twelve pre-1904 cases in the range of 2.50 to 3.50 are shown in Table 1.

If the RAND version of the 3:1 rule was valid, one would expect that the “Percent per Day Loss Ratio� (the last column) would hover around 1.00, as this is the ratio of attacker percent loss rate to the defender per­cent loss rate. As it is, 9 of the 12 data points are notice­ably below 1 (below 0.40 or a 1 to 2.50 exchange rate). This leaves only three cases (25%) with an exchange rate that would support such a “rule.�

If we look at the simple ratio of actual losses (vice percent losses), then the numbers comes much closer to parity, but this is not the RAND interpreta­tion of the 3:1 rule. Six of the twelve numbers “hover� around an even exchange ratio, with six other sets of data being widely off that central point. “Hover� for the rest of this discussion means that the exchange ratio ranges from 0.50-to-1 to 2.00-to 1.

Still, this is early modern linear combat, and is not always representative of modern war. Instead, we will examine 634 cases in the Division-level Database (which consists of 675 cases) where we have worked out the force ratios. While this database covers from 1904 to 1991, most of the cases are from WWII (1939- 1945). Just to compare:

As such, 87% of the cases are from WWII data and 10% of the cases are from post-WWII data. The engagements without force ratios are those that we are still working on as The Dupuy Institute is always ex­panding the DLEDB as a matter of routine. The specific cases, where the force ratios are between 2.50 and 3.50 to 1 (inclusive) are shown in Table 2:

This is a total of 98 engagements at force ratios of 2.50 to 3.50 to 1. It is 15 percent of the 634 engage­ments for which we had force ratios. With this fairly significant representation of the overall population, we are still getting no indication that the 3:1 rule, as RAND postulates it applies to casualties, does indeed fit the data at all. Of the 98 engagements, only 19 of them demonstrate a percent per day loss ratio (casualty exchange ratio) between 0.50-to-1 and 2-to-1. This is only 19 percent of the engagements at roughly 3:1 force ratio. There were 72 percent (71 cases) of those engage­ments at lower figures (below 0.50-to-1) and only 8 percent (cases) are at a higher exchange ratio. The data clearly was not clustered around the area from 0.50-to- 1 to 2-to-1 range, but was well to the left (lower) of it.

Looking just at straight exchange ratios, we do get a better fit, with 31 percent (30 cases) of the figure ranging between 0.50 to 1 and 2 to 1. Still, this fig­ure exchange might not be the norm with 45 percent (44 cases) lower and 24 percent (24 cases) higher. By definition, this fit is 1/3rd the losses for the attacker as postulated in the RAND version of the 3:1 rule. This is effectively an order of magnitude difference, and it clearly does not represent the norm or the center case.

The percent per day loss exchange ratio ranges from 0.00 to 5.71. The data tends to be clustered at the lower values, so the high values are very much outliers. The highest percent exchange ratio is 5.71, the second highest is 4.41, the third highest is 2.92. At the other end of the spectrum, there are four cases where no losses were suffered by one side and seven where the exchange ratio was .01 or less. Ignoring the “N/A� (no losses suffered by one side) and the two high “outliers (5.71 and 4.41), leaves a range of values from 0.00 to 2.92 across 92 cases. With an even dis­tribution across that range, one would expect that 51 percent of them would be in the range of 0.50-to-1 and 2.00-to-1. With only 19 percent of the cases being in that range, one is left to conclude that there is no clear correlation here. In fact, it clearly is the opposite effect, which is that there is a negative relationship. Not only is the RAND construct unsupported, it is clearly and soundly contradicted with this data. Furthermore, the RAND construct is theoretically a worse predictor of casualty rates than if one randomly selected a value for the percentile exchange rates between the range of 0 and 2.92. We do believe this data is appropriate and ac­curate for such a test.

As there are only 19 cases of 3:1 attacks fall­ing in the even percentile exchange rate range, then we should probably look at these cases for a moment:

One will note, in these 19 cases, that the aver­age attacker casualties are way out of line with the av­erage for the entire data set (3.20 versus 1.39 or 3.20 versus 0.63 with pre-1943 and Soviet-doctrine attack­ers removed). The reverse is the case for the defenders (3.12 versus 6.08 or 3.12 versus 5.83 with pre-1943 and Soviet-doctrine attackers removed). Of course, of the 19 cases, 2 are pre-1943 cases and 7 are cases of Soviet-doctrine attackers (in fact, 8 of the 14 cases of the So­viet-doctrine attackers are in this selection of 19 cases). This leaves 10 other cases from the Mediterranean and ETO (Northwest Europe 1944). These are clearly the unusual cases, outliers, etc. While the RAND 3:1 rule may be applicable for the Soviet-doctrine offensives (as it applies to 8 of the 14 such cases we have), it does not appear to be applicable to anything else. By the same token, it also does not appear to apply to virtually any cases of post-WWII combat. This all strongly argues that not only is the RAND construct not proven, but it is indeed clearly not correct.

The fact that this construct also appears in So­viet literature, but nowhere else in US literature, indi­cates that this is indeed where the rule was drawn from. One must consider the original scenarios run for the RSAC [RAND Strategy Assessment Center] wargame were “Fulda Gap� and Korean War scenarios. As such, they were regularly conducting bat­tles with Soviet attackers versus Allied defenders. It would appear that the 3:1 rule that they used more closely reflected the experiences of the Soviet attackers in WWII than anything else. Therefore, it may have been a fine representation for those scenarios as long as there was no US counterattacking or US offensives (and assuming that the Soviet Army of the 1980s performed at the same level as in did in the 1940s).

There was a clear relative performance difference between the Soviet Army and the German Army in World War II (see our Capture Rate Study Phase I & II and Measuring Human Factors in Combat for a detailed analysis of this).[1] It was roughly in the order of a 3-to-1-casualty exchange ratio. Therefore, it is not surprising that Soviet writers would create analytical tables based upon an equal percentage exchange of losses when attacking at 3:1. What is surprising, is that such a table would be used in the US to represent US forces now. This is clearly not a correct application.

Therefore, RAND’s SFS, as currently con­structed, is calibrated to, and should only be used to represent, a Soviet-doctrine attack on first world forces where the Soviet-style attacker is clearly not properly trained and where the degree of performance difference is similar to that between the Germans and Soviets in 1942-44. It should not be used for US counterattacks, US attacks, or for any forces of roughly comparable ability (regardless of whether Soviet-style doctrine or not). Furthermore, it should not be used for US attacks against forces of inferior training, motivation and co­hesiveness. If it is, then any such tables should be ex­pected to produce incorrect results, with attacker losses being far too high relative to the defender. In effect, the tables unrealistically penalize the attacker.

As JICM with SFS is now being used for a wide variety of scenarios, then it should not be used at all until this fundamental error is corrected, even if that use is only for training. With combat tables keyed to a result that is clearly off by an order of magnitude, then the danger of negative training is high.


[1] Capture Rate Study Phases I and II Final Report (The Dupuy Institute, March 6, 2000) (2 Vols.) and Measuring Human Fac­tors in Combat—Part of the Enemy Prisoner of War Capture Rate Study (The Dupuy Institute, August 31, 2000). Both of these reports are available through our web site.

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 02 March 2018

TDI Friday Read: Links You May Have Missed, 02 March 2018

We are trying something new today, well, new for TDI anyway. This edition of TDI Friday Read will offer a selection of links to items we think may be of interest to our readers. We found them interesting but have not had the opportunity to offer observations or commentary about them. Hopefully you may find them useful or interesting as well.

The story of the U.S. attack on a force of Russian mercenaries and Syrian pro-regime troops near Deir Ezzor, Syria, last month continues to have legs.

And a couple stories related to naval warfare…

Finally, proving that there are, or soon will be, podcasts about everything, there is one about Napoleon Bonaparte and his era: The Age of Napoleon Podcast. We have yet to give it a listen, but if anyone else has, let us know what you think.

Have a great weekend.

Spotted In The New Books Section Of The U.S. Naval Academy Library…

Spotted In The New Books Section Of The U.S. Naval Academy Library…

Christopher A. Lawrence, War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2017) 390 pages, $39.95

War by Numbers assesses the nature of conventional warfare through the analysis of historical combat. Christopher A. Lawrence (President and Executive Director of The Dupuy Institute) establishes what we know about conventional combat and why we know it. By demonstrating the impact a variety of factors have on combat he moves such analysis beyond the work of Carl von Clausewitz and into modern data and interpretation.

Using vast data sets, Lawrence examines force ratios, the human factor in case studies from World War II and beyond, the combat value of superior situational awareness, and the effects of dispersion, among other elements. Lawrence challenges existing interpretations of conventional warfare and shows how such combat should be conducted in the future, simultaneously broadening our understanding of what it means to fight wars by the numbers.

The book is available in paperback directly from Potomac Books and in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

Russian Army Experiments With Using Tanks For Indirect Fire

Russian Army Experiments With Using Tanks For Indirect Fire

Russian Army T-90S main battle tanks. [Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation]

Finnish freelance writer and military blogger Petri Mäkelä spotted an interesting announcement from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation: the Combined-Arms Army of the Western Military District is currently testing the use of main battle tanks for indirect fire at the Pogonovo test range in the Voronezh region.

According to Major General Timur Trubiyenko, First Deputy Commander of the Western Military District Combined-Arms Army, in the course of company exercises, 200 tankers will test a combination of platoon direct and indirect fire tactics against simulated armored, lightly armored, and concealed targets up to 12 kilometers away.

Per Mäkelä, the exercise will involve T-90S main battle tanks using their 2A46 125 mm/L48 smoothbore cannons. According to the Ministry of Defense, more than 1,000 Russian Army soldiers, employing over 100 weapons systems and special equipment items, will participate in the exercises between 19 and 22 February 2018.

Tanks have been used on occasion to deliver indirect fire in World War II and Korea, but it is not a commonly used modern tactic. The use of modern fire control systems, guided rounds, and drone spotters might offer the means to make this more useful.

Attrition In Future Land Combat

Attrition In Future Land Combat

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division maneuver their Paladins through Hohenfels Training Area, Oct. 26. Photo Credit: Capt. John Farmer, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav

[This post was originally published on June 9, 2017]

Last autumn, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley asserted that “we are on the cusp of a fundamental change in the character of warfare, and specifically ground warfare. It will be highly lethal, very highly lethal, unlike anything our Army has experienced, at least since World War II.� He made these comments while describing the Army’s evolving Multi-Domain Battle concept for waging future combat against peer or near-peer adversaries.

How lethal will combat on future battlefields be? Forecasting the future is, of course, an undertaking fraught with uncertainties. Milley’s comments undoubtedly reflect the Army’s best guesses about the likely impact of new weapons systems of greater lethality and accuracy, as well as improved capabilities for acquiring targets. Many observers have been closely watching the use of such weapons on the battlefield in the Ukraine. The spectacular success of the Zelenopillya rocket strike in 2014 was a convincing display of the lethality of long-range precision strike capabilities.

It is possible that ground combat attrition in the future between peer or near-peer combatants may be comparable to the U.S. experience in World War II (although there were considerable differences between the experiences of the various belligerents). Combat losses could be heavier. It certainly seems likely that they would be higher than those experienced by U.S. forces in recent counterinsurgency operations.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Defense Department has demonstrated a tenuous understanding of the phenomenon of combat attrition. Despite wildly inaccurate estimates for combat losses in the 1991 Gulf War, only modest effort has been made since then to improve understanding of the relationship between combat and casualties. The U.S. Army currently does not have either an approved tool or a formal methodology for casualty estimation.

Historical Trends in Combat Attrition

Trevor Dupuy did a great deal of historical research on attrition in combat. He found several trends that had strong enough empirical backing that he deemed them to be verities. He detailed his conclusions in Understanding War: History and Theory of Combat (1987) and Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War (1995).

Dupuy documented a clear relationship over time between increasing weapon lethality, greater battlefield dispersion, and declining casualty rates in conventional combat. Even as weapons became more lethal, greater dispersal in frontage and depth among ground forces led daily personnel loss rates in battle to decrease.

The average daily battle casualty rate in combat has been declining since 1600 as a consequence. Since battlefield weapons continue to increase in lethality and troops continue to disperse in response, it seems logical to presume the trend in loss rates continues to decline, although this may not necessarily be the case. There were two instances in the 19th century where daily battle casualty rates increased—during the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War—before declining again. Dupuy noted that combat casualty rates in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War remained roughly the same as those in World War II (1939-45), almost thirty years earlier. Further research is needed to determine if average daily personnel loss rates have indeed continued to decrease into the 21st century.

Dupuy also discovered that, as with battle outcomes, casualty rates are influenced by the circumstantial variables of combat. Posture, weather, terrain, season, time of day, surprise, fatigue, level of fortification, and “all out� efforts affect loss rates. (The combat loss rates of armored vehicles, artillery, and other other weapons systems are directly related to personnel loss rates, and are affected by many of the same factors.) Consequently, yet counterintuitively, he could find no direct relationship between numerical force ratios and combat casualty rates. Combat power ratios which take into account the circumstances of combat do affect casualty rates; forces with greater combat power inflict higher rates of casualties than less powerful forces do.

Winning forces suffer lower rates of combat losses than losing forces do, whether attacking or defending. (It should be noted that there is a difference between combat loss rates and numbers of losses. Depending on the circumstances, Dupuy found that the numerical losses of the winning and losing forces may often be similar, even if the winner’s casualty rate is lower.)

Dupuy’s research confirmed the fact that the combat loss rates of smaller forces is higher than that of larger forces. This is in part due to the fact that smaller forces have a larger proportion of their troops exposed to enemy weapons; combat casualties tend to concentrated in the forward-deployed combat and combat support elements. Dupuy also surmised that Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s concept of friction plays a role in this. The complexity of interactions between increasing numbers of troops and weapons simply diminishes the lethal effects of weapons systems on real world battlefields.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, higher quality forces (that better manage the ambient effects of friction in combat) inflict casualties at higher rates than those with less effectiveness. This can be seen clearly in the disparities in casualties between German and Soviet forces during World War II, Israeli and Arab combatants in 1973, and U.S. and coalition forces and the Iraqis in 1991 and 2003.

Combat Loss Rates on Future Battlefields

What do Dupuy’s combat attrition verities imply about casualties in future battles? As a baseline, he found that the average daily combat casualty rate in Western Europe during World War II for divisional-level engagements was 1-2% for winning forces and 2-3% for losing ones. For a divisional slice of 15,000 personnel, this meant daily combat losses of 150-450 troops, concentrated in the maneuver battalions (The ratio of wounded to killed in modern combat has been found to be consistently about 4:1. 20% are killed in action; the other 80% include mortally wounded/wounded in action, missing, and captured).

It seems reasonable to conclude that future battlefields will be less densely occupied. Brigades, battalions, and companies will be fighting in spaces formerly filled with armies, corps, and divisions. Fewer troops mean fewer overall casualties, but the daily casualty rates of individual smaller units may well exceed those of WWII divisions. Smaller forces experience significant variation in daily casualties, but Dupuy established average daily rates for them as shown below.

For example, based on Dupuy’s methodology, the average daily loss rate unmodified by combat variables for brigade combat teams would be 1.8% per day, battalions would be 8% per day, and companies 21% per day. For a brigade of 4,500, that would result in 81 battle casualties per day, a battalion of 800 would suffer 64 casualties, and a company of 120 would lose 27 troops. These rates would then be modified by the circumstances of each particular engagement.

Several factors could push daily casualty rates down. Milley envisions that U.S. units engaged in an anti-access/area denial environment will be constantly moving. A low density, highly mobile battlefield with fluid lines would be expected to reduce casualty rates for all sides. High mobility might also limit opportunities for infantry assaults and close quarters combat. The high operational tempo will be exhausting, according to Milley. This could also lower loss rates, as the casualty inflicting capabilities of combat units decline with each successive day in battle.

It is not immediately clear how cyberwarfare and information operations might influence casualty rates. One combat variable they might directly impact would be surprise. Dupuy identified surprise as one of the most potent combat power multipliers. A surprised force suffers a higher casualty rate and surprisers enjoy lower loss rates. Russian combat doctrine emphasizes using cyber and information operations to achieve it and forces with degraded situational awareness are highly susceptible to it. As Zelenopillya demonstrated, surprise attacks with modern weapons can be devastating.

Some factors could push combat loss rates up. Long-range precision weapons could expose greater numbers of troops to enemy fires, which would drive casualties up among combat support and combat service support elements. Casualty rates historically drop during night time hours, although modern night-vision technology and persistent drone reconnaissance might will likely enable continuous night and day battle, which could result in higher losses.

Drawing solid conclusions is difficult but the question of future battlefield attrition is far too important not to be studied with greater urgency. Current policy debates over whether or not the draft should be reinstated and the proper size and distribution of manpower in active and reserve components of the Army hinge on getting this right. The trend away from mass on the battlefield means that there may not be a large margin of error should future combat forces suffer higher combat casualties than expected.

TDI Friday Read: Cool Maps Edition

TDI Friday Read: Cool Maps Edition

Today’s edition of TDI Friday Read compiles some previous posts featuring maps we have found to be interesting, useful, or just plain cool. The history of military affairs would be incomprehensible without maps. Without them, it would be impossible to convey the temporal and geographical character of warfare or the situational awareness of the combatants. Of course, maps are susceptible to the same methodological distortions, fallacies, inaccuracies, and errors in interpretation to be found in any historical work. As with any historical resource, they need to be regarded with respectful skepticism.

Still, maps are cool. Check these out.

Arctic Territories

Visualizing European Population Density

Cartography And The Great War

Classics of Infoporn: Minard’s “Napoleon’s March”

New WWII German Maps At The National Archives

As an added bonus, here are two more links of interest. The first describes the famous map based on 1860 U.S. Census data that Abraham Lincoln used to understand the geographical distribution of slavery in the Southern states.

The second shows the potential of maps to provide new insights into history. It is an animated, interactive depiction of the trans-Atlantic slave trade derived from a database covering 315 years and 20,528 slave ship transits. It is simultaneously fascinating and sobering.

Initial SFAB Deployment To Afghanistan Generating High Expectations

Initial SFAB Deployment To Afghanistan Generating High Expectations

Staff Sgt. Braxton Pernice, 6th Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, is pinned his Pathfinder Badge by a fellow 1st SFAB Soldier Nov. 3, 2017, at Fort Benning, Ga., following his graduation from Pathfinder School. Pernice is one of three 1st SFAB Soldiers to graduate the school since the formation of the 1st SFAB. He and Sgt 1st Class Rachel Lyons and Capt. Travis Lowe, all with 6th Bn., 1st SFAB, were among 42 students of Pathfinder School class 001-18 to earn their badge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noelle E. Wiehe)

It appears that the political and institutional stakes associated with the forthcoming deployment of the U.S. Army’s new 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) to Afghanistan have increased dramatically. Amidst the deteriorating security situation, the performance of 1st SFAB is coming to be seen as a test of President Donald Trump’s vow to “winâ€� in Afghanistan and his reported insistence that increased troop and financial commitments demonstrate a “quick return.”

Many will also be watching to see if the SFAB concept validates the Army’s revamped approach to Security Force Assistance (SFA)—an umbrella term for whole-of-government support provided to develop the capability and capacity of foreign security forces and institutions. SFA has long been one of the U.S. government’s primary response to threats of insurgency and terrorism around the world, but its record of success is decidedly mixed.

Earlier this month, the 1st SFAB commander Colonel Scott Jackson reportedly briefed General Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, that his unit had less than eight months of training and preparation, instead of an expected 12 months. His personnel had been rushed through the six-week Military Advisor Training Academy curriculum in only two weeks, and that the command suffered from personnel shortages. Votel reportedly passed these concerns to U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

Competing Mission Priorities

Milley’s brainchild, the SFABs are intended to improve the Army’s ability to conduct SFA and to relieve line Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) of responsibility for conducting it. Committing BCTs to SFA missions has been seen as both keeping them from more important conventional missions and inhibiting their readiness for high-intensity combat.

However, 1st SFAB may be caught out between two competing priorities: to adequately train Afghan forces and also to partner with and support them in combat operations. The SFABs are purposely optimized for training and advising, but they are not designed for conducting combat operations. They lack a BCT’s command, control and intelligence and combat assets. Some veteran military advisors have pointed out that BCTs are able to control battlespace and possess organic force protection, two capabilities the SFABs lack. While SFAB personnel will advise and accompany Afghan security forces in the field, they will not be able to support them in combat with them the way BCTs can. The Army will also have to deploy additional combat troops to provide sufficient force protection for 1st SFAB’s trainers.

Institutional Questions

The deviating requirements for training and combat advising may be the reason the Army appears to be providing the SFABs with capabilities that resemble those of Army Special Forces (ARSOF) personnel and units. ARSOF’s primary mission is to operate “by, with and through� indigenous forces. While Milley made clear in the past that the SFABs were not ARSOF, they do appear to include some deliberate similarities. While organized overall as a conventional BCT, the SFAB’s basic tactical teams include 12 personnel, like an ARSOF Operational Detachment A (ODA). Also like an ODA, the SFAB teams include intelligence and medical non-commissioned officers, and are also apparently being assigned dedicated personnel for calling in air and fire support (It is unclear from news reports if the SFAB teams include regular personnel trained in basic for call for fire techniques or if they are being given highly-skilled joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs).)

SFAB personnel have been selected using criteria used for ARSOF recruitment and Army Ranger physical fitness standards. They are being given foreign language training at the Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The SFAB concept has drawn some skepticism from the ARSOF community, which sees the train, advise, and assist mission as belonging to it. There are concerns that SFABs will compete with ARSOF for qualified personnel and the Army has work to do to create a viable career path for dedicated military advisors. However, as Milley has explained, there are not nearly enough ARSOF personnel to effectively staff the Army’s SFA requirements, let alone meet the current demand for other ARSOF missions.

An Enduring Mission

Single-handedly rescuing a floundering 16-year, $70 billion effort to create an effective Afghan army as well as a national policy that suffers from basic strategic contradictions seems like a tall order for a brand-new, understaffed Army unit. At least one veteran military advisor has asserted that 1st SFAB is being “set up to fail.�

Yet, regardless of how well it performs, the SFA requirement will neither diminish nor go away. The basic logic behind the SFAB concept remains valid. It is possible that a problematic deployment could inhibit future recruiting, but it seems more likely that the SFABs and Army military advising will evolve as experience accumulates. SFA may or may not be a strategic “game changer� in Afghanistan, but as a former Army combat advisor stated, “It sounds low risk and not expensive, even when it is, [but] it’s not going away whether it succeeds or fails.�

Visualizing The Multidomain Battle Battlespace

Visualizing The Multidomain Battle Battlespace

In the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, General David G. Perkins and General James M. Holmes, respectively the commanding generals of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and  U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC), present the results of the initial effort to fashion a unified, joint understanding of the multidomain battle (MDB) battlespace.

The thinking of the services proceeds from a basic idea:

Victory in future combat will be determined by how successfully commanders can understand, visualize, and describe the battlefield to their subordinate commands, thus allowing for more rapid decisionmaking to exploit the initiative and create positions of relative advantage.

In order to create this common understanding, TRADOC and ACC are seeking to blend the conceptualization of their respective operating concepts.

The Army’s…operational framework is a cognitive tool used to assist commanders and staffs in clearly visualizing and describing the application of combat power in time, space, and purpose… The Army’s operational and battlefield framework is, by the reality and physics of the land domain, generally geographically focused and employed in multiple echelons.

The mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight, and win—in air, space, and cyberspace. With this in mind, and with the inherent flexibility provided by the range and speed of air, space, and cyber power, the ACC construct for visualizing and describing operations in time and space has developed differently from the Army’s… One key difference between the two constructs is that while the Army’s is based on physical location of friendly and enemy assets and systems, ACC’s is typically focused more on the functions conducted by friendly and enemy assets and systems. Focusing on the functions conducted by friendly and enemy forces allows coordinated employment and integration of air, space, and cyber effects in the battlespace to protect or exploit friendly functions while degrading or defeating enemy functions across geographic boundaries to create and exploit enemy vulnerabilities and achieve a continuing advantage.

Despite having “somewhat differing perspectives on mission command versus C2 and on a battlefield framework that is oriented on forces and geography versus one that is oriented on function and time,” it turns out that the services’ respective conceptualizations of their operating concepts are not incompatible. The first cut on an integrated concept yielded the diagram above. As Perkins and Holmes point out,

The only noncommon area between these two frameworks is the Air Force’s Adversary Strategic area. This area could easily be accommodated into the Army’s existing framework with the addition of Strategic Deep Fires—an area over the horizon beyond the range of land-based systems, thus requiring cross-domain fires from the sea, air, and space.

Perkins and Holmes go on to map out the next steps.

In the coming year, the Army and Air Force will be conducting a series of experiments and initiatives to help determine the essential components of MDB C2. Between the Services there is a common understanding of the future operational environment, the macro-level problems that must be addressed, and the capability gaps that currently exist. Potential solutions require us to ask questions differently, to ask different questions, and in many cases to change our definitions.

Their expectation is that “Frameworks will tend to merge—not as an either/or binary choice—but as a realization that effective cross-domain operations on the land and sea, in the air, as well as cyber and electromagnetic domains will require a merged framework and a common operating picture.”

So far, so good. Stay tuned.

Robert Work On Recent Chinese Advances In A2/AD Technology

Robert Work On Recent Chinese Advances In A2/AD Technology

An image of a hypersonic glider-like object broadcast by Chinese state media in October 2017. No known images of the DF-17’s hypersonic glide vehicle exist in the public domain. [CCTV screen capture via East Pendulum/The Diplomat]

Robert Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and one of the architects of the Third Offset Strategy, has a very interesting article up over at Task & Purpose detailing the origins of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy and the development of military technology to enable it.

According to Work, the PRC government was humiliated by the impunity with which the U.S. was able to sail its aircraft carrier task forces unimpeded through the waters between China and Taiwan during the Third Taiwan Straits crisis in 1995-1996. Soon after, the PRC began a process of military modernization that remains in progress. Part of the modernization included technical development along three main “complementary lines of effort.”

  • The objective of the first line of effort was to obtain rough parity with the U.S. in “battle network-guided munitions warfare in the Western Pacific.” This included detailed study of U.S. performance in the 1990-1991 Gulf War; development of a Chinese version of a battle network that features ballistic and guided missiles;
  • The second line of effort resulted in a sophisticated capability to attack U.S. networked military capabilities through “a blend of cyber, electronic warfare, and deception operations.”
  • The third line of effort produced specialized “assassin’s mace” capabilities for attacking specific weapons systems used for projecting U.S. military power overseas, such as aircraft carriers.

Work asserts that “These three lines of effort now enable contemporary Chinese battle networks to contest the U.S. military in every operating domain: sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace.”

He goes on to describe a fourth technological development line of effort, the fielding of hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV). HGV’s are winged re-entry vehicles boosted aloft by ballistic missiles. Moving at hypersonic speeds at near space altitudes (below 100 kilometers) yet maneuverable, HGVs carrying warheads would be exceptionally difficult to intercept even if the U.S. fielded ballistic missile defense systems capable of engaging targets (which it currently does not). The Chinese have already deployed HGVs on Dong Feng (DF) 17 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and began operational testing the DF-21 possessing intercontinental range.

Work concludes with a stark admonition: “An energetic and robust U.S. response to HGVs is required, including the development of new defenses and offensive hypersonic weapons of our own.”

1st Security Force Assistance Brigade To Deploy To Afghanistan In Spring

1st Security Force Assistance Brigade To Deploy To Afghanistan In Spring

Capt. Christopher Hawkins, 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, middle, and an interpreter speaks with local national soldiers to gain information ab