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April 08, 2011


Phil Ridderhof

I agree with your point about the flexibility of conventional operations. The trend I have seen is that we have stereotyped "conventional" as something very simple and straightforward--we only refer to it as rationale to focus on irregular, the "graduate level," warfare.
I will have to break out my Archer Jones again. I also recommend Jonathan House's "Combined Arms Warfare in the 20th Century," but especially Robert Leonhard's work on combined arms theory in "The Art of Maneuver" and "The Principles of War for the Information Age." Leonhard gets at combined arms at the conceptual level that really supports deeper examination and understanding of possibilities--beyond the weapons systems and organizations of western Europe. The below is my interpretation of some of his thoughts:

"Leonhard introduces the terms the “paradox of lethality” and the “attack profile.” In essence, a weapons system does two things: it kills and it forces enemy reactions. The “Paradox of Lethality” is the phenomenon that, when viewed in isolation, as any system becomes more lethal, enemy reactions decrease its effectiveness; it does not produce more kills. That enemy reaction, however, can serve to increase the enemy’s exposure to other weapons systems, especially as the enemy’s reaction becomes more extreme. An “attack profile” is a broad description of how a weapon works on the battlefield and how effective it is. For example, a 120mm tank gun and a 120mm mortar have different attack profiles. The importance of the attack profile is that it largely drives the nature of the enemy’s reaction to that weapon. Leonhard argues that the real measure of any weapons system (or combined arms component) is not its individual attack profile, but the interrelationship of the reactions it causes with those of other weapons systems—its role in a combined arms system.

The physical building blocks of combined arms capability are the differing arms and/or weapons systems. The concept of combined arms seeks to use these components, not necessarily to achieve their individual maximum effectiveness, but rather to employ them in combinations to achieve the (situationally dependent) optimal individual effectiveness—for maximum effectiveness of the combined arms force as a whole. More specifically, the optimal individual performance of any component is primarily defined by how well it creates vulnerabilities in the enemy to other systems. For a combined arms force, the prime consideration for fielding a weapons system, or developing a capability must be how they interact with the other components of the force, not their individual characteristics."


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I concur with your focus concerning the adaptability of expected operations. The fad I have perceived is that we have stereotyped "traditional" as something exceptionally effortless and straightforward--we just point to it as basis to center on sporadic, the "graduate level," warfare.

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