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Document created: 11 May 99
Air & Space Power Chronicles
The Counterrevolution in Military Affairs
Major Thomas R. McCabe, USAFR
Sometime after the turn of the century, two countries
are at war. One decides to attack the other. Its tanks, in regular
columns, cross the border between the two combatants. However,
its approach to war and its approach to the border have been constantly
and comprehensively monitored by the defending side.
Suddenly, without warning, small missiles silently
attack the invading tanks. Each "brilliant"  missile
hovers momentarily above the tanks, selects one and attacks it
by firing a high-speed projectile at the weakest part-the turret
and engine cover. The deadly accurate missiles are very selective:
they don't attack any tank that has been selected for attack by
another missile. These missiles are fired from 30 to 40 kilometers
away, far beyond the range of the tank's guns. Few survivors crawl
out of the burning wrecks, since red-hot pieces of metal ricochet
around inside and hot, suffocating gases spread rapidly throughout.
Only three of the tanks survive. Their morale shattered, the crews
decide to retreat .
Since the victory in DESERT STORM, there has
been a slowly but steadily growing chorus claiming that we are
entering a new era in warfare. In this conception of a "Revolution
in Military Affairs" (hereafter RMA ), the evolution of
military technology has reached a critical mass, a point where
the impact of this technology is becoming so pervasive as to justify
a total rethinking of our conduct of and organization for warfare.
If correct, this promises an immensely, and possibly uniquely,
favorable military future for America. As the world leader in
the application of these military technologies--and one of the
few nations that can afford to apply these technologies on a large
scale--the US can expect to dominate any major future battlefield
as decisively as we dominated the Iraqis. The American military
can expect that future wars will largely parallel the scenario
of the prologue.
But what if the optimistic projections are wrong?
For a start, as some authors have noted, the technologies in question
are likely to be of, at best, very limited use in situations like
Haiti, Somalia, or Chechenya, which are the most likely type of
conflict we will face for at least the immediate future . Further,
these new technologies are likely to be of limited use in urban
scenarios, such as Beirut. More central to this article, questions
must be raised as to how effective these technologies will be
even in their most favorable paradigm: against a highly mechanized
regional threat. For while the US military can justifiably claim
to have established a new standard for warfare in the Persian
Gulf War that some claim is the harbinger of the RMA, that standard
is now known worldwide. As was the case with the Germans and Blitzkrieg
in 1940, the US must expect that everyone who can will try to
match or exceed the standard, and--central to the purpose of this
article-- that everyone who cannot match it (probably most of
the world, since it is enormously capital-intensive and therefore
enormously expensive) will try to devise ways to defeat it. Since
comparative disadvantage is a spur to innovation , what countermeasures
might be used to defeat the RMA? What are the prospects of a COUNTERrevolution
in military affairs?
To evaluate such prospects, this article will
do three things. First, it will give a summary describing the
reasoning behind the claims of an RMA. Next, it will evaluate
the limits and weaknesses of the RMA and how an enemy might try
to target them. Finally, it will analyze the dangers and implications
of overestimating the impact of the RMA and embracing it as the
center of future American military strategy.
CHAPTER I: THE REVOLUTION IN MILITARY
The concept of the RMA is based on the assumption
of technological revolutions in three overlapping areas . When
integrated, these are expected to produce a profound change in
the nature of warfare.
1. INFORMATION SUPERIORITY. America is assumed
to be acquiring the technology to permit comprehensive and constant
surveillance of the battlefield and relevant adjacent areas
in real-time or near-real time. The US is further assumed to
be acquiring the ability to process the information into usable
intelligence and rapidly distribute it to users who need it.
This is expected to dissolve much of the fog of war--the uncertainty
and confusion that comes from incomplete and/or inaccurate information
on the battlefield and the situation on it.
2. BATTLESPACE DOMINANCE. America is assumed
to have command, control, and communications superiority, so
that US forces will be able to exploit their information superiority.
The US is assumed to be able to move faster and control its
forces more effectively than the enemy and disrupt his control
of his forces, so that the US will be able to inflict operational
paralysis on his military and strategic paralysis on his government.
3. WEAPONS SUPERIORITY. It is assumed that
with advanced weapons, especially increasingly sophisticated
precision guided munitions (PGMs), America will be able to stand
off and defeat the enemy military with few friendly casualties
and, possibly, comparatively minimal enemy military casualties
and minimal civilian casualties or damage.
If these capabilities are deployed and work as
their proponents expect, the RMA will indeed be a revolution in
warfare. The capabilities demonstrated in DESERT STORM, devastating
though they were, were actually, in many ways, a rather rudimentary
example of its potential. However, to reach its full potential,
the RMA requires the effective integration of developments in
each of the three areas. As is generally the case with integrated
efforts, if a key part of the effort fails the entire effort may
be subject to massive degradation, and possibly to massive failure.
Much of the necessary technology is, at best, only partially in
existence at present, and it may be several (or many) years before
such technology is fully developed and deployed. Since the RMA
is only partially mature, potential enemies can be expected to
exhaustively study the concept and its relevant parts and, at
the very least, to seek to devise effective countermeasures. The
military legacy of the former USSR, in particular, will be a rich
lode to be mined, refined, and applied.
CHAPTER II: THE COUNTERREVOLUTION IN
MILITARY AFFAIRS; A COMPETITIVE STRATEGY
How might an enemy seek to counter or defeat
the RMA? An obvious approach would be to use what was called a
competitive strategy in the 1980s, which seeks to identify and
target enduring weaknesses of an enemy or his strategy . If
done effectively, such an approach will render that enemy's forces
or strategy ineffective before fighting him. When the components
of the RMA are examined, it does not take long to identify a wide
variety of potential points at which a competitive strategy might
be directed. The weak points chosen for attack will depend on
a combination of the imagination of the enemy, his available resources,
and his technological sophistication. As a point of reference,
this article will divide countermeasures into two general approaches,
which are somewhat arbitrarily called LOW TECHNOLOGY and HIGH
TECHNOLOGY. Low technology (which will include no technology)
will, as a rule, tend to favor a mixture of human cleverness,
defensive countermeasures, brute strength, and unsophisticated
firepower, while high technology will tend to favor a mixture
of technological cleverness, offensive measures, precisely targeted
strength, and selective firepower, and is likely to be used by
an enemy with a more sophisticated economy and society with more
resources to spend. It should be noted that low technology does
not necessarily mean simple or unsophisticated: the deception
strategies and technologies used in the Second World War were,
by today's standards, low technology, and the deception strategies
and technologies of our enemies in the Korean and Vietnam Wars
even more so, but they were all too often effective It should
also be emphasized that the low tech and high tech approaches
are not mutually exclusive: the use of one does not preclude the
use of the other, and, in fact, they are likely to complement
1. DISRUPTING INFORMATION SUPERIORITY:
THE BATTLE FOR INTELLIGENCE
Central to the RMA is the assumption of American
"dominant battlefield awareness"-- intelligence superiority
or supremacy . The US intention is to decisively cut through
the fog of war by integrating information from a complex variety
of sources and sensors, above all advanced battlefield airborne
surveillance systems such as Joint STARS-the Joint Surveillance
Target Attack Radar System , and then distributing it through
a variety of mechanisms. This being the case, an obvious countermeasure
is to deceive or blind friendly reconnaissance. There are any
number of ways to do this, and many of them have the advantages
of being readily available, cheap, and requiring minimal advanced
technology. The low tech approach will tend to be defensive, favoring
passive measures to lower enemy vulnerability to friendly detection
and to reduce our ability to understand what they are doing. The
high-tech approach, on the other hand, will tend to have a more
offensive cast, employing a variety of measures to actively interfere
with and obstruct friendly reconnaissance. This article will consider
two main approaches to disrupting information superiority: A)
Clouding Our Minds; and B) Going For God's Eyes.
A. CLOUDING OUR MINDS aims to encourage confusion
at all levels and defeatism in the minds of American decision-makers.
It can do this either by raising the level of background noise
so that accurate intelligence cannot be extracted from the static,
by confusing or manipulating friendly decision makers by providing
bogus or selectively accurate information that will encourage
those leaders to make bad decisions, or both. The Russian term
for such an effort, which this analysis will use, is MASKIROVKA:
an integrated program of camouflage, concealment, and deception.
Maskirovka can be done in either peacetime or wartime, although
the techniques used will vary accordingly. There are three reasons
why maskirovka deserves considerable attention. First, because,
despite the West having been the target of Soviet maskirovka
for decades, there is still only a limited appreciation of how
widespread an impact maskirovka has had and can have. Second,
since many maskirovka techniques are comparatively cheap and
straightforward and strike at the core of the RMA, it is likely
to be a favored response. Finally, it has the advantage of exploiting
what is likely to be a key American weakness in a future crisis:
the shallowness of understanding America is all to likely to
have of many future crisis areas and the circumstances and enemies
it will be facing there.
Enemy aims in using maskirovka will depend on
the circumstances of the crisis and the phase of its evolution
(prewar, opening phase of war, later phase of war), whether the
overall enemy strategy is offensive or defensive , and the
level of the organization controlling the maskirovka program.
Maskirovka's general aims will be to confuse friendly decision
makers as to whether there actually is a threat, to hide its magnitude,
to degrade friendly ability to accurately discern its development
and likely evolution, to weaken friendly will to respond, and
to disrupt the effectiveness of American and Allied response.
Strategic maskirovka is likely to be heavily
political and psychological, with the aim of at least insuring
strategic and operational surprise and at most precluding outside--especially
US-- intervention. It will attempt to create and exploit divisions
within and between friendly governments and to divide the US against
itself, to persuade some or all friendly leadership that there
is no real threat of war, or that if there is a threat that it
is America's fault or that of America's allies, and that the hostile
government's aims are fundamentally defensive or limited or at
least not a threat to American interests. It is likely to attempt
to persuade American leadership that any attempt to intervene
will be a costly failure. As the threat of war increases, maskirovka
is likely to seek to persuade US and Allied leaders not to risk
bringing forces to a higher state of alert lest it inflame the
situation. Low-tech strategic maskirovka will attempt to do this
through the traditional methods of psychological and political
manipulation, while high-tech strategic maskirovka will reinforce
and add an additional dimension to the psychological and political
efforts with deceptive cyberwar efforts, such as by inserting
contradictory or spurious information directly into friendly data
links or data bases . Once actual combat starts, and possibly
before, the enemy can be expected to try to disrupt at least the
national command and military command systems of the targeted
country--and any countries moving to support it--through destructive
information warfare ("information strikes") against
government, military, and possibly economic computer systems .
Maskirovka at the operational level of war will
be primarily military, and will presumably be the responsibility
of the higher-level staffs of the hostile military commands. With
an offensive enemy strategy, it will aim to achieve operational
surprise, while with a defensive strategy it will aim to maximize
the appearance of defensive strength, in the hope of deterring
an attack. The techniques used will depend on the situation and
the plan of attack or defense, and are virtually infinite in number.
The low-tech approach can be expected to use a centrally controlled
campaign of deception through information control and selective
disinformation, such as the British and the Americans did in preparation
for D-Day , and is likely to emphasize using the enemy civilian
population (and civilians in any friendly territory the enemy
occupies) as human screens, as the Communists did during the Vietnam
War. An enemy using a high-tech approach can be expected to reinforce
these efforts with a centrally controlled and selective program
of electronic jamming and countermeasures against friendly surveillance
systems and communications systems, which this analysis will refer
to by the term formerly used by the Soviets for such an effort;
"radioelectronic combat"--REC .
Tactical maskirovka will be the tactical unit-level
aspects of operational maskirovka, and will primarily be undertaken
by the enemy military units themselves, especially by engineers.
It will attempt to maximize the chance of operational and tactical
surprise by misleading friendly forces as to the actual magnitude,
location, and timing of the threat through the intelligence equivalent
of increasing the background noise. If the enemy posture is defensive,
it will seek to sow confusion about enemy strengths and weaknesses,
so that if push comes to shove key targets will be missed and
efforts wasted on hitting the wrong ones. Tactical maskirovka
can be expected to do the following: employ extensive visual,
thermal, and radar camouflage of actual positions and units ;
mingle military units and stockpiles with the civilian population,
society, and economy in order to disguise them; massively use
decoys, including sophisticated decoys that provide radar, visual,
and thermal signatures similar to actual vehicles and helicopters;
and undertake rigorous communications security and operational
security, including extensive counterreconnaissance efforts and
severe restrictions on the civilian population and civilian communications.
The major difference between the low-tech and the high-tech approaches
at this level of warfare will be in the level of technology used
in the camouflage, decoys, and security measures.
B. GOING FOR GOD'S EYES is the second major
approach to disrupting information dominance. Stated simply,
you can't hit what you can't see. Proponents of the RMA tend
to assume that the surveillance systems of the RMA will give
a comprehensive overview of the battlefield in real time, often
termed a "God's-eye view." An obvious countermeasure
is to attack the surveillance systems. While this might be done
in the prewar phase (probably using terrorists as cutouts),
it is likely to move to center stage with the start (or, as
in Kuwait, the renewal) of hostilities. In keeping with the
traditional Soviet REC concept, an enemy should be expected
to mount a systematic effort to destroy friendly intelligence
systems and platforms. The high altitude stand-off surveillance
platforms and their data downlinks and downlink sites are likely
to be priority targets for attack. The low-tech approach will
concentrate on the downlink receivers, targeting them with commando
raids (or, depending on the circumstances, with terrorist attacks)
and missile barrages, while targeting the surveillance platform
bases with commando/terrorist attacks and longer-range missiles.
The high tech approach will concentrate on the ground sites
with barrages of more sophisticated missiles  and will,
in addition, attempt to destroy the airborne surveillance platforms
while they are on station . In the future, attempts to neutralize
at least low-orbiting reconnaissance satellites with some kind
of rudimentary antisatellite capability should be expected .
Finally, an enemy will attempt to degrade what surveillance
capability survives through a campaign of jamming and other
electronic countermeasures against the surviving airborne radars
and the data links from airborne surveillance platforms to ground
2. COUNTERING BATTLESPACE DOMINANCE:
SAND IN THE GEARS OF PROGRESS
The RMA assumes a tightly integrated battle,
where all parts will work together win. There are two major approaches
to disrupting such an integrated battle. The first is to disrupt
the command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) necessary
to effectively organize and control an integrated battle. The
second is to neutralize the weapon systems necessary for the deep
attacks  which are central to the RMA's success.
A. DISRUPTING C3I obviously overlaps considerably
with countering information superiority, and in Western military
thinking the two have often been combined in a category known
in the recent past as "C3ICM"--C3I countermeasures.
The obvious way to do this is to target the command nodes which
will be integrating the data and running the war. For the foreseeable
future the success of an integrated battle will be critically
dependent on a rather limited number of key command nodes, especially
ground headquarters at corps level and above and the Air Operations
Centers (AOCs) (or their local equivalent) which will run the
offensive air war. Disrupting or destroying these can be expected
have an immediate and massive impact on integrated operations.
This can be done through either physical destruction through
the most expedient means or disrupting C3 links. The tactics
used to do this will obviously again overlap with those used
to disrupt information superiority, since there will be extensive
overlap between the two target sets. The low-tech countermeasures
approach will again concentrate on targeting the C3 nodes with
commando raids (or, depending on the circumstances, with terrorist
attacks) and missile barrages. The high-tech approach will again
concentrate on the ground nodes with barrages of more sophisticated
missiles and further degrading what C3I survives through a campaign
of jamming and other ECM and information attacks.
B. NEUTRALIZING KEY FORCES is the other approach
to disrupting the ability to wage an integrated battle. At present,
use of long-range stand-off firepower to minimize the risk of
friendly casualties is central to the conception of the RMA,
and for the foreseeable future, this stand-off firepower will
primarily be delivered by air units, especially fighter-bombers,
although long-range attack helicopters  and long-range artillery,
rocket, and tactical surface-to-surface missile units will gradually
become increasingly important. If these units are taken out
of the war the RMA starts to collapse. There are four major
approaches which can be used to target these units, and an enemy
must be expected to use all of them. These approaches are:
1. Active Defenses
2. Targeting Deep Attack Forces
3. Operational Techniques
1. ACTIVE DEFENSES can be used as part of either
an offensive or defensive posture. The character of such defenses
can be expected to vary according to the sophistication of the
enemy and, equally important, their available financial resources,
as late-generation aircraft, surface-to-air missiles (including
tactical antiballistic missiles), radars, and the C3 systems
needed to tie them together into an effective integrated air
defense system (IADS) are expensive. For those without the hard
currency to buy SU-27/35/37 aircraft and SA-12s from the Russians
 and therefore forced to use the low-tech approach, antiaircraft
artillery (AAA) and shoulder-fired SAMS such as the STINGER
are straightforward to use, comparatively cheap, and potentially
very deadly. Further, when netted with sensors and command and
control systems, such weapons can provide considerably more
than a point-defense capability . At present, only partially
noticed but extremely ominous is the potential use of lasers
as an antiaircraft blinding weapon .
2. TARGETING DEEP ATTACK FORCES is the second
approach. An enemy can be expected to adopt an air denial strategy,
and to expend massive efforts to neutralize the bases and units
which provide deep attack firepower. Methods of doing this will
be tailored to reflect enemy strengths, using a locally-tailored
mixture of special operations forces (SOFs), air attacks, or
missile barrages and/or attacks by missiles with various specialized
warheads such as cluster munitions, fuel-air explosives ,
carbon-fiber warheads , and possibly chemical weapons. These
attacks are especially likely to be effective against non-hardened
assets and/or in the early stages of an Allied buildup, when
such friendly forces (and most especially American reinforcements)
are only partially available and likely to be at their most
3. OPERATIONAL STRATEGIES--the way an enemy
intends to wage their war--are the third approach. Obvious possibilities
for such an operational strategy are either launching an offensive,
use of surprise, or both. Such strategies would aim, at best,
to seize the initiative and win quickly, with the aim of presenting
the US with an accomplished fact before America can intervene
in force, or, at the very least, force us to fight at their
initiative and on their terms, since if American forces are
hunkered down in a defensive crouch America will not be the
one in control of the war.
4. TACTICS are the final approach that might
be used to neutralize deep attack forces. The Soviets and NATO
expected any conventional war in Europe to be fought under at
least the threat of nuclear attack and escalation ("nuclear
scared"). The tactics the Soviets in particular emphasized
to minimize the potential effectiveness of any nuclear attack
are also potentially effective against the precision guided
munitions whose use is central to the effectiveness of the RMA.
Such tactics include dispersion, mobility (rapidly moving forces
are harder to attack and therefore less vulnerable), timing
(attacking at a time and under circumstances which reduce the
effectiveness of opposing reconnaissance and defensive systems)
and having their forces hug civilian population centers to exploit
our reluctance to cause collateral damage .
3. DISRUPTING THE BULLSEYE WAR: THE LIMITS
OF PRECISION ATTRITION
Precision attack--generally using PGMs--is central
to the RMA, so disrupting precision attack is the final approach
to countering the RMA. There are two major approaches to doing
this. The first of these is reducing the vulnerability of enemy
forces to precision attack. The second is reducing the effectiveness
of precision-guided munitions.
A. REDUCING THE VULNERABILITY OF ENEMY
FORCES can be done in two ways.
First, through reducing the detectability of
potential targets (their 'target signatures'), largely through
the various techniques of tactical maskirovka and using the civilian
population as human screens and shields. For the low-tech approach,
visual signatures can be reduced through camouflage and decoys.
Infrared signatures of vehicles can be reduced through the use
of heat suppressers on exhausts and the use of track skirts on
tracked vehicles. Radar signatures can be masked with decoys.
The high-tech approach will supplement these with more sophisticated
camouflage, reduction of communications signatures through the
use of sophisticated communications , and, if "stealth"
technologies become fairly cheap and/or such technologies or techniques
of signature reduction can be retrofitted onto vehicles ,
the use of "stealth" materials and techniques on individual
equipment to reduce radar signatures.
Second, through hardening or otherwise reducing
the vulnerability of equipment and facilities which are going
to be key targets, such as tanks, rockets/missile launchers and
artillery, unit headquarters, and supply lines. The low-tech approach
will favor the use of a variety of traditional mechanisms, including
dispersal, redundancy, camouflage and maskirovka (hiding real
targets while providing false targets), mobility (changing position
frequently), increased distance from the forward area where feasible
(especially for headquarters and supply depots), improved defenses,
improved armor for individual tactical equipment, and an increased
cushion of supply. The high-tech approach will supplement these
with improved defenses, including terminal defenses for individual
equipment , and more survivable individual equipment .
B. REDUCING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PGMS: ENCOURAGING
PRECISION MISS. While often, as previously noted, viewed as miracle
weapons by the uninformed or semiinformed , PGMs and their
launch and control platforms are actually subject to a wide variety
of limits. These can vary broadly depending on the type of PGM
in question and the launch system, and which will exist even without
enemy countermeasures. Thus, while PGMs may well be among the
world's finest ambush weapons, in a head-to-head fight against
a thinking and prepared enemy they may well lose much of their
usefulness . A shrewd enemy would exploit any number of problems
and limits, of which the following are prominent:
1. THE TARGET ACQUISITION PROBLEM. Target acquisition
is the development of accurate targeting data once a possible
target has been detected, so that the munition can be delivered
precisely where required for maximum effectiveness. This may
involve a very complex process, and, as with all complex processes,
there are numerous points for things to go wrong. Target acquisition
is likely to be extremely difficult in a war of maneuver where
friendly reconnaissance systems are a high-priority enemy target
and especially if friendly forces have not established air superiority.
Present PGMs generally need to have their targets
acquired for them: to be used to their full potential, they still
need human control at some point in the loop to tell them where
to go. Many need to be guided all the way to impact, although
not necessarily by the system that launched them. This may be
a matter of considerable or extraordinary difficulty and danger,
especially for aircraft-launched systems under combat conditions
The march of technology will not necessarily
solve these problems. Advanced standoff submunitions currently
entering the inventory, such as SADARM (Search And Destroy ARMor)
and SKEET, are expected to be able to acquire their own targets
independently once launched. Unfortunately, such weapons cannot
simply be pointed in the assumed general direction of the enemy
and launched. Their sensors have only very limited scan areas
, so their ability to autonomously detect and home in on targets
depends on their being placed almost literally on top of those
targets before they start to operate. They will still require
detailed near-real-time targeting intelligence. As mentioned,
whether that intelligence will be available when needed remains
to be seen.
2. THE COMBAT IDENTIFICATION PROBLEM .
This consists of being able to tell friendlies from hostiles,
and can be expected to compound the target acquisition problem.
During the war with Iraq the Coalition used a variety of measures,
including precision navigation equipment, infrared beacons,
and thermal tape, and generally these were adequate. In a future
war of maneuver, where hostile and friendly forces are intermixed,
moving rapidly, and may be operating the same types of equipment,
they are likely not to be, especially at night or in bad weather.
Further, the steadily increasing ranges of both air-to-surface
and ground weapons can be expected to increase this problem,
especially for visual systems.
3. ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS. Many of the sensors
on which PGMs and their controlling platforms depend are subject
to degradation by a variety of environmental factors, including
bad or cloudy weather, smoke, and inability to penetrate foliage
4. LIMITATIONS OF THE WEAPONS. As previously
mentioned, many existing PGMs require control all the way to
impact. This requires the airborne or ground-based laser designator
to stay within the line of sight to the target until impact,
which increases the risk of the controlling aircraft being detected
and shot down and the ground designator being suppressed before
the weapon hits. In addition, laser-guided weapons in particular
have a variety of other significant limitations .
CHAPTER III: CONCLUSIONS
With the concept of the Revolution in Military
Affairs, the United States is considering embracing a new approach
to war emphasizing advanced technology in reconnaissance, information
processing, and weapons as the central focus for efforts to defeat
any future enemy. Such a strategy would emphasize traditional
American strengths: sophisticated technology and the quality and
initiative of American troops. What remains very much open to
question is whether such a strategy will ultimately work in the
field. It must be assumed that the Saddam Husseins and Kim Il-Sungs
(and, perhaps, the Leon Trotskys) America will face in 20XX will
be at least equally ruthless and a great deal more sophisticated--and
therefore even more dangerous--than the Saddam Hussein of 1991.
It is clear that a US embrace of the RMA carries
at least two major risks.
First is the risk is that embracing the RMA as
the basis for American military strategy means embracing technology
that is at best only partially mature and at worst dangerously
premature. In particular, the advanced surveillance technology
necessary to make the RMA work at best only partially exists,
as does the technology necessary to process and deliver information
to where it is needed . With the budget crunch extending as
far ahead as we can see, the technology necessary for the RMA
may never fully exist, or, equally important, may never exist
in a form that can be expected to survive long enough to be useful
once shooting starts. Many of the programs for the systems of
the RMA are on the cutting edge of military technology, and if
they run behind schedule or over budget they will be mortally
Second is the risk that, even if the RMA technologies
do mature, they will not necessarily work as planned, a risk reinforced
by the potential of dangerously underestimating the ability of
a suitably inclined enemy to put sand in the gears. The RMA may
therefore produce extremely powerful yet brittle instruments of
war that are all too likely to failure needed the most. As this
article has indicated, there are a wide variety of countermeasures
available to degrade or defeat each of the components of the RMA.
These countermeasures are frequently straightforward, cover a
broad variety of methods, and are, generally speaking, not mutually
exclusive (and may be mutually reinforcing), so an enemy must
be expected to use them all. It should further be noted that few
of these countermeasures are new: they are fundamentally the same
approaches the Soviets devised to use to reduce the threat of
nuclear attack in any war in Europe. Many of them, especially
the techniques of tactical and operational maskirovka, date back
to the experiences and practices of any military that has had
to contend with superior hostile airpower. The RMA will therefore
give potential enemies more reason to do what they were likely
to have already planned to do anyway. The war against Iraq cannot
be considered a fair test because the Coalition had the initiative
and only the Coalition was waging a war of offensive rapid maneuver,
with Iraq intending to wage a defensive positional war of attrition.
Therefore, it remains to be seen what will happen in a war where
both sides have a grasp of the technologies in question, where
both sides are seeking to gain the initiative in a war of maneuver,
and where the enemy is using a competitive strategy and friendly
command and communications and air power are central targets of
enemy efforts. Finally, it remains to be seen if the future evolution
of the technologies of the RMA will reduce or increase their susceptibility
CHAPTER IV: IMPLICATIONS
The operational consequences of the new focus
on the RMA are, as yet, limited. The US is considering it as the
framework for emerging military technology, strategy, and tactics.
There lies the ultimate potential danger. If the US military as
a whole or individual services embrace a doctrine, strategy, and
operational art based on technologies and tactics that will not
reliably work in practice when needed, we risk surprise and defeat
when applying them. And while the outcome of such a regional defeat
will have far less massive implications than it would have had
15 years ago, when such a defeat might have meant the Soviet Army
overrunning Western Europe, the potential costs of such a defeat
should not be underestimated, especially in terms of the blood
of the people who would be doing the fighting. Korea in the summer
of 1950 is an obvious parallel. Because if, as happened in 1950,
our superior technology fails to deliver an attempted quick and
cheap win, the US will presumably then have to try it again, this
time the hard way.
So what should be done? A potential alternative
consists of a combination of four parallel courses:
First, the US should continue a very robust
research program in the RMA technologies, so as to avoid technological
surprise, to explore the degree to which the RMA technologies
can be reliably made to work, to identify the environments or
circumstances where those technologies will not reliably work,
and ultimately to see to what degree they actually can remove
fog and friction from war. A critical part of this research
must include rigorous investigation into all potential countermeasures
to the RMA, not just because our enemies may use them but because
ultimately the US may need them. An RMA-related subject that
deserves comprehensive research is the extremely dangerous possibility
that the success of the RMA will, like the earlier success of
the blitzkrieg, be critically dependent on the circumstances
in which the technologies are used. An appalling but all too
likely possibility is that, to the degree that the RMA is successful,
it will work best when employed in a carefully prepared surprise
attack against an unprepared enemy: in other words, it will
work best when employed by the Admiral Yamamotos of 20XX .
Unless America is prepared to hit first or manages to arrange
to repeat the strategy of DESERT STORM, this means the RMA may
work when used against us, not when used by us. Above all, research
should seek to guarantee that the system of systems that RMA
technology will produce will degrade gracefully rather than
crash in the face of enemy countermeasures.
Second, it is vital that we keep a historical
perspective on the impact of potentially revolutionary technology.
It is necessary to walk before you can run, and to whatever degree
the RMA actually comes about it should not be expected to have
a revolutionary impact immediately: it is likely to need to attain
a certain level of maturity first. A likely parallel is with the
development of airpower: just because visionaries like Billy Mitchell
ultimately turned out to be more or less correct does not mean
they were completely correct--far from it--or correct all along.
While the technology of the 1940s made much of what the prophets
of airpower had proposed seem like simple common sense, in terms
of the technology of the 1920s those prophets were ridiculously
premature. This analysis suggests that, to whatever degree the
RMA does occur, its impact will be more evolutionary and incremental
than revolutionary. It is likely that it is safer that such is
the case. RMA proponents may be expecting more than the presently
available and foreseeable technology can actually ever deliver.
Therefore, before buying the technology in large amounts and at
high cost, making it central to American operational strategy,
and reorganizing our forces around it, it is prudent to demand
that the RMA prove itself. It should face the most rigorous operational
testing, under geographic and climatic conditions closely simulating
those of likely real world operating areas, and against targets
permitted the widest possible independence in devising defenses
and countermeasures. If the new technology works repeatedly and
reliably in honest and fair tests, then it should be bought, but
only then. To a degree, the Army has started--but only started--doing
this with recent maneuvers at Fort Irwin in California . The
equipment should also be tested in places like Fort Drum, New
York (simulating Korea and/or the Balkans), and Fort Polk, Louisiana
(simulating a tropical or subtropical environment.)
Third, even if the RMA can be made to work routinely
and reliably, it would be prudent to elevate our sights a little
lower in regard to expectations about what it can ultimately accomplish.
We shouldnt expect technology to abolish the fog and friction
of war; the most it is reasonable to expect is that they will
be reduced, and more likely they will just change their form .
Technology will not make Clausewitz go away . And the RMA
will not change the fact that an enemy who is dug in and willing
to die is still extremely dangerous even if they are strategically
and operationally paralyzed 
Finally, it cannot be overemphasized to all concerned,
especially to Congress, the media, and the public, but also within
the military, that cheap victories, however desirable, cannot
be taken for granted, and we should not expect technological shortcuts
to victory. Future enemies are not likely to be as conveniently
stupid as Saddam Hussein, who in DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM
allowed the Coalition to establish the terms and circumstances
of the war and cooperatively provided a favorable target-rich
environment . It must be remembered that George Custer had
a target-rich environment at the Little Big Horn, and it was that
richness of targets that killed him. We must assume the next war
will be against an astute enemy who will have both a good idea
of how the US military intend to fight and a coherent strategy
to defeat the US if it fights that way.
In conclusion, in considering the prospects of
the RMA, a historical sense of perspective is worthwhile. For
decades, the West has sought the mix of technologies that would
automate warfare. In the 1950s it was called "push-button"
warfare, in the 1970s it was called the "bulls-eye"
war, in the 1980s it was called the "automated battlefield,"
and now it is called the RMA. It is now 1998, and the fact that
we are still seeking that magic mix of technologies should tell
Sometime after the turn of the century, two countries
are at the brink of war. One country decides to start it, and
plans to open the war with immediate and decisive offensive military
action, with the intention of winning as quickly as possible and
of precluding or preventing foreign allies of the other country
from intervening effectively. Prior to the war, it uses a variety
of political strategems to try to isolate the intended victim,
including announcing a willingness to make substantial concessions
to defuse the crisis. When the intended victim, believing the
crisis is passing, lowers its guard, the attack starts.
The opening attacks seek to do three things:
blind the defending side's surveillance assets by physically attacking
them; disrupt its command and control; and deny it the ability
to use its air power. The attacks do these with a series of missile,
commando, terrorist, and information strikes. Especially disruptive
is its air denial strategy, consisting of missile attacks carrying
carbon-fiber warheads on defending airfields. The carbon fiber
filaments ruin much of the electronics at the bases without killing
many people. The defending side, which planned its whole campaign
around its superior air capability, has lost most of its high
cards: its ability to gain air superiority and launch a strategic
air campaign to cripple or destroy the attackers ability
to wage war is literally destroyed on the ground. Simultaneously,
the attacker launches its ground offensive. As the attacking formations
move to the attack, their tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled
artillery, and antiaircraft and support vehicles shift into widely
dispersed tactical formations well before they approach the border.
Their approach to the border and their actual attack is screened
by a massive and integrated campaign of deception and countermeasures,
involving jamming of radars and communications, extensive use
of decoys, and corridors of metallic chaff (metal coated filaments
that create false radar returns) designed to obscure and disrupt
surviving surveillance systems. To the north and south of the
sector chosen for the breakthrough stand additional immense formations
of armored vehicles. These are actually composed largely of sophisticated
decoys, which give radar and thermal reflections similar to actual
vehicles, covered with camouflage and dispersed among trees to
obstruct visual efforts to identify that they are decoys. The
defenders suspect that many or most of these are decoys, but can't
identify just which ones are not, so they must withhold much of
their surviving firepower and leave defending units in place to
deal with possible additional or follow-on attacks, of as of yet
undetermined strength and location. Further compounding the difficulties
of the defenders is the presence of large numbers of civilian
vehicles throughout the hostile border area: surviving surveillance
can only pasrtially screen out civilian from military vehicles.
It is only with extreme difficulty that the defenders
are able to identify the first major axis of attack, and the units
defending that sector of the border launch their first salvo of
deep strike brilliant munitions. The attacking force immediately
calls in long-range counterbattery fire. This counterbattery fire
consists of the same weapons and tactics the attackers are using
to try to suppress the defenders' screen of surface-to-air missile
sites: saturating the defending launch areas with massive salvoes
of tactical missiles equipped with fuel-air explosive warheads.
Therefore, many of the defending launchers are destroyed or damaged:
the ability to counterattack by fire is disrupted. The fact that
the defending launchers for deep-strike munitions are out of range
of attacking tank guns is largely meaningless.
Meanwhile, the strike-deep munitions launched
by the defenders have proceeded on their way. Some of them are
shot down by the tactical anti-ballistic missile defenses. The
surviving missiles launch their brilliant homing submunitions.
However, these face additional problems:
1. The attacking tanks are moving rapidly but
their actual ground speed is inevitably unpredictable, which
means that by the time the defending missiles arrive in the
target area, the attackers are usually not quite where the defenders
expected them to be. Many of the missiles go where the attackers
aren't, and are therefore wasted. Further, the strike-deep munitions
are cluster munitions, and the time of flight before they disperse
their submunitions has to be preset before launch. The longer
the range, the more likely it is that this preset time will
be incorrect. Some of the missiles prematurely eject their submunitions
over areas where there are no attacking units, while others
overfly the target and eject them too late.
2. Of those missiles that arrive in the area
where the attacking formations really are, some of their submunitions
either do not eject properly, or do not decelerate properly,
or their sensors do not start to scan properly, or misfire.
The fatal ifs of complex weaponry accumulate.
3. The attackers are fighting in widely dispersed
formations. Each of the attacking submunitions can scan only
a very limited area. Only a few of the attacking armored vehicles
are within the scanned areas. Many of the submunitions do not
4. The area chosen for the breakthrough is
rather wooded, although the forest has been largely cleared
of undergrowth and thus is passable for armor. Brilliant munitions
can't see through the forest cover, which obstructs both infrared
sensors and millimeter wave radar sensors.
5. The attacker has chosen to launch his attack
in bad weather, with moderate-to-high winds. This degrades or
neutralizes the sensors on many PGMs. In addition, many of the
submunitions are deployed from their carriers by parachute.
As they deploy, the wind scatters them over a much larger area
than projected, further diluting their effectiveness.
6. In spite of these problems, some of the
PGMs and submunitions do detect and identify hostile targets.
However, the attacking armored vehicles are equipped with terminal
defenses, which destroy some of the submunitions before they
can fire. Other submunitions are neutralized because the attackers
have partially covered the tops of their vehicles with special
armor and covered THAT with bags of marbles . As a result,
only a small percentage of the attacking vehicles are destroyed
7. As the attacking formation nears the defending
lines, the defenders start using their ground and air mounted
laser designators to illuminate individual targets for laser-guided
munitions. However, the attacking vehicles, equipped with laser
detectors, carry laser countermeasures: smoke grenades containing
aerosols that disrupt laser reflections enough that incoming
laser-guided rounds cannot accurately identify a target. In
addition, artillery-launched laser-guided rounds are degraded
by low-lying clouds, since they cannot acquire their targets
while in flight.Therefore, only a few of the laser-homing rounds
hit their targets. Although somewhat weakened, the unit is still
combat-capable. And it is merely the first wave.
This attempt to build a defense using the RMA
as a basis has been a spectacular failure. It turned out there
were no technological shortcuts to victory. If this attack is
going to be defeated, it will have to be defeated the hard and
nasty way. Welcome to Korea, June 1950.
1. "Smart" munitions are weapons that
can be guided all the way to their targets or will automatically
guide themselves to their targets after the target is acquired
for them, thus yielding a high probability of hit. "Brilliant"
munitions need only be the immediate area of a target, after which
they are expected to be able to identify and acquire targets by
themselves and guide themselves to impact.
2. Frank Barnaby, "How The Next War Will
Be Fought", Technology Review, October 1986, Vol.
89, #7, P.27. A more elaborate scenario that reaches the same
conclusion is laid out in Barnaby, The Automated Battlefield
(New York, Free Press, 1986), chapter three.
3. This article concentrates on the technological
aspects of the Revolution in Military Affairs, which might more
properly be called the Military Technical Revolution. See Michael
J. Mazaar and Jeffrey Shaffer, The Military Technical Revolution:
A Structural Framework (Washington DC, Center For Strategic
and International Studies, March 1993). Also see Adm William A.
Owens, "A Report On The JROC And The Revolution In Military
Affairs," Marine Corps Gazette , Vol 79, # 8, August
1995, pps. 47-55, and Jeffrey R. Cooper, Another View Of The
Revolution In Military Affairs, (Carlisle, PA, US Army War
College, 1994). Other sources consider the revolutionary change
to be rooted in the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Empire
and the current lack of a world-class enemy. See LtGen William
Odom, America's Strategic Revolution: Strategy and Structure
After The Cold War (Washington DC, American University Press,
1993). Finally, for the current US Government view and expectations
on the subject, see General John M. Shalikashvili, Joint Vision
2010 (Washington DC, Government Printing Office, 1997)
4. See Capt Warren Caldwell, USN, "Promises,
Promises," Naval Institute Proceedings , Vol. 122,
#1, January 1996, 45-57.
5. See A. J. Basevich, "Morality and High
Tech," National Interest, #45, Fall 1996, P. 41. Or
as I prefer to put it, military inferiority is the mother of invention.
6. For simplicity sake, this article will examine
only those aspects of the RMA that are of direct relevance to
combat on the battlefield. There are other areas, including simulation
and training. This draws heavily on Mazaar and Shaffer, The
Military Technical Revolution, P. 18, and Adm Owens' article.
7. See Ronald Reagan, National Security Strategy
Of The United States (Washington DC, Government Printing Office,
1987) P.20. A more currently fashionable term is evidently 'asymetric
8. See "Redundancy, Robustness Protect Vital
National Information Links, Signal, Vol. 50, #9, May 1996,
9. For an overview of the role of Joint STARS
in DESERT STORM, see Peter Grier, "Joint STARS Does Its Stuff",
Air Force, Vol 74, #6, June 1991. For an enthusiastic assessment
of the future role of Joint STARS on warfare, see Lt Col Prince
T. Bingham, USAF (Ret), "Forward...From The Sea With Joint
STARS," Marine Corps Gazette , V.80, #1, January 1996,
Pps 26-30, and "Revolutionizing Warfare Through Interdiction,"
Airpower Journal, Volume X, #1, Spring 1996, 29-35. For
more jaundiced evaluations, see "An Army Bosnia Review Rates
JSTARS A White Elephant," Defense News, Nov. 25, 1996,
P. 1, and General Accounting Office, Tactical Intelligence:
Joint Stars Full-Rate Production Decision Was Premature and Risky:
GAO/NSIAD-97-68. (Washington DC, Internet, 1996).
10. By 'defensive', I mean defensive in the sense
that Saddam Hussein's strategy in Kuwait was defensive or the
Japanese strategy in 1943-45 was defensive: they were trying to
hold on to what they had already grabbed.
11. See Col Richard Szafraski, "A Theory
Of Information Warfare: Preparing for 2020," Airpower
Journal, Vol IX, #1, Spring 1995, 56-64. Szafaski regards
information warfare as being, in many ways, a more sophisticated
variation of psychological warfare on a new front.
12. See Szafraski, "A Theory of Information
Warfare:...". Among the sources referring to information
strikes, see Andrew F. Krepinevich, "Competing For The Future:
Searching For Major Ellis," Marine Corps Gazette ,
Vol. 80, #11, November 1996, P. 31.
13. See Anthony Cave Brown, Bodyguard Of Lies
(New York, Harper and Row, 1975)
14. The Soviet term was actually closer to "radioelectronic
struggles." See David G. Chisum, Soviet Radioelectronic
Combat (Boulder, CO, Westview, 1985) P.3.
15. Sweden, for instance, developed in the 1980s
a camouflage net that it claimed defeated all modern sensors.
"Can We Rely on Advanced Reconnaissance Methods In A World
of Camouflage?" Military Technology, Vol. XI, #6,
June 1987, P. 135.
16. Generally speaking, at present the ballistic
missiles we are likely to face are, to put it charitably, area
weapons. As such, they are suitable only for use either as terror
weapons (as Saddam Hussein used his SCUDs in both Gulf Wars) or
as carriers of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). While possibly
of political relevance to friendly governments in the theaters
in question, in military terms they are merely a nuisance unless
they carry WMDs. However, the People's Republic of China has reportedly
used a guidance system using the Global Positioning System on
some of its ballistic missiles. See "China's Military Seeks
Great Leap Forward," Aviation Week And Space Technology,
May 12, 1997, Vol 146, #20, p. 70. Assuming the Chinese--or somebody
else--build and widely deploy such systems, we must expect such
missiles to pose a militarily significant--and possibly very dangerous--threat.
17. A key requirement for the effectiveness of
such surveillance aircraft is that they be employed as far forward
as possible, since the curve of the earth limits their look-down
range. This forward employment will, of course, increase their
vulnerability. Even if they are not destroyed, systematic efforts
against them might force them farther back into friendly airspace,
which is likely to degrade their usefulness. While an alternate
approach will be to hold them in a rear area and surge them forward
under heavy escort, this will yield only intermittent coverage.
Past information indicates the Soviets developed several missiles
for an anti-AWACS role, including a variant of the Kh-31 air-launched
missile and the SA-5e version of the SA-5 GAMMON, which could
eventually show up on the world market. For information on the
anti-AWACS KH-31, see John W. R. Taylor, "Gallery of Russian
Aerospace Weapons." Air Force, Vol 79, #3, March 1996,
P. 76. For information on the SA-5e, see "2000 GAMMONS Still
In Service," Jane's Defense Weekly, Vol 11, #15, April
15, 1989, P. 654. More recently, the Peoples Republic of
China has been advertising a surface to air missile, the FT-2000,
as an anti-AWACS missile, although the exact production status
of the missile is uncertain. See "China Displays New (Old?)
Attack Fighter," Aviation Week and Space Technology, V.
149, #21, November 23, 1998, P.23. Ground receivers could be attacked
by special operations forces, terrorists, or by air and helicopter
units. There are likely to be far fewer surveillance platforms
than downlink reception sites (a Joint STARS deployment in support
of the Bosnia operation included two aircraft and 13 ground stations)
so targeting the platforms is likely to be the more effective
18. Considering the reported expense--and therefore
the small numbers--of satellite reconnaissance systems, the loss
of such systems will be hard to replace and therefore extremely
disruptive. While in the future this vulnerability may be reduced
through use of the high-resolution civilian imaging satellites
that are starting to come on line, these satellites will be equally
vulnerable, but available in larger numbers. This author is inclined
to expect an antisatellite (ASAT) system to be a ground-based
directed energy weapon, since such a system would be easier to
hide and harden than a missile-launched ASAT system, which would
need at least one missile for each satellite targeted--a pretty
substantial deployment if the total number of imaging systems
gets into double digits. In addition, depending on the technology,
laser systems might be mobile, and would be more tactically flexible
and responsive. In any case, such a capability is not likely to
be easy to build, and if it is in a fixed location it is likely
to be a priority target for attack. For a useful study of the
requirements for such a system, see Federation Of American Scientists,
Laser ASAT Test Restriction (Washington, DC, Federation
Of American Scientists, 1991).
19. As a more precise definition, this article
defines deep attack as the use of conventional firepower, primarily
but not necessarily airpower, to influence the ground battle at
the operational level of war by doing some or all of the following:
isolating and shaping the ground battlefield, weakening the combat
power of enemy ground forces not yet in contact with friendly
forces, weakening enemy offensive air and operational-level surface-to-surface
missile capability, and interfering with the enemy scheme of maneuver.
Whether deep attack is undertaken to support the scheme of maneuver
of friendly ground forces or whether the ground campaign will
be a supplement to the air campaign will need to be determined
by the circumstances and characteristics of the theater in question.
This definition blends a variety of missions, including the concepts
of tactical interdiction, offensive counter air, the emerging
concept that, for lack of a better term can be referred to as
offensive counter missile, and deep close air support. This definition
draws heavily from Ian Lesser, Interdiction And Conventional
Strategy Prevailing Perceptions (Santa Monica, RAND Note N-3097-AF,
20. AH-64 Apache attack helicopters can hit targets
at ranges traditionally associated with interdiction missions,
as noted in LtCol Thomas Runge USAF, Firepower And Follow-On
Forces Attack: Making Every Round Count (Maxwell, AL, Air
University Press, 1991) P.XII.
21. For a typical report, see "Russians
Aim For US Lead in Exports," Defense News, Vol 12,
#6, February 10-16, 1997, P.4.
22. The potential threat from such weapons was
revealed during the bombing of North Vietnam, and the danger they
present continues even if we have achieved air superiority or
supremacy. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, US aircraft generally
bombed from medium altitude (10,000 feet or higher) to minimize
the risk from light AAA and SAMs, which degraded accuracy considerably.
The potential danger from netting such weapons with sensors and
C3 is discussed in Mark Hemish, "New Sensors And Processing
Boost Short-Range Air Defense", International Defense
Review, Vol. 19, #2, 2/1986.
23. The People's Republic of China is reportedly
offering a blinding laser for export. The USSR reportedly deployed
blinding lasers throughout their air defense system in the 1980s.
See "Chinese Laser "Blinder" Weapon For Export",
Jane's Defense Weekly, Vol 23, #21, 27 May 95, P. 3.
24. Fuel-air explosives are a potent but little-noticed
aspect of modern weapons technology. They are weapons that release
an aerosol that detonates when thoroughly mixed with air, producing
a large explosion. See Louis Lavoir, "Fuel-Air Explosives,
Weapons and Effects," Military Technology, 9/1989,
25. See "Secret US Warhead Nearer To Fielding,"
Aviation Week And Space Technology, Vol. 142, #14, P. 62.
Carbon fibers work by shorting out electrical and electronic components.
This would destroy the equipment without killing anybody.
26. One of the pictures on the wall at the US
Air Force Gulf War Air Power Survey during 1992 was a picture
of an airfield full of F15s, unrevetted, unsheltered, and parked
nearly wingtip to wingtip. Undoubtedly intended as an illustration
of the USAF Global Reach, Global Power concept, it should also
remind students of World War II of how Hickam Field, Hawaii, looked
on December 6, 1941. For more detailed and not necessarily dated
information on the vulnerability of air bases to attack, see "In
1991, Air Force Will Learn Whether It Has A Home", Washington
Times, 12 Jan 89, P.1, and "Getting the Jump On Base
Defense", Insight, 6 February 1989, 34-36.
27. The Iraqis did this to a degree, but much
of the area of concentrated ground combat contained very little
civilian population. Thus, we could establish numerous "kill
boxes" in DESERT STORM--designated areas where our aircraft
were told to kill any vehicle in the area--with the expectation
that there would be nobody there except Iraqi soldiers and vehicles.
What will happen if in the next war the enemy runs his operations
and supply lines through inhabited areas with considerable numbers
of civilian vehicles?
28. Possible advanced communications technologies
include spread-spectrum radios, which spread their transmissions
over a wide band of frequencies . This makes them harder to detect,
intercept, and triangulate. Other possible advanced communications
technologies include extremely high frequency (EHF) radios and
laser communications, which operate at frequencies high enough
to make point-to-point communications literally just that. However,
they are evidently subject to significant degradation from environmental
29. Moldable 'stealth' materials can be produced,
which presumably means it is possible to produce plates which
can be fitted or retrofitted on armored vehicles. See Jane's
Defense Weekly, 30 April 88, P. 855. Also, radar-absorbing
material can be applied as a paint. See "B-2 Radar Signature
Hitch May Lie With RAM Fit," Jane's Defense Weekly,
Vol. 16, #13, 28 September 1991, P. 562. Of course, such coatings
are likely to be subject to rapid degradation once in the field,
as they get damaged by or scraped off on the surrounding landscape
and vegetation. Dirt on the coating also evidently degrades its
30. See, for instance, "Army Takes Page
From Navy Playbook, Begins Work on Point Defense System,"
National Defense, Volume LXXXI, #520, September 1996, P.
29 on US efforts to develop a terminal defense for armor.
31. One of the little-noted discoveries of the
war with Iraq was that up to that point the tanks had at least
held their own, if not won, the tank-antitank race.
32. For one of the worst examples, see Barnaby,
The Automated Battlefield. Dr Barnaby embraced precision
guided munitions with the enthusiasm of a contractor trying to
make a sale. Unfortunately, he compared the PGMs of 2000+ with
the targets of 1960, thereby grossly underestimating both the
survivability of modern weapons and the potential of countermeasures.
For a more detailed critique, see Thomas R. McCabe, "The
Myth Of The Bulls-Eye War", unpublished paper, summer 1988.
33. For a detailed study, see General Accounting
Office, Antitank Weapons: Current And Future Capabilities (Washington
DC, Government Printing Office, 1987). Somewhat dated, but the
facts haven't changed.
34. Assuming that the US and its allies have
not established air supremacy or fully suppressed air defenses,
attacking aircraft will presumably be flying at high speed and
very low altitude (which increases survivability but provides
little time and a very limited range for target acquisition) over
probably unfamiliar terrain (worse if it is hilly or mountainous),
probably with numerous inhabited areas, possibly with a good many
power lines about. He may well be doing this at night and/or in
foggy, cloudy, or bad weather. Depending on the closeness of the
Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA) and/or the degree of intermingling
of hostile and friendly forces, he must expect to face intense
hostile (and quite possibly friendly) antiaircraft fire, blinding
lasers, degraded radar and sensors from countermeasures, hostile
and friendly artillery fire in the same airspace, hostile interceptors
and attack helicopters, and a great deal of smoke, dust, and general
confusion. Individual targets are likely to be camouflaged, and,
as in DESERT STORM, it may be hard to differentiate between present
targets and past targets that have been previously killed. The
problem will be even more difficult for single-seat aircraft such
as the F/A-18 or the F-16, since the jobs of flying the aircraft
and aiming the weapons will both fall on a single man, obviously
increasing the potential for task saturation. Finally, if the
attacking aircraft is not equipped with a laser designation system,
it will need the support of an air or ground platform or unit
that is, and these must work together as an integrated team. For
a review of the difficulties this presents, see William B. Scott,
"Revived Killer-Scout Tactics Leverage PGMs," and "Flight
Underscores Demands Of Killer-Scout Mission," Aviation
Week And Space Technology, V. 145, # 17, October 21, 1996,
pps 48-53. Under these conditions target acquisition by the attacking
aircraft is likely to be extremely difficult and dangerous.
35. For example, the sensor mechanism for the
submunition of the US SADARM--Search And Destroy Armor--has a
search radius of 100 meters at a look angle of 15 degrees. See
Joseph Antoniotti, "PGMs--Semi-Active Laser Versus Millimeter
Wave Guidance," International Defense Review, Vol.
X, #9, September 1986, P 1272. More recent versions have evidently
enlarged the search radius somewhat.
36. Combat Identification was formerly called
Identification Friend or Foe: IFF. See Commander George Cornelius,
USN (Ret), "Big Bucks For Weapons-Small Change For Lifesavers,'
Naval Institute Proceedings , Vol 122, #1116, February
37. For information on US efforts in combat identification,
see Commander George Cornelius, "Big Bucks...". Also
see Commander Austin Boyd, USN, "Space Provides Real-Time
Combat Identification, " Naval Institute Proceedings,
Vol. 122, #1115, January 1996, 75-76, and John Mintz, "Hill
Presses Army to Deploy New System," Washington Post,
July 27, 1996, P. 8.
38. For a useful overview, see Capt Kenneth R.
Bergman, "Laser-Guided Systems: An Overview," Marine
Corps Gazette , Vol. 74, #8, August 1990, 53-56.
39. A central part of intelligence dominance
consists of attempting to automate the intelligence process. This
speeds up the processing and distribution of data, at the risk
of reducing or removing the human sanity checks from the system.
It remains very much to be seen if, in processing the raw intelligence
data, we will be able to screen out errors and deception. The
ultimate problem here may still be GIGO--garbage in, garbage out.
An equally critical question that is seldom addressed is whether
increased access to information will necessarily lead to improved
decisions. For an outstanding article that warns that this is
not necessarily the case, see Major John F. Schmitt, USMCR, and
Gary A. Klein, "Fighting In The Fog: Dealing With Battlefield
Uncertainty," Marine Corps Gazette, Vol 80, #8, August
1996, Pgs 62-69. There is the additional problem of information
overload: "trying to drink from a fire hose." See "Information
Glut Hampered US Troops In Bosnia, Pentagon Says," Washington
Post, April 3, 1997, P. 22.
40. The Admiral Yamamoto of 20XX will have carefully
analyzed opposing information systems, mapped them with as much
precision as possible, and precisely targeted their weaknesses.
The Admiral Kimmel of 20XX, on the other hand, will be trying
to protect his information systems--or get them back on line and
organize a counterattack--while the bombs--both logic bombs and
real bombs--go off around him.
41. "Army Trying Out Electrons To See If
It Can Get Smaller and Faster," Washington Post, March
31, 1997, P. A4. However, it should be noted that the leeway permitted
the opposing force was limited: they were not allowed to use any
type of electronic countermeasures "...lest they end the
experiment before it began." See "Army Puts Computer-Based
Technology to Battlefield Test," Los Angeles Times (Washington
Edition), March 25, 1997, P.7.
42. See "Wired For War: Digital Soldiers
Will Make The Army Smarter and Deadlier--If The Computers Will
Just Stop Crashing," Time, March 31, 1997, P. 72.
43. For an excellent article on this subject,
see Williamson Murray, "Clausewitz Out, Computers In,"
The National Interest, #48, Summer 1997, Pgs. 57-64.
44. Or, as noted by Frederick W. Kagan, "...to
expect the god of technology to save us from the drudgery of war
is folly." See Kagan's part of "High-Tech: The Future
Face of War? A Debate" in Commentary, Vol 105, #1,
Jan. 1998, P.34. For an interesting and potentially relevant study,
see Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., The Desert Fox In Normandy (Praeger,
Westport, Conn., 1997). The German units there were war-weary,
massively outnumbered and outgunned, operationally paralyzed by
a combination of Hitlers orders and Allied airpower, and
it still took over a month to dig them out of Normandy.
45. We should remember that in Kuwait the Coalition
had what were actually unusually favorable circumstances. In particular,
there was a highly developed infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and
the neighboring Gulf kingdoms available for use; key regional
allies, especially the Saudis, were generally equipped with air,
ground, and support equipment that was at least interoperable
with our own. Further, local militaries had largely been trained
by American and British instructors, and English was the functional
international language. Finally, we had several months to prepare.
Compare this with a hypothetical situation in eastern Europe some
time in the future, where the local forces will be, at best, only
partially organized or trained along Western lines; their equipment
and support infrastructure will be only partially interoperable
with ours; their readiness will be extremely low; their infrastructure
will be thin and/or badly maintained; English will not be the
international language, and we need to fight a come-as-you-are
war in a war that will probably have already started before we
get there. This is likely to be a much grimmer war with a far
more uncertain outcome. See my draft article "Airpower Beyond
The Next War," January 1999.
46. This would primarily be reactive armor--plates
of metal-encased explosive placed on the outside of armored vehicles.
These explode when hit by the gas jet of a detonating shaped-charge
warhead before that jet can cut through the main armor of the
vehicle: the intention is to disrupt the shaped charge gas jet
before it penetrates. The reference to the bags of marbles is
from Steven Canby, "Operational Limits of Emerging Technology",
International Defense Review, Vol. IX, #6, June 1985, P.
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