Soviet OR

There was a sense among some in the Sovietology community in the late 1980s that Soviet Operations Research (OR) was particularly advanced. People had noticed the 300-man Soviet Military History Institute and the Soviet use of the quantified “Correlation of Forces and Means,” which they used in WWII and since. Trevor Dupuy referenced these in his writings. They had noticed a number of OR books by professors at their Frunze Military Academy. In particular, the book Tactical Calculations by Anatoli Vainer was being used by a number of Sovietologists in their works and presentations (including TNDA alumni Col. John Sloan). There was a concern that the Soviet Union was conducting extensive quantitative analysis of its historical operations in World War II and using this to further improve their war fighting capabilities.

This is sort of a case of trying to determine what is going on by looking at the shadows on a cave wall (Plato analogy here). In October 1993 as part of the Kursk project, we meet with our Russian research team headed by Dr. Fyodor Sverdlov (retired Colonel, Soviet WWII veteran, and former head of the Frunze Military Academy History Department). Sitting there as his right hand man was Dr. Anatoli Vainer (also a retired Colonel, a Soviet WWII veteran and a Frunze Military Academy professor).

We had a list of quantitative data that we needed for the Kursk Data Base (KDB). The database was to be used as a validation database for the Center of Army Analysis (CAA) various modeling efforts. As such, we were trying to determine for each unit for each day the unit strength, losses, equipment lists, equipment losses, ammunition levels, ammunition expenditures, fuel levels, fuel expenditures, and so forth. They were stunned. They said that they did not have models like that. We were kind of surprised at that response.

Over the course of several days I got to know these two gentlemen, went swimming with Col. Sverdlov and had dinner over at Col. Vainer’s house. I got to see his personal library and the various books he wrote. Talked to him as much as I could sensitively do so about Soviet OR, and they were pretty adamant that there really wasn’t anything significant occurring. Vainer told me that his primary source for materials for his books was American writings on Operations Research. So, it appeared that we had completed a loop….the Soviets were writing OR books based upon our material and we were reading them and thinking they had a well developed OR structure.

Their historical research was also still primarily based upon one-side data. They simply were not allowed to access the German archives and regardless they knew that they should not be publishing Soviet casualty figures or any negative comparisons. Col. Sverdlov, who had been in the war since Moscow 1941, was well aware of the Soviet losses, and had some sense that the German losses were less, but this they could not publish [Sverdlov: “I was at Prokhorovka after the war, and I didn’t see 100 Tigers there”]. So, they were hardly able to freely conduct historical analysis in an unbiased manner.

In the end, at this time, they had not developed the analytical tools or capability to fully explore their own military history or to conduct operations research.


Human Factors In Warfare: Dispersion

Photo of Union soldiers on the Antietam battlefield by Alexander Gardener.

As I have written about before, the foundation of Trevor Dupuy’s theories on combat were based on an initial study in 1964 of the relationship between weapon lethality, casualty rates, and dispersion on the battlefield. The historical trend toward greater dispersion was a response to continual increases in the lethality of weapons.

While this relationship might appear primarily technological in nature, Dupuy considered it the result of the human factor of fear on the battlefield. He put it in more human terms in a symposium paper from 1989:

There is one basic reason for the dispersal of troops on modern battlefields: to mitigate the lethal effects of firepower upon troops. As Lewis Richardson wrote in The Statistics of Deadly Quarrels, there is a limit to the amount of punishment human beings can sustain. Dispersion was resorted to as a tactical response to firepower mostly because—as weapons became more lethal in the 17th Century—soldiers were already beginning to disperse without official sanction. This was because they sensed that on the bloody battlefields of that century they were approaching the limit of the punishment men can stand.

Why did the AIM-9X Sidewinder Miss?

This article from Popular Mechanics speculates why the AIM-9X Sidewinder was distracted by the Syrian Su-22’s flares (and missed the plane):

Over Syria on 18 June a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet locked onto a Su-22 Fitter at a range of 1.5. miles. It fired an AIM-9X heat-seeking Sidewinder missile at it. The Syrian pilot was able to send off flares to draw the missile away from the Su-22. The AIM-9X is not supposed to be so easily distracted. They had to shoot down the Su-22 with a radar guided AMRAAM missile.

Anyhow, the article speculates that this is because the missiles are not calibrated to Soviet flares, instead being calibrated to American flares. Have no idea how much of this is a plausible explanation.


The Military Reform Debate (1982)

Continuing chronologically through the box that was supposed to be trash….next item is a “background pamphlet” for Senior Conference XX: The Military Reform Debate: Directions for the Defense Establishment for the Remainder of the Century, dated 3-5 June 1982. It is 228 pages.

Interesting time period, new president, defense budgets were back on the upswing….so what are they saying? Papers presented in that rather thick book are:

  1. The Challenge of Military Reform by Captain Timothy L. Lupfer
  2. The Case for Maneuver by William S. Lind
  3. Toward a New American Approach to Warfare by Lt. Col. Huba Wass de Czege
  4. The Case for More Effective, Less Expensive Weapon Systems: What “Quality versus Quantity” Issue? by Pierre M. Sprey
  5. The Quantity versus Quality Quandry by William J. Perry
  6. Heavy and Light Ground Forces in the Context of U.S. Grand Strategy by Jeffrey Record
  7. Heavy versus Light Forces: A Question of Balance by John D. Mayer, Jr.
  8. Deficits and the Future of the All Volunteer Force by Major Thomas W. Fagan

Hmmm…looks a little bit like deja vu all over again. I think I will keep it.

One paragraph did footnote a Trevor Dupuy article in Army: “U.S. Military Strategy Has Been Getting a Bum Rap” (September 1980). The paragraph was in the Huba Wass de Czege article and states (page 49):

“It was often been stated that the ‘reformers” are misinformed. At least one noted historian [Dupuy] has taken them to task for their selective use of history. Many “reformers” picture the American tradition of war very selectively.”

Of course, that was way back in 1982.


P.S.: Turns out that this report is available on-line at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:




Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

This third article in the box I was about to trash was also written by someone I knew, Robert McQuie. It was a five-page article published in Army magazine in November 1987 (pages 30-34) called “Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat.” I was an article I was aware of, but had not seen for probably around three decades. It was based upon data assembled by HERO (Trevor Dupuy). It was part of the lead-in to the Breakpoints Project that we later did.

The by-line of the article is “A study of data from mid-twentieth century warfare suggest that casualties–whether the reality or the perception of them—are only occasionally a factor in command decisions to break off unsuccessful battles.” 

The analysis was based upon 80 engagements from 1941-1982. Of those 52 were used to create the table below (from page 34):

Reasons for a Force Abandoning An Attack or Defense:

Maneuver by Enemy…………………………..Percent

  Envelopment, encirclement, penetration……..33

  Adjacent friendly unit withdrew………………..13

  Enemy occupied key terrain…………………….6

  Enemy achieved surprise……………………….8

  Enemy reinforced………………………………..4



Firepower by Enemy

  Casualty or equipment losses……………………10

  Heavy artillery or air attacks by enemy…………..2



Other Reasons

  No reserves left……………………………………….12

  Supply shortage………………………………………..2

  Truce or surrender…………………………………….6

  Change in weather…………………………………….2

  Orders to withdraw…………………………………….2



He then goes on in the article to question the utility of Lanchester equations, ending with the statement “It appears as well that Mr. Lanchester’s equations present a drastic misstatement of what drives the outcome of combat.” He also points out that many wargames and simulations terminate simulated battles at 15% to 30% casualties a day, ending with the statement that “The evidence indicated that in most cases, a force has quit when its casualties reached less than ten percent per battle. In most battles, moreover, defeat has not been caused by casualties.”

Robert McQuie was a senior operations research analyst for U.S. Army’s CAA (Concepts Analysis Agency). In 1987 I was working at HERO and considering heading back to school to get a graduate degree in Operations Research (OR). At Trevor Dupuy’s recommendation, I discussed it with Robert McQuie, who stated strongly not to do so because it was a “waste of time.” His argument was that while Operations Research was good at answering questions where the results could be optimized, it was incapable of answering the bigger questions. He basically felt the discipline had reached a dead end.

Anyhow, another keeper.


Stopping tanks

This article caught my attention:

They were able to halt OPFOR (opposing force) tanks at the NTC (National Training Center) with electronic warfare. Don’t really know much about “tactical electronic warfare.” I gather practical deployment is still a few years out.


Extending the Battlefield

The second oldest article in this box I was about to throw away is called “Extending the Battlefield” by General Donn A. Starry, US Army. It is dated March 1981 from the Military Review. It is 20 pages long.

Its primary focus is on deep strike. It states 1) First, deep strike is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity to winning, 2) Second, deep strike, particular in an environment of scarce acquisition and strike assets, must be tightly coordinated over time with the decisive close-in battle…3) Third, it is important to consider now the number of systems entering the force in the near and middle-term future….4) Finally, the concept is designed to be the unifying idea which pulled all these emerging capabilities together so that, together, they can allow us to realize their full combined potential for winning.

This was an approach specifically oriented towards engaging the Soviet second echelon. I was never much of a fan of deep strike, as I sort of felt you probably wanted to engage the first echelon first….and could worry about the second echelon later. A reading of my Kursk book (in case you have the time) clearly shows the limitations of the Soviet two-echelon system of fighting. It did tend to lead to piecemeal attacks.

I met General Starry once. My father worked for him in the Pentagon and during a family visit during the Christmas party, he came down to say Merry Christmas to all the people working in the basement of the building. I happened to be there, and was applying to West Point (U.S. Military Academy) at the time. He sat down and had a half-hour talk with me about why someone should or should not attend West Point. It was nice gesture on his part.

I guess I will keep this article also.


New Details of Shoot Down

Article on CNN:


  1. It was a pair of U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets
  2. They were operating from the carrier USS George H. W. Bush
  3. They fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder at half a mile away
  4. Syrian Su-22 deployed defensive flares causing the U.S. missile to miss.
  5. They then fire an AIM-120 AMRAAM which hit the Su-22.
  6. Syrian pilot ejected and probably landed in ISIL-controlled territory. Syria states that he is missing.

According to an email sent to me from sources that I cannot confirm the veracity of:

According to a source in the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), Lieutenant Colonel Ali Fahd took off in the afternoon of June 18 from the T4 airbase east of Homs.  We know that the warplane is a Soviet made ground attack Su-22M4 with the serial number “3224”.

According to our source the Su-22M4 was loaded with six general purpose OFAB 250-270 bombs. Ali Fahd’s mission was to strike ISIS fighters and vehicles attempting to withdrew from Rusafah in the province of Raqqah towards Sukhnah in the province of Homs and Oqerbat in the eastern Hama countryside – near Ali Fahd’s home town of Salamyiah. Connection with Ali Fahd was lost after reaching the operation area over Rusafah.

According to Ali Fahd’s relative Al-Masdar News reporter, Majd Fahed, Ali Fahd was captured by the SDF and Tiger Forces Leader General Suheil Al-Hassan is negotiating with SDF in order to free Ali Fahd.

The SDF side has released no official comments on the situation. However, SDF sources confirmed that Ali Fahd was captured by the SDF suggesting that the group will release him in the end.

Anyhow, really don’t want to get into “reporting” as I have books to write.

Crown Prince

Well, this is hard to ignore:

As the article notes: “The all-but-certain takeover of the throne by [31-year old] Mohammed bin Salman awards absolute powers to a prince who has ruled out dialogue with rival Iran, has moved to isolate neighboring Qatar for its support of Islamist groups and who has led a war in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians…..He could be there for 50 years.”

Note: King Salman is 81.