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].

DETERMINATION OF BREAKPOINT

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… 

CATEGORIES OF BREAKPOINTS SELECTED 

In the engagements studied the following categories of breakpoint were finally selected: 

Category of Breakpoint 

No. Analyzed 

I. Attack [Symbol] rapid reorganization [Symbol] attack 

9 

II. Attack [Symbol] defense (no longer able to attack without a few days of recuperation and reinforcement 

21 

III. Defense [Symbol] withdrawal by order to a secondary line 

13 

IV. Defense [Symbol] collapse 

5 

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, “‘defense” 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.

U.S. Army Force Ratios

People do send me some damn interesting stuff. Someone just sent me a page clipped from U.S. Army FM 3-0 Operations, dated 6 October 2017. There is a discussion in Chapter 7 on “penetration.” This brief discussion on paragraph 7-115 states in part:

7-115. A penetration is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front to disrupt the defensive system (FM 3-90-1) ….The First U.S. Army’s Operation Cobra (the breakout from the Normandy lodgment in July 1944) is a classic example of a penetration. Figure 7-10 illustrates potential correlation of forces or combat power for a penetration…..”

This is figure 7-10:

So:

  1. Corps shaping operations: 3:1
  2. Corps decisive operations: 9-1
    1. Lead battalion: 18-1

Now, in contrast, let me pull some material from War by Numbers:

From page 10:

European Theater of Operations (ETO) Data, 1944

 

Force Ratio                       Result                          Percent Failure   Number of cases

0.55 to 1.01-to-1.00            Attack Fails                          100%                     5

1.15 to 1.88-to-1.00            Attack usually succeeds        21%                   48

1.95 to 2.56-to-1.00            Attack usually succeeds        10%                   21

2.71-to-1.00 and higher      Attacker Advances                   0%                   42

 

Note that these are division-level engagements. I guess I could assemble the same data for corps-level engagements, but I don’t think it would look much different.

From page 210:

Force Ratio…………Cases……Terrain…….Result

1.18 to 1.29 to 1        4             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

1.51 to 1.64               3             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

2.01 to 2.64               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

3.03 to 4.28               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

4.16 to 4.78               2             Urban         Defender penetrated

6.98 to 8.20               2             Nonurban   Defender penetrated

6.46 to 11.96 to 1      2             Urban         Defender penetrated

 

These are also division-level engagements from the ETO. One will note that out of 17 cases where the defender was penetrated, only once was the force ratio as high as 9 to 1. The mean force ratio for these 17 cases is 3.77 and the median force ratio is 2.64.

Now the other relevant tables in this book are in Chapter 8: Outcome of Battles (page 60-71). There I have a set of tables looking at the loss rates based upon one of six outcomes. Outcome V is defender penetrated. Unfortunately, as the purpose of the project was to determine prisoner of war capture rates, we did not bother to calculate the average force ratio for each outcome. But, knowing the database well, the average force ratio for defender penetrated results may be less than 3-to-1 and is certainly is less than 9-to-1. Maybe I will take few days at some point and put together a force ratio by outcome table.

Now, the source of FM 3.0 data is not known to us and is not referenced in the manual. Why they don’t provide such a reference is a mystery to me, as I can point out several examples of this being an issue. On more than one occasion data has appeared in Army manuals that we can neither confirm or check, and which we could never find the source for. But…it is not referenced. I have not looked at the operation in depth, but don’t doubt that at some point during Cobra they had a 9:1 force ratio and achieved a penetration. But…..this is different than leaving the impression that a 9:1 force ratio is needed to achieve a penetration. I do not know it that was the author’s intent, but it is something that the casual reader might infer. This probably needs to be clarified.

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. 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.

Response 3 (Breakpoints)

This is in response to long comment by Clinton Reilly about Breakpoints (Forced Changes in Posture) on this thread:

Breakpoints in U.S. Army Doctrine

Reilly starts with a very nice statement of the issue:

Clearly breakpoints are crucial when modelling battlefield combat. I have read extensively about it using mostly first hand accounts of battles rather than high level summaries. Some of the major factors causing it appear to be loss of leadership (e.g. Harald’s death at Hastings), loss of belief in the units capacity to achieve its objectives (e.g. the retreat of the Old Guard at Waterloo, surprise often figured in Mongol successes, over confidence resulting in impetuous attacks which fail dramatically (e.g. French attacks at Agincourt and Crecy), loss of control over the troops (again Crecy and Agincourt) are some of the main ones I can think of off hand.

The break-point crisis seems to occur against a background of confusion, disorder, mounting casualties, increasing fatigue and loss of morale. Casualties are part of the background but not usually the actual break point itself.

He then states:

Perhaps a way forward in the short term is to review a number of first hand battle accounts (I am sure you can think of many) and calculate the percentage of times these factors and others appear as breakpoints in the literature.

This has been done. In effect this is what Robert McQuie did in his article and what was the basis for the DMSI breakpoints study.

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

Mr. Reilly then concludes:

Why wait for the military to do something? You will die of old age before that happens!

That is distinctly possible. If this really was a simple issue that one person working for a year could produce a nice definitive answer for…..it would have already been done !!!

Let us look at the 1988 Breakpoints study. There was some effort leading up to that point. Trevor Dupuy and DMSI had already looked into the issue. This included developing a database of engagements (the Land Warfare Data Base or LWDB) and using that to examine the nature of breakpoints. The McQuie article was developed from this database, and his article was closely coordinated with Trevor Dupuy. This was part of the effort that led to the U.S. Army’s Concepts Analysis Agency (CAA) to issue out a RFP (Request for Proposal). It was competitive. I wrote the proposal that won the contract award, but the contract was given to Dr. Janice Fain to lead. My proposal was more quantitative in approach than what she actually did. Her effort was more of an intellectual exploration of the issue. I gather this was done with the assumption that there would be a follow-on contract (there never was). Now, up until that point at least a man-year of effort had been expended, and if you count the time to develop the databases used, it was several man-years.

Now the Breakpoints study was headed up by Dr. Janice B. Fain, who worked on it for the better part of a year. Trevor N. Dupuy worked on it part-time. Gay M. Hammerman conducted the interview with the veterans. Richard C. Anderson researched and created an additional 24 engagements that had clear breakpoints in them for the study (that is DMSI report 117B). Charles F. Hawkins was involved in analyzing the engagements from the LWDB. There were several other people also involved to some extent. Also, 39 veterans were interviewed for this effort. Many were brought into the office to talk about their experiences (that was truly entertaining). There were also a half-dozen other staff members and consultants involved in the effort, including Lt. Col. James T. Price (USA, ret), Dr. David Segal (sociologist), Dr. Abraham Wolf (a research psychologist), Dr. Peter Shapiro (social psychology) and Col. John R. Brinkerhoff (USA, ret). There were consultant fees, travel costs and other expenses related to that. So, the entire effort took at least three “man-years” of effort. This was what was needed just get to the point where we are able to take the next step.

This is not something that a single scholar can do. That is why funding is needed.

As to dying of old age before that happens…..that may very well be the case. Right now, I am working on two books, one of them under contract. I sort of need to finish those up before I look at breakpoints again. After that, I will decide whether to work on a follow-on to America’s Modern Wars (called Future American Wars) or work on a follow-on to War by Numbers (called War by Numbers II…being the creative guy that I am). Of course, neither of these books are selling well….so perhaps my time would be better spent writing another Kursk book, or any number of other interesting projects on my plate. Anyhow, if I do War by Numbers II, then I do plan on investing several chapters into addressing breakpoints. This would include using the 1,000+ cases that now populate our combat databases to do some analysis. This is going to take some time. So…….I may get to it next year or the year after that, but I may not. If someone really needs the issue addressed, they really need to contract for it.

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.

C-WAM 4 (Breakpoints)

A breakpoint or involuntary change in posture is an essential part of modeling. There is a breakpoint methodology in C-WAM. According to slide 18 and rule book section 5.7.2 is that ground unit below 50% strength can only defend. It is removed at below 30% strength. I gather this is a breakpoint for a brigade.

C-WAM 2

Let me just quote from Chapter 18 (Modeling Warfare) of my book War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (pages 288-289):

The original breakpoints study was done in 1954 by Dorothy Clark of ORO [which can be found here].[1] It examined forty-three battalion-level engagements where the units “broke,” including measuring the percentage of losses at the time of the break. Clark correctly determined that casualties were probably not the primary cause of the breakpoint and also declared the need to look at more data. Obviously, forty-three cases of highly variable social science-type data with a large number of variables influencing them are not enough for any form of definitive study. Furthermore, she divided the breakpoints into three categories, resulting in one category based upon only nine observations. Also, as should have been obvious, this data would apply only to battalion-level combat. Clark concluded “The statement that a unit can be considered no longer combat effective when it has suffered a specific casualty percentage is a gross oversimplification not supported by combat data.” She also stated “Because of wide variations in data, average loss percentages alone have limited meaning.”[2]

Yet, even with her clear rejection of a percent loss formulation for breakpoints, the 20 to 40 percent casualty breakpoint figures remained in use by the training and combat modeling community. Charts in the 1964 Maneuver Control field manual showed a curve with the probability of unit break based on percentage of combat casualties.[3] Once a defending unit reached around 40 percent casualties, the chance of breaking approached 100 percent. Once an attacking unit reached around 20 percent casualties, the chance of it halting (type I break) approached 100% and the chance of it breaking (type II break) reached 40 percent. These data were for battalion-level combat. Because they were also applied to combat models, many models established a breakpoint of around 30 or 40 percent casualties for units of any size (and often applied to division-sized units).

To date, we have absolutely no idea where these rule-of-thumb formulations came from and despair of ever discovering their source. These formulations persist despite the fact that in fifteen (35%) of the cases in Clark’s study, the battalions had suffered more than 40 percent casualties before they broke. Furthermore, at the division-level in World War II, only two U.S. Army divisions (and there were ninety-one committed to combat) ever suffered more than 30% casualties in a week![4] Yet, there were many forced changes in combat posture by these divisions well below that casualty threshold.

The next breakpoints study occurred in 1988.[5] There was absolutely nothing of any significance (meaning providing any form of quantitative measurement) in the intervening thirty-five years, yet there were dozens of models in use that offered a breakpoint methodology. The 1988 study was inconclusive, and since then nothing further has been done.[6]

This seemingly extreme case is a fairly typical example. A specific combat phenomenon was studied only twice in the last fifty years, both times with inconclusive results, yet this phenomenon is incorporated in most combat models. Sadly, similar examples can be pulled for virtually each and every phenomena of combat being modeled. This failure to adequately examine basic combat phenomena is a problem independent of actual combat modeling methodology.

Footnotes:

[1] Dorothy K. Clark, Casualties as a Measure of the Loss of Combat Effectiveness of an Infantry Battalion (Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins University, 1954).

 [2] Ibid, page 34.

[3] Headquarters, Department of the Army, FM 105-5 Maneuver Control (Washington, D.C., December, 1967), pages 128-133.

[4] The two exceptions included the U.S. 106th Infantry Division in December 1944, which incidentally continued fighting in the days after suffering more than 40 percent losses, and the Philippine Division upon its surrender in Bataan on 9 April 1942 suffered 100% losses in one day in addition to very heavy losses in the days leading up to its surrender.

[5] This was HERO Report number 117, Forced Changes of Combat Posture (Breakpoints) (Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, Fairfax, VA., 1988). The intervening years between 1954 and 1988 were not entirely quiet. See HERO Report number 112, Defeat Criteria Seminar, Seminar Papers on the Evaluation of the Criteria for Defeat in Battle (Historical Evaluation and Research Organization, Fairfax, VA., 12 June 1987) and the significant article by Robert McQuie, “Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates as a Measure of Defeat” in Army, issue 37 (November 1987). Some of the results of the 1988 study was summarized in the book by Trevor N. Dupuy, Understanding Defeat: How to Recover from Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War (Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1990).

 [6] The 1988 study was the basis for Trevor Dupuy’s book: Col. T. N. Dupuy, Understanding Defeat: How to Recover From Loss in Battle to Gain Victory in War (Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1990).

Also see:

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

[NOTE: Post updated to include link to Dorothy Clark’s original breakpoints study.]

Pompeo: A couple hundred Russians were killed

We usually stay away from the news of the day, but hard to ignore this one as we were recently blogging about it:

Story: https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-military-killed-apos-couple-181324480.html

Video: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/nation/2018/04/12/pompeo-%e2%80%9c-couple-hundred-russians-were-killed%e2%80%9d-syria-shootout/33770113/

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mike Pompeo, currently the CIA Director and nominee to serve as Secretary of State stated that “a couple hundred Russians were killed” by U.S. forces in Syria.

Our discussion of this:

Russian Body Count: Update

More on Russian Body Counts

More Russian Body Counts

Russian Body Counts

Abstraction and Aggregation in Wargame Modeling

[IPMS/USA Reviews]

“All models are wrong, some models are useful.” – 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:

[Quora]

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 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.