Reminder – Speaking at Historicon in Lancaster, PA., Friday 12 July

I will be speaking at Historicon in Lancaster, PA., Friday 12 July. Historicon is one of the three major annual wargaming conventions run by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS). It will be run from 10 July-14 July, 2019. Their website is here: https://www.hmgs.org/general/custom.asp?page=HconHome

As part of this large convention, they have organized a “War College.” This is an impressive effort that includes 18 lectures on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have the last lecture on Friday, from 6 – 7 PM. The speakers for this series include published authors Paul Westermeyer, Pete Panzeri, Steve R. Waddell and John Prados, among others. Lecture descriptions are here:                                                                               . https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.hmgs.org/resource/resmgr/historicon/hcon_19/pels/19_war_college_pel_6-19-2019.pdf

I will be doing a presentation similar to the one I did at the New York Military Affairs Symposium (NYMAS). It is based upon part of my book War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat.

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Summation

Well, things in the Gulf have been quieter this last week. We ended up doing three posts related to the casualty estimates for a conflict in Iran. This was because part of President Trump’s decision making was based on an estimate of 150 killed if they struck Iran. This got my attention, because actually, hearing about casualty estimates before a conflict is kind of rare. We end up with three posts on the subject. The first post on subject speculated that President Trump was given a range of estimates, and that was probably the upper boundary of that range. The second post asked is that estimate was for killed or casualties? If is was killed, then were we looking at over 1,000 casualties from three air strikes?  The third post noted that casualty estimates for “evaluating wars” is not that common. This lead me to guess that no such estimate has been made for an extended conflict with Iran. An extended conflict with Iran could move beyond the Gulf to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Killed and Wounded

How Common are Casualty Estimates?

Anyhow, for the moment things are quiet and nothing has been resolved. We shall see what happens next.

Some other relevant post posts on casualty estimates:

Forecasting the Iraqi Insurgency

Forecasting U.S. Casualties in Bosnia

Assessing the TNDA 1990-91 Gulf War Forecast

Assessing the 1990-1991 Gulf War Forecasts

President Obama’s Casualty Estimates

Casualty Estimates for a War with North Korea

The CRS Casualty Estimates

So What Was Driving the Soviet Kill Claims?

As pointed out in my last two posts, it appears that the Soviet air force at Kursk (in the south) from 4 to 18 July 1943 claimed more eight times as many planes shot down as the Germans actually lost. This was in an air battle that was larger than the Battle of Britain. The graph above is from page 839 of my original Kursk book and is repeated on page 285 of my new Prokhorovka book. To quote (from page 840/286):

…the Soviet claims do not appear to have been related to the German casualties. Instead, if one compares Soviet losses to Soviet claims of German losses one does find a fit. The pattern is fairly clear, the Soviets always claimed more casualties than they lost. With the Soviets losing 658 planes, and claiming 928 German kills, we are looking at the Soviets claiming about 40 percent more kills than they lost. This over-claiming is fairly consistent from day to day, and as shown elsewhere [in the book], is not a problem unique to the Soviet air force [it was also the case for the Soviet Army]. 

A briefing based upon this data was presented to Col. Fyodor Sverdlov in October 1994, who was a staff officer for the Eleventh Guards Army at Kursk and later a professor at the Frunze Military Academy. After presenting the chart showing Soviet claims to German losses, Sverdlov stated that “the enemy always suffers 30% more losses than you.” 

Colonel Sverdlov knew from his experiences in the war (and he was there from the Battle of Moscow to the end), that they regularly reported more German losses than they suffered. This was just standard procedure. I also did the same comparison in my books for Soviet claims of tanks killed compared to German losses, and found the same pattern (I may post about that at some point). Yet I regularly encounter passages in various books on the Eastern Front that quote Soviet claims of German losses without cross-checking these claims to the German records.

Soviet versus German kill claims at Kursk

As discussed on my post on the Soviet 728th Fighter Regiment, the Soviet air force at Kursk (in the south) appears to claim more than eight times as many planes shot down as the Germans actually lost. The graph above is from page 839 of my original books and is repeated on page 285 of my new Prokhorovka book.

So how did the Germans do?

To quote from my books (pages 839, 840 and 844 in my Kursk book or pages 285, 286 and 290 in my Prokhorovka book):

The reverse tendency is not displayed by the Germans….This comes out to a total of 658 claimed kills by the VIII Air Corps compared to 658 actual losses by the Second and Seventeenth Air Armies. It would appear that at least for this two-week period, German reporting of air claims was reasonably accurate while the Soviet claims were outrageously high….This does bring into question the validity of all Soviet ace totals. On the other hand, the fact that German claims for 4 to 18 July were almost equal to Soviet losses during that time does provide some level of confidence in the accuracy of German claims. Still, one notes that the Luftwaffe claimed 220 planes shot down by air and 40 by antiaircraft on the 5th of July, when the Soviets reported losing 187, so one should not place too much reliance on the accuracy of these claims. Yet, based upon this limited sample, it does appear that the German ace claims are usually valid while the Soviet claims are clearly inflated, and possibly inflated by several times.

The 728th Fighter Regiment on 16 July 1943

Well after the original Kursk Data Base project was done, I contracted a researcher to pull up some Soviet air regiment records from the battle. We had originally built our database on the Second, Fifth and Seventeenth Air Army records, but always wondered what the individual air records held. So as an experiment, I pulled up the records for the 5th Guards, 27th, 240th, 270th and 728th Fighter Regiments for 4-18 July 1943. They were a sampling from all three air armies and all rather famous air regiments. At the time, I was busy with other projects (our urban warfare studies) so set them aside. I finally got around to going through them and translating them over a decade later.

The regiment records mostly just record how many sorties they flew that day and too where, what their strength was, how many planes they claimed to have shot down and how many planes they lost. It is their claims of planes shot down that got my attention.

As I pointed out in page 839 of my original Kursk book (and page 285 of my Prokhorovka book), the Soviet air force at Kursk (in the south) appeared to claim more than eight times as many planes shot down as the Germans actually lost. The graph above is from those pages. Was not sure whether this was optimism or deliberate overstatement at the highest levels of command or something that trickled up from the lower levels. It appears to be something that trickled up from the lower levels. An air regiment reports to an air division which often reports to an air corps which then reports to the air army. So, looking through the regiment air records, what stood out was that some of these regiments had wildly optimistic kill claims.

Let me just give you one example, this is from the 728th Fighter Regiment on 16 July 1943. They claimed on that day to have shot down 13 planes, 7 Me-109s, 5 Ju-87s (Stukas) and one He-123. Their listing by name of who killed what and where is provided below. The actual reported German losses for their VIII Air Corps this day by the Luftwaffe air liaison officer was three planes: 1 Fw-189 and 2 Me-109s. The quartermaster reports for 16 July indicate only one plane lost, an Hs-129. So, it appears that not only is the Soviet regiment claims optimistic, but in fact, they may not have made a single kill that day!

This is just one of around 26 fighter regiments in the Second Air Army in July 1943. Also other air units and anti-aircraft artillery were involved in the fighting. There were a total of 64 Soviet claimed air combat kills on 16 July (see chart). Now this is the worse case for the five fighter regiments I looked at, but there are many other similar cases. Quite simply, the habit of over-claiming was common among Soviet air units at all levels.

The actual claims by the 728th Fighter Regiment for 16 July 1943:

Date        Pilot                                    Plane                   Notes

16 July    Captain Vorozheikin           1 Me-109

16 July    Lt. Sachkov                         1 Me-109

16 July    Jr. Lt. Vyibornov                 1 Me-109

16 July    Jr. Lt. Morye                       1 Me-109

16 July    Major Petrushin                  2 Ju-87s                Fell in the area of Shakhovo

16 July    Jr. Lt. Shiryayev                 1 Ju-87                  Fell in the area of Shakhovo

16 July    Lt. Kozlovskii                      1 Ju-87                  Fell in the area of Shakhovo

16 July    Jr. Lt. Pakhomov                1 Ju-87                  Fell in the area of Shakhovo

16 July    by the group                       1 He-123               Fell in the area of Dalnii Dolzhik

16 July    Jr. Lt. Milashenko               1 Me-109              Fell in the area of Pravorot

16 July    Jr. Lt. Karnaukhov              1 Me-109              Fell in the area of Pravorot

16 July    Lt Khudyakov                     1 Me-109              Fell in the area of Pravorot

 

Captain Vorozheikin is Arsenii Vasilyevich Vorozheikin, the sixth highest scoring allied ace of the war with 52 claimed kills and 13 shared kills.

How Common are Casualty Estimates?

I do note that several of the talking heads on TV have mentioned that providing a casualty estimate is standard practice when briefing for a military action. This may be the case, I have never been to one of those briefings. But….while casualty estimates for a single proposed operation may be common, my experience is that they are not that common when it comes to evaluating wars.

There were certainly multiple estimates done in 1990 for the 1991 Gulf War both inside and outside the Government. A number of estimates were high and many have never been publicly released. I have yet to have seen any systematic analysis of the casualty estimates done for the Gulf War. Most of these were based upon combat models, so as such, serve as a validation test for these combat models. Wikipedia used to have a discussion on this issue, but it has since disappeared. Needless to say, the estimate derived from a combat model made before a war is probably something that would be very telling. The fact that DOD never conducted an analysis after the war of the various estimates is also very telling.

Now, we did do an estimate in fall of 1995 for a Bosnia peacekeeping operation (the Dayton conference ended with a peace agreement in November 1995). This was the only estimate done for this operation. According to rumor, the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army for Operations Research (DUSA-OR) if they could do such an estimate, and were told that there was no methodology to estimate casualties in an Operation Other Than War (OOTW) (see page 309, America’s Modern Wars). So The Dupuy Institute ended up doing such an estimate, and we did it based upon two different methodologies (see Appendix II, America’s Modern Wars).

As far as I know, we were also the only people who did an estimate in 2004/2005 for the cost and duration of an extended guerilla war in Iraq. Some one else may have done some work on duration, as I kept hearing the statement made that guerilla wars lasted an average of ten years. I could never tell if that figure was pulled from our work or if someone else did some similar work. Regardless, I think we were the only people who did an analytically based casualty estimate of the war. See Chapter 1, America’s Modern Wars.

Now, when I was writing America’s Modern Wars, I decided to look into what estimates had been made in the first half of the 1960s for the war in Vietnam. I really could not find anything analytical, although my search was not exhaustive (meaning I am still waiting for someone to prove me wrong). But, it does not appear that any analytically based estimate was made during the 1960s for casualties and duration for what turned into America’s third bloodiest and second longest war. See pages 4, 29-30, America’s Modern Wars.

So, there appears to have been an estimate done for the casualties for a strike on Iraq (although I doubt it will be made public). On the other hand, it is doubtful if anyone has done an estimate for the full range of options, or addressing the Iranian counter-options, or examining an extended conflict with Iran. This would certainly have to address the range of counter-strikes and other options available to Iran if such a conflict further developed. For various reasons, the DOD seems hesitant to do these types of estimates.

Now, I happen to think our decision makers would be better served if they indeed did have some estimates of casualties and duration of these conflicts when they were contemplating their options. They were not done for the Vietnam War, only one estimate was done for Bosnia and I think only one estimate was done for the continuing war in Iraq. I am guessing, based upon that track record, no such estimate has been made for an extended conflict with Iran.

Speaking at Historicon in Lancaster, PA., Friday 12 July

I will be speaking at Historicon in Lancaster, PA., Friday 12 July. Historicon is one of the three major annual wargaming conventions run by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS). It will be run from 10 July-14 July, 2019. Their website is here: https://www.hmgs.org/general/custom.asp?page=HconHome

As part of this large convention, they have organized a “War College.” This is an impressive effort that includes 18 lectures on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have the last lecture on Friday, from 6 – 7 PM. The speakers for this series include published authors Paul Westermeyer, Pete Panzeri, Steve R. Waddell and John Prados, among others. Lecture descriptions are here:                                                                               . https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.hmgs.org/resource/resmgr/historicon/hcon_19/pels/19_war_college_pel_6-19-2019.pdf

I will be doing a presentation similar to the one I did at  the New York Military Affairs Symposium (NYMAS). It is on War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat.

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Killed and Wounded

Sometimes in the discussion of casualties, people confuse the word “casualties” with killed. Casualties are all those people who are killed, wounded, missing or captured. It also sometimes includes Disease and Non-Battle Injuries (DNBI), or those injured or killed in accidents. For example, in the Mayaguez operation in 1975 there were 18 Marines killed in action, 3 Marines missing in action (and captured?) and 23 people killed in a helicopter accident before the invasion of Tang Island.

If you are doing a casualty estimate, it can either be based upon total killed (in combat or from all causes) and may include wounded. Depending on the combat situation and wounding agent, the number wounded is often between 3 to 10 per person killed (see War by Numbers, Chapter 15: Casualties). In the case of air to ground strikes, we would expect the wounded-to-killed ratio to be on the higher side. If there is good medical care, this also affects the wounded-to-killed ratio.

So, with President Trump mentioning an estimate of 150 killed, are we then looking at 600 to 1650 casualties (killed and wounded)? Were they really looking at over 1,000 casualties from the air strikes in three locales? That is hardly a “surgical air strike” to borrow a phrase from the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is possible that someone garbled the phrase killed and casualties. This has happened multiple times before.

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran

I noted today, via tweet from President Trump, that “..when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”

Now, we have done a few casualty estimates for conflicts: 1) The 1991 Gulf War estimate done by Trevor Dupuy that was briefed to the House Armed Services committee in 1990 and was the source of his book If War Comes, 2)  the Bosnia casualty estimate that The Dupuy Institute did for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC) in 1995. This is discussed in depth in Appendix II of America’s Modern Wars, and 3) The Iraq casualty estimate that we did in 2004 for Center of Army Analysis (CAA) and OSD Net Assessment. This is discussed in depth in the first Chapter of America’s Modern Wars. So, we know something about casualty estimation and actually have a documented, provable track record.

We have no idea what casualty estimation was done for a strike or conflict with Iran. We have not been involved in that. Most likely, if a properly developed casualty estimation was done, it was done with a range of results. For example, our Bosnia estimate was that in the case of an extended deployment (which is what was done) it was estimated that there was a 50% chance that U.S. killed from all causes in Bosnia in the first year would be below 17 (12 combat deaths and 5 non-combat fatalities) and a 90% chance U.S. killed would be below 25 (see page 308 in America’s Modern Wars).

So, I am guessing that President Trump was not told that there would be 150 killed, he was probably given a range of estimates, of which that was probably the upper boundary of that range. Still, these numbers get people’s attention. I gave a briefing one morning on our Iraq estimate after a three-day weekend…and as one colonel commented during the briefing “This is a hell of a briefing to wake up to after a long weekend.” (see page 18, America’s Modern Wars).

Have They Been Reading Our Blog?

From January through April we ended up doing more than two dozen blog posts on the issue of validation. I also addressed the subject in my book War by Numbers (Chapter 18: Modeling Warfare). It is, of course, an issue I have writing about since 1997 with my article in Volume I, No. 4 of our modeling newsletter (here: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/tdipub4.htm). We also did a number of efforts inside of the DOD to promote validation, the most significant being our Casualty Estimation Methodologies Study (May 2005) (see: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/tdipub3.htm). This report resulted in at least one manager at one agency recommending that we be terminated from all contracts with them because we criticized their models. The response to all this discussion was underwhelming to say the least, until now:

U.S. Senate on Model Validation

And then out of the blue, here comes the Senate Armed Services Committee report. We have no idea where this came from, who did it, or why? Were they reading our blog?

Summation of our Validation Posts