Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants


I’ll have to  go back after finishing today’s taskings, and read this in detail and give it some thought. I’m not convinced that a small craft approach is what we need in the Western Pacific, but I have long believed that such an approach would be fruitful in certain waters, specifically the Persian Gulf, and possibly off the Horn of Africa. And of course, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.

You are a tactical commander tasked with a mission to seek out and destroy one of the enemy’s premier capital ships in his home waters. You have two potential striking forces at your disposal: a world class surface combatant of your own with a 99% probability of mission success (Ps = 0.99) or a squadron of eight independently operating, missile carrying small combatants – each with a chance of successfully completing the mission no better than a coin flip (Ps = 0.5). Do you go with the almost sure thing and choose to send in your large combatant? As it turns out, the squadron of small combatants has an even higher overall Ps. But let’s assume now that you’ve advanced to operational commander. You might have more concerns than just overall Ps. What are the defensive and logistical requirements for each option? How much fleet investment am I risking with each option? What will it cost to replace the asset(s) if it is lost? What capability does the striking force have after successful enemy action (i.e. resilience)? An analysis of these factors, intentionally designed to disadvantage the small combatants, actually comes out overwhelmingly in their favor over the large combatant. The results verify what naval strategists and tacticians have long known: for certain offensive missions, an independently operating group of even marginally capable platforms can outperform a single large combatant at lower cost and less risk to the mission.

Put on your thinking caps, and let me hear your thoughts. You groundpounders might think of it in terms of armor versus light infantry in open versus close terrain.

via Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Information Dissemination: Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (really) Small Combatants

  1. David Navarre

    From what little I understand of naval tactics in WWI from having wargamed “Jutland” once, swarms of destroyers were intended to accomplish this very thing. It seems that in addition to other roles, this is what the PT boat was designed for as well. Of course, commanding a squadron of PT boats isn’t quick as sexy as being at the bridge of a heavy cruiser, nor did Congressmen vie to have PT boats named after themselves….

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  2. Krag

    I imagine Pacific conflicts being short bursts, ambush style, so the idea of many small, weak, “disposable” vessels loitering around the kill zone in peacetime means a bunch of sinking ships and dead sailors after the first attack. Better to keep your punch in aircraft, which requires the enemy to breach a united CVBG to get to instead.

    As witnessed by the sinking of the South Korean corvette a few years back, small ships sinking are seen by the bad guys as “do-able” politically, in a way that going full bore against a US CVBG is not doable.

    The article by the LT is very disheartening. This is the crap we saw come out of RAND and McNamara in the ’60s. I had hoped the stupidity of war-by- math had died a quiet death.

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  3. As David has pointed out, the doctrine of using small combatants to take out larger craft is well over a century old.

    To my knowledge, it has yet to be successfully applied in the real world.

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  4. The missle boats would be a better choice. The odds of all eight failing at a 50% success rate is very low, and a cheaper risk than the large combatant.

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