Thursday


A Century of Industrialized Warfare:

wwi-tank

Mechanized Armor Enters the Fray


On 15 September 1916 one of the pivotal events of industrialized warfare occurred: the tank was used in battle for the first time in history. Mobile fire has been the crucial offensive weapon of warfare since the beginning of civilization and warfare, whether that mobile fire took the form of chariot archers, mounted horse archers, a ship of the line, or mechanized armor, as with the tank. Before industrialized warfare the heaviest armored unit was heavy cavalry (or possibly elephants, though elephants were never armored to the extent that cataphracti or medieval knights were armored), which was a shock weapon — mobile, but not mobile fire. The tank was able to combine mobile fire with heavy armor in a way that no non-mechanized force was capable, and this made it a distinctive feature of industrialized warfare.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 01 July 1916, and with two and half months into the “battle” it was obvious that the Somme would be like most WWI battlefields: largely static and dominated by defense: trenches, barbed wire, and machine gun nests, which had arrested the progress of any offensive and so had precluded decisive attainment of objectives. Up to this time, the technology of the industrial revolution had strengthened the defense, but with the introduction of the tank all that changed. Mechanized armor brought mobile fire into the age of industrialized warfare, and mechanized armor has remained, for a hundred years, the primary spearhead of offensive action.

Despite its initial effectiveness as a “terror weapon,” the pace of tank development was somewhat slow for wartime conditions. The Germans did not introduce their first tank until the A7V was deployed in March 1918, and the first battle between tanks took place during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. Early tanks were mechanically unreliable, and were fielded in smaller numbers than would have been necessary to fundamentally change the conditions of battle. In many ways, this paralleled the use of aircraft during the First World War: the technology was introduced, but not yet mastered.

It was not the introduction of the tank that ended the First World War. However, an adequate conceptualization of mechanized armor began to emerge during the interwar period, when tanks underwent extensive development and testing, and Heinz Guderian wrote his Achtung — Panzer! (much as Giulio Douhet wrote The Command of the Air during the interwar period). The tank truly came into its own during the Second World War, combined with close air support in a highly mobile form of maneuver warfare that came to be called Blitzkrieg. The largest tank battle in history took place during the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, almost thirty years after the tank was first used in combat.

In The End of the Age of the Aircraft Carrier I speculated that armored helicopters could take the place of tanks in a mechanized spearhead. Though helicopters will always be more vulnerable than a tank, because they can never be as heavily armored as tanks, they are today the premier weapon of mobile fire and could press forward the attack far faster than tanks. Helicopter gunships, however, have not yet been fully exploited for battlefield use, partly because they appeared on the scene at a point of time in history when peer-to-peer conflict among nation-states was already a declining paradigm, and so they have filled a very different combat role.

The paradigm of hybrid warfare that is emerging in our own time — a form of warfare probably more consistent with the existence of planetary civilization than the past paradigm of peer-to-peer conflict among nation-states — has no place for heavily armored mobile fire comparable to the place of the tank in twentieth century warfare. The forces now actually engaged in armed conflict (as opposed to appearing in military parades) tend to be lighter, faster, and stealthier. Despite the tendency of warfare to press forward the rapid development of technologies under conditions of existential threat, we have seen that it can take decades to fully assimilate a new technology into warfare, as was the case with the tank. It will probably take decades to get beyond doctrines of mechanized warfare established in the twentieth century and to adopt a doctrine more suitable for the forces employed today.

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1914 to 2014

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A Century of Industrialized Warfare

0. A Century of Industrialized Warfare

1. Assassination in Sarajevo

2. Headlines around the World

3. The July Crisis

4. A Blank Check for Austria-Hungary

5. Serbia and Austria-Hungary Mobilize

6. Austria-Hungary Declares War on Serbia

7. Ernst Jünger is Mobilized

8. The August Madness

9. The Battle of Coronel

10. The Somme after One Hundred Years

11. The Tank after One Hundred Years

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Wednesday


In several posts (Sinking a Carrier: Precisification of Concept among them) I have characterized the aircraft carrier (in its material and doctrinal context) as the preeminent instrument of force projection in the world today. Why is the aircraft carrier dominant in force projection today? Because it can carry almost a hundred fighter jets to any place in the world with a coastline, fly them, maintain them, maintain their pilots, and fulfill all the roles of combat support for these fighters. The power that an aircraft carrier is projecting is the air arm that it carries. This is important. An aircraft carrier is not important because it mounts enormous naval guns like the Dreadnought class battleships of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An aircraft carrier doesn’t mount any big guns at all. An aircraft carrier is a force to reckoned with because it brings aircraft to the theater of operations in an age in which command of the air is crucial to all combat operations.

Sitting ducks? “Flat tops” can be larger than the pier they tie up to, and therefore constitute a large and tempting target.

At one time, the big guns of a battleship were important weapons. Battleships could carry enormous guns that could fire on shore batteries and on positions several miles inland, not to mention firing on other capital ships. This was a formidable military capacity. The technologies that began to emerge from our first industrialized war, World War I, and which were systematically implemented during the inter-war period, decisively changed the maritime combat equation. Submarines with torpedoes, airplanes with torpedoes, and airplanes configured as dive bombers rendered the battleship as vulnerable as a medieval knight in armor was vulnerable to a peasant with a firearm. The vulnerability of capital ships was not taken for granted. The early advocates of air power not only had to engage in extended polemics in order to make their point, but Billy Mitchell organized a famous demonstration in 1921 in which aircraft carrying bombs were used to disable German and US battleships from the First World War. This demonstration helped to overcome institutionalized resistance to change, but resistance there was, and the institutions were slow to change.

Ex-German battleship Ostfriesland takes a gigantic blow from a 2,000 lb. aerial bomb burst far enough below the surface that fountains of water erupt high above both sides of the ship. Minutes later, the target ship sank by the stern. This was the finale of Billy Mitchell's anti-ship bombing demonstration in July 1921. (from Wikipedia)

Not only were battleships vulnerable to new weapons systems, as Mitchell demonstrated, but they were also entering a death spiral of increased size, cost, and complexity. Mitchell’s concerns were the same concerns we have today: that money invested in outdated weapons systems will take money from the new weapons systems that will be vital in future conflicts. Moreover, the older weapons systems, as they mature, tend to grow disproportionately large and expensive. The Bismarck and the Tirpitz, the Yamato and the Musashi, consumed enormous resources, were extremely expensive to build, and were crewed by thousands. They were also vulnerable to smaller, cheaper, less manpower-intensive counter-measures. The Tirpitz, fully outfitted, cost 181.6 million Rm (the Bismarck cost more) and had a crew complement of 2,608; a type VII C U-boat cost 4.8 million Rm and had a crew complement of 52. For the price of one Tirpitz, you can have many U-boats, and this is exactly what Karl Dönitz did when he took charge. Perhaps if he had had the opportunity to act earlier on cheaper counter-measures, the Battle of the Atlantic might have had a different outcome.

Dreadnought class battleships were not only formidable weapons systems in their time, but also potent symbols of national prestige.

It is not that the fundamental (and perennial) calculus of maritime strategy has changed, but that the means to the end of this perennial calculus has changed:

“Two decades after the passing of the Grand and High Seas fleets, the age-old principle of maritime strategy was unchanged. The control of the seas remained the final objective, for the purpose of providing and denying the free movement of trade and military needs. But the means of exercising this control was vested as well, and within its ever-increasing range and power, in the aircraft, from shore or carrier.”

Richard Hough, Dreadnought: A History of the Modern Battleship, 1965, p. 223

Whereas the very idea of an aircraft carrier once needed to be defended against vested interests who preferred to spend budgetary funds on battleships, now it is the turn of the carrier to be the large, complex, and expensive weapons system nearing the end of the its lifespan. And there is nothing new in the observation. I have written a couple of posts on this (Sinking a Carrier: Proof of Concept and The Political Context of Sinking a Carrier). When Mike Burleson was writing his New Wars blog he would publish a “Carrier Alternative Weekly” almost every week, examining alternatives to large and expensive carriers. Mike Burleson also wrote a lot of posts on the vulnerability of carriers to counter-measures. It is worthwhile to read through the archives of New Wars to review these.

The Nimitz class carrier is the backbone of the US carrier fleet.

Because there is nothing new in the idea of the terminal obsolescence of carriers, what I want to try to do today is to place this obsolescence in a larger context — historical context, technological context, intellectual context, tactical context, and strategic context. A few days ago in Technological Succession I argued for a distinction between perennial technologies and mature technologies. Because of the phenomenon of technological succession — a new technology taking over where an old technology leaves off — once a technology matures it invites rival technologies not yet matured to overtake its future incremental progress by the leapfrogging progress of a technology still capable of significant improvements.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN78) is the future of the US carrier fleet, often called a supercarrier.

It would be over-simplifying matters to say that every technology has a limited lifespan, aircraft carriers included. This is painting with too broad a brush. Some technologies — perennial technologies — are limited by no lifespan and will always be present in response to perennial needs. Apart from perennial technologies, most technologies develop and succeed one another in a process that I call technological succession (by analogy with ecological succession).

Maritime technology generally speaking, and not tied to any particular maritime platform, is a perennial technology. There will always be ships. But the aircraft carrier is a particular instantiation of maritime technology, and the technology that it represents is a mature technology. As a mature technology, it is subject to technological succession when an alternative technology with advantages becomes available that serves the in same capacity as the established technology.

The aircraft carriers of today are not remarkably different from the aircraft carriers of the Second World War. Progress with this mature weapons system has been, and will continue to be, incremental, i.e., evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Thus an aircraft carrier is the paradigm case of a mature technology, not a perennial technology. What it does, it does very well, and incremental improvements can be expected to continue indefinitely, but as I argued in Sinking a Carrier: Proof of Concept the development of the aircraft carrier from the Second World War to today is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and this is the kind of change that is to be expected in the future: further evolutionary change, rather than revolutionary change, and at a slower rate of change because the technologies concerned have largely plateaued.

Innovations in SCRAM jet technology may provide reliable hypersonic flight in the not too distant future, and this will constitute a revolutionary advance that will outpace mature weapons systems that are advancing at an evolutionary pace, having already experienced their exponential growth and now leveled off to a plateau.

The mature technology of the aircraft carrier is in the process of being overtaken by newer technologies that will not be aircraft carriers, but will replace the role that is now filled by aircraft carriers. The weapons systems that will replace the role now filled by the aircraft carrier will be precision guided munitions, precision guided missiles, and both of the former launched from UCAVs and from supersonic and hypersonic manned aircraft from airbases, not from carriers. Improving hypersonic jet technology (such as SCRAM jets) will make is possible for a jet to be launched from an airbase on one side of the world, fly to the other side of the world within an hour’s time, hit targets, and return to base as quickly, for maintenance, fueling, and aircrew rest. The US defense establishment has already formulated this goal in what is called the Prompt Global Strike Initiative (PGS). I tried to give a sense of the possibilities of such a weapons system in A Glimpse at the Near Future of Combat.

Many options are available for prompt global strike.

While PSG is not intended to replace carrier-based aviation, the long-term phenomenon of technological succession should be obvious. Once the technology is available, it will be cheaper and more effective to maintain aircraft at an airbase deep within secure territory as compared to doing so on an aircraft carrier. It will take many decades, and perhaps a war, to make the transition, but that the transition is coming should be obvious to all.

The role of a CVBG in power projection is inseparable from the air arm that it carries. When that air arm can be made available in-theater by other means, the justification for a CVBG disappears. There are some air assets that must be supplied and maintained close to the theater of operations, but these assets are not necessarily the air superiority fighters that are currently the focus of carrier aviation.

The fate of the aircraft carrier is inseparable from the fate of the air arm that it carries. If the equivalent of that air arm can be made available at any place or time that a carrier can make an equivalent force available, and it can be done cheaper or more effectively or efficiently, or at less risk to personnel and other assets, then that alternative will be pursued. Any peer competitor who fails to respond appropriately to this inevitable calculus will find themselves on the losing side of a battle of attrition.

However, the air arm carried by a contemporary CVBG is not the only air arm that needs to be made available in theater. The air arm of fixed wing aircraft with the capability of fifth generation fighters will, in the not distant future, be available from air bases within secure territory, but there is another transition that is coming, that is as inevitable as the obsolescence of carriers.

An Italian-made Agusta A129 Mangusta (Mongoose) helicopter gunship firing its chin mounted 20-mm M197 cannon.

Just as I have written that the aircraft carrier is the preeminent instrument of force projection in the world today, so the helicopter gunship is the preeminent weapons system of mobile fire in the world today. Helicopter technology was not available during the Second World War. During the Korean War and the Viet Nam War helicopters primarily played a support role in the insertion and removal of infantry. The development of the helicopter gunship is still quite recent, and it has mostly seen engagement in small wars like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or Russian operations in Chechnya. The helicopter gunship is capable of much more than this; there remains much untapped potential here.

A38 Eurocopter Tiger: the helicopter gunship is the preeminent form of mobile fire in the world today.

Mechanized armor is mobile, and far more mobile than infantry or cavalry, which were the only alternatives when mechanized armor was initially developed. Helicopter gunships are more mobile than mechanized armor. The logic of maneuver warfare that ultimately converged upon massed mechanized armor with close air support and infantry to exploit a breakthrough will, eventually, converge upon massed armored air assets — which means the helicopter gunship and fixed wing aircraft like the AC-130 gunship — with close ground support, and mechanized armor and infantry to exploit a breakthrough. The emphasis will shift from breakthrough on the ground to breakthrough in the air. (A tactical doctrine adequate to the helicopter gunship also suggests an interesting question: can a helicopter sink a carrier? If, as I have argued, flying boat swarms present a danger, certainly helicopter swarms also present a danger.)

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter: the helicopter gunship is the armored asset of the future.

Before this projected convergence is completed there will be a period of transition during which the armed forces that first employ this tactical doctrine for helicopter gunships — a tactical doctrine adequate to the potential of this technology of mobile fire — will have a disproportionate advantage in the battlespace, driving all before it in an aerial equivalent of Guderian’s Panzers or Liddell-Hart’s expanding torrent.

Russia's KA-52 attack helicopter: Western forces have no monopoly on innovative helicopter technology. The Russian KA-52 employs a contra-rotating co-axial rotor system.

The platform for the projection of this weapons system of mobile fire in theater will be the helicopter carrier. While fixed wing aircraft will be able to travel from secure air bases to the theater of operations within a timeframe appropriate to the exigencies of combat, helicopter gunships will not be able to do so. Therefore, as the age of the aircraft carrier draws to the close, the age of the helicopter carrier is only just dawning. And helicopter carriers can be much smaller and more mobile than a contemporary aircraft carrier, meaning that they are a more difficult target to hit, and therefore less vulnerable to cheap counter-measures.

HMS Ocean: the helicopter carrier will be the future platform for in-theater projection of massed armored air assets in the form of helicopter gunships.

Those armed forces that wish to dominate the battlespace of the mid- to late- twenty-first century should build helicopter carriers, and helicopter gunships to fill them, rather than building aircraft carriers.

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The Swarming Attack

7 April 2010

Wednesday


A sufficient number of tanks massed in attack can transform the efficacy of mobile fire into a swarm.

Yesterday when I wrote about the Iranian acquisition of the high-performance speedboat Bradstone Challenger (in Speedboat Diplomacy) I also had occasion to review a post from last August, The Power of Mobile Fire, and in retrospect I now see, despite my satisfaction with the argument in the latter piece, its inadequacies. But even as I wrote it I knew that I would need to revisit the topic, for I merely mentioned the contribution of mobile fire to swarming attacks, but did not develop it there because I had only begun to think of it at that point.

The Apache helicopter gunship is one of the preeminent weapons of mobile fire of our time.

In yesterday’s piece I quoted the Financial Times article to the effect that armed patrol boats based upon the design of the Bradstone Challenger, might be used for, “exploiting enemy vulnerabilities through the use of ‘swarming’ tactics by small boats.” This led me to reflect on what I had previously implied about swarming attacks and mobile fire.

The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a fixed wing platform for mobile fire.

In The Power of Mobile Fire I wrote:

The most advanced weapons systems of our time are those of mobile fire: the helicopter gunship and the aircraft carrier. Precisely because these are the most advanced weapons systems of our time, technological marvels of unrivaled sophistication, they are subject to severe constraints …one of the distinctive features of effective mobile fire has been its mass deployment. This hasn’t been discussed in the above simply because I am not sure of how to formulate it, but mobile fire is like a swarm that engulfs an enemy…

It would be worthwhile to think a little more clearly and more systematically about mobile fire. It would not be difficult to calculate, for various weapons systems, what we might call a mobility quotient, which would take into account the weight (and therefore the inertia), top speed, acceleration and deceleration, time to execute a 180 degree turn (inversely proportional), number of crew required to operate (inversely proportional), and the number of dimensions in which the weapons system in question can operate. This wouldn’t take much research, but at the present moment it takes more time that I am going to invest today. But we can calculate a very rough mobility quotient for some obvious weapons systems by taking top speed multiplied by the number of dimensions in which a weapons system operates. This is limited and imperfect, but it will make a point.

Weapons

system

Speed

in knots

dimensions

of operation

Mobility

quotient

M1 Abrams tank 36.50 2 73
Apache helicopter 148.00 3 444
Nimitz class carrier 30.00 2 60
armored Humvee 56.48 2 113
AC-130 gunship 260.00 3 780

Even a rough calculation of the mobility quotient of a weapons system reveals the differences that should be obvious even without any explicit analysis: an Apache helicopter gunship is far more mobile than a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. The above rough method has obvious problems: the Apache can reverse its facing far more quickly than the AC-130, but the AC-130 has a higher top speed. That is why I said in the above the a more thorough calculation would take in additional factors like the ability to turn and acceleration. Also, a warship or a tank can bring its gun turrets to bear on a target without having to turn to face the target. But I’m sure you get the idea.

In The Power of Mobile Fire I identified aircraft carriers as mobile fire, and certainly to an extent carriers and warships are mobile on the seas, but there is a more important sense in which an aircraft carrier is a platform for mobile fire. True mobility on the water would be something like the craft that the US Bureau of Industry and Security warned that the Iranians would make by adapting the design of the Bradstone Challenger: armed with “torpedoes, rocket launchers and anti-ship missiles” with the aim of “exploiting enemy vulnerabilities through the use of ‘swarming’ tactics by small boats”. By the above rough calculation, the Bradstone Challenger has a mobility quotient of 130, better than twice that of the carrier. We know that a small patrol boat would be crewed by just a few men, reducing response time to commands, and that it would turn far quicker than any carrier or warship. Thus a more sophisticated mobility quotient calculation would only show a greater disparity between the large ships and the small boats.

The next step is to go from mobile fire to a swarm of mobile fire, and this could also be rendered in a rough calculation such that mobility quotient multiplied by mass (in the sense used in military doctrine, not inertial mass) equals a swarm. That is to say, the mobile fire unit multiplied by a mass deployment equals a swarm of mobile fire. This is where a platform for mobile fire becomes important: an aircraft carrier is sufficiently large to carry sufficient numbers of mobile fire units to induce a mobile fire swarm. On land, an airbase would be a platform for mobile fire. Or, for ground-based swarm attacks, a staging point, perhaps a military base with infrastructure such as fueling and repair, would be a platform for mobile fire swarm attacks.

In Speedboat Diplomacy I quoted the Financial Times quoting Craig Hooper to the effect that, “A small, fast boat navy is nothing more than a surprise strike and harassment force. Every time small, fast boats run into helicopters, the helicopters win.” This seems to call into question the possibility of the efficacy of a swarming attack by patrol boats. I consulted Craig Hooper’s website, Next Navy: Future Maritime Security, where he makes the point again, writing, “Once a fast boat swarm is identified as “hostile,” those small boats tend to have relatively short, exciting lives.” Hooper, however, ultimately leaves the question open: “The trick, of course, is avoiding any losses as a ‘swarm’ transforms from ‘traffic’ to a swarming ‘attacker’ …And that might be a tad difficult. Or… maybe not.”

The “maybe not” deserves our attention. Helicopters have the advantage of operating in three dimensions and of speed, but a patrol boat is potentially less sensitive to the direction it is facing, if it has a deck-mounted heavy machine gun with a 360 degree range of motion. Are there patrol boats that have been armed equivalently to the AH-64 Apache? I don’t know. It would be interesting to find out. It would also be interesting to run a war game with patrol boats armed as heavily as an Apache, and with boats and helicopters present in equal numbers. Lessons might be learned that could teach the boats a few things about anti-helicopter tactics. Certainly, somewhere in the world, someone is conducting such exercises, in so far as it is within their capability, and learning the lessons. Presumably this would be those most heavily invested in the idea of swarming patrol boat attacks.

It is interesting that this discussion of swarm attacks should emerge at the same time as the BBC has reported swarming tactics by Somalian pirates. In Navies struggle with ‘swarming’ pirates, Rear Adm. Peter Hudson is quoted as saying, “What we’ve seen in the last month in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, the Somali basin, is almost swarm tactics by some of the pirates who try to flood the area with action groups.” While the small pirate boats are mostly taking on unarmed and defenseless commercial shipping, it is also to be noted that the pirate’s boats are far from being anything like the Bradstone Challenger. If the pirates had to take on armed vessels they probably wouldn’t have a chance, but if the pirates, with their experience of small boat mobility and boarding on the high seas, were given a squadron of Bladerunner 51s and more sophisticated weaponry, they might well prove an adversary to a naval ship. Experience is key. It has been reported that the remarkable marksmanship exhibited by the Taliban with weapons such as shoulder-launched missiles is a result of the protracted civil war in Afghanistan and the resultant extensive experience accrued thereby.

In a swarm attack one can expect that there is a “tipping point.” This is what a philosopher would call a “sorites paradox” also known as the paradox of the heap: if you progressively add more and more grains of sand together, at some point they stop being a few grains of sand and become a heap. There is no definitive answer to when this transition occurs. That is why it is a paradox. For the same reason, there will be no definitive answer for inducing a military swarm attack: reaching the tipping point from massed deployment to the “lived experience” of a swarm (to borrow a phrase of phenomenology) will always depend upon variable factors like weather, terrain, morale, and cultural factors.

In a swarm attack, the forces attacked are ideally not merely demoralized and panicked, they are overpowered, overwhelmed, and utterly bewildered. In other words, the point of a swarm attack is to induce the enemy to experience the sublime. This may sound a little odd, so I will try to explain.

While in ordinary language “sublime” is used almost interchangeably with “beautiful,” in the technical jargon of aesthetics it means a distinctive aesthetic experience different from the beautiful. I have written about the sublime several times in this forum, for example, in Algorithms of Ecstasy, The Intellectual Sublime, and Salto Mortale. In the latter piece I elaborated on the Kantian conception of the sublime. Kant, primarily remembered as an abstruse metaphysician, devoted the third of his three critiques to the sublime. He makes a fundamental distinction between the mathematical sublime and the dynamic sublime. While almost all of his examples of the dynamic sublime are instances of natural beauty that overwhelm us, the idea of the dynamical sublime could be equally well applied to war, or perhaps better applied to war.

Immanuel Kant wrote extensively on the sublime.

Even Kant, in his genteel eighteenth century way, can glimpse the sublimity of war, although for Kant war was the sort of relatively well-behaved exercise between small professional armies to be found in the Europe of his day:

“Even war has something of the sublime about it if it is carried on in an orderly way and with respect for the sanctity of citizen’s rights. At the same time it makes the way of thinking of a people that carries it on in this way all the more sublime in proportion to the number of dangers in the face of which it courageously stood its ground. A prolonged peace, on the other hand, tends to make prevalent a merely commercial spirit, and along with it base selfishness, cowardice, and softness, and to debase the way of thinking of that people.”

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, Sec. 28

To say that war is sublime is not to say that it is good, or that it is inevitable, or that it is anything else flattering or unflattering. The point is that war, and especially the experience of battle, can overwhelm a man, or a group of men, and leave them disoriented and bewildered. One can imagine (I must attempt to imagine for I have never been a soldier and never been in battle), that if one is on the side that is winning, confidence grows and one feels an increasing sense of power and control over the situation. On the losing side, the opposite happens: confidence collapses and one feels a dwindling sense of power and control over the situation. Past a certain tipping point, this lack of control passes over into an experience of the sublime when one is utterly at the mercy of circumstances.

I am not suggesting that there is anything essentially new about swarming tactics. On the contrary, in The Power of Mobile Fire I recounted the history of swarming mobile fire in the form of Hittite chariot archers and Mongol mounted bowmen. Moreover, since the emergence of Blitzkrieg, almost all battlefield tactics are implicitly aimed at swarming around and over enemy positions, leaving strong points to be “mopped up” later. What I am suggesting here is that a swarming attack by mobile fire is an effective way to think about such battlefield tactics, and that we can further conceptualize the situation in terms of inducing an experience of the sublime among the enemy. Since the sublime will be culturally relative to a certain degree, military doctrine might profit from studying the culture of the enemy in order to better understand how an experience of the sublime can be induced through military action.

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