Thursday, May 31, 2012

Disadvantaged defense

There is a lot of anecdotal and incomplete information on how military combat actually works.  It is not entirely helpful that some of the worst espousers of myths are the militarise themselves.  It is also not helpful that a lot of the information is buried away in very expensive, or restricted circulation volumes: sources which are often ignored by the military themselves.

One example:

Likely based on the heavy city fighting that occurred in World War 2, their is a general "truism" that the defender has an advantage in urban areas.  That the attacker will have disproportionate casualties when trying to take these types of objectives.

Hakan Yazilitas, Naval Post Graduate School,  June 2004
It is concluded that the attacker’s daily casualty rate is, on average, lower in urban operations.
The defenders disadvantage extends not only to urban areas, but to "close country" in general.

David Rowland, "The Effect of Combat Degradation on the Urban Battlefield" Journal of Operational Research Society, 42.7 1991, pp. 543-553 via Defense and Freedom
"Furthermore, in 1987 OA demonstrated that the defender is at a systematic disadvantage in close country (be it woods or built-up areas). It seems that, amongst other things, in close country the defender is generally unable to mass the fire of his weapons, due to very short ranges available in relation to unit frontages. Given their relative protection, if only from view, the attackers can mass forces more safely than is normal. They can therefore isolate and attack small bodies of enemy relatively easily. The overall effect was described as 'counterintuitive'. (...) Attacking infantry generally have an advantage of 3.57:1 in terms of attackers' to defender's casualties in FIBUA. (...)
Note that David Rowland, is a British officer with 25 years experience including the Falklands, and Northern Irland.  So when he is doing his number crunching, he is not doing so in a vacuum.

Close country allows you to hide.  It does not particularly allow you to fight more effectively.  If you look at a close reading of Rommel's actions at Caporetto in the Italian-Austrian mountains  during World War 1, you can see that he is using the broken up terrain to screen his advances, allowing him to either get very close to the defensive positions of the defending Italians, or to come at them from an unexpected direction.  But to see what is happening, you have to look at a more detailed account of what is going on than his very brief descriptions in his memoirs.

A lot of the complaints about the terrain that the Western Allies fought over in World War 2 is likely more of a problem with superior German training, doctrine, and motivation.  The broken terrain likely helped the German's hide from the Allies superior air power, but did not directly cause them to inflict disproportionate casualties.  Records indicate that the Western Front had heavier day-to-day casualties relative to the troops deployed (more firepower in a smaller area) but do not indicate that the Germans anything more than their usual advantages.

To bring this back down to the low level skirmishing affairs we are often discussing, the net effect of rough terrain is to slow up movement, and make initial concealment easier.  But in a pitched battle, where the defenders have chosen to stand their ground,  it also means that an aggressive opponent cannot be stopped from getting in close.  And as we have discussed before, the closer the combatants are, the deadlier the fighting gets.


Anonymous said...

So doing a Beau Geste with Lord Jim is a viable option? Cool. I just have to talk him into that!

I had "thunked" escaping and evading in close country would be easier when equipped with high ROF, medium ranged rifles then trying that in the desert. But I'm probably wrong. Just wind up getting flanked.

Escaping in the desert would be cleaner esp if one's equipped with a Barrett(sp?) or another long ranged bolt action rifle AND can actually hit something with it. But you better move a little faster then your pursuit.

I think you have to look at what someone intends to do. Run away or stay and fight. That brings in the EGO.

If you spend money and emotion on your homestead than you will want to stay and fight.

If you invest the least amount of effort into your tool shed in the desert or mountains, and instead cashe supplies then you will just leave the area and head to the nearest cashe. To live another day.

I guess the Wifey is gonna hafta crap in a bucket, while I haul water.

Dang...I wanted to plant a few raised gardens. Need a well for that.

Thanks again for the write-ups.


russell1200 said...

I am only aware of the outlines of Lord Jim (presuming you are speaking of Conrad's story) and the only time I saw Beau Geste was in the theater with Marty Feldman playing one of the leads. So my understanding of your description is a bit hazy.

IN WW2 both the Stepper and the Desert suffered from low weapon density accross critical portions of the frontage. There was just too much territory to cover. However, the seige of Tubruk (where the Germans were approaching the city, not in it), and the numerous times the German AT guns clobbered the British armor show that on a tactical level the desert was not necessarily ideal terrain for the offense.

I would think that closed terrain would be good for evasion (?}.

I have used miniatures to detail out some low level suburban tactics. It is very hard to keep an opponent from circling around you through the backyards and side streets. Once they know you are there, presuming they have an advantage in numbers, it can be very difficult to stop them. On the plus side, it is extremely hard for the aggressor to keep people from running away.

The point is not that fortifications and defense in place have no value, it is just that they are not the perfect cure. Most of the scenarios, even the ones described by ex-military people, go a lot further toward a fanatasy of one hero stopping the world, rather then the chaos and blood bath that would likely occur.

The settlers on the East Coast through to Kentucky, tended to Fort up, when extended hostilities occured. The Indians did not have a supply system, so they were usually limited to how long they were willing to hand around outside the little block house, and they generally could not get close enough to burn out the inhabitants. Modern weapons penetrate better than muzzle loaders, and we have allot more combustibles around. The books that tell you how to fortify your modern home are (IMO) wishful thinking. Of course, like Rawles, you can build a pillbox, but think how much other stuff you can buy for the cost?

Anonymous said...

Actually I meant Lord Bison/Dakin. Though I gave him the Lord Jim tag because of Conrad's story.

I was leaning towards "forting up" in the desert ala Beau Geste, but now I'm not too sure.

The hard part is investing the emotional and monetary cost onto your homestead with the realization that you may have to walk away.

The hostiles' supply system is going to suck in the desert.



PioneerPreppy said...

Russ - Your conclusion is pretty spot on in my opinion. Actual defense is pointless, at least with the current firepower available. As the heavy stuff is expended "forting up" like the frontier families did may become more attractive but at first cache and evade then re-occupy is the best answer IMO.

Under those tactics heavy woods would be ideal.

russell1200 said...

GK: LOL That Lord Jim! I really like Lord Jim's frugality. I also think much of what he says about bolt action rifles has a amount of sense. It does force some discipline. But the move to faster firing weapons was greatly resisted by the military theorists, and reality kept forcing their hand. Your deadliest fire is in close, and your automatic (or semi if that is what you have) are at their peak.

I don't think you can ever set in stone that you will defend in place. You have to be flexible. Bandits are going to range from a couple guys with a baseball bat and a .32 sneak gun, to 120 ex-military types (or NATO blue helmets if you prefer).

PP: Absolutely. Teh cover allows you to get away. The trees can act as fence posts for wire (and it doesn't have to be barbed) and similar obstacles. It also does the best job of deadening noise, and if you have dry enough fuel can even help disapate smoke from a fire.

However, a lot of preppers are not getting any younger. An in place strategy starts making a lot more sense for general health reasons as you get older.

Really there is no perfect strategy. They all have problems. Having friends that will come to your aid strikes me as the closest to a universal strategy.