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Thread: The Coming Asymmetry

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    Default The Coming Asymmetry

    There has been much discussion since the 1990s on asymmetric warfare and its various meanings and implications. One glaring asymmetry is unmanned and semi-autonomous, or fully autonomous air, maritime, and land military / paramilitary / terrorist vessels/vehicles. Of course, it the asymmetry will be temporary, as everyone who seeks to remain relevant in current and future conflicts will adapt and they'll become the new norm. Despite their economic and technological advances, some advanced countries with deep military cultural biases may actually fall behind their competitors due to their propensity to cling to their comfort zone.

    https://www.defenseone.com/technolog...ssiles/152650/

    China Shows Off Self-Steering Boat that Fires Missiles

    China has developed an autonomous boat that can conduct reconnaissance and fire up to four guided missiles, state-run media reported. Manufactured by Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology, the 7.5-meter, 3.7-ton Liaowangzhe-2 was displayed for the first time at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, in southern China this week.
    The U.S. has been the leader in highly autonomous ocean vessels since August 2014, when the Office of Naval Research staged a breakthrough demonstration on VirginiaÂ’s James River. Some 13 self-driving boats conducted a series of complex, coordinated maneuvers to protect a high-value ship and harass enemy vessels. Unlike aerial drones such as the Reaper that still require a human operator, the small rigid-hulled inflatable boats handled advanced swarming tricks with virtually no human guidance. The whole coordinated maneuver drill required just one person, who relayed targeting information from a helicopter.
    Since ISIS, China, Russia, Israel, and other state and non-state actors are increasingly employing this unmanned vehicles with varying degrees of autonomy, where is the asymmetry? Its in the tactics and economics.

    First, a new technology is not an effective innovation until it is exercised and becomes part of our doctrine, or at least can feasibly be employed by a unit in the field. A few visionaries experimenting with new technologies at DARPA and like labs does not equate to a viable combat capability as of yet. It is an innovation when tactical commanders are willing and know how to employ it in their overall scheme of maneuver.

    Point two, the Navy has a deep cultural bias for manned ships, and the Air Force has a cultural bias for manned aircraft. The disruption to the current force structure and associated personnel management from recruiting to promotions will be substantial. Based on this, the legacy force will resist change by all bureaucratic means possible.

    Third point is economic, which in fact could compel U.S. political leadership to force the military to change quicker with a new Act that would be as transforming as the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. I have no idea how much it cost to make an armed autonomous vessel that is "good enough" to effective swarm a U.S. manned vessel and destroy it. I'll assume $2 million, and the cost will be reduced over time as the technology is more widely available. It will cost much less if you simply pack the vessel with explosives and not rely on missiles. A U.S. Frigate costs approximately $340 million, a destroyer $1.5 billion, and an aircraft carrier over $10 billion. It probably wouldn't take more than 20 drones to overcome one ship so $40 million or so to destroy a vessel that is 10 to 6,000 times more expensive. This doesn't even take into account the cost of losing several hundred to several thousand sailors.

    Who will adapt first? A non-state actor or nation that can't match an adversary's conventional military over match, or the state actor with the current overwhelming conventional advantage?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    There has been much discussion since the 1990s on asymmetric warfare and its various meanings and implications. One glaring asymmetry is unmanned and semi-autonomous, or fully autonomous air, maritime, and land military / paramilitary / terrorist vessels/vehicles. Of course, it the asymmetry will be temporary, as everyone who seeks to remain relevant in current and future conflicts will adapt and they'll become the new norm. Despite their economic and technological advances, some advanced countries with deep military cultural biases may actually fall behind their competitors due to their propensity to cling to their comfort zone.

    https://www.defenseone.com/technolog...ssiles/152650/

    China Shows Off Self-Steering Boat that Fires Missiles

    Since ISIS, China, Russia, Israel, and other state and non-state actors are increasingly employing this unmanned vehicles with varying degrees of autonomy, where is the asymmetry? Its in the tactics and economics.

    First, a new technology is not an effective innovation until it is exercised and becomes part of our doctrine, or at least can feasibly be employed by a unit in the field. A few visionaries experimenting with new technologies at DARPA and like labs does not equate to a viable combat capability as of yet. It is an innovation when tactical commanders are willing and know how to employ it in their overall scheme of maneuver.

    Point two, the Navy has a deep cultural bias for manned ships, and the Air Force has a cultural bias for manned aircraft. The disruption to the current force structure and associated personnel management from recruiting to promotions will be substantial. Based on this, the legacy force will resist change by all bureaucratic means possible.

    Third point is economic, which in fact could compel U.S. political leadership to force the military to change quicker with a new Act that would be as transforming as the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. I have no idea how much it cost to make an armed autonomous vessel that is "good enough" to effective swarm a U.S. manned vessel and destroy it. I'll assume $2 million, and the cost will be reduced over time as the technology is more widely available. It will cost much less if you simply pack the vessel with explosives and not rely on missiles. A U.S. Frigate costs approximately $340 million, a destroyer $1.5 billion, and an aircraft carrier over $10 billion. It probably wouldn't take more than 20 drones to overcome one ship so $40 million or so to destroy a vessel that is 10 to 6,000 times more expensive. This doesn't even take into account the cost of losing several hundred to several thousand sailors.

    Who will adapt first? A non-state actor or nation that can't match an adversary's conventional military over match, or the state actor with the current overwhelming conventional advantage?
    Great post.

    When teaching introduction to innovation applied to the military, one maxim I use is “it’s not innovation until it’s implemented”: https://www.cove.org.au/adaptation/a...vation-maxims/

    Ultimately, I believe the answer to your question of who will adapt first will be answered thru further questions:

    1) which org is most accepting of many small failings?
    2) which org is most receptive to new institutional learning?
    3) which org is most willing to deploy “good enough” today and continuously iterate towards excellence tomorrow?
    4) which org is most likely to incorporate the scientific method, velocity of decision making, and perpetual iteration as core behaviours, habits, culture, and doctrine.

    The disposability of decisive military advantage is accelerating towards the life expectancy of Zero Day exploits.

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    Default From an armchair

    I dip into War on The Rocks irregularly and this article may help lift the gloom that I see here.

    It opens with:
    The world’s largest constellation of satellites is not operated by the U.S. government, but rather by Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based startup that uses satellites to gain insights for its commercial customers.....While principally focused on commercial applications, the dual-use nature of this technology is clear. Battles at sea historically favor the first effective attacker. Launching the first effective attack requires either superior scouting...
    Link:https://warontherocks.com/2018/11/pe...ime-awareness/

    Is this an example of how the non-state sector can help with an established system? No doubt the traditional response will be it is not built for warfare, e.g. insufficient, encrypted data down link capacity.

    Could it be innovation comes from the bottom in the military, where the need can be clearer, even if the capacity to innovate may be small?
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I dip into War on The Rocks irregularly and this article may help lift the gloom that I see here.

    It opens with:
    Link:https://warontherocks.com/2018/11/pe...ime-awareness/

    Is this an example of how the non-state sector can help with an established system? No doubt the traditional response will be it is not built for warfare, e.g. insufficient, encrypted data down link capacity.

    Could it be innovation comes from the bottom in the military, where the need can be clearer, even if the capacity to innovate may be small?
    For building an array of micro-satellites, it may likely require an innovation programme such as Hacking 4 Defense developed at Stanford U by:

    Steve Blank(the “godfather” of Lean StartUp)
    Pete Newell(stood up the Rapid Equipping Force)
    Joe Felter(now serving as Assistant Undersecretary of Defense)

    It’s an awesome university based program(I’m biased) that is designed to solve big hairy national security problems.

    I’ve used it as a basis to build short courses focused on teaching uniformed and civilian defence personnel how to innovate and support them in their efforts from the bottom up.

    One of the problems we have identified after conducted this pilot course thru quite a few iterations in two countries now is the vulnerability that comes with organisations where too many people have the right to say no to bottom up innovation.

    So stealing heavily from Steve Blank’s “Get to Yes” Memo: https://steveblank.com/2015/03/17/ge...te-innovation/

    We are proposing the return of the Letter of Marque: https://groundedcuriosity.com/why-be...e-a-privateer/

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    Default Gloom and Reality Checks

    David,

    Sometimes a little gloom drives innovation, nothing like necessity to drive change with a sense of purpose and urgency .

    Innovative centers like Silicon Valley have spread around the world for better and worse. I'll take your point and raise you one. Non-state sectors are frequently the centers for military innovation, but frequently is military-industry teaming that leads to the big innovation wins. I suspect there are bureaucratic hurdles to expanding our ISR collection by leveraging existing private industry satellites, but those hurdles can be overcome during a crisis. Going back to my first point, a futuristic adversary may have a couple hundred $2 million armed/weaponized unmanned maritime vessels (surface and sub surface and hybrid). Assuming our ISR could detect these, now we have to destroy with million dollar missile. That is still an expensive proposition, so the economic asymmetry remains unless we apply a new paradigm. If it is a protracted conflict, then what opponent's industry can out produce the other? I assume it will be possible in the near future to produce small, unmanned vessels using 3D printing, and adding the software as the article I linked to above indicates is a pretty simple and inexpensive. This can play out in multiple ways over time, either in our favor or against us. I guess my point is after thinking about it a little more is we cannot assume technical superiority in future, as an example, even if we know our destroyers are superior to Chinese and Russian destroyers, innovation in other areas can neutralize that advantage. When I see net assessments that compare friendly to potential adversary forces, they are largely symmetric (plane to plane, tank to tank, ship to ship) and the assumption is the side with the mostest and bestest military toys has the decisive advantage. This process neglects comparing fighting strategies and how asymmetric technology and tactics and change the assessment finding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    David,

    Sometimes a little gloom drives innovation, nothing like necessity to drive change with a sense of purpose and urgency .

    Innovative centers like Silicon Valley have spread around the world for better and worse. I'll take your point and raise you one. Non-state sectors are frequently the centers for military innovation, but frequently is military-industry teaming that leads to the big innovation wins. I suspect there are bureaucratic hurdles to expanding our ISR collection by leveraging existing private industry satellites, but those hurdles can be overcome during a crisis. Going back to my first point, a futuristic adversary may have a couple hundred $2 million armed/weaponized unmanned maritime vessels (surface and sub surface and hybrid). Assuming our ISR could detect these, now we have to destroy with million dollar missile. That is still an expensive proposition, so the economic asymmetry remains unless we apply a new paradigm. If it is a protracted conflict, then what opponent's industry can out produce the other? I assume it will be possible in the near future to produce small, unmanned vessels using 3D printing, and adding the software as the article I linked to above indicates is a pretty simple and inexpensive. This can play out in multiple ways over time, either in our favor or against us. I guess my point is after thinking about it a little more is we cannot assume technical superiority in future, as an example, even if we know our destroyers are superior to Chinese and Russian destroyers, innovation in other areas can neutralize that advantage. When I see net assessments that compare friendly to potential adversary forces, they are largely symmetric (plane to plane, tank to tank, ship to ship) and the assumption is the side with the mostest and bestest military toys has the decisive advantage. This process neglects comparing fighting strategies and how asymmetric technology and tactics and change the assessment finding.
    Bill you are correct in that we cannot assume technological superiority.

    Post WWII? Yes. Most R&D was primarily(90% ish) military in nature with some trickle down to commercial/consumer applications.

    1989? Yes. But Military R&D and Commercial R&D spend hit parity.

    2018? No. Commercial R&D makes up approx 90% of total global R&D spend. Everyone has access to COTS(Commercial Off The Shelf). That 10% dedicated military R&D will only get you so far.

    At the nation state level, not much is needed to build and deploy experimental armed drone swarms.

    Some cash

    Small, skilled, motivated team with latitude

    The national/organisational will to experiment with and deploy/employ it.

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    Default Change and Leadership

    This is a link to a 2018 British Army Leadership Conference and a summary of the main speakers - via an ex-soldier and their blogsite. It opens with:
    The conference theme was Successfully Leading through Change. Not every lesson was about leading change. There were some great insights no matter what you are leading. So, here are six lessons worth taking away from the day.
    Link:https://thearmyleader.co.uk/change-leadership/

    From my outside perch I am not convinced the UK, let alone the military recognises the pace of change and how to accept it. Conformity is still valued over non-conformity.
    davidbfpo

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    Default NATO looks to startups, disruptive tech to conquer emerging threats

    First the good news:
    General Andre Lanata, who took over as head of the NATO transformation command in September, told a conference in Berlin that his command demonstrated over 21 “disruptive” projects during military exercises in Norway this month. He urged startups as well as traditional arms manufacturers to work with the Atlantic alliance to boost innovation, as rapid and easy access to emerging technologies was helping adversaries narrow NATO’s longstanding advantage.
    Then the traditionalists get in:
    Participants also met behind closed doors with chief executives from 12 of the 15 biggest arms makers in Europe.
    Link:https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-br...-idUKKCN1NJ0PY
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    First the good news:

    Then the traditionalists get in:
    Link:https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-br...-idUKKCN1NJ0PY
    In my opinion, the West is almost solely focused on technological innovation and missing the larger issue of advanced gray zone strategies that are frankly resilient to any technological solution. In sum, our innovation is focused on winning the next conventional war, while our adversaries are defeating us now with innovative strategies in the gray zone far short of conventional warfare.

    We need to innovation in our holistic understanding of the security environment, how to recognize other than military threats to our national interests, and subsequent innovation in our strategic approaches. Learning to do the wrong thing better is not value added innovation.

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    Default Failure to solve problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    In my opinion, the West is almost solely focused on technological innovation and missing the larger issue of advanced gray zone strategies that are frankly resilient to any technological solution. In sum, our innovation is focused on winning the next conventional war, while our adversaries are defeating us now with innovative strategies in the gray zone far short of conventional warfare.

    We need innovation in our holistic understanding of the security environment, how to recognize other than military threats to our national interests, and subsequent innovation in our strategic approaches. Learning to do the wrong thing better is not value added innovation.
    https://www.usip.org/publications/20...common-defense

    The recently released "Providing for the Common Defense," a bi-partisan review of the National Defense Strategy argues the following:

    The convergence of these trends has created a crisis of national security for the United States—what some leading voices in the U.S. national security community have termed an emergency. Across Eurasia, gray zone aggression is steadily undermining the security of U.S. allies and partners and eroding American influence. Regional military balances in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Pacific have shifted in decidedly adverse ways. These trends are undermining deterrence of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict. The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia. The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously. Additionally, it would be unwise and irresponsible not to expect adversaries to attempt debilitating kinetic, cyber, or other types of attacks against Americans at home while they seek to defeat our military abroad. U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe.
    Emphasis is mine

    Followed by,

    Proposed fixes to existing vulnerabilities—concepts such as “expanding the competitive space,” “accepting risk” in lower-priority theaters, increasing the salience of nuclear weapons, or relying on “Dynamic Force Employment”—are imprecise and unpersuasive. Furthermore, America’s rivals are mounting comprehensive challenges using military means and consequential economic, diplomatic, political, and informational tools. Absent a more integrated, whole-of-government strategy than has been evident to date, the United States is unlikely to reverse its rivals’ momentum across an evolving, complex spectrum of competition.
    Again the emphasis is mine. Many of us have been repeating the same arguments for years. The default answer is not always more and better destroyers, more and better bombers, more armor brigades that we may not be able to project forward unless we can defeat formidable anti-access technologies to begin with, etc. Foremost, innovation needs to be focused on strategic approaches to compete in the gray zone, and new war fighting doctrine. Better toys to reinforce legacy war fighting doctrine, which arguably is currently or close to being obsolete is a losing proposition.

    The most important innovations and the most difficult to execute is adapting our interagency / whole of government command structure and decision making processes so we can move at the speed of relevance. Frankly, some of our agencies, departments, and bureaus are outdated and need to either go away or evolve into something very different than they are today. We do not not have an ideal organization, or collection of organizations, for competing effectively in the gray zone. We do not have a functional interagency process to appropriately leverage and synchronize the authorities of the existing government entities. It is past time for deep change, and we need to stop worrying about temporary hurt feelings and bruised egos that will come with this change.

    During the Cold War, the U.S. military developed detailed concepts for overcoming formidable operational challenges.
    Today, Russia and China are capable of challenging the United States, its allies, and its partners on a far greater scale than any adversary since the Cold War. . . . Detailed, rigorous operational concepts for solving these problems and defending U.S. interests are badly needed, but do not appear to exist.
    It is a tougher problem today, as we have multiple threats that operate globally and in new and multiple domains. Narrowing down our problems to two or three that we can focus on is not realistic and perhaps irresponsible. I tend to think the 2010 Capstone Concept for Joint Operations pretty much got it right when it described the problem (paraphrased) as,
    determining how the future joint force, with constrained resources, will protect U.S. national interests against progressively capable and globally dispersed traditional and non-traditional adversaries in a security environment that is complex, uncertain, rapidly changing, and increasing in competitiveness and transparency. Conflicts may arise with both state and non-state actors that are accumulating more and more power and will have access to advanced weapons.
    It may not be the problem the legacy force wants, but it is the problem we must contend with.

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