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Old 03-24-2010   #121
Steve the Planner
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Default Enjoying thread

I enjoyed the article, but not nearly as much as the SWJ debate.

Leave it to Ken to point out that swarming has been around since before written history.

Funny to me is that the "big picture" discussion in the article misses the big point. Sure, swarming can be an effective attacking strategy, but, IMO, so much of the mission (right or wrong) has moved far beyond attacking (clearing), and into that magical "Hold" and "Build" place against which swarming can be effectively employed.

If only the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was "defeat the bad guys and go home." But how do you unscramble the actual mission from the easy win?

How do you effectively apply swarming to hold and build? Decentralized cells? Free standing mini-districts?

One of my pet notions about Afghanistan is that we did a quick easy swarm in 2001, and keep trying (unsuccessfully) to apply that "winning" temporary strategy (over and over again), despite that it's limitations are so profound that it condemns us to winning the battles but lo9sing the war (Cordesman's critique).

Converting "win" to sustainable success requires something that we are just trying to think through without either the words or tools. An underlying administrative capability, able to apply to and reasonably hold and positively alter vast areas is remarkably different than the quick hits that, when added up, create nothing.

Isn't that the essence of the "Fixing Intel" debate? The White House was asking about deep background admin/operation/social structure issues which nobody on the US side had ever seriously contemplated, let alone collected to contemplate.

To PBOM's Query (If a swarm takes a long time, do you call it a surge?): I think you call it hold and build, or occupation, or the next obvious and necessary element of success.

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Old 03-24-2010   #122
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I already posted before that I'm troubled by the very (very) broad use of the term swarming. Some tentative tries in the RAND study.

SOME DEFINITIONS

Quote:
A definition of swarming is necessary before the proper historical
examples can be selected. For the purposes of this monograph, a
swarming case is any historical example in which the scheme of
maneuver involves the convergent attack of five (or more) semi-
autonomous (or autonomous) units on a targeted force in some par-
ticular place.3 “Convergent” implies an attack from most of the
points on the compass.
Quote:
Admittedly, the phrase “convergent attack” could be stretched to
include every case in history in which an army or unit ended up sur-
rounded by the enemy and attacked from all sides during the course
of a battle. Encircling and surrounding an enemy has always been a
desirable goal: It cuts off the enemy’s supply lines and destroys his
morale by cutting off any possible retreat. The distinction is that
swarming implies a convergent attack by many units as the primary
maneuver from the start of the battle or campaign,
not the conver-
gent attacks that result as a matter of course when some unit
becomes isolated and encircled because of some other maneuver.
So there it is. I will comment later on it, as I will try to toss CvC and some other observation into it.


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Old 03-24-2010   #123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firn View Post
For the purposes of this monograph, a
swarming case is any historical example in which the scheme of
maneuver involves the convergent attack of five (or more) semi-
autonomous (or autonomous) units on a targeted force in some par-
ticular place.3 “Convergent” implies an attack from most of the
points on the compass.
I think we can all agree that this does not describe swarming, in any way that is useful. Five is a swarm?
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Old 03-24-2010   #124
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Default Consider the sources' (AKA authors') background

It may give one pause (not meant as an ad hominem).

NPS Vita information on Arquilla is here and very limited data for Ronfeldt at Rand is here.
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Old 03-24-2010   #125
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wm View Post
It may give one pause (not meant as an ad hominem).

NPS Vita information on Arquilla is here and very limited data for Ronfeldt at Rand is here.
Wow...
John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, Swarming and the Future of Conflict, RAND Corporation, 2000. Good catch that man.

Actually I care very little about folks background. I care a great deal about arguments and rigour.
Some of the stupidest military ideas ever, came from very experience and very decorated soldiers!
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Old 03-24-2010   #126
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I think we can all agree that this does not describe swarming, in any way that is useful. Five is a swarm?

Hard to say. I would not put down a hard and fast rule concerning numbers, especially since also larger formations act through smaller ones which can be also maneuver and fight semi- and independently. If you look at the level of platoons or sections you can easily come up with a lot of swarming units. So if we understand swarming as a form of convergent attack of a large number of independent units then even "standard" western military forces should be able to do it.

Jan Breytenbach has a number of interesting reviews of many actions and operations of the border war. He gives some good insight why units like the 32. Batallion were so successful in the smaller, guerilla and larger, more conventional phases of the war. Almost all of the decisive qualities span over the whole spectrum of the war. The strategy and the METTC force specific adjustments. He stresses the importance of the delegation of leadership (letting the right people leading the fight, no micromanagement from above), the even greater value of personal initiative as well as the careful and responsive coordination and support of the forces at the higher level which enabled the 32. to outguerilla the guerilla.

A lot of small units fought SWAPO in southern Angola alone or coordinated and forced the enemy with their seemingly non-cohesive btn. to show their lack of cohesion and to retreat hundreds of km northwards. In this instance the highly centralized command structure of SWAPO proved to be unable to cope with so many dispersed and far-flung operations.

Western forces have shown that they are able or even especially well suited for such operations if the circumstances make it necessary. The true question is if politics and the higher ranks muster the will to allow and support it.


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Old 03-25-2010   #127
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firn View Post
Hard to say. I would not put down a hard and fast rule concerning numbers, especially since also larger formations act through smaller ones which can be also maneuver and fight semi- and independently.
Agreed. Five is not a useful number.

Quote:
If you look at the level of platoons or sections you can easily come up with a lot of swarming units. So if we understand swarming as a form of convergent attack of a large number of independent units then even "standard" western military forces should be able to do it.
The real issue for sections and fire teams in a convergent attack is the de-conflicting manoeuvre, stand-off and indirect fires.

We have to get over this silly view about "western forces" and tactics. There are no special tactics done by some other folks! It's a myth! Western armies are generally the most tactically skilled. There is no great secret to tactics or new tactics or any tactical insight, not already well examined.

Folks who talk about swarming simply do not understand the basics, when it comes to turning cool sounding theories into actual hard practice.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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Old 03-25-2010   #128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Swarming is merely what multiple attacks looks like to an observer who has a very limited view point. Nothing new here.
So, does it boil down to this?:

"Find the bastards. Then pile on." - George S. Patton III - Commander, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
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Old 03-31-2010   #129
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Default Jan Breytenbach interview

From Firn's post (No.126)
Quote:
Jan Breytenbach has a number of interesting reviews of many actions and operations of the border war. He gives some good insight why units like the 32. Batallion were so successful in the smaller, guerilla and larger, more conventional phases of the war.
Firn found a lengthy interview in German alas in the Austrian Defence Forces publication: http://www.bmlv.gv.at/pdf_pool/omz/oemz2009_01.pdf

Whilst the main website has the option for an English version finding the publication in English eluded me: http://www.bmlv.gv.at

Jan Breytenbach's book on 32 Batt. has appeared before on SWC in late 2009:

'They Live By The Sword: 32 'Buffalo' Battalion - South Africa's Foreign Legion' by Col. Jan Breytenbach (Pub. Lemur 1990). A unit formed in 1975 from black Angolans, with South African (white) officers and NCOs. Formidable reputation as mainly COIN fighters and suggested as a non-US / non-Western example. Note Eben Barlow (Executive Outcomes) was an officer in them.

Few copies about if Amazon is correct: http://www.amazon.com/They-live-swor...9129763&sr=1-1 . Republished in 2003 as The Buffalo Soldiers: The Story of South Africa's 32 Battalion 1975-1993.

The unit's website; http://www.32battalion.net/index.htm
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Old 04-03-2010   #130
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Default New Rules of War with Hanson & Arquilla

Uncommon Knowledge

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


Foreign Policy: The New Rules of War
The visionary who first saw the age of "netwar" coming warns that the U.S. military is getting it wrong all over again. Here's his plan to make conflict cheaper, smaller, and smarter.
JOHN ARQUILLA
MARCH/APRIL 2010

Quote:
Every day, the U.S. military spends $1.75 billion, much of it on big ships, big guns, and big battalions that are not only not needed to win the wars of the present, but are sure to be the wrong approach to waging the wars of the future..........(Snip)
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Old 04-05-2010   #131
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Originally Posted by Valin View Post
Well I tried. I watched Part 1 and it was like listening to 8-year-olds talk about
the social sciences. I actually have quite a lot of time for Hanson, so I really do not get where this all goes. Based on what Arquilla said, Napoleon's Armies and Nelson's Navy were "networked."

Twaddle!
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 04-07-2010   #132
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Default Swarming? Fuhgedaboutit...

... at least if you’re a well trained Aussie. Apart from the colloquial use of the term swarm (as opposed to the conceptual status it has acquired in the hands of some) the following comments may be of interest from “Taking Tactics From The Taliban: Tactical Principles For Commanders” from the Australian Army Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, Autumn, 2009 ...

Quote:
The ‘swarm’ is the Taliban offensive tactic [my emphasis], usually employed against dismounted elements in the ‘green zone’ that remain static for too long (two to three hours) and defensive positions such as overwatch and patrol bases. Some warning of a swarm is often—but not always—provided by the exodus of local Afghans from the area some ten to twenty minutes prior to the attack and an increase in intelligence warning of an offensive. During a swarm, Taliban fighters will manoeuvre on two to four flanks using fire teams of three to six men armed with medium machine-guns and RPGs who attack simultaneously. This was a tactic with which CT Spear became very familiar and tactically equipped to confront. I developed my seventh tactical principle as a response to the Taliban fire pocket and swarm: dismounted patrols must always operate within mortar range.

CT Spear countered the Taliban’s major tactics with carefully planned tactics of its own. The team defeated the fire pocket by fighting into one side while suppressing the other firing points and then rolling them up from the flank. The Taliban fighters would occasionally withdraw to alternate firing points as the team advanced and the commander would then decide how far he wanted to pursue them given his existing boundaries and task.

The team used the same tactic to counter the swarm, although a platoon was unlikely to be able to handle a larger force on its own and such a confrontation would usually turn into a fully-fledged combat team engagement. The element in contact would go into, or remain in, all round defence and allow its JTAC or JFO to call in indirect fire and close air support to buy time for the combat team commander to manoeuvre his cavalry and infantry to support. My eighth and ninth principles supported this and carried the necessary corollaries: any force must contain at least three elements that can support one another while patrolling deep in the ‘greenzone’.

Dismounted sections must operate within 500 metres of one another and platoons within 1000 metres of one another, particularly if they are operating away from the protection of overwatch. Use of this tactic facilitated rapid offensive manoeuvre in support of an element in contact. In essence, we aimed to ‘swarm the swarm’ [my emphasis], in keeping with my tenth principle: fight the most likely course of action, but be postured for the most dangerous.(culled from pp.31-38)
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