Military Embedded Systems

Warfare Evolution Blog: Defeating 3rd generation warfare


January 02, 2015

Ray Alderman

VITA Standards Organization

WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG: We looked at the how the Blitzkrieg (3GW) defeated the Maginot Line (2GW) in Part 2 of this series. As U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton once said, "a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future." That axiom was proved true when 2GW was overwhelmed in World War II (WWII). Now, let's look at how 3GW can be defeated while continuing to support Patton's statement.

This installment covers 3GW and takes a look at the evolution of the fourth generation of warfare.

In 1991, the first war against Iraq (a 3GW enemy), Hussein had 60 SCUD missiles, 300 combat aircraft, 35 air defense missile systems, and numerous shoulder-fired AAD (anti-aircraft defense) missiles. They were all destroyed in the first days of the war by precision U.S. weapons. About 75 percent of the air defense missile batteries were destroyed on the first day. 3,847 Iraqi tanks, 1,450 armored vehicles, and 2,917 artillery pieces were destroyed in 42 days by allied forces. 42 Iraqi divisions were defeated and they suffered 100,000 casualties. General Norman Swartzkopf (U.S. Army) took more than over 500,000 rangers and infantry with him, for the invasion. After the precision weapons took-out all the Iraqi defenses and infrastructure, and scattered their army, Schwartzkopf's troops had very little to do.

In March 2003, the world watched as the U.S. military invaded Iraq again (still a 3GW enemy), looking for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). U.S. forces, under General Tommy Franks (U.S. Army), destroyed the world's sixth largest army in 38 days. Iraq had the world's fourth largest air force, and it was destroyed in four hours. The Iraqi navy did have some old submarines, but they never engaged the U.S. Navy vessels in the gulf. If they had opened the outer doors on their torpedo tubes in a war zone, signaling they were preparing to fire, that would have been an act of aggression. They would have been instantly vaporized by smart torpedoes, from our nuclear subs listening for those outer doors to open.

To read Warfare Evolution Blog Part 1 click here and here for Part 2.

After watching these wars play-out, Russian General Vladimir Slipshenko says that any country who wages a 3GW war with the U.S. military is crazy. The U.S. will wage a non-contact 5GW war and overwhelmingly win. He says that during the Yugoslav war in May 1999, the U.S. mistakenly hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade due to inaccurate coordinates programmed into the JDAM bombs. In February 2000, the space shuttle Endeavor landed in Florida and out stepped six unknown astronauts, all Pentagon cartographers. They had been in space, photographing earth from 56 degrees south to 60 degrees north, creating the most accurate 3D image of the planet ever recorded, down to a few centimeters in resolution. That, he says, was needed for the next generation of smart bombs and cruise missiles in the U.S. arsenal. He should know. His intelligence people were tracking the Endeavor every inch of its voyage.

There's an alarming statistic in 2GW (massed firepower) and 3GW (maneuver warfare) that bothers all military commanders: the number of rounds fired (small arms ammunition) per enemy casualty. A diligent web search suggests the following statistics, back to the 1800's:

-US Civil War: 200 rounds fired per enemy casualty
-WWI: 5,000 rounds
-WWII: 25,000 rounds
-Korea: 100,000 rounds
-Viet Nam: 200,000 rounds
-Middle East wars: 250,000+ rounds

The low numbers for the civil war reflect the slow reloading process with muzzle-loading black powder muskets. The big increase in WWI is typical of massed manpower (1GW) combined with massed firepower (2GW): a large number of soldiers firing a large number of modern weapons. The increase in the WWII numbers show the effects of "suppressive fire", used to keep enemy troops' heads down while U.S. soldiers moved into flanking positions -- a 3GW maneuver support technique. The big increase in the Vietnam war (a 4GW war) is attributable to the use of the "spray and pray" technique, when U.S. soldiers could not directly see their enemy targets in the jungle foliage. The increase in the Middle East wars show how U.S. soldiers used suppressive fire to maneuver in urban settings, firing into windows and doors, to keep insurgents under cover while the U.S. soldiers moved into flanking positions. Also, the Middle East wars are protracted wars, lasting many years, so more rounds are fired over the longer duration. And, understand that the number of rounds fired per enemy casualty has been significantly increased by Slipchenko's original 4GW definition -- mechanized and automatic weapons, machine guns. More disconcerting, however, is the fact that the number of soldiers on the battlefields in Vietnam and the ME wars were orders of magnitude lower than in WWI and WWII. Therefore, significantly fewer soldiers were firing significantly more rounds. After looking at these number, any accountant will tell you that the U.S. must move to precision weapons (5GW). So, we can see that 3GW became obsolete in 2003.

You have probably noticed that the lists of warfare generations by Sipchenko and Colonel Thomas X. Hammes (U.S. Marine Corps) that both seem to ignore the 3GW navies, as does our harmonized list. Certainly the great naval battles, especially those during WWII in the pacific featuring carriers, destroyers, and battleships are significant. Maybe the naval influence is missing because Slipchenko and Hammes were infantry guys? As we have seen in ground war transitions, no nation can successfully conduct a 3GW naval war on the oceans like we saw in WWII. Actually, ships, carriers, and submarines have become mobile launch platforms for precision weapons, and their missions have been integrated into our 5GW class of non-contact warfare. That's why they don't show up in specific warfare generations.

As you can see, 3GW requires more rounds to be fired per enemy casualty. War has become very inefficient at this stage. However, many nation-state-based 3GW enemies maintain their traditional techniques and weapons because they do not have the technology and financing to move up the hierarchy. 3GW is all they have. The entire world saw what happened in Iraq (1991 and in 2003), and how warfare changed forever. This lesson was not lost on our new enemies, the terrorists who developed 4GW -- insurgency, protracted warfare, terrorism. The terrorists now understood that they must make the fight fit their weapons. The U.S., on the other hand, made advanced weapons that fit the fight.

In 1984, we saw the face of 4GW in modern times. The Irish Republican Army attempted to plant bombs in a hotel in Brighton, to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her scheduled visit. When the plan was foiled, the IRA sent out a press release saying to PM Thatcher: "You have to be lucky all the time. We only have to be lucky once." That statement now leads us into the history and evolution of 4GW in our next installment.


Featured Companies

VITA Standards Organization

9100 Paseo del Vita
Oklahoma City, OK 73131