Defense at Low Force Levels: The Effect of Force to Space Ratios on Conventional Combat Dynamics
INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA
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This paper develops, tests and applies a systematic theory relating force to space ratios and conventional combat outcomes, and describes a simple PC-level computer model developed to automate the calculations associated with that theory. The paper is intended in part to illuminate policy issues relating to conventional force reductions in Europe, and the development of post Cold War strategy and force structure for the NATO Alliance. More broadly, however, it is also intended to contribute to an improved understanding of the dynamics of conventional warfare at low force levels generally-and to the development of an improved body of theory for explaining the outcomes of armed conflict at the theater level. The paper concludes that the widespread perception that there exists a minimum force to space ratio for successful defense is largely incorrect. While the force to space ratio does affect combat outcomes, and while lower force to space ratios do tend to favor attackers over defenders, this effect need not be decisive, and the relationship between force density and defense effectiveness is not independent of the size of the attacking force or the doctrine and weapons used by the two sides.
- Military Forces and Organizations
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics