Strength in Numbers: The Remarkable Potential of (Really) Small Combatants
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT RI
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You are a tactical commander tasked with a mission to seek out and destroy one of the enemy s premier capital ships in his home waters. You have two potential striking forces at your disposal a world-class surface combatant of your own with a 99 percent probability of mission success Ps 0.99 or a squadron of eight independently operating, missile-carrying small combatants, each with a chance of successfully completing the mission no better than a coin flip Ps 0.5. Do you go with the almost sure thing and choose to send in your large combatant As it turns out, the squadron of small combatants has an even higher overall Ps but let us now assume that you have advanced to operational commander. You might have more concerns than just overall Ps. What are the defensive and logistical requirements for each option How much fleet investment are you risking with each option What will it cost to replace the assets if lost What capability does the striking force have after successful enemy action i.e., resilience An analysis of these factors, intentionally designed to disadvantage small combatants, is actually overwhelmingly in their favor. The results verify what naval strategists and tacticians have long known that for certain offensive missions, an independently operating group of even marginally capable platforms can outperform a single large combatant at lower cost and less risk to the mission.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics