MIL: Warfare Basics

Billy Brown (
Tue, 23 Mar 1999 11:23:00 -0600 wrote:
> That's weird: I've seen LAW rockets for sale for $250, which won't buy
> you a particularly good modern rifle. Admittedly they won't do much
> a $20million main battle tank, but they'll be perfectly good against an
> costing a thousand times as much as the missile.

A LAW rocket isn't an anti-tank missile. Its a completely unguided, short ranged rocket designed primarily for blowing holes in walls. It is also effective against unarmored vehicles and obsolete APCs, if you can get close enough to hit them. It is cheap, simple, and completely ineffective against any modern armored vehicle.

> And this is the point: it doesn't matter if an anti-tank missile costs
> $10,000 in bulk, if it has a 50% chance of knocking out a $20million
> No nation can afford to lose a billion dollars of tanks to a million
> dollars of missiles; or an entire army to a single million-dollar nuke..

By the same logic, a single bullet can take out a soldier that costs $100,000 to train. Does that mean soldiers are obsolete?

Of course not. You will never see a battlefield where the tanks all line up to let your militia take pot shots at them. Instead you'll see all kinds of complex maneuvers where each weapon system covers for the weaknesses of the others. The infantry work their way towards your position on foot, sweeping the underbrush for enemy troops as they go. The APCs and tanks hang back and provide fire support - their heavy weapons can take out buildings, weapon pits and armored vehicles that would be a threat to the infantry. The artillery bombards your suspected position to keep you pinned down, and the air force scouts the whole area to see what your buddies are up to. If you try to assemble in large numbers the air force and artillery bombard you until you scatter. If you don't assemble you get picked off one by one by enemy infantry.

BTW, tanks don't cost $20 million (try $1 million or less), and you can't take out an entire army with a nuke (maybe a battalion or two, but no more unless you're bombing their bases in peacetime).

> And you know what? That's not possible for much longer, BECAUSE THE
> only works when that little group can only kill the invading force,
> once the little group has nuclear, biological or chemical weapons they
> can kill the leaders and millions of civilians of the nation
> which chooses
> to attack them. At that point it is no longer a feasible strategy..
> Your military has a hundred thousand well-trained soldiers, a thousand
> tanks, hundreds of planes and helicopters. My military has me... and a
> half-dozen nukes. You die, I win. Game over.
> Don't you get it yet? Mass destruction weapons change *everything*. When
> one person can kill millions, traditional warfare is no longer possible;
> you cannot coerce nuclear-armed individuals.

This may seem new to you, but every serious military organization on the planet has been thinking about it for 60 years now. Nukes don't mean the end of warfare, they just demand some changes in tactics.

First off, despite certain popular Hollywood themes, you can't build a nuclear device in your basement out of used refrigerator parts. Nuclear bombs are complex devices, requiring exotic materials and large capital investments. If you could buy them on the open market today, prices would range from a few hundred thousand dollars up into the low millions. Not many people are going to buy one at those prices, and no individual or small group is going to be building their own.

Second, bombs aren't much use without a delivery vehicle. The obvious methods are missiles and aircraft, but those obviously won't work in this case. Your 'small group' probably can't afford them, and besides they aren't likely to penetrate an aggressor's air defenses. That leaves mines, truck bombs, and similar terrorist-type strategies.

Most of these methods are impractical, for the simple reason that very few p eople are willing to get blown up delivering the bomb. Also, they won't work on a battlefield - modern sensors are making it practical for a small team of infantrymen to sweep amazingly large areas for mines, and nuclear bombs would be even easier to spot. So, that leaves nuclear terrorism as the only practical option.

Your problem here is that *NO ONE* wants nuclear terrorism to be possible. That includes the company that sells you your weapons. If you start blowing up pieces of an enemy city, you've just lost the public relations war. Any intelligent aggressor will quickly convince the world that you are a bunch of dangerous maniacs, and they are saving the world from you. Your suppliers will stop selling to you (or the aggressor will take them out with public support), and that will be that.

> [In another message]
> >With the invention of gunpowder, this began to change. Now a group of
> >well-trained soldiers could easily defeat a much larger mob of civilians.
> This is silly. Gunpowder brought the end of feudalism because now a single
> individual with a gun could kill the best mounted knight, and a small army
> with a cannon could bring down the best defensive walls. Just as
> ownership of nukes and other mass destruction weapons will bring down
> modern authoritarian government..

Gunpowder meant the end of the age of feudalism because it meant that a king could buy cannons capable of breaching any castle wall. The cannons were so expensive that only kings could afford them, so the nobility was unable to return the favor. This created a one-sided situation that favored larger power blocks over small ones.

Your quote about knights isn't true. Guns were not capable of reliably penetrating plate armor until well into the Renaissance. What ended the era of the mounted knight was the appearance of well-trained infantry units armed with a complex mix of pikes, assorted pole arms, crossbows and primitive firearms. Charging across an open field, while under fire, into a wall of pikes, proved not to be a viable tactic.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I