Principles of war

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"Every unnecessary expenditure of time, every unnecessary detour, is a waste of power, and therefore contrary to the principles of strategy."Carl von Clausewitz

"This page began life as a proposal for a University class and additions have been made to expand on the military doctrines discussed below; at it heart however it remains a proposal document for a strategy class if readers wish to make comments please do so."

I have decided to try to post some information on one of the classes I an developing for E-Uni just to put it out there and see if it is useful to the membership and what things I need to modify. As with all wiki entries this is a work in progress for me, and I will try to keep up with it as my real life allows.

The principles of war - basic class is crafted to give a brief introduction to the theory and concepts behind pvp combat decision making in New Eden. Later classes will cover advanced topics and application of these principles, but in this introduction I only intend to expose the seeker to the basic theory of modern combat, and get them think about the "big picture" that fleet commanders must consider.

It is important for the student to understand that these principles are rarely used in isolation. They work in complementry ways to augment and support one another. For example, we will consider the principle of MASS in conjunction with the principle of ECONOMY OF FORCE because in real practice, to achieve sufficient mass at one part of the battlefield, we need to apply economy of force in another. This and other cooperative relationships between these principles will become evident to you as you progress through your study of the principles of war.

Contents

The principles of mass and economy of force

All battles irrespective of where or when they are fought are won by the application of mass in one way or another; mass generally means the application of overwhelming military force at the decisive time and place, an alternative for mass is the term concentration of force. The problem facing the fleet commander is not only identifying such a point in the general noise and confusion of battle but how to move his or her forces in such a way as to force the point of decision on the enemy commander. Generally the point of decision is when the enemy commander is forced by the opposing Fleet Commander into taking an action they do not wish to take; for example committing final reserves into the battle, calling a split to retreat from further action or having to fight to a finish with little or no chance of success.

Mass is generally achieved by bringing to bear superior forces at a given point in the battle, this point can be a place, a time or an individual or group of opposing ships. It not necessary for the Fleet Commander to have superior forces over all indeed the use of small flexible forces can be an advantage when fighting larger unwieldy ships or fleets. The objective is not to outnumber the enemy, but rather to bring superior force to bear at the critical point. This requires the commander to do 2 things - first to identify the critical point, and then to strike that point with the greatest mass they can muster. Unless a fleet has unlimited resources achieving mass at one point means using it sparingly elsewhere, via economy of force decisions.

The principles of offensive and suprise

There are very few examples of a battle being won by a defensive strategy, and even in those examples the force must follow up with a strong offensive action or they will have no lasting effect. A tactical victory on defensive terms tends to make a determined enemy learn from their mistakes and try again. A successful defensive battle like Agincourt is rare - mostly because it depends on finding an enemy dull enough to attack a strong position with insufficient force. The underlying thrust of the principle of offensive is that a battle should be fought with the objective of gaining victory, not avoiding defeat. A commander should view defensive actions as either economy of force maneuvers to gain an offensive advantage elsewhere (diversion) or as a stalling action to bring about a more favorable battle. A defensive battle can be used to "fix" an enemy in one place whilst offensive action is taken elsewhere a successful Fleet Commander fights the battle he or she wished to fight not the battle the opposing Fleet Commander wishes to fight. For example fighting a limited action at a WT gate camp may bring more reinforcements for the opposing Fleet Commander which can then be engaged prior to arrival by the Fleet Commander or to move other WT's away from a place where the Fleet Commander intends to fight.

The use of surprise is not only limited to engaging the opposition unexpectedly but also to the deployment of additional forces or to the interdiction of supply, the Fleet Commander who can bring a surprise to the party be that additional ships, ships in unusual fits or the use of ships the opposition do not know you have or do not believe you will deploy can cause shock and confusion on the battle field, here I use the term shock to mean surprise and the attendant panic as the opposition try to scramble a response quickly. An unbalanced opposition can be defeated in detail before they can recover sufficiently to mount a suitable response.

The principles of simplicity and unity of command

We may apply Occam's Razor to warfare: the simplest solution is usually the best. By "simple" I mean no more complex than your command & control system can support. A poorly organized fleet must rely on utter fundamentals, and is by nature a blunt instrument. The point being that simplicity is a relative thing.

A basic violation of simplicity is to ignore unity of command. Quarreling or uncoordinated commanders create fatal confusion. This does not suggest that individual unit commanders nor even individual pilots should not take the initiative as this can have a decisive effect on any battle. For example a unit commander or pilot who by has the chance to engage the opposing fleets logistics and by doing so destroys either the ships or their ability to repair will cause a fundamental change in the battle, such initiative will come from a clear chain of command and a common purpose with everyone aware why they are fighting.

The principles of maneuver and surprise

Maneuver is attempting not only to checkmate an enemy by movement, reducing their options to unpleasent ones and forcing them to flee or give battle on unfavorable terms, but also the use of flexible forces prior to, during or after the engagement which force the opposition to react, carrying out actions or committing forces they would rather not do. Swift and unexpected movement can create the element of surprise, which may be as simple showing up at an unexpected place or as complicated as mastering a command and control cycle shorter than the enemies.

The principle of objective

Not embracing the principle of objective is a major reason fleet battles go badly. The purpose of the battle is not just to go out and have a good fight; it is to achieve victory, and victory is attained by securing objectives. One of the greatest dangers facing a FC is the temptation to get distracted from these objectives. As soon as they do that, they yield the initiative to the enemy. The need for a clear chain of command and common purpose are of the upmost importance if the plan is to go out and have a roam looking for a fight for the fun of it then that is fine as long as everyone is happy to lose their ship and possibly their pod with fleet members dropping and joining as it suits them these kind of fleets can be great fun and a chance to practice a new fit or improve PvP skills. If however the fleet is formed for a serious event then everyone needs to be on the same page and engage the opposition with that common purpose and determination.

The principle of security

It has been wisely said that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy. Prudent commanders take precautions to avoid unpleasent surprises, and those precautions are generally based on a shrewd estimate of what the enemy's likely courses of action are, and which they will use.

Security can be obtained in a number of ways. It is most important to remember that the use of such security measures is not for insurance against defeat, but rather a means of protecting the commander from distraction from their objectives. Without proper security a fleet may spend its energies responding to trivial threats and thus become distracted from their true objective. Some small action or skirmish becomes their immediate objective, thus giving the initiative to the enemy failing to accomplish the stated mission. The effective use of security also prevents the opposition becoming aware of your intentions and moving forces to counter or engage in a different environment from the one intended. For example a plan to engage an opposition POS may go horribly wrong if on arrival there is a strong fleet waiting or lines of communication are cut and units become isolated and then destroyed.


Theory of the center of gravity and the decisive point

Modern military thinking recognizes operational warfare as "the employment of military forces to attain strategic goals", and uses this throughout the design of any campaign. To the Fleet Commander (FC) this means they are responsible for the linkage of tactical actions, or engagements, to the ends desired at the strategic level. In order to be sucessful the FC must be capable of designing and executing campaign plans, and this in turn requires a thorough understanding of two important theoretical propositions.

The Center of Gravity

The first proposition concerns the concept of the center of gravity and its relationship to the overall strategic planning of the war campaign. The center of gravity is typically considered to be the sources of strength or balance that project the force. In New Eden this is manifested in the location of the mass of their force, and the fleet doctrine within that force. Furthermore, it is described as that characteristic, capability, or locality from which the force derives its freedom of action, physical strength, or will to fight.

Clausewitz offers some thoughts on identifying the center of gravity, which paraphrased states the commander must keep in mind the dominant charactersitics of both belligerents, and out of those characteristics a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movements, on which everthing depends. The Center of Gravity can also be seen as a supportive or unsupportive element in its supportive roll it is something which allows friendly forces to achieve there goal. for example this might be the opportunity to engage the enemy on the Fleet Commanders terms, the chance to destroy a small part of a fleet moving independently or the destruction of resupply or logistic trains moving unescorted in the enemy rear. The unhelpful Centre of Gravity is the block which prevents the Fleet Commander from achieving those goals, it goes without saying that the successful Fleet Commander does not engage on such terms and waits for another day.

The Decisive Point

The second concept evolves around the decisive point and its relationship to the center of gravity. The decisive point is the 'gateway' to the enemy's center of gravity. It is a location in both time and space, the possession of which will greatly aid one side in achieving victory over the other. In the case of the "battle of aldrat" in which the Ivy League fended of a large fleet of RvB who were intent on destroying our POS, this point was the Eygfe gate in Aldrat.

As is the case with the center of gravity, the characteristics of the decisive point can be very abstract, but in eve tends to be largly based on locations (entire systems or structures like POSs or station camping) and choke points - in Eve, usually gates between the locations. But it can also be a movable target, such as destroying a reinforcement fleet in detail prior to it giving aid to the enemy. According to Jomini, every point that must be controlled enroute to the objective, that is the center of gravity, is a decisive point.


The use of the fleet in being

Fleet Commanders should not engage on unhelpful terms, only fight the battle you will win or alternatively good commanders win before the battle poor commanders seek victory in the battle (with apologies to Sun Tzu). The use of the fleet in being strategy sees the Fleet Commander decline to engage until the battle to be fought is in his or her favour, in this approach the Fleet Commander places his entire fleet in a station or group of stations which threatens an important area for the opposition. For example a pipe route or near a center of production or supply. Such an action forces the opposition to commit forces to contain the fleet (camping would be a common tactic). whilst other Fleet Commanders take action against the opposition elsewhere to undermine logistic chains, resupply or to engage small groups of the opposition away from the main fleet. The opposing Fleet Commander must either keep his or her forces camping the main fleet or respond to the other attacks, either course of action creates uncertainty and confusion and can allow the balance to change in the upcoming battle and gives the Fleet Commander of the fleet in being the initiative as to when and how they will strike.

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