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Paul Scharre @paul_scharre
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This is a thread about #swarms 👇 (1/a lot)
#Swarms are an important and under-explored area of military competition. This thread is inspired by @SamDavaham's recent very detailed @WarOnTheRocks article arguing why swarms are not effective.… 2/
Needless to say, I have a different perspective (as I've written before). But I appreciate @SamDavaham's critical analysis. Militaries are only going to better understand the value of #swarms by discussion and debate.… 3/
The crux of @SamDavaham's argument seems to be: "Truly large swarms will have to be made of simple machines, with either limited speed, limited range, limited protection (both physical and electronic), limited or cheap payload — and probably all of the above." 4/
I think this is 100% correct! The genius of robotic vehicles is that they don't have to be survivable. They can be built cheaply and expendable, overwhelming the adversary with mass. 5/
Focusing on aerial swarms, @SamDavaham argues that there already is a cost-effective counter to this, and it's anti-aircraft guns that fire cheap bullets and put up a wall of lead. He cites many historical examples of aircraft formations being eviscerated by AA guns. 6/
Some of these area valid examples, like the AH-64 Apache regiment severely damaged by ground fire in a 2003 firefight. Even though only one Apache was downed it was a very costly battle for the U.S. (and cost-effective for defenders) 7/
But other examples show precisely the value of numbers. Allied bombers devastated German cities *despite* their incredibly high loss rates. 8/
Numbers matter. For an adversary willing to treat individual units as expendable, swarming is a very appealing tactic. 9/
Overwhelming the enemy through sheer mass has been an effective military tactic throughout the ages. In fact, that's precisely how the Allies won World War II, by overwhelming the Axis through an onslaught of iron. 10/
By 1944, the Allies were producing 51,000 tanks per year to Germany's 17,800 and 167,000 planes to the Axis' 68,000. Numbers matter. A lot. 11/
As Paul Kennedy wrote, "No matter how cleverly the Wehrmacht mounted its tactical counterattacks ... it was to be ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer mass of Allied firepower." 12/
During the Cold War, the United States adopted an "offset strategy" to counter Soviet numerical superiority with qualitatively superior technology -- first nuclear weapons then information-age precision-guided weapons. 13/
The logical conclusion of that strategy is the current death spiral of the U.S. military -- rising platform costs and shrinking quantities leading to qualitatively superior weapons but in insufficient quantities to deliver operational results. 14/
We don't need to wait until 2054, when Norm Augustine predicted the defense budget will fund one aircraft shared between the services. We're paying the price for Augustine's Law today in the shrinking force. 15/
And it's not about the budget. More money won't save the U.S. from this trap. From 2001-2008 the base (non-war) budgets of the Navy and Air Force grew by 22% and 27% respectively in real dollars. # of assets declined by 10% for ships and nearly 20% for aircraft. 16/
The United States needs to change the way it produces combat power, focusing on the most cost-effective way to accomplish its operational goals rather than building next-gen "X" programs at any price. 17/
#Swarms are a part of the mix. They're not the only kind of capability the U.S. military should have and some assets won't be cheap. Major capital assets like a DDG, SSN, CVN, or B-21 won't be cheap. But they should be delivering cheap swarms to the fight. 18/
Rather than focus only on the capability of a platform, we need to shift the metric to capability per dollar. If the same money can buy a swarm of cheap assets that *collectively* are more capable, then that's what we should buy. 19/
Robotic swarms present a tremendous opportunity for the United States because they decouple combat power from human capital. One person can control many assets. This is a vital tool for offsetting the personnel crunch the U.S. is facing from rising personnel costs. 20/
But that isn't even the real magic of #swarming. A #swarm is more than just a deluge. Swarming is about cooperative autonomy. 21/
A bunch of cheap drones is not a swarm. To be considered a "swarm," the individual assets need to be cooperative to be more than the sum of their parts. That is the magic of swarming. And then the swarm becomes truly unstoppable. 22/
Cooperative behavior is the difference between a bunch of wolves and a *pack.* It's the difference between a championship basketball team and 5 ball hogs. 23/
True swarming -- cooperative autonomous behavior at the battlefield's edge -- confronts the enemy with an ever-shifting amorphous mass that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, constantly adapting to their every move. 24/
.@SamDavaham defines a swarm as "a form of attack that is based on a convergence of multiple autonomous units (formations or individuals) from various directions on a single target or location." But this really sells the concept of a swarm short. 25/
Simultaneous multi-axis attack is fine, but can be done today with existing non-cooperative munitions. Swarming can deliver cooperative and adaptive intelligent forces. 26/
Swarming is ultimately a command-and-control construct. It is the ability for disaggregated, dispersed forces to autonomously cooperate to achieve a larger goal. 27/
And swarms are useful for much more than attack. They can be used for defenses, building resilient networks, adaptive logistics, self-healing minefields, etc. etc. 28/
For more on #swarms, check out this longform @CNASdc report, "The Coming Swarm" @CNAStech… 29/
And this multi-part series on swarms in @WarOnTheRocks:… 30/
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