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List of military tactics (wikipedia.org)
123 points by jkuria on Aug 23, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments

What would tactics involving deepmind look like? suppose everyone has a camera that beams images back and headphones that give voice commands to the individual soldiers (including logistics). It would probably look like unimaginably organized chaos.

The early chapters of Ninefox Gambit[0] have Captain Cheris recalling some of her experiences in giving orders and taking orders in such a system.

The key is that the soliders are set to a strategem, not a specific x-y-z position, and have to try to keep in that cadence, so to speak. Yoon Ha Lee's writing is incredibly strange and open to interpertation here, so if this sounds strange, it's somewhat meant to be (Calendrical Rot, corpselight, amputation guns, etc.). Reading the early chapters is better than me trying to explain it.

That said, trying to manage battle is fruitless and attempting to impose order into something that intentionally random and chaotic is not going to go well. Col. Boyd's OODA loop[1] is pertienet here. If your enemy knows that they have been looped, then putting random noise into the system can alievate that and get them back into the war.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machineries_of_Empire

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop

There's a battle sequence in Frank Herbert's Dune (probably Chapterhouse, maybe Heretics) where a commander (Miles Teg) directs the battle by giving real time commands to individual soldiers, where the deepmind you mentioned resides in his head.

It's a great little sequence, worth a read if you're into that sort of thing.

The best answer is, we don't really know yet.

To a first approximation, implementing - lets call it machine automation and optimization - into how we do what we call F3EAD (Find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, disseminate) will effectively do what we do now, only faster and more precisely.

Beyond that, it's pretty open as to what kind of novel planning capabilities will emerge from implementing DRL and other combined optimization strategies within kinetic and non-kinetic conflicts.

Note also, that the state space for force on force conflict, even small unit tactics are orders of magnitude more complex than something like GO because they are neither fully-observable nor deterministic (and can't easily be approximated as such).

Deepmind did a demo of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUTMhmVh1qs

I think we need more games that teach us how to avoid conflicts, how to avoid wars. Are there any such games?

I like that idea.

A related idea I had would be to try to create and popularize tools that distribute holistic and objective information about what's actually happening in the world. There are two broad categories: GIS-type information such as military deployment, resource production, transportation, and consumption, and first-hand political reporting.

I'm going to interject here my own theory about war which is that it is almost always about power in general, territorial control, and resource control, but is almost never sold that way. Because it involves mass killing, war must be sold on a moral basis. However, as I said, war is not about morals, its about power and control. So it is necessary to find a moral justification for war. This is usually fabricated to one degree or another and promoted as propaganda.

But anyway back to this tool. I think we need a decentralized platform for reporting and aggregating resource information. Ideally there could also be a nice 3d interface like a globe displaying the information. Of course this would be a monumental effort. And also it would be nice to have a neutral ground for first-hand reporting that would give the perspectives of people in all different areas and groups simultaneously.

Victoria 2 may fit the bill. War is certainly an important aspect but it has major repercussions and is often avoidable. The major way it differs from other games is the way it models populations, for instance if you mobilize for war the soldiers filling the ranks will no longer be working in factories and your production and tax will take a hit, less factory workers means less goods produced, less goods produced might trigger a revolution in your country or elsewhere in the world. There's also the "crisis" system that gives you diplomatic opportunities to avoid wars and peaceful paths to victory.

Edit - sorry, should say Victoria, not Victory.

I assume you mean Viktory II, the boardgame?

Age of Decadence is an RPG that teaches you to avoid combat by often killing you when you choose the combat route ;)

Discovered Civ 6 few days ago, only the few first games are a bit frustrating due to the apparent complexity of it (I didn't end them, each game is spanning over 250 turns which is an eternity), however you get sucked into it rather easily and well, you have belicism malus if you get into unsuspected war, have to be a diplomat with other empires, you can win by earning points, those can be military, scientific, religious, or cultural, you gotta understand other leaders to not get them on your back. I've spent wayyyyy to much time on it already :/

Checkout the YT/Twitch streamer "quill18": he does a lot of Civ and other 4X games (EU IV, HOI IV, Urban Empire, Stellaris).

He makes some unity tutorials as well

Wasn’t that the idea behind Metal Gear Solid? Prioritising stealth over conflict?

I recently started replaying through MGSi and combat is incredibly punishing, it's much easier to learn patrol routes and sneak past.

The usual point bears repeating: amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.

I haven't had a chance to play more than an hour or so, but Foxhole is an interesting 3/4 perspective MMO war game where logistics plays a seemingly massive role. We're talking major player run supply chains including resource harvesting, transportation, refining, manufacturing, and ultimately getting it all to the front line.

From what I've gathered of the community thus far, there's a sort of expectation that you do your time in "logi" and those who do are held in high regard.

The most realistic game available to the public right now is Arma 3. Which is is built on the same system as the military variant VBS3.

We use VBS3 in the Irish Defence Forces (and I know many other militaries are using it also) and its capabilities are just incredible in terms of realism. It lets you build and run so many different scenarios and they have done a great job of getting minor details to work very well. It will never replace full live training but at the same time it lets you practice over and over again to maximise your time in the field (and also do things that costs, equipment etc would not allow for.)

And yet Arma 3 is pathetically unrealistic.

The fact that Picture-In-Picture scopes are so rare even within the game's assets shows a certain contempt for realism. I've never had to load bullets into my magazine one by one in Arma before. I've had to do that plenty of times in Escape from Tarkov. Red Orchestra also has more realistic scopes and gun mechanics.

Ok so to clarify VBS3. The individual soldier stuff is so-so. There isn't much training benefit to a soldier from loading a virtual magazine. There is however when something like VBS3 allows them to practice being a JTAC over their lunch break.

The really advanced bits are the range of equipment, combined operations and realistic scenarios you can create for it. Wanna recreate a local village, throw in realistic civilians and adversaries, match your convoy and run drills with multiple land, sea and air assets? No problem, easily done.

It's a good illustration of the difference between consumer products and simulators.

What reads as authentic to consumers is the moment-to-moment aesthetics like how guns handle or whether there's a percievable "stat" being modeled. The actual scenarios can be implausible or eliminate an inconvenient-but-important element, but if the overall experience repeatedly hits on the belief structure, it gets the "realism" moniker.

As a training tool, what matters is the big picture of how it supports key skills, conveys specific technical information, and enables new kinds of exercises to take place. A lot of consumer boardgames are great at developing strategic thinking even though their material is unrelated to any specific warfighting skill and the technical detail has been streamlined out; the reduction pushes the players to grapple with the consequences of every single move and play as far ahead as possible, often resorting to diplomatic options(deception or coalition-building) to get an advantage. Likewise most simulation tools do not require total simulation at fidelity, they need only the elements relevant to the training, so they can be incomplete as a portrayed experience of the scenario.

> And yet Arma 3 is pathetically unrealistic

I beg to differ!


If you're interested in the logistics and manufacturing side of things then Hearts of Iron 4 does a wonderful job of managing this aspect of war yet still being accessible. The resources you have available and can keep available, starting industrial capacity, the timing of production changes can all have a massive effect. Other areas of the game unfortunately let it down.

That sounds interesting but does it mean hours of doing a mundane grindy task like mining in EVE?

https://youtu.be/wKi3NwLFkX4 - Gen. Schwarzkopf's Famed News Conference

He doesn't get 5 minutes in without getting into logistics.

His famous saying, logistics is not the army’s tail, but its spine.

Targetting the logistics destroyed cambodia, and didn't stop the vietnam war.

Talking to Ho Chi Minh when he asked for US assistance against French Colonialism would (in clear sense) have saved many lives, and much materiel.

amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. Henry Kissinger undermines everything.

Sounds to me that the quip applies perfectly to the Vietnam War. Both sides put massive efforts into either building or disrupting the Ho Chi Minh trail. Everybody recognised the importance of logistics.

The US defeated the Vietcong. By many metrics, Vietcong activity greatly dropped.

It didn’t stop North Vietnam from invading the South with an army.

That sounds like a distinction without a difference.

Maybe as an outsider it does, but not within Vietnam.

The Vietcong won because they were willing to pay a very high price to push the US out than the US wanted to eventually pay to stay in

They won because they violated the Paris Peace Accords when North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Accords

Congress forbid the US from intervening:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case%E2%80%93Church_Amendment

Militarily speaking, the US was holding back the Viet Cong just fine, though not without controversy or casualties.

Please, I recommend reading primary source documents from the CIA on this matter. The below link shows that while the Vietcong controlled parts of the South during 1967, they were significantly weakened, to the point where some NVA military units assigned to operate in the south were farming for their own food.

* https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000518848....

The below link emphasizes the success of the Strategic Hamlet program, and notes continuing reductions in Vietcong strength.

* https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/HISTORY%20OF%20...

I consider the entirety of Western historiography on this matter to be incorrect for the sole purpose of demoralizing the west.

The Vietnam Cong ceased to be an effective fighting force after the Tet Offensive in ‘68. The battle took a terrible toll on them.

The NVA were doing much of the fighting after that.

The Tet Offensive was largely comprised of NVA units.

Regardless, the supply of military aircraft too complex for local maintenance and the refusal to allow any air support after ‘73 by Congress meant the outcome was already decided.

Logistics comes down to a set of psychologies which, unless you really have past (ideally successful) experience with them, can be downright boring. For example, dealing with cargo from dozens of ships being dumped on the shore of a given island (Falklands conflict). Whose is this pile, where is it going, how will it get there, when will it arrive, and oh by the way, it is needed yesterday, so the method must be fastest. Repeated hundreds of times.

It's an important area of focus, but it requires, just like tactics, certain gifts which many neither possess nor appreciate.

Also the US emerged from the 20th century as a logistics superstar, so there is a certain bias. This can negatively impact areas like innovation; logistics is not generally a friend to novelty.

The Falklands War offers an even better example of logistics than ships: Operation Black Buck extreme long-range air raids. 10+ aircraft took off and made a series of aerial refuelings to ensure that the last one of them was able to reach the target. The main aircraft had to be refueled no less than seven times on the outward journey and once on the return journey. The last tanker itself had to be refueled three times.

Tanker plan: https://i.imgur.com/06n3jjb.jpg Backstory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Black_Buck

Took essentially all the Victor tanker fleet, of which some were air to air refuelled to allow Vulcan top ups far enough out. The VC10s were only months away from being ready as tankers.

Two of the books cited in that Wikipedia article are well worth reading as a pair, as apart from both being very enjoyable, they offer opposing takes of the Vulcan raids: Sharkey Ward's Sea Harrier over the Falklands and Rowland White's Vulcan 607.

Black Buck is a great example. The BBC radio drama version is really enjoyable too.


> This can negatively impact areas like innovation; logistics is not generally a friend to novelty.

I don't see why not. Any advance in transportation or communication has an impact. If drones could deliver everything that would be major for example. And obviously gps, computer path/packing optimization, and warehouse automation have been big.

Drones by themselves just reduce cost and exposure of a human pilot. The weather profile and flight envelope are similar to a conventional plane or helicopter. A heavy-lift 'logistics drone' is just a pilotless plane or helicopter.

However, the last km to the infantryman has more impact for innovation, whether by drone or robot mule.

The business model for drones has been innovative. The bases are often not in the combat zone, so companies can offer Surveillance-as-a-Service to the military.

Similarly, Amazon-ian supply-chain management and automated logistics warehouses have also pushed towards the front, and often remain under commercial control. New equipment deliveries are now often contracted to be in-theatre, not to the 'Purple Gate' military distribution system starting in the home country.

Even though it's still famously not cool to logisticians, who tend to have favorite desk calculators (as do I), novelty within logistics, I hope you can see, is quite different from novelty without. Novelty without logistics often appears as pure chaos to the logistician, because their entire order of things can be destroyed with the stroke of a pen.

Also, imagine that your supreme leader is a logistician by psychology, and is presented with a choice: Cast the solution to the current problem as a logistics and force stabilization issue, or cast the solution as novel strategy. Human trait psychology shows us that they will tend to err on the side of logistics and sameness (sameness preserves logistics efficiency and is its friend). This gives their enemy the upper hand to the degree that the enemy can nurture broad and dynamic conflict while tricking the logistically-advanced side into wasting logistics resources and getting comfortable. The enemy ends up forcing short-lived novelty onto the logistical opponent in order to cause paralysis.

What's your favorite desk calculator. Mines the HP 48g

yes! I have two HP48G calculators. And still use them (and an emulator on my phone). I even have my laminated cribsheet of trig identities in the pocket. Two giants who came out of HP's calculator divsion: Woz and Jeff Hawkins.

The internal programming language is a lisp, btw.

And containers. "The Box" is a book which I'm sure has been a regular around here?


> Also the US emerged from the 20th century as a logistics superstar, so there is a certain bias. This can negatively impact areas like innovation; logistics is not generally a friend to novelty.

John Churchill, aka Duke of Marlborough, was a master of logistics in when it was a rare skill. It was a key component in his many victories. [1] I'm sure there are counterexamples but good logistics underlay most of the great allied victories of WW II as well as the near German victory at the start of WW I.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Churchill,_1st_Duke_of_Ma...

The Axis' failure to supply their men adequately cost them at critical points during WWII, especially at Moscow and Stalingrad (loss of 500,000~1MM men)

Also in North Africa, where the tactical expert Rommel repeatedly out-advanced his own supply chain allowing his over extended forces to be beaten back.

And outside of the context of the battles they were dependant on food and clothes they stole from civilians, which ended up killing millions

That's catchy, but obviously professional soldiers, combat pilots, and naval sailors do in fact "talk tactics".

Logistics is a vital component of modern military doctrine but it's still just a component.

True. At small unit level officers talk tactics and NCOs logistics :)

Sustained warfare requires sustainment operations to keep the warfighters in business:

Class 3 - fuel, petroleum, and lubricants

Class 5 - ammunition

Class 8 - medical supplies

Class 9 - repair parts for equipment

Without logistics, the warfighters who employ tactics will not get very far or do very much.

Classes of supply: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classes_of_supply

Class 6, booze

Wouldn't it be: amateurs talk tactics, professional talk logistics, leaders (generals) talk strategy?

Nope, generals play politics and talk funding. Which is logistics.

No, leaders talk almost exclusively about logistics, and it becomes truer the further up the chain you go. Strategy is for the rifle company commander and his officers.

Throwing napalm over the Vietnamese jungle was a strategy error by the US leaders, and there are also a couple of other such strategical errors of theirs from the last half-century or so that I’m sure have had a very big impact on how the US is seen by the outside world. And in the end, as long as you avoid total annihilation war is almost all about politics, and being seen as the bad guy by the other countries you’re trying to do political business with is bad for politics in the long run. So I’d say strategy still remains the most important thing.

My post was partially a poke at subjective meaning, but if pressed to defend my point, I would say politics is logistics, because logistics is about managing resources, and everything is about managing resources. Napalm to me seems a natural consequence of jungle warfare, and is a fine solution to a hard logistical problem: How do you fight a battalion of local riflemen in the jungle with a company of guys that only ever saw a jungle on television? Incinerate the jungle or spray toxic chemicals on it, killing the jungle and whatever it contains. This is for example why gas was a natural consequence of trench warfare (cf. the ancient gas attack in the Persian siege of Roman-held Dura [0]).

However I concede that this and many of the other posts here are essentially a bit of wordplay. That being said, I am very interested in this topic of discussion which you've brought up, because war is a spectre of human nature which is not palatable to anyone. So even if your fight is a good one, it's going to look bad on TV, which is exactly the thing that gets weaponized by your political opponents in furtherance of their own goals.

[0] https://archive.archaeology.org/1001/topten/syria.html

I am not trying to start a back and forth - I had believed that logistics was HOW one goes about implementing a complex, scenario based strategy.

Was that true in WWII, or is it a more modern emphasis?

It's a modern emphasis, considering modern American military science derives heavily from the successes of WW2. I'm particularly interested in this but I don't think this is the crowd, if my other post wasn't very popular.

This is applicable to business. It's fun to come up with tactics or strategy. But feeding the troops (i.e. managing cashflow and making payroll) is the biggest challenge and it's what takes down most startups.

Art of War if I remember correctly from reading it years back is significantly about logistics. Like some of it is simple shit - don't march a billion li and then fight, instead let the enemy march, stretch their supplies and be exhausted, then dust them.

The art of war does mention those things, but usually in the wider context of positioning and timing.

A lot of 4X games take a larger view of running things than just building units. Good recent examples are Civ 6, EU IV, Stellaris.

HOI IV leans more towards combat (being set around WW2), but one still have to manage logistics and directing R&D a lot.

I assume that's because:

- The specific tactics should be kept secret

- logistics has a huge role in a WW2-era thinking that still dominates western military thinking

- logistics likely needs a lot of peacetime attention and investment

To your first point, there's some merit in keeping specific tactics, techniques, equipment, and procedures secret, but even that comes down to a resource management (logistics) issue, where information is the resource.

To your second point, logistics has a huge role in any war. See Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Mahan, Herodotus, Thucydides, etc. If you're intent was to set up a construct where the US military is woefully behind the 8 ball in modern military something-or-other, I would disagree. So, I don't disagree with your thesis that WW2 affects western military thinking, but I disagree with using that as the basis for any argument about the preparedness of western military thinking or modern war planning. Keep in mind we just exited the intermediate ballistic missile treaty with Russia and are developing hypersonics partially to manage the expanding threat of nuclear weapons, where whole-of-civilization war may be won or lost in minutes. We deploy drones at operational and tactical levels. We invest more in medical collaborations (a soft power move) than most countries spend on their own road systems. We fight at every level all the damn time.

To your third point, yes logistics needs a lot of peacetime attention and investment. The inevitable problem is managing the OODA loop between conflicts. As your time between operations increases, the hypothetical space of new possibilities increases and you can't invest in all of them.

Oh, hush, let us amateurs have our fun.

My cat does the hull down maneuver: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hull-down

This thread is clearly going nowhere on HN.

The Game of Thrones battle with the Night King seemed utterly devoid of tactics. For example, it started with a suicide charge. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised because neither the books nor the show hinted at any organized method for teaching tactics. They'd just pick someone to be a leader who just made it up as he went along.

It's not a suicide charge if all those who died come back a few episodes later.

I'm not sure "our writing is worse than our tactics" is much of a defense.

The battle of the bastards had good tactics on Ramsey side. It was pretty terrifying how they surrounded them with shields and spears and kept closing the circle. Probably the most intense scene after the red wedding.

The Roman army was repeatedly able to achieve victory against hordes 10 times their size. Tactics and organization can work really well.

The battle of Thermopylae is an even more extreme example of this.

Roman army was a logistics marvel of its time as well, essentially legions were small towns and later standard but well chosen equipment was used to reduce costs.

They also had pretty good strategy of showing the conquered best and richest of the Empire while gating political participation by culture. This worked for quite some time...

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