Physics-based Aspects of Combat

Continuing my comments on the article in the December 2018 issue of the Phalanx by Alt, Morey and Larimer (this is part 4 of 7; see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

The next sentence in the article is interesting. After saying that validating models incorporating human behavior is difficult (and therefore should not be done?) they then say:

In combat simulations, those model components that lend themselves to empirical validation, such as the physics-based aspects of combat, are developed, validated, and verified using data from an accredited source.

This is good. But, the problem lies that it limits one to only validating models that do not include humans. If one is comparing a weapon system to a weapon system, as they discuss later, this is fine. On the other hand, if one is comparing units in combat to units in combat…then there are invariably humans involved. Even if you are comparing weapon systems versus weapon systems in an operational environment, there are humans involved. Therefore, you have to address human factors. Once you have gone beyond simple weapon versus weapon comparisons, you need to use models that are gaming situations that involved humans. I gather from the previous sentence (see part 3 of 7) and this sentence, that means that they are using un-validated models. Their extended discussions of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) that follows just reinforces that impression.

But, TRADOC is the training and doctrine command. They are clearly modeling something other than just the “physics-based aspect of combat.”

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. A duel in the snow seems apropos to me given that I have been trapped by the Pacific Northwest snowstorms since last Friday. At least it gives me a chance to finally review this blog.

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