Historical Demonstrations?

Photo from the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers

Continuing my comments on the article in the December 2018 issue of the Phalanx by Alt, Morey and Larimer (this is part 5 of 7; see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

The authors of the Phalanx article then make the snarky statement that:

Combat simulations have been successfully used to replicate historical battles as a demonstration, but this is not a requirement or their primary intended use.

So, they say in three sentences that combat models using human factors are difficult to validate, they then say that physics-based models are validated, and then they say that running a battle through a model is a demonstration. Really?

Does such a demonstration show that the model works or does not work? Does such a demonstration show that they can get a reasonable outcome when using real-world data? The definition of validation that they gave on the first page of their article is:

The process of determining the degree to which a model or simulation with its associated data is an accurate representation of the real world from the perspective of its intended use is referred to as validation.

This is a perfectly good definition of validation. So where does one get that real-world data? If you are using the model to measure combat effects (as opposed to physical affects) then you probably need to validate it to real-world combat data. This means historical combat data, whether it is from 3,400 years ago or 1 second ago. You need to assemble the data from a (preferably recent) combat situation and run it through the model.

This has been done. The Dupuy Institute does not exist in a vacuum. We have assembled four sets of combat data bases for use in validation. They are:

  1. The Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base
  2.  The Kursk Data Base
  3. The Battle of Britain Data Base
  4. Our various division-level, battalion-level and company-level engagement database bases.

Now, the reason we have mostly used World War II data is that you can get detailed data from the unit records of both sides. To date….this is not possible for almost any war since 1945. But, if your high-tech model cannot predict lower-tech combat….then you probably also have a problem modeling high-tech combat. So, it is certainly a good starting point.

More to the point, this was work that was funded in part by the Center for Army Analysis, the Deputy Secretary of the Army (Operations Research) and Office of Secretary of Defense, Planning, Analysis and Evaluation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent developing some of these databases. This was not done just for “demonstration.” This was not done as a hobby. If their sentence was meant to be-little the work of TDI, which is how I do interpret that sentence, then is also belittles the work of CAA, DUSA(OR) and OSD PA&E. I am not sure that is the three author’s intent.

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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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