Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Killed and Wounded

Sometimes in the discussion of casualties, people confuse the word “casualties” with killed. Casualties are all those people who are killed, wounded, missing or captured. It also sometimes includes Disease and Non-Battle Injuries (DNBI), or those injured or killed in accidents. For example, in the Mayaguez operation in 1975 there were 18 Marines killed in action, 3 Marines missing in action (and captured?) and 23 people killed in a helicopter accident before the invasion of Tang Island.

If you are doing a casualty estimate, it can either be based upon total killed (in combat or from all causes) and may include wounded. Depending on the combat situation and wounding agent, the number wounded is often between 3 to 10 per person killed (see War by Numbers, Chapter 15: Casualties). In the case of air to ground strikes, we would expect the wounded-to-killed ratio to be on the higher side. If there is good medical care, this also affects the wounded-to-killed ratio.

So, with President Trump mentioning an estimate of 150 killed, are we then looking at 600 to 1650 casualties (killed and wounded)? Were they really looking at over 1,000 casualties from the air strikes in three locales? That is hardly a “surgical air strike” to borrow a phrase from the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is possible that someone garbled the phrase killed and casualties. This has happened multiple times before.

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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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One comment

  1. Someone might have been thinking of the complete obliteration of 5 radar sites along the lines of

    Sentinel Radar Sections Personnel
    3 Section sergeant SSG 14J30
    3 Team chief SGT 14J20
    12 EWS operator SPC 14J10
    12 EWS operator PFC 14J10

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