Analysis of Force Ratios using the Campaign Data Base (CaDB) – second continuation

This is a continuation of our previous two posts: Analysis for Force Ratios using the Campaign Data Base (CaDB) | Mystics & Statistics ( and Analysis for Force Ratios using the Campaign Data Base (CaDB) – continued | Mystics & Statistics ( It is a part of a briefing on forces ratios I will be giving at HADSS in UK: Schedule for HADSS 2024 | Mystics & Statistics ( and at HAAC near DC: Next Revised Schedule for the Third Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC), 8 – 10 October 2024 | Mystics & Statistics (

Section IV of the briefing is titled “What is necessary to have a good chance of generating a breakthrough?”

We coded some (94), but not all, of the 196 Army-level operations as to outcome. The outcomes are defined as (see War by Numbers for a more detailed description):

  • Outcome I is limited action
  • Outcome II is limited attack
  • Outcome III is failed attack
  • Outcome IV is attack advances
  • Outcome V is defender penetrated
  • Outcome VI is defender enveloped
  • Outcome VII is other.

These definitions are used to create the following table:

Outcome             I        II      III        IV       V       VI       VII

Cases                15        9     10        29      21      8          2

Force Ratios   1.88   3.35   1.80    2.69    2.75   1.86   8.50

Loss Ratios    3.77   1.56   1.66    1.51    0.64   0.05   0.01


Now, I put seven of those numbers in bold. They are worth looking at.

For those 10 operations that were coded as “failed attack”, the average force ratio is 1.80-to-1 while the average loss exchange ratio is 1.66-to-1 (i,e. the attacker lost more than the defender).

For those 29 operations that were coded as “attack advances”, the average force ratio is 2.69-to-1 while the average loss exchange ratio is 1.51-to-1.

For those 21 operations that were coded as “defender penetrated”, the average force ratio is 2.75-to-1 while the average loss exchange ratio is 0.64-to-1 (meaning the defender lost almost twice as many people as the attacker. Note that casualties included kill, wounded, missing and captured). 

One notices that the loss exchange ratio gets even more favorable in mop-up operations (defender enveloped). These are often the operation after “defender penetrated.”

A few other observations:

  1. Failed attacks tend to be lower average odds than successful ones (i.e. 1.80 versus 2.69 and 2.75).
  2. Attackers suffer higher losses than defenders until they are penetrated (1.61 and 1.51 versus 0.64)
  3. These are the same patterns as for division-level combat.

This last point is significant. Are operations with bodies of 60 thousand plus people the same as operations with 10-20 thousand people? At least in the patterns of force ratios required, loss exchange ratios, etc., they are very similar.

More to come (my briefings are long). The obvious next work step would be to finish coding the outcome of the other 102 operations in the CaDB. This is several man-weeks of effort. Not going to take that on now (I am trying to finish up another book).

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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. Those are some very interesting numbers, which make tactical sense. So, modelling-wise, this is like a threshhold system – once the situation flips from lines to penetration, the effectiveness ratios flip.

    • Yes.

      There is buried in this work and in War by Numbers the basis for creating a simulation that more closely replicates the actual nature of combat.

      What is significant is the relationship is the same at Army-level vice division-level. I may do up the numbers on battalion and company-level (I do have a database for each).

      I tend to focus on division-level because that is where the best data is and where we have developed the most robust data base (752 cases).

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