Category Conventional warfare

People keep referencing us on the 3-to-1 Rule

Several people in their articles have referenced a 3-to-1 rule and then reference us as the source. The latest example is in a German article on Taiwan: Storming Taiwan by force of arms? | Telepolis

Of course, we are the people who are saying the 3-to-1 rule is really not correct. They obviously do not read that far.

This is the reference they use: The Source of the U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule – The Dupuy Institute. My final sentence in that article is “Are we training the next generation of George B. McCellans?”


Various links related to the 3-to-1 rule:

Trevor Dupuy and the 3-1 Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 Rule in Histories – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 Rule in Recent History Books – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus 243 Battles 1600-1900 – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus 49 U.S. Civil War battles – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus the 752 Case Division-level Data Base 1904-1991 – The Dupuy Institute

Summation of Force Ratio Posts – The Dupuy Institute

JSTOR, Trevor Dupuy, Combat Data and the 3:1 Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The 3:1 Ratio – The Dupuy Institute

Army- and Division-level force ratio posts – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 rule and the War in Ukraine – The Dupuy Institute

We have been talking about this for a while. It appears that some people are not listening.




Two missing reports – #26 and #27

As I was going through our early reports, it again came to my attention that we were missing two early reports. See: TDI – The Dupuy Institute Publications. They are:

26. Target/Range Experience for Tank & Antitank Weapons (1969) (Batelle) – Pages: NA

27. Historical Data on Tactical Air Operations: The Rome Campaign, 11 May-17 June 1944 (1970) (AFS&A) – Pages: NA

They have been missing for a while. Our report list comes from the 1980s, and even then their pages were listed as “N/A.” I gather that means we were missing them at that time. They may have been classified. When DMSi/HERO was shut down in the early 1990s, any classified reports had to be burned.

Anyhow, the customers for those reports were Batelle and AFS&A. If anyone has access to these reports, we would love to get a copy for our files.

Current book release schedule

I have four books in process or about to be released. They are:

The Battle for Kyiv:
– UK release date: 28 November
– U.S. release date: 18 January 2024

Aces at Kursk:
– UK release date: 30 January 2024
– U.S. release date: posted as 18 January 2024, but suspect release date will be in March 2024.

Hunting Falcon:
– UK release date: 28 February 2024
– U.S. release date: posted as 29 February 2024, but suspect released date will be in April 2024.

The Siege of Mariupol:
– UK release date: sometime in 2024
– U.S. release date: sometime in 2024

Books under consideration for 2024/2025:
The Battle for the Donbas
The Battle of Tolstoye Woods (from the Battle of Kursk)
More War by Numbers

Drone Survivability

On 30 June, we posted a guest post from William (Chip) Sayers on Scoring the KF51 Panther and the Future of the MBT | Mystics & Statistics ( The article generated some discussion on the blog which he partially responded to, but he felt the need to assemble a proper response. This is included below:

KF51 Panther. Image Credit: Industry Handout.

——–William (Chip) Sayers———————-

After submitting my post last week, we had a little internal debate among ourselves concerning the viability of drones and their ability to displace the MBT as the apex predator of the battlespace. What follows is a rather lengthy expansion of my reply to my colleagues.

I have written quite a bit on other fora about our over estimation of what drones – particularly of the Medium Altitude/Long Endurance (MALE) and High-Altitude/Long-Endurance (HALE) varieties – are capable of doing in the battlespace. I believe them to be virtually unsurvivable in a modern air defense environment — though I may have to up their chances a bit, given that they Russians have not, so far, swept them from the skies of Ukraine.  

The Turkish TB-2 is almost an exact analog of our MQ-1 Predator, and our experience with that system has been very instructive.  Iranians and Saddam-era Iraqis have been able to shoot them down, despite their general incompetence. The target drones we use to train fighter pilots and air defense crews in live-fire weapons employment exercises are far more challenging targets. This is because the Predator and other similar drones have an exceedingly limited ability to see the world around them. The pilot flies using a fixed nose camera with what is commonly referred to as a “soda-straw” view forward. The enemy interceptor (be it a fighter or a SAM) has to literally fly directly in front of the drone for the pilot to see it. The weapon systems operator is a bit better off as his camera is mounted in a turret, but again, it has to be pointed to within a few degrees of the interceptor, and coordination between the two “aircrew” in such a scenario is problematic, at best. In practice, however, they rarely even perceive when they are under attack and can’t do anything about it if they do: large, light-structured, straight-wing drones are not designed for maneuverability and have very little chance of survival, once targeted. Watching drone footage of an armed fighter-interceptor flashing by, and then, after a few seconds, seeing the video feed turn to static gives one a supreme feeling of helplessness.

Worse, drone accident rates are high and often due to things a pilot could avoid, if he were on board. Flying from a remote ground station just does not give a pilot the feel and visual scan that he would otherwise have. In the 1990s, we lost the entire Predator fleet over former-Yugoslavia, mostly to icing that could easily have been avoided if the aircraft were manned. An onboard pilot might have picked up the subtle clues through his controls and might have seen the ice beginning to form. With such information, he might have been able to simply change his altitude and continue the mission, or abort and save a valuable platform. While drone accident rates have come down from the disastrous levels of the 1990s, they remain at least twice those of the worst of USAF fighters.

Taken together, these drones are less survivable in a combat situation and succumb to accidents at a high rate making them much less effective and much more expensive than people generally believe. 
On the other hand, the Switchblade and the HERO-120 are in a completely different category. They are both significantly smaller than a MALE (length 4.25 vs 21 feet, wingspan of ~4 vs 39 feet and a weight of 50 vs 1,500lbs) and they use electric motors, making them acoustically undetectable and difficult to find with IR sensors. Shooting down one of these things flying just above the treetops isn’t impossible – if you see it – but it will be significantly more difficult than shooting down a MALE flying fat, dumb and happy at 15,000 feet. 

Nevertheless, these small drones are not without their vulnerabilities. They are already threatened by Counter-Rocket and Mortar (C-RAM) systems, designed to shoot down individual indirect fire rounds fired at fixed targets. These systems already acquire and track small-signature targets, so kamikaze drones won’t present the challenge they do to more traditional air defense systems. The main drawback that will keep C-RAM systems in check is their expense and limited mobility. More menacing in the not-too-distant future will be ground-based Laser air defense weapons when they come into operational use. A larger aircraft can take a hit in the fuselage or wing, and as long as it doesn’t contain a vital system at that point, it may be able to shrug off the hit. Not so with mini-drones where their small size will work against them as a hit anywhere will not require much dwell time to do catastrophic damage. Virtually any part of the drone’s volume will contain vital systems. So, look for kamikaze drones as the first target of air defense Lasers when they finally come online.

Some have talked of an anti-drone role for systems such as the Switchblade 300. Presumably, this would involve acquiring the target drone, flying a collision course and detonating the warhead within lethal range of the enemy craft. This is no easy feat with no dedicated acquisition and tracking means and working in three dimensions. This might work better against a less maneuverable, large target like a HALE or MALE UAS, but altitude and airspeed limitations work against the mini-drones here. Generally speaking, the smaller the drone, the less power and thus speed and altitude capability are available.

The final threat to the kamikaze drone is the most readily available and, perhaps, the most effective: jamming. These drones use radio signals to communicate with their operators and have little capability to operate autonomously, other than to cruise to a designated waypoint. If the link between drone and operator is broken, the drone is effectively neutralized. It is possible to give these drones an autonomous target recognition capability, but this takes sensors, computing capacity and electrical power, all of which require space in an already packed airframe. It is also has somewhat less than ideal reliability and represents a tangible threat to friendly forces.

Historically, whenever electro-magnetic jamming has come into play, it has always become a game of measure vs. countermeasure. Once started, the cycle cannot be relied on to stabilize in favor of one side or the other for very long. The implication is that kamikaze drones will have their moments of relative effectiveness, but they are unlikely to be swept from the sky by any single solution and thus will be an endemic feature of the battlespace for the foreseeable future.


Scoring the KF51 Panther and the Future of the MBT

KF51 Panther. Image Credit: Industry Handout.

Another William (Chip) Sayers post. This is his fifth post here. He will be presenting at our Historical Analysis conference: Who’s Who at HAAC – part 1 | Mystics & Statistics (

———————–William (Chip) Sayers——————

Scoring the KF51 Panther and the Future of the MBT

The German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall recently announced the rollout of their newest Main Battle Tank, the KF51 Panther. The new tank has captured the attention of the world largely because its main armament represents the first major improvement in that area in over 40 years, but also because — let’s be honest — the prospect of a new German Panther prowling the battlefields of Europe just sounds incredibly sexy.

Panther Ausf D number 435 of the 51st Panzer Battalion Kursk (source: World War Photos 2013-2022, contact: info(at)

While the Panther is not yet approved for large-scale production by the Bundeswehr — it is, in fact, an alternative to an ongoing Franco-German Leopard II/AMX-40 Le Clerc replacement program — the buzz created by the name alone may propel it to top of the list. Rheinmetall’s announcement make it clear that the major selling features center around its new 130mm gun and autoloader (reducing the crew size to three), integral HERO-120 reconnaissance/weapon UAS, a new, more powerful diesel power plant, an active protection system and integrated vehicle electronics.

When a major new weapons system like the Panther enters the scene, I immediately reach for my TNDM Operational Lethality Index (OLI) creation spreadsheet and see how it scores. First, because it may come in handy in future modeling, but also because going through the process and examining the outcome has a tendency to cut through my preconceptions and replace them with a more balanced perspective. So, I thought I was share my insights with this post.

In creating a score for a tank, the first thing one must do is define and score the weapons systems. This presents a couple of challenges in the case of the KF51. First, there is little publicly available data on the Rh-130 gun. It will obviously be more powerful than the Rh-120 on the Leopard II, but we need more specificity to create a reasonable score. By scouring everything available on the web, I found claims of an effective range of 4,000 meters. I could not find an exact number for muzzle velocity, but 2,000 m/sec seems to be within the range of most speculation and seems, if anything, comfortably conservative. These are the really important numbers, so the main gun looks reasonably accounted for.

However, another aspect of the Rh-130 is its autoloader. Rheinmetall apparently believes that handling 130mm rounds inside a turret is too difficult to be done efficiently by a human loader and has substituted a mechanical device that can load the gun more quickly and without tiring over time. The downside of the autoloader is its small “ready use” capacity of 20 rounds. The OLI of a gun is based on its hourly rate of fire, which means that barrel heating and wear, and human fatigue need to be accounted for — and, it must be said, such numbers are not easily found. Fortunately, graphs for rate of fire based on shell-size are provided if reliable information is unavailable. On the other hand, magazine capacity is not the primary determinator of rate of fire. The rules for building a gun score state that one should not consider logistics as a limitation. In other words, it is as though the gun is on the range with an unlimited amount of ammunition available. Thus, while limited magazine capacity may yield a negative modifier, it isn’t an absolute limiter.

More difficult to calculate is the HERO-120. Not only are hard numbers difficult to come by, the TNDM has difficulty coming to grips with this system. The HERO-120 can serve as a basic reconnaissance UAS, but the TNDM has no explicit reconnaissance function — the model assumes that a given force has its doctrinal recon means operating in a competent manner. If this isn’t the case for some reason, the penalty would be assessed as a decrement in that side’s Combat Effectiveness Value (troop quality) or a
CEV bonus to the opposing side.

There are several ways we can score the HERO-120: as an infantry weapon, an ATGM, an artillery weapon, or as an aircraft. There is no clear-cut answer to how its score it. The HERO-120 can be used as an anti-personnel/light-materiel weapon that could be considered a long-range mortar within the confines of the model. Scoring it this way, the HERO-120 has an impressive Operational Lethality Index (combat power score) of 792. This compares to an AKM assault rifle at .16, an M-2HB .50 cal heavy machinegun at 1.2, or an M-43 120mm mortar at an OLI of 145.

Scoring it as an ATGM yields an OLI of 257. This compares well with the Russian Konkurs (113), Kornet-E (175), US TOW-2B (136) and Javelin-C (246). This is primarily due to the HERO-120’s much greater range. Scored as an artillery system — much like an MRL rocket or SSM — the HERO-120 has an OLI of 782. This compares to the 227mm HIMARS MLRS at 338, or a Russian 9K720 Iskander SSM at 184. Compared to the basic HIMARS, HERO-120 has better range and is much more accurate. Its major advantages over the Iskander are its guidance system and its much smaller size that makes it handier to reload, giving it a higher volume of firepower.

The obvious course is to score it as a fixed-wing aircraft, but this is a bit trickier than it appears at first blush. The warhead must be scored as if it is a bomb or missile, then the UAS has to be scored as an aircraft carrying a single “bomb.” Both the “weapon” and the “aircraft” must have a range (in the case of the weapon) or a radius (in the case of the aircraft). For the weapon range, I estimated the range at which the UAS would lock-on to the target and begin to make its terminal dive. For the radius of the aircraft, I simply used the Line-of-Sight distance, which is approximately 40km. The UAS’ loiter time is one of its defining characteristics, but there’s no satisfactory way to handle it directly in the TNDM model. This will bear some exploration for the future. In the meantime, the Operational Lethality Index came to only 2.8 for the HERO-120 (approximately half the score of an under-rifle grenade launcher). By comparison, the MQ-1 Predator UAS has an OLI of 161, while a MQ-4 Reaper scores a 933 OLI. Clearly, this does not adequately reflect the contribution of this unique and versatile weapon. As the intent (aside from its reconnaissance function) is clearly as an antiarmor weapon, I decided to use the ATGM value for the HERO-120.

The TNDM makes provision for advanced composite or reactive armor, giving AFVs with these characteristics a 10% bump up compared to those with simple rolled homogenous armor. Active Protection Systems (APS) that actually intercept an incoming round before it hits the vehicle were not in widespread use. They should probably give a tank with RHA at least a 10% increase in value, but it is probably insufficient when coupled with advanced composite armor as used on the KF51. It is possible that the correct solution is to add 10% for each one of these characteristics, but this hasn’t been validated (to my knowledge) and therefore I give a maximum of 10% for advanced armor. It remains to be seen how well APS systems will hold up under actual combat conditions and given their complexity, they could underperform considerably. Therefore, I’m not overly concerned that we’re lowballing the Panther’s score by essentially ignoring this characteristic. If we get a large test case where APS work reliably, are not overwhelmed by multiple incoming shots and don’t prove to be far more danger than they are worth to their accompanying infantry, then we will have to revisit the subject.

Within the model, the Panther’s new power pack is measured by the speed it gives the vehicle and the fuel efficiency expressed in terms of combat radius. The numbers currently available turn out to be rather average for the type. It has been described as having a high power to weight ratio and this is generally a good thing. However, in the model vehicle weight translates directly to protection, thus a light-weight engine that doesn’t improve the speed or fuel efficiency of the vehicle is actually considered detrimental to protection. Given that many armored vehicles — the Israeli Merkava MBT being the outstanding example — incorporate the engine positioning as part of the protective package, it’s not too much of a stretch to justify the model’s view.

Advanced Vehicle Electronics (commonly known as “Vectronics”) are another unknown. Vectronics that merely provide the vehicle with, for example, improved night vision or allow the crew to be grouped into the hull for better protection is probably beneath the field of regard for the TNDM. However, networking vehicles with information-sharing technology must be addressed by the model, though it is probably best done as a modification to CEV.

In the 1970s, navies got into peer-to-peer information sharing, followed by air forces in the 1980s. This was a natural progression given the technical challenges involved. Land armies didn’t stick their toes in the water until the early 2000s, but the potential, if it can be made to reliably work under combat conditions, is profound. For thousands of years, the biggest fear and determinate of a commander’s actions was the necessity that he guess what was over the next hill. Just knowing with certainty where one’s own troops are, is a revolution in land warfare. Adding the enemy into this picture allows small, maneuverable forces to operate freely in enemy territory without fear of being caught and destroyed while maneuvering directly against enemy Centers of Gravity. In the September 1999 issue of Marine Corps Gazette, I wrote an article detailing how this kind of information could enable the USMC’s doctrine of Ship To Objective Maneuver could enable small, agile amphibious raids to execute their doctrine unencumbered by a large logistics tail.

With this in mind, it’s not so much the individual vehicle, but the entire force that exploits the information available. Therefore, it seems more fitting to adjust the unit’s CEV than to give a higher score to a vehicle whose crew might, or might not, be able to properly exploit the possibilities resident in the enhanced C3I equipment carried aboard the tank. A crew might not be properly trained or the force might be depleted to the point that the big picture information either doesn’t exist, or cannot be exploited effectively by an insufficient force. Thus, CEV enhancement is the best way to handle this capability.

All told then, what do we have? The KF51 Panther scores in at an OLI of 836. Not bad, but compared to the Leopard 2A6 at 800, the M-1A2 at 712, the Challenger II at 685, or the T-14 Armata at 963, it is not particularly impressive — hardly a game-changer. So, what does it take to build a game-changer?

My first attempt to answer this question was simple: Let’s put a really big gun on the Panther and see what that does. I replaced the 130mm gun with the Russian 152mm 2A83, a possibility for arming a future T-14 Armata II. After adding a couple of MT of weight and degrading top speed by 2 km/hr, the “Tiger” scored out at an OLI of 1015 — an increase of nearly 20%. However, even this massive upgrade in firepower did not yield a score that would dominate the battlefield. It would merely make a four-tank platoon the equivalent of an older five-tank platoon in firepower. Useful, but hardly a game-changer.

Next, I popped the turret off the Panther to create a “Jagdpanther,” armed with long-range loitering munitions scored essentially as ATGMs. I posited an 8-cell box launcher for the Switchblade 600 with two sets of reloads aboard and dual controls for the weapons for the tank commander and gunner. The engagement sequence would go something like this: Off-board recon and intelligence would be fed to the vehicle via information sharing networks and targets for individual vehicles would be assigned. The gunner would launch up to 8 loitering munitions and send them to their respective engagement areas via GPS guidance. As the UAS approach the target area some 25 minutes and 80km away, the gunner launches a second salvo of 8 and he and the commander divide up final guidance of the UAS as they attack their assigned targets. By the end of an hour, 24 UAS have been launched with perhaps as many as 20 enemy targets hit per firing vehicle. With this kind of potential, the “Jagdpanther” has an OLI of 1196, some 30% higher than the Panther, but still not earth-shattering.

Finally, as raw firepower alone did not appear to have the potential to revolutionize the armored fighting vehicle, I decided to explore advantages in operational and strategic mobility. Taking the US Army’s Stryker ICV as a base vehicle, I created the “Puma” wheeled tank destroyer, using the Switchblade loitering munition as the primary weapon and the 40mm automatic grenade launcher as the secondary. While it is not possible to armor a wheeled vehicle to MBT standards, the creation of Active Protection Systems might substitute for a brute-force approach of hanging tons of extra steel and laminates on the sides. If APS are as good as their manufacturers suggest, a light-weight vehicle may be able to stand in the line of battle as well as a much heavier MBT. All that might be needed is armor to defeat heavy machineguns and artillery fragments, saving tons of weight and considerable volume within the hull. In the early 2000s, the US Army was developing a family of combat vehicles that used alternate, high-tech armor packages to allow for a much lighter vehicle. Unfortunately, the Army couldn’t think past a 120mm gun, which incurred certain weight penalties of its own. When the Army retreated from its gamble on high-tech armor, the entire program collapsed. However, the time may have come to try this evolutionary stream, again.

With two 8-box launchers, a full set of reloads carried inside and stations for four gunners, the “Puma” scores out at a 1483 OLI. Finally, we have a vehicle that doubles the score of many extant MBTs. Not exactly groundbreaking in itself, but in a deployable package that can move great distances quickly on their own wheels? This just might be the revolution we’re looking for.

Clearly, the “Puma’s” score is the TNDM talking according to what the model values. But it does bring up interesting questions. How much is operational mobility worth? Being able to rush from one battlefield to the next is obviously a valuable asset. What about strategic mobility? It does no good to have heavy tanks at home if it takes six months for them to get to the hot-spot of the week. And if Bell/Boeing delivers on the idea of a VTOL C-130 (an advanced, four rotor development of the MV-22 Osprey)? The combination could be devastating. In my Marine Corps Gazette article, I posited that the Marines should drop their M-1s and substitute a much more supportable vehicle somewhat like the “Puma.” 23 years later, the Marine Corps is restructuring, a move that will divest them of their M-1 tank battalions. The Corps’ reasoning is that they need to radically lighten up their forces to play hit and run in a potential conflict with China in the Pacific islands. Losing the tanks (along with some of their tube-artillery and other items) not only reduces the sheer weight of these massive vehicles, but more importantly, the huge weight of ammunition and fuel these gas-guzzlers consume.

All of which begs the question: is the TNDM declaring the era of the tank over? Is the dinosaur of the lumbering MBT going to sprout wings and evolve into something new and different?

Maybe. Much of the push back against the idea in the post-Operation DESERT STORM 1990s was the theory that MBTs are intimidating to potential troublemakers in peace operations. But in an era where anything appearing on CNN with a turret is called a tank, are 70 tons worth of armored behemoth truly necessary for intimidation purposes? It seemed a poor argument then, and even less convincing now. In 2003’s Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Republican Guard armored formations were broken up by air and artillery before they came into contact with US ground units such that we never ran into an RG unit larger than a company. So, for the last 3 decades, major force-on-force actions featuring MBTs seemed to be a thing of the past. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.

The ambiguity brought by this latest conflict presents a challenge to those who would make easy pronouncements about the future of warfare. On the one hand, tanks and other armored vehicles are in widespread use across Ukraine. On the other, tanks are meeting wholesale destruction by a wide variety of means, including those wielded by individual infantrymen. Regardless of the long-term utility of the MBT, it is clear that it no longer owns the battlespace like it did four decades ago, and isn’t likely to reclaim that position by hanging more armor on its sides or mounting a larger gun.

Traditionally, armored vehicles have been judged on their balance between three factors: firepower, protection and mobility. With a range of around 4km, the 130mm Rh-130 allows the Panther to dominate an area of 158km2 though its penetrative power vs other tanks is only evolutionary and is threatened by the active protection capability the Panther, itself employs. By contrast, the “Puma’s” reach is over 63,000km2 [km squared] ! As a top-attack system, the Switchblade will overmatch any top armor currently conceivable and is far less vulnerable to reactive armor and active protection systems as it adds the third dimension to the problem. The Panther carries 20 rounds in its autoloader, while the “Puma” has 32 rounds of ready ammo. It’s difficult to see how the traditional MBT wins the point for firepower.

While the Panther’s base armor greatly outperforms the “Puma’s,” it is, like all MBTs, vulnerable from the top, sides and rear where its armor is substantially thinner. Therefore, both vehicles would be significantly dependent on their APS, which does not necessarily depend on base armor to work. Perhaps more important, if it comes down to evading high-velocity gunfire from opposing MBTs, the “Puma” has significantly higher speed on the battlefield and potentially a lower profile for the enemy to shoot at. All things being equal, the combination of thick base armor and an APS is superior to thin base armor and an APS. Except, of course, for cost and the waste of resources if the APS is sufficient to defeat enemy attacks by itself. In the meantime, it carries a huge penalty to mobility at every level. The points for protection are then ambiguous.

As for mobility, a US Army Cold War era study estimated that tracks increase the terrain a vehicle can negotiate by only (if I recall correctly) about 5%. In the meantime, wheeled vehicles are far superior in operational and strategic mobility. Add to that the weight of an MBT vs. that of what is essentially an armored personnel carrier and there is no scenario where the Panther has an advantage at the operational or strategic level, and precious few where it may outperform the conceptual “Puma” on the tactical battlefield.

With one point clearly going to the wheeled vehicle, another strongly leaning that way, and the third a question mark, there is only one question left to us: Why are we playing with expensive and sluggish dinosaurs when we could be flooding the battlefield with ferocious stalking cats?

The Key to Victory: Machine Learning the Lessons of History

Robert L. Helmbold has published a new book (his first book) called The Key to Victory: Machine Learning the Lessons of History. Bob Helmbold was one of the senior analysts at CAA (Center of Army Analysis). It was published by MORS (Military Operations Research Society) with the help of Dean Hartley, formerly of Oakridge. This is Bob Helmbold’s first book, and at 91 years old, I hope to see a dozen more from him.

Bob Helmbold will be doing a virtual presentation on this on the second day (Wednesday the 28th of September) of the Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC).

The book is only available through Barnes and Noble, not through Amazon. A link to it is here: The Key to Victory: Machine Learning the Lessons of History: by Robert Helmbold, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (


Will China invade Taiwan in the next 20 years?

I did three posts recently looking at the claim by retiring Admiral Phillip Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command indicating that he thought China might invade Taiwan in the next six years: “I think the threat is manifest…in the next six years…” I ended up concluding (in bold) that “I do find the idea that mainland China will invade Taiwan in the next 6 years to be somewhat loopy.” I was surprised that I did not receive any comments about that characterization.

Now, it is possible that China may invade Taiwan, not in the near future, but over the next decade or two. Let us say in the next 20 years. So what would have to change to make this option viable in the next 20 years when it is really not likely in the next 6 years?

I think the following will influence this:

  1. Who is the leader of China?
  2. What is the changing composition of the politburo?
  3. How is the economy of China doing?
  4. Is there a problem with internal turmoil and unrest in China?
  5. What is the degree of U.S. commitment to Taiwan?
  6. What is the size and capabilities of the Chinese Armed Forces?


I will have to address each of these variables one blog post at a time. As I don’t like to do particularly long blog posts (unlike my books), I will address each of these variables in a separate blog post, maybe every other day, if I am so focused.

In this case, I am looking at a conventional amphibious operation, as I think that is the only approach over the next 20 years that will actually bring Taiwan under control of China. There are other options and operations that China can do that may intimidate or coerce Taiwan and modify their behavior, but these do not bring Taiwan under the direct control of China. To control Taiwan without an amphibious invasion is a much longer, complex and more difficult process, and I am not going to discuss that here.

Keep in mind that right now, in a conventional warfare scenario, if Taiwan has military support from the United States, the most likely outcome would be a failed invasion. The political and economic cost of a failed invasion would be very significant, possibly resulting in the collapse of the ruling party of the People’s Republic of China.


Past three blog posts on the subject:

Invading Taiwan in the next six years – wherefore and why? | Mystics & Statistics (

Invading Taiwan in the next six years – the fight? | Mystics & Statistics (

Will China take the risk and actually invade Taiwan? | Mystics & Statistics (


P.S. Today is the 77th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Related blog post: The Dupuy Institute on Youtube | Mystics & Statistics

Attrition has been discounted to $877.95

One can find a copy of Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War on for $877.95. It used to sell for $890.

Attrition for $900 | Mystics & Statistics (

On the other hand, we are still selling new copies for the list price of $19.95. See here:

Ordering information is here:

Updated Azerbaijani Casualties

Previously reported that Azerbaijan reported 2,783 troops killed during the six week 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War.

See: Casualty Counts from the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War | Mystics & Statistics (

Revised figures are 2,841 servicemen killed and 64 still reported as missing for a total of 2,905.

The data is buried somewhere here:

I cribbed it from @RALee85 on twitter.

More Combat Results Tables from War by Numbers

Now, the purpose of War by Numbers was not to create Combat Results Tables (CRT) for wargames. Its real purpose was to test the theoretical ideas of Clausewitz, and more particularly, Trevor N. Dupuy to actual real-world data. Not as case studies, but as statistical compilations that would show what the norms are. Unfortunately, military history is often the study of exceptions, or exceptional events, and what is often lost to the casual reader it what the norms are. Properly developed statistical database will clearly show what the norms are and how frequent or infrequent these exceptions are. People tend to remember the exceptional cases, they tend to forget the norms, if they even knew what they were to start with.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 of War by Numbers is primarily focused on measuring human factors (which some people in the U.S. DOD analytical community seem to think are unmeasurable, even though we are measuring them). As part of that effort I ended up assemble a set of force ratios tables based upon theater and nationality. The first of these, on page 10, was in my previous blog post. Here are a few others, from page 11 of War by Numbers.

Germans attacking Soviets (Battles of Kharkov and Kursk), 1943


Force Ratio                          Result                                    Percent Failure   Number of cases

0.63 to 1.06-to-1.00             Attack usually succeeds      20%                        5

1.18 to 1.87-to-1.00             Attack usually succeeds        6%                      17

1.91-to-1.00 and higher      Attacker Advances                 0%                       21


Soviets attacking Germans (Battles of Kharkov and Kursk), 1943


Force Ratio                          Result                                    Percent Failure   Number of cases

0.40 to 1.05-to-1                  Attack usually fails                70%                      10

1.20 to 1.65-to-1.00             Attack often fails                    50%                      11

1.91 to 2.89-to-1.00             Attack sometimes fails          44%                       9




Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) Data, U.S. attacking Japanese, 1945


Force Ratio                          Result                                    Percent Failure   Number of cases

1.40 to 2.89-to-1.00             Attack succeeds                        0%                     20

2.92 to 3.89-to-1.00             Attack usually succeeds        21%                      14

4.35-to-1.00 and higher       Attack usually succeeds          4%                     26