Situational awareness, fog of war and vital role of central command

Fog of War is the term even ancient military tacticians and theorists knew about. Sun Tzu mentioned it in his Art of War. From the earliest writen periods the outcome of the battle was decided from knowing the terrain, knowing your forces, knowing enemy forces, and most importantly their location. Sometimes these factors were more important even then troop quality. It is said „that a herd of deers led by a lion is better then herd of lions led by a deer.“ Statements like this focus even more on the role of central command and overall strategy rather then the quality of weapons them selves ( I know that most of the readers are usualy interested about weapon technology as I am ). One thing that should be mentioned is that overall strategy and doctrine dominantly influence weapon designs, having in mind the great difference in design of MBTs and other main weapon systems in Warsaw Pact and in NATO armies. Most famous example is Blitzkrieg and Fall of France, where german military tactics and situational awareness won over numericaly and qualitatively superior french Armee de Terre, having in mind the primarely french SOMUA S35 tank and other tanks were superior in protection and armament than their german counterparts.

French SOMUA S-35 was the best tank in the world in 1930s, an it was far superior in firepower and protection than any german tank of the time

 

One important thing is that german tanks used radio, and could fight and communicate effectively, an their situational awareness was much better. Those radios played a vital role in the Blitzkrieg tactics, because those tactics were made on the mistakes from the Great War, for example the german operation Michael, when german troops punched a large hole in the Antante lines, but afterwards didn’t even know where their troops were, let alone logisticaly supplying them. But German tacticians learned from those mistakes, french did not, and they stuck with oldfashioned  Great War tactics even at the outbrake of WW2. The modern example were Arab-Israeli wars, primarely the Six Day War, where israeli military intelligence, situational awareness and knowing of terrain, influenced by superior cartography and aerial photomapping decided the enormous succes of the war for the Israeli side, over numericaly and sometimes qualitatively superior arab armies.

T-72, the tank built exactly the way that soviet doctrine and overall strategy demanded

I get very irritated when someone on some military forum says for example: „ Soviet equipment is trash!“ , without any argumentation. It was built and designed like that for reason, that reason is that their military strategy and doctrine demanded it to be like it was. Tanks like T-55, T-62, T-64, T-72 and T-80 were the product of deep penetration strategy which greatly evolved during WW2. The main use of the tank was to punch a hole in enemy weak lines and use its superior mobility to get to the enemy command, communication and logistical locations. That would cripple the enemy, because even the best tansk like M1 Abrams as good as it is are not self-sufficient, they depend on many things especialy logistics. There is only as much APFSDS rounds carried that that Rheinmetal 120mm gun can fire. That’s the reason why the soviet tanks were designed to have only frontal armor thick enough , and very high levels of mobility, mechanical reliability and low upkeep cost, plus reduced weight and lower fuel consumption. One thing is that „quantity has a quality of its own“, so the soviet planners allways had in mind to sustain a large ammount of tank production at all times, designing tanks that were lower cost and more easy to build. That was all influenced by their strategy and doctrine, and we could see in recent years, that Russian Federation is shifting more and more on tactics similar to that of NATO, probably having in mind its much numericaly smaller population than that of Soviet union + Warsaw pact. The reason why users of Soviet tactics failed like in the case of Iraq in the Gulf War is because those tactics were designed to be used by countries which were teritorialy an populationaly big as Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. The thing is that Iraq cannot fight USA conventionaly even if the iraqis were armed with Abramses and americans with T-72s, they simply lack resources, manpower, and especialy training hours, which cost a lot. Isrealis, when designing the Merkava series, did not want to buy a tank from any oder nation, they wanted a tank specificaly tailored for their requirements an that their home industry could produce.

 

As i mentioned the vital role of command, communications and situational awareness in overall strategy  it is not a wonder why there is so much emphasis specialy in recent years on developing electronic warfare devices which could cripple the enemy command, communication and situational awareness. All superpowers usualy made their EW devices top secret, and out of the eyes of the public. There are even devices,which developers claim can disrupt CENTCOM, like Murmansk-BN.

R-330P jammer, used to jam enemy radio frequencies, crippling their command, communication and situational awareness mechanisms

Moroccan M1A1SA Abrams, a tank built with heavy emphasis on situational awareness

 

United States takes situational awareness aspect very seriously in its military forces, and we could see that in design of its more modern equipment like M1A1SA Abrams MBT ( SA stand for situational awareness). F-16 proved superior to early models of MIG-29 in aerial combat greatly because the superior training of the pilot and superior situational awareness equipment than in the MiGs which relied upon the control on the ground, later versions of MiG-29 adressed those shortcomings.  Another important thing is information management, which plays a crucial role in overall situational awareness, and influences the outome on the battlefield.

Cockpit of a F-16, looking at LCD displays which make information management much easier

 

There is one interesting statement that i heard in college: „Amateurs rely on tactics, professionals on strategy, and the masters of trade on logistics.“