Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tempo: Firing the Right Stuff at the Right Time

If this post entitles me to the Leonhard's fan-boy tag, so be it.

Today, a quick note of Leonhard's concept of tempo using ArmA 3 and DCS Flaming Cliffs as examples.

In "Fighting by Minutes", rather than using the more popular expression "tempo", Leonhard uses the word "frequency". Frequency is a property that strikes closer to the world of physics and reflects the amount of times something happens per unit of time. Maybe Leonhard prefers the physics analogies as does Simpkin in "Race to the Swift". The caveats and pitfalls of analogies to explain warfare have been long pointed out, but these shortcomings can be kept at bay if one doesn't get carried away too far with them.

Frequency in war is the amount of times something happens within a time unit. The amount of offensives per year (strategic level), the daily pace of events in a campaign (operational level). At the lowest level, one could think about how many times one shoots at the enemy (tactical level).

In the one hand, before we embark into the thought that a high tempo or frequency is intrinsically beneficial, Leonhard points out that an extremely high frequency could render our actions irrelevant. On the other hand, a slow tempo will give the enemy the chance to adapt and counter our actions.

The take home lesson is that the right frequency/tempo depends on the enemy's capabilities to cope with our actions.

Case A. DCS Flaming Cliffs. I'm flying a Mig-29S against an F/A 18. This is a heads on BVR engagement in which I am using R-27R missiles and the enemy is using AIM-120s. As soon as the enemy comes into range of my missiles, I fire both R-27s in quick succession (high tempo). You can see the missiles flying away from my fighter.

Case A. DCS Flaming Cliffs. Both my missiles in a tight flight. The enemy F/A 18 has started violent, high G maneuvers to spoof these missiles.
Case A. DCS Flaming Cliffs. The enemy fighter has evaded both missiles, which are seen impacting on the ground below. Because both missiles were flying so close to each other, the enemy pilot evaded both with the same maneuver. He just killed two birds with the same bullet. the high tempo of my shots made it relatively easy for him. 

Case B. DCS Flaming Cliffs. In a setup very similar to the previous one, this time I fire just one R-27R missile. The enemy fighter spoofs the missile with a high speed/G dive and the R-27R hits the ground (the impact of the missile is barely visible in the mid background).  
Case B. DCS Flaming Cliffs. Just when the enemy aircraft has engaged defensive against my first missile, I fire my second R-27R. This is a low frequency/tempo compared to Case A. 

Case B. DCS Flaming Cliffs. My second missile catches the enemy fighter right when it has started to recover from its dive. Low on maneuvering choices (it can only go up or stay at tree top level), it is swiftly destroyed by my low frequency/tempo firing.

Case C. ArmA 3. In this custom mission that I hope to release some day, I am providing direct fire support with a .50 HMG during a prepared assault against a prepared position. Artillery is already falling in the enemy fortifications on top of the ridge (note the smoke billows in the far background).

Case C. ArmA 3. Enemy patrols were caught off guard while walking the perimeter of the obstacles in front of the strong point.

Case C. ArmA 3. Pressed on time (Alpha Squad was about to be ready to assault past the obstacles) and liable of being located and fired upon (the enemy has mortars which will fire if my force is detected outside the perimeter) while on an exposed position, I have no choice but to fire con gusto. The .50 cal high rate of fire (high frequency) doesn't leave a single enemy body standing in front of the fortified position.
Case A and B showcase that a high frequency or tempo does not always result the best outcome. Case C, more by necessity than choice, used a high frequency that left the enemy unable to react.

As Leonhard explains in his book, the right frequency of your own forces actions at the strategic, operational and tactical level are all relative to the enemy's capabilities to cope with them.


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